20. May, 2018

As a cradle republican (note the small “r”) I was agog with indifference to the Windsor family wedding on Saturday last.

I have nothing against them as individuals but plenty against the institution of Monarchy and a sycophantic aristocracy. I feel insulted that my offspring- and yours- however intelligent, wise, respectful and charitable they might become, will never be deemed good enough to head the state they serve.

Robert Burns had similar thoughts in his great 1795 poem, “Is there for honest poverty”. (Excuse the broad Scots but a translation into received English will do justice to neither the poem nor its author).

Is there for honest Poverty
That hings his head, an' a' that;
The coward slave-we pass him by,
We dare be poor for a' that!
For a' that, an' a' that.
Our toils obscure an' a' that,
The rank is but the guinea's stamp,
The Man's the gowd for a' that.

What though on hamely fare we dine,
Wear hoddin grey, an' a that;
Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine;
A Man's a Man for a' that:
For a' that, and a' that,
Their tinsel show, an' a' that;
The honest man, tho' e'er sae poor,
Is king o' men for a' that.

Ye see yon birkie, ca'd a lord,
Wha struts, an' stares, an' a' that;
Tho' hundreds worship at his word,
He's but a coof for a' that:
For a' that, an' a' that,
His ribband, star, an' a' that:
The man o' independent mind
He looks an' laughs at a' that.

A prince can mak a belted knight,
A marquis, duke, an' a' that;
But an honest man's abon his might,
Gude faith, he maunna fa' that!
For a' that, an' a' that,
Their dignities an' a' that;
The pith o' sense, an' pride o' worth,
Are higher rank than a' that.

Then let us pray that come it may,
(As come it will for a' that,)
That Sense and Worth, o'er a' the earth,
Shall bear the gree, an' a' that.
For a' that, an' a' that,
It's coming yet for a' that,
That Man to Man, the world o'er,
Shall brothers be for a' that.

9. Apr, 2018

THE British National Party is now in the same state of health as the Monty Python parrot

Although it had been dying on its perch for quite some time, the death rattle came on Friday morning when it was announced that its last councillor in office would not be standing for re-election. The BNP is extinct. It is no more.

Well I remember my shock and revulsion back in 1993 when their first councillor was elected, to their peak year in 2006 with 33 councillors and strong showings in over 80 other wards. Sure that their time had come, this ill managed party promulgated its racist message of hate across the land….
“Ideology: Euroscepticism, White nationalism, Ethnic nationalism, Right-wing populism, Ultranationalism, British Fascism
Political position: Far-right politics”
[Source BNP website]
Before we are told that the BNP’s demise was due to some left wing elitist plot…. It was not! Ordinary people campaigned against the BNP in elections the length and breadth of Britain, working with local parties, trade unions, faith leaders, the Mirror, and others. Lots of our work was crowd funded from tens of thousands of supporters. An incredible number of leaflets and newspapers were got out in the campaigns. All in all, it was a truly grassroots effort by ordinary people repelled by racism.

We can take real pride in what everyone did to take the BNP from hundreds of thousands of votes and dozens of councillors to today, fading away with the announcement that their last councillor isn't even standing again.

HOWEVER, it is truly a case of “one down, more to follow.” The far right is still alive under its stone and is ready to crawl out onto the streets and spread its pernicious lies on the internet.

When you see articles hiding under the Union Flag and from, for example, “Britain First,” “English Defence League” etc., remember the words of Dr. Johnson, “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel” and your ABC….

Having written this article, I stopped and paused. Could hundreds and thousands of Britons have been so stupid and ignorant of their own national history, as to vote for a party whose core beliefs were “White nationalism, Ethnic nationalism, Right-wing populism, Ultra-nationalism, British Fascism with a political position so far to the right traditional politics?”

What do these “patriots” imagine the Second World War to have been all about? National survival certainly but above all to eradicate such beliefs as those of the BNP that led to the mass murder of 6 million people perceived as being different from “everybody else”?

31. Mar, 2018


The approach of World Cup soccer is a reminder of the story behind this photograph.

We were staying up in Oban back in the day when Scotland were due to play Holland in a previous World Cup qualifier. If they lost, they were out!


Fascinated by the extras left over from "Braveheart" I followed the "See You Jimmy" hats and saltire-painted faces into my favourite bar, less interested in watching the match than watching them watching the match.

Having eventually fought my way to a pint of "the heavy," and knowing England were about to kick off against Germany, I could not resist asking the landlord if there was any chance of watching it. He eyed me with total incredulity..."Do you want to see these bastards burn down my pub?" Perhaps not.


I made my English way to a discrete table only to be joined by a guy wearing an Orange scarf and bobble hat. He was Dutch! Mmm. a flame in a powder magazine?

