Posts Tagged With: England

At the Twelve Pins

Twelve Pins Pub, Islington

Taxis and tourists, ice cream girl

waiting to cross with flowers in hand, crying,

while Daddy chases daughter in pink cap exploring, learning

Islington’s ways; working class guys and foreigners

walk with Irishmen, Arabs, and Africans; the quiet American

smoking his pipe at a table on the pub sidewalk –

first a Guinness then a Strongbow while he watches and waits – for what?

The Ginger Beauty? The Ice Cream Girl?  He exchanges

knowing looks with the daddy, baby daughter imprisoned

again in her pram; buses of red roaring down

Seven Sisters Road where Blackstock turns

downhill.  Just sit and watch and London

passes for the price of a pint or two at the Twelve Pins.

Categories: England, Exploration, Food & Drink, Poetry, Pubs, United Kingdom | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Historic Preservation, Community Identity, & the Gospel of Progress in Britain and America

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Washington Square Park in New York City

This excellent article from the National Trust for Historic Preservation came to my attention today: https://savingplaces.org/stories/a-tale-of-two-planners-jane-jacobs-and-robert-moses#.VyMoSjArKCg.  It describes the 1960’s struggle to save Greenwich Village and other parts of lower Manhattan from the threat brought about by a developer’s plan to build a massive elevated highway that would have destroyed Washington Square Park, as well as parts of Little Italy and SoHo.  Having attending NYU as an undergraduate, and having spent a lot of time in and around that park playing chess, eating lunch, spending time with other students, chatting to little old ladies, and listening many times in silent admiration to a talented homeless blues singer named Jimmy play the guitar and sing, I cannot imagine my time there without it.

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Looking up 5th Avenue through the Washington Arch

 

We clearly need more people like the amazing Jane Jacobs, the preservationist detailed in the article above. Having consulted and worked with architectural historians, developers, and planners on a number of archaeological and historical projects over the last couple decades, I can say that these kind of struggles have only intensified since the Jacobs v. Moses era. Savannah, Georgia is another wonderful example of how 7 determined ladies fought and saved it from being turned into just “another soulless city” (http://www.myhsf.org/about-us/the-story-of-preservation-in-savannah/). Thanks to them and their successors, Savannah is now one of the most beautiful historic cities in the U.S.

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Savannah, Georgia street scene

But it’s an unending battle to retain community and identity and hold off those with the money and the power, who are usually championed by the local Chamber of Commerce zombies and their monosyllabic grunts of “Jobs, Roads, Development!”  Since the 1950’s thousands of unique structures have been demolished across America so that developers could “pave paradise and [sometimes literally] put up a parking lot.”  And usually the long-term heritage and unique needs of the community (think centuries) are scoffed at in favor of the short-term benefits (think years or at best a couple decades) of the latest schemers, who are usually benefiting financially in the process somehow.

Unfortunately our European cousins are not exempt from the myth of “progress” either, though they generally have more respect for their surviving architectural heritage than Americans do for theirs. One major exception is beautiful Oxford, England, which has so many incredible examples of truly historic buildings.  It even has its own wonderful story of victory over the demolishers of tradition and history in the fight to preserve the quaint area called Jericho.  Unfortunately, Oxford also has a tremendous amount of the ugliest architecture anywhere.  Just walk the grounds of St. Johns College, for example, to see numerous dorms with giant glass windows looking out over 500 year old buildings.  There is even one that looks a bit like a bee hive.  And the Oxford County Council continually overrules the concerns of citizens and local preservationists, since the university almost always gets whatever it wants, from ugly buildings being plopped down onto beautiful college quads to disastrous student housing ideas that were never properly reviewed for environmental or visual impacts to historic green spaces (for more on Oxford’s complete lack of concern in preserving its unique architectural identity, take a look at this blog: https://timmyatt.com/tag/oxford-architecture/).

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St. Cross College, Rear Quad, Oxford, 2013 – notice Pusey House, a 100 year old chapel and focus of the Anglican Church’s Oxford Movement, behind students

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St. Cross College, Plans for New Building, 2016 – notice dramatic visual impact to Pusey House

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St. Cross College, New Building under construction next to 100-year old Pusey House, 2016

Although I do not see the point of monarchy (bloody Americans and 1776 and all that), and I doubt I have anything remotely in common with him, I do think Prince Charles was very brave and spot on when he addressed post-World War II London architecture by asking: “When did we lose our sense of vision?  How could those in control become so out of step with so many Londoners who felt powerless to resist the destruction of their city…?”  (for a short video clip of his excellent critique of modern big box architecture, click this link – http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/newsnight/9502425.stm).

