Category Archives: Literature

super advanced course lesson 6. Richard III.


super advanced course lesson 6.




One of the most reviled kings of England is Richard III. He has come to symbolise treachery and cruelty. But is he unfairly maligned? Some say that this king has had a very unfair press.

Richard III was born in Fotheringhay Castle in the year 1452. This castle lies in Northamptonshire. The castle is also the place where his collateral descendant Mary Queen of Scots was executed in 1587. It subsequently fell into disrepair. If you visit it now you will see that scarcely stone stands upon stone.

The Duke of York was the father of Richard III. The duke’s name was also Richard like his son. Richard III had an elder brother Edward IV and another elder brother George. There were sisters Anne and Margaret. He also had a younger sister named Elizabeth born in 1467.

The Plantagenet dynasty ruled England at the time. Richard III was one of that family. When he was born a mentally ill monarch was on the throne. That insane king was Henry VI. Henry VI was religious to the point of insanity. He spent several hours a day speaking to God. The mentally ill monarch showed totally inapposite emotions. He reacted to the birth of his only child with total indifference. At the First Battle of St Albans he rolled around on the ground in fits of hysterical laughter. 

The Hundred Years War was drawing to a close. The King of England Henry VI was supposed to be King of France as well. His maternal grandfather was Charles VI of France. However, most French people did not accept Henry VI as the rightful King of France. His uncle Charles VII fought against him. The deranged Henry VI was incapable of ruling one kingdom let alone two. The English were being defeated. Heavy taxes had been levied to pay for the war. As Henry VI was so raving mad that he could not rule the country his unpopular wife Margaret of Anjou sometimes had to take control. In 1453 the English finally admitted defeat. They gave back all of France save for the town of Calais. The king’s stock was very low. In 1440 Henry VI founded Eton. Etonians prefer to overlook the fact that their founder was mentally ill.



Looking back to the mid 14th century there was a king named Edward III. He had five sons. One of these sons died without having children. But the remaining four all had children. The descendants of these four sons divided themselves into two hostile camps: the Lancastrians and the Yorkists. This is because the Duke of Lancaster was the leader of the Lancastrians. The Duke of York was the leader of the Yorkists. If there were four sons how come there were only two sides and not four? This is because sometimes cousins got married. The Duke of York had that title because he own lots of farmland around York. Likewise the Duke of Lancaster owned many farms near Lancaster. Most people were farmers back then because there was very little technology. Producing enough food to survive was the major economic activity. At least 80% of people worked on farms.

Despite the names Yorkists and Lancastrians not everyone in Yorkshire was a Yorkist and not everyone in Lancashire was a Lancastrian. Most people throughout England, Wales and Ireland took sides as either Yorkists or Lancastrians. 

Richard III was the great-great-grandson of Edward III. That was why he had a claim to the crown.

The Duke of York wanted to control the government. His idea was that he would let Henry VI retain the title king but that he, the Duke of York, would be effectively in charge. When Henry VI died his son Edward of Westminster would not become king. Instead the kingship would pass to the Duke of York. The Duke of York was distantly related to Henry VI. Both were direct descendants of Edward III who died in 1377.

The Lancastrians were those who did not want Henry VI to be effectively the plaything of the Duke of York.  The Lancastrians also wanted Henry VI to exercise real kingly power. They also insisted that when the king died the crown pass to his son Edward of Westminster.  The Yorkists wanted Henry VI to be controlled by the Duke of York. 

One of the key figures at the time was Richard Neville. He had the title the Earl of Warwick. He was known as ‘kingmaker Warwick’. Whichever side he joined won. Lord Warwick had the title ‘Warwick’ because he owned extensive estates around the town of Warwick. Note that Warwick is pronounced ”WOR ik”. Ignore the second ‘w’ in Warwick. 

In 1455 fighting broke out between Yorkists and Lancastrians. The fighting continued on and off until 1485. In 1455 the Yorkists were defeated by at the First Battle of St Albans. In 1455 Richard III and his family (Yorkists) fled to the Netherlands.

Richard, the Duke of York died. His eldest son Edward IV became Duke of York and leader of the Yorkists. In 1460 Edward IV returned to England with his younger brother Richard III and the rest of the family. They, the Yorkists, defeated Henry VI who fled to Scotland. Edward IV was then proclaimed King of England. He was crowned by the Archbishop of Canterbury at Westminster Abbey. The Archbishop of Canterbury is the highest priest in England. Many said that a coronation would not have been proper had it not been performed by the archbishop. English kings have been crowned at Westminster Abbey since 1066. 

Edward IV gave his brother Richard III the title ‘Duke of Gloucester.’ Note that ‘Gloucester’ is pronounced ‘GLOSS ta’.  Duke is a high noble title not far below king. There were only about a dozen dukes in the whole of England. Richard III suffered from scoliosis. This caused a slight curvature of the spine. Some people said this was an outward sign of his inner wickedness. People were very prejudiced against the disabled back then. One shoulder was noticably higher than the other. Richard III wore special clothes to try to hide his disability. This was probably largely successful. However, people were aware of his disability. 

Richard III may have been very self-conscious about his physical disability. People insulting him might have made him nasty. As the poet W H Auden much later wrote, ”those to whom evil is done do evil in return.”

Richard III spent much of his childhood in Yorkshire. He grew up in the Wensleydale area. He lived in Kingmaker Warwick’s castle for much of the time. It was mooted that he should wed the Earl of Warwick’s daughter Anne. It as thought apposite that the two should get to know each other by growing up together. 


Edward IV’s other brother George was granted the title Duke of Clarence. Edward IV later found out that his brother George had begun a secret correspondence with the Yorkists. George was planning to join the Yorkist side. When Edward IV discovered this treachery George was executed on the order of Edward IV for attempting to betray his own kinsmen. George, Duke of Clarence was decapitated. The claim that Richard III ordered the slaying are bogus. He was hundreds of miles away at the time. Further, the Shakespeare claim that the duke was drowned in a butt of malmsey wine is false.

In the late 1460s the Yorkists were overthrown. Richard III and his brother Edward IV fled to France. 

In 1470 Henry VI’s supporters gathered a mighty army. Henry VI was in exile in Scotland. They beat the Yorkists. Henry VI came back from abroad and was made king once more.

The Yorkists then regrouped and defeated the Lancastrians at the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471. The 17 year old Edward of Westminster was slain in the battle. Henry VI was taken prisoner. He was held at the Tower of London. Henry VI was killed there in May 1471. Every year on the anniversary of Henry VI’s death the Provost of Eton visits the room where the king met his doom. The provost says, ”on this day our beloved founder was most foully done to death in memory whereof I lay this rose.” It is a red rose as Henry VI was a Lancastrian. 

Edward IV was king again. He was married and had two sons; Edward V and Richard of Shrewsbury.  Edward V was the elder of the two. They were born in 1471 and 1473 respectively.

Richard III married Anne Neville. She was the daughter of Kingmaker Warwick. He wed Anne Neville when he was 20 and they had children. Anne Neville was also his second cousin. 

Anne Neville had previously been married to Edward of Westminster. He was the only child of Henry VI. At the time of that wedding, Kingmaker Warwick was a Lancastrian. 



On 9 April 1483 Edward IV died of an illness. His son Edward V was declared to be king. The king (Edward V) was only 12 at the time and his younger brother was 10. Richard III was made Lord Protector of the Realm. It was his duty to rule on behalf of his nephew. Edward V and his younger brother Richard of Shrewsbury lived in the Tower of London. The coronation of Edward V was planned for 22 June.

Two months after Edward V became king he and his brother vanished. How on earth could this king disappear? Hundreds of servants and soldiers lived in the Tower of London. It was the most closely guarded building in the realm.

Richard III then announced that Edward IV had not been properly married to Elizabeth Woodville. She was the mother of Edward V and Richard of Shrewsbury. If I child was born outside of holy matrimony he had no right of inheritance. Therefore these boys had no right to inherit any title from their father. Richard III further announced that the coronation would be going ahead only four days behind schedule, however, he would be the one who was crowned.

On 26 June 1483 Richard III was duly crowned by the Archbishop of Canterbury. He seemed strangely unperturbed about the whereabouts of his nephews. If your uncle was looking after you would you expect him to be concerned about your welfare? The king made no attempt to find his nephews. The two boys were known as The Princes in the Tower.

As soon as he was crowned Richard III issued Titulus Regulus. This was a document adumbrating his claim to be the rightful king. It also explicated why the Princes in the Tower were not princes at all and had no right to any title. 

King Richard III travelled around the country. He donated to Cambridge University. He also founded the College of Arms. This is his only lasting achievement.

His Majesty Richard III’s son then died of an illness. A rumour went around that the Princes in the Tower had escaped to Ireland. Some say there were murdered and buried in the Tower of London. Years later there was an investigation under Henry VIII. Sir Thomas More was ordered to inquire into the mysterious disappearance of these children. He concluded that the two boys were smothered on the order of their uncle Richard III. The More Investigation said that the two had been secretly buried in the White Tower.  However, More was not able to locate the skeletons. 

In 1674 two skeletons of boys aged about 11 were found buried under a staircase in the White Tower. That coincided with the conclusion of Sir Thomas More’s investigation. The circumstantial evidence that these are the bodies of the Princes in the Tower is very strong indeed. But there is a problem with the theory that these are the remains of the Princes in the Tower. The staircase where the skeletons were discovered did not exist in the time of Richard III. It could be that the corpses were later exhumed and reburied in the staircase especially by someone who wished to conceal the skeletons because he had taken part in the murders. 

Henry VIII’s investigation is not entirely reliable. The investigation heard from eyewitnesses almost 30 years after the event. However, it would have been extremely injudicious to testify in a manner that the king found disobliging. Henry VIII was egregiously irascible. He slew over 100 000 of his own countryman. No one would dare say anything that the king disliked. Therefore, the witnesses testimony is not to be depended upon. The aim of the investigation was not an objective quest for truth. It was a smear campaign. The goal was to smear Richard III and by extension the Yorkists. It was also to underscore the belief that the Princes in the Tower were dead. That was because these boys had a far stronger claim to the crown than Henry VIII. The likelihood is that Richard III had his nephews murdered. However, the particulars asserted under Henry VIII’s investigation might not be true. 

Did Richard III kill his nephews. It is overwhelmingly likely. He had the motive, means and the opportunity. Of any crime ask: cui bono? Who benefits? He was the principal beneficiary from their murder. 

After he coronation, Richard III never mentioned his nephews. They were illegitimate he said so they did not matter. 

In the 1590s two imposters came forward. Both claimed to be Richard of Shrewsbury and styled themselves King Richard IV. The first of these false claimants was later unmasked as one Lambert Simnel – a middle class boy from Oxford. He had gone to Ireland and then claimed to be Richard of Shrewsbury. He went to Ireland because of Lancastrian support there but also to tie in with the rumour that the Princes in the Tower had fled thither. Lambert Simnel (alias Richard IV) sailed to England with an army but was beaten and taken prisoner. A few years later a Fleming named Perkin Warbeck also travelled to Ireland and claimed to be Richard of Shrewsbury. He too raised and army but was later defeated and captured. Then he confessed his true identity. Again going to Ireland before announcing that he was Richard IV was probably to tally with the story that the Princes in the Tower had gone to Ireland. 

The Princes in the Tower had a sister known as Elizabeth of York. Richard III did not bother with her. She was allowed to go free. Girls were not seen as a threat. No woman had claimed the Throne of England in her own right since 1135. Back then Queen Matilda had faced massive opposition and a 19 year civil war. People did not accept that a woman could rule. A woman could only be queen because she was married to the king and not because she inherited the title ‘queen’ from her father. People accepted a queen consort (i.e. one who was married to the king). They did not accept a queen regnant (i.e. who had inherited the crown from her blood relatives).

Richard III was married and had a son and a daughter with his wife. His son was made Prince of Wales. In the summer of 1485 the Prince of Wales died of a sudden illness. The boy was about 10 years old at the time. 

Richard III’s wife had died in what some claimed were suspicious circumstances in March 1485. She was said to have died of tuberculosis. Some suspected that Richard III poisoned her so he could marry someone more advantageous. However, Richard III seemed grief stricken. Some believed that he was sincere.

After Anne Neville died, Richard III looked into marrying a Portuguese princess. He started correspondence on this. It did not come to fruition. 

His father in law the Earl of Warwick also died in suspicious circumstances at the Battle of Barnet in 1471.  In the fog the Yorkists had attacked their own side. Lord Warwick, a Yorkist, was killed by fellow Yorkists. Was it that they were befuddled or was it deliberate? Some say that Richard III also killed his father in law. 

During his reign Richard III set up the Council of the North. He knew much about northern England because he had spent a great deal of his youth there. 

The king was religious as was the norm at the time. He paid for more monks to pray at York Minister. 

A son and a daughter were born to Richard III’s mistress. Through these illegitimate children Richard III might have descendants to this day. Nothing is known about his children after 1500. 

The Lancastrians were stirring. There was a Lancastrian claimant named Henry VII. He was living in Brittany at the time. This is a French peninsula. Henry VII gathered an army. The King of France lent Henry VII some troops. He was in touch with some people in England and Wales who were discontent with Richard III.

Henry VII was a distant cousin of Henry VI. Henry VII was known as the Earl of Richmond at this time. That was because he owned an estate at Richmond in Yorkshire. Despite being a Yorkshire landowner he was a Lancastrian. He was partly Welsh and has the Welsh surname Tudor. 

Richard III was detested by a lot of people. Aristocratic families who had been Yorkists for generations turned against him. There was revulsion against him for the putative murder of his nephews who had been in his charge. 

In July 1485 Henry VII set sail. He landed in Wales. He was partly Welsh and had been born at Pembroke Castle. He received a cordial welcome. Many Welshmen rallied to his banner. He marched into England. More men joined en route.

His Gracious Majesty Richard III was informed of the invasion. He mustered his army. He marched towards the threat.

The Stanleys were a powerful noble family in the English Midlands. They had many soldiers. Richard III ordered them to bring their men to join his royal army. The Stanley family mustered their men but they did not unite with the royal army. The Yorkists outnumber the Lancastrians at least two to one. But if the Stanleys took the Lancastrian side then the numbers would almost equal.

Henry VII drew up his men a few miles west of Market Bosworth. This is in Leicestershire. Richard III approached from the east. The Stanleys had men to the north and to the south. Richard III’s Yorkist Army took up position on Ambion Hill. There was a marsh on either side of the hill making it difficult to outflank him. 

The Yorkists had a numerical advantage, the high ground, plenty of professional soldiers and even some artillery. They had not marched as far as the Lancastrians. Richard III had the advantage of being the incumbent. A betting man would have laid his wager on Richard III winning. 

