Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Another 10%?

Of course, Elaine Byrne could just be having a laugh. Or All Fools' Day came early to the Irish Times:
A positive correlation exists between Catholicism and corruption. Political science literature and academic research suggests that the more Protestant the population, the less corrupt the country. Divergent views on sin and loyalty account for this corpulent assertion...

In [Daniel] Treisman’s 2000 cross national study, for example, the University of California professor contends that countries with a Protestant tradition, a history of British rule and a developed economy are less corrupt.

In his comparison between Ireland and Denmark, he suggests that if Ireland had an additional 5-10 per cent Protestant population, our corruption rating would be that of Denmark’s, which has consistently been in the top five least corrupt countries in the world since polling began.
There's not a great deal more flesh on that particular bone, but it is still worth the gnawing.

Malcolm has repeatedly gone on record about his admiration for some, repeat some aspects of the Anglo-Irish minority culture: most recently, he reckons, last September.

A cynic (again in the Irish Times) lately suggested "Anglo-Irish" was simply posh-speak for "a Prod on a horse". Well, there's an element of truth in that, and it's certainly the view that Willie Yeats would have taken -- more so in the last decade of his life when he mixed in some very peculiar circles.

On the other hand, the Anglo-Irish tradition gave nationalist Ireland the likes of William Molyneux, Henry Grattan, Thomas Davis and Charles Stewart Parnell. Come the Twentieth Century, we can add Con Gore-Booth, the two Erskine Childers, Douglas Hyde and even Mary Robinson of the Mayo Bourkes. A passing notion there, could the saintly Mary Robinson be related to the "pirate" Gráinne Ní Mháille?

Less swan-like in public splendour, perhaps, but paddling like hell under the water-line, many of Ireland's civil service have sprung, in part or in whole, from Irish Proddery. Ken Whittaker was the cerebellum behind the liberalising of Ireland in the 1960s. Martin Mansergh has been a guiding light for Fianna Fáil's northern initiative.

And let's not start counting the academics, now across five continents.

As for Elaine Byrne's recognition of the Irish Protestant, it comes a bit late. Before independence, 10% of the 26-counties' population were Protestant: by 1990 it was barely 3%. Yes, there has been an up-tick in recent years (all those second-homers, perhaps). But the damage was done.

And whom and what do we blame?

Easy: all of the religiosity, and chauvinist baggage that de Valera loaded into his 1937 Constitution, overthrowing the secular tone of the 1916 Declaration of Independence:
The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities for allits citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and all its parts, cherishing all of the children of the nation equally ...
If only. Sphere: Related Content

Monday, March 23, 2009

Florentine Malcolm

So, Malcolm, some days no see. Where've you been?

Still am. Here's a clue:

Oh, Il Duomo! What's it like?

Bloody hard work. Four hundred and eighty steps all the way to the cupola.

But why no covering note? No book-mark, no not-so-good and not-so-great, number 10? No message to your expectant public?

Because Saturday evening's game went down to the last second. Because the lads did the Slam, But, because, most of all I watched the game in the Irish Club, in Blackfriars. I sailed home on a euphoric Guinness cloud; and needed to be at the airport for a midday flight on Sunday.

OK, Malcolm: take care!

A più tardi.

Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Reality alert!

The Economist, due to hit the news-stalls, has an important article on the Irish economy. And, no, if you're a banker, a director, or a Big Ball in Cow-town, it's by no means negative.

After the inevitable throat-clearing, there's a bit of observation:
Ireland is having a deeper recession than any other euro area country. The economy probably shrank by 2.5% in 2008 and may contract by another 6.5% this year. Unemployment has jumped from 5% to 10.4%, a faster rise even than in America.
To Malcolm's surprise, the author of the piece largely discounts the banking crisis:
Irish banks may be free of the toxic securities that have poisoned rivals’ balance sheets, but they are blighted by souring property loans.
Huh? Nothing, but nothing, about the corrupt doings around the AIB, and all the way up to the national Central Bank? Oh, well:
C'est la vie, say the old folks,
Which goes to show you never can tell.
Then, the essential passing gloat:
It is easy now to dismiss the rise in living standards in the “Celtic Tiger” years as illusory, particularly as Ireland enjoyed house-price and credit booms that were big even by British standards. But ...
There's a "but"?
But to focus on the bursting of the housing bubble would be to miss the lasting gains that were made.
See what Malcolm means by "no means negative"?

The article segues into a piece of valid, if superficially superficial analysis:

Ireland’s expansion went through two phases. The first, led by exports and powered by foreign direct investment, ended roughly in 2002. Foreign companies, mainly American, provided bags of capital and know-how. Ireland offered in return a young, educated, English-speaking, low-cost workforce. State grants, a low corporate-tax rate and access to the EU’s single market made things sweeter.

Decode that, and, perhaps, it's not quite that superficial. It is saying that the original boost came with the coalitions of 1992 (FF and Labour) and 1994 (FG, Labour and DL): note, there, the leftist involvement.

Then Fianna Fáil, under the Teflon Taoiseach, went rightwards with the PeeDees; and cynical opportunism was the name of the game, or (as the Economist puts it, so diplomatically)
a period of growth on weaker foundations.
The aftermath is mentioned:
  • the deterioration of the current-account surplus;
  • the Big Cats became fat cats, and the young cubs demanded their share at the kill. In other words:
Inflation had picked up and unit labour costs (ie, pay adjusted for productivity) rose sharply relative to Ireland’s main trading partners.
Why is it the Economist never quite gets away from the rhetoric (circa 1912) of coal-owners facing an irate work-force demanding a minimum wage of 12/6d a week? It's all the fault of those greedy, grasping employees, in particular those in the public sector who shamefully lack the entrepreneurial spirit to go out and exploit others:
State workers grumbled that they had been left behind by the private sector. The review led to a hefty increase in pay, a symptom also of a generally lax approach to public finances.
Nota bene: fair wages = "lax approach"

