Based in London; Formerly of New York, Buenos Aires, Fife, and the Western Cape. Saoránach d'Éirinn.
A writer, blogger, historian, and web designer born in New York, educated in Argentina, Scotland, and South Africa, and now based in London. read more

The Steps of the Throne

Who may sit on the steps of the throne in the House of Lords?

Much was made of the Prime Minister’s decision to sit in the House of Lords when they were going through stages of the bill to invoke Article 50 last year. Theresa May had the right to sit on the steps of the throne in the Lords chamber by virtue of being sworn to the Privy Council, as all holders of the four Great Offices of State are (and usually their opposition Shadows as well).

But who else is granted the privilege of lodging their posterior in such a prominent locale?

The Companion to the Standing Orders and Guide to the Proceedings of the House of Lords provides some guidance:

Steps of the Throne

1.59 The following may sit on the steps of the Throne:

· members of the House of Lords in receipt of a writ of summons, including those who have not taken their seat or the oath and those who have leave of absence;

· members of the House of Lords who are disqualified from sitting or voting in the House as Members of the European Parliament or as holders of disqualifying judicial office;

· hereditary peers who were formerly members of the House and who were excluded from the House by the House of Lords Act 1999;

· the eldest child (which includes an adopted child) of a member of the House (or the eldest son where the right was exercised before 27 March 2000);

· peers of Ireland;

· diocesan bishops of the Church of England who do not yet have seats in the House of Lords;

· retired bishops who have had seats in the House of Lords;

· Privy Counsellors;

· Clerk of the Crown in Chancery;

· Black Rod and his Deputy;

· the Dean of Westminster.

February 9, 2018 3:45 pm | Link | No Comments »

Pretoria Philadelphia

Andries Pretorius grew up on his father’s farm near Graaf-Reinet in the Cape of Good Hope, but the Great Trek took him (and many other Boers) into the South African interior. Pretorius’s victory, against all odds, over Dingane’s Zulu forces at Blood River in 1838 was to be commemorated from that day forevermore by Afrikaner piety as Geloftedag — the Day of the Vow. When the South African Republic (ZAR) was established in 1852 the capital was Potchefstroom, but Andries’s son Marthinus founded the city of Pretoria Philadelphia in 1855 to be the new capital of the Transvaal.

The four colonies at the end of the continent were conjoined in 1910 as the Union of South Africa, with Pretoria (as it was soon shortened to) named the seat of the executive and thus the nation’s capital. The parliament met in Cape Town and the highest courts in Bloemfontein so that, in some sense, the new nation had three capitals — administrative, legislative, and judicial. As the seat of the visible sovereignty of the realm, the Governor-General, as well as the Prime Minister’s administration and cabinet, however, it was Pretoria that held precedence.

We’ve already examined Kerkplein — Church Square — at the heart of the city, but the rest of the capital is worth exploring further. (more…)

February 6, 2018 2:36 pm | Link | 1 Comment »

Supermac and the Sarduana

Macmillan’s Attitude to Class and Race in the Late Empire


Left: Harold Macmillan touring Africa in 1960; Right: Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sarduana of Sokoto.

Staying over with some Kenyan friends in Wiltshire the other day, the old observation came up that, after the war, the officers settled in Kenya while the sergeants went to Rhodesia. While some of the leading lights of UDI had, in fact, been officers — Ian Smith an obvious case — it’s interesting to note that most of them came from humble backgrounds.

“Smithie” was born well-off in Rhodesia but his father had been a butcher’s son who went out to Africa and made good. Clifford Dupont, the first president of the Rhodesian republic, was born in London of poor East End Huguenot stock. His father had done well in the rag trade and got his son to Cambridge; Clifford became an artillery officer before emigrating to Africa.

Rhodesian Prime Minister Roy Welensky’s father was a Russian Jewish horse smuggler who married a ninth-generation Afrikaner. Roy was the couple’s thirteenth son, and left school at 14 to work on the railways and found success through the trade union movement.

Harold Macmillan, meanwhile, was a Guards officer and Old Etonian who had studied at Oxford. His famous ‘Wind of Change’ speech was just part of the British prime minister’s grand tour of Africa. “Supermac” started in Nigeria, where — unlike in some other parts of the continent — much of the native aristocracy had been preserved and coopted throughout colonial rule.

Proving Orwell’s observation that the English are the most class-ridden nation on earth, the PM felt comfortable amongst black African patricians in a way he couldn’t amongst members of the ruling white African elite from humble backgrounds.

In one of the ICBH’s oral history group discussions, Perry Worsthorne relates:

Somebody at some point has to mention, in any discussion of British politics, snobbery and class. I remember travelling and reporting on the ‘Wind of Change’ speech. We went to stay on the last bit, just before going on to Salisbury, was it the Sardauna of Sokoto who was he the premier of the Northern Nigerian region. Macmillan talked to us after he had seen him, he was flying on to Welensky the next day.

Macmillan used to have a sundowner with the correspondents covering his trip, and over whisky and sodas he told us how much more at home he felt with the Sardauna, who reminded him of the Duke of Argyll – ‘a kind of black highland chieftain’ – than he would feel in Salisbury as the guest of a former railwayman, Sir Roy Welensky. Snobbery, pure snobbery.

The British metropole was always ready to make racial distinctions and discriminate accordingly, yet it still tended to look upon outright racism with an air of disdain, as something slightly unsporting (or worse: foreign).

