Bloody Sunday

TippDub

Eighty eight years ago for the admission price of a shilling, you could have participated in a massacre.  British Auxiliaries and RIC entered Croke Park in Dublin during the Tipperary V Dublin football match and opened fire indiscriminately at the players and spectators.

It was the lowest ebb of the British Empire and mirrored the Amritsar Massacre, also known as the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in April 1919, only one year before.

What led to British Irregulars taking such action?

On the morning of Sunday 21st November 2018, under the orders of Michael Collins, military commander of the IRA, 15 men were shot.  The assassinations wiped out the pride of British Military Intelligence in Ireland, the Cairo Gang.

The attack in Croke Park was a direct response to the IRA action.  It was followed later that night by the murder of three IRA prisoners held in custody by the British Security forces.

This day, like no other, undermined the legitimacy of British Rule in Ireland and led ultimately to a truce in July 1921 and the eventual end of British Rule in the Republic.

Over Seventy innocent bystanders were wounded or killed in the football ground, victims of anger and frustration.

The Hogan Stand in Croke Park is named after Michael Hogan who was shot and killed on that day.

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Le Paradis

Bill & Bert at war crimes tribunal

Bill & Bert at war crimes tribunal

May 27th, 1940.  A group of soldiers from the Royal Norfolk regiment were isolated in the French village of Le Paradis, just south of Mons in Belgium.  They were engaged in a holding action to give time for the evacuation of the BEF from France in Dunkirk.

When they ran out of ammunition, with many of the men wounded, the 99 survivors were ordered by their Major to surrender.  They surrendered to Hauptsturmführer Fritz Knöchlein, the commander of the SS Totenkopf (Deaths Head) unit.

The SS unit set up two heavy machine guns, marched the Norfolks up against the wall of a barn, and machine gunned them down.  They were then ordered by Knöchlein to bayonet the survivors to death.  It seems this elite group of hard line Nazi’s didn’t need much ordering.

Beneath the dead two wounded Englishmen survived.  Private William (Bill) O’Callaghan dragged Private Albert (Bert) Pooley out from under the bodies.  They survived for three days hiding in a pigsty drinking dirty water, eating raw eggs and potatoes.  When the owners of the farm found them they took care of the two men, under threat of punishment.

The men later surrendered to a regular Wehrmacht infantry division.  O’Callahan was sent to a POW camp in Poland for the duration of the war.  Pooley was repatriated, unfit for service.

Initially the claims of the massacre by Pooley were met by disbelief.  It was not until the discovery of death camps at Bergen Belsen etc at the end of the war that his story gained credibility.  When O’Callaghan returned in 1945 he was able to confirm Pooley’s story.

In 1948 Knöchlein was tried for war crimes and found guilty.  He was hanged in 1949.  He was the only person to answer for the crime.  A mass grave in Le Paradis suggests that Knöchlein was also guilty of ordering the murder of 20 men of the Royal Scots who were isolated similarly to the Norfolks.

For the Fallen; Robert Laurence Binyon

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

Mindless racism

In the current emotional climate following the assassinations of French journalists in Charlie Hebdo it is worth pausing to examine the immediate response.  There is a wave of anti-Muslim sentiment washing over Europe and it is a good idea to separate the wheat from the chaff.  If nation states respond by targeting Muslim populations it would not be the first time in history that we aimed a sledgehammer at the wrong walnut.

Step back to the mid 14th century, when the black death was scourging Europe.  Christians noticed that the Jewish population had a lower infection rate and a higher survival rate.  Back in those days there was no appreciation of the importance of hygiene and quarantine amongst the Christians.  The fact that Jews lived apart in Ghettos and that they practiced better hygiene was lost on a population in panic.  Someone decided that it was a Jewish conspiracy and they were poisoning the wells.  On Jan 9th 2015 we can remember the Basel massacre, when the city fathers shackled 600 innocents in a barn and set it alight.  To add insult to injury any surviving children were forcibly converted to Christianity.  Basel was only one of many such massacres, which happened from Barcelona to Brussels.