The Yorkists took George Lord Strange as a hostage. He was the 9 year old son of Lord William Stanley. Richard III warned that Stanleys that if they did not come over to his side then Lord Strange would be killed. The Stanleys did not come over to Richard III. Lord Stanley was not worried about the credible threat that the king would kill Lord George Strange. Lord Stanley said with shocking insouciance, ”I have many more sons.” The king ordered the boy to be put to death. However, his order was disobeyed. Battle was joined!

On 22 August the Battle of Bosworth commenced. The Stanleys came in on Henry VII’s side. If they had not done so the outcome would have been different. Richard III was killed and his army routed. He was the last Plantagenet king. His body was stripped and carried on a horse into Leicester (pronounced ”LESS ta”). It was displayed for three days. People saw his corpse. Henry VII wanted people to see the carcass. They would recognise Richard III. Then people would be sure that he was dead. Henry VII did not want a rumour getting around that his mortal enemy had survived. Richard III was then buried in a monastery called Greyfriars Abbey. There he lay undisturbed  in an unmarked grave for over 50 decades.

The Stanley family was rewarded for its vital service to the Lancastrians. Had they not intervened then the outcome would probably have been different. The Stanleys’ action was determinative. Lord Stanley was granted the title the Earl of Derby. 

Henry VII rapidly marched to London. He was crowned by the Archbishop of Canterbury. He then wed Elizabeth of York. She was the 18 year sister of the Princes in the Tower. By this marriage the two branches of the English royal family were reunited after five generations and tens of thousands of deaths. 



Richard III’s reputation has been fought over for centuries. A number of play were written about Richard III in the 16th century. The first one was in Latin. A play in English was there written about him. Then Shakespeare decided to compose a theatre piece with Richard Plantagent as its subject.

A hundred years after his death the playwright William Shakespeare wrote a play entitled ‘The Tragedy of Richard III’. In this play Richard III is the villain of the piece. He is depicted as two-faced, wicked, vain and cruel. Richard III has gone down in history as the archetypal bad guy. In the play he is called ‘Gloucester’ for much of the story. That is before Richard III became king he had the title the Duke of Gloucester. The Shakespeare play is highly fictionalised. When Shakespeare wrote the play Elizabeth I was on the throne. She was descended from Henry VII who was a Lancastrian. Therefore, Shakespeare curried favour with the queen by demonising Richard III.

The scoundrel depicted by Shakespeare is not necessarily the real Richard III. The play is propaganda. The aim was to show Elizabeth I’s ancestors in a positive light. By contrast, the enemies of her ancestors were to be shown to be monstrous. Richard III therefore is a study in evil. He is dissembling, scheming, treacherous, cruel and merciless. This caricature of the king should not be taken at face value. 

In the play Richard III the title character says ‘A bard of Ireland told me once I should not live long when I saw Richmond.’ In this case ‘Richmond’ does not mean the place. Henry VII was known as the Earl of Richmond before he became king. In the Battle of Bosworth Henry VII (i.e. Richmond) came close to Richard III and then Richard III was killed a minute later. There are other factual inaccuracies in the play. It says that George, Duke of Clarence was drowned in a butt of malmsey wine on the order of Richard III. This is totally false Richard III had no role in his brother George’s death. George, Duke of Clarence was executed on the order of Edward IV. Richard III was hundreds of miles away at the time. Further, George the Duke of Clarence was killed by beheading and not drowning in a barrel of wine. Richard III’s physical disability was much exaggerated by the play. Shakespeare’s fabrications are so colourful that they are fixed in public memory.

Edward of Westminster was killed in combat at the Battle of Tewkesbury. He was not killed on the orders of Richard III as the play suggests. 

At the opening of the play Richard III the title character says this soliloquy;

Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
And all the clouds that lour’d upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths;
Our bruised arms hung up for monuments;
Our stern alarums changed to merry meetings,
Our dreadful marches to delightful measures.
Grim-visaged war hath smooth’d his wrinkled front;
And now, instead of mounting barded steeds
To fright the souls of fearful adversaries,
He capers nimbly in a lady’s chamber
To the lascivious pleasing of a lute.
But I, that am not shaped for sportive tricks,
Nor made to court an amorous looking-glass;
I, that am rudely stamp’d, and want love’s majesty
To strut before a wanton ambling nymph;
I, that am curtail’d of this fair proportion,
Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,
Deformed, unfinish’d, sent before my time
Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,
And that so lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me as I halt by them;
Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,
Have no delight to pass away the time,
Unless to spy my shadow in the sun
And descant on mine own deformity:
And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover,
To entertain these fair well-spoken days,
I am determined to prove a villain
And hate the idle pleasures of these days.
Plots have I laid, inductions dangerous,
By drunken prophecies, libels and dreams,
To set my brother Clarence and the king
In deadly hate the one against the other:
And if King Edward be as true and just
As I am subtle, false and treacherous,
This day should Clarence closely be mew’d up,
About a prophecy, which says that ‘G’
Of Edward’s heirs the murderer shall be.
Dive, thoughts, down to my soul: here
Clarence comes.

Some people have tried to rehabilitate Richard III’s reputation. The Society of the White Boar was founded in the early 20th century by a Scouser Surgeon. It was aimed at improving the image of the king. The name of the society is because the symbol of Richard III was a white boar. The society renamed itself the Society of Richard III. They feel that the man’s reputation has been traduced. 

In 2013 his remains were unearthed in Leicester. DNA proved it was him. He had no proven descendants. But his sister did. The investigators compared the DNA from the skeleton to that of his 16 times grand nephew Mike Ibsen. The Canadian’s mitochondrial DNA matched that of the king. The skeleton had several stab wounds. His scoliosis was found to be much less serious than people were led to believe. He was reburied with pomp in Leicester Cathedral. The current Duke of Gloucester was present. Serendipitously, the current Duke of Gloucester is also named Richard! He is the Queen’s cousin. 


  1. In which castle was Richard III born?
  2. What was his year of birth?
  3. Which dynasty was he part of?
  4. What was his relationship did he have to Edward III?
  5. What was Richard III’s title before he became king?
  6. What was the title of his father?
  7. Who was Richard III’s elder brother?
  8. Which country did Richard III flee to?
  9. Who was he married to?
  10.  Did he have a child?
  11. In which year did Edward IV die?
  12. What were Edward IV’s sons called?
  13. What was the collective name for Edward V and Richard of Shrewsbury?
  14. Where was the last place that the Princes in the Tower were seen?
  15. Which powerful family joined Henry VII at Bosworth?
  16.  What was the exact date of the battle?
  17. What happened to Richard III at Bosworth?
  18. Where was he buried at first?
  19. What is the evidence that Richard III had the princes in the Tower murdered? Five marks
  20. How good a king was Richard III? Five marks.

advanced course lesson 9 Thomas Gray


advanced course lesson 9


Gray was once one of the most widely appreciated poets in the English language. However, in recent decades he has fallen out of fashion. But he deserves to be more read than he is now.

London was the birthplace of Thomas Gray. His parents resided at Cornhill which is exceedingly close to St Paul’s Cathedral. The boy’s father was a scrivener which meant that he wrote legal documents. Many people were illiterate back then. Few could write to a high standard. Therefore, Gray was lucky to be born into a family where everyone could both read and write. Thomas’ mother was a hatter.

The Gray family was Anglican. Being a member of the Church of England this afforded Thomas many advantages.

Tragedy touched the Gray household. Twelve children were born to the couple but Thomas was the only one to survive. Infant mortality was high in the 18th century but to experience the deaths of so many babies took a toll on his parents. Thomas’ father was plagued by infirmity. The illnesses might have been due to the exposure to mercury as part of Mrs Gray’s trade making hats.

Perhaps it was providential that Thomas was born on Boxing Day. That is the day after Christmas Day. As people wassailed their saviour Thomas came out. Thomas was to spend his life ruminating on the numinous and the eternal. His nativity took place in the year of grace some one thousand seven hundreds and sixteen.

Thomas went to Eton. By this time his mother was making more money that his much put upon pater. Thomas did not come from an upper class family unlike most boys at the school. Two of his maternal uncles were masters at the school. One of them, Robert Antrobus, taught Thomas. Mr Antrobus took a lively interest in what was then known as natural philosophy. We would now call it science.  Robert Antrobus taught his nephew a great deal about flora.

The curriculum at Eton consisted chiefly of classics. Thomas was quick at his books. He had been taught the rudiments of Greek and Latin at primary school. At Eton he had a bit of Hebrew knocked into him.

Not being one made for sportive pleasures he avoided the rough games which occupied so much of the time of his schoolfellows. They played football, fives, raquets and suchlike as well as rowing upon the River Thames which flowed hard by.  Instead his was given to daydreaming and voracious reading. In this wise he felt he could commune with great minds of bygone centuries. Thomas was a flaneur and would stroll by the Thames’ flood. He would often sit by the riverbank appearing to be vacant minded. In fact the boy was extraordinarily pensive. He was mocked for being a cloud dweller.

Mr Antrobus had his nephew living in his house. Thomas recalled his time at the school as being a time of exceptional gaiety. Thomas had three close friends at the school. They mockingly dubbed themselves the Quadruple Alliance which was an allusion to a military alliance between four mighty European nations. These four youths had certain points of fellowship. They share an appreciation for the aesthetic, they were mirthful and erudite.

Honourable Horace Walpole was one of Gray’s boon companions. Hon. Horace Walpole was the son of the Prime Minister no less! Despite Gray coming from a much humbler background the Walpole family were fond of him. Walpole had the handle ‘honourable’ because his father had been ennobled as the Earl of Orford.

At the age of 17 Gray went up to Pembroke College, Cambridge. He found it less agreeable than school. He wrote that the dons were crapulous. Thomas spent his time on literature. He was also a keen amateur musician.

Mrs Gray intended her only child for a legal career. But Thomas declined to pursue one. Instead he wanted an academic and a literary career. Another obvious avenue for him to pursue was the church. But he chose not to take holy orders.

In 1738 Gray went off on the Grand Tour. The Grand Tour was a journey around Europe that upper class British youths undertook in the 18th century. They would go to France and Italy. Occasionally they went to Switzerland and Germany. The more venturesome went to Greece and even the Holy Land. A few of them visited Turkey. The idea was to further their education through seeing the sights and practising languages.

Gray traveled with his chum Horace Walpole. The two had a row and parted company. Thomas was keen to visit all the ancient ruins and monuments. Walpole had other ideas. Horace Walpole wanted to socialise and womanise.

After his return from the Grand Tour he never sailed abroad again. He traveled extensively within his native island. He was especially taken with the Lake District. There he liked to think in solitude whilst ‘far from the madding crowd’ as he wrote. He was charmed by the simplicity of the people and saw a young woman who was his ‘unlettered muse.’ Thomas thought the the place was quaint and people were pleasingly unaffected. It was a far cry from the hustle and stench of downtown London where he lived.

In 1742 Gray’s Irish friend Richard West died. This prompted Gray to turn his hand to poesy. He had scarcely composed any poems prior to that. Thomas had scribbled some juvenalia. But after West’s death things changed. He wrote sonnet as an elegy to his late friend. It marked a period where he become more reflective. Thomas faced mortality. As worldly troubles crowded in on him he returned to look at Eton. Then he composed Ode to the Distant Prospect of Eton College. In this poem he recalls his childhood days sporting with his schoolmates. He wishes he could lead such a carefree existence again. As a boy he had no idea what stresses and challenges lay ahead of him. He wrote ‘where ignorance is bliss tis folly to be wise.’

Pembroke College elected Gray as a fellow. He also spent some time at Peterhouse which is another Cambridge college. He spent many years lecturing and supervising undergraduates.

Thomas published only a baker’s dozen poems. His entire poetic oeuvre consisted of under 1 000 lines.

In 1757 Gray was offered to be Poet Laureate. This is the supreme accolade in British poetry. Thomas was so modest that he declined the gong. He was among the Graveyard Poets along with Oliver Goldsmith, William Cowper and others. This is because they reflected a lot on mortality and the eternal.

The post of Regius Professor of Modern History was one which Thomas might have been awarded. In the end it went to another. This was an extraordinarily prestigious professorship. It is called ‘regius’ professor because the chair was set up by the king.

In 1771 Thomas was called to his reward. He is interred in Stoke Pages Graveyard. He lies near his mother. This was the scene of his most renowned poem: Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard. 

Gray penned some phrases which have entered common parlance. Among these are ‘kindred spirit ‘ – that is to say one of a like mind to oneself. Thomas was contemptuous of chauvinism and militarism. He wrote ‘paths of glory lead but to the grave‘. He was lit with ‘celestial fire‘ and wondered if some people buried beneath his feet were ‘some mute inglorious Milton.’

Not all Gray’s poems are on profound topics. His Ode to a Drowned Cat is droll. It is about the pet of his former friend Walpole.

Some of Gray’s poems are Pindaric Odes. He composed one called The Bard. The title persona is a wandering Welsh poet who in the Middle Ages prophesies to Edward I that his line will go extinct. The bard then commits suicide by hurling himself off a cliff.

Gray was a bit misogynistic. ‘What female heart can gold despise?’ he wrote. He suspected that all women were money grasping and materialistic. No woman could match his mother. He never wed.

Thomas was a formative influence on subsequent generations of versifiers. One of his most outspoken and effusive admirers was William Wordsworth. However, Wordsworth deprecated Gray’s poem on the demise of Richard West.

Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey has a memorial to Gray.


  1. In which year was Gray born?
  2. In which land?
  3. Which school did he attend?
  4. Which university did he study at?
  5. Name a poem by him.
  6. Quote a line by him.
  7. When did he die?
  8. How many poems did he compose?
  9. What was the Grand Tour? Five sentences.



New course lesson 5. Dr Samuel Johnson


Dr JOHNSON New course 5.

Samuel Johnson was born in the small city of Lichfield. Lichfield lies in the county of Staffordshire. Staffordshire is a county in the Midlands of England. When Samuel Johnson was born the United Kingdom had been formed not many years earlier.

The Johnson family was an Anglican family. That meant that they were members of the Church of England. This accorded them many advantages since the Church of England was the church by law established. Samuel attended King Edward School in Lichfield. It was named after Edward VI. Edward VI was a boy king in the 16th century who founded many schools.

Johnson’s father was a bookseller. Samuel was to follow in his father’s footsteps. The boy did exceedingly well at school. He was a voracious reader.  Samuel was fixated with learning about certain subjects. He was utterly obsessed with history, literature and divinity. The boy amassed a staggering vocabulary. However, he was ungainly. Despite being well built and well above average height he was a laggard at sports. His hand eye co-ordination and gross motor skills were very poor. To look at him you would instantly perceive that he must be either a genius or a simpleton. He could not be anything in between.  As he was a substandard athlete he did not fit in well with his own generation. As a child he sought out the company of adults. He was by all accounts a most peculiar character. Samuel made small involuntary movements. His gait was strange and his manner of sitting was distinctly odd. He spoke in a florid and formal fashion. The boy was relentlessly logical even when this was deeply unpopular. His stilted and highly articulate speech made him a target for derision and mockery from less bookish types.

