Gallo, the Carrickfergus language of Yes

Pays Gallo.svg

Gallo is a regional language of France. It is not as commonly spoken as it once was, as the standard form of French now predominates. Gallo is classified as one of the Oïl languages . Langue d’oïl (in the singular), Oïl languages (in the plural) designate the ancient northern Gallo-Romance languages as well as their modern-day descendants. They share many linguistic features, a prominent one being the word oïl for yes. (Oc was and still is the southern word for yes, hence the langue d’oc or Occitan languages). The most widely spoken modern Oïl language is French (oïl was  pronounced ( or (o.l), which has become (wi), in modern French (oui).

Gallo was originally spoken in the Marches of Neustria, visited by Columbanus from Bangor in his travels, which now corresponds to the border lands of Brittany and Normandy and its former heart in Le Mans, Maine. Gallo was the shared spoken language of the leaders of the Norman Conquest of England and Wales, then Scotland and Ireland, most of whom originated in Upper Brittany and Lower Normandy.  Thus Gallo was a vehicle for the subsequent transformation (“Gallicisation”) of English, through Anglo-Norman. Brought to Ulster by John de Courcy, it is a former language of Carrickfergus, and Gallo elements can be traced in its early documenttation.

Gallo continued as the language of Upper Brittany, Maine and some neighbouring portions of Normandy until the introduction of universal education across France, but today Gallo is spoken by only a small minority of the population, having been largely superseded by standard French. As an Oïl language, Gallo forms part of a language continuum which includes Norman, Picard and Poitevin, among others. One of the features that distinguishes it from Norman is the absence of Old Norse influence. There is some limited mutual intelligilility with adjacent varieties of the Norman language along the linguistic frontier and with Guernésiais and Jèrriais spoken in Guernsey and Jersey.  In the west, the vocabulary of Gallo has been influenced by contact with Breton, the Brittonic tongue traditionally spoken in the western territory of Brittany, but remains overwhelmingly Latinate. The influence of Breton decreases eastwards across Gallo-speaking territory. During their migration to Brittany, Britons also occupied the Lenur islands (the former name of the Channel Islands) including Sarnia or Lisia (Guernsey) and Angia (Jersey). Travelling from the King of Gwent, Saint Sampson, later the abbot of Doll in Brittany, is credited with the introduction of Christianity to the islands.

Many Bretons who came in the Norman Conquest spoke Breton rather than Gallo. The prominent Stuart family, including William of Orange and his wife Mary Stuart were both descended from the Breton nobleman Alan, son of Flaald, who came to England with William the Conqueror. So that Breton and Gallo are very much part of our linguistic heritage. Jersey (officially the Bailiwick of Jersey (French: Bailliage de Jersey; Jèrriais : Bailliage dé Jèrri), is a Crown Dependency of the United Kingdom. located near the coast of Normandy, France. Jersey was part of the Duchy of Normandy, whose dukes went on to become kings of England from 1066. After Normandy was lost by the kings of England in the 13th century, and the ducal title surrendered to France, Jersey, Guernsey and the other Channel Islands remained attached to the English crown.

One bailiwick consists of the island of Jersey, the largest of the Channel Islands, along with surrounding uninhabited islands and rocks collectively named Les Dirouilles, Les Écréhous, Les Minquiers, Les Pierres de Lecq, and other reefs. The other bailiwick (French: Bailliage de Guernesey) is made up of ten parishes on the island of Guernsey, three other inhabited islands (Herm, Jethou and Lihou), and many small islets and rocks. Although the bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey are often referred to collectively as the Channel Islands, the “Channel Islands” are not a constitutional or political unit. Jersey has a separate relationship to the Crown from the other Crown dependencies of Guernsey and the Isle of Man, although all are held by the monarch of the United Kingdom. Jersey and Guernsey are self-governing parliamentary democracies under a constitutional monarchy, with their own financial, legal and judicial systems, and the power of self-determination. The Lieutenant Governor on both the islands of Jersey and Guernsey is the personal representative of the Queen.

Jersey and Guernsey are not part of the United Kingdom, and have an international identity separate from that of the UK, but the UK is constitutionally responsible for their defence.The definition of United Kingdom in the British Nationality Act 1981 is interpreted as including the UK and the Islands together. The European Commission have confirmed in a written reply to the European Parliament in 2003 that Jersey is within the Union as a European Territory for whose external relationships the UK is responsible. Jersey is not fully part of the European Union but has a special relationship with it, notably being treated as within the European Community for the purposes of free trade in goods.

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Elmet- the last British Kingdom.

