Posts Tagged ‘History’

australia aborigines

If you are genuinely unsure, simply read these stories, which represent the tip of the iceberg as regards the effect of white colonisation on our native brothers and sisters.

The Cape Grim massacre was an incident on 10 February 1828 in which a group of Aboriginal Tasmanians gathering food at a beach in the north-west of Tasmania is said to have been ambushed and shot by four Van Diemen’s Land Company workers, with bodies of some of the victims then thrown from a 60-metre cliff. About 30 men are thought to have been killed in the attack, which was a reprisal action for an earlier Aboriginal raid on a flock of Van Diemen’s Land Company sheep, but part of an escalating spiral of violence probably triggered by the abduction and rape of Aboriginal women in the area. The massacre was part of the “Black War”, the period of violent conflict between British colonists and Aboriginal Australians in Tasmania from the mid-1820s to 1832.

The Convincing Ground massacre at Portland Bay south-west of Melbourne probably resulted from the Gunditjmara people’s determination to assert their right to the whale as traditional food and when challenged by the whalers, were aggressive in return. The whalers withdrew to the head station only to return with their firearms. Robinson’s journal entry says “And the whalers then let fly, to use his expression, right and left upon the natives. He said the natives did not go away but got behind trees and threw spears and stones. They, however, did not much molest them after that.” No mention was made in the conversation as to casualties. Later reports arising from a meeting in 1842 that Robinson had with Gunditjmara people stated only two members survived the massacre. Accounts vary, but the number of Aborigines killed is believed to be between 60 and 200.”

The Pinjarra Massacre was an attack that occurred at Pinjarra, Western Australia on a group of up to 80 Noongar people by a detachment of 25 soldiers, police and settlers led by Governor James Stirling in 1834. After attacks on the displaced Swan River Whadjuk people and depredations on settlers by a group of the Binjareb people led by Calyute had, according to European settlers, reached unacceptable levels, culminating in the payback killing of an ex-soldier, Stirling led his force after the party. Arriving at their camp, five members of the pursuit party were sent into the camp to arrest the suspects and the Aborigines resisted. In the ensuing melee, Stirling reported 15 killed (eleven names were collected later from Aboriginal sources but because of local religious beliefs many dead would not be named); police superintendent T.T. Ellis later died of wounds and a soldier was wounded. A more realistic figure for the Aboriginal dead, including many woman and children, is 40-50. The flood-scoured slopes gave the men, women and children little cover as they tried to hide behind what logs or bushes there were. Many ducked into the water, holding their breath as long as they could. Some tried to float downstream out of range, but the water was too shallow to permit their escape. They, too, were shot. A white attacker’s journal records “Very few wounded were suffered to escape”.

massacreThe Waterloo Creek massacre occured when a Sydney mounted police detachment was despatched by acting Lieutenant Governor of New South Wales Colonel Kenneth Snodgrass, to track down the Namoi, Weraerai and Kamilaroi people who had killed five stockmen in separate incidents on recently established pastoral runs on the upper Gwydir River area of New South Wales. After two months the mounted police, consisting of two sergeants and twenty troopers led by Major James Nunn, arrested 15 Aborigines along the Namoi River. They released all but two, one of whom was shot whilst attempting to escape. The main body of Kamilaroi eluded the troopers, thus Major Nunn’s party along with two stockmen pursued the Kamilaroi for three weeks from present-day Manilla on the Namoi River north to the upper Gwydir River.

On the morning of January 26 – ironically – in a surprise attack on Nunn’s party Corporal Hannan was wounded in the leg with a spear and subsequently the police reported four or five Aborigines were shot dead in retaliation. The Aborigines fled down the river as the troopers regrouped, rearmed and pursued them led by the second in command Lieutenant George Cobban. Cobban’s party found their quarry about a mile down the river now known as Waterloo Creek, where a second engagement took place. The encounter lasted several hours, and no Aborigines were captured. It is this second clash where details of its occurrence contrast substantially. Estimates of Aboriginal dead range as high as 70.

Murdering Gully, formerly known as Puuroyup to the Djargurd Wurrung people, is the site of an 1839 massacre of 35-40 people of the Tarnbeere Gundidj clan of the Djargurd Wurrung in the Camperdown district of Victoria, Australia. It is a gully on Mount Emu Creek, where a small stream adjoins from Merida Station.

Of particular note for this massacre is the extent of oral history and first hand accounts of the incident and detail in settler diaries, records of Weslayan missionaries, and Aboriginal Protectorate records. Following the massacre there was popular disapproval and censure of the leading perpetrator, Frederick Taylor, so that Taylor’s River was renamed to Mount Emu Creek. The massacre effectively destroyed the Tarnbeere Gundidj clan.

The Campaspe Plains massacre, occurred in 1839 in Central Victoria, Australia as a reprisal raid against Aboriginal resistance to the invasion and occupation of the Dja Dja Wurrung and Daung Wurrung lands. Charles Hutton took over the Campaspe run, located near the border of Dja Dja Wurrung and Daung Wurrung, in 1838 following sporadic confrontations.

In April 1839 five Aborigines were killed by three white men. In response Hugh Bryan, a shepherd, and James Neill, a hut keeper were killed in May 1839 by Aborigines identified as Daung Wurrung, who had robbed a hut of bedding, clothes, guns and ammunition and also ran a flock of 700 sheep off the property, possibly as retribution for the earlier Aboriginal deaths. Hutton immediately put together an armed party of settlers who tracked and finally caught the Aborigines with a flock of sheep 30 miles away near the Campaspe Creek. An armed confrontation between the settlers and Aborigines occurred for up to half an hour. Hutton claimed privately that nearly 40 Aborigines were killed.

The Aboriginal people of East Gippsland, Victoria, Australia, known as the Gunai/Kurnai people, fought against the European invasion of their land. The technical superiority of the Europeans’ weapons gave the Europeans an absolute advantage. At least 300 people were killed, but other figures estimate up to 1,000; however, it is extremely difficult to be certain about the real death toll as so few records still exist or were even made at the time. Diseases introduced from the 1820s by European sealers and whalers also caused a rapid decline in Aboriginal numbers. The following list was compiled from such things as letters and diaries.

1840 – Nuntin- unknown number killed by Angus McMillan’s men
1840 – Boney Point – “Angus McMillan and his men took a heavy toll of Aboriginal lives”
1841 – Butchers Creek – 30-35 shot by Angus McMillan’s men
1841 – Maffra – unknown number shot by Angus McMillan’s men
1842 – Skull Creek – unknown number killed
1842 – Bruthen Creek – “hundreds killed”
1843 – Warrigal Creek – between 60 and 180 shot by Angus McMillan and his men
1844 – Maffra – unknown number killed
1846 – South Gippsland – 14 killed
1846 – Snowy River – 8 killed by Captain Dana and the Aboriginal Police
1846-47 – Central Gippsland – 50 or more shot by armed party hunting for a white woman supposedly held by Aborigines; no such woman was ever found.
1850 – East Gippsland – 15-20 killed
1850 – Murrindal – 16 poisoned
1850 – Brodribb River – 15-20 killed

The Flying Foam massacre was a series of confrontations between white settlers and Aboriginal people around Flying Foam Passage on Murujuga Burrup Peninsula, Western Australia.

The confrontations occurred between February and May 1868 triggered by the killings of two police officers and a local workman. The confrontations resulted in the deaths of unknown number of Jaburara (or Yaburrara, Yapurarra) people with estimates ranging between 15 and 150 dead.

The confrontations followed the killings on 7 February, on the south west shore of Nickol Bay, of Police Constable William Griffis, an Aboriginal police assistant named Peter, and a pearling worker named George Breem, by some Jaburara people, along with the disappearance of a pearling lugger captain, Henry Jermyn. Three Jaburara were arrested and convicted of Griffis’ murder. Sentenced to death their sentences were commuted to twelve years’ penal servitude on Rottnest Island.

