Remembering Forgotten Histories

The Fisk Jubilee Singers, 1875: B.W. Thomas, Julia Jackson, Maggie L. Porter, Ella Sheppard, F.J. Loudin, H.D. Alexander, Georgia Gordon, Jennie Jackson, America W. Robinson, Thomas Rutling

Current events often inspire an itch in me to go back to history. Given the global situation, this means going through my own library, or diving into the internet for digitised offerings.

One such gem is The Singing Campaign for Ten Thousand Pounds by Gustavus D. Pike. This 1875 book covered the journey of the Fisk Jubilee Singers, a choir of former slaves who toured the world to fundraise for education for freedmen and other black Americans:

And yet again, I found myself surprised that Scotland – Gourock itself – plays a tiny role in this amazing story.

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The Streets Where We Live

In case it wasn’t obvious from recent posts (and ones not so recent), I wholeheartedly support the movement which has led to protests against systemic injustices around the world in the past few days. That it should be even necessary to state this is purely because too many people are either conditional in their support, or outright silent, & I didn’t want to leave any ambiguity on my part. I value the lives & wellbeing of my BAME relatives, friends, colleagues, and fellow people, than I do “accommodating” or “keeping the peace” with people who disagree.

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Condemning a Murderous Arsonist for Jaywalking

One of Cummings’s Vote Leave fraternity said: “We need him. We took three years to get the gang in there. We can’t throw that away now.” When one of his acolytes was asked what would happen if Cummings shot someone dead in the street, the reply came: “It would depend whether anyone saw him do it.”

The Times

You may have noticed a dearth of posts lately. This is because every time I tried to write this one, I had to stop before I defenestrated my computer.

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Blazoned Across The Stars: International Women’s Day 2020

Grannies are formidable figures in Scottish culture, hence why this 4,000 year old megalith is affectionately titled “Granny Kempock.”

Men have sat at the feet of women down the ages and our civilization, bad or good, we owe to the influence of women.
Robert E. Howard, letter to Harold Preece, December 1928

I watch Suffragette back when it came out, knowing it was going to be rather difficult to get through. I’m not good with historical dramas which centre around oppression and unfairness: I keep wanting to leap into the screen and sort everything out. Because in cinema, that’s how things work: charismatic individuals with right on their side just get things done with rousing speeches or acts of defiance. It’s why heroes like Zorro and Superman are so popular – the will and the determination to change things for the better with the strength & ability to make those changes. The strong should use their strengths to carry, not to crush – but it has been bred into us to suffer some tyranny for some security.

I still profess to having a childlike view of such things. I don’t like it when the strong use their power to keep those weaker than them down. But worse, to me, are those who just stand by and let it happen – because I know there have been times when I was one of those bystanders. When women were beaten by policemen with truncheons, sympathetic men and women did nothing. When women are imprisoned, their husbands are ashamed to pay their bail. When women go back to work, they are disciplined – by their employers, or their husbands – for their insubordination. That was at best. At worse, they were complicit in the social exclusion that the state fostered against the agents of change. Alienating. Shaming. The violence against their bodies is bad enough, but the violence done to their minds and souls is what truly cuts.

And we, as a species, are still at it. For all we’ve made strides in many nations, there are still too many where women and girls are forbidden from basic freedoms, forced into “marriage” (how anyone can define such a union as marriage is beyond me), where abhorrent treatment is a fact of life. Being part of a global community carries responsibilities – otherwise, it is a community without collective consequences. All throughout history, women made their mark, from Sappho and Elpinice to Aspasias of Athens and Thargelia of Miletus: and this is no less true in Scotland, from the Caledonian Period to the Middle Ages, on through to the present leader of our nation. Even my own little hometown of Gourock can boast women writers, artists, politicians, journalists, and war heroines. – to say nothing of my mammy, my sister, my niece, my granny, my aunties and great-aunties and cousins, and my many brilliant female friends who are such an inspiration to me.

The least I could do is be as brave as they are.

Woman have always been the inspiration of men, and just as there are thousands of unknown great ones among men, there have been countless women whose names have never been blazoned across the stars, but who have inspired men on to glory.
– Robert E. Howard

 

Wretched Things

We men are wretched things, and the gods, who have no cares themselves, have woven sorrow into the very pattern of our lives.
– Achilles, The Iliad

For whatever reason, the people behind the theft of our democracy wanted us all to share, comment, & get very worked up about this video, from a TV programme that came out seven years ago. That this should be amplified so widely now rather than any point in the last seven years immediately puts me on edge.

I’m not a classical scholar by any means: my use of a Latin quotation from an Ancient Roman source in this site’s header is merely because I prefer, when possible, to use the original source – one not obscured by the unavoidable bias of translation. I’m deeply suspicious of people who overuse (or improperly use) certain words & phrases from dead languages, which you’d think would put me at odds with my great appreciation for history & classical scholarship. As expected, there was a clamouring of “he’s rambling,” “gibberish,” “terrible pronunciation,” and whatnot, while others responded with “actually not bad,” “brilliant,” “didn’t understand a word of it but it was highly entertaining.” For the most part, to my immense frustration, the vast majority of comments on either side were deeply unhelpful – mostly pronouncements of credentials (“I’m an ancient Greek scholar & what he said was nonsense/flawless”) without anyone providing something that would be useful – like, say, providing the bit of the Illiad he was speaking, saying why it was nonsense/flawless, old-fashioned stuff like evidence, you know. You’re just expected to believe them because they said so, rather than because they prove their case forensically. That it was both sides doing this shows why we’re in this mess.