In the imperial periphery, racial attitudes amongst whites often differed greatly from Britain. This was most obviously so in South Africa, which for all intents and purposes embarked upon a radical revolutionary rejection of the British model of governance from 1948 with the implementation of apartheid. Rhodesia, needless to say, was another exception, if arguably more mild. “How different it would all have been,” Worsthorne somewhat patronisingly wondered, “if Ian Smith had been a gentleman.”

Meanwhile Nigeria’s Sir Ahmadu Bello — the Sarduana of Sokoto — was a statesman of cautious action, and his refusal to become Nigerian prime minister upon independence (he preferred sticking to his existing role as the powerful premier of the northern province) sadly deprived the federal state of the wisdom and experience which may have prevented its later descent into disarray. He was murdered by Major Nzeogwu during the 1966 coup d’état.

Differences of race or class aside, it’s telling that both the white low-born railwayman Welensky and the black patrician Bello ended up as knights of the realm.

Sir Roy Welensky with Harold Macmillan
January 30, 2018 2:30 pm | Link | 5 Comments »

Lionel Smit

Suid-Afrikaanse portretskilder

Ek’s te midde van ’n portret geverf te word deur ’n skilder (’n prettige en boeiende proses) en dit laat my oor vandag se portretkuns dink. Figuurlike beelde is altyd met menigte gewild maar in die ryk van die kunswêreld is dit anders: Abstrakte kuns is nog steeds koning. Modes opsy, die wens vir die menslike vorm — die begeerte vir mekaar — is nog ewig.

Een van die mees geskoolde portretskilders vandag is die Pretoriaanse kunstenaar Lionel Smit (geb. 1982).

’n Skilder en beeldhouer, Mnr Smit woon en werk in Kaapstad en is die wenner van ’n ministeriële toekenning vir bydrae tot visuele kuns van die Wes-Kaapse regering. Sy werk is reeds ingesluit in die visuele kunste eksamen vir die Nasionale Senior Sertifikaat. Nie sleg vir ’n kêrel in sy dertigerjare!

Smit se skilderye herriner my aan die werk van die Engelse skilder Catherine Goodman. Hier is net sommige van sy portrette.


Obscura #3 2015; oil on canvas, 100 x 100 cm


Untitled #2 2014; etching on Zerkall intaglio, 76 x 66 cm


Isolate 2016; oil on Belgian linen, 230 x 170 cm


Boy with black 2010; oil on canvas, 80 x 80 cm


Exposure 2013; oil on Belgian linen, 150 x 120 cm


Singular Formation #4 2016; oil on linen, 190 x 190 cm


Obscura #4 2015; oil on canvas, 100 x 100 cm


Siren Triptych #2 2013; oil on Belgian linen, 190 x 190 cm


Transparent Behaviour ; oil on linen, 120 x 120 cm

Yves submerged 2010; oil on canvas 80 x 80 cm

Met spesiale dank aan Mnr J Verster
January 11, 2018 12:25 pm | Link | 2 Comments »

St Paul’s Survives

Crossing the Thames as I walked home from the pub last night, I looked down the river and saw the sturdy dome of St Paul’s standing out, illuminated in the winter night.

As it happens, it was exactly seventy-seven years ago last night — on the 29th of December 1940 — that the iconic photograph often called ‘St Paul’s Survives’ (above) was captured.

Hopeful as that sight must have been, it was a pretty grim time. But four and a half years later (below) the cathedral was illuminated not by the lights of enemy firebombs but by great searchlights forming a massive ‘V’ in the sky: it was 8 May 1945 — Victory in Europe.

Another year gone. We’ve survived.

December 30, 2017 3:45 pm | Link | No Comments »

Warwick Street Church

Over in Soho there is a curious little church with a fascinating history. The parish of Our Lady of the Assumption & St Gregory in Warwick Street started out as the house chapel for the Portuguese embassy in Golden Square, later occupied by the Bavarian embassy.

In recent years the Archdiocese of Westminster has placed the church in the care of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, and they have put new life into the strong musical tradition of the parish.

As chance would have, in my capacity as a professional web designer I was commissioned to design a new website for the parish.

You can view the new Warwick Street website here, and read a little more about its interesting history and architecture.

December 22, 2017 2:19 pm | Link | No Comments »

“Events did not choose the terrorists; powerful white people did.”

Helen Andrews on Zimbabwe


Robert Mugabe leading Ian Smith into the Zimbabwean parliament, 1980.

It is rare to find journalism as informed and insightful as this piece on Zimbabwe by Helen Andrews in National Review. In the aftermath of Mugabe’s clumsy downfall and his succession by a powerful apparatchik and experienced political operator, Helen explores the Rhodesian crisis and attempts to answer the question: could it really have gone any other way?

Any idea that liberal reform on the part of the Rhodesian state could have saved it is a non-starter, because the anti-imperialists were implacable and — I do not know a gentle way to put this — they were quite happy to lie. I do not mean just the professional liars of the Soviet propaganda shop, or the pundits who lazily referred to the Rhodesian system as “apartheid,” or the guerrillas who told Shona villagers that ZANU had successfully dynamited the Kariba Dam, or the foreign journalist who scattered candy around a garbage bin and captioned the resulting photo “Starving children searching for food in Salisbury.” Ralph Bunche had a doctorate from Harvard, a Nobel Peace Prize, and a co-author credit on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and when it came to imperialism, he lied.