An attack of smallpox almost killed Samuel Johnson. It left his face pockmarked and it blinded him in one eye. Smallpox was a disease that claimed tens of millions of lives. It was only wiped out in the 1970s.

Samuel Johnson attended Oxford University. There undergraduates studied classics – Latin and Ancient Greek. Through these languages they read history, philosophy and other subjects. Samuel spent only one year there before leaving. Therefore he did not graduate. That was not unusual for an undergraduate at the time. Very few people attended secondary school. To have finished it at all was a distinction. Some people did not even attend primary school in those distant days.

Having gone down from Oxford Samuel Johnson went to London. There he worked as a teacher for a while. Back then a male teacher was called a ‘schoolmaster’. Later Samuel Johnson set up a book shop. He also founded a printing press. He prospered in trade. This made him able to afford hearty dinners. He had a ferocious appetite and his girth expanded precipitously. This was to cause him some health complaints in the evening of life.

Johnson was well known for his waspish aphorisms. He was a journalist – not reporting the news but commenting on society. His witticisms had people in stitches. He had a sharp mind and an even sharper tongue. As well as journalism he made money from translating English into Latin.

Samuel Johnson was a regular worshiper in his local church. His religiosity was no affectation. He was a sincerely spiritual man. He also wrestled with questions of morality. He came to regard slavery as an unutterable wickedness. This was a deeply unpopular opinion in 18th century London. London was a city that had profited much from human bondage.

The Tory Party was the party that commanded Samuel Johnson’s allegiance. No one was a member of the party as such. Nor did he ever seek public office. He was broadminded and accepted people of contrary views could be decent. He was also willing to change his view of things. He was not rigid or blinkered. Johnson had no objection to the death penalty. He quipped that the death penalty ”wonderfully concentrates the mind”. However, he scorned the jury system. After a jury retired it was not given food, water or fire until it rendered a verdict. In those days people needed a fire to keep warm because there were no radiator. The jury were inclined to hurry up and vote guilty so they could go to eat and drink. ”Innocent men hang that jurymen may dine” Johnson fulminated.

The Jacobite Rebellion took place in 1745. Johnson later acknowledged that he felt a certain sympathy for the objective of the Jacobites. To wit, placing James III on the Throne. After the comprehensive defeat of the Jacobites Samuel Johnson came to accept the Hanoverian dynasty.

By the mid 18th century Samuel Johnson was a well known London character. Samuel would discourse for hours. He may have suffered from Tourette’s syndrome.  Budding writers and journalists congregated at his shop. They hung on his every word. His conversational patter was enthralling. His razor-like intellect was marveled at by literary London. He was able to distill issues very quickly. His crystalline prose expostulated his opinions splendidly. He is best known for publishing one of the earliest English dictionaries.

In the 1770s there was much kerfuffle in America. In those days Britons were wont to allude to America as ‘the Colonies’. Dr Johnson did not agree with the claim of some in America to be exempt from tax unless they were represented in the legislature that taxed them. He penned a pamphlet ‘Taxation no tyranny’. Johnson felt nothing but withering contempt for the pretensions of the American Revolutionaries. He quipped ‘why do we hear the loudest yelps for liberty from the drivers of negroes?’

When the American Declaration of Independence was issued the British Government did not officially respond to it. Dr Johnson was secretly paid by the government to write a riposte. This was then published.

Dr Johnson married but had no children. In old age he suffered gout and numerous other ailments. He was known for his liberality to his friends even when his own financial situation was not good.

Oxford University awarded Samuel Johnson a doctorate in humane letters. This was an honorary doctorate. There were no substantive doctorates in the anglosphere in those days. Because of his honorary doctorate he is always known as Dr Johnson.

Dr Johnson loathed travel. Travel was slow and dangerous in those days. He despised sailors as louts and drunkards. He spent almost his whole adult life in London. He but rarely returned to his birthplace. His health complaints plagued him and rendered travel even more uncomfortable on bockety roads in his old age. Towards the end of his days he suffered from several maladies such as gout.

After Johnson died a book about him was published by James Boswell. It was entitled The Life of Johnson.

Many of his quotations survive. One of these is ‘When a man is tired of London he is tired of life.’


  1. In which city was Johnson born?
  2.  What was his Christian name?
  3.  What was his father’s occupation?
  4. What religious denomination did the Johnson family belong to?
  5. Which university did he attend?
  6.  How long did he spend at Oxford?
  7. What did he study at Oxford?
  8.  Did he graduate?
  9.  What was his first job?
  10.  What business did he set up?
  11. Describe his appearance?
  12.  What was his manner of speaking?
  13. Was he religious?
  14. Was he generous?
  15.  What did he think of the Jacobites?
  16.  What did he make of slavery?
  17. What did he think about the American Revolution?
  18.  What is his most famous book?
  19. Which other languages did he know?
  20. Was he married?
  21. What is the best known biography of him?
  22.  Who wrote it?
  23. What disease did Johnson suffer as a child?
  24.  Was he sporty?
  25. What did he say about Americans calling for liberty?
  26. What did he say about people who are tired of London?
  27.  In which city did he spend most of his life?
  28.  What was his political party?
  29. Is he still alive?
  30.  What was his nationality?
  31.  Which is his most famous book?
  32. What do you think of him? Five sentences.



Chapter 1. Loyalists.








April 1912.

”That was a good match”, said Duncan Self catching his breath and flicking some mud off his football jersey. Duncan was six feet tall and broad shouldered though tending to corpulence. He had dense warm brown hair, a pale complexion that spoke of his twenty years, slightly thin lips and and well proportioned face that was dashed with feint freckles.

”It was but we could have licked them”, said Denis Edwards wiping the perspiration of his teenage brow. Denis was 6’2” and blessed with a crop of thick blond hair that was carefully brushed. He was slim but not feeble. His eyes were incongruously hazel on a pale though healthy and perfectly unblemished face and he had a Roman nose protruding from a strikingly handsome face.

”Two-two. We could have thrashed them papists” said Jude Conroy through bucked teeth. ”That first goal the papists scored  – I think our goalie let it in on purpose. He is a papist pig – don’t forget.” His eyes blazed with sheer hatred. Jude stood barely 5’3” and was porcine. His chestnut brown hair was lank and greasy.  Jude was slightly stooped from being to idle to draw himself up to his full height. In his early twenties he already had a slight self-inflicted crooked back. His oval face was olive tinted and his brown eyes blazed malevolence and resentment. Jude was stooped and seemed to hold himself in as if hoarding spite. His uneven teeth were permanently set on edge. ”Fucking Fenians” he growled up rancorously from asthmatic lungs.

”Leave it out” said Duncan wearily. ”Alan is a fine goalie. He plays his best for us. Does not matter he is a Catholic.” He had heard Jude’s screeds too many times.

”Yeah” said Denis engaginly, ”Alan O’Rourke is on our time and if you don’t like it then leave. I think we only drew because you were so lazy in defence.”

”Well I have flat feet. And asthma and I broke my leg this match.” said Jude.

”Broke your leg? You broke your leg did you?’‘ said Duncan vividly. ”I suppose you blame that on the Catholics too.” The asthmawas  true and Duncan knew it.

”I never said a bad word about papishes in my life”, said Jude without a hint of irony. He turned and walked off in a sulk across the damp, dark green fields.

Steam rose off the teenage players in the cool spring afternoon. They nattered as they walked back down the unpaved country rode past briars and brambles with wild bushes and tangled hedges just coming into bloom. In a few minutes they reached the edge of the market town of Dunmore with its rows of red brick houses, slate grey houses and the odd white washed cottage.

”I remember when I was in the Boys’ Brigade – we were the best football team in Tyrone” said David Henderson. David stood 5’9” and was an average build. His skin was exceptionally pale and rosy cheeks lent point to this pallor. His brown eyes flashed with exuberance and a brooding folly lay under his sharp facial features. His dark brown hair was messily cast over his narrow brow. There was a gap between the middle of his unusually sharp teeth.

”Best in Tyrone? We were quite good but we were not that good” said Duncan indulgently.

”It is true. Catholics cannot play football. Not the two left feet – that’s nonsense. But they spend most of their time playing Gaelic and hurling and suchlike.” said David. ”Not real football.”

”Well maybe that’s so.” said Duncan, ”But I think you are letting your drama get the better of you. How do you know Gaelic is not older than our football?”

”I am a serious actor. I will get a big part in no time – you’ll see.” said David defiantly. He took a cigarette of his pocket and lit it.

”Serious actor – that is another word barman is it?” chortled Denis.

David took a fraught drag on his cigarette and exhaled.

”I am just a barman till I make it big. You’ll see. You saw my star at the pantomime in Dungannon? There’s a theatre in Londonderry is very interested in me. ” said David compellingly. He then offered his pack of Woodbines around. Duncan and Denis both took one and thanked him before lighting up.

Apropos of nothing Duncan turned to Denis. ”Denis did you see this thing in the Belfast Newsletter – there is a Home Rule Bill going before Parliament.”

”yes, I did. Haven’t I a brother a journalist on the Newsletter? ” said Denis. He was unmistakably proud of his brother.

”Home Rule – could that get through? Last election Liberals hardly mentioned it. I used to like Asquith. They won’t do it – not to Ulster at any rate.” said Duncan concernedly.

”I am not so sure. They might do. Asquith needs the Home Rulers. That was only way he got the People’s Budget. That Lloyd George is trying to sell us down the river just like he betrayed the whole country in the South African War.” said Denis tutting. ”My uncle was there ten years ago with the Royal Irish Fusiliers.”

”You two talking politics again? Give over, will you?’‘ said David.

”I shall see you down the pub tonight” said Denis peeling off towards his home.

”See youse there” said David cheerily.

Once Denis started to walk down his unpaved lane towards his red brick single story house then David turned to Duncan.

”You know the Roman Catholics asked if we could play on the Sabbath?” asked David.

”Play on Sunday? They didn’t?” said Duncan.

”They did. I see them playing their GAA game on the Lord’s day all the time.” said David in horror.

”Now to be fair the boys we played football against do not play GAA. Gaelic Athletic Association will not let them. They either play football or they play GAA. GAA bigots will not play football because it comes from England.” said Duncan.

”I suppose they won’t speak English because it comes from England, won’t touch a Bank of England pound note, won’t drink tea because it comes from China. ” said David.

”Won’t they claim their pensions as England subsidises Ireland.” said Duncan wryly.

”My father is a big noise in the Lord’s Day Observance Society. The Sabbath is the Lord’s Day and we shall keep it holy. No work – not thy manservant not thy maidservant.’‘ David intoned gravely.

”I do not mind a child kicking a ball on Sunday. Seems a big excessive to me – this no games on Sunday. But everyone knows a  team will not play a proper game on a Sunday.” said Duncan.

”Now that is the first step to Rome. I am not that godly but you know that playing sport on a Sunday is not on.’‘ said David.

”It does not matter to me. The GAA play their games on Sunday and the police do not stop them. Does not bother me but the Catholic team was foolish to ask us if we would play. Captain of the Queen of Clergy was foolish to ask.” said Duncan.

”Queen of Clergy who is that?” said David in puzzlement.

”That team we just played from Carrickmore – they are called the Queen of Clergy. Queen of Clergy is the Virgin Mary.” said Duncan.

”Queen of Clergy – Virgin Mary. What a queer name.” David disapprovingly.

”Catholic teams have their patron or patroness saint.” said Duncan.

”Good morning at school was it?’‘ said David changing the subject.

”Yes it was – most of the pupils turned up. Only a few helping on family farms and shops.” said Duncan. His cigarette was finished and he cast the butt aside.

”I see. I would have loved to have been a teacher but family finances would not stretch to that. But being a barman is great. When the pipkin is about to go off the landlord sells it to us at half price.” said David.

Duncan tried not to wince. Though David was only 17 he had noticed that David drank far too much. Duncan chose to bite his tongue.

”Those woodbines are splendid. Cleans the lungs – so the doctor says. Relaxes the larynx.”said Duncan.

”You should give them to your pupils/” said David. He was not joking.

”Well I do sometimes but only when they are over the age of ten. But there are a few fathers who object – religious grounds. Not Church of Ireland or even Presbyterians. There are some low church folk with very funny ideas. You know those who go to gospel hall. Puritans really.” said Duncan.

”Ridiculous. Just because cigarettes make you feel good. Smoking is no sin.” said David. ”The Good Lord would not have made tobacco for us if he did not want us to smoke.”

”You are right.  That is natural theology – like William Paley.” He chuckled but meant what he said. ”Don’t the Church of Ireland rectors smoke and the Presbyterian ministers smoke? It is the most innocent thing in the world.” said Duncan. ”It is an innocent pleasure. One of the fathers – he found his teenage son smoking and he thrashed him with a horse whip. I know a father has the right to discipline his children but that was too much.”

”I agree. Why would anyone be against smoking? It is as strange as being a Catholic” said David.

”It is it is. But Catholics are not so different.” said Duncan. ”Anyway Catholic priests smoke. Nothing wrong with that.”

”You are right. They are not so different. There is that fella on our team. Could not find a goalie so we took a Catholic. Supposed to be a Protestant team but he is as a good a lad as any of them.” said David.

”I got to turn here. This is my lane’‘ said Duncan.

”Off you go.” said David.



After Duncan got home he washed and changed his clothes he went downstairs. His parents and sister Anna were there at the kitchen table of their two up two down abode having afternoon tea. Anna’s nine year old daughter Jane was there.

Jane was a chubby child with mid brown hair in French plaits and rubicund cheeks. Despite her rotundity she walked with a  gait that spoke of lengthy countryside rambles.

”Uncle Duncan what is the Orange Order?” she asked in a Southern English accent.

”Of course you would not know that having grown up in England. Well now you are back in Ireland you need to know.” said Duncan indulgently.

”I asked daddy but he does not know.” said Jane.

”Well your daddy is English and in Buckinghamshire there are no Orange lodges.’‘ said Duncan.

”All right we, the Protestants, came here well on 300 years ago. We came from England and Scotland. A few from Wales and even the Isle of Man. Anyway – the English and the Scots totally intermarried here in Ireland. That is why we are the most British of all. The perfect mix of English and Scots. There were already Catholics here in Ireland – especially in the south. ANyway then there was the Catholic King James II.” said Duncan avuncularly.

‘King of England?” Jane clarified?

”King of Ireland too and King of Scots.” said Duncan. ”James II made a secret treaty with the King of France. James II was going to outlaw Protestantism and bring back Catholicism as the established church. James II liked the divine right of kings. You remember the English Civil War?”

”Yes, I do” said Jane.