Pearlers and pastoralists from the surrounding region, with the approval and support of the Government Resident in Roebourne, R. J. Sholl,organised two armed and mounted parties, which travelled overland and by sea to Murujuga, the heartland of the Jaburara. The two parties moved towards each other on the peninsula in a pincer movement. Anthropologist T. J. Gara – utilising official sources and oral tradition – suggests that one attack by the parties, on a Jaburara camp at King Bay, on 17 February, killed at least 15 people, including some children.

The Mowla Bluff massacre was an incident involving the murder of a number of indigenous Australians at Geegully Creek, near Mowla Bluff, in the Kimberley region of Western Australia in 1916.

Mowla Bluff is a cattle station 140 kilometres (87 mi) south of Derby and 75 kilometres (47 mi) southwest of Jarlmadangah. Responding to the brutality of the white station manager, some local men gave him a beating. In reprisal, an armed mob which included officials and residents rounded up a large number of Aboriginal men, women and children who were then shot. The bodies were burned.

One account states that three or four hundred people were killed and only three survived.

The Forrest River massacre, or Oombulgurri massacre, is a disputed account of a massacre of indigenous Australian people by a law enforcement party in the wake of the killing of a pastoralist, which took place in the Kimberley region of Western Australia in 1926. The massacre was investigated by a Royal Commission in 1927 which subsequently determined that 11 people had been killed. Charges were brought against two officers but dismissed for lack of evidence. A local man, Lumbia, was convicted of the killing of the pastoralist Frederick Hay. The findings have recently been disputed by journalist Rod Moran, whose analysis has received some academic support while other academic historians accept that a massacre did take place but disagree over the number of victims.In January 1968, Dr Neville Green interviewed on audiotape Charles Overheu, the brother of Hay’s partner and co-owner of Nulla Nulla station Leopold Overheu:

They all got together up there and there was a bloody massacre because I think they shot about three hundred natives all in one hit and there was a hell of a row over it. It was all published in the papers and somebody let the cat out of the bag and anyhow the government and the judges in those times they realised what the trouble was and the whole thing was hushed up you see.

In the same year, Forrest River Aborigines specified that the massacres had taken place at five different sites, and a German scholar, Dr Helmut Reim, from interviews with three Aboriginal elders, concluded that between 80 and 100 Aborigines had been killed in the massacres on the Marndoc Reserve, of which the Forrest River Mission was a small part.

The Coniston massacre, which took place from 14 August to 18 October 1928 near the Coniston cattle station in Northern Territory, Australia, was the last known officially sanctioned massacre of indigenous Australians and one of the last events of the Australian Frontier Wars. People of the Warlpiri, Anmatyerre and Kaytetye groups were killed. The massacre occurred in revenge for the death of dingo hunter Frederick Brooks, killed by Aboriginal people in August 1928 at a place now known as Yukurru, (also known as Brooks Soak).

Official records at the time stated that 31 people were killed. The owner of Coniston station, Randall Stafford, was a member of the punitive party for the first few days and estimated that at least twice that number were killed between 14 August and 1 September. Historians estimate that at least 60 and as many as 110 Aboriginal men, women and children were killed. The Warlpiri, Anmatyerre and Kaytetye believe that up to 170 died between 14 August and 18 October.

screen-shot-2017-01-27-at-3-35-08-pmThese records are merely the best known of the mass murders committed by the white settlers of Australia. That some of them were in response to provocation or retaliation is irrelevant. The indigenous people had been invaded and forcefully dispossessed. They saw themselves as fighting for justice according to laws developed over 40,000 of habitation. This, to a large extent, is why the native peoples of Australia still call for a formal treaty to be signed between the Government of Australia and its first peoples. For them, the war that was visited on them has never formally been recognised, or ended.

It should be obvious to anyone that 26th January is a needlessly provocative day to celebrate as Australia Day, and that a number of other dates offer themselves as equally significant and worthy of celebration. Anyone denying this simple proposition is merely continuing the assertion of white privilege and domination that these stories tragically demonstrate.

Remember, the killings of groups of Aborigines continued to within living memory, let alone later injustices which are just as well known.

We are big enough to acknowledge the past. It is time we made the change. Simple as that.

 

 

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partridge-in-a-pear-tree

The Twelve Days of Christmas” is an English Christmas carol that enumerates in the manner of a cumulative song a series of increasingly grand gifts given on each of the twelve days of Christmas (the twelve days after Christmas). The song, published in England in 1780 without music as a chant or rhyme, is thought to be French in origin. The standard tune now associated with it is derived from a 1909 arrangement of a traditional folk melody by English composer Frederic Austin, who first introduced the now familiar prolongation of the verse “five gold rings”.

Anonymous broadside, Angus, Newcastle, 1774–1825

 “The Twelve Days of Christmas” is a cumulative song, meaning that each verse is built on top of the previous verses. There are twelve verses, each describing a gift given by “my true love” on one of the twelve days of Christmas. There are many variations in the lyrics. The lyrics given here are from Austin’s 1909 publication that first established the current form of the carol. The first three verses run, in full, as follows:

On the First day of Christmas my true love sent to me
a Partridge in a Pear Tree.

On the Second day of Christmas my true love sent to me
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree.

On the Third day of Christmas my true love sent to me
Three French Hens,
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree.

Subsequent verses follow the same pattern, each adding one new gift and repeating all the earlier gifts, so that each verse is one line longer than its predecessor, as in:

4 Calling Birds
5 Gold Rings
6 Geese a-Laying
7 Swans a-Swimming
8 Maids a-Milking
9 Ladies Dancing (or Prancing)
10 Lords a-Leaping
11 Pipers Piping
12 Drummers Drumming

Variations of the lyrics

“Mirth without Mischief” (1780)

The earliest known version of the lyrics was published under the title “The Twelve Days of Christmas sung at King Pepin’s Ball”, as part of a 1780 children’s book, Mirth without Mischief. Subsequent versions have shown considerable variation:
  • In the earliest versions, the word “On” is not present at the beginning of each verse—for example, the first verse begins simply “The first day of Christmas”. “On” was added in Austin’s 1909 version, and became very popular thereafter.
  • In the early versions “my true love sent” me the gifts. However, a 20th-century variant has “my true love gave to me”; this wording has become particularly common in North America.
  • The 1780 version has “four colly birds” – “colly” being a regional English expression for “black”.

    This wording must have been opaque to many even in the 19th century: “canary birds”, “colour’d birds”, “curley birds”, and “corley birds” are all found in its place. Frederic Austin’s 1909 version, which introduced the now-standard melody, also altered the fourth day’s gift to four “calling” birds, and this variant has become the most popular, although “colly” is still found. (Especially in our household.)

  • The “five gold rings” may become “five golden rings”, especially in North America. In the standard melody, this change enables singers to fit one syllable per musical note.
  • The gifts associated with the final four days are often reordered. For example, the pipers may be on the ninth day rather than the eleventh.

Scotland

In Scotland, early in the 19th century, the recitation began: “The king sent his lady on the first Yule day, | A popingo-aye [parrot]; | Wha learns my carol and carries it away?” The succeeding gifts were two partridges, three plovers, a goose that was grey, three starlings, three goldspinks, a bull that was brown, three ducks a-merry laying, three swans a-merry swimming, an Arabian baboon, three hinds a-merry hunting, three maids a-merry dancing, three stalks o’ merry corn.