I find the whole episode highly instructive on many levels.

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Revolutions with Flowers & Song

Depending on who you ask, between 20,000 & 200,000 marchers turned up for yesterday’s big Edinburgh party. If anti-independence advocates aren’t immediately going for the lowest estimate, they use the curious logic that “only” 3.7% of a nation’s entire population turning out for a march is somehow a mark against support for Scottish Independence.

So I thought I’d have a look at other famous marches from history. While Mr Golden might think they also show a lack of enthusiasm for their causes (not least because the majority of those marches were against his party), I’ll let readers make up their own minds.

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The War Among The Vampires

He is in great fear, not knowing what mighty one may suddenly appear, wielding the Ring, and assailing him with war, seeking to cast him down and take his place. That we should wish to cast him down and have no one in his place is not a thought that occurs to his mind. That we should try to destroy the Ring itself has not yet entered into his darkest dream.
The Lord of the Rings, Book I, Chapter V, “The White Rider”

A while back I speculated that the EU Referendum was being used as a proxy war between two different factions within The Establishment.

On one side, you had the Nativists: these are people who have – or at least believe they have – genuine pride and concern for the United Kingdom, a belief in their nation, and a willingness to put party-politics aside for what they perceive as the greater good. Despite their selfishness & arrogance, for whatever reason, they really do care about the UK’s international reputation, its territorial integrity, and its wealth. This is exemplified by the likes of David Cameron, Theresa May, John Major, and other pro-EU figures in the UK Government Party.

On the other side, you had the Conmen. These people might talk a big talk about the United Kingdom and Great Britain, or even let the mask slip & talk about England – but in truth, it’s all lip service to their voting base. They don’t care about the UK, its people, its borders, or even its wealth, even in a nominal sense: all they care about is themselves and their own coffers. This is clear to see in the likes of Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Nigel Farage, and all the other squillionaires who look set to make themselves even more rich in the event of the UK leaving the EU without a deal.

So what does this mean for Scottish Independence? I have a bold theory.

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Of Sma’ Fowk, and A’ Fowk: Robert the Bruce

A common criticism of historical fiction, particularly historical cinema, is its focus on the Great Men and Women of history: the kings and queens, princes and princesses, lords and ladies, emperors and empresses. Stories about the common people seemed – rightly or wrongly – to be rarer than sagas about royal dynasties, mighty conquerors, and cruel tyrants. I’ve seen more than a few criticisms of Outlaw King which lament a question they never found the answer to: what were the common people fighting for?

That such a question is even asked shows the importance of cultural representation of this period in Scottish history.

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World of Fools

“It is sometimes the height of wisdom to feign stupidity.”
– Cato

Most of Scottish social media is abuzz with that Jeremy Vine thing. But there’s another Jeremy Vine thing which I’d like to share, because I think it’s very illustrative as to the tack the UK is taking us.

(If you haven’t read Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series – at least the original trilogy – and I highly recommend that you do, then consider yourself warned. I’m not generally bothered by spoilers, but others are, and this article discusses a really awesome twist).

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Louie

It is with a heavy heart that we have to announce the passing of ‘Big’ Louie Pastore. A loving husband, dad, grandad, brother, son, brother-in-law and great friend to many.

Louie passed away at Ardgowan Hospice this morning surrounded by his family.

His memory will live on through his photographs and his contributions to Inverclyde’s arts and music scene.

His family would like to thank all the staff at Ardgowan Hospice for all their hard work in looking after Louie, and we would also like to thank everyone for their kind words and condolences.

“𝐼 π‘‘π‘œπ‘›’𝑑 π‘˜π‘›π‘œπ‘€ π‘€β„Žπ‘’π‘Ÿπ‘’ 𝐼’π‘š π‘”π‘œπ‘–π‘›π‘” π‘“π‘Ÿπ‘œπ‘š β„Žπ‘’π‘Ÿπ‘’, 𝑏𝑒𝑑 𝐼 π‘π‘Ÿπ‘œπ‘šπ‘–π‘ π‘’ 𝑖𝑑 π‘€π‘œπ‘›’𝑑 𝑏𝑒 π‘π‘œπ‘Ÿπ‘–π‘›π‘”.” (David Bowie)

Louie Pastore
Rest in peace
1962-2019

Louie Pastore was a very close friend to the family, especially my mother and father, who knew him for most of their lives. He was someone I wish I got to know better, because he shared a lot of interests, hobbies, and causes with me. We graduated from the same university course, where he went on to do teaching. He played music at the Spinnaker; he adventured all around Inverclyde looking for ancient artifacts and taking wonderful photographs; he contributed so much to the local community, through projects like Heid ‘o the Hill and Dark Side o’ the Clyde.

Louie was a big reason I became so invested in local history. I always had a great love and appreciation for Scottish cultural heritage, but Louie knew about the Roman remains at Lurg Moor, the prehistoric rock carvings at what is now Gourock Golf Course, and anything and everything archaeological in Inverclyde.

A great deal of the work I do, from occasional posts on this blog about local history & lives, to Gourock Heritage & Arts, is thanks to his shining example.

A man like Louie lived for his family, his tribe, his local community. I hope we can keep his spirit going.