Tuesday, 19 September 2017

The Scots Fencibles

In the many forgotten parts of history are the various military organisations  and formations of the past. When there was little or no policing in many parts of Britain this entailed military units to contain any revolutionary movements who might use force.

The plan of raising Fencible Corps in the Highlands was first proposed and carried into effect by Mr Pitt (afterwards the Earl of Chatham), in the year 1759. During the three preceding years both the fleets and armies of Great Britain had suffered reverses, and to retrieve the situation great efforts were necessary.

In England county militia regiments were raised for internal defence in the absence of the regular army; but it was not deemed prudent to extend the system to Scotland, the inhabitants of which, it was supposed, could not yet be safely entrusted with arms.

Groundless as the reasons for this caution undoubtedly were in regard to the Lowlands, it would certainly have been hazardous at a time when the Stuarts and their adherents were still plotting a restoration to have armed the clans.

An exception, however, was made in favour of the people of Argyll and Sutherland, and accordingly letters of service were issued to the Duke of Argyll, then the most influential and powerful nobleman in Scotland, and the Earl of Sutherland to raise, each of them, a Fencible regiment within his district.

Unlike the militia regiments which were raised by ballot, the Fencibles were to be raised by the ordinary mode of recruiting, and like the regiments of the line, the officers were to be appointed and their commissions signed by the king.

The same system was followed at different periods down to the year 1799, the last of the Fencible regiments having been raised in that year.

The following is a list of the Highland Fencible regiments according to the chronological order of the commissions, with the date of their embodiment and reduction:-

The Argyll Fencibles (No. 1), 1759 - 1763
The Sutherland Fencibles (No. 1) 1759 - 1763
The Argyll or Western Fencibles (No. 2), 1778 - 1783
The Gordon Fencibles, 1773 - 1783
The Sutherland Fencibles (No. 2) 1779 - 1783

The Grant or Strathspey Fencibles (three battalions), 1793 - 1799
The Breadalane Fencibles (three battalions),1793, 1794-1799 and 1802
The Sutherland Fencibles (No. 3) 1793- 1797
The Gordon Fencibles (No. 2), 1793 - 1799
The Argyll Fencibles (No. 1), 1793 - 1797

The Rothesay and Caithness Fencibles (two battalions), 1794 and 1795 - 1802
The Dumbarton Fencibles, 1794 - 1802
The Reay Fencibles, 1794 - 1802
The Inverness-shire Fencibles, 1794 - 1802
The Fraser Fencibles, 1794 - 1802

The Glengarry Fencibles, 1794 - 1802
The Caithness Legion, 1794 - 1802
The Perthshire Fencibles (No. 4), 1794 - 1802
Argyll Fencibles (No. 4), 1794 - 1802
Lochaber Fencibles, 1799 - 1802

The Clan-Alpine Fencibles, 1796 - 1802
The Ross-shire Fencibles, 1796-1802
Regiment of the Isles, or Macdonald Fencibles, 1799.
Argyll Fencibles (No. 5) 1796 - 1802.
The Ross and Cromarty Rangers, 1799 - 1802
The Macleod Fencibles, 1799 - 1802

This was drawn from The Military History Index a few years ago. When you add the numbers of men in such regiments to those in the regular Army and Royal Navy it can bring you up to proportions of the male population in service equivalent to those of the two recent World Wars.

Moreover, the units were not located in their home areas but sent elsewhere. Who better than Scots to police the Irish and the English?

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Labour In Vain

The balance in UK politics appears to mean that there are changes occurring for many reasons. How we see the world, how it sees us, what a government is for and how it goes about its business are some. Who we relate to why and how and what we think the future is going to be we are not certain about and prediction is difficult.

For many in politics what they bring to all or any of this is the theoretical ideas of political and other philosophies and their view of history. As the demographics of the electorate have changed, necessarily with time, this adds to the confusion.

The trouble with the history is so much that is lost and forgotten and more so those bits of history that our leaders and would be leaders cling onto. In the Labour party we are being told that its future lies in the hands of the believers in the cults of Marx, Lenin and Trotsky.

Marx lived 1818-1883, a Richard Gatling was born in 1818 and one of the inventors of machine guns. It is arguable that the European empires were won by the use of these in their conquests and then the European powers turned them on themselves in the two world wars that cost them their empires.