Faroe Islands

One of the two “Twelve Days of Christmas” Faroe stamps

In the Faroe Islands, there is a comparable counting Christmas song. The gifts include: one feather, two geese, three sides of meat, four sheep, five cows, six oxen, seven dishes, eight ponies, nine banners, ten barrels, eleven goats, twelve men, thirteen hides, fourteen rounds of cheese and fifteen deer. These were illustrated in 1994 by local cartoonist Óli Petersen (born 1936) on a series of two stamps issued by the Faroese Philatelic Office.

France

The French folk song “La Perdriole” (“The Partridge”) is a cumulative song with the same kind of lyrics and a similar (but slightly different) melody. One variant iterates over the 12 months of the year (“Le premier mois d’l’année”, etc…). Another version may be found in the Rondes et chansons de France, Vol. 10. It iterates over the first 12 days of May (“Au premier jour de Mai”, etc…)

Origins and meaning

The exact origins and the meaning of the song are unknown, but it is highly probable that it originated from a children’s memory and forfeit game.

The twelve days in the song are the twelve days starting with Christmas Day, or in some traditions, the day after Christmas (December 26) (Boxing Day or St. Stephen’s Day, as being the feast day of St. Stephen Protomartyr), to the day before Epiphany, or the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6, or the Twelfth Day). Twelfth Night is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “the evening of the fifth of January, preceding Twelfth Day, the eve of the Epiphany, formerly the last day of the Christmas festivities and observed as a time of merrymaking.”

(Which is why we are supposed to take our Christmas decorations down on the 6th of Jan, even though in our household we never do, we like the pretty lights too much!)

The best known English version was first printed in English in 1780 in a little book intended for children, Mirth without Mischief, as a Twelfth Night “memories-and-forfeits” game, in which a leader recited a verse, each of the players repeated the verse, the leader added another verse, and so on until one of the players made a mistake, with the player who erred having to pay a penalty, such as offering up a kiss or a sweet. One hundred years later, Lady Gomme, a collector of folktales and rhymes, described how it used to be played every Twelfth Day night before eating mince pies and twelfth cake (also known as “King’s cake).

Writing around 1846, Edward Rimbault stated that “[e]ach child in succession repeats the gifts of the day, and forfeits for each mistake.”

Salmon, writing from Newcastle, claimed in 1855 that the song “[had] been, up to within twenty years, extremely popular as a schoolboy’s Christmas chant”.

Husk, writing in 1864, stated:

This piece is found on broadsides printed at Newcastle at various periods during the last hundred and fifty years. On one of these sheets, nearly a century old, it is entitled “An Old English Carol,” but it can scarcely be said to fall within that description of composition, being rather fitted for use in playing the game of “Forfeits,” to which purpose it was commonly applied in the metropolis upwards of forty years since. The practice was for one person in the company to recite the first three lines; a second, the four following; and so on; the person who failed in repeating her portion correctly being subjected to some trifling forfeit.

“Twelve days of Christmas” was adapted from similar New Years’ or spring French carols, of which at least three are known, all featuring a partridge, perdriz or perdriole, as the first gift. The pear tree appears in only the English version, but this could also indicate a French origin. According to Iona and Peter Opie, the red-legged (or French) partridge perches in trees more frequently than the native common (or grey) partridge and the red-legged variant was not successfully introduced into England until about 1770.

Cecil Sharp observed that “from the constancy in English, French, and Languedoc versions of the ‘merry little partridge,’ I suspect that ‘pear-tree’ is really perdrix (Old French pertriz) carried into England”; and “juniper tree” in some English versions may have been “joli perdrix,” [pretty partridge]. Sharp also suggests the adjective “French” in “three French hens”, probably simply means “foreign”.

(The French are very foreign, of course.)

In the northern counties of England, the song was often called the “Ten Days of Christmas”, as there were only ten gifts. It was also known in Somerset, Dorsetshire, and elsewhere in England. The kinds of gifts vary in a number of the versions, some of them becoming alliterative tongue-twisters. “The Twelve Days of Christmas” was also widely popular in the United States and Canada. It is mentioned in the section on “Chain Songs” in the Motif-Index of Folk-Literature (Indiana University Studies, Vol. 5, 1935), p. 416.

There is evidence pointing to the North of England, specifically the area around Newcastle upon Tyne, as the origin of the carol. Husk, in the 1864 excerpt quoted above, stated that the carol was “found on broadsides printed at Newcastle at various periods during the last hundred and fifty years”, i.e. from approximately 1714. In addition, many of the nineteenth century citations come from the Newcastle area.

Still from the film Panfilov's 28 Men (courtesy of: Panfilov's 28 Men / Andrey Shalopa, Kim Druzhinin / Lybian Palette Studios Gaijin Entertainment)

A clip from the war film – Kazakhs, Russians and others are shown as Soviet comrades in arms. Only problem, the event depicted never happened.

A new film showing Red Army soldiers outnumbered by invading Germans but battling on heroically has become part of the Kremlin’s campaign to restore Russian pride.

State television showed Russian President Vladimir Putin watching the film last week, alongside Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev, in the Central Asian leader’s capital Astana.

The clear message was that Russia and Kazakhstan are maintaining Soviet-era bonds of friendship, despite tensions in other parts of the former USSR. But the film itself – Panfilov’s 28 Men – is based on a communist myth.

Presidents Vladimir Putin (left) and Nursultan Nazarbayev watch Panfilov's 28 Men

The film depicts an heroic act of self-sacrifice outside Leningrad – now St Petersburg – in November 1941.

According to the Soviet mythology, 28 guardsmen from the Red Army’s 316th Rifle Division, mainly recruits from the Kazakh and Kyrgyz Soviet republics, stood unflinching against the advancing might of Hitler’s Wehrmacht. The men, led by Maj Gen Ivan Panfilov, were all killed, but destroyed 18 German tanks before they fell. The 28 were immortalised – posthumously decorated as Heroes of the Soviet Union – and Soviet children learnt about their last stand in school.

Yet historians say the story is not true.

An official Soviet investigation into the event, compiled in 1948, concluded that the story was the “invention” of a journalist from the Red Army’s newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda. The reporter’s account was at best exaggerated, and several of the men survived. The results of the probe were kept secret.

But the themes of the story chime with the Kremlin’s worldview, and the state partly sponsored the new film.

The Kremlin customarily promotes the idea of World War Two as a heroic victory that united the Soviet state against fascism – and still unites Russia today against a similar threat they say has resurfaced in Ukraine, which is, of course, nonsense.

The USSR suffered the heaviest losses in the war – more than 20 million civilians and military – though scholars dispute the exact toll.

 

WW2 veterans at the memorial to Panfilov's men in Dubosekovo, near Moscow

WW2 veterans at the memorial to Panfilov’s men in Dubosekovo, near Moscow

The film shows Kazakhs, Russians and other Russian speakers standing shoulder-to-shoulder to defend the Motherland. It echoes a Russian foreign policy concept: a Moscow-centred “Russian World” united by a common language.

But when, in June last year, Russian State Archive director Sergei Mironenko, citing historical documents, said the story was in fact a myth, he earned a sharp rebuke from Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky.

Mr Mironenko was removed as head of the archive in March this year.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin speaks at a special banquet reception for WW2 veterans to mark Victory Day in the Kremlin in Moscow, 9 May 2013

On Victory Day – 9 May – President Putin warned against “falsification of history”.

In February 2013, President Putin ordered a single history syllabus for schools, offering a standardised narrative. A new state “History” TV channel was launched that year too. Supporters of Mr Putin’s bid for a “canonical” history say it is needed in order to keep such a large state together. Yet critics see it as an attempt to impose one official version of the past.

Mr Putin and other officials have repeatedly talked about the need to counter the “falsification of history” or “rewriting history”. They oppose interpretations of World War Two or other episodes of Soviet history that deviate from officially approved narratives.