In more recent times we Irish well remember what it was like to be an Irish person living in Britain in the 1970’s.  On the one hand you were bound to be a terrorist, a member of the IRA and a supporter of bank robberies, murders and bombings.  On the other hand you were an ignoramus from a sub-human culture who could not aspire to the intellectual heights attainable by solid English stock.  No wonder so many Irish people hid in plain sight by adopting English accents and avoiding “Irishness”.

Spare a thought for all the hard working, decent, innocent Muslims in Europe who are now looking over their backs in fear because yet another lunatic Islamist cell has done something atrocious. Just as the Provisional IRA never represented me or my interests, the Islamic State does not represent these people.

Decisions made in times of fear and panic can seem logical at the time, but in retrospect they frequently turn out to be really bad actions.  Spare a thought for the 600 Jews who died in Basel on this day in 1349 simply because they survived the Black Death.  Spare a thought for innocent Muslims, who are the greatest victims of Islamist terrorists.  Instead of discussing reactionary policy we should be discussing the roots of the problem and the potential for long term sustainable solutions.

Granada

Granada

Say 1066 and everyone thinks of Normans, William the Conqueror, Harold Godwinson with an arrow in his eye, Harald Hardrada, the Battle of Stamford Bridge, the Battle of Hastings. Then there was the Granada Massacre, and only the Jews bother to remember.

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In 1066 Al Andalus was a muslim kingdom ruled by Berber Kings in a period of flux between the collapse of the Umayyad Caliphate and the rise of the Almoravids. In this power vacuum numerous Berber warlords seized power of fractured city states.

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The culture of tolerance and pluralism that marked the Caliphate was replaced by the motivations of a dog-eat-dog world. The enlightened Jews who had risen to high administrative positions under the Caliphate suddenly found that the sin of not being Muslim was punishable by death. A mob descended on the Royal Palace of Granada on 30th Dec 1066 and massacred the Jews.

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The famous Alhambra was originally a simple fort constructed in the 9th century. In the 11th century the Moorish rulers converted it into a fortified palace and laid the foundations for the current complex. The final royal ornamentation was completed much later, in the 14th century, just before it was lost to the Christian forces of Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492.

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I visited Granada in 1978 as a teenager. I remember the heat of the night, the smell of jasmine, and hair oil, the bustle of all the people out strolling after dark.  I remember the Latin quarter on the hill with small artisan workshops making beautiful Moorish geometric marquetry plates.  I also remember the dark gypsy-like Andalusian boys chasing us down the street, trying to lure us into a “Flamenco Show” with the promise of “free champagne”.

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My mother asked one of them why we should pay to see dancing when we could dance ourselves.  He asked us to prove that we could dance.  So we danced an impromptu “Walls of Limerick” on the street.  He jumped onto his moped and raced off.  Ten minutes later he returned with a crowd of about 20 of his friends and asked us to dance again.  When we obliged we got a great cheer.  The young man then collected his winnings on the bets he had made on his boast.

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I remember at the Alhambra the parking attendants were injured veterans of the Civil War. Back in those days there were fewer tourists and we didn’t have to queue for hours to get in.

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The ornamentation is stunning but what really marks out the palace is the way the Moors integrated water into the design. Everywhere there are pools, fountains, qanats, runnels and cisterns. In the desert water is life. The Moors demonstrated their mastery through their ability to command water.

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This video may give a sense of the serenity of the space they created. Manuel da Falla’s “Night in the Gardens of Spain” is a fantastic and somewhat underplayed set of Nocturnes for Piano and Orchestra. The first movement takes the Gardens of the Generalife of the Alhambra as its inspiration. The linked video uses footage from the gardens to build the atmosphere.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qxqzo0fLKKQ

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While we are in Andalusia I attach an exerpt from the Soliloquy of Molly Bloom at the end of Ulysses by James Joyce. Joyce wrote this in unpunctuated prose. I have parsed it out in the way I would read it, with a lot of very gaspy yesses.

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Molly Bloom Soliloquy (Exerpt), from Ulysses; by James Joyce

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and Gibraltar as a girl where I was a Flower of the mountain
yes
when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used

or shall I wear a red
yes
and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought
well
as well him as another
and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again
yes
and then he asked me would I
yes
to say
yes
my mountain flower
and first I put my arms around him
yes
and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume
yes
and his heart was going like mad and
yes
I said
yes
I will
Yes.