Lenin lived 1870-1923, Helena Rubinstein was born in 1870 and it is argued that how the peoples of the world might look and smell today owes more to her than philosophical theories. She was a pioneer entrepreneur in the world of cosmetics and fragrances. Lenin gave rise to Stalin.

Trotsky lived 1879-1940, Albert Einstein was born in 1879, my view is that Einstein has a lot more to do with the present and the future than Trotsky ever did, a political opportunist who lost his battle but still has followers of his theories on the Left.

Looking back at the history of the Labour Party, I have already pointed to the role of the Temperance Movement at an early stage. In the 19th and earlier 20th Centuries there were many groups and others with ideas on social reform, betterment, education and provision etc. which ranged across religions and society.

One document which might explain the role of many Roman Catholics in the Labour Party over the 20th Century is the Encyclical issued by Pope Leo XIII in 1891 "Rerum Novarum" and added to by Pope John XXIII in the Encyclical "Mater et Magistra" of 1961. There is an interesting conflict of purpose here.

It states that Socialism is not enough because it relies on production and distribution and has neither faith nor moral content. But looking at the ideas of Marx, Lenin and Trotsky and their antique view from a long gone past, their adherents seem to rely more on their particular faith than any reality of the present.

Recently, I have been looking at the life of George Bernard Shaw, 1856-1950, who became one of the major guru's, pundits, media operators and experts of his time and whose Irish voice was heard loud in discussions on the politics of his day. His judgement was not entirely sound, for example he thought that on a brief acquaintance Stalin was a fine sort of chap to be relied to do good.

Also he had a hankering for dictators and authoritarian government if they were doing what was assumed to be some social improving impact. But as he was a workaholic who lived by his writing and was expected to come up with ideas and arguments that caused debate he needed to grab attention. Often he was wrong, but he was also right in some matters.

He was an important influence on the left. He was a founder of the LSE and continued to have a close interest in it until his death. One young lecturer he thought highly of was Clement Attlee. How much he might have owed to Shaw is one of those questions to which we will never have an answer.

When he wrote "Pygmalion" in 1912 there is an authoritarian character, Henry Higgins with strong views on speech and education and shaping to poor and lowly. At the time Shaw's gardener was a Harry Higgs and the Higgins views were very much those of his wife Charlotte born Payne-Townshend. And if Shaw wanted to know about the poor and deprived he had only to talk to his servants about their family histories.

Now we have a Labour Party of second hand academics and media people who have done little and know less, have lost sight of their history but have wedded themselves to fixed ideas taken from long gone German and Russian writers.

There is still one question. Were Lenin and Shaw ever in the library of the British Museum at the same time? If they were which one did Henry Hook VC, of Rorkes Drift, the attendant, help most?

Saturday, 16 September 2017

2010 And All That

This first appeared at "Teaching Young Dogs Old Tricks" in May 2010, which was a long time ago almost in the pre-digital age. I wonder how it stands up to present inspection, right, wrong or maybe.


The present uncertainties arise for a number of reasons.  Our new crop of youthful members of parliament has grown up since the late 1980’s.  There are some remnant old stagers around as well as those on the Left who burble incessantly about Mrs. Thatcher.

This seems to be their modern fetish in line with the worship of antique pop groups.  Back in the 1950’s I do not recall us wittering on about Ramsay Macdonald or paying good money for 1920’s ballroom dancing melodies.  As for dancing the Charleston, I mean my Dad did that and well who wants to do that kind of thing?

For all of her media dominance and thrust of her personality, Mrs. Thatcher still presided over a party of many parts.  It was a coalition of one kind, unluckily because of the electoral system with some bits missing that should have been there.

Old Labour always was a coalition where the Methodists traded uneasily with the Marxists, never mind the rivalries of the many trade unions. Nowadays, but not then, you will find the boilermakers in with the collective of sex workers and a bundle of local government personnel and shop workers as in the GMB.

Under John Major the old Tory party began to disintegrate and despite the efforts of its publicity people is still fragmented.  The difficulty now is that under the Great Leader concept of party management the old checks and balances have gone and it is all very messy.

New Labour has abandoned its traditional base to build up a client base by huge spending in the public sector.  It has created a new middle class who are not so much consulted as directed by media and modern management techniques and whipped along by bonus payments and target setting.  The BBC is a case in point.  The dictatorial nature of Old Labour originates amongst the extreme Left groups that so many of them belonged to whose intellectual inspiration was East Germany.