Then the Economist swiftly glides over:
  • the budget deficit, a direct consequence of basing an economic policy on ever-rising house-prices, financed by ever-larger €-loans, dependent on ever-inflated salaries.
  • the consequent increase in the cost of borrowing, particularly because the Irish economy was out-of-kilter with the core Euro-zone.
  • the rash and unlimited guarantee, given last September, on bank deposits. The British Treasury's sense of Omertà means this is a blood-debt still to be exacted; and the Treasury is possessed of an elephantine memory.
  • the Irish 12.5% corporation tax. This is financed by the consumer with 21.5% VAT (see Malcolm's previous post), and maintained by the pensions levy. Leave that one to Frau Merkel: another score to be settled. Curiously (well, perhaps not), the Economist overlooks the health and welfare taxes, including those guaranteed to kill the elderly, and young girls not inoculated against cervical cancer. Ach! they're merely persiflage.
That noted, the Economist goes back into coal-owner mode:
Ireland seeks salvation in lower wages, even though its households are also heavily indebted. Whereas many countries want to lift their economies by fiscal expansion, Ireland is tightening its budget.
So wages must fall in nominal as well as real terms.
The Irish hope for a payoff in improved confidence among foreign investors and at home. Consumers are aware of the gap in the budget and know tax rises are coming, says Alan Barrett at ESRI, a research institute. Spending may even pick up if the uncertainty over taxes is ended.
But, hooray! The workers are compliant! They can be suborned!
... For all its ills, Ireland has form when it comes to retrenchment: it cut debt sharply in the late 1980s. If adjustment within the euro means wage cuts, that is a price Ireland seems ready to pay.

Ah, shucks!

It's the rich what gets the pleasure.
It's the poor what gets the pain.
Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Malcolm's Classy rumination

Blame it on Our American Cousin. Zach introduced a new dimension by commenting on a recent posting:
As to whether or not you're free. Well you still have a Monarch and an unelected upper house of parliament for what it's worth.
There are too many tomes on the British class "system" and its psycho-pathology. A few are just about readable. Most are ill-digested and barely literate, spewed out of the Ph.D. factories of minor universities. As it used to say, just above the toilet-roll holder in number 4, Trinity College, Dublin:
Sociology Degrees: please take one.
A French encounter

A couple of decades back, in a small town in the Hautes-Alpes, Malcolm was settling his hôtel bill.

Prominent, beside the desk was a framed photograph. Madame and her son (a local sporting hero) were with Valéry Giscard d'Estaing. To lighten the ceremonial swiping of the credit card, Malcolm felt he should acknowledge this image:
"Ah, Monsieur le Président!"
"Non!" was the decisive reply, "Monsieur le Président de la République française!"
Malcolm was suitably chastened.

What struck him was such a comment would be unthinkable in Britain:
"Ah, the Queen!
"No: Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland."
It simply doesn't work, does it?

The brain-death of monarchy

The Royals (even that term contains a dismissal) are fragments of the universal "celebrity" culture. The Diana Spencer moment, now fortunately past and gone except for an ever-shrinking delta-minus semi-moronic rump, is regarded as a disastrous experiment in populism. The only remaining issue there being whether
  • with a couple more brain-cells she could have been a plant, or
  • was she so dissimulating that she was truly a calculating minx.
The current batch of princelings, noted mainly for night-club frolics, are not likely to upset that pattern.

For many, Helen Mirren is The Queen as much as the original article. Indeed, she seems to have edged aside Betty Boothroyd as a potential republican Head of State. Idle chatter of that kind tells Malcolm that there is a perverse lingering wish for a bossy, even brassy female figure to be National Governess. As was Margaret Hilda Thatcher of spine-shuddering memory.

But what to do with the Lords?

Zach's other thrust is more pertinent.

The Blair reforms, stripping out the lumpen mass of hereditary peers, went a long way; but it remains an incomplete project.

There are arguments for the great and the good to be there. "Statesmen" (i.e. retired parliamentarians) deserve a place: after a due period of silence, their comments may have worth. On the whole they don't insult the captain or spit on the deck. Since Parliament makes the laws, senior Justices should be allowed their voices. Religious leaders, too: better in the Chamber, where they will be heard critically, than in their pulpits, where they have unbridled licence. Appointment, too, should not be totally dismissed: Roberts Winston and Skidelsky are unlikely to gain a place by other routes.

Then comes the issue of election. How? It obviously should not be an adjunct to a General Election: that would merely ensure that the Upper and Lower Chambers are of similar complexion. Should the Upper House be as (party) political as the Commons? The logic of that is fixed-term, proportional-representation, without constituency boundary; in effect, a list system: yet that, in turn, gives factional groups power to "fix" the lists.

Perhaps, though, the British system even as presently constituted is not as bad as possible alternatives.

We do not want a "Senate" on the US model (too powerful) or on the Irish model (too ineffectual). Seanad Éireann is a pale, subservient creature: it is a model of what happens when patronage imposes on its clients. Its "electorate" is a self-mockery. As for the US Senate: Blagojevich in Illinois, the curious doings around Caroline Kennedy in New York, and the Minnesota Franken/Coleman stand-off suggest not all is well. Then there are the senatorial families: the Rockefellers, the Gores, the Bushes, the Kennedys, whose continued eminence suggests inbred, nepotistic dynasties are not just a British phenomenon.

Gunning for the aristos

This all arose from a chance remark about guns and government.

Malcolm grew up, with the Holkham Estate to west and south. The Earl of Leicester would host shooting parties at Holkham, to which royalty would arrive. At one time, perhaps still, the record "bag" for a day's shooting was set at Holkham, in a hecatomb of partridges helped along by Phil the Greek.

It is all too easy to be cynical about such events: the pre-metric assessment of running a shoot was "up goes a guinea, bang goes sixpence, down comes half-a-crown". And if the upper-class were prepared to finance their sport so lavishly, others could benefit.

For every gent with his Purdeys there was a Fred Hooker. Fred could snaffle moonlit birds as easily as anything. Among the up-and-comers, young Barry "Salts" Davie had a deadly silent catapult and an overcoat with poacher pockets. As Malcolm recalls, the view from the lower orders was short in condemnation for the malefactors: excoriation was left to Tommy Cook on the bench of the local magistrates. The class system can be seen from both sides: the exploitation was not all the one way.

This symbiosis goes back beyond dynasties, beyond history. There is, underlying that class-system and petty-snobbery to which Americans like to point, a parallel sub-culture. The urban worker detests and ridicules his bosses: the rural one has evolved long-standing pre-industrial ways around the landlord. As so often, Kipling, recently risen to land-owner on the back of his personal talents (and later brother-in-law of the Prime Minister-to-be), caught the mood:
I have rights of chase and warren, as my dignity requires.
I can fish--but Hobden tickles. I can shoot--but Hobden wires.
I repair, but he reopens, certain gaps which, men allege,
Have been used by every Hobden since a Hobden swapped a hedge.

