The Easter Rising of 1916
”Ireland is too great to be unconnected with us, and too near to be dependent on a foreign state, and too little to be independent.” Duke of Rutland, 1784.
It seems to me that this quotation from the late eighteenth century underscores England`s attitude to Ireland subsequently. Ireland was the largely neglected ‘step-sister`, considered by many historians to be the first colony of England, and ruled by a pro-English élite, the Anglo-Irish. While England`s economy waxed and prospered in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Ireland`s didn`t. The growth of population was solved by letting land into increasingly smaller sub-plots with dangerous reliance on one crop, the potato, which went badly wrong in the Great Famine (1844-‘6), when the wet summers rotted the potatoes in the ground and brought ‘Potato Blight` or mould.
Sinn Fein, the Irish Gaelic language society, was founded in 1893 to re-establish Irish language and culture and delineate Irish as opposed to English identity. There was also a flowering of literature generally and the most noted writer, conscious of his Irish roots (unlike George Bernard Shaw or James Joyce) was William Butler Yeats. ‘Easter Rising of 1916` is one of his finest and best loved poems.
Religion was also an important factor in Irish politics. The Ulster volunteers were formed in the north and threatened Civil War, if Ulster (one of the four Irish Gaelic kingdoms) should ever be seceded to an independent Ireland. They proudly remembered the Battle of the Boyne, when the last Catholic king of England, James ll, had been resoundingly trounced by Orangemen and Protestant forces. The Orange Marches, ‘The Troubles` (period of civil war in Northern Ireland, beginning with Bloody Sunday, 1966) and the division into Northern Ireland (Ulster) and Eire (southern Ireland) have deep historical roots.
Sinn Fein was moribund from 1910-1913 but was revived on the eve of the First World War, which broke out for Britain in 1914. The Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRP) also had new life blown into it by the War and its leader, James Connolly. An important contributing factor to the 1916 rising was the National Service Act of 1916, which made conscription (the draft) obligatory for Ireland.
The 1916 Rising was a confused affair. There were about five groups involved and they were all acting secretly so that British Intelligence would not get wind of them. They suffered from the weaknesses of guerrilla warfare – decentralization, localization, lack of a chain of command, no one knowing which orders to follow – without the advantages – rapid hit-and-run tactics. However, in Germany at the end of the war, Rosa Luxemburg nearly pulled off a Socialist Revolution in Berlin and Lenin and Trotsky were successful in their Bolshevist Revolution. The decisive factor in crushing the Irish rebellion in 1916 was the strength and resolve of the Imperial Power. Nonetheless, the later rising and War of Independence 1919-`21 did establish the Irish Free State so the revolutionaries of 1916 were not entirely without any hope of success.
The Rising was planned for Easter Sunday. McNeil, the leader of the Revolutionary Committee, called it off as having no real hope of success. Nonetheless, his lieutenants started it on Easter Monday and there was confusion in the camp from the very first day. However, the rebels had about a thousand men at their disposal and the British only had four hundred soldiers. Moreover, British Intelligence (mainly the Royal Irish Constabulary or RIC) was so bad that the British were taken completely off their guard. Fighting went ostensibly well on the first day, Monday, and the rebels seized many minor strongholds but by a whisker the British got the gates of Dublin castle closed to a small force of Irish attackers. Very significantly, also, the rebels failed to seize the two rail stations and the two ports whereby they could have debarred troop reinforcements from Ireland and the nearby (3-4 hours sail) mainland. They settled on the General Post Office as the seat of their HQ.
The Easter Rising was from the 24th – 29th April, 1916, from Monday, when the first shot was fired, to Saturday, the day of capitulation. Let me give a day-by-day, blow-by-blow account.
Monday 24th April the rebels fail to take Dublin Castle but occupy the adjacent City Hall instead. They seize the General Post Office, a grandiose building built like a fortress with steel-reinforced concrete to use as their HQ instead. They also seize Boland`s Mill, the South Dublin Union, Jacob`s Biscuit Factory and other strategic sites around the City.
They fail to control the entrances to the City by sea and rail to stop the arrival of British reinforcements.
At this point, they number a thousand to the British 400. Plans for a German landing in Galway, West Ireland, have fallen through. A large shipment of arms to the rebels from Germany has been intercepted by the Royal Navy.
Minor uprisings break out in other parts of Ireland but the only major rising is at Ashbourne, County Meathe, a handful of miles from Dublin.
Transport and distribution in the City break down and widespread looting especially in the O`Connell Street district breaks out.
All-in-all, a promising start to the first day, when the rebels have the element of surprise.
Tuesday 25th April Government forces from Belfast and the Curragh arrive by train overnight. The rebels are now in a minority and thence forward they will only fight defensively.
Machine gun fire from the Shelbourne Hotel force rebels to abandon St. Stephen`s Green, a central Dublin square.
Daliy Express newspaper building is taken.
City Hall is retaken.
By 4.20.pm the British have 3,000 troops available in Dublin and more are preparing to embark from the nearby mainland.
Wednesday 26th April The tide is definitely turning.
At 8.00.am the shelling of Liberty Hall begins as a group of rebels at the Mendicity Institute nearby is forced to surrender.
British troops continue landing at Kingstown (Dublin docks), now Dun Laoghaire.
Government troops mount a full frontal attack on Mount Street Bridge, where they incur massive casualties and a couple of times, there is a cease-fire to retrieve the bodies, which simply pile up. Nonetheless, the bridge is taken.
Gunboat Helga shells Liberty Hall (now empty) from the River Liffey.
At St. Stephen`s Green, government forces strafe the College of Surgeons (to which the rebels have retreated) with machine gun fire.
2.00.pm the GPO, rebel HQ, first comes under artillery fire.
Thursday 27th April Connolly, one of the chief leaders is badly wounded. There is fighting across the entire City.
Trinity College (prestigious Dublin University, then as now) doubles as an Army Barracks for 4,000 British troops.
By nightfall, the entire City is ablaze.
Friday 28th April General Sir John Maxwell arrives from London in the early hours to take charge of the situation.