The Liberal Democrat’s began as a coalition of sorts, essentially the dissatisfied meeting the disorientated.  Bits that might have remained have dropped off, as Greens and such, but they have become a raggle taggle bunch of camp followers who can see only Europe as the future and Britain as an off shore base for good intentions for the world who will take no notice.

In office New Labour has taken advantage of its position by a process of “creative destruction” which has been very effective on the destructive side but very bad on the creative.  They have certainly created unsustainable debt and expenditure levels but not much else.

The only people they have compromised with are the money men and the big spenders.  For the rest of it they have steam rollered Parliament, dismantled the old civil service, the Foreign Office cannot even be civil to The Pope, and have created a web of entities and activities too big either to control or to co-ordinate.

In short none of the three major parties has any real experience of the nature of discussion, manner or management of a real coalition situation and of their members few have either grown up or been obliged to conduct any serious business or work in negotiation to achieve the results needed.  It is quite literally like putting not so much the lunatics in charge of the asylum as the predatory animal packs in charge of the zoo.

Historically, at different times and in different places similar situations have arisen before and the results are not happy ones.  In some cases the political entities just disintegrate as a whole, in others one form or another of absolute government occurs, perhaps after a period of bloodshed and misery.

Occasionally, the state concerned just staggers on from one disaster to another.  Lastly and all too often the state goes off the map as it is taken over by outsiders in one form or another.

Is anyone taking bets?


Did I lose or win, and if winning was impossible, how big a loser was I?

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Thank You Sir Peter Hall

The passing of Sir Peter Hall is sad news. Over the last sixty years his work has given us a great deal of pleasure and memories of the theatre which are among the happier occasions. We recall the production of "Coriolanus" at Stratford of 1959 with its insights into the worlds of Shakespeare and of Rome.

The Spectator did not like it much concluding "It all makes a jolly evening, as most of the critics have confirmed. Personally, I think even the best is only good enough for Shakespeare. I found this production far too slapdash and self-assured to be acceptable." In short this new kid on the block is brash and short on tradition.

My in-laws had moved down to Stratford upon Avon in the late 1950's and over the next decades during our many visits going to the RSC was something to do. Rarely planned and often relying on returned tickets it was a hit and miss business with very few misses.

If my memory is correct the opening of "King Richard III" of his production was radically different from the one of the film. It was pensive, hesitant and has Richard more or less steered by forces that he could not control in his own mind and in the world about him. It would not have come over well on film, but on stage it was a striking and enthralling piece.

I could say a lot more, there was not only Stratford where we saw his productions but The National Theatre and the Royal Opera House. It was not that we sought them out, he happened to be the director of works we wanted to see and managed to get to. In most if not all he tried to give food for thought as well as putting on a production which would satisfy the audience as well as putting over a message.

One work I would mark out particularly is the 1974 film "Akenfield", see Wikipedia and picture above, dealing with three generations of life in East Anglia for the ordinary villager and largely derived from the book "Akenfield: Portrait Of An English Village" written by Ronald Blythe in 1969 which meant that it had a solid base in history.

It was this world that was the family history of Sir Peter. His father may have been the Station Master of a very small station, but his grandparents were ordinary villagers among the rural workers and labourers. Uncles, cousins and connections had been among the men who went to France in 1914-1918 many of whom had never returned. Further back in time it seems that as for many of that class in East Anglia, the Army was the only way out.

His life at the railway station, albeit as a child, will have taught him the need to take great care with the detail, how to deal with different classes and types of people, that timetables mattered and were crucial but at the same time applied common sense was often the best answer to a problem.

Sir Peter did his time on National Service with the RAF Brylcreem Boys and at Buckeburg by Minden in Germany, then an area with a major military presence at a very sensitive period of The Cold War. I have a sneaking suspicion that his impatience with authority and the ruling classes may in part derive from his conscript military period.

It may have revealed to him the closeness of farce and tragedy. I doubt if he wanted to do it and may not have enjoyed it, but decided to get it out of the way before going up to university as did many others. It was tempting to be a conscientious objector but the penalty was severe and it could be very damaging to later careers.

He was Left leaning politically, as so many in the theatre etc. are and have been. He was knighted in 1977 during the period of James Callaghan's government, youngish then at 47, was it Shirley Williams who put the honour forward? It was deserved for all that he had done for theatre and the arts.