”Well that was all about that. Divine right of kings. Anyway people found out that James II was trying to impose Catholicism on the people. So they overthrew him. They asked his nephew William of Orange to come over from Holland to be king.” said Duncan.

”His nephew wasn’t it a bit bad to kick out his uncle?” said Jane her faced lined with analysis.

‘Well maybe but James II ran away to his friend the King of France. So Parliament decided that he had given up the throne. He did not stay to fight. That was the Parliament of England. The Parliament of Ireland supported James II because most Irishmen are Catholics. Anyway James II came to Ireland to make a stand. The Catholics backed him. William of Orange came over here to the north of Ireland. That is where the Protestants are who supported him and needed his protection. James II and William of Orange fought by the River Boyne. James II lost and ran away to France again. The Catholic cursed him because he let them down. So William of Orange became King William III. He was married to Mary the daughter of James II.”  said Duncan.

”What so Mary went against her father?” said Jane.

”Yes, she did.” said Duncan

”But that is against the commandments” said Jane.

”Yes, it is” said Duncan ‘‘but the idea is that James II was taking away the people’s liberty so in this case the commandment had to be broken to serve a greater good. What James had done was an attack on God. A lower commandment may be broken to serve a higher commandment”

”That does not make any sense.” said Jane.

”Perhaps you are right. They call it the Glorious Revolution. I am not so sure. Anyway nobody supports James II and his family now. The Orange Order was founded in about 1790. It is to honour William of Orange – uphold the rule of Parliament, to support Protestantism. It is a charity. They parade to celebrate liberty.” said Duncan.

”So are you a member of it?’‘ asked Jane.

”No, I am not.” said Duncan. ‘‘I do not entirely agree with all they do. There are some decent fellows in the Orange Order. But there are some troublemakers too you know.

”So are we Irish?” asked Jane.

”Yes, we are Irish. We have been in Ireland for 300 years. Some of us married the Native Irish – you know the Catholics who were here even before us. So we are English, Native Irish, Scots and whatever else. We are Irish. But we are an unusual kind of Irish. ” said Duncan.

‘But Uncle Duncan yesterday Lizzy Fitton told me that Nuala O’Flaherty said ‘youse are not Irish. Youse are Protestants and should go back to England where youse belong.’ ” said Jane imitating the local accent.

”Well that is not a nice thing to say. We are not English we probably have some English ancestors a long time ago. We are Irish but we want to stay linked to England.” said Duncan.

”And what was the Relief of Derry? People are always talking about that?” said Jane.

”Well Jane that was 1688 just before the Glorious Revolution. James II sent Catholic troops to the Protestant city of Derry.” said Duncan. He was pleased with her inquisitiveness but this many questions was starting to exasperate him.



That night most of the team foregathered at the Dunmore Arms. The lads were togged out in their suits such as had them. Their shoes were spit polished. The scene was sheened with greased down hair. The pub was thronging with men and only men.

Duncan walked into the pub and it was already echoing with revelry. In the corner a skinny  old man with a shaggy white beard played the fiddle as he tapped his toe.

”How’s about you Duncan?” said John King bonhomously. John was 5’9”, broad shouldered and had very dark brown hair atop a square face. John’s dark blue eyes were a little hooded but still very expressive. His nose was a little broad and his teeth had only one filling. John’s semi-sculpted features recommended him to womenfolk. John wore a perfectly tailored navy blue suit, transfiguration white shirt and a dark green tie. His black leather brogues were polished to brilliance. Not a hair was out of place nor was there a crease on his shirt. He stood swilling his pint.

”Ah John – not so and yourself.” said Duncan.

”I am very well. We will beat those papishes next time five nil” said John exuberantly.

Duncan deduced from John’s tone and demeanour that John was not simply talking optimistically – he actually believed it.

”Well it would be nice if it happened” said Duncan soothingly.

”I am one of the best players on the team. Don’t know how I didn’t score. You should have scored too.” said John.

”Oh me? Well thanks but come on we both know I have two left feet. I like the game. Don’t mind much if we lose. We could lose every game in the seasons and I would still enjoy it.” said Duncan placidly.

”I am going to stop working in the shop. A sales clerk is no future. I am thinking of going to be a keeper at the mad house. Now that is a real job and going somewhere. It is sort of scientific. ” said John.

”I saw your results in the schools certificate – you could study medicine” said Duncan/

”Study medicine? Are you joking me? Only posh boys do that. Where would I get the money from? It is a miracle that my father paid for me to stay at school till 17. A waste of money he says. Should have gone off to get a job in the Bank of Ireland, dad said. My uncle wrote me a letter of recommendation because he has an account. I think maybe dad is right. I missed the boat on that one. Any I will go off and work at the lunatic asylum. Lunatics cannot be as hard to handle as some customers. It is good money. I even thought of being a medical orderly in the army. You see the uniform is fine.” said John.

”You are so fastidious about your clothes. It would suit you. You look like a Guardsman.” said Duncan.

”That is the nicest thing we ever said. My cousin Billy is in the Irish Guards you know. Ireland’s finest. Makes me proud to be Irish. Half the men in the Irish Guards are Roman Catholics mind but that’s no harm.” said John.

”But think of it – do you really want to be in the army. What if there is a war?” said Duncan.

”A war. There will be no war. Don’t be silly. I think you should be in the lunatic asylum” John chuckled. ”Now what’ll you have, a drink?”

”Let me have some lager please.” said Duncan.

”Right you are” said John sidling up to the bar and ordering one for Duncan and another for himself. Duncan could tell that John had had a few already.

As John was at the bar Duncan fell into conversation with Mark Walker. ”Hello there Mark” said Duncan.

”Hello Duncan, put it there.” he extended his hand and they shook ardently. Mark was a fleshy faced youth with a mass of dark brown curls. His round ugly faced was disfigured by a bulbous nose liberally covered in carbuncles. His very fair skinned jowls wobbled as he spoke. Mark was not too fast around the pitch.

”A good game we had today”, said Duncan.

”Yes it was all right. I had been hoping to win. I must have not prayed hard enough. The Lord granted a draw to the Catholics.” said Mark.

”I am not sure that the Good Lord involves himself in something so petty as a football match between us and Queen of Clergy.” Duncan felt like laughing but he saw that Mark was in earnest.

”Oh but he does. God is with us in all things great and small.” said Mark. ”I am becoming a deacon so I am going to a course at Queen’s – the Queen’s University of Belfast” he pronounced its name with a proud flourish. Duncan could see that being a deacon would appeal greatly to Mark’s self-importance. Mark took a sip of his pint.

”Very good – Church of Ireland.” said Duncan.

”Yes, Church of Ireland. Presbyterians do not have deacons.” said Mark.

”You are right they don’t but I thought you were brought up as a Presbyterian.”

”I was brought up in both really. I became a bit more Church of Ireland in the last few years. Our church has light, and colour and music and everything positive. ” said Mark.

David came over presently with a pint.

”Ah thanks David” said Duncan. ”Cheers” all three chinked glasses and took a swig.

”Ah …bathing my gums in a frothy pint” said John ”nothing finer.”

Duncan saw the beginnings of redness on John’s nose. He was a functioning dipsomaniac.

”Work at the county council offices this morning.” said Mark. ”Not so fun. But now I have that testamentarium in divinity I do not need to study in my free time”.

”That is a feather in your cap” said Duncan.

Over sidled Thomas Flaherty looking timid. Thomas was 5’10”  built like the side of a barn and had dark brown hair. His long face was not usually sorrowful. His skin was an average complexion and his eyes were the clearest blue. Thomas’ cheekbones were prominent and his teeth were a little too large. He was a powerfully built youth.

”Hello Thomas – good to see you” said Duncan loudly.

”Hi fellas” said Thomas finally pulling himself up to his full height. There were handshakes all around. ”Good match. Good skills to teach the boys at school” .

”I wonder which one of us would get to be headmaster first” said Duncan.

They chuckled. ”Sad thing is how some of our boys – really bright lads will have to go into work at 12. You take Sam Igoe. He would love to do secondary school but this June that is it. There are eight children in the family. He has to go out and bring in a wage. Makes me listen to those socialist johnnies when I hear of this happening.”

‘Come on” said Mark almost in dismay ”How could the country afford for most children to stay in school after the age of 12. I know I did till 16 but still. It would mean more tax and ruin. Lloyd George is already taxing beer enough” he quipped.

”That’s true” said Thomas – his mood lightening. ”My dad says if the government has so much money why can’t they pay the RIC more?”

”Your father is in the RIC isn’t he?” said Mark remembering. ”The Royal Irish Constabulary” he said with elan. ”That is a fine body of men. I would like to be their chaplain.”

”Is that the beer talking. You getting carried away with yourself? You’ve a secret ambition to be a clergyman?” said Duncan sagely then his face splintered into a smile.

”Ah no” said Mark pompously – looking anxious and suddenly rubbing the bridge of his nose with his forefinger and thumb.

The others laughed at his blatant lie.

”People like us do not get to be clergy in the Church of Ireland” said David. ‘‘You have to be a gentleman, you know a toffee nose with money. We are working class.”

”Thomas’ father is a sergeant in the police I wonder if that is not getting on for middle class.” said Duncan.

”Some on look at you” said David. ” I am a barman. Sharing a room with six other men. After food and beers and fags I have no money left. You are a teacher. I have seen your articles in the county gazette. You get extra for that. You are not so poor. You are middle class.”

”Middle class is a very broad term. I am maybe on the lower end of middle class” said Duncan.

Just then Andrew Saddler entered the pub with an awkward goofy gait. He was 5’5” inclining towards fatness and had slightly receding tawny hair. His forehead was very convex and he wore thin rimmed glasses. His skin was a tad redder than the others and his lips were very thin. His clothes were very tidy but certainly not stylish.

”Speaking of middle class it is Andrew – the finest account’s clerk in Ireland” Duncan joked. The others laughed. He gave Andrew a strong pat on the back. Andrew creased up in embarrassment and went red.

”Right now pint everyone?” so Duncan suggested. ”I have not bought one so far.”

”yes we noticed” said David mirthfully.

Duncan made his way to the bar to purchase pints for his chums.

‘How is life at the accountants’ firm?’‘ said Mark.

”It is right enough” said Andrew in a soft monotone. He lowered his eyes.

‘Good to hear it is going well.” said David. ‘‘I don’t suppose they would lend me a hundred pounds” he laughed raucously.

”No they would not” said Andrew completely oblivious to the fact that David had been joking. ‘‘If I do well they shall move me to the Omagh office.”

”Omagh now that is a big town. What a thing!” said David with mock flattery.

”Twenty miles away – never been so far in all my life” said Andrew contemplating it as though it daunted him.

”I have been all over Ireland and to England” David bragged.

Duncan returned with the pints.

”Thanks for the bevvies” said David. Alcohol was clearly getting to him.

”Slainte” said Duncan as he chinked his glass against David’s/

”Shla what?’‘ said David.

”Slainte – it is Irish for cheers. Well literally it means health.” said Duncan.

Why are you speaking Irish. Aren’t you a Protestant?” said David.

”Yes, I am. I was just curious. I only know a few words. We can learn it too. Catholics all speak English so why shouldn’t we know a bit of Irish? There’s this organization called the Gaelic League – encouraging the language. The president of it is Douglas Hyde and he’s a Prod.” said Duncan.

”Gaelic League – is that like the Gaelic Athletic Association? We are Irish. We are not Gaelic.” said David resolutely. ”We should we speak that prate? Ulster-Scots there’s a language. I do not like Gaelic anything. It is for rebels who would cut your throat.”

”We are not Fenians’‘ said Mark firmly. ”As for Catholics speaking English – my granny grew up in Donegal. When she was a wee girl there was some Catholics spoke no English.”

”We are the greatest country in the world.” said Andrew ” That ship we are building in Belfast. It will be the biggest in the world. I can tell you all its statistics – how long it is, how many tonnes displacement…” the others groaned until he stopped. He started there blinking and uncomprehending as to why they would not wish to hear all this information. He mused unhappily as to why everyone did not wish to hear the technical specification of the ships.

”Why on earth are they calling it Titanic?” said David.

”Titans in Ancient Greek mythology – like a titan.’‘ said Duncan ‘‘Let’s hope it does not become a Prometheus” he joked. Only Mark chuckled the others were uncomprehending.

Just then Joel Coles walked in. ”Joel ‘‘they chorused.

Joel was a gaunt little man – not conventionally good looking with thick brown hair in tight little curls. He wore glasses and had woeful teeth that grinned permanently. His ears were larger than he would have liked. His nose was overly prominent. He stalked over looking scarecrowish, hands thrust into his pockets.

”Hi fellas”, said Joel in a high pitched tone that was at once apologetic and truculent.

”You had an all right game today” said Mark.

”I am not one for football but you lads needed me so I came along” Joel looked sheepish.

”Drink for you?” asked Duncan. He had an enviable ability to put even a gauche person at his ease.

”Ah yes I will have a half of bitter” Joel nodded softly . There was something refined about him. He lent on the bar and began drumming his fingers.

A half – a half? What is wrong with you? Only got on ball?” David sneered. This was no mere persiflage. David was genuinely incensed.

‘Calm down will you? The fella only wants a half all right?” Duncan.

”A half, a half!” David carried on fulminating – his face growing redder. Joel went crimson for a different reason and stood rooted to the spot – speechless.

”Leave it out will you?’‘ said Mark. The distant flutters of dialogue died away as other groups began to pay attention to this fracas.

Duncan sidled off to the bar and came back with Joel’s drink. David had finally regained his composure. His eyes were narrowed and he grew melancholic.

”Thanks for very much Duncan” said Joel. He was grateful for more than the drink. ‘‘I do not know how I would have handled David if you hadn’t…”

”Think nothing of it. Good of you to come out so it was. I know football is not your thing nor drinking. Let’s not talk about that fool.” said Duncan. Joel brightened – seeing Duncan as almost a savior.

”It is going well at the solicitor’s firm. The gaffer says I am a good clerk. Might start articles next year.” said Joel beaming.

”What you got going on at the solicitor’s firm then?” said Duncan.

‘Well there is lots of it I am not allowed to talk about but there is one case of embracery going on” said Joel cautiously.

”Embracery, what on earth is that?” said Duncan nonplussed.

‘There’s a fella called Fewtrell has been burgling or accused of burgling a lot. He is trying to knobble the jury you know. Anyway, I had better leave it there.” said Joel his voice trailing off.

Just then Tim Mullins came over. He was 6’3” stick thin cursed with crooked front teeth and a misshapen face that somehow befitted his gangly frame.

”Hello fellas how is it going?” Tim said said cheerily.

”Hi Tim” they chorused.

”Tim scorer of the second goal. You saved us” said Duncan.