Fighting at Ashbourne, County Meathe, a few miles from Dublin finishes the Rising there and more than 90 prisoners are taken.
Firing at the General Post Office renews and the position becomes untenable. At 8.00 pm the rebels retreat to nearby Church St, where there are no defensible buildings.
Saturday 30th April all is now lost. Pearse, now in charge, orders a cease-fire at noon. Nurse O`Farrall walks out with a white flag to the British. At 3.30 pm, Pearse officially surrenders and at 3.45 signs the document of surrender at Maxwell`s HQ.
And so, bloodily and with the maximum of destruction, loss of civilian life and looting, ended the uprising. Nearly a hundred years ago, the British acted with the ferocity of some Third World states today to put down a rising of their own people. At first, the mob jeered, insulted and spat at the rebels upon whom they laid the blame for their own suffering. The execution of the ring-leaders and the arrest of thousands, many of whom had nothing to do with the Rising, themselves, however, turned the tide of public opinion. Soon, the Brit`s were seen as the offenders. The heavy-handed reaction of the British to the crisis, as well as Irish losses in the First World War due to the National Service Act would lead to the War of Independence 1919-`21. And the only Irish leader not to be shot by firing squad due to his being an American citizen born in New York City (as David Edmund de Valera) was later Eamon de Valera, who was to play an important role in the War of 1919-`21 and become the first President of the Irish Free State.
Comes Littoris Saxonis
The Wild Hunt
Few legends have inspired more poetry than those of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. These legends have their roots in a far older Celtic mythology than many realize. Here the names are ancient and compelling. Arthur becomes Artur or Artos, "the bear." Bedivere becomes Bedwyr. Lancelot is Llenlleawc, Llwch Lleminiawg or Lluch Llauynnauc. Merlin is Myrddin. And there is an curious intermingling of Welsh and Irish names within these legends, indicating that some tales (and the names of the heroes and villains) were in all probability "borrowed" by one Celtic tribe from another. For instance, in the Welsh poem "Pa gur," the Welsh Manawydan son of Llyr is clearly equivalent to the Irish Mannanan mac Lir. So it seems possible that the original King Arthur was actually Irish!
Near Devon, the hunters appear in the sky
with Artur and Bedwyr sounding the call;
and the others, laughing, go dashing by.
They only appear when the moon is full:
Valerin, the King of the Tangled Wood,
and Valynt, the goodly King of Wales,
Gawain and Owain and the hearty men
who live on in many minstrels` tales.
They seek the white stag on a moonlit moor,
or Torc Triath, the fabled boar,
or Ysgithyrwyn, or Twrch Trwyth,
the other mighty boars of myth.
They appear, sometimes, on Halloween
to chase the moon across the green,
then fade into the shadowed hills
where memory alone prevails.
It Is Not the Sword
This poem illustrates the strong correlation between the names that appear in Welsh and Irish mythology. Much of this lore predates the Arthurian legends, and was assimilated as Arthur`s fame (and hyperbole) grew. Caladbolg is the name of a mythical Irish sword, while Caladvwlch is its Welsh equivalent. Caliburn and Excalibur are later variants.
"It is not the sword,
but the man,"
But the people demanded a sign—
the sword of Macsen Wledig,
Caladbolg, the "lightning-shard."
"It is not the sword,
but the words men follow."
Still, he set it in the stone
—Caladvwlch, the sword of kings—
and many a man did strive, and swore,
and many a man did moan.
But none could budge it from the stone.
"It is not the sword
or the strength,"
"that makes a man a king,
but the truth and the conviction
that ring in his iron word."
"It is not the sword,"
as Arthur drew forth Caliburn
with never a gasp,
with never a word,
and so became their king.
We must sometimes wonder if all the fighting related to King Arthur and his knights was really necessary. In particular, it seems that Lancelot fought and either captured or killed a fairly large percentage of the population of England. Could it be that Arthur preferred to fight than stay at home and do domestic chores? And, honestly now, if he and his knights were such incredible warriors, who would have been silly enough to do battle with them? Wygar was the name of Arthur`s hauberk, or armored tunic, which was supposedly fashioned by one Witege or Widia, quite possibly the son of Wayland Smith. Legends do suggest that Excalibur may have been forged upon the anvil of the smith-god Wayland, who was also known as Volund, which sounds suspiciously like Vulcan . . .
Artur took Cabal, his hound,
and Carwennan, his knife,
and his sword forged by Wayland
and Merlyn, his falcon,
and, saying goodbye to his sons and his wife,
he strode to the Table Rounde.
"Here is my spear, Rhongomyniad,
and here is Wygar that I wear,
and ready for war,
an oath I foreswore
to fight for all that is righteous and fair
from Wales to the towers of Gilead."
But none could be found to contest him,
for Lancelot had slewn them, forsooth,
so he hastened back home, for to rest him,
till his wife bade him, "Thatch up the roof!"
TRICK OR TREAT?
"Good Christians" warn that Halloween`s
A festival of Satan,
When nothing`s standing in between
Your soul and its damnation.
For centuries, they witches burned
With little provocation.
Eternal fire claimed they`d earned.
For mercy -- strangulation!
The Inquisition paid you well
For friend`s denunciation,
Provided friend was rich as hell
For Church`s confiscation.
The "Day of Saints" to honor dead
Was Christian celebration,
Till Celtic lore imposed instead
Samhain* their harvest holiday
Ere winter`s hibernation,
When eating, drinking, sped the way
Of spirits to salvation.
Both ghosts and goblins walked the earth
In Celts` imagination.
But Church saw little room for mirth
In such abomination.
Samhain became "All Hallow`s Eve,"
A night in preparation
For praising saints, which they believed
Would minimize temptation.
But medieval Church obsessed
With total domination
Of Europe, therefore, had to wrest
Control of cerebration.
So demons lurking everywhere,
Their clever postulation,
With witches flying through the air
And cloven fornication.
On Halloween, they focused all
Their hate and trepidation.
Condemned it as a hellish ball
Of evil`s culmination.
Removed they "undesirables"
By faulty accusation,
Preserving "Christian principles"
`Mid purging conflagration.