The irony here is that there is one other person I have looked at who had a similar background and not far away. She was a Margaret Roberts who married a Denis Thatcher. Did they ever make eye contact with Peter wondering what role she might play had she taken to the stage?

Again, thank you Sir Peter for the many occasions we have enjoyed in the theatre and elsewhere.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Victoria Rules OK

It is sometimes the case that a grandparent has a closer and better relationship with a grandchild than with one or other of their own children. Then it might happen that someone close becomes what might be seen as a surrogate grandchild, particularly if they are always near, willing to listen and unencumbered by the family of the past.

The TV and media and those watching the programme on Queen Victoria as well as in the recent past have had Abdul Karim, "The Munshi" the Indian servant of QV in her last years, see Wikipedia, as some sort of boy friend with the usual inferences as to their closeness.

When you consider that Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany was a grandchild along with other choice persons it is easy to understand why Abdul's company may have been preferred. It was when I saw that he was given lands by Agra when packed off back to India and that his father served with the Central Indian Horse that the twitch came in.

The Wikipedia article gives the names etc. of those most closely involved but there are others in the background. One is a person already mentioned here, Auckland Colvin, Treasurer of India in the period, whose father, John Russell Colvin, has a magnificent tomb in Agra and was a hero of The Mutiny. They were cousins to the Antrim's who were at Court down the generations along with members of the Grey families.

In the early years of Victoria's reign she relied on the Duke of Wellington for sound advice rather than the Whig/Liberals with their fetishes about giving the franchise to lower class men reforming Parliament and social reform along with other things.

You will find across the fields from his house in Hampshire another old India hand, Ralph Henry Sneyd, 1784-1840, whose daughter Emma Catherine Julia "Kate", was one of the beauties at Court in the early 1850's, see J Hayter's, Court Album.

She had other family in London then, who may well have shopped in Piccadilly, a short distance away from Dean Street, where a Prussian, Karl Marx was taking lessons from Morgan Kavanagh in philosophy.

Kate married George Glynn Petre a leading diplomat of his age. At one stage with some intricate negotiations concerning Latin America, what to do about Argentina etc., he acted as the Crown, a rare trust and honour.

This entailed direct contact with The Queen. It does not quite end there. The granddaughter of one of the Antrim's married John Herbert Bowes-Lyon, second son of the 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne. John had a younger sister Elizabeth, born in 1900.

She became the last Empress of India.

Friday, 8 September 2017

Class Acts

A Conservative bank bencher who is in the news is Jacob Rees Mogg said to be interested in running to be the next leader of the party. His chances are widely discounted. Not only does he hold to traditional beliefs on family and like matters but he is regarded as a posh Tory far from the common herd.

The doubts run not only to what he is offering but that if he were by some strange twist of fate the Leader, he might have trouble forming a cabinet. Beyond that in an electorate drawn from the demographics of the 21st Century it is difficult to see how he could appeal to ordinary people.

The family history programme "Who Do You Think You Are" this week featured Lisa Hammond, an actress who plays a major character in the series "East Enders" but herself has a sense of identity as an East Ender and one of common people. Not only that and all it implies but she has a dislike of the country, gardens and such.

Tracking back down the generations to those where the increasing numbers of ancestors become many, inevitably, the researchers were lucky enough to find a "gateway" ancestor for her who had money, a lot of it. Also, they may have been City people but the wealth came from the land.

So Lisa was taken up to the County of Denbigh, shown the verdant rolling acres and beauty of the landscape and informed that once a large chunk of them were owned by an ancestor of the 17th Century who was Gentry, knew it and rejoiced in it. No doubt he was one of those who ground the lower orders down, if only to make his pile.

For Jacob we did not have to go quite so far, indeed only to the early years of the 20th Century. Then of all things I found that his great grandfather was a cabinet maker, one of a line in that trade going back generations. More to the point they were in London and East Enders.

One married a milliner. So if Jacob ever meets Lisa he must remember to touch the peak of his cap.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Blowing In The Wind

After a few years with a limited number of hurricanes there was talk among some experts that perhaps the future would see fewer of them. Now, suddenly, we have four close together. Harvey did major damage to Texas including devastating one of the USA's major economic locations, Houston.