Yr Hen Ogledd (The Old North) c. 550 – c. 650

‘The Calder valley, west of Halifax, was the last ditch of Elmet, the last British Celtic kingdom to fall to the Angles. For centuries it was considered a more or less uninhabitable wilderness, a notorious refuge for criminals, a hide-out for refugees. Then in the early 1800s it became the cradle for the Industrial Revolution in textiles, and the upper Calder became “the hardest-worked river in England”. Throughout my lifetime, since 1930, I have watched the mills of the region and their attendant chapels die. Within the last fifteen years the end has come. They are now virtually dead, and the population of the valley and the hillsides, so rooted for so long, is changing rapidly.’ Ted Hughes, Preface to Remains of Elmet (1979)

Ted Hughes’s remarkable ‘pennine sequence’ celebrates the area where he spent his early childhood. It mixes social, political, religious and historical matter – a tapestry rich in the personal and poetic investment of a landscape that both creates and is inured to its people, whose moors ‘Are a stage for the performance of heaven.  Any audience is incidental.’ Remains of Elmet is one of Hughes’s most personal and enduring achievements.

Elmet (Cymric: Elfed) was an independent Brittonic or Old British kingdom covering a region of what later became the West Riding of Yorkshire in the Early Middle Ages, between about the 5th century and early 7th century. Although its precise borders are unclear, it appears to have been bounded by the River Sheaf in the south and the River Wharfe in the east. It adjoined Deira (Deifr) to the north and Mercia to the south, and its western boundary appears to have been near Craven, which was possibly a minor British kingdom. As such it was well to the east of other territories of the Britons in Wales and the West Country (i.e. Cornwall and Dumnonia (Devon), and to the south of those in the Hen Ogledd (“Old North”). As one of the southeasternmost Brittonic regions for which there is reasonably substantial evidence, it is notable for having survived relatively late in the period of Anglo-Saxon or English settlement of Britain.

Elmet was invaded and conquered by the Kingdom of Northumbria in the autumn of 616 or 626. The kingdom is chiefly attested in topographical and archaeological evidence, references in early Welsh poetry, and historical sources such as the Historia Brittonorum and Bede. The name survives throughout the area in place names such as Barwick-in-Elmet and Sherburn-in-Elmet. A local parliamentary constituency is also called Elmet and Rothwell.

Elmet was one of a number of Sub-Roman Brittonic realms in the Hen Ogledd – what is now northern England and southern Scotland – during the Early Middle Ages. Other kingdoms included Rheged, the Kingdom of Strathclyde, and Gododdin. It is unclear how Elmet came to be established, though it has been suggested that it may have been created from a larger kingdom ruled by the semi-legendary Coel Hen. The region of Elmet probably had a distinct tribal identity in pre-Roman times and that this re-emerged after Roman rule collapsed.

The existence of Elmet is attested in the Historia Brittonum, which says that King Edwin of Northumbria “occupied Elmet and expelled Certic, king of that country”. Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People says that Hereric, the father of Hilda of Whitby, an important figure in the Christianisation of the English, was killed at the court of Ceretic. It is generally presumed that Ceretic/Certic was the same person known in Welsh sources as Ceredig ap Gwallog, king of Elmet. However, Bede does not speak of Elmet as the name of a kingdom but rather of the silva Elmete “forest of Elmet”. He mentions that “subsequent kings made a house for themselves in the district, which is called Loidis”, and the battle of Winwaed was also in the region of Loidis – probably the area covered by the present day City of Leeds.

Elmet appears to have had ties with Wales; an early Christian inscription found in Gwynedd reads “ALIOTVS ELMETIACOS HIC IACET”, or “Aliotus the Elmetian lies here”. A cantref (administrative division) of later Dyfed was also named Elfed, the regular Cymric reflex of earlier Elmet. A number of ancestors of Ceretic are recorded in Welsh sources: one of Taliesin’s poems is for his father, Gwallog ap LLeenog, who may have ruled Elmet near the end of the 6th century.

Towards the end of the 6th century, Elmet came under increasing pressure from the expanding Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of Deira and Mercia. Forces from Elmet joined the ill-fated alliance in 590 against the English of Bernicia who had been making massive inroads further to the north. During this war it is thought Elmet’s king Gwallog was killed. The northern alliance collapsed after Urien of Rheged was murdered and a feud broke out between two of its key members.

