Wessington

Meetings Diary 2018

History Group December 2018

Penkers, alleys and stones, Icelandic for beginners, ‘more caprolites, vicar?’ Whoopsie, The Mighty Atom and the fighting Irish – not necessarily in that order

Jean began by raising the question of whether pieces like the Elgin Marbles and the Rosetta Stone should be returned to their countries of origin.What you might call the Barnett Formula for deciding runs as follows…

What were the circumstances of acquisition? At the time Lord Elgin claimed he had permission from the Turkish government but that licence has never been found and it seems likely that the acquisition was technically theft.
The Rosetta Stone was reluctantly given by the French to the Brits after the former’s defeat in Egypt so not really stolen.

What did the object mean to the people who want it back? Neither was of religious significance to the people who are demanding the return. The marbles are of significance to Greek culture but the Rosetta Stone is significant to the world.

What would happen to the objects if they were returned? If the marbles go back they will complete a frieze in the well-looked-after Acropolis Museum (a feat previously only accomplished by the photoshopping skills of one Peter Barnett). The Rosetta Stone had originally been recycled by the ancient Egyptians themselves and, when found, was buried and there may not be an appropriate museum in which to locate it. Plus Egypt has a lot of ancient stuff anyway.

In short, Jean is happy to see the marbles returned and has space in her luggage allocation for several of the smaller ones – whereas Rosettta will be betta left where she is. Quiz question – How many languages are there on the Rosetta Stone? Answers to be wrapped round a marble and rolled down Jean’s drive. Take your pick from 2,3,4 but you need to show your working.

Pauline enthralled us with tales of vicars/country clergy. No piety was required, sermons could be bought and what else would the sons of respectable families do?
Geoffrey Bayledon converted half his church into a hen house and compiled a dictionary of Icelandic
Geoffrey Bayledon breytti helmingi kirkjunnar í hönnunarhús og setti saman íslenska orðabók.
Laurence Sterne wrote books about Tristram Hunt and Shandies.
Edmund Cartwright invented a power loom, by 1851 there were 250,000 of them at work
Jack Russell was a breeder of terriers
William Buckland became an expert on fossilised faeces – or caprolites.
Thomas Malthus – population
William Greenwell of Durham – Greenwell’s Glory, a trout fly
William Shephard – a history of dirty jokes. Have you heard the one about the vicar and the fossilised faeces…
Reb Adam Buddle of Essex, the eponymous inspiration of buddleia
Robert Stephens Hawker of Cornwell, an opium fiend and poet.
John Michall of Derby taught Herschel how to build a telescope
Thomas Bayles of Kent devised Bayles Theorem – used today in computer programs

And these people were progeny of country vicars – Dryden, Wren, Hooke, Hobbes, Goldsmith, Austen, Reynolds, Taylor Coleridge, Nelson, Bronte sisters, Rhodes, Carroll

Gavin gave us a talk on the Irish Brigade in the American Civil War – 69th New York, 88th Bronx and a Staten Island regiment. The scale of Irish emigration to the US had led to strong anti-Irish sentiment as witnessed by the rise and fall of the Know Nothings (kinda UKIP with a variety of pub bores/racists at the head).
Thomas Meagher suggested that the Irish should show their loyalty to US by joining militia – and of course they enjoyed the camaraderie. They would gain acceptance through service. 150,000 Irish joined the Union army – their brigade having a green flag. They fought and suffered heavy losses at Antietam, Fredericksburg and Gettysburg. 7 Union generals were Irish born.

When the draft began in 1863 there was rioting by the Irish in New York who felt that it was a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight – they were resentful of the idea of freeing slaves – who would then compete for low paid jobs?

Peter had been researching the events of July 1919 (month of the Peace parties after the signing of Treaty of Versailles) and mentioned Beatty and Haig in Newcastle, Jimmy Wilde the boxer, Suzanne Lenglen, the R34 crossing and re-crossing the Atlantic (a crew member and a cat, ‘Whoopsie’, stowed away on the flight), Haig discussing the plight and poor pensions of ex-soldiers, the arrangements for Peace Parties, coal strike and NER railway strike, the search for info about lost soldiers, the treatment by hypnotism and singing (not in the same place) of traumatised soldiers, the National Day of Thanksgiving.

