Rot away Thackeray

On the day of his birthday today I wish William Makepeace Thackeray to go and rot in hell.  One of the most celebrated writers of the Victorian era he was the equal of Charles Dickens in his day.  He thought of himself something of an expert on Irish affairs.  A rabid anti-catholic bigot, under the nom de plume of Hibernis Hibernior he was the chief architect of the British image of Irish people in Punch Magazine.

It was Thackeray who created the image of the sly yet stupid Irish man.  He portrayed us as lazy, brutish, feckless, drunkards, violent, criminal, apeish primitives.  The stereotype of the Irish person he created dragged on for over 100 years, and is still simmering under the surface for certain groups in Britain, amongst Ulster Unionists, British Nationalists, UKIP supporters, Hard Brexiteers.

In particular when the Irish were at their lowest ebb, during the potato famine, Thackeray and his paymasters did not pull their Punches.  Much of his “poetry” is spoken through his imagined voice of Irish protagonists.  I refuse to print it here, or reference it.  I hope it fades away and dies.

His novel “The Luck of Barry Lyndon” was filmed by Stanley Kubrick and is one of my favourite movies.  This is all down the the genius of Kubrick, not to Thackeray.  If you are a fan of Billy Makewar Hack-away then this is not the place for you.

The fenian Guy Fawkes.

Farewell to June

Royalty - Queen Elizabeth II State Visit to Ireland

May 2011 visit by Queen Elizabeth acknowledged at last Irelands WW1 legacy

As June 2017 draws to a close in broken showers and typical Irish summer weather I give you a poem about closing and June from the Poet of the Blackbirds.  By rights Ledwidge is a war poet, but it became unfashionable in post revolutionary Ireland to admit to a career in the British Military.  It took 100 years before the Irish nation could honour those Irish who responded to the call of John Redmond and spilled their blood on Flanders fields.

In a neat stroke of marketing Francis Ledwidge was cast as a poet of field and stream, of nature and songbirds.  His Lament for the Irish patriot Thomas MacDonagh was given pride of place while his poems from the French and Turkish trenches in which he fought were swept under the carpet.  Sadly even Poetry is not immune from politics.

June: by Francis Ledwidge

Broom out the floor now, lay the fender by,
and plant this bee-sucked bough of woodbine there,
and let the window down. The butterfly
floats in upon the sunbeam, and the fair
tanned face of June, the nomad gipsy, laughs
above her widespread wares, the while she tells
the farmers’ fortunes in the fields, and quaffs
the water from the spider-peopled wells.
The hedges are all drowned in green grass seas,
and bobbing poppies flare like Elmo’s light,
while siren-like the pollen-stained bees
drone in the clover depths.  And up the height
the cuckoo’s voice is hoarse and broke with joy.
And on the lowland crops the crows make raid,
nor fear the clappers of the farmer’s boy,
who sleeps, like drunken Noah, in the shade.
And loop this red rose in that hazel ring
that snares your little ear, for June is short
and we must joy in it and dance and sing,
and from her bounty draw her rosy worth.
Ay! soon the swallows will be flying south,
the wind wheel north to gather in the snow,
even the roses spilt on youth’s red mouth
will soon blow down the road all roses go.

Capture of Ned Kelly

Armour

On this day in 1880 the famous Australian Bushranger Ned Kelly was captured at Glenrowan.  What immortalized Kelly above other outlaws was the suit of armour he cobbled together from bits and pieces of metal.  All his gang were dressed in the armour but only Kelly survived the shootout with the police at Glenrowan.

Son of Irish convict Red John Kelly a man from Tipperary , the County where I live, Ned Kelly won the hearts of the ordinary people.  They represented smallholders, the downtrodden, victimized by the police and all that was wrong with the British Imperial system.  Kelly was already a folk hero before his capture and there was a groundswell of opinion to pardon him.  The crown saw the world differently and Kelly was hanged.

He represents the Australian psyche, a rebel spirit, a frontier mindset, a reluctance to slavishly bind to rules and laws, a desire to kick at the traces of British overlordship.  Many of the original Australian settlers were convicts and their descendants who had more in common with Kelly than with the Crown.  He ranks with other Aussie heroes like Jack Duggan the “Wild Colonial Boy”, and those of song and story like Clancy of the Overflow and the Man from Snowy River.

This brings me to a funny association, because one of my favourite poets is Shel Silverstein who also wrote some great songs.  Here is “Blame it on Ned Kelly” from the 1970 movie starring Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones.  Lots of people I love all involved in the same project.