After the unification of the Anglian Kingdom of Northumbria, the Northumbrians invaded and overran Elmet in 616 or 617. It is not known definitely what prompted the invasion, but it has been suggested that the causus belli was the death by poisoning of the Northumbrian nobleman Hereric, who was an exiled member of the Northumbrian royal house residing in Elmet. It may have been that Hereric had been poisoned by his hosts and Edwin of Northumbria invaded in retaliation; or perhaps Edwin himself had Hereric poisoned and invaded Elmet to punish Ceredig for harbouring him.

After the conquest of Elmet, the realm was incorporated into Northumbria on Easter in 627 and its people were known as the Elmetsæte. They are recorded in the late 7th century Tribal Hidage as the inhabitants of a minor territory of 600 hides. They were the most northerly group recorded in the Tribal Hidage. The Elmetsæte probably continued to reside in West Yorkshire as a distinct group throughout the Saxon period and may have colluded with Cadwallon ap Cadfan of Gwynedd when he invaded Northumbria and briefly held the area in 633.

The Life of Cathróe of Metz mentions Loidam Civitatem as the boundary between the Norsemen of Scandinavian York and the Britons of the Kingdom of Strathclyde: if this refers to Leeds, it suggests that some or all of Elmet may have been returned to Brittonic rule for a brief period in the first half of the 10th century before Anglo-Saxon reconquest, but not as an independent state.

According to a genetic study published in Nature (19 Mar 2015), the local population of West Yorkshire is genetically distinct from the rest of the population of Yorkshire, and indeed the rest of England, suggesting that families in West Yorkshire who have been in the area for many generations are descendants of the original Elmetsæte.

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The Scotch (Ullans) Language Tradition in Ulster

In 1970, I purchased the Ballatis of Luve, an important anthology produced by Professor John McQueen at the Edinburgh University Press. This brought together some of the best lyrics of courtly love written by Scottish poets and musicians during the course of the fifteen and early sixteenth centuries. There were some Scottish versions of versions of lyrics by Englishmen- Chaucer, Lydgate and Wyatt, but at the core of the anthology was the love poetry of Alexander Scott, (c.1515 to c.1583). In an historical and critical introduction, Professor McQueen examined the development and eventual decline of the Scottish love lyric from the beginning of the 15th Century until the end of the personal reign of Mary Queen of Scots.

As well as giving new biographical information on several of the poets represented, he discussed the relationship of the Scottish lyric to English verse and to the art music of the 16th century, particularly that associated with the Augustinian canons and with the Chapel Royal at Stirling, the social and political relevance of the lyric and the general effect of the Reformation on Scottish culture. Indeed, he shows us quite clearly that the troubled reign of Mary Queen of Scots occurred in the midst of a Reformation movement which, though it may have been both historically inevitable and desirable, went too far and had far reaching consequences, both social and artistic, which actually went a long way to destroying Scottish culture and civilisation.

Sir Richard Maitland (1496–1586) was a statesman and poet of some distinction. He was proud of the accomplishment of Scottish letters but he certainly shared an additional impulse with his younger contemporaries and fellow-collectors, George Ballantyne (1545–c.1608) and the musician Thomas Wode, Vicar of St Andrews (ob.1592), to preserve something of an already suppressed culture which they felt to be in danger of complete extinction. The Reformation had a more distinct effect on music than poetry and they had a sense of the loss of a deeper, richer past. This was particularly strong in Wode. The technicalities of musical theory also figure prominently and functionally in the works of Robert Henryson (c. 1420 to c.1490), William Dunbar (c. 1460 to 1513) and Gavin Douglas (1475 to 1522).

In the course of the 16th century it becomes more possible to provide biographical details of individual authors and the importance of professional musicians as writers of words as well as music becomes more and more obvious. The great Belfast writer and scholar C S Lewis’s magisterial work Poetry and Prose in the Sixteenth Century Volume IV in the Oxford History of English Literature (1954) is particulary important, illustrating as it does language and literature at the close of the Middle Ages in Scotland. Characteristically Lewis writes Scotch not Scottish, claiming the freedom of “my ain vulgaire”, which has historical precedence. He speaks of New Learning but also of New Ignorance and that it is not easy to see aright the real qualities of Scots language in general. It has become a patois, redolent (for those reared in Scotland) of the nursery and the Kailyard, and (for the rest of us) recalling Burns and the dialectal parts of the Waverley novels. Yet we must not forget that it was once a courtly and literary language, “not made for village curls, but for high dames and mighty earls”.

C S Lewis makes an appreciative reference to Sir John Fethy (c.1480-1570),who was a poet as well as a composer. “It must not be supposed,” he says, ” that Dunbar dominates the minor poets completely. In the beautiful lyric by Fethy the poignancy of the refrain ” Cauld, caul culis the lufe that kendillis our het” depends on a quality of rhythm which is quite unlike Dunbar’s”. This difference of rhythm is certainly related to the fact Fethty was a musician and composer of distinction, a song-writer. Thomas Wode notes that this man was ”the first organeist that ever brought in Scotland the curious new fingering and playing on organs and yit it is mair nor three score yeiris since he cum hame”.