“Colonial authorities like the noted Englishman, Lord Lugard, doubt that the African race, whether in Africa or America, can develop capability for self-government.” When I first read that in Bunche’s 1936 pamphlet “A World View of Race,” I felt a lurking suspicion that I had read a sentence of Lord Lugard’s beginning with the very words “The method of their progress toward self-government lies…” I had. His next words are “along the same path as that of Europeans.” Even making allowances for CTRL-F’s not having been invented yet, Bunche’s remark is plain slander. With Harvard Ph.D.s pulling stunts like this, it is hard to summon much indignation at a garden-variety diplomatic lie like the U.N. claim, by which sanctions were justified, that Rhodesia had committed an act of aggression by maintaining its status quo.

She does go a little easy on Smith, who despite his many strengths was just as willing to play fast and easy with the truth. (He was a politician, after all.) But then as we are so used to hearing that Smithie was a little Hitler it’s a welcome restorative.

When I moved to South Africa, I did so at least in part because I wanted to see it before it became “the next Zimbabwe”. Having come back, I was impressed by the relative robustness of many of its institutions, and the certain robustness of many of its people. Rather than a Zimbabwe-style collapse, South Africa seemed destined for a slow, ungainly descent into perpetual malaise.

The recent ascent of Cyril Ramaphosa – who on behalf of the ANC ran rings round the NP negotiators during the transition talks of the early ’90s – gives hope to many. I’m too cautious to be optimistic, but Mr Ramaphosa is clever, intelligent, skilful, and more likelier to keep the unions on side.

Is this a turning point for Southern Africa? Who knows. Ex Africa semper aliquid novi.
December 21, 2017 3:00 pm | Link | No Comments »

The McGillycuddy of the Reeks

How lovely to see a member of the Gaelic nobility – in this case, the McGillycuddy of the Reeks – having a letter printed in the newspaper (Daily Telegraph, Letters, Wednesday 20 December 2017).

His title is somehow the most fun of all the Chiefs of the Names, though not all bearers of the chiefdom have found it amusing. In the early years of the BBC, the ‘Green Book’ instructing comedy producers what they could and could not get away with contained the instruction ‘Do not mention the McGillycuddy of the Reeks or make jokes about his name’. Clearly a protestation had been made.

Looking at the map of Kerry on my kitchen wall, the eye often drifts to McGillycuddy’s Reeks themselves, the “black stacks” amongst which can be found Corrán Tuathail, Ireland’s tallest mountain.

December 20, 2017 2:59 pm | Link | 2 Comments »

Profiel

Hanneke Benadé, Profiel
2012; etching, 7.8 in. x 11 in.

via Warren Editions

December 12, 2017 11:55 am | Link | No Comments »

Physical Energy

I came across it by surprise one day, walking through the park. It was almost eerie — all the more so for being unexpected. George Frederic Watts’s sculpture “Physical Energy” was well known to me when I lived in South Africa as it graces the Rhodes Memorial in Cape Town — a rough Greek temple staring out northwards into the vast continent of Africa, as Rhodes himself liked to do.

Unknown to me, another cast of the statue was made and given to the British government, which placed it in Kensington Gardens. It was this copy I stumbled upon while traversing the park to Lily H’s drinks party in the garden of Leinster Square.

It is one of the most aptly named sculptures I can think of, as there is a raw brutish physicality to it, and somehow a sense of tremendous force, power, and energy. Watts was primarily a painter, so that he achieved this great work of sculpture is all the more remarkable. I don’t actually like it: there is something uncomforting and almost vulgar about it, or perhaps just taboo. (Like Rhodes himself.) But it is amazing all the same.

While “Physical Energy” is primarily associated with Cecil Rhodes it was not commissioned in his honour. Watts conceived it in 1886 after having done an equestrian statue for the Duke of Westminster. The first cast wasn’t made until 1902 and was exhibited at the Royal Academy for the first time in 1904 (above).

From there it made its way to Cape Town where it stands today a vital component of the monument to Rhodes. (It even features as the crest on Rhodes University’s coat of arms.) The second cast from 1907 is this one that sits in Kensington Gardens, while a third cast from 1959 now sits beside the National Archives of Zimbabwe in Harare.

This year the Watts Gallery in Surrey commissioned a fourth cast to commemorate the two-hundredth anniversary of the artist’s birth — and that cast now flaunts its bronze in the courtyard of the Royal Academy. It remains on view until the Cusackian birthday in March 2018.

(more…)

December 6, 2017 11:35 am | Link | 2 Comments »

“Get me ze Führer!”

Stereotypes of Nazi generals in British war films

“The reason for my uniform being a slightly different colour to yours
is never explained.”

The British are, of course, obsessed with the Nazis. There are many reasons for this, amongst which we must include the large number of really quite good war films produced during the 1950s and 1960s.

For some indiscernible reason these movies have the virtue of being eternally rewatchable and many a cloudy Saturday afternoon has been occupied by Sink the Bismarck!, Where Eagles Dare, or The Colditz Story.

The genre also deploys with a remarkable regularity a number of familiar tropes of ze Germans which the above clip from a British comedy sketch programme (introduced to me by the indomitable Jack Smith) aptly mocks.