Shall I dog his morning progress o'er the track-betraying dew?
Demand his dinner-basket into which my pheasant flew?
Confiscate his evening faggot into which the conies ran,
And summons him to judgment? I would sooner summons Pan.

His dead are in the churchyard--thirty generations laid.
Their names went down in Domesday Book when Domesday Book was made.
And the passion and the piety and prowess of his line
Have seeded, rooted, fruited in some land the Law calls mine.
Kipling, of course, refused all titles, most honours, knighthood and ennoblement. Queen Victoria profoundly disapproved of him. To Malcolm, the biggest strike against this otherwise admirable and egalitarian man is not his alleged racism, nor his ambiguous imperialism: both are marks of the times, with which Pandit Nehru had no problem. No: it is his militant anti-Home Rule Unionism, sprung from a long friendship with Carson.

Little removed from that, the neatest definition of "Anglo-Irish" is "a Prod on a horse". Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

What would Mick or Dev
have thought of Róisín Dubh?

Malcolm has been "otherwise engaged" these last few days. It has been a complicated (and knackering) exercise in 21st-century, trans-Atlantic childcare.

In the course of which, this afternoon, he found himself at the Tower of London, that ultimate symbol of Anglo-Norman power and oppression.

He looked across the river and saw ...

She was moored dapper, trim and neat, in the Pool of London. She is grey, a little grim, and definitively a working vessel for the North Atlantic.

The Tricolour flew from her stern.

Last decade she was built in Devon, at Appledore, in Devon. Thence, in 1588, Sir Richard Grenville of Bideford took five ships to join the opposition to the Spanish Armada.

Today, her present partner vessel, looking in need of a good refit, and now an historical relic, was built in Belfast, launched by Mrs Neville Chamberlain on St Patrick's Day, 17 March 1938, and named HMS Belfast.

The two vessels, side by side, poignantly suggest a parallel irony.

She is Long Eirennach Róisín, out of Haulbowline Island.

It has taken a long while, and many (on both sides) will never accept more than a few bits of the whole truth. Ninety years on, two nations have come to accept each other, after nine centuries of animosity, exploitation and struggle.

Today the independent Irish navy is welcome to pass under Tower Bridge; and moor in the Thames.

It is a sign of maturity on both sides.

Malcolm felt quite emotional.

Happy St Patrick's Day. Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Life, liberty and the happiness of a warm gun?

Our local lunatic scene

A couple of years back Donal Blaney put up a piece on the web. It was the stereotypical juvenile rightist bleat, decrying a Rhode Island school principal's objection to a student choosing to be depicted for the college yearbook complete with body-amrour and weapon:
The humourless principal at Portsmouth High School, Robert Littlefield, has said that the flagrant wielding of a potentially dangerous weapon was a clear violation of school regulations...

What is truly dangerous are the attitudes and actions of men such as Patrick's headteacher, Robert Littlefield. Their zeal in curtailing the rights of otherwise law-abiding people highlights the very worst in the human condition.

It is not Patrick's High School graduation photo that should be removed from his yearbook - it is Robert Littlefield who should be removed from Portsmouth High School and attitudes such as his that should be removed from America's classrooms.
As we all expected, buried in the text is that unoriginal expression:
Surely this is yet another example of political correctness gone mad...
Blaney is, of course, the epitome of the self-regarding "libertarian" Young Tory who cites Enoch Powell on racial topics. Others speak nearly as well of him ("hypocrite, political whore and torture fan") as he does of himself.

Guilty by unfortunate association

The site which gave Blaney space was the alternative mouthpiece of Tim Montgomerie of ConservativeHome. Then it ran under the title of "Britain and America"; last year it was reborn as "America in the World", launched by David Cameron, and puffed by the Daily Telegraph and by saturnine Harry Phibbs (so no conflict of interest there) in the Daily Mail .

The whole libertarian lot seem fixated on guns:
... the argument about guns is still worth having, and the libertarian case about it is still worth putting, if only as part of spreading libertarianism generally. Just because gun laws aren't about to be relaxed, that doesn't mean they shouldn't be. Whatever the crime rate, relaxing the gun laws would lower it, and not to relax them is wrong, stupid and cruel, to the real victims of crime, namely the victims of crime.
And, as surely as darkest night follows bright, shining morning, the irksome Sean Gabb:
As the old saying goes: "God made men equal, and Smith and Wesson make damn sure it stays that way."

... can you seriously agree with the argument that you should be disarmed, and therefore powerless to defend yourself and your loved ones against the armed street trash who are beginning to turn this country upside down?
The wider world

Today, hearing from Winnenden and Alabama, we await to hear from the likes of these pundits why giving the disturbed guns, that they may shoot up the neighbourhood, and schools in particular, is a good thing.