At last, in eighteenth century
Such nonsense met cessation
When rational humanity
Now Fundamentalists dismiss
A child`s anticipation
Of Halloween by calling this
Like Torquemadas vivified,
They thrive on condemnation
Of challenge to their narrow lives
Of mental constipation.
So on October 31st,
Keep kids in isolation,
Lest pumpkin carved or mummy cursed
Be devil`s invitation.
LA FEE VERTE
Multi-faceted emerald intense saturated beryl
Peridot fends off evil demons
Tourmaline artistic intuition Gertrude Stein
Alice B. Toklas Paris circle salon
L`Absinthe literati bohemian culture allure
Toulouse-Lautrec van Gogh Degas Oscar Wilde
Hand blown glass louche reservoir
Distorted reflection communal spirit ritual
Verdant groen nature growth renewal
Unique flavor winging fairytale flutter
Wormwood herbs Melissa fennel anise
Addictive high proof beguiling tipple
Heavenly Erin 5-leaf clover pluck
Shamrock meets cactus tequila shooters
Michael Collins frisky whisky pucker
Chartreuse Midori Bailey`s Irish cream
Bottoms up down the hatch
Cheers Prosit A Votre Sante!
Jaded burnt toast cinnamon sprinkled
Bourgeois scavenging pigeon feed crumbs
No Holds Bard Dr. Charles Frederickson
The Moon Howls
The moon howls
at the light
shimmering on the sea
watch it dance
as the mermaids sing
of past loves
along the coral reefs
where color makes its home
under the warm warm sun
surrounded by the open ocean
and even here
the moon howls
where even dots
tiny in size
invisible to our eyes.
When I write
I summon them
let them be called
they are not like words
they are more than words
they are power
they are effect
they are feeling
and we all know
at least some of them
we become some of them
but they are not like us
they are not equals
they have different strategies
they are always at war with one another
vying for sway over our lives
to rule us
they never decay
they are not a part of nature
they are creations
and they depend upon us
to consume our energy
and without us
they are nothing
some are good masters
some are good servants
but we are better than them
if we can use them
for our own ends
and not become their puppets
then we can do what we must
2. LOST – IN THOUGHT
I carry books
I will not read
My feet crunching snow
Looking for the way
3. A MERMAID SONG
I sing of mermaids
With young warm breasts
As I look out to sea
5. POWDER SNOW
Snow like powder
From a weeping gray sky
In gray light
Between cloud and sky
The World of The Keltoi|
The Celts in Early European History
Where the first people of Europe came from or what language they spoke is unknown. The first groups of settlers we know of, we call the Beaker People from the clay goblets or beakers they left in their graves. They were replaced – or they comingled with – a group we know as the axe-head people, who were characterized by the axe-heads, metal or stone, they left. The Celts were either a new wave of invaders from the East or they evolved from the peoples already present. Their language was Indo-European, which suggests that they originated in southern Russia. Their name, the Keltoi – wanderers or foreigners, they owe to the Greeks.
The Celts are known to us mainly from Greek and Roman sources. They had writing but used it mainly for grave and other religious inscriptions. In 390 BC, they sacked Rome and later in 273 BC, they sacked Delphi, the holy shrine of the Ancient Greeks.
Their early center seems to have been around Hallstatt in southern Germany. It was a thriving community based on salt-mining. Many German place names have ‘hall` in them and this designates salt-mining since the word in Celtic means ‘salt`. From southern Germany, the Celts expanded in all directions. In the east, they reached Galatia (‘Gaul`) in eastern Turkey around modern Ankara. To the south, they occupied the Po Valley in northern Italy and founded modern Milan. Their heartland, however, was south central Europe – Czekia, Slovakia, Bavaria, south Germany, Austria, Switzerland etc. Their expansion was mainly westward into France, Spain and Portugal, as well as the Low Countries. Later expansion took them to Britain and Ireland, where the ‘insular Celts` are the peoples we most commonly associate with Celts today. However, the ‘Celtic fringe` is the rump of a much larger Celtic ‘empire`.
The Celts had an advanced technology and art. They trod the stage of European history in the late Bronze Age but they quickly entered into the Iron Age and produced very serviceable weapons with which to combat the Romans and the Greeks. They also left behind many examples of their art. Hallstatt has yielded many valuable finds. However, the most noted finds stem from La Téne in Switzerland. There, there is a lake in which votive offerings were cast. It has yielded rich finds to modern archeologists, who have recovered many artifacts. They show a people highly refined in their ability to sculpt stone and work metal.
Celtic society was based on tribal and kinship systems. There were minor kings or headmen, a priestly class of druids, who also had the job of memorizing everything to do with religion, divining and customary practice (their training sometimes took twenty years) and a warrior class as well as a class of freemen. They also had slaves from war. Women played a much greater role in society than in Greco-Roman society. Sometimes they fought in war alongside their men folk or led in battle like Boudicca. They chose their own husbands and men derived their descent through the female line. Especially at an early date, society seems to have been matriarchal.
Celts were ferocious warriors. They had chain armor and long iron swords with which they hacked at their enemies. Sometimes, they went naked into battle and these naked young men brandishing long swords and carrying shields struck fear into the hearts of Caesar`s legionaries. Later the Romans adopted the sabers for their cavalry and often deployed Celtic horse. Indeed, prior to the Roman Empire, Celts often served as mercenaries e.g. to the Egyptian Ptolemies.
Unquestionably, the Celts were cruel. They practiced human sacrifice as well as animal sacrifice. They read omens in the dripping blood of a severed head. They attributed great qualities to the head as the resort of life and the spirit. They were also head-hunters and collected and preserved the heads of their enemies. That way, the dead would not rise again to haunt them. As late as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, a classical English medieval fable, the Green Knight retrieves his severed head in the desire to be re-united with it and come back to life. A number of Irish fables from a similar period also have the same theme of the protagonist retrieving his head in the hope of being re-united with it. Moreover, there is hardly a haunted castle in England, where the ghost does not go round with his head under his arm. All are a grisly reminder that the Celts hacked off the heads of their enemies as a trophy and guarantee that the dead would stay dead.