November 23, 2017 10:30 am | Link | 1 Comment »

Nahum Effendi and Cairo’s Lost World

Stumbling across the newspaper clipping above was a sad reminder of a lost world. Taken from the front page of the Manchester Guardian of Monday 29 September 1952, it describes the Egyptian leader General Naguib attending a Yom Kippur service just two months after the coup that overthrew the country’s monarchy. None of the Jewish places of worship in Cairo are known as the “Great Synagogue”, so I presume this must have been the Adly Street Synagogue (Sha’ar Hashamayim).

The Chief Rabbi of the Sephardic community in Egypt at the time would have been Senator Rabbi Chaim Nahum Effendi. A creature of the Ottoman world, Rabbi Nahum was born in Smyrna in Anatolia, went to yeshiva in Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee, and finished his secondary education in a French lycée.

After earning a degree in Islamic law in Constantinople, he started his rabbinic studies in Paris while also studying at the Sorbonne’s School of Oriental Languages. Returning to Anatolia he was appointed the Hakham Bashi, or Chief Rabbi, of the Ottoman empire in 1908 and honoured with the title of effendi.

After that empire collapsed, Rabbi Nahum was invited to take up the helm of the Sephardic community in Egypt in 1923. A natural linguist and a gifted scholar, the chief rabbi’s talents were apparent to all, and he was appointed to the Egyptian senate as well as being a founding member of the Royal Academy of the Arabic Language created to standardise Egyptian Arabic.


Rabbi Nahum (front row, third from left) at the foundation of Egypt’s Arabic academy.

The foundation of the State of Israel was a godsend for many Jews but spelled the beginning of the end for Egypt’s community. Zionists were a distinct minority among Egyptian Jews — many of whom were part of Egypt’s (primarily anti-British) nationalist movement — but Israel’s defeat of the Arab League in the 1948 War embarrassed Egypt’s ruling classes and stoked anti-semitism amongst the populace. Violent attacks against Jewish businesses were tolerated by the authorities and went uninvestigated by the police. Unfounded allegations of both Zionism and treason were rife, and discriminatory employment laws were introduced.

The 1952 Revolution did not improve things, as the tolerant but decaying monarchy was replaced by a vigorous but nationalist and pan-Arabist military government. Faced with such continuing depredations, the overwhelming majority of Jewish Egyptians fled — to Israel, Europe, and the United States. Rabbi Nahum eventually died in 1960, by then something of a broken man I imagine.

Cairo was once a thriving cosmopolitan city of Muslims, Christians, and Jews — and many communities of outside origin. The Greeks, who first arrived twenty-seven centuries ago and in 1940 still numbered tens of thousands, have all left. The futurist Marinetti was the most famous of the Italian Egyptians, whose numbers in the 1930s were numerous enough to warrant several branches of the Fascist party. Since the 1952 Revolution they are all gone too. Some Armenians remain, but not many. As for Jews, there are six left in Egypt.

Sic transit gloria mundi.

November 20, 2017 12:05 pm | Link | 3 Comments »

‘The right thing to do is to act virtuously, rather than just talk about doing so’

‘The right thing to do is to act virtuously, rather than just talk about doing so’
The Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán gave this speech to the International Consultation on Christian Persecution earlier this month. The conference was organised by the Hungarian government as part of their ‘Hungary Helps’ initiative to do more for persecuted Christians worldwide, and especially in the Middle East.
Your Holiness, Your Excellencies & Eminences, Esteemed Church and Secular Leaders,

Welcome to Budapest. Today I do not wish to talk about the persecution of Christians in Europe. The persecution of Christians in Europe operates with sophisticated and refined methods of an intellectual nature. It is undoubtedly unfair, it is discriminatory, sometimes it is even painful; but although it has negative impacts, it is tolerable. It cannot be compared to the brutal physical persecution which our Christian brothers and sisters have to endure in Africa and the Middle East. Today I’d like to say a few words about this form of persecution of Christians. We have gathered here from all over the world in order to find responses to a crisis that for too long has been concealed. We have come from different countries, yet there’s something that links us – the leaders of Christian communities and Christian politicians. We call this the responsibility of the watchman. In the Book of Ezekiel we read that if a watchman sees the enemy approaching and does not sound the alarm, the Lord will hold that watchman accountable for the deaths of those killed as a result of his inaction.