So, in the meantime, let's have the scorecard for previous school and college shootings (only after painstaking effort, compiling this list, did Malcolm discover a more complete one of all shootings, fatal and less so, though not up-to-date):
  • Barry Loukaitis, Moses Lake, WA; 2 Feb 1996: 3 dead;
  • Thomas Hamilton, Dunblane, Scotland; 13 March 1996: 18 dead;
  • Evan Ramsey, Bethel, AK; 19 Feb 1997: 3 dead;
  • Mohammed Ahman al-Naziri, Sanna, Yemen; March 1997: 8 dead;
  • Luke Woodham, Pear, MS; 1 Oct 1997: 3 dead;
  • Michael Carneal, West Padukah, KY; 1 Dec 1997: 3 dead;
  • Johnson and Golden, Jonesboro, AK; 24 March 1998: 5 dead;
  • Andrew Wurst, Edinboro, PA; 24 April 1994: one dead;
  • Jacob Davis, Fayetteville, TN; 19 May 1998: one dead;
  • Kip Kinkel, Springfield, OR; 21 May 1998: 4 dead;
  • Harris and Klebold, Littleton, CO; 20 April 1999: 15 dead;
  • [Unknown], Taber, Alberta; 28 April, 1999: one dead;
  • Victor Cordova, Deming, NM; 19 Nov 1999: one dead;
  • An unnamed six-year-old, Flint, MI; Leap Year's Day 2000: one dead;
  • [Unknown], Branneberg, Germany; March 2000: one dead, one brain-dead;
  • Darell Ingram, Savannah, GA; 10 March 2000: two dead;
  • Nate Brazall, Lake Worth, FL; 26 May 2000: one dead;
  • [Unknown], Baltimore, MD; 17 January 2001: one dead;
  • [Unknown], Jan, Sweden, 18 Jan 2001: one dead;
  • Charles Williams, Santee, CA; 5 March 2001: two dead;
  • Donald Burt, Gary, IN; 30 March 2001: one dead;
  • Chris Buschbacher, Cary, MN; 12 Nov 2001: one dead (the gunman, after taking two hostages);
  • [Unkown], Freising, Germany; 19 Feb 2002; four dead;
  • Robert Steinhaeuser, Erfurt, Germany; 26 April 2002: 17 dead;
  • Dragoslav Petkovic, Vlasenica, Bosnia-Herzegovina; 29 April 2002: two dead;
  • Robert Flores, Tucson, AZ; 28 Oct 2002: four dead;
  • Four teenagers, New Orleans, LA; 14 April 2003: one dead;
  • James Sheets, Red Lion, PA; 24 April 2003: two dead;
  • John McLaughlin, Cold Spring, MN; 24 Sept 2003: two dead;
  • "Raphael", Carmen de Patagones, Argentina; 28 Sep 2004: three dead;
  • Jeff Weise, Red Lake, MN; 21 Mar 2005: 10 dead;
  • [Unknown], Jacksboro, TN; 8 Nov 2005: one dead;
  • Christopher Williams, Essex, VT; 24 Aug 2006: two dead;
  • Kimveer Gill, Montreal, Canada; 13 Sep 2006: two dead;
  • [Unknown], Bailey, CO; 27 Sep 2006; two dead;
  • [Unknown], Cazenovia, WI; 29 Sep 2006; one dead;
  • Charles Roberts, Nickel Mines, PA; 3 Oct 2006; six dead;
  • Cho Seung-Hui, Blacksburg, VA; 16 April 2007; 33 dead (the current US record);
  • Asa Coon, Cleveland, OH; 10 Oct 2007; one dead;
  • [Unknown], Tuusula, Finland; 7 Nov 2007; 9 dead;
  • [Unknown], Baton Rouge, LA; 8 Feb 2008; three dead;
  • Stephen Kazmierczak, DeKalb, IL; 14 Feb 2008; six dead;
  • [Unknown], Kauhajoki, Finland; 23 Sep 2008; ten dead;
  • [Unknown], Fort Lauderdale, FL; 12 Nov 2008; one dead.
To which we can now add:
  • Tim Kretschmer, Winnenden, Baden-Wurttenberg; 11 Mar 2009; at least sixteen.
Now, wait for it!

True libertarians, at least those who have graduated from effort of colouring-in their Margaret Thatcher and Ronnie Reagan biogs-for-teenies, will have their bedside Ayn Rand book-marked with at least a .38 LadySmith.

Expect a further outburst of their all-purpose solution: armed teachers. Sphere: Related Content

Monday, March 9, 2009

The not-so-good and not-so-great, number 9

[Here's another which Malcolm nearly overlooked. It has personal relevance to him, as he will explain.

It also goes on a bit: what seemed like a quick-and-easy posting developed unexpected dimensions.]


It's odd that the quality attributed world-wide to the Irish should derive from a word, An Bhlárna
in the native, which means "the plain".

The Blarney Stone is the other point of pilgrimage for so many visitors to Ireland, along with "Kelly's Book" (which itself provides a regular and considerable income for the Library of Trinity College, Dublin). The legends associated with that bit of masonry proliferate.

The fabulous Stone

The stone is assumed to have reached its elevated position when Cormac Laidir Mac Carthy rebuilt the Castle in the 1480s. There are at least three fables attached to the stone:
  • It was Jacob's Pillow, brought back from the Holy Land in one of the Crusades.
  • It is the other half of the Stone of Scone, a prezzie from the Bruce to the Mac Carthys for their support in sending Edward II hameward tae think agen.
  • Cormac Laidir rescued an old lady from a river. She was a witch; and rewarded him by pointing out the magic stone incorporated in his battlement.
Fifty-three years gone this Easter, Malcolm was given two books by Robert Gibbings: Lovely is the Lee (from 1945) and Sweet Cork of Thee (from 1951).

They were beautifully produced (by Dent): would that later additions to Malcolm's library had endured so well. In the former of those, Gibbings improves on the Cormac Laidir/witch story:
The power of the stone was first made known to Cormac the Strong, the builder of the castle, who, being a bit worried about a lawsuit in which, even in those early days, he had become embroiled, was wandering, moody, in the adjacent forest. There he met Cliodhna, the 'Queen of the Fairies'. "I'll tell you what it is," said she. Don't vex yourself any more. Go home to your bed," said she, "and lie down and sleep, and in the morning, at dawn, get up and go out, and right before you, facing you," she said, "you'll see a stone that has been brought from the banks of the Lee. Kiss it," said she, "kiss it, and you'll never want for words." Cormac did as he was told, though it was a cold and a wet morning when he had to rise out of his bed. And when he went before the judge the words poured out of him like the Shournagh itself in flood. Up to the top of the castle he carried that stone, and out under the battlement he put it, for fear another would reach it, and there it is to this day.
Cormac Laidir was the eighth Lord Muskerry, though
Seathrún Céitinn (in English: Geoffrey Keating), writing around 1632, traces generation-by-generation back through Heber the Fair, son of Milesius, all the way to Noah.

A Queenly neologism?

The sixteenth Lord Muskerry was Cormac Mac Dermot Mór Mac Carthy, whom Sir George Carew, Elizabeth I's president of Munster, tried to suborn. Blarney then stood at the limits of English power, making the Mac Cathys marcher lords, none too anxious to aggravate either side. Cormac Mac Dermot Mór found endless excuses not to hand over his stronghold that it be used as an English garrison. Carew reported these back to the Queen, who eventually lost patience, declaring "Blarney! Blarney! I will hear no more of this Blarney!"

Be that as it may, the OED does not recognise any use of the word "blarney" before a letter of Walter Scott, dated 26 September 1796.