The demise of the Celts was spelled by Rome. They defeated the Etruscans and their Celtic allies and eventually conquered northern Italy, which they called Cisalpine Gaul. Julius Caesar conquered Gaul (Gallia) and the other French Celtic areas, which were reorganized as Roman provinces. Spain and Portugal had already been conquered. Only the name, Galicia, (Gaul) remained as the name of the north-west province of modern Spain. During the reign of the fourth Roman Emperor, Claudius, the Romans invaded Britain in 55 AD. Only Ireland, in the very far west, remained Celtic. Finally, the migration of Germanic tribes transformed the language and culture of the Celts, although it is hard to say how far they displaced their genes. Nonetheless, the six languages of the ‘Celtic Fringe`, Irish Gaelic, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, Cornwelsh (from Cornwall the south-westerly county of England), Manx (from the Isle of Man, a little north of Liverpool in the Irish Sea) and Breton, from Brittany, western France, have survived as Celtic languages and are undergoing a revival just now. In particular, Irish Gaelic literature albeit from the late Celtic period, is renowned.
The Celts (Keltoi, Celti) have set their stamp on European history. Traces linger on in place names and Celtic languages. Traces of their culture linger on also. The Greeks and Romans are not our spiritual forebears as much as the people, who tilled the land of Western Europe and influenced the Germanic tribes, who followed them. We are the legatees of the Dark Ages, which historians are beginning to realize were not so ‘dark` as we originally believed but a vibrant time of progress and advance. The Greco-Roman world made the mistake of standing still for too long. Celtic resilience and the ‘lilt of Irish laughter` linger on.
Scotland, the Brave: On Vacation
Scotland is the northerly third of the island of Britain. North to South, she measures 270 miles but her coastline is so rugged that it adds up to 2,000 miles. The total area is 30,414 square miles. There are 790 islands, mainly the Orkneys, Shetland Isles and Hebrides. Ireland lies nineteen miles from the south-western tip of Scotland. Scotland`s highest mountain, Ben Nevis, is also Britain`s highest at 4,606 feet. Scotland has a population of just over five million or approximately the same as 1900, attesting to the economic decline of the country in the twentieth century. Scotland received her own Parliament as a result of a referendum in 1999 but the United Kingdom controls foreign policy, defense, monetary policy and social policy. The Scots, hence, continue to have MPs in London. Two languages are spoken: Scottish Gaelic and English. In the past, there was a third language namely Lallans or Lowland Scots, which is a variant of English. Although in the fourteenth century, it seemed set to break away and become a language in its own right, the linguistic gravitational tug of England brought about a linguistic convergence so that the variant known as Educated Scottish English is no more different than British and American English. Dialects are something else.
There is much to attract the visitor to Scotland. Mention has already been made of the 790 islands, which mostly lie to the north and west of Scotland. However, the country is broken in two by the Highlands Boundary Fault, which reflects an old fusion of two tectonic plates eons past. The Highlands boast high mountains, once originating in volcanic activity and later sculpted by successive ice ages. It has deep sea lochs resembling the fjords of Norway and land lochs or deep fresh water lakes like Loch Ness. Who knows if you will spot the Loch Ness Monster, Nessie, on your visit. Especially with modern cameras and ingenuity, the visitor could do better than the crude photo`s of the 1920s and ‘30s. Otherwise, Loch Ness owes its popularity to the first stream of Glaswegian workers in the nineteenth century to receive annual holidays from the factory mills.
The Lowlands to the south are flatter and home to most of the population. Glasgow on the Clyde River, built at the point at which ships could sail no further, was once ‘the workshop of the world`. Clyde shipbuilding once was what South Korean shipbuilding is today. In the same valley lies Edinburgh with its castle on the Rock still dominating the city and proclaiming its historical right to be capital of Scotland. South again, and the Border Country is hilly to the frontier with England still delineated for the most part by Hadrian`s Wall, built by the Emperor to be free of Pict or Celtic marauders. The English built castles at Berwick, Newcastle and Carlisle and as far south as York, the city was walled for the same reason.
The last great incursion of the Scots was when Bonnie Prince Charlie, supported by French money and Highland clans, came close to success in a rapid march south, when the bulk of the English army was fighting in the Low Countries. His defeat was followed by a policy of active English genocide with a determination to smash the Scottish clan structure forever. English carpet baggers flocked north to buy up whatever was available as cheaply as possible. Scotland`s new elite was attracted south to learn English ways before returning to their own country to rule just as surely as the Anglo-Irish, the native princes of India and all the other colonials in a systematic process of empire-building first used to great effect by the Romans with their client-kings.
Otherwise, industry developed in Scotland along with the rest of Britain. Coal, iron and zinc were important in the nineteenth century. Great centers of heavy industry grew up and collapsed under the Great Depression. For young men, the army was a way out and Scottish Regiments are still accounted some of the finest in the British Army. Many left for the colonies, others to America, some to London. However, in the 1970s, the discovery of oil in the North Sea brought boom times back to Scotland and particularly Aberdeen, a little fishing village, which now became the on-shore center for refining. Most recently, there has been much interest in renewable energy.
Scotland has given golf to the world and St. Andrews Golf Course is still on the world circuit for international golf tournaments. Curling also had its origins in Scotland in the early sixteenth century. Fishing - salmon and trout - walking and climbing are all popular. For the rich, grouse and deer shooting are a possibility.
Should the American of Scottish descent wish to be well-clad Scottish-wise either at home at a sumptuous Burns` Evening or on a visit to the croft where his ancestor burnt peat to keep warm and ate porridge or oatmeal to fill his belly, here are some tips I have picked up. Formal dress is kilt, sporran and Prince Charlie jacket with bow-tie. Day wear is kilt, sporran, tweed jacket and neck-tie. Casual wear – more me – is a rugby shirt (T-shirt with long arms) and twice afore said kilt and sporran. Highlanders are reputed to wear nothing under their kilts (and who would attempt to molest these caber tossing Scots) but the visitor is recommended to wear shorts since high Atlantic gales, gusting to gale force nine sometimes, are prevalent in all seasons. Ladies, as usual, have more latitude than laddies, but a tartan draped from a shoulder broach, is not uncommon.