Lewis also applauds such magnificent works as the XIII Bukes of the Eneados , a translation of Virgil’s Aeneid by Gavin Douglas, which he finished in 1513. Douglas often rendered the sublimity of Virgil in lines that no translator, and not many original poets, have surpassed: The langsum luife drinkand inwart full cauld, (I. 749.); Wet in the mindless flude of Hell, Lethe, (v.854.); Mychtfulin heven and dim dungeon of helle. (vi. 247.) And the pail furrow of Tysiphonee Walkis wod wroth amydwart the melee. (x 761.) But “He has done even more than this. One of the things that test a translator’s quality is that mass of small additions which metre inevitably demands. In Douglas what is added is so often so Virgilian that when we turn back to the Latin we are surprised not to find it there”.

With the appearance of the Geneva Bible in 1560 (and the Authorized Version of the Bible or King James Bible in 1611) and the Union of the Crowns in 1603 (when James VI of Scots also became James I of England) the prestige and status of Scots declined. John Knox, the Scottish Reformer, was extremely hostile to Scots. Knox viewed Scots as ‘the language of Popery’ because the most formal writing (or the highest register, as a sociolinguist might observe) in Scots was religious and Roman Catholic in content. It was increasingly displaced as the language of government, commerce and writing in both Ulster and Scotland by English because it lacked status and prestige.The Reformation, therefore, essential though it was, could indeed be said to have destroyed Scottish civilisation.

The educational system also frowned on Ulster Scots. As Dr Ivan Herbison of Queen’s University, Belfast, has noted: ‘The new education policy of the 1830s was an additional pressure on Ulster Scots.  State control of education through the National School system enabled the Anglo-Irish establishment to frame a curriculum which privileged English language, literature and cultural values, and marginalised Ulster’s Scottish cultural heritage’. Marginalization and even denigration of Ulster Scots was the inevitable result. Scots and Ulster Scots continued as the language of the home and the countryside but encountered serious prejudice.  This may be evidenced by observations in the Ordnance Survey Memoirs describing Ulster Scots as ‘disagreeable’ and ‘coarse’.

Ulster Lallans, or as I call it, Ullans, is a purer form of Scots than that now spoken in Scotland. It is a sister language of modern English, and not a dialect. It was used by Rhyming Weaver poets until about 1870.  My ancestor Edward Lennox Sloan of Conlig was one of these. These Rhyming Weavers were self taught in Greek and Latin to a level unknown among any section of the peasantry in Western Europe.They were not merely writing in imitation of Robert Burns but in a tradition which went back to Allan Ramsay in Scotland and beyond. Ramsay was a member of the Easy Club along with the Jacobite leader Dr Archibald Pitcairn and had strong Jacobite sympathies following the 1715 rising.  During the occupation of Edinburgh in 1745 he was a highly respected figure but probably disapproved of Prince Charles Edward Stuart’s policy of invading England.  He supported the aims of the French moderate Cardinal Fleury who died shortly before the 1745 Rising was embarked on.

Ramsay lived to influence the Whig “Pacifiers” following defeat at Culloden Moor.  “The Gentle Shepherd” deals with the Restoration of the Stuarts following the Cromwellian interregnum. It contains Jenny an early advocate of Women’s Liberation.   He stands midway between the Scots renaissance poets Henryson, Gavin Douglas and Dunbar and the later Romantic group, of which Burns personifies the French Revolution, Scott is the product of imperial compromise and MacDiarmid adheres to the Russian Revolution.  At first Ramsay appears the least conspicuous but he is the still small voice between the two storms, right at the beginning of the Scottish Enlightenment..

The first known Ulster Scots poet William Starrat of Strabane was closely associated with Ramsay. Indeed nine editions of Ramsay’s “The Gentle Shepherd” were printed in Ulster between 1743 and 1792 (five in Belfast, three in Newry and one in Strabane). When the first edition of Burns’ poems, the Kilmarnock edition, was published in July 1786 , extracts appeared in the Belfast News Letter– the first paper in Ireland to do so. The Edinburgh edition appeared in 1787 and James Magee of Bridge Street, Belfast reprinted and republished it the same year, the first to do so outside Scotland. Indeed extracts from the Ayrshire Ploughman appeared in the News Letter before they were published in book form.