”Ah too kind” said Tim self-effacingly. ”Anyone could have got that one” he was not fishing for compliments. ”Now lads can I get you anything?” He took orders for drinks and wandered off to the bar.

The conservation had moved on when Tim came back with beers for the others and a lemonade for himself.

”Lemonade – lemonade” snorted David. ‘‘What the hell you doing drinking lemonade in a pub?”

”I don’t drink you know” said Tim calmly.

”Lemonade. You should be too ashamed to show your face in here drinking lemonade aren’t you a real man.” said David.

”Listen I do not drink. It is my religious principle”, said Tim patiently.

‘Ah oh you are so good. Are you too much of a miser to buy a real drink. And buying drinks for others. Is that not against our religion? Nothing wrong with Protestants drinking.” said David, ”Some of them papists are teetotal you know” he said coruscatingly.

”There is nothing wrong with Catholics. They don’t like to be called papists you know. Some Prods are teetotal too.” said Duncan.

”You love the Pope do you?” said David rolling around on his stool. His eyes were drawn into slits and his face bright red. ”I do not trust a man that does not drink.”

”David just because you are a drunkard is no reason why Tim should drink. Shut up about it will you. Give over!” said Duncan.

”Jesus drank says so in the Bible,” said David

”I know. It is not a commandment to drink.” said Duncan.

”What are you doing arguing for the papishes?” said David.

”There are plenty of them I like. Come on our goalie? My cousin lives in Mayo. Went to the Catholic school – there was no Protestant one around. They treated him decently. I have Catholic pals too. ” said Duncan.

”My brother was beaten up by Roman Catholics once. Don’t forget the slaughter at Portadown. WHo won the Boyne, hey? What about the Siege of Derry?” said David.

The others jeered at him and he turned away in silence.

”Thomas are you still walking out with Ingrid?” asked Joel.

”I am  – I might even propose.” said Thomas very seriously.

”Aren’t you too young to die?” asked Duncan. They others chuckled but Thomas looked choleric.

Just then Alan O’Rourke walked in. He was 5’9” and slim. His very dense, black hair curled in waves. He had a large and wide nose and slightly swarthy complexion.

”Alan” said Duncan warmly and gave him a vigorous handshake. A cheer went up from the others ”the goalie.”

David had been half asleep on his bar stool – he opened his eyes. ”Ah our pet papist” said David.

”Shut up will you” said Duncan

”Yeah put a sock in it!” added Thomas.

Just then a hefty bald headed man turned around. His named was Justin Savage. ”What a papist? A popehead dare to come in here?” his eyes shot hatred at Alan.

Alan stopped in his tracks. Through a gap between his buttons a pectoral crucifix protruded.

”Get the hell out of here you Taig!” shouted Justin clearly on edge ”youse filthy fuckin Fenians are not wanted here.” There was a sudden change in atmosphere.

”You get out of it!” said Duncan. ”Fuck off!” he shot back at Justin. There was a hushed conversation in the corner. Were more going to weigh in.

”Get the Fenian out of here” a square jawed man shouted.

Justin walked up to Duncan – eyeballed him and pressed his chest to Duncan’s. ”You telling me to fuck. Are you a fucking Taig too? I don’t like popery.” in a slow menace.

”I am not. So what if I was. We are all Irish.” said Duncan death staring him back

We are a different sort to them.” said Justin quietly.

”He is our friend – he is our teammate and he is having a drink with us.” said Duncan his blood racing.

All right then – one drink’‘, said Justin crestfallen. He turned away and walked back with the little dignity he could muster.

Just then Duncan felt his heart rate double. The fear had hit him now the moment had passed. Had he been stupid? He was tipsy. He sensed that the others had cut him adrift when he had gone toe to toe with Justin.

The others praised Duncan ”good for you – standing up to that fat thug”

”Wow thanks Duncan’‘ said Alan – patting him on the back.

”I would not like a Protestant to be treated like that in a Catholic pub. Do as you would be done by” said Duncan. ‘‘I wanted to tell that fella that he could not dictate how long Alan could stay but I thought I have won. DOn’t push it – don’t provoke him more.”

It was a long bibulous evening.

Well before closing time Tim said ”I must be off home I have church in the morning.” As he bade them farwell David had got a second win.

”Lads who is coming to mine for some whiskey?” said David.

”Ah no thanks it would be almost midnight by the time we get there” said Thomas.

”So what?” said David

”Then it is the Sabbath. Party must be over before midnight.” said Thomas.

”I am the same” said Tim. ”Besides tomorrow we have a meeting at the Orange lodge. It is April – time to start touching up the paint on the Lambeg drum. Not long to go to the marching season so we will start practising the instruments”

”Which lodge are you in?’‘ said Duncan.

”Three twenty-two” said Tim, ”You know the temperance lodge – only temperance one in the district.”

”Temperance” said Duncan ”But I know Sammy Hanson – he is in your lodge and he was having a few pints tonight.”

”Aye – are not against drinking but we are against getting drunk. Now some people cannot stick to that. I prefer to keep it simple. I might be foolish and drink too much so I never touch a drop. I don’t mind if others do” said Tim.

”I see. Well I have seen the harm it can cause. You know the fights and the peelers waiting on the high street to arrest the lads who get into fights. There are some drunkards beat their wives and the children are starving because the father spent all the money on drink.” said Duncan.

”I know” said Thomas ” there was a jobbing builder in Strabane – he used to pay his men on a Friday night in the pub. ”Will you stay for a round?” – he says ”. Come on don’t me a miser like” and the fellows are spending half their wages getting drunk because the builder is in league with the publican. He is getting a cut of all the takings.”

‘There would be no fighting on the Twelfth of July is there was no drinking. A glorious twelfth is a dry twelfth. It is a great show we put on” said Tim..

”It is a great show!’‘ Alan chipped in. ”I love to watch. My pal at the work is in your lodge.”

”Who is he?” said Tim.

”Jack Caithness” said Alan O’Rourke.

”Caithness? The lad with the long chin. I know him.” said Thomas ”He might be worshipful master next year. My uncle was worshipful master last year. You know who else is in the lodge? Lord Douglas Johnson. Think of it! Titled people! That man went to Eton and to University and he is in our lodge. When my uncle was worshipful master Lord Johnson had to be respectful to my uncle and my uncle’s only a butcher.” said Tim

”It is amazing what the Orange Order does for equality. I thought of joining. ” said Duncan. ”A peer of the realm and he is subordinate to a butcher.”

”Amazing what it does for your career.” said Tim ‘‘ A bit like the Freemasons. Look at David Head. He would not have got into the police if he had not been in the Orange Order. He cannot write well. Look at him now a sergeant in Galway.”

‘Difference is the Orange Order is Protestants only” said Thomas.

”Well yes but Catholics are allowed in the Freemasons but the Catholic Church will not allow them join. Some of them join anyway/” said Tim.

”I find that hard to believe. Roman Catholics will always do what the pope says. They are said and led by that man in Rome.” said Thomas. He then turned to Alan. ”Ah sorry about that Alan no offence like.”

”Ah well it is not so bad. The pope is a very good man and a very educated man. ” said Alan.

”Well yes I can agree on that” said Thomas awkwardly. ”You have a sort of Orange Order too don’t you?”

”A green order?” Alan quipped. They chuckled. ”Yes we do the Ancient Order of Hibernians.”

”That’s it!’‘ said Thomas.

”I am not in it but my brother Vincent is. Really looks after people a friendly society. Not so big here. Big in America. My cousin in Baltimore says it is huge there.” said Alan.

”Makes me want to join!” said Duncan. They all chortled. ”This is why I think of joining the Orange Order. Great to be marching up and down with your pals  – proud in the sash and the music is banging out the tattoo. Then you pay in and if you fall sick or out of work your loyal brethren will help you out because you paid in.”

”It is the same in the Hibernians” said Alan.

”You see Roman Catholics like Orange parades” said Tim ”People even keep the Orange walk in the South. It is only a few corner boys and drunkards start trouble. It is not Orangemen who fight. Frankly, the laners who start the trouble could not afford to join the Order. They are stevedores and labourers. only men with good jobs can afford to be Orangemen.”

”It is not just us that starts it  – it is Protestants attacks us in the marching seasons.” said Alan.

”There are bad Prods” said Tim. ”But the one;s that start the trouble are almost never Orangemen. They are the riff raff hangs around – follows the Orange walk. The corner boys. They are not Orangemen. Sometimes its the bandsmen. Not everyone in the band is an Orangeman. We even had a Roman Catholic playing the flute in the band!”

”Catholics are not in the Orange Order.” said Alan in astonishment.

‘No they are not. He was in the band. You can be a Catholic in the band. He is the only papist I ever knew in an Orange band.” said Tim.



Next day Duncan was walking down the street in his Sunday best. His parents, two sisters , their husbands, his nieces and nephews were with him. They sauntered towards their church. They passed Alan and his family heading to mass. Duncan say Alan and greeted him warmly. ”Hello Alan’‘ he said shaking his hand.

”Hi there Duncan. After mass I am going to see Gaelic. The boys have a big game on against Strabane They are the best team in the county. But Dunmore will be champions of Tyrone if we win!” said Alan. 

Duncan’s father chided him. ‘‘Why are you so friendly with them?”

”Because many of them are good people same as ourselves.” said Duncan.

”You are right’‘ said his father totally changing his tone without any sense of irony. ”I have nothing against Roman Catholic. Seamus O’Malley was one of the finest men I ever knew and his brother was a priest!”

As they walked sedately Duncan’s nieces bounded up to him ribbons flailing in her chestnut plaits.

”Uncle Duncan! Uncle Duncan! Why do we always said ‘we believe in a holy Catholic apostolic church’? We are Protestants!” said Jane

”Well Jane. That is a very clever question for a nine year old” said Duncan smiling avuncularly.

”No one else can answer it and they said ask you” said Jane trying not to seem sychophantic.

”Jesus appointed the twelve apostles. One of them Peter became the Pope. The Bishop of Rome we could say. He started the Church. The church was good in the old days.” said Duncan.

”The Pope? But Catholics believe in the Pope.” said Jane.

”Well we know the Pope exists. He is not a bad man but he is not the head of our church. The head of our Church would be the King but we changed that about 50 years ago. Anyway – cut a long story short. The Catholic church was good in the old days. But over time it turned bad. It became all about the wrong sort of men going into it and leading people away from Jesus. Greedy, selfish men more caring for their own titles and money – inventing beliefs that have nothing to do with the Bible. They spent time praying to saints and to Mary and not so much on Jesus. Busy inventing silly ceremonies and mad rules that clergy could not marry – tricking poor people into giving them money or else their relatives would go to hell. They would not let people read the Bible in English because then people would know the word of God.  Then along came Martin Luther about 400 years ago some people said that is enough. They protested. Protest like Protestant. We broke away from the Roman Catholic Church. Protestantism was invented. But not all Catholicism was bad. So we say we are Catholics in the sense that we accept the good side of the old church from long, long ago like St Peter. ” said Duncan.

”So we believe in St Patrick?” said Jane?

”Well we do. St Patrick came here in 432 to bring Christianity. He set up the Church of Ireland. Ireland had its own church. Later Roman Catholicism came. Then the Church of Ireland came back about 400 years ago. ” said Duncan knitting his brow. This was confusing even him.

”So we were Roman Catholics once? ” said Jane looking puzzled.

”Well we were but Roman Catholicism was not so bad back then. The Church of Rome lost its way later. It is not all bad now.” said Duncan.

”So the Catholics do not get to read the Bible?” asked Jane.

”They do. The Roman Catholic Church fought tooth and nail against having the Bible in modern languages in English or French or German. Then after Protestantism came along the Roman Catholic Church admitted that Protestants had been right all along. Protestants had been killed for printing the Bible in a language people could understand. In the old days it was only in Latin because priests understood it and they did not want ordinary folk to be able to understand it because then they would see the priests were tricking them.” said Duncan.

”But the Catholics still speak Latin” said Jane.

”You are right. Their priests are speaking Latin in their church and 9/10 Catholics cannot understand a word.’‘ said Duncan.

”That is very silly. But why Latin. Did Jesus speak Latin?” said Jane.

”No the Bible was in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. Jesus lived in the Holy Land. He did not speak Latin. That is what is so stupid about it. Why say the Bible has to be in Latin. It was never in Latin in the first place. The Roman Catholics just translated it into Latin.” said Duncan.

”But you speak Latin uncle Duncan/” said Jane eagerly.

”I can read it I am not that good at it. Nobody speaks it now.” said Duncan.

Jane’s mother Louise caught up with her. ”Now Jane – that is enough. A girl should not want to know so much about religion. When you are grown up who will ever want to marry you if you are always asking such brainy questions?” Louise spoke with genuine irritation.

They arrived at a grey stone church that was not quite a century old. A venerable patina of moss was between its stones. The damp churchyard was the last resting place of strong farmers, shopkeepers and a few labourers.

The congregation attired in grey, dun, black and navy blue shuffled towards the door as the slate coloured sky threatened rain. Every woman wore a hat as she entered the church and every male removed his headgear.

As Duncan approached the church door he saw a girl skipping along the road in her almost ragged clothes. Her mother called after her ‘‘Priscilla! Stop skipping. You are wearing out the leather in your shoes!”

Duncan reflected he had little money. But there were many who had less than him. He knew that many children would take off their shoes the moment they left church and walk barefoot. They could not afford to wear out the leather.

”Ah Duncan how good to see you” said the tranquil voice of Rev Jones. Duncan turned to see the reddish, clean-shaven face of Rev Christopher Jones. Jones was about 40, 5’11”, slim and had black-grey hair perfectly brushed. His docile gentleness made him almost effete. Despite Rev Jones words he was not remotely surprised to see Duncan who came there with a religious regularity.

”Good morning” said Duncan stiffly extending his hand to shake that of the robed clergyman. His robes were transfiguration white.

”Duncan I want to ask if you could help with Sunday school? Perhaps we could speak after the service?” said Reverend Jones.

”Yes, certainly Reverend Jones.” said Duncan.

Duncan filed in and took his seat on the wooden family pew. The church was fairly plain inside. The brass eagle lectern was the most eye catching feature. There were plaques on the walls to those who had been called to their reward. Soldiers who had perished on the North-West Frontier and a low level civil servant who had expired in British Bechuanaland.

There was some lusty singing of ‘Onward Christian soldiers.’ Rev Jones treated his congregation to a blamelessly banal sermon on one of the more forgettable books of the Old Testament. This clergyman spoke in the most genteel of Dublin accents.  Duncan paid rapt attention despite the anodyne delivery of the sermon. He was an amateur Biblical scholar. The congregation forced themselves to try to listen. Jane was perhaps the only child to concentrate. The parishoners were told to rise to their feet once more while an old woman bashed out the melody of ‘Abide with me’ and the people sang eagerly. After the collect the service rounded off with a hymn by Mrs C F Alexander.