Dear Guests,

A great many times over the course of our history we Hungarians have had to fight to remain Christian and Hungarian. For centuries we fought on our homeland’s southern borders, defending the whole of Christian Europe, while in the twentieth century we were the victims of the communist dictatorship’s persecution of Christians. Here, in this room, there are some people older than me who have experienced first-hand what it means to live as a devout Christian under a despotic regime. For us, therefore, it is today a cruel, absurd joke of fate for us to be once again living our lives as members of a community under siege. For wherever we may live around the world – whether we’re Roman Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox Christians or Copts – we are members of a common body, and of a single, diverse and large community. Our mission is to preserve and protect this community. This responsibility requires us, first of all, to liberate public discourse about the current state of affairs from the shackles of political correctness and human rights incantations which conflate everything with everything else. We are duty-bound to use straightforward language in describing the events that are taking place around us, and to identify the dangers that threaten us. The truth always begins with the statement of facts. Today it is a fact that Christianity is the world’s most persecuted religion. It is a fact that 215 million Christians in 108 countries around the world are suffering some form of persecution. It is a fact that four out of every five people oppressed due to their religion are Christians. It is a fact that in Iraq in 2015 a Christian was killed every five minutes because of their religious belief. It is a fact that we see little coverage of these events in the international press, and it is also a fact that one needs a magnifying glass to find political statements condemning the persecution of Christians. But the world’s attention needs to be drawn to the crimes that have been committed against Christians in recent years. The world should understand that in fact today’s persecutions of Christians foreshadow global processes. The world should understand that the forced expulsion of Christian communities and the tragedies of families and children living in some parts of the Middle East and Africa have a wider significance: in fact they threaten our European values. The world should understand that what is at stake today is nothing less than the future of the European way of life, and of our identity.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We must call the threats we’re facing by their proper names. The greatest danger we face today is the indifferent, apathetic silence of a Europe which denies its Christian roots. However unbelievable it may seem today, the fate of Christians in the Middle East should bring home to Europe that what is happening over there may also happen to us. Europe, however, is forcefully pursuing an immigration policy which results in letting extremists, dangerous extremists, into the territory of the European Union. A group of Europe’s intellectual and political leaders wishes to create a mixed society in Europe which, within just a few generations, will utterly transform the cultural and ethnic composition of our continent – and consequently its Christian identity.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We Hungarians are a Central European people; there aren’t many of us, and we do not have a great many relatives. Our influence, territory, population and army are similarly not significant. We know our place in the ranking of the world’s nations. We are a medium-sized European state, and there are countries much bigger than us which should, as a matter of course, bear a great deal more responsibility than we do. Now, however, we Hungarians are taking a proactive role. There are good reasons for this. I can see – and I know through having met them personally – how many well-intentioned truly Christian politicians there are in Europe. They are not strong enough, however: they work in coalition governments; they are at the mercy of media industries with attitudes very different from theirs; and they have insufficient political strength to act according to their convictions. While Hungary is only a medium-sized European state, it is in a different situation. This is a stable country: the political formation now in office won two-thirds majorities in two consecutive elections; the country has an economic support base which is not enormous, but is stable; and the public’s general attitude is robust. This means that we are in a position to speak up for persecuted Christians. In other words, in such a stable situation, there could be no excuse for Hungarians not taking action and not honouring the obligation rooted in their Christian faith. This is how fate and God have compelled Hungary to take the initiative, regardless of its size. We are proud that for more than a thousand years we have belonged to the great family of Christian peoples. This, too, imposes an obligation on us.

Dear Guests,

For us, Europe is a Christian continent, and this is how we want to keep it. Even though we may not be able to keep all of it Christian, at least we can do so for the segment that God has entrusted to the Hungarian people. Taking this as our starting-point, we have decided to do all we can to help our Christian brothers and sisters outside Europe who are forced to live under persecution. What is interesting about this decision is not the fact that we are seeking to help, but the way we are seeking to help. The solution we settled on has been to take the help we are providing directly to the churches of persecuted Christians. We are not using the channels established earlier, which seek to assist the persecuted as best they can within the framework of international aid. Our view is that the best way to help is to channel resources directly to the churches of persecuted communities. In our view this is how to produce the best results, this is how resources can be used to the full, and this is how there can be a guarantee that such resources are indeed channelled to those who need them. And as we are Christians, we help Christian churches and channel these resources to them. I could also say that we are doing the very opposite of what is customary in Europe today: we declare that trouble should not be brought here, but assistance must be taken to where it is needed.

Dear Friends,

Our approach is that the right thing to do is to act virtuously, rather than just talk about doing so. In this way we avoid doing good things simply in order to burnish our reputation: we avoid doing good things out of calculation, as good deeds must come from the heart, and for the glory of God. Yet now it is my duty to talk about the facts of good deeds. My justification, the reason I am telling you all this, is to prove to us all that politics in Europe is not necessarily helpless in the face of the persecution of Christians. The reason I am talking about some good deeds is that they may serve as an example for others, and may induce others to also perform good deeds. So please consider everything that I say now in this light. In 2016 we set up the Deputy State Secretariat for the Aid of Persecuted Christians, which – in cooperation with churches, non-governmental organisations, the UN, The Hague and the European Parliament – liaises with and provides help for persecuted Christian communities. We listen to local Christian leaders and to what they believe is most important, and then do what we have to. From them I have learnt that the most important thing we can do is provide assistance for them to return home to resettle in their native lands. We Hungarians want Syrian, Iraqi and Nigerian Christians to be able to return as soon as possible to the lands where their ancestors lived for hundreds of years. This is what we call Hungarian solidarity – or, using the words you see behind me: “Hungary helps”. This is why we decided to help rebuild their homes and churches; and thanks to Hungarian Interchurch Aid, in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon we also build community centres. We have launched a special scholarship programme for young people raised in Christian families suffering persecution, and I am pleased to welcome some of those young people here today. I am sure that after their studies in Hungary, when they return to their communities, they will be active, core members of those communities. And we are also working in cooperation with the Pázmány Péter Catholic University on the establishment of a Hungarian-founded university. The Hungarian government has provided aid of 580 million forints for the rebuilding of damaged homes in the Iraqi town of Tesqopa, as a result to which we hope that hundreds of Iraqi Christian families who now live as internal refugees may be able to return to their homes. We likewise support the activities of the Syriac Catholic Church and the Syriac Orthodox Church. I should also mention something which perhaps does not sound particularly special to a foreigner, but, believe me, here in Hungary is unprecedented, and I can’t even remember the last time something like it happened: all parties in the Hungarian National Assembly united to support adoption of a resolution which condemns the persecution of Christians, supports the Government in providing help, condemns the activities of the organisation called Islamic State, and calls upon the International Criminal Court to launch proceedings in response to the persecution, oppression and murder of Christians.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