The last of the Mac Carthys

Meanwhile, the Mac Carthy (raised to the Irish peerage as Viscount Muskerry in 1628) had been dispossessed by Cromwell:
A ball from the cannon of Lord Broghill, who in 1643 attacked and took the castle, struck and displaced this celebrated stone, but it has been subsequently secured in its position by means of a strong iron cramp.
As the Commonwealth collapsed, Charles Mac Carthy was, briefly, back at Blarney, now as Earl of Clancarty. For taking the wrong side in the Williamite wars, in 1691 the Clancartys were attainted, their lands and title forfeit. This gave rise to a further legend:
Blarney Lake, a pretty sheet of water, lies about a quarter of a mile from the castle... There is also a story generally current amongst the peasantry, that the last Earl of Clancarty who possessed Blarney, cast all his plate and treasures into a certain part of the lake, and that "three of the McCarthys inherit the secret of the place where they are deposited; any one of whom dying, communicates it to another of the family, and thus perpetuates the secret which is never to be revealed until a McCarthy be again Lord of Blarney."
The Blarney estate then passed through the hands of the Hollow Blade Sword Company of London, then rapidly to the Chief Justice of Ireland, Sir Richard Payne, who in turn sold it on to the Governor of Cork, Sir James Jeffereys.

Here, whatever the spelling of his surname, is a remarkable character, and family. In 1649 Colonel Jeffer(e)ys, in a midnight coup-de-main had seized Cork for Cromwell. Now his grandson appears on the local scene:
General Sir James Jeffreys won his title of knight banneret in the army of Charles XII., of Sweden, and the hand of a lady claiming alliance to the royal family. His son, the Honorable James Jeffreys, was afterwards envoy at the court of Sweden. A descendant of his married the sister of the Lord Chancellor Fitzgibbon, Earl of Clare. If we can believe the stories told of this lady, she must have inherited a large share of her brother's indomitable spirit. She obliged, or persuaded the Grand Jury of the county to build a bridge to ornament the castle, and when the water, which is subject to fixed laws, refused to run under her bridge, she applied to have the course of the river changed, but this the Grand Jury could or would not do.
Lady Jeffreys provided meat for a popular ballad, of which more in a later posting.

Arthur Young's appraisal

When Sir James's son, James St John Jeffer(e)ys, inherited the estate in 1740, he began a wholesale redevelopment. Arthur Young, in A Tour of Ireland, greatly approved of what was happening at Blarney:
Sept. 15th. [1776] To Blarney Castle, S Jefferys, Esq.; of whose great works in building a town at Blarney, I cannot give so particular an account as I wish to do; for I got there just as he and his family were on the point of setting out for France. I did not however let slip the time I had for making some enquiries, and found that in 1765, when Mr Jefferys began to build this town, it consisted only of two or three mud cabins; there are now ninety houses. He first established the linen manufactory, building a bleach mill, and houses for the weavers, etc. and letting them to manufacturers from Cork, who have been so successful in their works, as to find it necessary to have larger and more numerous edifices ... These several branches of the linen, employ 130 looms and above 300 hands.
Young goes on to note the other industries promoted by Jeffreys: stocking manufacture, a woollen mill, a leather mill, plating and a blade mill, and:
a large paper mill, which will be finished this year. He has been able to erect this multiplicity of mills, thirteen in all, by an uncommon command of water.
Blarney becomes a fashionable resort

Another of Jeffreys' improvements was observed by Young:
Mr Jeffreys, besides the above establishments, has very much improved Blarney Castle and its environs. He has formed an extensive ornamented ground, which is laid out with considerable taste.
An Italian landscaper, Garzoni, planted trees and created the Rock Garden. Other features were named: The Witches' Kitchen; the Wishing Steps. The result was very much in the current romantic taste; and fashionable visitors began to arrive at Blarney. Walter Scott was there in 1808. Maria Edgeworth came along in 1823. We need remember that, at this period, Cork was still the second city in the island: Belfast had yet to rise from the mud-banks of the Lagan.

By 1824 the antiquary Crofton Croker is writing in Researches in the South of Ireland that:
a stone in the highest part of the castle wall is pointed out to visitors which is supposed to give whoever kisses it the peculiar privilege of deviating from veracity with unblushing countenance whenever it might be convenient -- hence the well-known phrase of "Blarney".
Hello: surely, that can't be right! Not the gift of the gab, but "deviating from veracity".

Colthurst: a name deserving further research

In 1846 Blarney passed into the ownership of Sir George Colthurst, Bart. Conveniently, in 1849 the Dublin-Cork railway provided a station at Blarney (in 2010 it may happen again); and rail trippers could visit the Castle at half-price. Later still, a light railway added an alternative link to Cork City.

From there it was onwards-and-upwards. Blarney has continued to grow as a theme park. Today it attracts hundreds of thousands each year: a full third of all visitors to "heritage sites" in the area.

The Colthurst family are still the beneficial owners.

Of them and their activities, perhaps more anon.

And why has "Blarney"
personal relevance to Malcolm?

Well, one reason is the felicity of his diction, which so engages us here.

Then there was that curious interview.

Once upon a time, Malcolm was interviewed for a post in a London College. No appointment was made, and proceedings were, curiously and suddenly, aborted by the Chair of the interviewing panel. This personage (note gender not specified) was a local Councillor and a Tory MP with whom (in a far-different, non-professional, political context) Malcolm had "had words".

During the preliminaries, Malcolm enjoyed (indeed) a personal one-to-one with the College Principal. Across a narrow desk, Malcolm could observe the Principal making detailed notes. They were in Greek characters, but no Greek that Malcolm (university entrance exhibitions in Classics) could readily comprehend. Until realisation hit. The Principal was using Greek characters, transliterating plain English words. Much of the description Malcolm found quite flattering. The give-away had been that underlined word, which had at first puzzled Malcolm:
The interview concluded. The two, interviewer and interviewee rose. Malcolm offered a hand to shake. The Principal responded, warmly.

Malcolm then, knowingly, fired a Parthian shot, remarking on the benefits of a classical eduction.

Sphere: Related Content
A re-played hammer

Rewind to around the New Year of 1963, before the illusory Moment of Hope (here's to you, Harold!) and before the Great Loss of Faith (thank you, LBJ).

Imagine a young Malcolm (most things are possible if one really tries), in his cold-water Ballsbridge flat, gentling the stylus into the groove of a borrowed LP, which is being spun on a dodgy Dansette.

The disk is the eponymous Peter, Paul and Mary.