After the service most of the congregation adjourned to the parish hall. For the poorer congregants free tea and sandwiches were a welcome supplement to a meagre diet.

Tea was almost over in the parish hall. Rev Jones had bided his time till most of his flock had left the parish hall. Then Rev Jones took Duncan aside.

”Duncan you are an admirable young man. A sort of role model for youngsters in the parish. I know you go to the pub and I cannot say I approve but it is not quite a sin.” said Rev Jones with as much enthusiasm as a dull man can muster.

”Thank you Reverend Jones,” said Duncan circumspectly.

”As I was saying earlier – I need a new teacher for Sunday school. Something for the younger children. I know you are so lively when you teach and do drama with them. Something to really bring the Bible stories to life – with trains of camels and David slaying Goliath and  the like. So the children know the message of Jesus for our times. Mrs Crutwell is moving to Dublin so we need something new. A bit of help with confirmation classes could not go amiss either,” said Jones growing pessimistic owing to the look on Duncan’s face.

”Thank you so much rector”, said Duncan stiffly. ”It is flattering to be asked. I shall think about it. But I also have to think about my future. I wonder if this will really help me.”

”Yes, certainly” said Jones unconvincingly ”this is the Lord’s work. And there shall be a great reward in heaven. But in time you could become a deacon. Who knows maybe you would even go for ordination one day.”

”Well Rev Jones –  being a clergyman might suit me. I seems like a most agreeable lifestyle. But I have not been to university. I could never afford to go to Trinity. As for ordination as a clergyman. I have some problems with my faith. This evolution thing – seems real enough to me.” said Duncan.

”Duncan – there are some very go ahead clergyman here and in England who believe in evolution. I do not believe it myself but it is not incompatible with Christian faith. You know Gladstone noticed that all the things in Genesis and evolution happened in the same sequences. There was water, then fish, then land animals and man came last of all. So this Hebrew word for day it could be interpreted as eon. By some exegeses the two accounts fit.” Rev Jones was almost triumphant.

”Well that is that!” said Duncan as if sold on the idea of teaching at Sunday school.

”Now Duncan there is a course to help you with this it is run by Magee College in Londonderry. It is all paid for.” said Jones.

”But that is a Presbyterian seminary.” said Duncan mildly surprised.

”Yes I know but we have very warm relations with them. We are all Protestants are we not?” said Jones.

‘We are all Christians are we not?” said Duncan

”Yes, all children of God. You know this new Roman Catholic priest – Fr Forrester. I have met him. He is a very decent man. But don’t tell people. Some say it will not do for a Church of Ireland clergyman to speak to a Catholic priest. I have read one of those papal encyclicals De Rerum Novarum – very interesting stuff. ” said Jones.

”Rev Jones I am pleasantly surprised. I thought our clergy believed the Catholic Church was wicked.” said Duncan.

”There are a few like that. But as you know those sort of people are more Presbyterian or going to those ghastly gospel halls. They let any yahoo spit fire and brimstone there. Like a circus side show barker.” said Jones.

”Rev Jones you mentioned drama. Could we do a nativity play at Christmas in the parish hall.” asked Duncan.

”Goodness me. I would have to think about it. There might be some churchwardens would not like that one. The theatre has a whiff that is not quite respectable. They would say before you know it we will have girls dancing the can can. Besides the Catholic Church used to use Nativity plays a lot. Golly. It is an exciting idea!” said Jones

Duncan supressed a smirk. For Jones the word ‘golly’ was almost a vulgarity.

The hall was almost empty.

”Duncan you must come around to dinner some time. We have been here a year now. Marjorie and I were lonely when we first came up from Wicklow. But now we and the children have settled in.” Jones looked around to check that no one was in ear shot. ” You don’t know what social twilight it is. I cannot be seen to socialize with Catholics. I cannot be seen to hobnob with the gentry because most of them have a glass of wine on Saturday night and are seen as fast. As for the working class – they would feel out of their depth having dinner with us. As for theatre – I will let you in on a secret. When I was a Trinity I tread the boards myself.”

Duncan was surprised. Rev Jones was perhaps not as bland as he appeared. But Duncan was still minded to get out of Sunday school duty. ”Rev Jones it is an honour to be asked to teach Sunday school. But as Mark Walker is going to be a deacon would it not be better to ask him?”

”Duncan I understand why you say that. Between you and me’‘ Rev Jones started speaking sotto voce ”Mark Walker asked to teach Sunday school. But he is too fond of the sound of his own voice. Pomposity! He would put the children off. I do not want to have to say yes to him. If I cannot get you to do it then I have to let Mark Walker do it and the children might find him a frightful bore.”

Duncan was surprised to hear Rev Jones say frightful. Was it an affectation? Was Rev Jones pretending to be English?

”Well I shall give it due consideration” said Duncan. He began to wonder if he could wring concessions out of Rev Jones. But what to ask for?

”Besides Mark Walker is a big noise in the Orange Order. It is not an organization that I approve of overmuch.’‘ said Rev Jones.



”The lodge will come to order!’‘ said Richard Forshaw. He was 5’11” and wore a black suit and transfiguration white shirt. This middle aged man wore his Orange collarette with a pride that was unseemly as he stood in the Orange Lodge. Richard had a comically large chin and a very wide mouth. His mid brown hair was thinning into a widow’s peak. His pale blue eyes danced kindly on his comical face.

Two dozen Orangemen sat around tables looking at their worshipful master. Most wore suits and some wore humbler clothes. Lord Douglas Johnson, however, wore a perfectly cut dark grey Saville Row suit. Lord Johnson was twenty years old but looked younger. A blue silk tie contrasted with his pink shirt. Old Etonian cufflinks adorned the sleeves. Those who sat on either side of him kept an extra few inches away from him as if not to spoilt his aristocratic aura. Lord Johnson was 5’4” and had blond almost luminous hair and very white skin. He was skinny but had a strong chin and upright manner.

Richard Forshaw continued. ‘‘Now my loyal brethren. We have some business to get through. It being April it is not so long until the marching season. So we shall have to make some arrangements. Time to sort out which band will be accompanying us. To decide which meetings we shall be going to and all that. But before we get started we will  have a prayer.”

The Orangeman all bowed their heads and closed their eyes. There was a pause as they gathered themselves into a contemplative frame of mind.

Richard spoke in a tone freighted with sorrow and significance. ”Dear Lord Jesus – we beseech thee to look on us they humble servants with divine grace. Be mindful of our virtues and absolve us from our iniquities and failings. We strive to be better Christians. Strengthen us in our Reformed faith. Help our Roman Catholic brethren to see the error of their ways and to turn onto the straight and narrow way. Lord, defend our liberties and lead us to thy eternal governance.  Amen.”

The assembled Orangemen slowly intoned ”Amen”

Richard Forshaw began again. ‘‘Now we shall have have Jude Conroy read up an Orange exhortation.”

Jude Conroy stood up. Still hunched over he delivered his lines with vehemence. ‘‘May the Pope be rammed, slammed and jammed into hell and locked in. May the key be in the Orangeman’s pocket. ”

Several Orangemen applauded.

Tim Mullins raised his hand. ”That is a bit unchristian isn’t it? I know we do not approve of the Pope of Rome. But we are not in cahoots with the devil. ”

”The pope is cursed’‘ said Jude ”he is the whore of Babylon” he seethed.

”He may be but he is not in league with the devil.” said Tim

”Point taken” said Richard ”it was just a bit of doggerel.”

”I am glad to hear it ” said Tim contentedly.

”We will also have to hear about the accounts later. There will be a collection taken later. Everyone has paid their dues.” said Richard.

Lord Johnson put his hand up. ”Worshipful Master” he began in a strikingly plummy tone. ‘‘One of the lads on the estate was saying to me the other day that he is rather keen on joining the Orange Order. The poor chap cannot afford it because he is only an under gardener. Might you be so good as to see your way to letting him off his dues for the first year?”

”Why don’t you pay him more?” quipped Colin York. Some of them laughed.

”Now, now – we shall have no disrespect towards Lord Johnson. ‘‘ Richard chided them. ‘‘With respect your lordship I am afraid the lodge’s finances are tight. We have many calls on our generosity. We have the widows and orphans of Orangemen to support. The lodge roof needs repairing. We simply cannot afford to let someone join for free. If people cannot get aid by joining the order then some brethren will leave. To be frank not everyone is here for religious or political reasons only. We all believe in maintain the Protestant settlement but if the Order did not support the brethren when they were sick or out of work then some brethren would go and join a trades union instead and we do not want socialism.”

‘Jason Dorsett is in a trades union isn’t that right?’‘ said Zachary Newsom.

”I am” said Jason awkwardly ”nothing wrong with that. A man is allowed to be a loyal Orangeman and a trades unionist too. There is no rule against it is there worshipful master?”

”No, the brother is right. There is no rule against being in a trades union but it is true that not all the brethren approve.” said Richard

‘But there are Roman Catholics in your trades union” said Jude.

‘So what nothing that matter with that. There are good papists as there are bad Prods.” said Jason.

”Only a rotten Prod would be in a trades union with the papishes” said Jude scowling. ‘‘You would sell us out to the Fenians.”

”You mind your tongue” said Jason angrily.

”My loyal brethren I remind you we are all Orangemen here. We are all to behave honourably and charitably and disagree with each other politely.” said Richard.

”You employ two Catholics in your butcher’s shop. Could you not give a job to a wee Protestant lad?” said Jude.

”I do employ two Protestants too. one of them is right here.’‘ said Richard looking at Alfred Daventry.

”Yes, that’s me” said Alfred. ‘‘And there is nothing about the Catholics that works with us.”

”No Catholic is any good” said Jude.

‘I think we have heard quite enough from you brother” said Richard testily. The others murmured their assent.

Lord Johnson chipped in ”belt up will you Conroy?  There’s a good fellow” . It was not intended to be droll but the others could not help burst out in raucous laughter. Conroy was crushed. ‘‘And let’s have no more nonsense about Catholics being so bad. None of us worship the pope but Roman Catholics can be decent sorts. There is a Catholic chappie with me at Christ Church and he is a good egg.”

”Now’‘ said Richard ”On to other business. The marching season may be tense this year. As you know the last several years in Tyrone the marching season has been very peaceful and even the Roman Catholics have come to applaud us. Pride in the town – that is what it is. Everyone likes to see a fine Orange lodge marching down the street with the band playing – even the Catholics like it. But this year tensions may be raised. There is this whole Home Rule thing. As you may have seen in the newspapers the other day the Prime Minister has said he is going to introduce a Home Rule Bill. ”

”Don’t you worry” said Lord Johnson ”My father shall vote it down in the House of Lords like my grandfather did the last one 20 years ago. And even if this Asquith chap were to get it through we shan’t stand for Home Rule. Shan’t! Home Rule is balderdash. Last time Home Rule was threatened my grandfather helped set up this thing called Young Ulster. It was a very fine body of men. I was in my infancy at the time. But it was for loyalists pledged to defend Ulster from the threat of Home Rule. If needs be we shall do it again. Back then the mere show of determination was enough to give Home Rule what for!”

Richard continued. ”That is good to know. We shall not have Home Rule. We do not want it for any part of Ireland. But I have to be honest most people in the South want it. They are Catholics – well most of them. They want Home Rule because they want Rome Rule. We might have to allow it there.”

”Abandon our loyal brethren in the South?” said Jude. ‘‘Never! That is disloyal.”

‘We have to be realistic” said Richard ‘‘ We cannot hold on to Munster, Leinster and Connaught. Home Rulers have every county in the South. But here in Ulster it is a different story.”

”We must remember we are not that strong in Ulster either. Half the people in Ulster are Catholics. 9 out of 10 Catholics are Home Rulers. And not every Prod is a unionist.” said Jason.

”Yes, some are rotten Prods like you” said Jude. ‘‘A unionist and a trades unionist are totally different things.”

”Listen – a man can be an Orangeman and a trades unionist. Yes, I am a socialist. Nothing wrong with that. As Protestants we want social justice. ‘‘ said Jason defensively.

”My loyal brethren – if you do not mind let us get back to our agenda. ‘‘ said Richard authoritatively, ‘‘The next item of business is the marching season. As I said there may be some comment on our activities form our Roman Catholic brethren this year. We shall inform the RIC of our concerns. However, the police locally cannot be relied upon. Sergeant Flaherty is a Catholic of course and every policeman in Dunmore  is a Catholic. There are some fine Catholic officers of course but Flaherty is a Home Ruler and makes no bones about it!”

”What is wrong with that a man has a right to an opinion. We believe in liberty of conscience.’‘ said Jason.

”Yes, we do of course” said Richard. ”But there may be dark days head. Push may come to shove.”

”Come off it worshipful master” said Lord Johnson, ”Nothing of the sort shall happen. Home Rule? The Tory Party shall never stand for that. Half the Liberals do not believe in it. Believe me I was at school with enough Liberal peers.”

”I think you shall find they are Liberal Unionists – they joined the Conservatives 25 years ago. They more or less are Conservatives now. The actual Liberal Party is hellbent on Home Rule” said Richard,

”Worshipful Master” said Lord Johnson ‘‘You are too defeatist – a faint heart. It is all hot air. It shan’t happen. Now mark this. There shall be no Home Rule!”

‘I do not for a moment it will happen in Ulster” said Richard ‘‘It might happen in the rest of Ireland. But we cannot afford to be complacent. We must be vigilant. Yes, we have seen off the threat of Home Rule before. That does not guarantee that we can do so again. The influence of America is growing. America is all for Home Rule.

”But there is this idea that America will come back into the Empire.” said Lord Johnson,” Forget their revolution. There was this Rhodes chappie went out to South Africa – made a mint as a miner or something. My uncle owns coal mines by the way. Anyway, Rhodes has this idea that Americans will come back to be with Mother England. So he set up scholarships. I met a few Yanks at Oxford. I met a few Africans too. Funnily enough the Africans are all whiteю Africans want to be under Britain and that’s a jolly good show.”

”Lord Johnson” said Richard, ”With respect I think Cecil Rhodes was living in the past. There is so sign that Americans want to come back to be under Britain.”

Lord Johnson decided not to hear what Richard said.

”I have a question about the marching season” said Jason Dorsett. ‘‘Will we be going to LondnDerry this year?”

”Yes” said Richard, ”the Apprentice Boys of Derry have requested that we attend their march in August for the closing of the Gates against King James.”

”I would rather go to march in Dublin” said Jude. ”I know that LondonDerry is a fine city but we should march in our capital. Come on!”

”I am afraid that lodge in Dublin that used to invite us has not invited us any more for the Orange march there.” said Richard.

”Well that is a pity.” said Jude.

”Well the sight of Orangeman marching anywhere makes me proud to be Irish!” said Richard.