Mr Putin’s father was seriously wounded as a soldier on the Leningrad front.

People carry portraits of WW2 soldiers in the Immortal Regiment march in St Petersburg

The annual Immortal Regiment march honours World War Two sacrifices in St Petersburg

Mr Medinsky, the culture minister, defended Panfilov’s 28 Men, saying “Even if this story was invented from start to finish, if there had been no Panfilov, if there had been nothing, this is a sacred legend that shouldn’t be interfered with. People that do that are filthy scum.”

It is not the first time Russian officials have suggested that certain chapters of Russian history are sacred. But the concept of portraying something as history that is officially acknowledged as un-factual is very “1984”, and part of a trend worldwide which is rather worrisome. If we can’t possibly know what is true and what isn’t – if we are forbidden to say what is untrue – then how can people form a rational view of history?

In January 2014, independent liberal broadcaster Dozhd TV also came under attack. It was accused of smearing the memory of WW2 veterans by asking whether residents of wartime Leningrad could have been saved by surrendering the city to Nazi forces.

Screengrab from Russian Kommersant website

“Citing Nuremberg” – a court ruled that blogger Vladimir Luzgin was guilty of denying facts established by the Nuremberg Trials

The public discussion of WW2 history has also been curbed by a controversial 2014 law against the rehabilitation of Nazism.

Under this law, Vladimir Luzgin, a blogger from Perm region in the Urals, was fined 200,000 roubles ($3,200; £2,500) for reposting an article about the war on the Russian social network VK (VKontakte), the daily Kommersant reported in July.

The court ruled that Luzgin posted an article with knowingly false information about a joint invasion of Poland by German and Soviet forces on 1 September 1939.

According to the prosecutors, Luzgin realised that the text might instil in many people “a firm conviction about negative actions of the USSR” in the war.

The court said Luzgin had falsified history by stating “that the communists and Germany jointly attacked Poland, unleashing World War Two, or in other words, that Communism and Nazism co-operated honestly”.

In September, Russia’s Supreme Court ruled that the punishment of Luzgin was justified.

Nazi Germany and the USSR signed a non-aggression pact in August 1939 – the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. In a secret protocol, they agreed to carve up Poland between them.

Nazi troops invaded Poland on 1 September and Soviet troops, from the east, on 17 September. The Russians claim it was to defend themselves against potential Nazi aggression, but most independent historians consider it nothing more nor less than a naked and opportunist land grab by Russia, and the repression of the population in the seized areas left a scar which persists to this day.

Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov (L) with Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler

A photo (undated) shows Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov (L) with Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler

Promoted by the state and personally previewed by Mr Putin, Panfilov’s 28 Men may well prove a box office hit when it comes out in November.

Myth making in pursuit of political goals is hardly new in cinema, of course. The Nazis employed the tactic mercilessly, as did Britain, and to a lesser extent, America, who persisted with the practice right up to the Vietnam war. And no one could argue that the golden era of Hollywood “Westerns” portrayed anything like a reasonable view of the native peoples of America and the wars with them. But two wrongs – or multiple wrongs – don’t make a right.

Many Russians may not know how the state embroidered the tale of Panfilov’s men – but then many may not care either. That is what should concern us.

(BBC and Wellthisiswhatithink)

141026_sabato_goldwater_gty

 

If you want to understand the Trump phenomenon, just look back 50 years.

Barry Goldwater was an American politician and businessman who was a five-term United States Senator from Arizona (1953–65, 1969–87) and the Republican Party’s surprise nominee for President of the United States in the 1964 election.

Goldwater is the politician most often credited for sparking the resurgence of the American conservative political movement in the 1960s. He also had a substantial impact on the future libertarian movement.

Goldwater badgeGoldwater was a touchstone for the wilder vestiges of the conservative tendency in the Republicans – very much the precursor of today’s Tea Party insurgency: not so much in terms of its politics, but in terms of its rejection of “the way things are done”, and annoyance at the tacit agreement in major policy planks that had hitherto existed between both major parties.

Goldwater rejected the legacy of the New Deal and fought through the conservative coalition against the New Deal coalition.

In a heavily Democratic state, Goldwater became a successful conservative Republican and a friend of Herbert Hoover. He was outspoken against New Deal liberalism, especially its close ties to unions which he considered corrupt.  Goldwater soon became most associated with union reform and anti-communism: his work on organised labour issues led to Congress passing major anti-corruption reforms in 1957, and an all-out campaign by the AFL-CIO to defeat his 1958 re-election bid.

save americaHe voted against the censure of Senator Joseph McCarthy in 1954, but in the fevered atmosphere of the times he never actually charged any individual with being a communist or Soviet agent.

Goldwater emphasised his strong opposition to the worldwide spread of communism in his 1960 book The Conscience of a Conservative.

The book became an important reference text in conservative political circles.

Goldwater shared the current Trumpian disdain for central government and immigration. (Although it should be noted that Cruz and Rubio have also moved to harden their position on immigration, it is Trump who has made it a current touchstone for the current Republican Party with his populist and incendiary language, especially in the South.) His “Save America” theme had a populist edge that we see strongly reproduced in the apocalyptic pronouncements of the current front runners.

 

quote-to-disagree-one-doesn-t-have-to-be-disagreeable-barry-goldwater-11-26-18

 

But Goldwater was no mindless demagogue. He was more circumspect. In 1964, he ran a conservative campaign that emphasised states’ rights. The campaign was a magnet for conservatives since he opposed interference by the federal government in state affairs. Although he had supported all previous federal civil rights legislation and had supported the original senate version of the bill, Goldwater made the decision to oppose the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

His stance was based on his view that the act was an intrusion of the federal government into the affairs of states and that the Act interfered with the rights of private persons to do or not do business with whomever they chose. In the segregated city of Phoenix in the 1950s, however, he had quietly supported civil rights for blacks, but would not let his name be used publicly.

All this appealed to white Southern Democrats, and Goldwater was the first Republican to win the electoral votes of all of the Deep South states – South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana – since Reconstruction (although Dwight Eisenhower did carry Louisiana in 1956).

He successfully mobilised a large conservative constituency to win the hard-fought Republican primaries and in doing so became the first candidate of Jewish heritage to be nominated for President by a major American party.

He swept aside the Republican Party’s anointed son, wealthy philanthropist and liberal four-term Governor of New York, Nelson Rockefeller, in the first such example in the modern era of the Republicans failing to have “one of their own” confirmed against an insurgent, although some would argue that Ronal Reagan was a similar example.

At a discouraging point in the 1964 California primary campaign against Barry Goldwater, his top political aide Stuart Spencer called on Rockefeller to “summon that fabled nexus of money, influence, and condescension known as the Eastern Establishment. “You are looking at it, buddy,’ Rockefeller told Spencer, ‘I am all that is left.” Rockefeller exaggerated, but the irretrievable collapse of his wing of the party was underway. His despair finds its echo in the current desperation of the Republican organisation and establishment at the increasing likelihood of a Trump nomination this year.

But in what may well be a precursor to Trump’s national election performance should he secure the Republican nomination in 2016, Goldwater’s vote on the Civil Rights Act proved devastating to his campaign everywhere outside the South (besides “Dixie”, Goldwater won only in Arizona, his home state), and the Democrats won states they did not expect, like Alaska, contributing to a landslide defeat for the GOP in the general election in 1964.

Trump’s offensive remarks about Latinos may now cruel him in exactly the same way – Latino voters are now a key constituency that appear currently ironed-on supporters of the Democrats, and it’s one that that the Republicans must appeal if they are to have any chance of winning nationally. With their enthusiasm for “small business” and entrepreneurism the Latino community should be fertile territory for the Republican Party. That they are clearly not is a measure of how desperately far behind the eight ball the Republicans currently are with their populist campaign.