And here it is in Icelandic since you are now familiar with the language:

Pétur hafði rannsakað atburði júlí 1919 (mánuður friðaraðgerða eftir undirritun Versailles-sáttmálans) og nefndi Beatty og Haig í Newcastle, Jimmy Wilde boxerinn, Suzanne Lenglen, R34 yfir og aftur á Atlantshafið (a áhafnarmeðlimur og köttur, "Whoopsie", kom í burtu á fluginu), Haig rætt um ástandið og fátæka lífeyri fyrrverandi hermanna, fyrirkomulag fyrir friðarsamningana, kolverkfall og NER-járnbrautarverkfall, leit að upplýsingum um glatað hermenn, meðhöndlun með siðleysi og syngja (ekki á sama stað) af áföllum hermönnum, Þjóðhátíðardagur.

History Group April 2018

Pauline kicked off (then she settled down and was allowed to go first) with Rachel Parsons. Born in 1885, she was one of the daughters of Charles Parsons (a brother died in the Great War) head of CA Parsons of Turbinia fame. He had homes in Northumberland and on Tyneside. Rachel was taught at Roedean and attended Newnham College, Cambridge, where she studied Mechanical Sciences, though she was not allowed to graduate. She was a director of Parsons during the Great War and did much to bring women into the firm. Rachel and her father were estranged after 1918 (not clear why) but when he died it seemed as if they were not THAT estranged because he left her £840,000.
During the 20s and 30s she was a member of various organisations of note –eg Royal Institute of GB, Royal Institute of International Affairs and the Royal Institute of Naval Architects.

She founded Atalanta Ltd an engineering company all employees being women which lasted about 10 years and was, like Martin Peters, ahead of its time. She became a socialite and a member of London Council. During the 1940s she began to exhibit some odd tendencies, bought a stud farm at Sunningdale, stopped washing, lived alone, was occasionally violent towards her employees, and kept animal food in the rooms of her large house. In 1956 her body was found, she having been beaten to death by a stable lad. He was accused of murder but was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to 10 years the suggestion being that he may have been defending himself from one of her attacks.

Chaîne opératoire is a term used throughout anthropological discourse, but is most commonly used in archaeology and sociocultural anthropology. It functions as a methodological tool for analysing the technical processes and social acts involved in the step-by-step production, use, and eventual disposal of artefacts, such as lithics or pottery. There, now I’ve said it and I hope it makes us all feel better. Jean’s dissertation is on the Roman Walls (those of Hadrian and also the Antonine Wall).

And now a little more chaine – give a man sufficient chaine and he might hang himself, so apologies to Jean if this is a shambles of a description – interesting though it was.It allows archaeologists to reconstruct the techniques used and the chronological ordering of the different steps required to produce an artefact. By understanding the processes and construction of tools, archaeologists can better determine the evolution of tool technology and the development of ancient cultures and lifestyles. Artefact analysis has undergone several changes throughout its history, shifting from an orientation as a natural science of prehistoric humans to a social and cultural anthropology of the production techniques of prehistoric societies. From this perspective, a chaîne opératoire can be understood as a social product as it calls for an interdisciplinary approach to artefact analysis (the integration of associated disciplines: archaeology, socio-cultural anthropology, biological anthropology and anthropological linguistics), which offers a multidimensional view of a society, and demonstrates how chaînes opératoires cannot operate independently of the society that produces them.

Thus in looking at the way the Romans built, occupied, abandoned, re-occupied, altered and developed the walls, Jean is able to suggest conclusions about Roman life, history and society. The Antonine Wall (in fact largely non-existent because it was built of turf) is protected by Scots law and is a World Heritage Site (like the pit heaps of Loos/Bethune in N France – er I think we had some of them.Only 5% of Hadrian’s Wall has been excavated. The Wall is not a single object. Once Jean retires as your Chair…..

Peter offered some details of matters from 1915-1917 covered in the Durham Chronicle – flag days a plenty, memorial services, what Lord Durham had to say on various matters of note, scavenging, the sad demise of a bloke who thought he (like everyone else in Washington) was the only true heir to the Earl of Perth, the cheery letters of Valentine Dixon who in thanking his Union for gifts for him and his mates wrote ‘My main worry is for those poor chaps in England who have to put up with the terrible fads and fancies of those tyrants, the ladies. Just fancy, we can go into our little mud home in a trench, knock our baccy ash out on the table, chuck our caps in the corner, or do a hundred and one things that would have our lady friends on the warpath if we were at “Home, Sweet Home”. I can hear you say, “No wonder you are happy. It must be simply terrible to have to conform to all the laws of civilisation after a Bohemian life like this, and then it must be dreadful to have to go to sleep without the lullaby of the big guns, rifle and machine gun fire.’ (Valentine of 10 DLI died of his wounds in Rouen in September 1916; he lived in Nelson Street).

And, to cap it off, Peter read out the partial guest list at Claud Lambton’s (The Earl’s brother) wedding. Crème de la crème, kidda. Neebody that was neebody was there, aa’ll the big names.