A Very English Scandal by Paul Preston. Review.========================================


This book is a biography that reads like the liveliest of novels. Paul Preston has not bored us by writing about the whole of Jeremy Thorpe’s life. Instead Preston has focussed on 1961-1979. These years bookend Thorpe’s ill-starred relationship with Norman Scott. Preston is a seasoned journalist and a consummate tale teller. Notably he relates the story in the present tense to lend it immediacy.
1961 – Jeremy Thorpe is a 32 year old Member of Parliament. He is in the Liberal Party which seems to be one elected away from extinction. The Liberals have only 6 MPs out of 650 in Parliament. Thorpe is a renowned wit and gifted debater. From his earliest childhood he was irrepressibly extrovert. The son and grandson of Tory MPs – he would have been guaranteed a safe Tory seat. However, ever the attention seeker he chose to be a Liberal. Thorpe is a compulsive risk taker and mischief maker. Many politicians are exhibitionists which is why they go into politics. But most of them have a few bedrock beliefs. In terms of racial equality Thorpe had such inflexible beliefs.

Jeremy Thorpe comes across as a genial and quixotic figure. He was President of the Oxford Union (debating society of Oxford University) and then a barrister (lawyer) before being elected to Parliament. He is a silver tongued advocate rather than a jurisprudential scholar. Thorpe possessed charisma and self-assurance in spades. John Jeremy Thorpe was a gifted impersonator and had an incredible knack for remembering names. He felt his humblest constituents feel as though he cared for them. He was a consummate showman – a sort of gay Tony Blair.  Preston depicts Thorpe as a winsome machiavell. The Liberal leader comes across as amoral in personal affairs and principled in politics.
Preston relates how there was an aspect of Thorpe’s life that the exhibitionist Thorpe chose to keep quiet. Thorpe was a Ganymede. Paul Preston uses dialogue supplied by Thorpe’s fellow Liberal MP and bosom buddy Paul Bessell. Bessell too had skeletons in his cupboard – he was a married man and a lay preacher. Bessell was also a philanderer. It is difficult now to remember just how judgemental the 60s were. Unwed pregnancy was considered scandalous and same sex attraction was held to be the most repellent vice. Indeed until 1967 it was a crime.
As Thorpe seemed on the brink of great things he met a 21 year old stable boy named Norman Josiffe. Norman Josiffe was born in London out of marriage . He was half-Irish and half English. His mother wed an accountant who brought him up as his own. Josiffe was a highly unstable character who was prone to flights of fantasy. Thorpe met the young Norman Josiffe and they began an intimate relationship. This only lasted a few months but it was a liaison that was to dog Thorpe to his dying day.
After a few months Preston has Thorpe ending his relationship with Thorpe. To the Liberal statesman this relationship seems to have been about physical gratification and nothing more. Josiffe claims he was besotted and was deeply hurt when he was spurned. According to Josiffe he felt romantic love for the Member of Parliament. When he realized that Thorpe had used him as a mere plaything this drove Josiffe mad. Norman Josiffe went to the police and confessed to engaging in unlawful intercourse with Thorpe. The police tugged the forelock to the squirearchy and chose not to even inform Thorpe of this allegation of a felony.

Josiffe was indeed mentally ill and sectioned on several occasions. He made more than one parasuicidal gesture. In the 60s and and 70s Josiffe drifted from one job to another. He was by turns and ostler and then a model. He was tall, slender with a saturnine look that was then the height of fashion. Thorpe had described himself as Josiffe’s guardian for a time and secured him a National Insurance card. This National Insurance card was to prove to be Thorpe’s undoing. Josiffe was forever losing his NI card and writing to Thorpe to get him a new one. Thorpe handed over the problem of Norman Josiffe to fellow Liberal MP Paul Bessell. Bessell handled Josiffe and sent him regular retainers.

Various attempts were made to get Josiffe a job overseas. He had various posts in Ireland. He never managed to stick at anything. Unsurprisingly Thorpe was exasperated by him.

In 1966 Jo Grimmond the Liberal leader stepped down. Thorpe was then elected leader of the six man Liberal Party. He was 37 and on the up and up. Thorpe enjoyed very cordial relations with the Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson. Wilson had been a Liberal in his Oxford days. So to had the doyen of the far left Michael Foot.

As Thorpe was in his 30s and had never been seen stepping out with a woman questions were asked of his orientation. Moreover, whispers of Norman Josiffe’s claims reached the ears of some in the Westminster Village. No newspaper would dare publish a word of it for fear of being sued for libel. Carnal acts between two males were a crime until 1967 in England and Wales. Long after 1967 such deeds were still regarded as morally repugnant by many.

Thorpe decided to put paid to rumours about his private life. He went for a characteristically bold gambit. He decided to take to wife. Who was to be his bride? He cast around for a suitable candidate. He happened upon a 6 foot upper class secretary named Caroline Allpass. After a romance of a few months he proposed and she accepted. Caroline was known as a fag hag. Can she have been unaware of Thorpe’s true inclinations. He seems to have married her principally to allay suspicions about his proclivities but also to boost the party.

Never one to avoid the limelight he held the wedding reception in Lambeth Palace Garden. Despite being a supposed progressive he had a curious hankering for establishment credentials. He was a passionate monarchist and his sartorial style with brown homburg hats and black silk top hats made him seem like a Tory of the most reactionary cast of mind.

Within two years a child was born to Thorpe and his wife. Thorpe also won over a British millionaire living in the Bahamas – Jack Hayward. Hayward was a stalwart Tory but was under Thorpe’s spell. Thorpe had the elan vital and the charm that Hayward believed a leader needed. For the perennially cash strapped Liberals the Hayward connection was manna from heaven.

Thorpe bet the bank on the 1970 election. It was a calamity. Despite gimmicks with huge rallies, helicopters and hovercraft the party lost seats. Just then his wife was killed in a car crash. Thorpe was forever a showman and wore many false faces. Despite all that acting – his grief over Caroline’s death was undoubtedly genuine.

Thorpe then met Marion Stein. She was an Austrian Jewess who had come to Britain as a teenage refugee. This gifted musician wed the Earl of Harewood who was the Queen’s cousin. Lord Harewood later embarked on an affair. He and Marion Stein divorced.

Marion Stein had three grown up sons and was a couple of years old then Thorpe. They married with great fanfare.

In the early 70s the Young Liberals were cutting edge radicals. They were prominent in the anti-apartheid movement. This made them trendy and relevant. Peter Hain who led the Stop the 70 campaign against the South African rugby tour was a Liberal. ‘Hain the Pain’ as he was dubbed by the right wing press kept the Liberal name in the media. The 70s did not seem like a time for Liberalism with its vacillation, insistence on rights and restraint. It was a time of inflation, unemployment, strikes, price controls and terrorism. People wanted decisive action and problem solving – not moderation and triangulation.

In the early 70s Josiffe moved to south-west England. He frequented Thorpe’s North Devon constituency. He regaled whoever would listen with his sordid tale. The Conservatives regularly denounced Thorpe as a queer at his rallies. However, their candidates would not stoop to using Josiffe’s story. About this time Norman Josiffe changed his name to Norman Scott.

Thorpe was at his wit’s end. He started saying to Bessell and others that Norman Scott (Josiffe) ought to be killed. Thorpe’s closest companions tried to persuade him of the impracticalities and the possible ramifications of committing murder. Thorpe became fixated with this as the only solution.

In 1974 an indecisive election result left neither major party with a clear majority. This was just what Thorpe had hoped for. He stood a good chance of being kingmaker. He was summoned to 10 Downing Street to meet Tory PM Edward Heath. They discussed the possibility of forming a coalition. As Disraeli said ”England does not love a coalition”. Thorpe’s fantasy of being Foreign Secretary was dashed. Heath would not commit to a referendum on proportional representation (PR). PR was the only way the Liberals would gain many seats. Thorpe’s party would not countenance propping up the Tories. That was a close as Thorpe ever came to the cabinet table. He saw himself in the mould of Lloyd George – his spiritual grandfather.

After 1974 his obsession with Norman Scott became pathological. A hitman was hired. In the end the hitman seems to have lose his nerve. Scott’s dog was shot dead. The man himself was not shot. The police came to have hear of the matter. The caninocide Andrew Newton served three years in prison for discharging a weapon with intent to endanger life.

The whole affair became public. In 1974 at Newton’s trial the whole story was related by Norman Scott from the witness box. This allowed newspapers to report it without fear of libel. Thorpe denied having had a physical relationship with Scott. The publication of intimate letters from Thorpe to Norman Scott tended to confirm the latter’s version of events.

In 1976 Thorpe was pressurized into stepping aside as Liberal leader. By this stage he had already been arrested in relation to the attempted murder of his own time paramour. Thorpe did not resign as an MP and affirmed his intention of standing as Liberal candidate at the next election. It did not play well on the doorstep.

Thorpe was then charged with conspiracy to murder. His former ally Bessell had turned against him. This must not be held against him. Thorpe had attempted fraud with Bessell and then put all the blame on him. He had also lied in the media and blamed who whole Norman Josiffe (Scott) affair on Bessell.

George Carman was the barrister of the day. He had been a chum of Thorpe whilst at Varsity. Upon hearing that Thorpe had been indicted he immediately offered his services. Thorpe had not practiced law for 20 years but still entertained the idea of running the defence as a legal duo. Carman poured cold water on that fond hope.

Thorpe fought the 1979 election. He lost his safe seat by a country mile. He was then called to trial in the Old Bailey. The prosecution’s case was fairly strong. Whoever, Carman then tore to shreds the reputations of the three prosecution witnesses. They were all proven serial liars. The judge could not have been more brazenly sympathetic to the defence. His summing up did not so much nudge the jury to acquit as shove them to.

Thorpe had been eagerly anticipating testifying in his own defence. It would be the speech of his life! Carman had to tell him there would be no such speech from the dock. The irrepressibly loquacious Thorpe could have talked his way to a life sentence.

The jury took some days to consider their verdict. He was acquitted on all charges.


This is a superb and riveting biography. There dialogue is drawn from the reminiscences of Norman Josiffe (Scott) and Peter Bessell. The narrative necessarily leans towards their version of events. As they testified and he refused to do so one must lend more credence to their statements. There is ample evidence that Thorpe had a sexual relationship with Josiffe (Scott) – something that J J Thorpe always denied. This clearly undermines his credibility. Thorpe was a devil in your ear and an inveterate liar. It is hard to believe that anyone would have invented the murder plot. Even if Thorpe did not want Josiffe (Scott) offed he surely wanted his erstwhile paramour to be at least scared into silence.

Although a free man in 1979 Thorpe was also a broken man. Only 5 years before he had had a good chance of being Foreign Secretary. He had even spoken of winning 150 seats and eventually become Prime Minister. Despite his acquittal he was unwelcome in the front rank of the Liberal Party. He had turned one of the own Liberal safe constituencies into a Tory citadel. He had dragged his party’s name through the mire. In the early 70s he had received a donation of GBP 10 000 from Jack Hayward. Instead of going to the Liberal Party he had channeled it via the Channel Islands and disposed of it personally. Thorpe gave three totally contradictory accounts of what he did with the money. The suspicion was that this was the sum used to pay off the assassin. It was not well spent! 10 000 pounds might not seem much but in the early 70s it was a king’s ransom especially for the impecunious Liberals. Thorpe made no attempt to reimburse the party he had wrecked. The new leader David Steel said that laconicism on behalf of Thorpe was apposite.

In 1981 he was spoken of as the British director of Amnesty International. Amnesty received sacks full of wrathful mail. The offer was withdrawn. Thorpe then lived a quiet life knowing that he was frozen out by high society. He hankered for a peerage and indeed lyingly claimed to be descended from a peer. He was almost as much of a fantasist as his nemesis Josiffe (Scott).

There was a plaintive descent into Parkinson’s. After 1979 he made few public appearance. He ought to have tread the boards. He would have been a star turn in Pantomime as a dame. He could have quipped with other characters, ”I have had people shot for less.”
John Jeremy Thorpe was a self-possessed gay gadfly. He campaigned for male-male love affairs to be legalised. He was also a stalwart of the anti-apartheid movement and a convinced Europhile long before it was fashionable.

Preston’s book is gorgeously written. It is as enthralling as its subject matter. The longsomeness of some of the toing and froing about blackmail slowed the book down. But it is a small price to pay for such accuracy. The dialogue and the facial expressions and tones of voice add vividness to the tale.  A measure of artistic licence must be allowed to the author. Otherwise the text would be desiccated. This is an eminently readable book. I give it my warmest recommendation.


London – early history



London has been voted the most influential city in the world. It is on a par with New York as a global financial centre. It is the capital of theatre. It is the birthplace of the English language and London is renowned for its fantastic universities.

The ancient Romans founded this city as Londinium is about 50AD.The people who lived here prior to that were ancient Britons who spoke Celtic languages. The Romans introduced the Latin language and alphabet. The ancient Britons had no writing. The Romans stayed for almost 400 years. Some of their walls and foundations are still there. They built the first bridge across the River Thames that bisects London. The Romans called this river Tamesis.

London fell into rack and ruin. Weeds grew in the forum. The ancient Roman religion was superseded by Christianity. That too went into decline. Angles, Saxons and Jutes arrived from what we now call Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark. They called the city Lundenwic.

The Anglo-Saxons came to rule the city. They drove the Britons out. The Angles and Saxons merged to be Anglo-Saxons. They developed their own language.

In the 8th century AD a monk called the Venerable Bede wrote a book called An Ecclesiastical History of the English Church. He was writing about Anglo-Saxons. He could have used the word Saxon and called the people Saxonish and the language Saxonish. He could have called the country Saxonland. Bede instead invented the words English and England. Notably, Bede wrote his book in Latin!

There are states in Germany called Saxony, Lower Saxony and Saxony Anhalt. That is where the Saxons originated.

In the 9th century AD the Danes sailed across the North Sea. They attacked England. The English were pushed out or subjugated. They overlooked the fact that they had done likewise to the Britons 500 years before. The English shifted their capital to Winchester.

After 150 years intermittent fighting the Danes were defeated. However, many people were of mixed Danish and English blood. A church in London dates from this time – St Clement Danes. The Danes converted to the Christian faith as part of burying the hatchet with the English.

Edward the Confessor was King of England from 1042.  The city of London was the area around St Paul’s Cathedral. In medieval Europe every city had a cathedral. A cathedral is a very large church. It contains a ‘cathedra’ as in a throne for the bishop. Every cathedral has one bishop. A bishop is a very high up Christian religious. A very large town without a cathedral was not considered to be a city. Sometimes a city had a small population but so long as it had a cathedral then it was a city.