Smart Law – Stupid Enforcement

When the founding fathers of the USA passed the second amendment to their constitution in 1791 they did do with a specific aim in mind.

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

In case you don’t already know, I don’t believe in rights.  I find the concept of “rights” to be something that causes confusion to stupid people, and instills a culture of dependency.  There are no “rights” without obligations, and it is more useful to express the obligation than to express the right.

The obligation in the US constitution is to preserve the Union, to guarantee the freedom of the state from the actions of tyrants or from the threat of foreign invasion.  The obligation, clearly stated, is for citizens to enroll in their local militia for the protection of the state.

The founding fathers would weep cups of tears to see how their well meant law has been abused by stupid people and weak politicians.  They would rail and scream to see the massacre in Connecticut of small children and their teachers.  To know that their constitutional amendment had been abused to permit idiots to own machine guns would shame them.  It does shame them, and it shames the great legacy of the constitution given to the American people.

People will call for gun control in the aftermath of the massacre.  The local chapter of the NRA will stage a rally in the area to establish clearly their “right” to bear arms.  Their “right” which is “enshrined” in the constitution.  Stupid people leaning on what was once a smart law to protect the rights of stupid people to do stupid things with dangerous weapons.

The dependency culture intilled by “rights” is insidious.  The right to bear arms is pointless without the right to use them.  Using them against other people is a short step in the mind of a stupid person who believes somehow that “society owes him”.

In Ireland we have people who believe the same thing.  They sometimes commit suicide.  Usually by themselves.  Sometimes they take their own family first.  They don’t have access to assault rifles, so they don’t take a swathe of the population with them as they go out in a blaze of glory.

If you feel like taking your life but you don’t want to do it alone, perhaps you are not yet ready for that particular journey.  Read some poetry, and think about it some more before you start buckling on your small arms.

Ode to a Nightingale; by John Keats

My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
         My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
         One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:
‘Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,
         But being too happy in thine happiness,—
                That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees
                        In some melodious plot
         Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
                Singest of summer in full-throated ease.
O, for a draught of vintage! that hath been
         Cool’d a long age in the deep-delved earth,
Tasting of Flora and the country green,
         Dance, and Provençal song, and sunburnt mirth!
O for a beaker full of the warm South,
         Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,
                With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,
                        And purple-stained mouth;
         That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,
                And with thee fade away into the forest dim:
Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget
         What thou among the leaves hast never known,
The weariness, the fever, and the fret
         Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;
Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last gray hairs,
         Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies;
                Where but to think is to be full of sorrow
                        And leaden-eyed despairs,
         Where Beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,
                Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.
Away! away! for I will fly to thee,
         Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,
But on the viewless wings of Poesy,
         Though the dull brain perplexes and retards:
Already with thee! tender is the night,
         And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne,
                Cluster’d around by all her starry Fays;
                        But here there is no light,
         Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown
                Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.
I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,
         Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs,
But, in embalmed darkness, guess each sweet
         Wherewith the seasonable month endows
The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild;
         White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine;
                Fast fading violets cover’d up in leaves;
                        And mid-May’s eldest child,
         The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine,
                The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.
Darkling I listen; and, for many a time
         I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Call’d him soft names in many a mused rhyme,
         To take into the air my quiet breath;
                Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
         To cease upon the midnight with no pain,
                While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
                        In such an ecstasy!
         Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain—
                   To thy high requiem become a sod.
Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!
         No hungry generations tread thee down;
The voice I hear this passing night was heard
         In ancient days by emperor and clown:
Perhaps the self-same song that found a path
         Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,
                She stood in tears amid the alien corn;
                        The same that oft-times hath
         Charm’d magic casements, opening on the foam
                Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.
Forlorn! the very word is like a bell
         To toll me back from thee to my sole self!
Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well
         As she is fam’d to do, deceiving elf.
Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades
         Past the near meadows, over the still stream,
                Up the hill-side; and now ’tis buried deep
                        In the next valley-glades:
         Was it a vision, or a waking dream?
                Fled is that music:—Do I wake or sleep?