But for the best quote on British architecture over the last 70 years we must return to Matthew Arnold’s “sweet city with her dreaming spires” – Oxford – and put ourselves into the minds of those with the power and determination to say yea or nay:

“You know, we’ve been putting up handsome buildings since 1264; let’s have an ugly one for a change.’  Then the planning authorities had to say, “Well, why not?  Plenty worse in Basildon”….Then…the whole of the city -students, dons, shopkeepers, office workers, members of the Oxford Preservation Trust – had to acquiesce and not kick up a fuss. Multiply this by, say, 200 or 300 and 400 and you have modern Oxford.  And you tell me that it is one of the most beautiful, well-preserved cities in the world?  I’m afraid not.  It is a beautiful city that has been treated with gross indifference and lamentable incompetence for far too long, and every living person in Oxford should feel a little bit ashamed.”

Bill BrysonNotes from a Small Island, 1995

Categories: Architecture, Churches, England, Historic Preservation, United Kingdom | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Girl I Left Behind: A New Variant on an Old Song

Cover of Sam Henry's Songs of the People, 2010 UGA Press edition

 

Listening to British folk singer Andy Irvine today, I was stuck by a song I had never heard before: “The Girl I Left Behind.”  This is neither the same song nor even the same tune as the famous fiddle tune “The Girl I Left Behind Me,” which is in every bluegrass band’s repertoire.   The song I was enjoying struck me, however, as having a very familiar tune itself, and with a little research I discovered that it is essentially the same music as “I’m a Good Old Rebel,” “Lily of the West,” and “Lakes of Ponchartrain.”  I am not certain when this song dates to, but I do feel that it could easily have an Irish origin and might be as old as the late 18th or early 19th century.  Perhaps someone can comment on that.  At any rate, the tale told in Irvine’s version of the song struck a chord in me (literally and figuratively! – here is a link to his wonderful version –https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5MQilZw1LZ8), and inspired me to try my own hand on a new variant.  Below are the results of today’s glorious obsession!

[Incidentally, Irvine wrote this in his liner notes accompanying the album Way Out Yonder (2000), on which his version of the song first appeared: “I’ve known the first part of this song since I was quite young.  I heard it on a Library of Congress Album sung by Mrs Pearl Borusky, who recorded it in Ohio.  I later heard the great Seamus Ennis sing it at a party in Peggy Jordan’s in Dublin.  I found this full version late one Summer’s night in Sam Henry’s Collection “Songs of the people”–How had I never seen it before ?”]

The Girl I Left Behind (2015)

There was a gentleman farmer at Everton Grange he dwelled

He had one only daughter in love with her I fell

She was so tall and brilliant, so funny and so fair

No other girl in England with her I could compare.

We rambled and we courted for two years near about

She showed me Merry Old England, its meadows, fields, and routes

Through Oxfordshire and Hampshire, Old London, and sweet France

The farmer’s daughter smiled on me, and made my heart to dance.

Then news from home it reached me and Lord it beat me down

And I knew that I must leave her and return to my own town

Over the hills and far away from England I must go

But to leave the farmer’s daughter it filled my heart with woe.

I asked if it made any difference if I crossed over the main

She said her heart was ever mine, that we would meet again,

That we would meet on foreign shores, this greatly eased my mind

So we kissed and then we parted and I left my girl behind.

Straightway I flew from Londontown unto Americay

My mother she was so relieved to see me on that day

My father and my sons rejoiced when I came down the line

But the girl I left behind me was always on my mind.

We wrote each other when we could but things were not the same

She moved off to another place far from our haunts and hame

A new life beckoned and off she flew, the sun upon her shined,

But I was far away without the girl I left behind.

My business settled at home I flew to see my bonnie bird

But her heart was cold and hurting when my words of love she heard

She said she didn’t love me now and a new love I should find

As my tears fell down away she walked – the girl I left behind.

Since then across wide oceans I’ve traveled o’er the earth

I’ve roamed and rambled this wide world over to soothe my aching heart

But my tears still fall like the storms of Thor and she’s always on my mind

I’ll always love the farmer’s daughter – the girl I left behind.

Now, compare these lyrics written today with the traditional lyrics sung by Andy Irvine:

There was a rich old farmer lived in the country nigh
He had one only daughter on her I cast my eye
She was so tall and slender so delicate and so fair
No other girl in the neighbourhood with her I could compare.I asked if it made any difference if I crossed over the main
She says it makes no difference if you’ll come back again
She promised she’d be true to me until death’s parting time
So we kissed shook hands and parted and I left my girl behind.