Then, when he was still -- if only just -- a "teenager", Malcolm needed not to be wholly embarrassed by those sleeve-notes:
... there seems to be something optimistic, something encouraging about this whole musical experience. Peter, Paul and Mary's first album is bright with enthusiasm. No gimmicks. There is just something GOOD about it all. Good in the sense of Virtue, that is. And the news that something this GOOD can be as popular as this is can fill you with a new kind of optimism. Maybe everything's going to be all right. Maybe mediocrity has had it. Maybe hysteria is on the way out. One thing for sure in any case: Honesty is back.
In reality, though, he knew he was being sold a commercial product.

PP&M were a confection by Albert Grossman: "a tall blonde (Mary Travers), a funny guy (Paul Stookey), and a good looking guy (Peter Yarrow)".

And yet ...

PP&M were earning their ticket. Notably, at the 1963 March on Washington for "jobs, justice and peace": an event consciously imitated during the recent Presidential Inauguration.

Today ...

Now Malcolm continues to rebuild his iTunes library following the aforementioned Great LaCie Terabyte Disaster -- a neat, elegant product, but it definitely doesn't bounce. So, this evening, just that album came up for reloading.

For the first time in many years, then, Malcolm heard it through, from beginning to end, with its curious admixture of nursery songs and stirring uplifts.

He realised why he was caught all those years ago: it probably came out of that -- now hackneyed -- If I Had a Hammer.

Stop there!

That is a song with a history.

Pete Seeger and Lee Hays (both of the Weavers) had put it together as a political piece around 1948-49, in support of the Progressive Party. The younger element may need a prompt here: the Progressive Party nominated former Vice-president Henry Wallace for the 1948 Presidential Election. Wallace had the support of most on the Left, including (tacitly) the American Communist Party and the New York-based American Labor Party. The main lump of the Progressive vote (all 2½% of the national vote) came from New York State.

The song was the cover-piece of the very first issue of Sing Out! magazine. It was in the repertoire of The Weavers. There is a YouTube clip in which Lee Hays remembers how the song became a mainstream standard:

Malcolm refuses to consider how much of that success may have derived from Mary Travers' thrashing hair and dominatrix expression. Sphere: Related Content

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Ladeez and gen'le-men ...

Twitter ye not!

For the second time in two days Malcolm has received an invitation to join this daft Twittering nonsense.

Let it be understood:

Malcolm does not Twitter.

His reasons were adequately explained by this last week's Doonesbury strip:

Sphere: Related Content

Friday, March 6, 2009

The not-so-good and not-so-great, number 8

Here's one Malcolm should have made earlier (which, conveniently, gets him off the hook identified in his previous posting).

The Bird Flanagan

This is, at Rialto on Dublin's South Circular Road, heading towards Dolphin's Barn, a more than decent pub.

The name originates from a Dublin character, Willie Flanagan, of whom the legends are endless. Willie was born in 1867, died in 1925, and spent the time between as a sporting gentleman, occasional farmer, but mainly living on his father's money.

The pub-sign tells of one of the Bird's japes.

He would buy a fowl in a street-market, and ask the stall-holder to leave the bird hanging.

Flanagan would then lurk, until a police constable was nearby. Then, inviting suspicion by all means possible, Flangan would skulk and sidle his way back to the stall, grab his fowl, and run off, inevitably pursued by constable. When Flanagan had the full attention of passers-by, he would allow himself to be collared, only to produce the duly-authorised receipt for ownership.

But that was not the root of the pseudonym.

There are many variants of this story. Malcolm believes the most credible to go like this:

In 1909 Flanagan attended a masquerade dressed as the Holy Ghost. His impiety offended the others present, who may have roughed him up a little. Flanagan then proceeded to lay an egg (a rugby ball) and depart at some speed.

Horses feature largely in stories of the Bird.

He is supposed to have ridden through the lobby of the Gresham Hotel, approached the bar, and asked for a drink. The barman apologised for being closed during Holy Hour (the statutory afternoon closure). The Bird replied: "It's not for me, you fool. It's for me horse." Once upon a time, if Malcolm's memory holds, the (over-priced and under-stocked) bar in the Gresham was also the Bird Flanagan.

The Bird was one of the founding members of the South County Dublin Harriers. When James E. Norton produced a history of the hunt, he included an anecdote from the 1920s. Sheila Meyers hunted a grey from the Bird's stable, which the Bird entered for the local point-to-point, with Sheila up. When she reached the saddling enclosure, she found the Bird's groom feeding the horse a strong egg-nog:
Eventually we started and I could not hold one end of the animal and kept finding myself in front. I swear he was a little inebriated as he kept falling on his knees when landing over a fence and the others came up with me. This went on for what seemed like hours until I found we were within sight of the winning post. I was still pulling for all I was worth when we passed the post - I had won!
Inevitably, the Bird makes an appearance in many of the anecdotes of early Twentieth-Century Dublin.

There is a short story by Oliver St.John Gogarty, The Bird Milligan (which was included in a Mercier Press anthology). The amended name is not an error on Gogarty's part: he left Ireland in haste after losing a libel action; and thereafter was over-careful.

Brian O'Nolan (a.k.a. Flann O'Brien and Myles na gCopaleen) referred to the Bird several times. Of these the best story is this, from a Cruiskeen Lawn column of 1962:
The Bird's heyday seems largely to have coincided with the reign of King Edward. It is said that when His Majesty, attending an important race meeting at the Curragh, strolled with Castle worthies to drop the flag at the starting post, he was approached there by the Bird and touched (successfully) for a fiver.
The Bird had a brother, Frank, always known as "The Pope". Perhaps we shall come to him, his wanderings and astounding range of acquaintance, later in this rambling sequence. Sphere: Related Content
The not-so-good and the not-so-great: an interruption

Malcolm, back from his Ulster peregrinations, intended the series of anecdotal exposées to continue, if not serially, at least regularly. After all, he's off again in a few days time. And these little gobbets are a doddle to produce.

Then he hit two obstacles.

One was the nature of the beast.

The next obvious posting would, alphabetically, bring him to close to B is for Blue. Normally, Malcolm could knock off a few hundred words on the topic of the Blueshirts without breaking sweat.

Yet, he felt there was need for something more than mere dismissive mockery. Perhaps such consideration should be procrastinated until O for O'Duffy or some later peg-to-hang-a-hat on.

He was reconsidering at some length, when the second obstacle was presented him.

This second obstacle was quite bizarre.

Friday of last week, having spent a peaceful night after the previous evening in the company of Milady Aramintha, la Châtelaine de Knocknamuckly, and despite the noisy construction-workers in the surrounding Scots Pines (for clue thereon, see above), Malcolm proceeded to clear his head with morning coffee in a oh-so-naice café. There were only two prints to hand: The Sun and The Irish News. So, a no-brainer: he chose the newspaper.