When we support the return of persecuted Christians to their homelands, the Hungarian people is fulfilling a mission. In addition to what the Esteemed Bishop has outlined, our Fundamental Law constitutionally declares that we Hungarians recognise the role of Christianity in preserving nationhood. And if we recognise this for ourselves, then we also recognise it for other nations; in other words, we want Christian communities returning to Syria, Iraq and Nigeria to become forces for the preservation of their own countries, just as for us Hungarians Christianity is a force for preservation. From here I also urge Europe’s politicians to cast aside politically correct modes of speech and cast aside human rights-induced caution. And I ask them and urge them to do everything within their power for persecuted Christians.

Soli Deo gloria!

October 23, 2017 12:15 pm | Link | 1 Comment »

Gallen-Kallela at the National Gallery

From November 15 until February of next year, the National Gallery here in London will mark the centenary of Finnish independence with a showing of the works of Akseli Gallen-Kallela. The Finnish painter is best known for his depictions of the Kalevala, the national epic compiled by Lönnrot and an influence on Tolkien.

The National Gallery, however, has focused on bringing together all four versions of Gallen-Kallela’s painting of Lake Keitele (alongside similar works by the artist). As a Swedish-speaking Finn, he signed the painting with his original Swedish name, Axel Waldemar Gallén, which he later Finnicised in 1907.

During Finland’s Civil War, Gallen-Kallela and his son Jorma both took up arms on the side of the Whites, who defended the country from the Soviet-backed Reds. The artist (below) served as adjutant to the regent of the kingdom, Gen Mannerheim, who asked him to design the flag, uniforms, and decorations of the new state. His student Eric O. Ehrström designed a crown for the kingdom, but eventually a republican form of government was decided upon and it wasn’t til the 1980s that a mock-up of the crown was actually crafted.

Having lived in Berlin and Kenya as well as having toured the United States, Gallen-Kallela’s influences were varied but he found the story and scenery of his homeland the most compelling of all. A fitting tribute to Finland in her hundredth year of statehood.

October 19, 2017 1:40 pm | Link | 1 Comment »

Pimlico Forever – Belgravia Never!

It started with hints and rumours, ill-whispered talk on street corners and tiny little changes, but now it’s all gone too far. You see, Pimlico, the quarter of London in which I dwell, seems under threat of annexation by its far grander but past-its-prime neighbour Belgravia.

It all seemed quite amusing at first. One day I came home to our humble address in Pimlico and was surprised to find the Belgravia Residents Journal amongst our post. Then Tatler nailed its colours to the mast and claimed the Italian coffee shop on our Pimlico street corner is in Belgravia. I went to my bank branch the other day to sort out a minor matter of travel insurance only to notice ‘Belgravia branch’ spelled out in clear concise Helvetica letters. Was that always there? I wondered.

Residents are befuddled and confused for the most part. No one’s quite sure what’s going on. Memories of “Passport to Pimlico” are exchanged — “Blimey! I’m a foreigner!” Concerns that Cambridge Street Kitchen (or at least its Cocktail Cellar) may be in on the move. “Isn’t this place a bit Elizabeth Street?” she said, sipping a Mexcal Negroni.

Landlords in particular are viewed as being suspiciously complicit in Belgravian expansionism. It’s widely assumed that speculators are keen to turn our beautiful whitewashed Pimlico homes (most of them long since divvied into flats) into the embassies, cultural institutes, and the bland organisational headquarters for which Belgravia is known.

“Do you think we’ll get some embassies after we join Belgravia?” one resident asks. Another points out we already host three: Lithuania, Albania, and Mauritania. “Perhaps we could get Sweden. Do you think we could get Sweden?” No one seems to know.

Some pooh-pooh the entire idea as hyped-up nonsense. “What on earth would Belgravia want from us here in Pimlico? Her Majesty’s Passport Office? The Queen Mother Sports Centre? The Catholic Bishops Conference? The flippin’ UK Statistics Authority?” (I admit, I had no idea the UK Statistics Authority is based here in Pimlico.)

Others prepare for collaboration. “We’ve always considered this Lower Belgravia,” Dr O’Donnell says with a wry smile.

Still, there is talk of resistance. Estate agents have reportedly been threatened with the use of force by mysterious figures in black cagoules. Suggestions of pre-emptive action, or recourse to the Court of Justice in Strasbourg. Should we strike first? Enclaves of Pimlico the other side of Buckingham Palace Road, like the pool hall in Ebury Square, could be used as springboards for a more active approach. The Filipino ladies in the Padre Pio shop on Vauxhall Bridge Road seem blissfully unaffected.

Confusion reigns, uncertainty is rampant, no one knows what the future holds.

Hoarding has commenced and local shops are quickly selling out of useful products (bog roll, Pringles, gin, etc.).

From St George’s Square to Victoria Station, fear grips the streets. At least its stopped people talking about Brexit.