Straightway I sailed from old Ireland to Glasgow I did go
Where the work and money was plentiful and the whiskey it did flow
Where the work and money was plentiful and the girls all treated me kind
But the girl I left behind me was always on my mind.

One day as I went walking down by the public square
The mail boat had arrived and the postman met me there
He handed me a letter which gave me to understand
That the girl I left behind me was married to another man.

I stopped and gazed around me my heart was filled with fear
O oftentimes she promised me that she would prove sincere
On the Sunday of our parting ‘twas on the Book she swore
That she would wed no other man and she vowed it o’er and o’er.

I advanced a few steps forward full knowing these words to be true
My mind being bent on rambling I didn’t know what to do
My mind being bent on rambling this wide world to see o’er
I left my dear old parents perhaps to see no more.

Straightway I sailed to old New York strange faces for to see
Where Handsome Peggy Walker she fell in love with me
My pocket being empty I thought it was full time
For to stop with her and think no more on the girl I left behind.

One day as I sat musing she says my boy don’t grieve
For I have money in plenty to support both you and me
Your pocket will be laden hard labour you can give o’er
If you’ll agree to marry me and rambling go no more.

Well if should agree to marry you I would be much to blame
Your friends and your relations would look on me with shame
And I mean to see my parents before that they resign
And to bid farewell and a last adieu to the girl I left behind.

Well if all that you reveal be true our friendship’s at an end
Since first you came to this country I’ve always proved your friend
You had my money at your command when fortune seemed to frown
And my boy’s cause I still maintained when others ran you down.

At this my heart it did relent for what she said was true
And I promised for to marry her, oh what else could I do ?
Now Peggy’s mistress of my heart she loving and she’s kind
But the perjured vows I’ll ne’er forget of the girl I left behind.

“But let’s remember, there are four parts to our definition of a folk song: anonymity is important – nobody knows who wrote it; age; travel; change.  When you have these four elements, when you can test a song by these four criteria, I think you can tell whether a song is a folk song or not.”

Frank M. WarnerFolk Songs of the Eastern Seaboard: from a Collector’s Notebook, 1963

Categories: England, Folk Music, Ireland, Love, United Kingdom | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

To R. H. in Manchester, with Love from Georgia

Dee & Rosemary, Manchester, 1944, most likely with her sister Barbara and mother Beatrice

Dee & Rosemary, Manchester, 1944, most likely with her sister Barbara and mother Beatrice

I once rambled to Manchester, England on a pilgrimage of love and a mission of nostalgia. There I communed with both living spirits and the shades of yesteryear. But since obscurity will not tell the tale, let me explain.

When my great uncle Ellied (“Ellie D” or just “Dee”) Douglas died childless in 2001, my maternal aunts and uncles became his sole heirs. Each niece and nephew inherited something belonging to Uncle Dee, and my mother happened to receive an old trunk full of many of his precious memories. The most interesting of the items in this trunk had to do with World War II, in which he served as a Warrant Officer in the U. S. Army. The saddest of these were the personal effects belonging to his brother Paul, who died in the reinvasion of the Philippines in early 1945. Uncle Dee had kept Paul’s civilian clothes, glasses, other mementos, and even some special Japanese paper money and coins that American soldiers, marines, and sailors used as they island-hopped across the Pacific. But the most fascinating things left behind by my great uncle were the series of letters to him from an English girl by the name of Rosemary Higginbottom of Manchester, England.

Dee was a farm boy from rural south Georgia who had been working in a cotton mill when he joined the army on August 6, 1942 at Fort McPherson, Atlanta at the age of 25. He could have had no idea how far the war would take him or of the lifelong attachments he would make when he set out on his journey. Although I am still trying to work out many of his whereabouts during that conflagration, the family has long known of his lost love in Manchester, and how he was sent into France with the army in September 1944 and presumably never saw her again. It appears that he was sent to Manchester for training as a Warrant Officer in the spring of 1944, and it was there that he met and fell in love with Rosemary and she with him.

Dee and many other American soldiers were billeted in houses with English host families who were paid for this by the U. S. Government. This was badly needed money, since it was a time of unbelievable hardship across Britain, much worse than the situation in the United States. The Blitz had even hit Manchester and other northern English cities, and life on the home front was exceedingly tough for families just trying to exist until the hoped-for victory would occur and their boys could come home. At any rate, somehow and somewhere Dee and Rosemary met and fell in love, and although we do not have his letters to her, we know a little of their life together in the southern Manchester area called Withington from her beautiful letters to him.