Irma is on track to cause extreme damage to parts of the Caribbean and Florida, where The Keys are being evacuated. Jose follows Irma but is estimated to turn north to the area of Bermuda but could do further damage on its flanks to areas hit by Irma. And now Katia has formed in the Gulf of Mexico and estimated to follow Harvey.

A few years back, we visited the Caribbean and Miami having family out there timing it for after the end of the hurricane season. So it was not long after a big bad one had been through and we saw the scale of the damage it did, let alone the misery it had caused for the poorer populations.

Clearly the first consideration was the immediate rescue and repair needs and how to help the many and various people badly affected. For some it was ironic, notably those who had been persuaded by a property boom to buy into this sector to make their fortunes.

But more to the point was the overall economic effects and other matters. There is little doubt that the hurricanes had caused major economic problems that would take years to grasp and sort out. A side effect coupled with population movements was that criminal gangs increased their power and authority in many districts.

If the present series of hurricanes present anything like these challenges in the USA and other parts of the Caribbean it will be not simply matters of governance but a good many sectors of the economies will suffer setbacks, perhaps permanent and in some cases catastrophic.

That these events come at a time when governance, economic management and international finance are under major stress in a world where the great powers are no longer great, unions are not unified and the trade and finance impossible to control means we could be facing more crises than dealing with weather damage.

None of our present political leaders, nor their governments and nor the international organisations are capable of dealing with any of it.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Thought For The Day

Looking for something else among the cartoons in the sadly lost "Punch" magazine came across the above.

The idea that President Trump might in many ways be a modern Lord Cardigan, who led the disastrous Charge of the Light Brigade, had an appeal.

But there is more to it than that, on the maternal side President Trump is a Macleod, a proud and ancient Clan. They have been present, one way or another in just about all the famous battles and wars.

One, Pipe Major John Macleod, was with the 93rd Highlanders, one of the finest regiments in our history. He was present at the Battle of Balaklava in The Crimean War when the 93rd formed The Thin Red Line to turn away the Russian cavalry.

Also, a little later,  he became famous for his role during The Indian Mutiny at the Relief of Lucknow when the pipers were in the thick of it at the most critical stage of the battle steeling the 93rd at the breach in the wall.

However, it must be admitted that neither The Crimean War nor The Indian Mutiny can be ranked among the successes. Some historians in fact view them as disasters.

It seems possible that when President Trump leaves office there will not be many singing "Will Ye 'No Come Back Again".

Monday, 4 September 2017

Spare The Rod?

The story that has cropped up in the Daily Mail recently that a number of nasty murders of women for whom the killer was never identified may have been the work of Freddie Mills, 1919-1965, the champion boxer. In his time he was a major media celebrity, along with other boxers, often on screens and in effect an example to us all.

This takes us back to the days when gambling was subject to strict legal limits, many goods where short in supply and in major cities, especially London, the criminal gangs ruled the roost, controlled the poorer streets and paid off the police. Freddie, if not a crook, was obliged to be one of their friends along with the others in his trade.

Over half a century later it is difficult to imagine, let alone understand, the role of violence in our society. It could not be avoided. National Service conscripts would be ordered into the ring to fight their comrades. In schools gymnasia and elsewhere , boys would be obliged to put up their fists against their best friends. Boxing was a major sport routinely given top billing by the BBC and the news reels.

This was not the result of wars etc. it was a social norm. Go back another generation or two and the "Punch" cartoons would have men squaring up against each other, either as nations, political rivals or just disagreeing about ordinary matters. Men were expected to fight their case literally, and take the punishment if they lost.

Flogging was routine. It was not until 1948 that legal corporal punishment was abolished. Flogging in the Army had been abolished after 1881 after too much gross misuse and cruelty but other forms of violence could be used. A man could only stand so much running on the spot in the heat of India or the cold of an Aldershot winter.

In the schools, at all levels, canes, birches, ropes and almost anything to hand might be and would be used. Some Heads were notorious floggers. Keate of Eton in the early 19th Century was said to have flogged most of the cabinet and a high proportion of the members of the House of Lords. In the Elementary Schools with classes of 50 and 60 a teacher or his pupil teachers might beat most of them in an ordinary day.

Inevitably, employees, notably child workers might be beaten. Especially vulnerable were the workhouse people and the apprentices or people put out to work. Females sent out into domestic service must have prayed to be in a house where the beatings were light and rare. Often their prayers went unrewarded.