Deep in the bowels of the Irish News is an "On this day" column, one of those retrospectives inviting us to mock the afflicted of previous generations. This one was a lulu, all the way from 27th February 1940; so here it is in full:
That no further books written by war-mongers in the English language, which were insulting to the Chancellor of the German Reich [Herr Hitler] be allowed in the library, and that any such books on the shelves at present should be immediately removed, was a resolution debated for almost two hours by Galway County Library Committee on Saturday.

In the end, consideration of it was adjourned.

The proposer, Mr C McGuinness, national teacher, said Eire was a neutral country. Many books had been written by British scribblers at the dictation of war-mongers to be used as propaganda among Irish people.

The chairman, Mr E Corbett, seconded the proposal.

Senator Liam O Buachalla said that for the next 12 months the committee should purchase no books from England except on technical matters relating to agriculture and industry. They could use money saved in re-binding and getting out old Irish classics.

Mr Kelly said that if they were to cut out all English books, the books they have now would become stale.

Mr Cunningham said that it was not for the committee to dictate to people what they should read.

They should not deprive readers of their customary variety.

Senator O Buachalla: We have 75,000 volumes here and that is variety enough for anyone.
Malcolm was taken aback.

A distant memory of long-previous reading came back to him, inspired by the recognition of "Senator Liam Ó Buachalla". He was a staunch Fianna Fáil man. He was appointed to the Senate by de Valera in October 1939, and remained there until 1960. During the Fianna Fáil administrations of 1951-54 and 1957-1969, Ó Buachalla was the Government's placeman for Cathaoirleach (Seanad Speaker).

A bit of effort (and, yes, Googling) produced the piece Malcolm recollected. It was a Seanad debate of 27th May, 1941, when the Labour Party was attempting to revoke the emergency powers decree to impose wage controls (and, incidentally to make strike action and picketing illegal). It is a debate which has direct relevance to the present moment.

With a bit of effort, one can again appreciate Liam's wit and wisdom as he valiantly acts as Seán MacEntee's sole-and-solitary wingman. Who can fail to admire his sociological disquisition?:
In this country, as I suppose in every country, the community is made up of various classes. It is unfortunate that we have to use the word “classes,” but we have just got to use it because there is no better word available just yet. The community is made up, as we all know, of the capitalist, the middle-man, the rentier, the worker, the unemployed, and that unfortunate element of the community that has permanently to depend on the State and other institutions for whatever income it enjoys. Each of these classes is affected by this order, some of them affected directly, some of them indirectly, but each of the classes is affected by the order. The ultimate object envisaged is the well-being of the whole community. That is the ultimate object of the order. It does seem to puzzle some people, or we are led to believe it puzzles them, that the restricting of increases in incomes of both capitalists and workers in the present emergency is in their best interests, but such is the truth. I agree at once that the effect of the order is to restrict liberty, and the restriction of liberty is against our grain, but restriction of liberty in this instance may well enable us to enjoy later on a greater measure of economic and social freedom than might be possible should we be unwilling to forego some of our liberty to-day. At the same time, I, for one, am not convinced that the mass of the Irish people, workers and capitalists alike, feel that any great injustice is being perpetrated on them by this order. People interested in the problems of the workers, people studying social conditions, are quite well aware how often workers, admitting that they speak as individuals, declare their willingness to forego some of their liberty or some of their freedom if the foregoing of such freedom would lead to greater security. I admit that in these cases they speak as individuals but, nevertheless, taking a fair number of individuals as statistical samples, one is entitled to come to the conclusion that they represent the mind of the whole, and I am convinced that the workers, left to themselves, do not feel that their freedom is endangered in any way.
Ah yes! Just what could be predicted from a Professor of Economics of University College, Galway during those enlightened years.

Tosh it was when it was uttered.
Tosh it was when Malcolm read it forty-odd years back.
Tosh it remains.

So, last word to Milady Aramintha, la Châtelaine de Knocknamuckly:

It's wonderful the workings of a wheelbarrow.
Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Not quite an hour on EasyJet

Suddenly, if there's one album cover Malcolm wants to frame, and hang on the wall, it's Joni Mitchell's Clouds.

The notion started somewhere, climbing up, looking down on the County Down:
Rows and flows of angel hair,
And ice cream castles in the air,
And feather canyons everywhere
I've looked at clouds that way ...
When Malcolm reached home, plugged in, flicked through iTunes ....


It was one of the albums that went AWOL in the Great Hard Drive Collapse.

With a bit of searching: here it is. On the original 1969 vinyl. With a bit of forethought, it would have been close your eyes and enjoy, for about 38 minutes of that flight, voice and guitar only.

And before Clouds, there's:
  • a Presidential daughter (or is that Judy Collins's version?);
  • the Song About the Midway (that should be about right for over the Isle of Man);
  • Songs to Aging Children (is that Birmingham down there?);
  • and ... finally ... what you've been waiting for, Both Sides Now. Just right as you descend from the East Midlands into Essex and Stansted.
Whoops, Malcolm! Your memory mislaid the title.

The self-portrait from the album cover, when we and the world was young, hadn't left your mind at all. Had it? Sphere: Related Content
... but, first, the view from Knocknamuckly

For the last few weeks this blog has been prefaced by a word of wisdom taken from Pat Quinn, the 41st Governor of the Great State of Illinois. Working on the thesis that anyone must be a qualitative improvement on the despicable Blagojevich, Malcolm was glad to borrow from the Mighty Quinn.

Enter Milady Amarintha, la Châtelaine de Knocknamuckly.

It was towards the end of a very pleasant evening in Sax on the Street (yes, indeed, there is night-life and fine dining in Gilford). A fair quantum of both red and white had been consumed. Milady Aramintha took issue with Governor Quinn. She opined that, when it came to dusting, a peacock's feather was as nothing compared to the pluckings from a hen's arse.

Expect to hear more from Milady Aramintha.

And Knocknamuckly?

Take the Bleary Road, off the A50 Gilford Road, just past Portadown Golf Course, and it's clearly posted. When you pass the Church (above), you've probably gone too far.