This is England – Theresa May

 

Scarborough

Armed police on the beach, guarding the donkeys from Islamic terrorists.  Or are they there to protect old blighty from the immigrants?  Will you “fight them on the beaches”?  Those nice Polish men who erected your garden shed, or changed your car tyres, or unblocked your toilet?

This is the England being created by David Cameron and Theresa May today.  It is a land of fear and suspicion.  It is a world of hate.  It is a place where wealthy people become more wealthy, making armaments to sell to despots and dictators, rebels and freedom fighters on both sides of the conflict in the Middle East, in Africa, in Asia, in South America.  And when those distant people have had enough of killing each other sometimes they take a notion to visit violence on the brokers of death.

This is an England where the wealthy resent the very fundamentals that make Britain Great.   The social contract between the people and the state that was forged from the blood sacrifice of two world wars.  Basic housing provision, social welfare, a national health service, public transport and a civil service built on principles of fairness, honesty, trust, service, you know, old fashioned English public schoolboy stuff.

The puppet masters of the Tory party want to dismantle the public contract.  They want a descent into what they have in the USA.  Richer rich and poorer poor.  They have already dismantled British Rail, British Gas, Water and Electricity and sold off the family jewels.  Now they are going after things like the minimum wage, healthcare and housing.

The European Union was in their way.  The EU demands a social contract as the price of membership.  This does not suit the oligarchs.  To get the world they want they needed Britain to be outside the EU.  They sold Brexit to the working class British by dealing in fear, hate, xenophobia, racism and greed.  Basically they sold the seven sins.  And Britain bought them.

Lie down with dogs, wake up with fleas.  If you buy the seven sins then you get to live them.  What that means, in a real sense, is armed police on the beach on a sunny day.  This is England!

For those of you out there who blame all this on muslims, I give you a poem to think about.  Sassoon wrote this after witnessing the carnage of the Battle of the Somme.  It is violently anti-Christian, and he never published it in his life.  Islam is an excuse given to you by the Oligarchs to engender you with fear and suspicion of “others”.  If you wipe out all the muslims they will find another target for your hate.  They have a manual for this plan, it is called “1984”, written by George Orwell.

 
Christ and the Soldier; by Siegfried Sassoon

The straggled soldier halted — stared at Him — Then clumsily dumped down upon his knees, Gasping

‘O blessed crucifix, I’m beat !’

And Christ, still sentried by the seraphim, Near the front-line, between two splintered trees, Spoke him:

‘My son, behold these hands and feet.’

The soldier eyed him upward, limb by limb, Paused at the Face, then muttered,

‘Wounds like these Would shift a bloke to Blighty just a treat !’

Christ, gazing downward, grieving and ungrim, Whispered,

‘I made for you the mysteries, Beyond all battles moves the Paraclete.’

II

The soldier chucked his rifle in the dust, And slipped his pack, and wiped his neck, and said —

‘O Christ Almighty, stop this bleeding fight !’

Above that hill the sky was stained like rust With smoke. In sullen daybreak flaring red The guns were thundering bombardment’s blight. The soldier cried,

‘I was born full of lust, With hunger, thirst, and wishfulness to wed. Who cares today if I done wrong or right?’

Christ asked all pitying,

‘Can you put no trust In my known word that shrives each faithful head ? Am I not resurrection, life and light ?’

III

Machine-guns rattled from below the hill; High bullets flicked and whistled through the leaves; And smoke came drifting from exploding shells.

Christ said

‘Believe; and I can cleanse your ill. I have not died in vain between two thieves; Nor made a fruitless gift of miracles.’

The soldier answered,

‘Heal me if you will, Maybe there’s comfort when a soul believes In mercy, and we need it in these hells. But be you for both sides ? I’m paid to kill And if I shoot a man his mother grieves. Does that come into what your teaching tells ?’

A bird lit on the Christ and twittered gay; Then a breeze passed and shook the ripening corn. A Red Cross waggon bumped along the track. Forsaken Jesus dreamed in the desolate day — Uplifted Jesus, Prince of Peace forsworn — An observation post for the attack.

‘Lord Jesus, ain’t you got no more to say ?’

Bowed hung that head below the crown of thorns. The soldier shifted, and picked up his pack, And slung his gun, and stumbled on his way.

‘O God,’ he groaned,’why ever was I born ?’

… The battle boomed, and no reply came back.

Britannic

hmhs_britannic

100 years ago today the largest ship lost in WW1 sank.  The Royal Navy Hospital Ship HMHS Britannic ran into a mine and was lost with 30 lives.