Speaking of which – big names I mean, Gavin did that Gavin thing of choosing to talk about somebody whose name (and story) has several acceptable renditions, all of them unknown to him!

Abd al Rahman was an Umyyad prince (think Charles with darker skin and less toothpaste wallahs) born in 731 AD in and around Persia. He fled to Egypt after a revolution (like Charles will once the Commonwealth (topical, topical, cutting edge) and nation get sick of him, to continue the analogy) and then to Morocco . He crossed to Andalusia in 755 AD and became Emir (bloody Umyyads coming over here and…). He made his capital at Cordoba where he built roads and a great mosque (THE great mosque). He, unlike Sunderland in 21st century, had a huge library, baths and lasted 30 years on the throne. His army was 40,000 men and was strong enough to repel Charlemagne (now keep up, that’s a different Charle….). The mosque was finished in 976 and the ice cream stalls and internal cathedral came later.

History Group Meeting March 2018
As usual, today’s meeting covered a wide variety of topics:

• Pauline talked about Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier, who won the 2008 Nobel prize for Physiology and Medicine for their discovery of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
• Jean tried to apply the method of analysis usually used by prehistorians on hand axes, called the chaîne opératoire, to Hadrian’s Wall
• Gavin, explored the history of the Iberian Peninsula from the Palaeolithic era to the Moors – an excellent example of the ‘broad brush’ approach
• Joyce, inspired by International Women’s Day, introduced us to Constance Leathart, a North Eastern trailblazer, the first woman outside London to gain a pilot’s licence. She took part in air races, started the Cramlington Aircraft Company and delivered planes during World War II. (And for those of us doing the ‘Global Geordies’ MOOC- she doesn’t get a mention.)

Other topics covered in passing included: why Stephen Hawking never got a Nobel Prize; finding your way round caves; the nature of History documentaries on TV; and the Health and Safety aspects of going up the Leaning Tower of Pisa. An eclectic mix!!

History Group January 2018
Apologies from Joyce and Gordon and apologies to anyone (except Davis, Grayling and Bad King John) whose work has been misconstrued in any way at all.

Pauline spoke of the Dark Ages but not the current Trumpian/Newcastle haven’t won a trophy since 1969/Brexit/Mrs Brown’s Boys/tax evaders rool OK ones – the Dark Ages of 3000 years ago, a time of de-population, disaster, climate change, disease – though it’s hard to be precise about which, if any, of these was the main cause of de-population. (Probably Chris Grayling)

However, a ship called the Uluburun, dated by its wood to 1310BC, has been discovered (failed to note where but in the Med, I think) which, when found was able to reveal much info to underwater archaeologists. Thus the cargo included copper from Cyprus (shaped to fit the mules which would carry it) tin ingots, sacks of cobalt, turquoise and lavender glass, dyes, beads, jewellery, elephant tasks, swords etc. There were lots of tools and the crew’s food was also uncovered. The ship has become a major source of information about trade at that time.

John continued the theme of Dark Ages by discussing some aspects of a book by Paul Krugman (Nobel prize winner in Economics and therefore, by definition, an untrustworthy ‘expert’). Mr Krugman discussed the existence of the Know Nothing Party in the US in the 1850s .

WikiPedia says - The Native American Party, renamed the American Party in 1855 and commonly known as the "Know Nothing" movement, was an American nativist political party that operated nationally in the mid-1850s. It was primarily anti-Catholic and hostile to immigration, starting originally as a secret society. The movement briefly emerged as a major political party in the form of the American Party. Adherents to the movement were to reply "I know nothing" when asked about its specifics by outsiders, thus providing the group with its common appellation.
The "Know Nothings" believed a "Romanist" conspiracy was afoot to subvert civil and religious liberty in America and sought to politically organize native-born Protestants in the defense of traditional religious and political values. It is remembered for this theme because of fears by Protestants that Catholic priests and bishops would control a large bloc of voters. In most places, "Know Nothingism" lasted only a year or two before disintegrating because of weak local leaders, few publicly-declared national leaders and a deep split over the issue of slavery. In the South, the party did not emphasize anti-Catholicism, but was the main alternative to the dominant Democratic Party.

So, they were anti-Irish – (drunks and Papists) and anti-German.
The Know Nothings nominated Millard Fillmore to run in the Presidential election of 1856 but he came third and many Northern KNs moved into the newly established Republican Party.