Edward Lennox Sloan (1830–1874) was a Latter-Day Saint editor and publisher. He was the arranger of the text of the hymn “For the Strength of the Hills” into the version currently contained in the hymnal of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS Church). But he was also “Uncle Ned”, the Bard of Conlig, to my grannie Isabella Sloan Kerr, who bought me my first book on Robert Burns. Born in the village of Conlig, he was the  son of  John Sloan (1789-1853) and Mary Lennox (1794-Unknown) of Conlig, County Down, Ireland. His father’s first wife died, possibly in childbirth of her third child. Only one of his half siblings is known to have reached adulthood and died in England. Little is known of his older full brother, Samuel Lennox Sloan, Isabella’s antecedent. For such people as he, Scots in Ulster deserves  Equality, Respect and Integrity from us all.

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Stand up for the Red, White and Blue: Part 3 – The French Blue Cornflower

Bleuet de France, 2012 version

Cornflower - bleuet

The British Red Poppy, the German White Rose, the French Blue Cornflower….Stand by the Red, White and Blue…Eternal symbols of Resistance to the Nazis, yesterday, today and tomorrow

The French Blue Cornflower or bleuet de France is the symbol of memory and solidarity, in France, for veterans, victims of war, widows, and orphans, similar to the typically British remembrance poppy. 

World War I French soldiers at rest, wearing their iconic blue uniforms.

In the language of flowers, the cornflower symbolizes delicacy and humility, and indicates that a message has a pure, innocent, or delicate intention.

The cornflower – like the Red Poppy – continued to grow in land devastated by the thousands of shells which were launched daily by the entrenched armies of the Western Front. These flowers were often the only visible evidence of life, and the only sign of colour in the mud of the trenches.

At the same time, the term “bleuets” was used also to refer to the class of conscripted soldiers born in 1895 who arrived in the lead-up to the Second Battle of the Aisne, because of the horizon blue uniform worn by French soldiers after 1915. The uniform worn by these young recruits, many of whom were not yet even twenty years old, was distinctive because it marked a break from the disastrous garance red pants worn by older soldiers, which were part of the standard uniform prior to the First World War.

As the war dragged on and the novelty of the term faded, the title endured because the uniform which fresh arrivals wore into the trenches was still new and brightly colored, in contrast with the mud-stained uniforms of veteran troops.

The popularity of the term was such that the image became a potent symbol in postcards, posters, songs, and poems:

«Les voici les p’tits « Bleuets » These here, these little “Bleuets”
Les Bleuets couleur des cieux These Bleuets the color of the sky,
Ils vont jolis, gais et coquets, Are beautiful, gay, stylish,
Car ils n’ont pas froid aux yeux. Because they are not afraid.
En avant partez joyeux ; Merrily, go forward
Partez, amis, au revoir ! Go on, my friends, so long!
Salut à vous, les petits « bleus », Good luck for you, little “blues”
Petits « bleuets », vous notre espoir ! » Little “bleuets,” you are our hope!
–Alphonse Bourgoin, from Bleuets de France, 1916.

A war amputee selling bleuets on the Champs-Élysées, 4 July 1919.

The origin of the badge dates to 1916. Suzanne Lenhardt, head nurse in Les Invalides and widow of a Colonial Infanrty captain killed in 1915, and Charlotte Malleterre, sister of General Gustave Léon Nioux and the wife of General Gabriel Malleterre, both moved by the suffering endured by the war wounded for whom they were responsible and faced with the necessity to give them an active task, decided to organize workshops where cornflower badges were made from tissue paper. These badges were sold to the public at various times, and the revenues generated by this permitted them to give these men a small income. They gradually became a symbol of the rehabilitation of soldiers through labour.

On 15 September 1920, Louis Fontenaille, president of Amputees of France, presented with the support of the International Federation of Veterans in Brussels a project designed to make the bleuet the perpetual symbol of those for France.

In 1928, after the President of France Gaston Doumergue gave his patronage to the bleuet, sales gradually spread through the entire country. By 11 November 1934, 128,000 flowers were sold. From 1935, the Republic made the sale of bleuets on Remembrance Day official throughout France.

After the Second World War, in 1957, a second day for commemoration was created on 8 May, the anniversary of the surrender of Nazi Germany.

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Stand up for the Red, White and Blue: Part 2 – The German White Rose

The British Red Poppy, the German White Rose, the French Blue Cornflower….Stand by the Red, White and Blue…Eternal symbols of Resistance to the Nazis, yesterday, today and tomorrow
The White Rose (German: die Weiße Rose) was a non-violent, intellectual resistance group in Nazi Germany, consisting of students from the University of Munich and their philosophy professor. The group became known for an anonymous leaflet and graffiti campaign, lasting from June 1942 until February 1943, which called for active opposition to dictator Adolf Hitler’s regime.