No description of Scotland would be complete without a mention of Gaelic, which has been briefly alluded to above. It is the original Celtic language more closely related to Irish Gaelic than to Welsh and Breton, which are another branch of Celtic. It is widely spoken in the north and west of Scotland including the Hebrides. Like Irish Gaelic and Welsh, it has come to be identified with national consciousness and a resurgence in national identity and feelings of separateness from England, which has also led to an enthusiasm to learn and spread the Scottish Gaelic tongue. It was, however, replaced in the Lowlands by the Anglo-Saxon invasions and in the far north on Shetland and in the Orkneys by a Viking language derived from Old Norse, which became extinct in the mid-nineteenth century. Scottish Gaelic remains as the link through to pre-historic times, when the British Isles were first colonized by the Celtic Britons.
Wales is the country furthest west in the United Kingdom. It is approximately 170 miles from North to South and sixty miles East to West giving it an area of approximately 8.000 square miles. It was settled when early man came to Europe. That was the time of the last Ice Age and land bridges existed from Britain to the Continent of Europe. It was subjugated by the Romans in the first century AD and conquered by the English king, Edward l in the thirteenth century. The old borderline between England and Wales is formed by Offe`s Dyke, an earthwork, which testifies to the struggle of the Welsh against the Anglo-Saxon and Viking invaders. This group gave Wales its name. Walha is a Germanic name for foreign land and ‘walesc` are foreigners. The Celtic Welsh called Wales ‘cymru`, themselves ‘cymry` (the Welsh) and their language ‘cymraeg`. There are about three million of them and a half a million speak Welsh.
In the seventeenth century, Wales began to develop economically. By the eighteenth century, the Valleys and fast-running streams delivered water power. At first, copper was mined. Then more reserves imported from Cornwall, a little to the south. In the north, slate came to be mined. In the south, the valleys there were rich in coal and iron ore. The country boomed in the nineteenth century and attracted migrants from England (to the detriment of Welsh), who were looking for work. Coal mining reached its peak at the eve of the First World War and collapsed during the Great Depression. Migration went in the opposite direction (further weakening Welsh). In addition, 1.75 million Americans can trace their descent to Welsh ancestry and a half a million Canadians.
After the Second World War, attempts were made to diversify Welsh industry. It was difficult at first because mining is a primary industry and the many skills needed for the new light industries had to be developed. Progress, however, was made. Until the 1980s. A new depression set in. And a new rebuilding. Foreign investment was encouraged and in particular the Japanese built many factories. There was criticism that too many were ‘screw-driver factories` i.e. the work force was required to assemble parts put together elsewhere.
Tourism, however, is now one of Wales` major industries. It has 233 miles of coast and 150 islands, the largest of which is Anglesey. (I remember holidays in Wales as a boy in the popular north coast resorts of Rhyl and Llandudno, from my home county of Cheshire, which borders on Wales.) Snowdon is the second highest mountain in the UK at 3,500 feet and the highest in Wales. There are three national parks: Snowdon, the Breckon Beacons and the Pembrokeshire coast, and five Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. However, the coast is frequently gusted by westerly and south-westerly storms particularly in fall. Like Ireland, it is very wet.
Mention has already been made of the Celtic language. It is Brhythonic and related to Cornwelsh (from Cornwall, the county in the far south-west of England) and Breton. It is thought to originate in the Iberian Peninsula. It is less related to the Goidelic Celtic languages of Irish Gaelic, Scottish Gaelic and Manx (from the Isle of Man, north of Liverpool). It is now a thriving language once again with most speakers in the north and west of Wales. English has ousted it on the coal mining areas of South Wales, which were once a magnet of migration. Attempts were made to suppress it in the nineteenth century in schools. ‘Wenglish` is the name given to a sort of hybrid, which is mainly English with a mixture of Welsh grammar and Welsh words overlain with a heavy Welsh accent. In 1993, the Welsh Languages Act provided for equal status for English and Welsh in Wales. Previously in 1966, the Welsh Language Society was set up to promote the Welsh language. Extant literature goes back to the sixth and seventh century AD and we know many Welsh works of literature from the Middle Ages. Earlier Celtic literature, however, was oral. Welsh, of all the Celtic languages, is the most vibrant, living language in spite of Irish Gaelic being one of the two official languages of the completely independent Eire or southern Ireland.
In 1999, as a result of a referendum held in Wales, autonomy was devolved from the national Parliament at Westminster to the Welsh National Assembly. The Assembly votes on the budget for Wales and can enact legislation subject to the approval of Westminster. It is elected partly directly and partly according to a system of limited proportional representation. In the nineteenth century, the Welsh mainly voted Liberal (e.g. Gladstone) and Lloyd George was the first Welsh MP to become PM.
Later Wales switched alliance to become Labour and is a bastion of the modern Labour Party. However, Plaid Cymry, the Welsh Nationalist Party was founded in 1925 and is now the second partner of a Labour-Plaid Cymry coalition in the Welsh Assembly.
Sports are soccer and rugby. Music is the triple harp, the fiddle and the hornpipe. Male voice choirs abound since the nineteenth century. Wales is ‘the land of song`. The Eistedfod, a celebration of music and poetry, is rightly renowned. Welsh women have a national dress and the Red dragon is the emblem and flag of Wales. There are even national plants, the leek and the daffodil. Modern writers include Dylan Thomas, the poet, Bertrand Russell, philosopher and Nobel Prize Winner and Roald Dahl, a children`s writer. For such a small country, Wales has a lot to offer.
The domination of London and the South East of England, first of the British Isles and later of the British Empire, relegated the Celtic fringe and the Celtic languages to the second rank. Most recently, there has been more democracy in Britain and greater acceptance of regional differences. In particular, this has augured well for Wales and the Welsh language, which goes back thousands of years.