Sister ship to Titanic, and one of the Olympic Class vessels.  Built in Belfast, Ireland, by Harland & Wolfe, for the White Star line.  She was pressed into service for the war.  Britannic is the largest shipwreck in the world and sits on the sea floor in the Greek Aegean.

 

The Sinking Ship; by Dora Sigerson Shorter

The ship is sinking, come ye one and all.
Stand fast and so this weakness overhaul,
Come ye strong hands and cheery voices call,
“Stand by!”

The ship is sinking in a summer sea,
Bless her but once for all she used to be,
Who rode the billows once so proud and free,
If you but loved a little, with a sigh,
“Stand by!”

Gone, all are gone, they neither hear or care,
The sun shines on and life is ever fair.
They shun the struggle, laughter lurks elsewhere.
The ship is sinking, passing echoes cry,
“Stand by!”

The little ships that pass her in the night,
Speed from the darkness in their eager fright.
From troubled dreams they take refuge in flight.
Why should they then, who know they too must die,
“Stand by”?

Then get you gone, desert the sinking ship,
O faithless friends, who on her pleasure-trip
Clung close with gentle words and smiling lip,
And still as ever on your own joys cry,
“Stand by!”

The ship is sinking, parting in a smile,
The sunset waters mark the last sad mile
In dimpling play and in a little while
The waters close, Death and his angels cry,
“Stand by!”

When the world turned

La_Rendición_de_Granada_-_Pradilla.jpg

On this day,  January 6th in 1492, the world turned.  Ferdinand and Isabella entered Granada, ending over 700 years of Muslim occupation of Spain.  The Joint monarchs, Isabella of Castille and Ferdinand of Aragon, ended a journey that began in the year 718 at the Battle of Covadonga when Pelagius led his small Asturian army to glory against the Umayyad Caliphate.  The Muslim armies swept across the Strait of Gibraltar in 711 and by 719 they were across the Pyrenees and fighting in southern France.  For the next 700 years the Spanish and Portuguese Christians fought the long road to drive the Muslim armies from “Al Andalus” ( the land of the Vandals).

The taking of Granada had a profound impact upon the entire world.  For the first time the Spanish could turn from looking inwards to looking outwards.  Instead of devoting their energies to the reconquista, the reconquering of their hereditary home, they could look beyond their natural borders.

In Granada Christopher Columbus presented to Ferdinand and Isabella his scheme to round the world and reach the spice islands by sailing west across the Atlantic.  The Catholic Monarchs decided to sponsor Columbus and funded him to the tune of three ships.

So it was that in 1492 Europe discovered a “New World”.

Winning the war on terror

Improvised British Armoured Car

Improvised British Armoured Car

You cannot win a “war on terror” by military action.  Anyone who believes otherwise should look a the modern history of Ireland.

The Irish people wanted independence from Great Britain.  They moved between violent and political approaches over time.  Ultimately the Irish developed the dual strategy now nicknamed “the bullet and the ballot box”.  the British Empire was at the peak of its powers in the early 20th Century.  Ireland is not a large nation like India.  Ireland is not a powerful nation like the USA.  Ireland is not located far away from the centre of British power, like New Zealand.  Ireland is a small, weak country sitting right in Britains armpit.

Despite holding all the cards the British could not hold Ireland.  They could win every battle but never win the “war”.  The Irish learned that it was foolish to engage in fair fights against the British, so we fought dirty, the guerilla.

The IRA in the 1920’s made it impossible for the British to administer Ireland.

In the 1980’s and 1990’s the Provisional IRA in Northern Ireland moved from a guerilla war to a terrorist war.  They fought it on British soil.  It was even dirtier than the guerilla war of the 1920’s. The British evenually learned that they could not win this war.  Every victory they scored against the terrorists was a recruitment drive for the IRA.

The British learned at last that the way to end a war on terror was to build peace.  Engender understanding and respect for your foe, listen to their grievances, right the wrongs and work together to build a better society.

So I was simply astounded yesterday listening to David Cameron crowing like a cock in parliament over the murder of “Jihadi John”.  Simply calling the man by this jingoistic nickname is an indication that the British Government have forgotten all the hard won lessons of the Northern Ireland peace process.

This morning as David Cameron surveys the wreckage of Paris I wonder how bullish he feels about “taking out” Jihadi John?  The important thing here is to take a deep breath and review the situation.

The “war on terror” is going to kill British and French people, and perhaps also Americans and Russians.  You don’t fight a war in Syria.  You care for the Syrian people.  You give them peace and prosperity.  You defend them from violence.  You stop selling them guns and start buying their melons.  You stabilise their economy and give the Syrian people what they want, a safe and comfortable home.  That’s how you defeat terrorism.