The six most recognized members of the German resistance group  were arrested by the Gestapo, tried for treason and beheaded in 1943. The text of their sixth leaflet was smuggled by the jurist Helmuth James Graf von Moltke out of Germany through Scandinavia to the United Kingdom, and in July 1943, copies of it were dropped over Germany by Allied planes, retitled “The Manifesto of the Students of Munich”.

Another member, Hans Conrad Leipelt, who helped distribute Leaflet 6 in Hamburg, was executed in January 1945 for his participation. Today the members of the White Rose are honoured in Germany amongst its greatest heroes, since they opposed the Third Reich in the face of almost certain death.

White Rose survivor Jürgen Wittenstein described what it was like to live in Hitler’s Germany: “The government – or rather, the party – controlled everything: the news media, arms, police, the armed forces, the judiciary system, communications, travel, all levels of education from kindergarten to universities, all cultural and religious institutions. Political indoctrination started at a very early age, and continued by means of the Hitler Youth with the ultimate goal of complete mind control. Children were exhorted in school to denounce even their own parents for derogatory remarks about Hitler or Nazi ideology.”

So  goodbye my love till then
When the white rose blooms  again
The summer  days are ending in the  valley
And soon the time will come
When we must be  apart
Now you must  start
Your journey to the  city
And leave me  till
Another spring-time comes  around
When the white rose blooms again
You must leave me, leave me  lonely
So goodbye my love till  then
When the white rose blooms again
The autumn leaves  are falling in the  valley
And soon the  winter snow
Will lie upon the ground
But like the rose
That comes  back with the springtime
You will return to me
When springtime comes  around

Good  bye  till  then
Good  bye till  then.


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Stand up for the Red, White and Blue: Part 1 – The British Red Poppy

Glassnevin 2013 11 11 Poppies (10)

The Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red exhibit at the Tower of London in 2014 on the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I which consists of 888,246 ceramic poppies, one for each British and colonial death.


The British Red Poppy, the German White Rose, the French Blue Cornflower….Stand by the Red, White and Blue…Eternal symbols of Resistance to the Nazis, yesterday, today and tomorrow.

On Friday 29th October, 2010 Royal Irish Regiment soldier Ranger Andy Allen, now MLA for my constituency of East Belfast, helped launch the Royal British Legion’s Poppy Appeal in Northern Ireland. This was the second year running Ranger Allen had been the public face of the Ulster Poppy Appeal and we are proud of him, his comrades and their families.

Poppies of several varieties have been known to medicine since the dawn of human civilisation. The ancient Egyptians used extracts to calm anxious children. The Assyrians, Greeks and Romans said they were sent by the Gods to relieve pain and suffering. And so they still do. The Opium Poppy (Papaver somniferum) was native to Anatolia (modern Turkey), but has since spread throughout Asia. The capsule of this White Poppy secretes a milky fluid from which morphine, heroin, codeine and papaverine are all derived. This poppy was known as the Flower of Forgetfulness to the Ancients. Legend has it that the great Mogul Warrior Genghis Khan caused the White Poppy to turn Red by the slaughter of his enemies on the Battlefield.

But the Red Poppy of Remembrance, which we wear on 11th November every year, has a different origin. This is the Corn Poppy or Flanders Poppy (Papaver rhoeas), the extract of which has only a mild sedative effect. Before he himself succumbed to pneumonia and meningitis the Canadian Doctor Lt Col John McCrea wrote about the Corn Poppy in his famous poem In Flanders Fields at a dressing station north of Ypres on Essex Farm in 1915.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow .
In Flanders fields.

This was the red poppy used by the widows of French ex-servicemen to raise money by those incapacitated by the War and through them has become the symbol of sacrifice and remembrance of the British Legion, the Canadian Legion and the Anzacs. Because of the efforts of Moina Mitchell, it has also become a symbol in the United States of America for the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion. Thus while the White Poppy remains the Ancient Flower of Forgetfulness, the Red Poppy reminds us that we must never forget those who have given their health, happiness and lives for our freedom.