Brittany, sometimes called ‘little Britain`, is the far north-west corner of France. It has spectacular rugged coastlines and the largest metropolitan areas are Nantes, Rennes and Brest. St. Malo on the coast is a renowned and beautiful fairy-tale castle. The language of Breton was brought to this part of France in the Early Middle Ages by Britons fleeing from the mainland. However, it was annexed to France in 1532 and both the ancien regime and the French Revolution tried to repress the language. Also, today, French is the only recognized language and Breton is the only Celtic language not to have recognition as an official tongue.
Breton, nonetheless, is spoken by 200,000 people. In 1999, the ‘Offis er Brezhoneg` was set up to promote it. It is taught in some schools funded by either parents or the local authorities but not by the French government. It is most closely related to Cornish or Cornwelsh (from SW England) and less closely related to Welsh. The other branch of the Celtic family tree is provided by Scottish and Irish Gaelic and Manx, from a British island between England and Ireland, the Isle of Man.
It has a grammar and vocabulary very different from most other European languages. In particular, it has a progressive tense or aspect so that ‘I am thinking / he is walking etc` are possible. English, along with Spanish and Portuguese, is the only other non-Celtic language to have this and it is interesting to speculate that the three languages may have taken this over from the Celtic languages they displaced. French, German and all the other languages of Western Europe only have the possibility of saying ‘I go / he talks` etc. but English has this extra progressive or –ing form in its tenses. The Eastern European languages such as Russian and other Slav languages have a tense or aspect to distinguish between activities completed or begun, but not completed, but that is a different distinction to our English form in –ing. (Note, by the way that I am not dealing with gerunds also formed with –ing, which are verbal nouns.)
Some few words have also found their way into French and English from the Celtic languages. Examples would be ‘baraguiner` (French – to jabber) from Celtic ‘bara` (bread) and ‘gwin` (wine) and in English (sea-)gull from ‘gwalan`.
Otherwise, modern Breton, which was the language of ‘Armorica`, the name the Bretons gave to the land they settled in from Britain, is now confined to a small area of modern Brittany. It shares the peninsula with another regional language, ‘Gallo`, a Latin language derived from the ‘langue d`oil` or northern French ( as opposed to the ‘langue d`oc` or southern French patois such as Provencal). From the point of view of linguistic heritage, it would be a shame if this timeless jewel from a bye-gone Celtic past should not be preserved.
The Minstral Boy|
The Drummer Boy Who Offered the Sword of Surrender at Yorktown
The rooster crew thrice. The wine-dark sky of sea-reflected morning faded to pastel blue. And a baby was born as is the wont of babies to be born between the hours of waking and sleeping when woman`s resistance is low and she can no longer stem the tide of life. But this baby was special. Although he was illegitimate, his father was the Earl of Connaught, a general in the British army posted to Portugal and member of the most aristocratic families of Ireland with broad acres in County Sligo, estates his ancestors had held since feudal times. His mother was a daughter of Portugal and his father`s mistress. The young man grew up speaking a little Irish Gaelic from his father, Portuguese from his mother and, of course, English with a noticeable Irish brogue that would last him all his life.
The drums beat out a rat-tat-ta-tat and the silver bugles sounded. The young boy in his young man`s uniform bravely saluted the colors. Charles O`Hara, born in Portugal illegitimate scion of a love union and wisp-o`-the-will heir to actually nothing was embarking upon a career in the Army following his father`s footsteps. His first rank was Cornet in the Third Dragoons. He was aged twelve.
At sixteen, he became a lieutenant in the Coldstream Guards, one of the most prestigious British regiments. It was 1756 shortly before war broke out in Europe. Fredrick the Great of Prussia invaded Silesia to the south, a province of Maria Theresa, Holy Roman Emperor and ruler of Austria and a collection of states in south-east Europe. All the great European powers including France, Russia and Britain were involved. In Europe, it became known as the Seven Years War on account of its duration but in America it received the name of French and Indian War since these were the foes that the British and homespun American colonists were fighting. For Britain, it was a tremendous war opening an empire bigger than the old Roman Empire and particularly affording them huge tracts of wilderness in the New World.
It was the war in which Charles O`Hara learned his craft as a soldier. He saw service under his father in Portugal and the patchwork of states we know vaguely as Germany. Across the Atlantic in the French and Indian War, George Washington also had his apprenticeship in the military. He fought in the Virginia militia with great valor and fearlessness but it was to be his great disappointment that unlike O`Hara, he could never be considered for a commission in the British Army. His colonial birth was against him. The immense territories conquered by the Americans and the British now extended to the Ohio River but it was becoming clear to Americans that the British saw them as ‘colonials` and that their interests should be subservient to the ‘mother` country. For example, George lll promulgated a decree that prohibited settling west of the Ohio for fear of provoking the Indians and what Americans saw as a ‘soft` policy to native Americans angered them greatly. In particular, it angered George Washington, who had much to gain in exploiting Indian lands in the west.
Meanwhile, Charles O`Hara became Commandant of the Africa Corps in Senegal as Lieutenant General in 1766. It was an area renowned as the White Man`s Grave mainly due to the prevalence of malaria for which there was no cure or prevention. In 1769, O`Hara became a Captain in the Coldstream Guards and transferred out.
It was in July 1778 that Lieutenant Colonel O`Hara arrived in America and immediately took command of the British forces at Sandy Hook, New Jersey. By October 1780, O`Hara had been promoted to Brigadier and had become commander of the Brigade of Guards. His next promotion was to become Lieutenant Charles Cornwallis` second in command. The commander of all the British troops in North America and his second-in-command, Charles O`Hara, Earl of Connaught, became good friends and apparently worked well together.
There were 60,000 British and German troops in America. This motley army was mercenary and the German states and statelets were used to supplying the manpower for most states in most wars. The American colonials called them ‘Hessians` since many were from Hesse, a medium-sized German state with connections to Britain. Otherwise, the Iroquois and confederate Indian tribes mostly fought for the British. Some black slaves fought for the new Republic but four times as many fought on the side of the British.
The first significant battle was the Battle of New York. At that time, the British fleet controlled the Atlantic making it easy for the British to attack the coastal cities. New York was a small town built on the southern tip of Manhattan. Washington spread 20,000 men along Manhattan and Long Island and the British deployed on Staten Island. August 27th 1776, the British landed 22,000 men on Long Island and drove the Americans back to the Brooklyn Heights. The Battle of New York was a decisive British victory as the largest battle of the Revolution. Washington and his men were chased across New Jersey, and the precarious new Republic seemed on the point of collapse.