Edward the Confessor started to build a cathedral several miles to the west of London. He started to construct Westminster Abbey. Westminster Abbey is called and abbey because it had monks there. It is a cathedral as well as an abbey. Benedictine monks lived beside it and worshiped there. A ‘minster’ can mean a place of worship. So this abbey was the west minster – as in it was a very large church to the west of London. That is why the city became known as ‘Westminster’. In those days Westminster and London were two separate cities.

Monks are a group of men who have devoted themselves to prayer and good works. They lived in a community as brothers and are called ‘brother’ by everyone. They take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. They are not allowed romantic liaisons. They wear plain robes called a habit.

In 1066 William the Duke of Normandy became King of England. He built the Tower of London. Despite the name it is a castle. The central building is the white tower. He introduced French words into the English language such as dungeon. This came from the French word ‘donjon’ meaning ‘keep’. A keep is the main building of the castle.



  1. Which river bifurcates London?
  2. Were the Romans here?
  3. What is the Latin name for London?
  4. What did the Anglo -Saxons call it?
  5. Who wrote An Ecclesiastical History of the English Church?
  6. Where did the Anglo-Saxons come from?
  7. Which people conquered London in the 9th century?
  8. Which church is named after the Danes?
  9. Where did the English move their capital to in the 9th century?
  10. What is a cathedral?
  11. Who built Westminster Abbey?
  12. What is a monk?
  13. Who conquered England in 1066?
  14. What did William build?

should we welcome abortion in Ireland =================


can we rejoice?

people are not people

some people switch off compassion.

I know good people who have done this.

I knew an elderly German. uxorious, loving grandfather etc…. was in SS. Do not know what he did.

people are multidimensional

judge people. we all have the right to judge

be honest about why you have abortion

woman in 20s married , plenty of money, married so husband could buy expensive clothes and be in the golf club

baby does not have a choice

embryos do not look like humans

if you are a foetus be worried. I am being flippant.

get your rosaries off my ovaries

catholic Ireland is gone. holy Ireland is gone

we were  a virtual theocracy for 50 years

no hope of repeal of new law. it will be widened/



A tale of Old Dubai.


”Its a fine day to sail!” said Mahmud with a smile on his face. He looked out across the flat waters of the Arabian Gulf. The sun was shining but it was not too hot. He could begin his voyage to India today. It was not long since dawn prayer when Mahmud began to walk quickly and excitedly around to the houses of his friends in Deira and ask if they wanted to sail with him to India.  Mahmud was well known around Dubai. His narrow nose, jutting chin and prominent forehead were all very recognisable.

”We shall be sailing in my dhow to India – selling our pearls and buying their spices. We will make good money” he explained to a few of his friends. They all lived in beige coloured baked mud houses with wooden supports. Many men in Dubai did a bit of this and a bit of that. They dived for pearls, they worked as fishermen, they tended their farms, they looked after their camels and did dabbled in business.  He had to walk around to ask people in person because there were no phones back then. Luckily Dubai was small and he could easily walk to everyone’s house around the Creek. Women tended not to work outside the home because they all had several children to look after.

Just occasionally they heard a loud mechanical sound whine overheard. ”That’s a new invention – it is called a plane” Mahmud told his old mother. ”People say you can even fly all the way to India in it.” His mother looked astonished, ”So many new inventions – the car and now this.”

By mid morning Mahmud had a dozen sailors who had agreed to sail to India with him. The most outspoken was named Rashid, ”You have to take me because  I am the only one of us who can speak English. You cannot speak to the Indians unless you know English. I learnt it from an Indian teacher here.” Mahmud nodded wisely, ”You are right. Not many people over there speak Arabic.” Rashid was very pleased with himself. He has bushy eyebrows and enormous  jaws. His hands were hardened after pulling the ropes on countless voyages. He stroked his silky black beard in satisfaction.

There was plenty of hubub as carried their possessions and food through the busy port. They hastily loaded the wooden dhow. The harbour smelt of the salt sea, the tar that kept water out of the boats and aroma of many spices. The port was full of men loudly loading and unloading dhows as goods came from many countries and other goods were being sent to be sold overseas. There were shouts of ”watch out” and ”out of the way” it was hard for people to keep calm as they strained under heavy burdens. Some hardy fishermen sailed in beaming with nets choc full of silvery fish. A few fish were still alive and thrashing – they had been taken from the sea only minutes earlier.

After noonday prayers Mahmud the sailors boarded their dhow hopefully. Mahmud said to Ali, ”Ok Ali  you guide us out of the harbour.” Ali said, ”Aye, aye captain” and set to work. He was a quiet and efficient type of person. He was short and slight with far away eyes and a wispy black beard.

Some of the sailors looked back to Dubai. The terracotta coloured buildings were soon fading into the distance. No building was more than four storeys high. Before long they could only make of the minarets of a few mosques. They had little time to think about their dear city they were leaving behind. There was much to be done aboard the dhow. Fahd trailed a net behind the dhow to catch fish. They had dry food aboard but it was always good to have some fresh fish. Fahd was recently married and missing his young wife. Ahmed the cook came out of the kitchen and onto the back deck. ”Hey Fahd have you caught anything yet?”

”No yet, sorry” said Fahd.

”By the way how come you have shaved down to a goatee beard. Everyone else has a full beard?”

”I saw a photo of a goatee beard in a magazine – some men have these goatees. It is fashionable.”

”Magazines. You are wasting your time looking at pictures. You should spent more time becoming a better fisherman.”

”It is so fascinating to see how people in other parts of the world live. You know in other countries some men shave down to a moustache and some men shave all the hair off their faces. It is like that in India.”

”That is so strange. I have been to Bahrain and Qatar” said Ahmed ”but not India so far.”

”I met an Indian guy in Dubai – his name is Shahnawaz. He is working for a company they think their is a lot of oil in Dubai and he can get rich if he finds it.”

”Oil in Dubai? He must be crazy. There is only a tiny bit of oil in Dubai. We only use oil to light our oil lamps at home. How could you get rich from finding oil?”

”He says people use it for cars.”

”There are only about ten cars in Dubai. Why would anyone want a car? They are big, dirty noisy things.  Why drive a car when you can ride a camel or horse. Cars cannot go over sand anyway. Next that Shahnawaz will probably say there is oil in Saudi Arabia!”


Fahd saw land on the horizon and shouted ”Land ho” joyfully. The others sprang from their hammocks and race onto the deck. Sure enough they saw the greenish tinge on the horizon – it was India. Over the next few hours they drew nearer. They saw some boats and even ships coming out of an enormous harbour. Some tall buildings appeared on the skyline – taller than anything they had ever seen.

”India is amazing” said Mahmud, ”Like nothing you have ever seen.”

The others who had never seem India were silent at first – just taking in the scene. The water was very calm and the sun was blazing.

A police boat came out to them. A moustachioed police captain pulled his police boat up alongside them.

”Where are you from?” said the chubby middle aged policeman.

”We are from Dubai” said  Rashid, ”He is the captain” Rashid indicated Mahmud. The others looked at Rashid gratefully.

” I see. Why are you coming to India?” continued the roly poly police captain.

”We are here for trade.”

”Ok. Welcome to Bombay.” continued the police officer.

”Thank you sir” said Rashid graciously. He then turned to the crew and said, ”This is Bombay – they used to call it Mumbai long ago.”

The police captain did not understand Arabic but he recognised the word Mumbai. ”Nobody calls it Mumbai – that was hundreds of years ago. Some people want to change Bombay back to the old name Mumbai. That will never happen.”

”Very well continue. But if you come next year please bring these new documents they are called passports. There will be a new rule about them.”

”Yes we will” said Rashid.

With that they sailed on into Bombay Harbour. They passed an enormous grey stone arch called the Gateway of India.

Shortly they had moored at the harbour. They unloaded their wares on the quay. They were soon trading with Indian businessmen.

”How many Indian Rupees are there to a Gulf Rupee?” Fahd asked Rashid. ”I am not sure. Let me check. There is a money exchange booth over there.”

”Some people think we should call our money the Dirham” said Fahd.

”No that is a silly idea. We should call it the Gulf Rupee.”

After a brisk day’s trading they had sold all their goods at a handsome price. They had also bought many Indian spices and sacks of rice. They could resell them at home for a healthy profit. Mahmud bought presents for his wife each of his ten children.

The next day they set sail for home as they tide went out.

All was plain sailing for the first day. One the second day a mighty storm brewed up. The winds arose howling and the rain poured down like rivers from the sky. The sea was a riot of wild waves and frothing with fountains of foam. The sailors struggled to keep their little dhow afloat. They feared it might capsize and many of them could not swim. Mahmud kept his nerve. Inwardly he was frightened but he knew he must not show this to his crew or they would panic. He pretended to be brave and that led to real bravery. It was hard to hide his fear at first because he knew how dangerous the situation was. They little boat was thrown around at the mercy of the ocean. Men inside the boat was buffeted around by the power of the storm. The men on deck tied themselves on fearing they would be thrown into the squalling sea. The men on deck felt like they were whipped by the wind and the endless rain soaked them to the skin. All day and all night the fierce storm wailed and bounced. Until at last on the third day the waves grew smaller and the wind grew quieter. The rain slowed to a gentle patter. After a few hours it as calm as a garden pond. Mahmud was delighted that not one of his men had been injured.

They sailed home in triumph to be greeted by their families. They had gifts for them all, plenty of money and India products to sell. They all had fantastic tales to tell. No sooner had Mahmud got back to his house than he began wondering where his next voyage would take him.










An evangelical sermon.


Sisters and brothers, we stand on a precipice between damnation and salvation. The way of righteousness is beset by many snares and pitfalls. We are tempted by red wine and scarlet women. All of us have gone astray. All of us have wandered down paths of iniquity. Every one of us has tasted forbidden fruit. We are constantly in danger from the power of darkness. Yet the Lord in his infinite wisdom and boundless mercy has called us back to him. So we strive to be worthy of his grace.

Why is this absolution even possible? Because the ever living God sent down his only child to pay for our wickedry. We were in the clutches of Satan when the Most High came to the rescue. That is why our faith means the emancipation and liberation of mankind. Everybody from the highest to the lowest, from the richest to the poorest, from the youngest to the oldest is offered the chance to be saved. Do not miss that chance. Even the foulest and more degraded sinner is offered a way back by our God of limitless love and mercy if only the sinner will sincerely repent and mend his ways. If we will only humbly bed Our Heavenly Father to forgive our trangression then all will be well.

The Lord helps us in all things petty as well as great. Only offer up a prayer to him aloud or silently and you will be aided by the divine. Even in the gym I beseech him to help me. I pick a weight that I am much to feeble to lift. I pull at it with every muscle fibre of have and it still will not budge a single inch. Then I call upon the Almighty to strengthen my arm and I lift the massive weight like a feather. I feel the Holy Spirit surging through me. Truly, the Lord can set every heart ablaze.

Every one of us can call upon the Lord to strengthen our arm. Every one of us can receive his help in our hour of need. When you feel fear only trust in the Lord and he shall put steel in your soul. The Omnipotent God who saved Shadrak from the fire, who saved Daniel from the lions, who moved mountains and raised the dead – he shall save you too if only you will allow him.

That is why we come together to sing the praises of the all knowing an every living God. He is the creator of the universe and the master of all and each. We sing of his glory and fame. The joy we feel as we laud his blessed name can never even approach the majesty and magnificence of God. Yet let lift our voices to honour the one true God and let the room re-echo with with Holy Name. We  would be deafened by the  exquisite and ecstatic choirs of heaven and blinded by the resplendence of his shining throne.


Was the US intervention in Grenada justified?


It is 30 years to the day that the US military and six Caribbean countries sent their armed forces into Grenada. Grenada was then ruled by a socialist dictator named Maurice Bishop. Bishop had killed the previous Prime Minister. I am not sure how bad his rule was. He tried to spread literacy and he provided free healthcare. This gives him some moral credit.

Bishop was friendly with the Soviet Bloc. He had hundreds of Cuban troops on the island and they were building an airfield. This was supposedly for peaceful purposes but it could have been used for military purposes. In view of what happened Bishop was sage to beef up his armed forces. His government really was under threat of attack by the United States, Jamaica and other US allies in the region. On the other hand by building up his armed forces he alarmed Washington and that precipitated the invasion. 

Grenada was a sovereign state and she was of course allowed to forge close relations with whichever nation she so desired. The Grenadan Government did not purpose to launch an invasion of any other state. I have never heard it argued that the increase in her military capability was for an aggressive intention. Further, the Grendan Government was entitled to pursue whatever policies that she wished so long as these were not inconsistent with international law.

There were over 1 000 Americans on the island. President Ronald Reagan said that he sent the troops in to protect these people. There was no evidence that they were in danger. One must ask oneself how it would have been had the boot been on the other boot. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Would Reagan have accepted it if Grenada invaded the United States in order to protect Grenadans in the USA? I suspect not. This justification is specious since by making Grenada a war zone Reagan put these Americans in danger. Dozens of civilians were killed in the conflict though so far as I know none of them were American. 

Bishop and some of his acolytes were captured. They were executed by firing squad. I am unsure who slew them. The bodies have not been located which is highly suspicious? If I were behind such an operation I would make sure that Grenadans killed the so the finger could not be pointed at the USA. 

A high majority of states in the United Nations condemned the US action. The United Kingdom abstained on this vote. 

Elizabeth II was and is Queen of Grenada. Maurice Bishop was her Prime Minister. Reagan professed himself to be a Britophile so it was a little off colour to kill the queen’s man! The Commonwealth was aghast at the invasion of a tiny and unoffending Commonwealth country. 

The British Government was not informed of the American intention. Reagan even denied to Margaret Thatcher that he was about to invade.

 It weakened the Western moral position viz a vis the Soviet Union. It was hard to speak out against the Red Army’s presence in Afghanistan when American attacked Grenada. The Afghan Government had invited the Soviets in. The communists of Kabul held the Afghan seat in the United Nations. I know they were undemocratic but so were half the countries in the world and few questioned the legitimacy of the governments of most states such as China. Much though I detest the communists in Afghanistan they were the lawful government of that country. In Grenada’s case the claim for legitimacy for Bishop’s government was feebler since he had ousted a democratic system.

Bishop was swiftly replaced. The US could truthfully say that democratic elements in Grenada had appealed to them for assistance. When these freedom loving people beseeched Ronald Wilson Reagan for succour he could not turn them down.

That was the end of the New Jewel Movement in Grenada. Democracy was restored. Some of Bishops cronies continued in politics and later won office. 

If Reagan had not taken strong action then maybe that land would have become fully communist. There might have been a Red Army base there and nuclear missiles. This is all conjecture.

If in doubt – stay out. So as I am unsure about this military intervention I have to say I think it was wrong. It is no use sitting on the fence. Militarily it was a complete success for the US. All the objectives were achieved for minimal casualties. Cuba was bested. I wonder if the prisoner yielded any useful intelligence or any were turned into spies. But I do not think that this action was morally or legally justified.