Goldwater’s conservative campaign platform ultimately failed to gain the support of the electorate, but he didn’t just lose the election to incumbent Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson, he lost it by one of the largest landslides in history, bringing down many other Republican candidates around the country as well.

The Johnson campaign and other critics successfully painted him as a reactionary, while supporters praised his crusades against the Soviet Union, labour unions, and the welfare state. This, however, mainly piled him up support with people who would support a Republican candidate no matter what, (an effect that has been seen in election losing performances by the Labor/Labour parties in both Australia and the United Kingdom in recent years) and may even have lost him crucial support with conservative working class voters who didn’t want their bargaining power reduced.

His defeat, however, and the Republicans swept away with him, allowed Johnson and the Democrats in Congress to pass the Great Society programs, and a large enough Clinton or Sanders win in November would similarly embolden the Democrats to continue with the cautious reform programmes instigated under Obama in health, possibly focussing on making further education more affordable than it is currently. Such an outcome would be seen by many who are alarmed by Trump’s rise as deliciously ironic.

On the other hand the defeat of so many older Republicans in 1964 also cleared the way for a younger generation of American conservatives to mobilise which contributed to a growth in the party’s influence.

goldwater reaganAlthough Goldwater was much less active as a national leader of conservatives after 1964 his supporters mostly rallied behind Ronald Reagan, who became governor of California in 1967 and the 40th President of the United States, in 1981.

Indeed, with Reagan’s accession to the Presidency, with an emphasis on low tax and low spending rhetoric (which was not followed through in office) one can argue that Reagan was Goldwater’s legacy to America.

Reagan also successfully brought the evangelical Christian movement into the mainstream Republican fold in a move which continues to resonate to this day, especially in the candidacy of Ted Cruz. However that move also offended more moderate Christians, some Roman Catholics, and secular independents.

(As an aside, Trump’s record would hardly endear him to today’s religious conservatives, except for his decisive rejection of Muslims – interestingly his thrice-married history has its echoes in the rejection of Nelson Rockefeller, who was damaged by his divorce and re-marriage – but then again, if he is the nominee where else can they go? To what degree the religious right falls in behind Trump or simply stay home out of a lack of enthusiasm could also be an important factor in the Republican’s overall result.)

Goldwater, for all that he was a precursor to the anti-establishment Trump, was a man of some gravitas. In particular, unlike Trump, who avoided being drafted in the Vietnam war and has been criticised for doing so, he had a proud and distinguished military career.

With the American entry into World War II, Goldwater received a reserve commission in the United States Army Air Forces. He became a pilot assigned to the Ferry Command, a newly formed unit that flew aircraft and supplies to war zones worldwide. He spent most of the war flying between the U.S. and India, via the Azores and North Africa or South America, Nigeria, and Central Africa. He also flew “the hump” over the Himalayas to deliver supplies to the Republic of China.

Following World War II, Goldwater was a leading proponent of creating the United States Air Force Academy, and later served on the Academy’s Board of Visitors. The visitor center at the USAF Academy is now named in his honour. As a colonel he also founded the Arizona Air National Guard, and in a move that goes to his more nuanced attitudes to race than some, he would de-segregate it two years before the rest of the US military. Goldwater was instrumental in pushing the Pentagon to support desegregation of the armed services.

Remaining in the Arizona Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve after the war, he eventually retired as a Command Pilot with the rank of major general. By that time, he had flown 165 different types of aircraft. Goldwater retired as an Air Force Reserve major general, and he continued piloting B-52 aircraft until late in his military career.

Meanwhile, with his successes on “Super Tuesday” behind us, The Trumpinator rolls on seemingly unstoppably. We are on record as saying we didn’t think he could secure the nomination, but like many others it appears we completely under-estimated the populist rejection of “Washington” that he represents on the right (echoed by the success of Sanders on the left), and we now we suspect we were wrong.

We still find it hard to believe, but the Republican Party now appears to be entirely in thrall to an anti-establishment far-right insurgency that is essentially, at its core, simply “anti” politics and not in the slightest interested in serious policy outcomes.

It is perfectly fair to say that any one of dozens of idiotic pronouncements Trump has made would see him disqualified from holding high office in any other democratic Western country in the world, but the right in America seem to have wilfully suspended disbelief in their visceral hatred of the “liberal”, centralising, “socialist”, “Statist” conspiracy that they see represented by the Democrats and alsi now by many in their own party. However at the Wellthisiswhatithink desk we do confidently believe (and fervently hope) that this most “dumbed down” of Presidential campaigns cannot ultimately prevail.

Like Goldwater, Trump and his clumsy and oft-expressed bigotry may merely usher in another crushing Democratic victory, which would, surely, be the ultimate reward the GOP receive for abandoning good governance in their obtuse Congressional obstructionism against Obama, and in fleeing the centre ground by refusing to confront the Tea Party with better and more timely arguments and greater political courage.

Of course, Trump would never agree with us. In fact, no doubt, he would flip out one his standard insults, to cheers and applause from his acolytes.

 

Screen Shot 2016-03-03 at 11.56.34 am

 

If you, like us, were starting to feel left out by not having been personally insulted by this obnoxious populist just head to The Donald Trump Insult Generator.

Hours of innocent fun for all the family.

See also “Trump. The man who got memed.”

underground slang

Alarming news that one of the most enjoyable of world dialects – Cockney rhyming slang – may be set to die out in London and elsewhere.

Rhyming slang is a form of phrase construction that is especially prevalent in dialectal English from the East End of London; hence the alternative name, Cockney rhyming slang. The construction involves replacing a common word with a rhyming phrase of two or three words and then, in almost all cases, omitting the secondary rhyming word (which is thereafter implied), in a process called hemiteleia, making the origin and meaning of the phrase elusive to listeners not in the know. That fact may well have been behind the growth of the linguistic habit – obscuring the facts of a situation from authority figures such as the police – or the “bottle stoppers”, ie coppers.

A well-known example is replacing the word “stairs” with the rhyming phrase “apples and pears”. Following the pattern of omission of the second or subsequent words, “and pears” is dropped, thus the spoken phrase “I’m off up the apples” means “I’m going up the stairs”.

In similar fashion, “telephone” is replaced by “dog” (= ‘dog-and-bone’); “wife” by “the trouble” (= ‘trouble-and-strife’); “eyes” by “mincers” (= ‘mince pies’); “wig” by “syrup” (= ‘syrup of figs’) and “feet” by “plates” (= ‘plates of meat’).

Thus a construction of the following type could conceivably arise: “It nearly knocked me off me plates—he was wearing a syrup! So I ran up the apples, got straight on the dog to me trouble and said I couldn’t believe me mincers.”

In some examples the meaning is further obscured by adding a second iteration of rhyme and truncation to the original rhymed phrase. For example, the word “Aris” is often used to indicate the buttocks. This is the result of a double rhyme, starting with the original rough synonym “arse” for buttocks, which is then rhymed with “bottle and glass”, leading to “bottle”. “Bottle” was then in its turn rhymed with “Aristotle” and truncated to “Aris”. “Nice Aris, darlin'” can still be heard on the streets of London today when an attractive girl is bold enough to walk past a building site.

Rumours that this is your author are exaggerated, Dear Reader

Rumours that this is your author are exaggerated, Dear Reader

The use of rhyming slang has spread beyond the purely dialectal and some examples are to be found in the mainstream British English lexicon and internationally, although many users may be unaware of the origin of those words.

One example is “berk”, a mild pejorative term for a foolish person widely used across the UK and not usually considered particularly offensive, although the origin lies in a contraction of “Berkeley Hunt”, as the rhyme for the significantly more offensive “cu*t”.