Husbands might beat their wives, in cases of rare horror, there might be a wife who had become adept at beating her husband, especially one who had spent the wages on drink before staggering home. In one of my ancestral towns, the fishwives were not ladies to argue with, and that included the husbands.

So when we look back at Freddie and wonder, he was said to suffer headaches during his career, we are looking at a badly damaged man. How wrong he went and how much was known may emerge fully. What it will tell us, again, is that we should be very careful of those who our media tells us are to be admired.

Because while we think we have curbed the physical risks as part of ordinary life it is still there. What is more violence and to extreme levels can now be streamed easily at any time by anyone and anywhere, including our younger generation. Add this to the revival of gang warfare in some urban areas for various reasons and we could find our present ideas and controls no longer apply.

Looking back at the past, while some things might be welcome, other things are not and the idea that violence can become once again a norm and indeed desirable and praiseworthy, especially when groups are involved, is something to concern us.

It is not just it might happen, it is already happening.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Going By The Book

If you heard the low moan, I apologise, it was going to be a bright nice day, but then the name Harriet Harman appeared in the press. And yes, there was mention of an historical figure, Margaret Thatcher, nee Roberts. Remember, the one with the hand bag, or was that Tony Blair?

One generation has been born since her time as Prime Minister, another died, and in between the effect of outflows and inflows entailing increases of population, let along internal movement, but Harriet cannot let go.  Does she still build Lego council houses to prepare her for planning legisation?

On Monday, 30 July 2012 in "Harriet's Little Secret" I pointed to Harriet's aristocratic family and their connections, notably the Chamberlain's, Joseph, Austen, Neville and all, not the sort you find in "East Enders" or "Coronation Street". Bow down ye lower middle classes and all that.

Then on Tuesday 10 June 2014 there was "Singing For Her Supper" when she joined the Alt Left demands to cut the Arts spending because the money was for the white upper classes. She had neither done the most elementary research nor run the figures and was talking complete nonsense.

"Spreading Harmony" on Wednesday 11 February 2015 discussed her plans for a fleet of pink "Battle Buses" to travel the land handing out benefits on request to single mothers and diverse others. Minimal awareness of the needs of logistics might have told her that this was a hugely expensive, impossible to manage and very hit or miss idea, that would be mostly a miss.

Then Wednesday, 13 July 2016 "Music To The Ears" refers back to the first of 2012 and again refers to her Chamberlain genes. It is indelicate to mention this, but Joseph Chamberlain in the 1880's went to the electorate of his time, which was of rapid industrialisation and severe agricultural depression, with the idea that giving three acres and a cow to each agricultural labourer was the solution to the problem.

Even Margaret Thatcher, who was descended from ag' lab's, might see that this one could never work, or would only if you had a major population crash due to starvation. Alas, she thought that property and finance would answer all our problems as did others. We are about to find out that it doesn't.

Looking for  periods of the past when the going was very rough one is the late 17th Century when people turned to religion rather than economics to answer their prayers. One of the most strict of Biblical beliefs and anti Bishop's and the elitism of the time were the Presbyterians, and among the most severe were the followers of Richard Cameron, The Cameronians.

Ms May has Scot's Patersons/Pattersons in her ancestry, and sure enough nestled among the names in the list of the major followers of Richard Cameron's Covenant is a Patterson.

Could someone give Harriet a Bible and tell her to start reading? Revelation tells about the Seven Last Plagues, it should be just up her street.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Leave It Alone

The attention given to the twentieth anniversary of the death of Princess Diana is a media luxury we could do without given the real problems of the present and the way things are and are going. I would have preferred to avoid this but it is a good example of the media at its worst.

When the couple married in 1981 we were far removed and had no TV to watch. We were in a tent by St. Tropez and there were rumours that Brigitte and others were in town. What moderns like to call a "no brainer" in terms of immediate interest.

In any case, by then I had come to the view that the 1485 Battle of Bosworth had been won by the wrong side and that the lines of monarchy that had followed were not the right ones. Quite who should be monarch at present is a matter of dispute among the many of Plantagenet descent.

As for the couple I am inclined to blame neither. Poor Charles education and upbringing would have been challenging for a saint cum noble warrior cum scholar of high order. Especially, as during it all he was followed and watched by the worst of the gutter press.

Diane was one of the Spencer family. In the long past there have been some it would have been unwise to lend money to or have some sort of contract with. They had ways of their own which were not those of others and lived in the other worlds of the British aristocracy. Her education had a number of gaps.