However, the role-call of battles to come, large but mostly small, was tremendous as Washington had decided to wear down his bigger opponent. O`Hara, in particular, led the counter attack on Godford Courthouse. He was severely wounded in the fighting but nonetheless able to travel with the Army as it moved south to Yorktown in Virginia.
The Battle of Yorktown finally finished the British in North America, although it would still be years before they conceded defeat by signing the Treaty of Paris. The American forces feinted to the north of New York as if to attack that city. They then joined up with French forces led by the Comte de Rochambeau. Meanwhile, the French defeated the British fleet in a sea-fight. The French admiral, de Grasse, sailed north leaving his Spanish allies to guard his bases in the French West Indies. The French navy took up position at the mouth of Chesapeake Bay and the US Army and their French allies moved south by means of forced marches. They took up position at the head of the bay. There were two or three days of fierce fighting but it was clear to Cornwallis that the battle was lost and he asked for terms of capitulation on September 17th.
In fact, it fell to Charles O`Hara, one-time Drummer Boy and now Earl of Connaught, to officially surrender on September 19th , 1791. He duly proffered his sword to Benjamin Lincoln, who took the surrender. The reason Cornwallis did not surrender in person was that he pleaded illness. No one knows if this was an excuse to cover his shame at having allowed himself to be lured into a trap at Chesapeake Bay.
Moreover, no one knows what happened to the sword O`Hara proffered to Benjamin Lincoln. There have been many theories including that it should be moldering in the White House. However, recent research suggests that the sword was handed over, held briefly and symbolically by Benjamin Lincoln and returned to Charles O`Hara, who simply took it with him.
Charles O`Hara, Earl of Connaught, was never more to be significant for American history. However, he continued as a general in the British Army. The most significant war he fought in thereafter was the French Revolutionary War. He had the dubious honor of surrendering to a young Napoleon Bonaparte, when that young man first came to prominence in the siege of Toulon, south France. O`Hara spent two years in a French prison before he could be exchanged for another prisoner of war.
Otherwise, he is noted for being Governor General of Gibraltar, at that time the most important naval base in the British Empire connecting the sea road to the Mediterranean and the routes around the Horn to South Africa and the East. He first became Governor General in 1792 but afterwards took part in the ill-fated British fighting in the south of France. However, in 1795, he became Governor of Gibraltar again. He was promoted to full general in 1798 and died in February 1802.
It may be surprising that George lll did not recognize his services to the Crown more generously. However, O`Hara was illegitimate. Moreover, his birth was Irish and not English. His services were in the colonies and not in the homeland. His successor as Governor General was the fourth son of George lll and although that commander was so unpopular that the troops mutinied and virtually everything else he set his hand to was an outright failure, he was awarded honors and the like richly. But he was the king`s son and not a rank outsider like Charles O`Hara. Although O`Hara was higher up the pecking order than George Washington, who wasn`t even worth a commission. Such were the rules of the day and really have they changed so much in the course of the last three centuries?
Effigies of burnt trees
phastasmagoria of smiling eyes
floating lotuses fall from the skies
words are chains, lures, colored vowels
and a crowd of monkeys gather around
fighting, howling, loving, dying.
A Nation Once Again
33. Roe in Irish Valleys
The sweet roe deer
Hides shyly in the valleys
Pursued by Acteon’s hounds
The song of freedom of an Irish harp
Rises with peat smoke from a peasant cottage
The year is 1916
The old pot they cooked potatoes in
Grandma could still remember the Famine
36. Green Jewel
Land emerald green
Olde Ireland, like a green jewel
Dr James Davies:
Sic Simper Gloria Munde!
Sic Simper Gloria Munde! This is my St. Patrick`s Day Mentorial and I am having difficulty fitting it into the theme. I know I should have been more attentive to such notable personages as the Grand Dean, Domina Leona and my own Grandfather on such issues, but as you know, my Grandfather lived for a time in London and got along rather well there. In plotting my life course I thus say by way of apology that I was guided by his account of life in London, then the throbbing capitol of a world empire. Thus, I have failed the Lord Baron`s test of what constitutes a good Irish-America. I do not prefer Jamenson to Bushmill, I have never seen James Cagney`s Epic Shake Hands With the Devil and I do not cheer at the thought of the London Blitz.
Indeed, I was less than amused by that fax you once sent me entitled Begiften Anglaan, commemorating such event. I do recall sternly reminding you of your own father, The Grand Dean who expressed nothing but admiration for George VI`s conduct during the Blitz.
You may know, Dean that I have great deal of difficulty adhering to a theme. Mentorials should be spontaneous leading to such subjects as come to the Mentor based upon his efforts to adhere to societies` command to be better informed. However, I do note that the Society at this time turns its back on the "frivolities and pretenses of saw dust Empires" in order to focus on enduring values. Thus my Mentorial is framed by that assumption. I have entitled it Sic Transit Gloria Munde.
With the recent civil war in Libya, US officials would like to project their power by sending an aircraft carrier to bomb the Libyan ruler but frankly are at war elsewhere and only have 10 of them. They`d also like to send a carrier to Japan to help their friends, but at this point, US officials may be moving imaginary carriers around. I do note that the destruction in Japan has carrier off the electronics factories which supply component parts to the fleet whatever is left of it. Since the US can no longer produce these parts, the fleet may soon run aground for lack of replacement parts.
But that of course assumes that we can man our fleet. A full quarter of the potential recruits fail the Armed Forces Entrance Exam due to the poor quality of US education. Never before in the history of the world has no much money been spent to accomplish so little.
No I know the Dean takes nerves like this cynically and writes it off as propaganda plugging the lime that there are actually willing volunteers. But, I`m sure the Dean may have noticed from the extensive tutoring of the Young Scholar how educational standards over basics have fallen.