Another well-known example is to “have a butcher’s” for to have a look, which is derived from “butcher’s hook”.

Here are some more of our favourites:

Cow and kisses = the ‘missus’ or wife. This may be how the pejorative term “cow” came to be applied to an argumentative person.

God love ‘er = mother, although beyond the esteemed lady’s hearing she might also be called “the strangle”, from “strangle and smother”.

China plates = mates. This may be one of the few terms that will survive longer, as “You OK me old China?” can still be heard commonly around the East End.

Cat and mouse = house. Possibly because both typically inhabited said venue. An alternative is “Gates of Rome”, possibly reflecting the gladiatorial combat about to ensue with the Cow and kisses.

Bob Hope = soap. The famous entertainer was born in London, moving to the USA when he was four. Interestingly, his first show on American network radio was the Woodbury Soap Hour.

Hat and scarf = bath. Perhaps reflective of the fact that this rare event was often taken in a small lukewarm tin bath in front of a weak fire trying to keep a cold cat and mouse above near freezing level. Mrs Wellthisiswhatithink can actually recall taking a “bath” still clothed in a woollen jumper in the east end of London one particularly chilly day.

Iron horse = racecourse. Possibly because the early traction engines – called iron horses – took over the haulage work of horses in some situations. The name then got transferred back to the places where real horses ran.

Belt and braces = races. An obvious rhyme, but also perhaps because people got “dressed up” to attend a race meeting.

Hot dinner = winner. Perhaps after a good day at the belt and braces you could afford one. The phrase “Winner Winner Chicken Dinner” is used widely in Australia, by the way, to mean any “good or happy thing or event”, after the great good fortune of winning the weekly “chook raffle” in the local pub.

Grumble and mutter = to take a “flutter”, ie place a bet on a horse or dog race. Probably the indicative sound made by someone when their nag runs home plumb last.

Food gets its fair suck of the saveloy in rhyming slang, too.

Borrow and beg = egg. Which is what one had to do for an egg during the Second World War, in particular.

Kate & Sydney = Steak & Kidney. Usually in a pie.

Uncle Reg = equals veg(etables), as in “Pass the Uncle Reg”.

Perhaps the best known is:

Ruby Murray = Curry, a favourite food of the working class from the British Raj onwards, and now such a stable that the dish Chicken Tikka Marsala is now the national dish of the country. You still often hear “Fancy grabbing a Ruby?” late at night in a thousand pubs, so this, too, may survive the general decline in rhyming slang. The term comes from a hugely popular Irish singer called Rub Murray in the 1950s: although she is now largely forgotten her name lives on in rhyming slang.

(Another similar example is “Billy Cotton” for “rotten”, although few now remember the famed band leader who filled our wirelesses with his joyful sounds in the later 50s and early 60s.)

Another term that might survive is “Rub a Dub” for the “pub”, although “Jack Tar” for “bar” is less well known or heard now. The latter comes from the days when sailors were notorious for drinking heavily, “Rub a Dub” seems to be simply a good rhyme, pinched from the 18th century nursery rhyme “rub a dub dub, three men in a tub”.

Runner and rider = Cider, although no on seems sure why beyond the rhyme.

Christmas cheer = Beer, as in, “I’m popping down the rub a dub for a Christmas, you coming?”

A really fascinating one is:

Dicky Dirt = Shirt, from the 19 century when a detachable shirt front worn under a jacket was called a “dicky”, which may be why to this day we call a bow tie a “dicky bow”.

Perhaps less well known is:

Tate & Lyle = Style, as in “Putting on the Tate & Lyle tonight, aren’t you, me old China?” and named after a famous sugar company. Sugar was associated with wealth, and tea rooms and tea dances, where the less well-off went to indulge in a little occasional luxury.

Rhyming slang can be amusingly blunt.

Pony = Crap, untrue or nonsensical. From “Pony and Trap”, which is also frequently used as a euphemism for visiting the loo.

Paper Hat = Prat, a useless person

Paraffin Lamp = Tramp, as in “Have a wash you smelly paraffin”.

Sometimes only knowing a little history can explain the terms used.

Kettle = Watch, as in “Nice new Kettle you’re wearing mate.” One of the most confusing of all rhyming slang expression, because the derivation of Kettle from the word “watch” is unclear – until you know a little bit about the history of watches that is.

Kettle is the shortened form of Kettle and Hob – think of the oven range in an old fashioned house, with its kettle boiling away on the round hob. When pocket watches first became fashionable, they were held against the body by use of a small chain. The watch then slipped into the pocket and could be easily extracted without dropping it. These were called fob watches, and it’s from this expression that we get Kettle and Hob for watch.

bloaterSomethimes though, the rhyming slang is just plain fun, as in:

Yarmouth Bloater = motor

: which plays out as “Have you seen my new Yarmouth?” for “Have you seen my new car?” A Yarmouth Bloater was a much prized and expensive smoked fish to buy in the fish markets of the East End. It was also made into a packaged paste (as shown in the picture) to be spread on bread at tea-time. A real treat. As is, presumably, a new car.

Which is partly why it would be such a shame if rhyming slang were to die out. Not only does it give us a direct link to our past, it’s also entertaining. Long evolved from being a way to keep information secret, it is now a distinct regional dialect, as valuable as any other.

Let us hope a new generation reared on slang that is more likely to have emanated from the streets of LA or New York discovers their own rich linguistic heritage before it’s too late.

Do you have a favourite piece of rhyming slang we haven’t highlight? Please tell us about it! Or we might end up sitting over here on our Pat Malone remembering it.

 

 

 

Anzac dead in captured Turkish trenches in Gallipoli

I wrote this poem remembering attending so many Remembrance Day services with my mother, whose husband, the father who I never knew, died at 46, a cheerful but essentially broken man, after six years of service in the Royal Navy..

I am very proud of this poem, both as a poem, in and of itself, and as an authentic expression of my feelings and some things I consider important.

I am largely a pacifist in my outlook, but I have great respect for those who put their lives on the line defending values I hold dear, and opposing tyranny.

It references not only those solemn services attended at memorials with my mother, but the many times since I have seen elderly people stand and pay their respects to the dead of both World Wars, and other wars.

Anzac DayThere is a wave of emotion sweeping Australia at the moment when Anzac day rolls around, with record numbers of people attending Dawn Services both around the country and in places overseas such as Papua New Guinea and Galipolli.

Increasingly, those people have young faces. The great grandchildren, grandchildren and children of those who were wounded, broken, and died. Why the sudden upsurge of interest? Perhaps younger people today look back to a past when the issues were simpler and convictions stronger.

I am also sure that the 39 Australian service people killed in Afghanistan since hostilities broke out there have something to do with it. The Americans and others have lost more people, of course, but those 39 lives are a grievous loss to a country with a population as small as Australia’s, just as the disproportionate sacrifice of the World War I diggers left a scar across the country that took generations to heal: the faces and stories of those brave young people killed in Afghanistan in recent years sure focuses the mind.

I am also reminded, on this solemn day, of the most important thing ever said about conflict, which is, of course:

“War will continue until men refuse to fight.”

If you are interested to purchase my collection of poems called Read Me – 71 Poems and 1 Story – just head here.

(Article re-published for Anzac Day 2013 and Remembrance Day 2014.)

red tape

 

The Australian Government is about to hold a much vaunted red tape day – getting rid of literally thousands of regulations designed to free up people’s lives from the crushing weight of bureaucracy. (It’s a stunt, of course. One of the regulations to be removed means that financial advisors are no longer legally required to “act in their clients’ interest”. Whose interest should they be acting in, then? Don’t get me started, for Heaven’s sake.)