Dee Douglas, Manchester, England, 1944

Dee Douglas, Manchester, England, 1944

On this pilgrimage d’amour to friendly Manchester, I was fortunate enough to meet some lovely people who were fascinated by the story of Dee and Rosemary. Two of these were Phil the retired merchant seaman and Sarah the barmaid at the Victoria Pub in relaxed Withington, whither I had wandered down from the busy city centre. Perhaps Dee and Rosemary once visited this very pub together, since it had been established in Victorian days! I may never know. At any rate, today the Victoria is full of local characters and friendly faces, who listened to the tale and gave me some directions that helped me find the house where I believe Rosemary, her sister Barbara, and her mother Beatrice lived with her father during the war years.

The Victoria Pub, Withington

The Victoria Pub, Withington

Based on the address on her letters to Dee, the topography in the back garden (as the Brits call the back yard) as shown in the 1944 photos above, and confirmed by my expeditionary pedestrian survey as assisted by Google Maps, I do believe I actually found and visited the former Higginbottom home at 49 Ashdale Drive, Withington, Manchester 20, England! This confirmation is primarily based on the berm running behind the house in the photos, which is still behind the house at that address today, and holds the elevated track of the Manchester Tram running to Withington.

49 Ashdale Drive, Withington in October 2015

49 Ashdale Drive, Withington today

Heart on Door of 49 Ashdale Drive, Withington

Heart on Door of 49 Ashdale Drive, Withington

It was a very fulfilling experience, and I am so glad I was able to honor the memories of my Uncle Dee and his Rosemary by making this pilgrimage. As I said before, they evidently never met again after Dee was shipped off to France, although they wrote letters to each other for a number of years after Dee came home to Georgia after the war. It appears that Rosemary eventually married Charles E. Heaton in Manchester in 1951, although I do not know if they had children or not. Much later in life Uncle Dee married the woman who became my Aunt May. They never had any children.

But in an odd way there is a living link between Rosemary and her Dougie. When he returned home to Georgia in 1945 at the close of the war, evidently all he could talk about was his Rosemary. It just so happened that his brother Chester’s wife Eva was great with child then, so when a daughter was born to them on September 14, 1945 – a year after the last meeting of the lovers in our tale – they decided to name her Rosemary, after Rosemary Higginbottom of Manchester, England. And that second Rosemary happens to be my mother.

[September 1944]

My Darling Sweetheart

I shall be able to give you this letter in person this morning. I am glad that I am coming down to see you for I have still to hear you do some more talking.

I must just make one reference to last night. Dearest I am sorry but really I should have known only the trouble was explaining to the family over a film. When you kissed me before going last night the hurt the evening had caused died right out and if you hadn’t been very near to going I should have felt on top of the world.

I have very many happy hours to thank you for. And here’s the Big Thank You – when you leave me today I am hoping with all my heart that it won’t be good bye forever. You sure are the grandest & best pal a girl could ever wish for & I could never wish for a better one ever. I love you very much Dougie and when you are away I want to think all on my own. I should like to know one day if I needed you if you would come to me. Dear you have shown me far more than Joe ever did how much you love me and I am not
the kind of girl to forget my friends & never my best ones.

I should have asked you about the coins* for my arm or neck & please oh let me have them for that is something I should like more than anything else. I would always keep it to. I must close now & wherever you are or go I shall always be thinking of you.

All my love & very best wishes my Darling
Your English girl
Rosemary xxxxxxxxxx

Rosemary Higginbottom to Ellied Douglas, Letter from September 1944

*Note: the obscure reference to coins for her arm or neck indicate that Rosemary wanted to make a necklace or bracelet out of coins given to her by Dougie. This was a common gift to the girls, wives, and mothers back home, and called Sweetheart Jewelry.

Categories: England, Exploration, Love, World War II | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Georgia Spear Points in an English Museum

Georgia Prehistoric Projectile Points in England

Georgia Prehistoric Projectile Points in England

I was simply delighted the first time I noticed these four projectile points from Georgia on display in the Weapons section of the Pitt Rivers Museum at the University of Oxford in England. They are incorrectly identified, of course, since not one of the four are “arrowheads.” This is a common mistake even in America, though, since only the smallest triangular points identified by Whatley (2002) as Late Woodland Triangulars and Mississippian Triangulars are thought to have actually been shot from bows and to have been actually used as arrow “heads.” Furthermore, the bow and arrow are thought to have come into use amongst North American Indians around 1500 years ago, though this date may get pushed back a little further at some point based on future archaeological discoveries.