"Flower of Scotland" was given a rapturous if inebriated rendition. The whistle went to the sound of the fearsome battle cries that had scared many a redcoat by loch and by glen.

However, this initial enthusiasm slowly subsided, for as the match went on, the Dutch proved themselves to be mfar superior. Their 60 minute winner was greeted with a stony silence by everyone... except that is, my companion, who insisted on shouting his joy and waving his scarf above his head.


The final whistle went. A huge local drained his pint and rumbled over to our table. "Not good," I thought, reaching for a heavy glass ash tray as a potential means of defence. He extended a huge paw to my orange-clad friend and....insisted on shaking his hand..."Och awa’ mon. Yer deserved tae win. Yer team were the better side!" It was fortunate that his gesture was met with nods of friendly agreement all around the bar. At that moment the result from Wembley was announced..."England 5 Germany 0".


I made my excuses and left. Outside the pub, I took my photograph. I doubt if even the 1746 defeat at Culloden could have been greeted with deeper and more obvious body language.

At that precise moment, and I swear this is true...down in the town and to mark Scotland's exit from the world cup , a lone piper struck up a Lament!


9. Mar, 2018
3. Mar, 2018


Historical research has often been likened to doing a complex jigsaw with an undisclosed number of pieces missing and no picture on the box. There is then the question of deciding if what evidence there is, is biased and to what extent a judgement based upon it can be considered probable, possible, improbable or impossible. (Surely the instinctive steps we al take when reading a newspaper or watching a television broadcast?) Take for instance the following story


16th June 1647, Mr. Thomas Inkle son of a wealthy London Merchant and brought up not to look beyond profit and loss in anything, set sail in the good ship ‘Achilles’ for the West Indies. There he would make his fortune buying and selling.

Running short of provisions, the Achilles was forced to put into a creek on mainland America in search of fresh supplies. A landing party including young 20 year old Thomas Inkle waded ashore, unaware that they were being watched by a large band of Native Americans.

Having imprudently advanced too far into the thick forest, the English were attacked and nearly all slaughtered by the Indians. Inkle managed to escape by running deep into the woodland. Finally exhausted, he just flung himself down on the ground to recover.

He was not alone. Standing over him was a beautiful, naked Indian princess. Never having seen a European before, let alone one clad from head to foot, she promptly fell in love with him and he with her. Wishing to keep Inkle safe from her own people, the girl took him to a cave where he could hide while she undertook to bring him food and water.

Over the next few months as the two young lovers grew closer they developed as language between them. Thomas thus discovered that her name was Yarico, the daughter of a chief and soon swore that he would like to take her back to London as his wife. He made this a solemn promise and told her of all the wonderful things he would buy her.

Then it happened. Yarico sighted a ship off the coast. Sending signals by day she attracted a rescue party and led Thomas to his fellow countrymen through secret forest paths.

Learning that the vessel was bound for the slave markets of Barbados, he became thoughtful and all he began to see in Yarico was the time and money he had lost while hiding from her people. How was he to explain away his bride to his family? Did he need to?

On landing and true to his upbringing, Thomas Inkle promptly sold Yarico as a slave to a Barbadian merchant.

In trying to get him to change his mind and stand by his promises the poor girl told Inkle she was pregnant by him.

Inkle’s reaction? To marry her as promised? To support her and his child and take both to England?
Not exactly…
He promptly doubled the price he had been asking for her from the purchaser!

A sad tale and one I have just written but if I give you its provenance how reliable was it as my source of evidence? If proved genuine, would the sources make it more or less dishonourable?

I first encountered it in Volume 1, number 11 of “The Spectator Papers” written of Sir Richard Steele and published March 13, 1711.

On further research I discovered that Steele, in turn, had based his account on that of Richard Ligon, Gent., in his “A True and Exact History of the Island of Barbados (sic) in 1673. I next discovered that this was but the second edition, the first having appeared in 1657, within but 10 years of young Inkle’s shameful treatment of Yarico.

So did Ligon invent the story to sex up his book bearing in mind that the small British community on Barbados at the time would have detected a fabrication at once? Was the story widely known at the time but apocryphal-the 1650’s equivalent of our “did you hear about the woman who dried her poodle in her microwave? Alternatively did the events really happen as detailed? If so, all of them or some of them? Is there any other evidence to support Richard Ligons’s account? For sure Inkle would have felt no shame in letting it be known any more than the slave traders on the island.

So then, your view of Inkle and Yarico?
What does the available evidence suggest about the story… probably true, possibly true, improbable, impossible?

Does it matter anyway?


1. A True and Exact History of the Island of Barbadoes. By Richard Ligon, Gent., 1673. First Edition 1657
Spectator papers #11, March 13, 1711.
Sir Richard Steele.