October 9, 2017 1:45 pm | Link | 1 Comment »

The ‘Other Modern’ in Portugal

Caixa Geral de Depósitos, Luís Cristino da Silva (architect)
Guarda, Portugal; 1939–1942

[A] core aspiration can be discerned that runs through the entire [architectural] output of the “Estado Novo”, particularly from the second half of the 1930s. It is a catchphrase, never defined with absolute clarity and therefore tested by approximation, trial and error: the demand for a national modern style, a construction style that was at the same time contemporary and suited to the locality and/or specificity of the country. This agenda accommodated various formulations, depending on the evolution of the regime itself, the type of public building in question, the place for which it was intended, the profile of the people responsible for its appraisal and the margin granted to the architect-designer. […]

Salazarism never upheld anachronism or the practice of an archaeological type of architecture. It did not reject modernity entirely, but disliked disaggregating, standardising, stateless foreignness, embodied in its view by the architectural abstractionist internationalism (dubbed “boxes”). An alternative modernity was thus aspired to and achieved; far from being an exclusive diktat of the state, this idea of an alternative modernity pervaded the discourses of the timid specialist press, the opinions generally expressed by the civil society and the dilemmas of the architects themselves.

— Joana Brites, “Is there an Ideologically-Biased Broadening of the Concept of Modern Architecture?”
RIHA Journal 133, 15 July 2016

See also: The Other Modern

October 9, 2017 10:55 am | Link | No Comments »

Lisbon

One of the finest cities I have had the privilege of visiting, only lightly touched by the grim hand of modernism.

October 6, 2017 3:00 pm | Link | 2 Comments »

F.C. Kolbe and the Tulbagh Drostdy

F.C. Kolbe and
the Tulbagh Drostdy

Poet, Polemicist, Polymath, and Priest

Relic and emblem of a storied past.
Thrice happy they whose lines in thee are cast
Thy records summon all in thy embrace
To emulate the virtues of the race.
Thy stately halls of courtly manners tell,
Where only Ladies Bountiful should dwell.
Thy solid frame is pledge of future glory,
And links our doings with our country’s story.

‘To the Drostdy at Tulbagh’, F.C. Kolbe (1909)

Work on the Drostdy (magistrate’s house) at Tulbagh in the Western Cape began late in 1804 but progressed rather slowly and expensively. This is probably because — after construction commenced — the plans by Bletterman, the landdrost at Stellenbosch, were torn up by the architect Louis Michel Thibault and replaced by his own design.

This meant part of the work already completed had to be demolished and re-done, which Bletterman only went along with assuming Thibault’s plan had the approval of the Batavian Republic’s governor of the Cape, Jan Willem Janssens. As it happens, they did not, and when Bletterman found out he was none too pleased.

Francis Masey, a partner at Herbert Baker’s firm, noted that “[w]hilst it proved to be the last building begun upon Dutch soil in South Africa, it was destined to be the first completed upon the passing of the Cape into the hands of the British.”

This brief ode was written by Frederick Charles Kolbe (right) in 1909. The great-great-grandson of the magistrate (or landdrost) at Stellenbosch, F.C. Kolbe was the son of a Congregational missionary in Paarl who studied law at the Inner Temple in London. There, in 1876, he was received into the Catholic Church and continued on to study in Rome where he was ordained a priest in 1882.

While his poetry was tended towards the middling, Kolbe was a distinctive polymath. In addition to catechetical writings, he published a number of works on Shakespeare, and lectured on Socrates not long after his 1882 return to the Cape. Eventually he was appointed Reader in Aesthetics at the University of Cape Town.

Kolbe also wrote a Catholic criticism of the 1926 book Holism and Evolution by the statesman General Smuts. (Not many people realise that the word ‘holistic’ was donated to the English language by a son of Stellenbosch.) The general and the priest had corresponded as early as 1915 when Smuts was Minister for Defence, and Smuts was so taken with Kolbe’s critique that he wrote a foreword to a later edition of it.

In a 1935 letter to “Dr. Kolbe”, the General wrote:

Although I am not acquainted with the Catholic prayers, I am deeply versed in the Psalms of the Old Testament, which seem to me the greatest and noblest outpourings of the human spirit ever put into language. The inexpressible finds expression there. Emotions almost too deep for utterance somehow find an outlet there. …

I also agree with you as to the nobility of the language which Catholic Christianity has evolved. What could match the beauty of De Imitatione Christi? Somehow it breathes a spirit which is beyond all language. It is curious how in such a case the human soul sets on fire its own earthly vesture, and language becomes a blaze of glory…

From Smuts’ letters to others we know that he actually read more works by Kolbe, in particular his Up the slopes of Mount Sion: or, A progress from Puritanism to Catholicism.

Disputation and discussion were also among Kolbe’s talents. He used the pages of South Africa’s Catholic Magazine to counter the accusations of what he called a “narrow clique” of anti-Romish ministers of the Dutch Reformed Church.

One of Kolbe’s most lasting legacies was the effect of his writing on the young Afrikaner philosopher Marthinus Versfeld (1909–1995) who converted to Catholicism under the late Monsignor’s influence. (Kolbe had died in 1936.) Versfeld’s familiarity with Augustine and Aquinas helped him launch intellectual attacks against the so-called “Christian-national” thinking behind apartheid, particularly in his first book Oor gode en afgode (“Of Gods and Idols”, 1948 & republished 2010).