Meanwhile, Malcolm seeks a new motto to head this blog. Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The not-so-good and not-so-great, number 7

Oh dear, where's the bloody man? He's still out in the wilds of Armagh. So we have to endure another of his effusions. On the topic of gore, and still with only letter B, we find:

Bloody O'Reilly

Alexander (later Alejandro) O'Reilly was born in Dublin in 1722. He became one of the Wild Geese, a mercenary in the service of Spain. He fought first in Italy, then with the Austrians. By the time of the Spanish invasion of Portugal, he had risen to the rank of Brigadier-General.

At the end of the Seven Years War, O'Reilly was in Cuba, to reclaim Havana surrendered by the British as part of the peace treaty. He reported at length on the deficiencies of the defences, which led to the construction of the fortifications at La Cabaña. By its completion in 1774 it was the most extensive defence site in the New World: it survives -- during the Cuban Revolution of 1959, La Cabaña was Che Guevara's headquarters, where he oversaw the trials and exceutions of many of the Batista regime.

Another of the arrangements in the settlement of the Seven Years War was the ceding of Louisiana from France to Spain. This was not welcomed by the French of Louisiana who went into revolt. in April 1769 O'Reilly was appointed Governor and Captain-General of the now-Spanish colony Louisiana while in Spain in April 1769, with orders to suppress the revolt in Louisiana, and establish good Spanish order.

Once in New Orleans, O'Reilly earned his nick-name by hanging five prominent French rebels (a sixth had died in captivity), and sending many more to gaol in La Cabaña. To this day, there's a plaque on the corner of Frenchmen Street, New Orleans, listing the victims and fingering O'Reilly.

That episode apart, O'Reilly was a more than competent colonial administrator. he reformed many of the practices in Louisiana, including the manumission of slaves, and allowing slaves to buy their liberty.

Back in Spain he was raised to the nobility as a Count, and continued to give his adopted country military service until his death, by now also a Field Marshal, in 1794. Sphere: Related Content

Monday, March 2, 2009

The not-so-good and the not-so-great, number 6

Malcolm is still cavorting in the County Armagh, so we have to be satisfied with his continued series of ... yawn! ... insights in the by-ways of Irish underlife. If we can keep awake.

Blind Billy and his bargain

Blind Billy was the Limerick hangman. He refused to undertake one particular job, the execution of a popular local, without a bonus of £50. The Sheriff of Limerick recognised he was cornered, so agreed to the deal.

Billy pocketed his fifty.

The job done, Billy called for his usual armed escort out of the city. The Sheriff would not provide the escort without a fee of £60. Billy had to pay up, or be made mincemeat by the Limerick mob (who were as notorious then as now).

Billy's reward was a slip jig tune named in his honour. That is if the tune doesn't come from Blind Billy O'Malley, the piper of Louisborough.

Hence, "Blind Billy's Bargain".

Malcolm recalls hearing the term used in connection with a Trinity College, Dublin, legend.

A student, doing his final examinations, summoned the supervisor. He had studied the College's ancient rubrics; and he was entitled to have a bottle of claret brought that he might refresh himself.

There was a lull, while pens around the examination continued to scribble furiously.

The door opened and one of the College porters entered, bearing a silver salver on which were a napkin, a crystal goblet, and a bottle of claret. This was duly laid before the now-grinning candidate Bachelor.

The examination concluded. Everyone streamed out of the Theatre building to surround the hero of the hour.

The same College servant shimmered across the cobbles, bearing a second salver with an official envelope.

This announced that the recipient had been fined twenty guineas for failing to observe the rubric that candidates must present themselves properly dressed, with sword and spurs. Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The not-so-good and not-so-great, number 5

Malcolm's pot-boiling mini-thread continues with:

Black Velvet

According to a well-nourished legend, the drink was created at Brooks's Club in London's Mayfair:
... on the day that Prince Albert, the Prince Consort, died, the wine steward announced with die solemnity that even the champagne would be in morning, and added a touch of Guinness.
Since it involves degrading two decent drinks, there is no sense in wasting quality fizz. Hence the illustration.

Apparently the original Iron Chancellor drank it by the bucketful: hence, in Germany it is known as a Bismarck. There, though, the additive is more likely to be a dunkel beer. The unwary need to be careful with dunkel beers, as Malcolm, on a recent visit to Germany, found: some of the brews (also, for good reason known as Kinderbier) are weak to alcohol-free. Not a nice discovery.

The Black North

Malcolm is currently in the County Armagh. He has learned from years of experience to button his lip on fractious topics, which even include the name of the place. Any of the following can cause offence to one of other community:
  • Ulster (which has properly nine counties),
  • the Province (ditto),
  • North of Ireland (the northernmost point on the Irish mainland is Malin Head, which is in Donegal, which is in the "South": loyalists havew therefore decided that the northernmost point is Rathlin Island, which is in the North);
  • the Six Counties (this is numerically correct, as is "the twenty-six counties": since these seem to be the preferred term for Sinn Féin, it has to be used with care and consideration);
  • the occupied Six Counties (as the previous, but even more so);
  • British occupied Ireland (as above, but now you're really cruisin' for a bruisin');
  • "Norn Iron", the jokey phonetic version which seems to have originated from the football team;
  • The Black North.
This last was the preferred term (and apparently still is) used by Dubliners. Once upon a time, the only reason Dublin people ventured north was in search of contraceptives, then banned in the Republic (and so a target of the customs officials). When that difficulty was solved by the liberalisation of being in the EEC, there was no motivation to head through bandit country (for which see below).

Now, of course, with the differential caused by the Republic's excessive VAT rate, and the relative weakness of sterling, Newry and the other border towns are a desirable place of resort.

So, why is the North "black"? And why in Ireland is the term "black bastard" totally non-racist?

Malcolm has heard various suggestions:
  • Belfast and the Lagan valley were industrialised to an extent not seen further south. That was the version that Malcolm assumed for many years.
  • It somehow refers back to the Black Oath. Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford, was Charles I's Lord Deputy in Ireland in the 1630s. After 1638, Strafford enforced on the Ulster-Scots planters a "Black Oath", requiring them to swear loyalty to the King, and renounce the Scottish covenanters. That sounds unlikely; but memories are long in Ireland.
  • The "Black Men" in Northern Ireland (and elsewhere) are members of the Royal Black Preceptory or The Imperial Grand Black Chapter Of The British Commonwealth. They is seen as the elite of Orangeism; with annual parades on Black Saturday (the last Saturday in August, which marks the end of the parade season).

Here, at least, one pays one's money and takes one's choice.

Sphere: Related Content
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