Our problem asea is by no means confirmed to the US Navy but efforts the Merchant Service as well. It is not widely reported in the popular press but Horizon Lines may soon suffer the fate of Lykes Brohters one of the oldest US Companies stretching back to the Young Republic Persistent decline in US consumer spending means fewer trinkets from Red China and thus reducing Merchant Seamen to penury. Indeed it is ironic that in the past British and later American Merchants conquered the world treating the native with shiny trinkets the natives peddle to us. I would draw my sorrows in McCarthy`s but time and tide have carried that emporium away.
On the homefront, community groups and fraternal orders report fall off in membership due to hard economic times. I do suppose some of these groups serve charitable purposes to an extent, but in my opinion, they are all frivolous and therefore unnecessary. Many are abandoning the aura of secrecy to hold open houses. Said one group, "we are not a secret organization but an organization with a secret."
More to the point, I do note the British contemplate revising the succession to the Crown, some say to bypass Prince Charles who outside the Society, is universally disliked especially in England. Small wonder, the Prince has won friends in this Society. This is fascinating since I do note that the Dean had most harsh words toward Lady Di, even when the IRA leader Gerry Adams offered his condolences to the Royal Family.
I did attend the 160th parade on St. Patrick`s Day in a certain unnamed US city. The parade was sponsored by Sein Fein, rather openly considering that organization is on the Terrorist list of the Homeland Security Department, living up to the Dean`s axiom that they prescribed so many groups that their bans are ineffective. I do thank the Dean for his correction of my pronunciation. Sein Fein is properly pronounced Shin Fayne. Dear Lord, why can`t they pronounce it that way? Why don`t they give up their gibberish and speak Bloody English properly?
On that note, I bid you and the Society, a most Cherry Cheerio!
Cheerio, Dean, Cheerio
James Davies, Lord Woodbury
ON A WHIRL
1. WINTER THINKING
Is blue steel
Cut by a lone gull
After a starving morsel
Sea stirs on heavy swell
And snow billows
Wraith the land
I am precious life
In a deserted street
Dug in pockets
Cool in thought
Eyes piercing winter
4. TIME TURNS
No bird song
No green leaves
Grass en-palled under snow
Sky shroud of gray mist
Slowly, so slowly
The year is turning
My heart is yearning for summer
In the cold whipping wind
And I hope to live
To hear the lark,
In a summer sky
And welcome back
7. LONELY GIN
The man next to me
Makes sips a tonic and gin
And New Year comes* * *
And goes* * *
In the life
Home to an empty room
Through cold snow
I even dream
Of loneliness -
Maybe I should buy
8. OUT OF CONTROL
Temporarily out of control
Towards another solar system flowing
Bouncing star to star
Cosmos intruding inner harmony
Seven seas swim uncontrollable
Fearless flying as a wild swan
With wings of wind
On the pane –
11. TO FLY
Would I were a gull
Catching the sky in my wings
The ocean in my beak
But I am planted
With my legs on the ground
Straining my eyes
To catch the horizon
12. STANDING TREES
Trees stand in the mist
As snow weeps
13. A PROMISE OF NOTHING
They promise rain
Which is a harbinger of spring
In this wintery clime
14. FLEETING MERCURY
My heart rises
With the quick
But my soul
Is starved of sun
15. DARK VIOLETS
Dark violets peep
In misty spring
Weeping in stubborn soil
16. THE COLOR OF INNOCENCE
Blood red roses
Bloom in innocent white snow
In a land far away
17. Rainbow of Gold
Over the rainbow
The sky is always blue
The sun is warm
Snakes do not bite
Or insects sting
Over the rainbow
Does not exist –
But there is the crock of gold
I’ve been damned by the rainbow
very truly my only strength
was love and beauty
but I saw no consoling cross
and thanks to Bliss
a worm has corrupted my fate
I find myself ripe
to be plucked
and let fall some
pity and misfortune
Upon some prosperous pasture
always lurks the danger
that time little by little passes
and the unwritten songs
and the unsung stories
pass from eternity
Time as a Dancer
Do not touch the rain forest
even for oil
the blood of the earth
makes shadows upon the walls
of butterfly skulls
and the gecko’s eyes
are like a rainbow
as the sound of rain
lulls restless souls
into escaping the darkness
but the shadows that follows
the phases of the Moon
and the solar flares
exploding in outer space
like wind passing
through the trees
as a myriad of peacocks
sing of beauty
as shooting stars
remnants of past galaxies
flicker like fireflies
and the pulse of time
through the sky
that cannot be stopped
but bleeds and bleeds
letting go forever.
Not to Be
I took delight in a book as I sat against
A shaded tree. "Not to be" said the wind as it blew
Upon my pages. "Not to be" said the flies that swarmed
Upon me and invited the mosquitoes to join in their
After some time, I was left in peace to continue
My reading. The enticing climax of the book was
About to approach, but not to be as a stranger`s
Dog barked at me with contempt. Not be as the
Drizzling rain began to seep from the leaves of
The willow tree.
I took delight with a book in nature`s nest,
But nature didn`t appear to take delight with me.
Sent from my iPad=
Trapped in time warped cesspools
Oily motives fueling hapless discontent
Brutal intelligence disservices uncivil warmongers
Sustained by fake Monopoly deeds
Lady Liberty passing rusty torch
Enthusiastic youth energizing revolutionary faith
Corrupt dictators pillaging disowned populace
Antiquated despots prolonging unruly endgame
Fragile emotionally disturbed rebellious cause
Toppling polka dot domino pips
Lionhearted pride peaceful non-violent resistance
Tomorrow’s leaders taking reins today
Reaffirming commitment to sovereign independence
Multiversity trumping wild card double-dealing
Unemployed jobless progressive prospects dependent
Zigzag steps heroic uphill climb
No Holds Bard
Dr Kelley Jean White MD:
5 a.m. Armand’s
mowing the cemetery lawns--
his feud with the grass.
Easter egg hunt—
my husband holds an umbrella
over our little girl’s head.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
In the barren desert of media hype the only trend that grows is discontent.
CUTTING TRUTHS - Truth is the rarest commodity on earth as very few know how to be open enough to receive it!
In Love & Joy
Michael Levy. Professional Optimist