Kolbe, according to Versfeld, “lived out a certain apprehension of the presence of the universal in the particular, just as Newman lived out his vision of the Catholic Church in the material of English circumstances.”

An Afrikaner Newman, perhaps? Worth reading more about.

September 27, 2017 1:00 pm | Link | 2 Comments »

The French Way of War

I’ve been reading Lartéguy recently so was intrigued to hear of another French writer formed by his military experience, Pierre Schoendoerffer (right).

In a tweet, the cigarette-smoking Helen Andrews shared an article called What a 1963 Novel Tells Us About the French Army, Mission Command, and the Romance of the Indochina War.

I dislike the romanticism surrounding the magnificent losers vs. ugly victors dichotomy – a magnificent victory is infinitely preferably to both. Hence why my natural Jacobite sympathies are highly qualified by complete and utter disdain for Charlie’s unwillingness to see the task through. (An easy judgement when made from centuries of hindsight, I’ll concede.)

Anyhow, I sent the article to The Major and he proffered this reply:

I was going to say something snide about the French army but to be quite honest I have thought for some time that it is rather better than ours [Ed.: the British]. Their officers are tougher, harder, and more professional than ours – those I encountered professionally certainly were. They are also not infected by the political correctness which is wrecking/has wrecked our army (among other factors).

The distinction between the colonial army and the large conscript army at home is valid. It was the conscript army which was defeated in 1870, 1914, and 1940… not the colonial army to which the modern French army now looks.

It is also true that the US Army don’t do Mission Command well. The Marines on the other hand…

Meanwhile back in the States the prolific Ken Burns has done an eighteen-hour documentary on the Vietnam conflict which allegedly ignores all the scholarly input of the past two decades. Nevermind, we just regret it won’t feature the late great Shelby Foote, who (in Burns’s ‘The Civil War’) spoke with such assurance you imagined he was there.

September 21, 2017 12:30 pm | Link | 4 Comments »

Urgent Action for Catholic Free Schools

Urgent Action for Catholic Free Schools
Dear Friends,

Since the Free Schools programme was introduced in 2010 (allowing parents and other groups outside the state to start and run schools) more than 400 new schools have been approved for opening, providing over 230,000 new school places across the country.

During the Coalition, though, the Liberal Democrats insisted on putting a 50% cap on admissions for free schools that are faith-based. Because Catholic schools are not allowed to reject Catholics simply because of their faith, the policy’s only real effect has been to entirely prevent any Catholic free schools from opening, while failing to do anything about the integration of religious or ethnic minorities.

The Prime Minister has rightly pointed out that “Catholic schools are more ethnically diverse than other faith schools, more likely to be located in deprived communities, more likely to be rated Good or Outstanding by Ofsted, and there is growing demand for them.”

As the British population has increased, the shortage of new Catholic school places has only become more alarming. When the Prime Minister announced the cap would be dropped, Catholic dioceses sprang into action making plans for Catholic free schools. Some even bought sites, one being located next to a hospital to educate the children of immigrant nurses and medical staff who’ve come from Catholic countries to staff our NHS.

But right now Catholic free schools are under threat. Despite a solemn commitment in the Conservative manifesto, Education Secretary Justine Greening is believed to be inclined to make a U-turn and keep the admissions cap which acts as a ban on Catholic free schools.

I ask that you email your Member of Parliament right now, asking him or her to contact the Education Secretary and request that this manifesto commitment be honoured and the faith-based admissions cap be scrapped. A decision is likely to be made very shortly, so time is of the essence.

Many thanks,

Andrew Cusack

A suggested email text can be found below, but make sure to include your full name and postal address at the end.

To find your MP’s contact details, put in your postcode at this link.

Dear Member of Parliament,

As one of your constituents I am writing to ask you to help scrap the faith-based admissions cap for free schools.

The Government is right to be concerned about the integration of religious and ethnic minorities. This policy, however, began with the best of intentions but has been proven a complete and utter failure. Exhaustive research has proved the cap is completely ineffective towards its stated aim.

Canon law forbids Catholic schools from rejecting fellow Catholics purely on the basis of their faith, which the admissions cap requires. The cap’s only real effect has been to prevent the foundation of Catholic free schools, despite the dire need for quality school places amongst the poorest in our communities.

Catholic schools, meanwhile, are profoundly diverse and educate the children of many faiths and of none. More than 26,000 Muslim pupils are currently receiving education in Catholic schools. One in seven ethnic minority pupils in England & Wales attend a Catholic school, including more than one in five black children.

Across the board, Catholic schools educate 21% more pupils from ethnic minority backgrounds compared to other schools, and these pupils in Catholic secondary schools perform better at GCSE than the national average. These schools also have a record second to none in looking after the most disadvantaged in our society. 16.5 % of pupils in Catholic secondary schools live in the most deprived areas, compared to 11.3% nationally.

Before the election, the Conservative government openly stated its intention to scrap the faith-based admissions cap, which requires only the Education Secretary’s signature to be enacted. The Conservative party then went to the nation in a general election and included this promise in its manifesto.

I ask that, as my MP, you urgently contact Justine Greening MP, the Secretary of State for Education, and ask her to honour the manifesto commitment to scrap the faith-based admissions cap.

Yours,

NAME
FULL POSTAL ADDRESS

September 5, 2017 12:10 pm | Link | 3 Comments »
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