Anyhow, politics aside, the news item got me wondering: where does the term “red tape” come from? The answer is quite simple, actually.

The origin of the term is somewhat obscure, but it is first noted in historical records in the 16th century, when Henry VIII besieged Pope Clement VII with around eighty or so petitions for the annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon so he could wed the younger and more beautiful Anne Boleyn.

A photo of the petitions from Cardinal Wolsey and others, now stored in the Vatican archives, can be seen on page 160 of “Saints and Sinners, a history of The Popes”, by Eamon Duffy (published by Yale University Press in 1997), rolled and stacked in their original condition, each one sealed and bound with the obligatory red tape, as was the custom of the day.

It appears likely that it was the Spanish administration of Charles V in the early 16th century, who started to use the red tape in an effort to modernise the administration that was running his vast empire. The red tape was used to bind the important administrative dossiers that had to be discussed by the Council of State, and separate them from the issues that were treated in an ordinary administrative way, which were bound by an ordinary rope. Most of the red tapes arriving to the Council of State were manufactured in the city of ‘s-Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands, because most of the important dossiers came from the Low Countries and Germany. The Spanish name for red tape “balduque” took the name from the Spanish translation of the city of ‘s-Hertogenbosch which is “Bolduque”.

Although they were not governing such a vast territory as Charles V, this practice of using red tape to separate the important dossiers that had to be discussed, was quickly copied by the other modern European monarchs to speed up their administrative machines.

In this age of civil servants using computers and information technology, a legacy from the administration of the Spanish Empire can still be observed where some parts of the higher levels of the Spanish administration continue the tradition of using red tape to bind important dossiers that need to be discussed and to keep them bound in red tape when the dossier is closed. This is, for example, the case for the Spanish Council of State, the supreme consultative council of the Spanish Government. In contrast, the lower Spanish courts use ordinary ropes to bundle documents as their cases are not supposed to be heard at higher levels. The Spanish Government plans to phase out the use of paper and abandon the practice of using ordinary ropes.

The tradition continued through to the 17th and 18th century. Although Charles Dickens is believed to have used the phrase before Thomas Carlyle, the English practice of binding documents and official papers with red tape was popularized in Carlyle’s writings, protesting against official inertia with expressions like “Little other than a red tape Talking-machine, and unhappy Bag of Parliamentary Eloquence”. To this day, most defence barristers’ briefs, and those from private clients, are tied in a pink-coloured ribbon known as “pink tape” or “legal tape”. Government briefs, including those of the prosecution counsel, are usually bound with white tape, reputedly introduced as an economy measure to save the expense of dyeing the tape red. Traditionally, official Vatican documents were also bound in red cloth tape.

All American Civil War veterans’ records were bound in red tape, and the difficulty in accessing them led to the modern American use of the term, but there is evidence (as detailed above) that the term was in use in its modern sense sometime before this.

George Osborne and his despatch box containing the Budget

George Osborne and his despatch box containing the Budget delivered in London today

 

So there you have it.

And as I write, the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the UK is delivering his budget, contained within the red leather case used for the transport of all major Government documents in that country.

So here’s a question for you Dear Reader. Does anyone know why those cases are red? Hmmm?

As always, your trusted correspondent can save you the trouble of turning to Google.

The design of ministerial boxes has changed little since the 1860s. Covered in red-stained rams’ leather, they are embossed with the Royal Cypher and ministerial title. The 2–3-kilogram (4–7 lb) boxes are constructed of slow-grown pine, lined with lead and black satin and, unlike a briefcase, the lock is on the bottom, opposite the hinges and the handle, to guarantee that the box is locked before being carried.

The colour red has remained the traditional covering of the boxes but why red was originally chosen is rather unclear.They are made by the very discreet, London-based leather goods company Barrow and Gale, which rarely grants the media access to its premises. Such is the company’s desire to maintain a low profile, its owner prefers not to disclose his surname.

According to the company’s records, the red boxes were introduced in the 19th Century by Prince Albert. It is thought by some that their distinctive scarlet colour is because red was a dominant colour in his family’s Saxe-Coburg-Gotha coat of arms, which was the name of the British Royal Family before it changed to Windsor during the First World War, of course.

The lead lining, which has been retained in modern boxes, was once meant to ensure that the box sank when thrown overboard at sea in the event of capture.Also bomb-proof, they are designed to survive any catastrophe that may befall their owner.

Production of the red boxes costs between £385 and £750. Between 2002 and 2007 the British Government spent £57,260 on new boxes. In 1997 the government mooted the idea of an electronic red box as an alternative.

David Clark, now a Labour peer, was asked by Tony Blair to come up with innovative ways of running government more efficiently. He suggested a computerised red box, and a prototype design was made. Resembling a conventional ministerial case, it opened to reveal a laptop screen.

The box used fingerprint technology to ensure only the minister it was intended for could open it, and information was to be transferred through a secure government intranet.

But it failed to take off after resistance from ministers and civil servants, and the old fashioned red box stuffed with ministerial papers persists.

In 1998, a Whitehall initiative began to replace document boxes with an extensive intranet. How very dull.

Exceptions to the red colouring are those carried by the government whips, which are covered in black leather. Discreet black boxes are also available for ministers who need to travel by train. And extremely secret black boxes, (which also have a red stripe) carry confidential papers only seen by the Prime Minister, their Private Secretary, and intelligence officials. This box is known as “old stripey” due to the red stripe.

Gladstone's Budget Box

Gladstone’s Budget Box

 

A special word on the “Budget Box”. The first and most famous budget box was made for Liberal Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone (a proper Liberal, not the Australian neo-Tory variety) around 1860 and is lined in black satin and covered with scarlet leather.

This box has been used by every Chancellor since, with the exceptions of Jim Callaghan (1964–1967) and Gordon Brown (1997–2007), who had new ones commissioned in 1965 and 1997 respectively.

Gladstone’s budget box – you can just see the words Chancellor of the Exchequer still stamped along its base if you look carefully – was used by Alistair Darling (2007–2010) and by George Osborne in June 2010. It was subsequently retired due to its fragility, and will be displayed in the Cabinet War Rooms.Since March 2011, a new budget box commissioned by The National Archives has been used.

Other red boxes of note are the ones delivered to the British Sovereign every day (except Christmas Day and Easter Sunday) by government departments, via the Page of the Presence. These boxes contain Cabinet and Foreign and Commonwealth Office documents, most of which the monarch must sign and give Royal Assent to, before they can become law (an essential part of the role of a constitutional monarch).

There: that’s that subject neatly tied up.

Verdun

 

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.

 

At the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month. Forever.

The least – the very least – we can do, is to remember.

Not just those who died – so many, so young – but also for those who survived, broken but still courageous.

For a grandfather trawling for mines in Portsmouth harbour, a moment from death, day after day, for years.

For a father guiding convoys across the icy Atlantic, a moment from death, day after day, for years.

For an uncle surviving being a Pathfinder pilot, a moment from death, day after day, for years.

For the cousin imprisoned in the Far East and wracked with tropical diseases ever after, a moment from death, day after day, for years.

It is passing wonderful that any of them remained to any extent sane, and went on to raise families, run businesses, report the news, go to church, help their neighbours.

Lives cut short. Lives forever compromised. And for the civilian dead. And for all who served. None came through unscathed.

Until we have a world without war, we will remember. All of them, on all sides. And even then, we will never forget.

 

Cenotaph

The presentation of the Declaration to congress

The presentation of the Declaration to Congress

Most Americans – and most of the rest of the earth – will actually know that the Fourth of July – Independence Day – marks the assertion by the former British colonies that made up America of their right to henceforth be an independent nation.

But have you ever read all of the ACTUAL declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson, to which the leaders of the colonies penned their names?