Ed: Blog Links

Remembrance 1, Sunday, November 11. 2007

Remembrance 2, Sunday, November 11. 2007

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Common Identity – The Formation of the Somme Association

Four years ago, a Conference in Monte Carlo, Monaco…Ireland in the Decade of the Great War, 1912 – 1923: Towards Commemoration resulted in the publication of an important book Towards Commemoration: Ireland in War and Revolution, edited by John Horne and Edward Madigan, published by the Royal Irish Academy, Dublin 2013. I contributed a chapter on Somme Memories. I used this as the basis of a talk I gave in 2014 on William Sloan to the Men’s Group of my own Conlig Presbyterian Church, at the request of my relatives Cecil Connell and Heather Lyons.

William Sloan was born in Newtownards, County Down, in 1897. He was the only son of Anthony and Lizzie Sloan who lived in Roseneath Cottage, Main Street, Conlig, Co Down, near my father’s shop, at the corner of the Tower Road. This leads past Clandeboye Golf Club to Helen’s Tower. The couple were married on 24 August 1896 in Ballygilbert Presbyterian Church. Anthony worked as a general labourer, and his two nieces Martha and Isabella, eventually became my two grannies. Anthony and Lizzie had two children, William and Lillah, to whom my grannies were therefore cousins.

Shortly after the outbreak of the Great War, at the age of 17, William enlisted at Clandeboye without his parent’s permission and, like other young men from Conlig, came home already wearing his uniform. He served with the 11th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles in 108 Brigade of the 36th (Ulster) Division and was killed in action on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, aged then only 19 years. Initially, he was reported missing in action but his mother Lizzie never accepted that he was dead and until the day she died in January 1932, the front door of the cottage was left unlocked, day and night, just in case her son came home. He has no known grave and is commemorated at home in Conlig Presbyterian Church and in France on the Thiepval Memorial Arch to the Missing of the Somme.

But the story does not end there. Following William’s death, Lillah went with two of her cousins, my granny Isabella and her sister, Cecil’s granny, my Aunt Hannah, whose husband Herbie was in the 36th (Ulster) Division until the end of the War, to work on munitions at the Alfred Nobel Dynamite factory at Ardeer in Ayrshire, Scotland. When I was a boy, I used to deliver daily newspapers to Lillah in Roseneath Cottage. We often talked about her brother and she told me that we looked alike and that I reminded her of him – which is perhaps not surprising in view of the family connection. It was from Lillah, my Granny Isabella and Aunt Hannah that I learned most about the Great War. Granny helped inform my views on my identity as a British Unionist, an Irish Royalist and an Ulster Loyalist, as well as my own principles. Always, she instructed, vote for the “Cloth Cap”, the working class.

Only much later, however, did that interest in the war turn into something more active. In 1975 I was contacted by a leading French academic in the study of Ireland, Professor René Frechet, following the publication of my book The Cruthin – the Ancient Kindred (1974). This was the beginning of a long and productive correspondence that lasted until René Frechet’s death in 1992. It is no exaggeration to say that as Professor of English at the Sorbonne, and the spirit behind the University’s Institute of Irish Studies, set up in 1979, he served as guide and councillor to the increasing number of French students engaged in research into Irish themes. His Histoire de l’Irlande (1970) was only one facet of his numerous activities in the field of Irish studies. Professor René Frechet was instrumental in bringing Farset to France, through his friend Denis Dumortier.

Apart from his love of Irish literature – his translation of the poetical works of Yeats (1989) is a model of precision and sensibility – he followed closely events in Northern Ireland which he covered in a series of often outspoken articles published in the French Protestant weekly, Réforme. An acute knowledge of facts as well as an indefectible affection for every aspect of life in the region guided his particular interest in the North. As a young lecturer he had spent two years at Queens’ University Belfast. The experience he acquired, and the long-lasting friendships he made at that time gave him an indisputable authority to comment on developments in the political situation there. There is no doubt that it was through him that the point of view of the Ulster Protestant found its most articulate and sympathetic spokesman in France. His convictions and courageous declarations did much to counter-balance the, often superficial, representations of this community in the mainstream, essentially pro-Republican French press.

I was greatly honoured that René Frechet should take an interest in my work. Commenting on my Identity of Ulster [i], he wrote:

“What an interesting, curious piece of work this is. Generally, if we are told it is not a question of a war of religion in Ulster, we are told about opposition between Catholics, whom people think of as mostly wishing for the unification of the island, and Protestants who want to remain British. Adamson however, does not militate in favour of the bringing together of two quite distinct communities. He says that their division is artificial, that they are all more or less descendants of pre-Celtic peoples, and in particular of the Cruthin, who were constantly moving backwards and forwards between Ulster and Scotland, where they were called Picts, a fact that did not prevent their homeland becoming the most Gaelic part of Ireland. “British”, as far as he is concerned, takes on a meaning that Ulster people tend to forget. Here are some interesting phrases for comparison. “‘Old British’ was displaced in Ireland by Gaelic just as English displaced Gaelic”; “the people of the Shankill Road speak an English which is almost a literal translation of Gaelic”; “the majority of Scottish Gaelic speakers are Protestants.” In fact the author is especially interested in Protestants, but those Protestants who have worked or are working towards reconciliation (could these even be the United Irishmen of the 1790’s?), for a co-operative movement, for a kind of popular autonomy or self-management. He shows the paradoxical confusion of antagonistic, partly mythical traditions, and is trying to convince people of the fundamental unity of Ulster”. 