Their never never lands may have been in part the same but there were many differences which would have created problems for any marriage, let alone one always in the public eye and subject to detailed scrutiny by people, some of whom were enemies and worse some who were friends but just as bad as the enemies.

Requiescat in pace.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Another Day Another Statue

With a debate about knocking down another statue, that of Christopher Columbus, one wonders what next. A reason why he figures so large in the histories of the America's is because he made it back to Europe, more or less in one piece, at a time when the monarchs and money men were taking a world view of their acquisition and merger opportunities.

One place history should tell us to stay away from is Afghanistan and President Trump may well have made the ultimate error in his off the cuff approach to foreign policy and the deployment of troops by going back there. One can only hope that the UK can distance itself from any of this. One of the few men who got out with any credit from a disaster there was Sir William Nott, 1782-1845 above.

He has a page in Wikipedia. There were severe losses in this campaign, notably the massacre of the 44th Regiment of Foot at Gandamak on the hill of bones. There have been many more hills of bones since and more in the future. This regiment is better known for its part in the 1812 Battle of Bladensburg when the British put the Americans to rout and went on to torch Washington D.C..

This page on Sir William Hay Macnaghten briefly tells the broader story of the Afghan debacle but it was a serious setback to British arms at the time and a major disgrace during a period when all could have been lost. It was just over a decade later when almost all nearly did in The Mutiny, as we prefer to call it.

Nott has a large statue at Carmarthen in Wales, this is his birth place, but his father, Charles Nott, an innkeeper, had come down from Herefordshire being one of a number of Nott families around there at the time, one of which is in the ancestry of Benjamin Britten the composer. But there are no tunes of glory in Afghanistan.

Perhaps the best we can do is to ask politely the C Company of the 1st Battalion, The Vikings, Royal Anglian Regiment to pop over to Washington D.C. with a few boxes of matches.

If we can afford it.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Nelson, Steady Boys Steady

One of web sites of choice and to which I often refer on matters of family histories is the wonderful Ayshford Trafalgar Roll which was compiled by a couple from the muster rolls and other information relating to The Battle of Trafalgar of 1805. This was a crucial naval action in the Napoleonic Wars.

Had Britain lost we might have had another world, a Napoleonic one and the Royal Navy would not have been able to clamp down on the slave trade after the Abolition Act of 1808. Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson may have had retrograde views on slavery that were common in his time but did his duty.

Now The Guardian leads the way proposing to remove from the plinth and smash his statue because he held such opinions. A quibble with Nelson is that he referred to Englishmen, perhaps reflecting his views on eugenics. The Roll, however tells us that there were a great many Irishmen, Scots and others on the decks and behind the guns.

The Norfolk seamen in my ancestry were not there, being busy on the vital East Coast Coal and Baltic Trades but the farmers from County Wicklow were. Put to sea when young, Nelson was not expected to rise far being from a family of only middle standing and with few connections. But war created opportunity and created vacancies in the higher ranks.

When, later, the government was tidying up central London and removing the nests of other thieves and slums that were too close for comfort to Whitehall and Parliament, they built a great square and the name Trafalgar seemed to be a good option agreed by most. There was no doubt that we had won that one, whereas many naval actions won had meant heavy losses.

In those days of primitive thinking no square could be without statues which gave rise to the difficult question of who? By the time it  was being finished Nelson was an obvious choice. There was no agreement about which politicians, King George IV was a no-go and Wellington was still alive and kicking, hard. Nelson's convenient death in the battle of 1805 had removed one of the more awkward, noisy and opinionated leaders of the Royal Navy.

Also he was disabled, having lost an eye and an arm and needing care and assistance for the ordinary functions of life. Given his messy private life and financial problems why on earth was he in charge of the fleet? Because he had a very special skill, he was a winner when it came to naval battles, especially the critical ones.

The BBC have recently run a series on The Vikings who were big in the slave trade of their day. Given the numbers they took down to the markets of the Middle East, it is likely that a very large proportion of the populations there have a trace of British or Irish slaves in their DNA. The Vikings morphed into the The Normans among others, and later Plantagenets, who had their own methods of reducing the lower orders to servile status.