The four points at the Pitt Rivers are actually all spear points from Southeastern North America’s Prehistoric Period, and would have been hafted to spears, or to shafts for re-loading into the ends of spears, or used as knives. All of them would have been projected simply with the arm or with the atlatl, the North American version of the spear-thrower, a tool once in use all over the world. I would identify them, from left to right on the top row, as 1) an Hernando, 2) a Lost Lake, and 3) another Hernando point. All three of these appear to be made of Coastal Plain chert, which is naturally occurring below Georgia’s Fall Line, running across the center of the state from Columbus to Macon to Augusta. Hernando points are from the Middle Woodland sub-period, and date from about 2500 to 2000 years ago (Whatley 2002:51). Lost Lake points are from the Early Archaic sub-period, and date from around 9250 to 9000 years ago (Whatley 2002:73). The quartz spear point on the bottom row appears to be a Yadkin. This type straddles the Early to Middle Woodland sub-periods, and dates from about 2500 to 1500 years ago (Whatley 2002:127).

There are actually other Georgia spear points held in the collections of the Pitt Rivers, as well as points from adjacent Southern states. Although the four discussed here are the only ones currently on display, perhaps I will have time to analyze and discuss the other Georgia specimen in the future.

Work Cited:

Whatley, John S.
2002 “An Overview of Georgia Projectile Points and Selected Cutting Tools.” Early Georgia 30 (1).

Categories: Archaeology, Museums | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Continental Divide Over Displaying the Dead: Celtic and American Indian Burial Exhibits

Maiden Castle, Dorset, England

Maiden Castle, Dorset, England

Maiden Castle was a Celtic Iron Age earthen enclosure and fort begun about 600 B.C. and expanded in the following several centuries.  It was attacked and taken by Legio II Augusta (the second Augustan legion), which was commanded by Roman general Vespasian, who later became emperor.  The photo above shows the Romano-British temple on the hilltop, and the surrounding landscape of Dorset – a truly beautiful county on the south coast of England.  Excavations recovered locally-produced pottery, projectile points, and skeletons of Celtic warriors killed in the battle, including one (below, left) with a Roman ballista bolt in his vertebrae.  Artifacts from the excavations, including several burials, are on display today in the Dorset County Museum in Dorchester.

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Celtic Warriors Buried at Maiden Castle, Dorset, and now on display at the Dorset County Museum in Dorchester

It is interesting to note the relaxed manner British museums in general have toward exhibiting the remains of what are seen as the ancestors of modern-day Britons.  This can be compared and contrasted in an interesting fashion to American museums, which rarely exhibit burials or grave goods anymore due to a relatively new-found sensitivity over displaying the remains of Native Americans.  Such is the case partly because the indigenous peoples of North America are not normally seen as being the ancestors of the average American, and partly due to reaction against the complete and utter lack of such sympathy in the past.  Interestingly, many Americans today might be surprised to learn that their DNA exhibits some amount of admixture of Native American ancestry – particularly if one is from the American South where contact between Europeans and American Indians began almost 500 years ago.  Additionally, the DNA of most modern American Indians – no matter where they live – contains quite a bit of European ancestry.  More information on DNA studies of Southeastern Native Americans can be found in articles by Bolnick and Smith (2003) and Bolnick, Bolnick, and Smith (2006). Another highly interesting study into British DNA, showing that Celtic bloodlines are quite prevalent in today’s Brit, was recently performed by professors at the University of Oxford – http://www.oxfordtoday.ox.ac.uk/features/what-makes-british.

“But thou shalt not die unknown…my bards are many, O Carthon! their songs descend to future times. The children of years to come shall hear the fame of Carthon, when they sit round the burning oak, and the night is spent in songs of old.  The hunter, sitting in the heath, shall hear the rustling blast, and raising his eyes, behold the rock where Carthon fell….Three days they mourned above Carthon; on the fourth his father died. In the narrow plain of the rock they lie; a dim ghost defends their tomb.  There lovely Moina is often seen when the sunbeam darts on the rock and all around is dark. There she is seen, Malvina; but not like the daughters of the hill.  Her robes are from the stranger’s land, and she is still alone!

James Macpherson, excerpted from Carthon in The Works of Ossian, 1765

Categories: Archaeology, Museums | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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