It is actually well worth a thorough read, because besides the inspirational and soaring rhetoric of its opening phrases, it also lists the grievances that the Americans had against the British king and people.

Another recording of the event

Another recording of the event

And they were by no means trivial. The rage of the Americans at their treatment by their British cousins is palpable.

It puts into a fascinating context the original move to independence, but also the nature of America today.

The deep mistrust of bad government that runs through the body politic, the nature of states rights in free union, and the assertion of a purer form of democracy – essentially, the concept that America is a unique human invention – is just as vital today as it ever was, just as it also led inevitably to the murderous American Civil War and America imperialism overseas, and still does.

The original document

The original document

America fascinates any reasonable person who ponders the best way the peoples of this planet should arrange their affairs.

It is simultaneously the best and the worst of us, and the experiment always needs to be nurtured, both from within and without, tended, considered, and monitored. Appealing, not only to “the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions”, but to all peoples.

It is because the road to hell is paved with good intentions that we hold America to such high account. For lovers of democracy everywhere, it is the light on the hill. Nothing must ever be allowed to dim, obscure or extinguish that light.

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here.

We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Remains of Richard III

The royal remains. Now is the winter of our discontent made pretty bloody obvious for all to see. Getty.

A skeleton that lay undisturbed for 500 years and was found last year buried under a council car park in north England is that of reviled king Richard III, the last English king to die in battle.

The skeleton buried under a Leicester City Council car park was positively identified after five months of exhaustive research including DNA analysis and carbon dating – as well as research of centuries old historical records confirming conclusively the body was that of the king.

The poor old king – “A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!” – apparently didn’t go easy. He went down fighting – investigators from the University of Leicester revealed that the remains bore the marks of ten injuries inflicted shortly before his death. Researchers even know the weapon that was used to kill him – death was determined to have been with a blow to the base of the skull, consistent with a blow from a halberd consisting of an axe blade topped with a spike mounted on a long shaft. Ouch.

Yup, that's him. I'd know the old bastard anywhere.

Yup, that’s him. I’d know the old bastard anywhere.

Injuries to jaw and cheek after death were determined to have been “humiliation injuries” inflicted after death. Other wounds showed he had been stabbed in the back and the buttock, again after death and possibly as his body was being paraded, and concluded that his hands were tied when he was buried awkwardly in the pit below what was then a friary; no coffin or shroud or even clothes.

As a debate rages over what to now do with the 500-year-old king, it could literally unearth more buried skeletons with calls to now open up a sarcophagus at Westminster Abbey that supposedly contain the dead remains of his two child prince nephews.

With Richard’s DNA sequence information established, there is some interest to now test the bones of a set of children found in the Tower of London in 1674 which are said to have belonged to Richard’s two nephews whom he was supposed to have murdered to seize the crown.

Throughout history, Richard was painted as a murderous hunchback – thanks largely to Shakespeare’s portrayal of the king apparently at the behest of the Tudor kings who had earlier defeated Richard in the War of the Roses and wanted to discredit his memory – who killed his brother then his brother’s two sons.

The bones in the Tower were later moved into a white marble sarcophagus in Westminster Abbey with the inscription:

“These brothers being confined in the Tower of London and there stifled with pillows were privately and meanly buried by the order of their perfidious uncle Richard the Usurper”.

But various King Richard supporter societies claim the king did not kill his nephews and there was no proof the bones in Westminster Abbey were even those of the princes which history recorded were last seen in the Tower in 1483. DNA tests could show that and clear his name in history at least from this murder.

Indeed, historians now agree that Richard wasn’t by any means all bad – he established certain rights and freedoms which we would consider an important part of modern society today.

Richard was widely praised – and liked – for improving conditions in the north of England when he was in charge there before becoming King himself. In December 1483, Richard instituted what later became known as the Court of Requests, a court to which poor people who could not afford legal representation could apply for their grievances to be heard. He also introduced bail in January 1484, to protect suspected felons from imprisonment before trial and to protect their property from seizure during that time. He founded the College of Arms in 1484, he banned restrictions on the printing and sale of books, and he ordered the translation of the written Laws and Statutes from the traditional French into English. Not exactly the grasping baddie he is generally considered to be.

Basically, though, he was something of a stumbling, unlucky king. He only held the throne for a couple of years, during which he quite failed to conjoin enough of his noble supporters together to protect his reign, and he lost the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485, a defining moment in the civil War of the Roses between the Houses of York and Lancaster, despite being numerically superior to Henry Tudor, who duly went on to become Henry VII.

There is considerable evidence that key allies deserted him at the last moment. The traditional view of the cause of the King’s famous cries of “Treason!” before falling has been that during the battle Richard was abandoned by Baron Stanley (made Earl of Derby in October). Despite his apparent affiliation with Richard, Baron Stanley’s wife, Lady Margaret Beaufort, was Richard’s opponent, Henry Tudor’s, mother.

The switching of sides by the Stanleys severely depleted the strength of Richard’s army and had a material effect on the outcome of the battle. Also the death of John Howard, Duke of Norfolk, his close companion, appears to have had a demoralising effect on Richard and his men.

Perhaps in realisation of the implications of this, Richard then appears to have led a courageous impromptu cavalry charge deep into the enemy ranks in an attempt to end the battle quickly by striking at Henry Tudor himself. Accounts note that Richard fought bravely and ably during this manoeuvre, unhorsing Sir John Cheney, a well-known jousting champion, killing Henry’s standard bearer Sir William Brandon and coming within a sword’s length of Henry himself before being finally surrounded by Sir William Stanley’s men and killed.

The Burgundian chronicler Jean Molinet says that a Welshman struck the death-blow with a halberd while Richard’s horse was stuck in the marshy ground. It was said that the blows were so violent that the king’s helmet was driven into his skull. The contemporary Welsh poet Guto’r Glyn implies that the leading Welsh Lancastrian Rhys ap Thomas, or one of his men, killed the king, writing that he “killed the boar, shaved his head”.

The discovery in 2013 of King Richard’s body clearly suggests the king had lost his helmet. The skull showed that a blade had hacked away part of the rear of the skull.

The battle was famously chronicled by Shakespeare, including the famous line Richard was supposed to have yelled after he fell from his mount in the middle of the battleground: “a horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse” before he was killed.

The King was returned to Leicester tied to the pommel of his horse but then secretly buried in a small friary, to keep away from those who wanted to possibly destroy the body many suspected had murdered his brother and his two prince nephews to seize the throne. The friary was later levelled by the Tudor kings and lost in time.

A feud in England has now developed as to where King Richard should be buried. Possibilities include burying him at Westminster Abbey or Windsor Castle with the other kings; taking him back to York for burial; burying him at Leicester Cathedral, where he has been in its shadow for centuries; or a burial and grand ceremony at the Catholic Westminster Cathedral in London, because he was a Roman Catholic. It currently looks like Leicester Cathedral will win … and fair play, too. They have had a monument to the dead King in the cathedral for some years.

Lawrence Olivier as Richard III

History hasn’t been kind to Richard, especially since Larry Olivier made him one of the most detestable characters in cinema history. Shakespeare fashioned the knife, but Olivier delivered it perfectly. Al Pacino subsequently made he seem pretty unpleasant too.

Anyhow. Welcome back. Dickie.

The daily rate for a Leicester NCP car park is £18.50. Richard III has been there 192,649 days. He therefore owes £3,564,006.50 in parking fees. Presumably the crown can pay …

Meanwhile the Twittersphere has exploded with funny stuff. So far my favourite is one wag who opined: I promise I will buy any paper who runs the headline DICK HEAD FOUND IN CAR PARK. Gold.

(I am indebted to my old friend Peter Chegwyn for the maths and to News Ltd for the story, amongst others.)