It is 500 years now since Martin Luther triggered the Protestant revolution, which later in the UK led to the stripping out of much of the high art of the Middle Ages from churches and other buildings. We can only wonder at what has been lost and at what cost. But on the empty walls later there came the memorials and statues to the major figures at the time.

I suspect that the great majority of these as with others at their times had beliefs and ideas that would not fit well with our modern thinking in many ways. To remove them all may suit us and we might knock down all the churches and buildings because they might remind us.

In fact it might be safer to wipe out all history while we are at it, just to make sure, so torch the records offices and archives. What fun it would be and how good we would feel after it.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017


No sooner do I mention Michael Parkinson, see yesterday on Lulu, than the ghost at the feast arrives. Geoffrey Boycott turns up to do a foot in mouth turn at a hospitality dinner saying that a knighthood for him might depend on colour.

Many once famous sports persons and others are now in the business of after dinner speaking to audiences they hope are there to listen to what they have to say. Up to a point, that is, and with Geoffrey perhaps it is a little like letting a hungry Yorkshire Terrier off the leash.

It took him ten little words, Geoffrey does not do long ones, for him to misjudge the flight of the ball. Instead of just patting it back for the umpteenth time to bore the crowd stiff he took a verbal swipe which flattened his wickets and has been declared out.

Parkinson comes from Cudworth by Barnsley. Boycott is from Fitzwilliam, by Hemsworth, a short bus journey away on the road to Pontefract. This could be described as the epicentre of Yorkshire man and for that matter women.

However, the name Boycott is not necessarily local. The Wikipedia and Britannica articles on Captain Charles Boycott 1832-1897, whose name was given to the practise of ostracising individuals, that is boycotting them, suggest that the surname comes from migrant Huguenots expelled from France in 1685 because of their Protestant religious beliefs.

It could be that Geoffrey is of migrant refugee stock. The fact that he is not a knight whereas some West Indian cricketers are may be more to do with the catalogue of pungent Geoffreyism's and arguments he has had from down the years than anything else.

So will Geoffrey Boycott live up to his name?

Monday, 21 August 2017

Lulu Who Do You Think You Are Wringing The Blues

Lulu, the popular Glaswegian singer from the 60's and 70's, born in 1948 and still going strong, was the latest person to be featured in "Who Do You Think You Are".

Unusually, this showing had a single story from the past rather than the usual two or three. WDYTYR has become a programme for celebrities and performers for whom there is a human interest tale to tell and this was one.

When trying to summarise major cultural productions I often call them "bone headed men" or "three handkerchief" jobs and this fitted both these bills.

One grandfather, Hugh Cairns was a Glaswegian hard case, see Wikipedia on "Glasgow Razor Gangs", the programme was very restrained about this and their activities which reduced parts of Glasgow to a state of war in the pursuit of the usual criminal activities and dominance of territory. Given his age and record he may have been a gang leader.

He was a Catholic, and the grandmother, Helen Kennedy was from a prominent Protestant family high in the Orange Order. In an age of bitter religious divisions it was a miracle that they had come together and lasted, but it ended when she died young, tragically from a burst appendix. He died a little later but the cause of death not stated for some reason.

Clearly the series of these programmes have to avoid telling similar stories and relating to the same major events in history. There are only so many lost on the Titanic that the viewers are interested in. Michael Parkinson was told by the programme makers they could not find anything interesting in his history. I found a colliery disaster but others had already been done.

The mother of Helen, Lulu's great grandmother, also called Helen was a major figure in women's Orange Order of her period, not only locally, but at a Scottish national level. She was an enthusiast for the works of Robert Burns introducing women's Burns NIghts as well as promoting women's roles in the Orange Order.

For both Clan Cairns and Clan Kennedy families there are Wikipedia pages. But here I declare an interest having a Jean Kennedy ancestress in Ayrshire who married a Park and was buried at Girvan in 1784. There were a lot of Kennedy's in that area, it being their patch and many moved on to Glasgow. Between then and the end of the 19th Century there must have been some who led interesting lives.

My guess is that along the various lines of this ancestry are a few military here and there as well as maritime. One wonders about what might have been, notably dealing with things and places we may be anxious to ignore.

There were a number of Scottish Kennedy's in British India, including some in the Royal Artillery; when anything happened usually one or more of them was there.

The picture above is some cheerful Glaswegians in 1954, near the River Elbe, who stood between western civilisation and the Soviet Third Shock Army.

"Boom Bang-A-Bang" says it all.