Proof of history repeating itself is the current state of affairs. There are alternative facts, there is fake news, there is the doctor’s report on Trump’s health and many in the GOP (who control all three branches – Executive, Congress and Judiciary – and are stuffing the judiciary with incompetents as fast as they can find another halfwit) have found a focus for their contempt. Name them yourself. Media, Blacks, Hispanics, Muslims etc etc
Krugman’s conclusion is that bad people have lied to stupid people. 64% of US GDP is created in states that voted for Hilary. We live in Know Nothing times, ladies and gents.

Peter talked about Worms – starting with some background on Martin Luther, born 1483, became an Augustinian monk, used a hammer and nail to pin his 95 Theses (yes, that’s correct Theses not Theyses) on the Church in Wittenburg in 1517, 95 Theses on the Power and Efficiency of Indulgence. He was asking for discussion either in person or by letter.

He attacked officials, corruption, nepotism, usury and the sale of indulgences. He bravely sent copies to his Bishop, Archbishop and Mike Ashley (who knows a bit about self-indulgence).Within months it had been translated across Europe and sparked the Protestant Reformation. Despite urgent requests from all present Peter refused to read all 95 out in Latin (or English).

By 1520 Pope Leo X had been convinced to denounce ML and a papal bull threatened excommunication unless he recanted within 60 days. Some of his writings were publicly burned. In response ML torched a copy of the Bull.
ML was summoned to appear before the Diet of Worms (a formal deliberative assembly) to be chaired by Emperor Charles V.ML stated his views and the Emperor’s agent Johann Eck (Big Eck played by Alex Salmond) called him a heretic. Seeing the way the wind was blowing and the straw was piling up, ML inhaled his asthma cure and rode off into the sunset.

May 1521 the Edict of Worms – ML was branded a heretic, his books and writings were ordered to be burned and everyone (especially in Seaham) was forbidden to harbour him. ML spent some time in hiding and then returned to Wittenburg and built a new church. He married a nun and had 6 kids – as you do. His popularity spread, his congregation grew and there was no effort to enforce the Edict. When he died in 1546 he was buried under the pulpit of his church.

Then it got a bit silly and we launched into worms, the intestinal kind, the Edict of Worm Hill (don’t leave litter), Worms the strategy game – only £1.99 (there are other strategy games available) – vermicelli, cans of worms, hook worms (which may be able to control Type II diabetes in young women according to the Daily Spit), the jumping worms of Wisconsin (Asiatic worms that have immigrated under Trump, but not thought to be Muslim worms), book worms, mopani (a worm recipe) and, of course the three legends of North East worms – Lambton, Sockburn and Laidley and, finally, fried silk worms.

Jean discussed the ‘cultural biography approach to thinking on Hadrian’s Wall.’
The relationship of Hadrian’s Wall to people has varied through time. It was a source of building material for farmers; in the Jacobean period it was regarded as almost having a living spirit and as a boundary between England and Scotland – the cartographer Speed called it the Pict’s Wall (not Hadrian’s), then it became an object of study for early antiquarians in Newcastle and Clayton (of the Street) began to preserve the wall – which changed the nature of the wall – some suggestion that this was motivated by imperialism at a time when Britannia ruled the world. The study of the wall continued in 20th century with the Birley family (like the Claytons, very wealthy) excavating and modelling aspects of it. As a heritage site it became an object of mass tourism. Hunter Davies, in his book, ‘A Walk along the Wall’ says it’s a living wall – he almost anthropomorphises it. Now the wall is a brand.

Discussion followed over why and when it was built, in which direction, who paid for it (Mexico) and what the Romans called it – ‘a wall’.

Gavin – brought proceedings to a close by raising the topic of the Marlborough Mound – sited in Marlborough College – it’s a mound 62 feet high. Radio carbon-dating says it’s from 2400BC, the same time as Silbury Hill. Perhaps it was a ritual monument. The Normans and Plantagenets used it as a defence. In 1209 ‘Bad’ King John called an Assembly of all men in the realm aged over 15 (at least those with satnavs) to discuss his refusal to appoint ‘Good’ Stephen Langton as Archbishop of Canterbury (King J had been threatened with excommunication). Anyway, they all had to swear an oath of allegiance to him – many of them being quite happy to swear, by that stage in the proceedings, as vigorously as 15 year olds from Cornwall, Gateshead and Cumbria could manage.
Henry III called Parliament to the mound for the Statute of Marlborough which offered peace justice and apple pie for all.

The Mound was given to the Seymour family (the usual nepotism) and, in addition, it was held, in folklore, (lots of commas there) to be the burial place of Merlin – a wizard so great that he was able to offer a solution to the Northern Ireland boundary situation and, it is suggested, that he has returned to earth in the form of David Davis in order to administer this. You’ll find his solution written on the side of a bus.