Throughout the 1980s, Fréchet followed my involvement in the creation of several community organisations to promote my ideals of mutual respect, common identity, co-operation and self-help. These included the Farset Youth Project. The idea behind the project was to bring together young people from both sides of the community and allow them to follow in the footsteps of Saint Columbanus from Bangor in the North of Ireland to Reims and Luxeuil in France, through St Gallen in Switzerland, to Bregenz in Austria, and finally on to Bobbio in Italy. In a country where violence was dividing the people, it was important to point to a shared past. This project became possible thanks in no small measure to the help of my friend Tomás Cardinal Ó Fiaich, whose foreword to the second edition of my book, Bangor Light of the World, in 1987 [ii] is testimony to his commitment to the cross-community line we saw as so vital. This book is now in its third edition.

On our way back to Ulster during our first trip to France with Young People from the Shankill and Falls Road areas of Belfast and from Tallaght and Inchicore in Dublin, during the height of The Troubles, I asked the group to make a detour to the Ulster Memorial Tower to explain the part played by Irishmen of all persuasions in the First World War in France, Belgium and the Dardanelles. From what became our Farset Somme Project developed the idea of a Somme Association, which was to be supported by an international organisation, Friends of the Somme. [iii] This Association took root at a press conference held under the auspices of the then Lady Mayoress, Rhonda Paisley, on the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, 1 July, 1986, when a Somme Commemoration Committee was initiated.

Having grown up in sight of Helen’s Tower at Clandeboye, where the Belfast Brigade of the 36th (Ulster) Division had trained, and on which the Ulster Memorial Tower at Thiepval had been modelled, I proposed that museum complexes close to both towers could be built, that Thiepval Wood could be purchased and that Helen’s Tower could be opened up to the public under the stewardship of the Dufferin family. Ian Paisley explained his own position as a European MP and emphasised that this was a project to honour everyone who had fought at the Somme, both Unionist and Nationalist, Catholic and Protestant. He helped the project to achieve its aims through the good offices of the European Parliament, the French Embassy and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

On Friday 12th September,1986, I brought Dr Ian Paisley, MP, MEP, accompanied by his aide, Nigel Dodds, Fred Proctor and Jackie Hewitt  to the Somme Battlefield, where they visited the Ulster Tower at Thiepval, the trench system at the Memorial Park Beaumont-Hamel and the Thiepval Monument. Dr Paisley confirmed he would arrange a meeting with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission about re-opening the Ulster Tower Museum and the provision of oral documentation and photographic displays which Farset Youth and Community Development would help to provide.

                Dr Ian Paisley and myself at the Ulster Tower on 12th September, 1986

The Ulster Memorial Tower stands on what was the German front line during the Battle of the Somme, July to November 1916. It is opposite Thiepval Wood from where the 36th (Ulster) Division made its historic charge on the 1st July 1916 and is in close proximity to the village of Thiepval. The Tower stands 70 feet tall and is a lasting tribute to the men of Ulster who gave their lives during the First World War. Its position on the battlefield is a permanent reminder of the 36th (Ulster) Division’s heroic charge at the Battle of the Somme on the opening day of that great offensive. The Ulster Tower was the first official memorial to be erected on the Western Front and was dedicated on 19th November 1921. The Tower itself is a replica of our well known Ulster landmark, Helen’s Tower, which stands on the Dufferin and Ava Estate at Clandeboye, County Down.

Helen’s Tower

When demands grew for the construction of a publicly-funded battlefield memorial at Thiepval in honour of Ulster’s fallen, Sir James Craig proposed, at a meeting held in Belfast’s Old Town Hall on 17th November 1919, that the monument should take the form of a prominent Ulster landmark. The proposal struck a chord and Helen’s Tower seemed the ideal choice.

On Saturday 19th November 1921 the completed Tower was opened by Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson, Chief of the Imperial General Staff, later to be assassinated by the Irish Republican Army. The principal room inside the Tower is a sixteen feet square memorial chamber, faced throughout in stone, with an inscription tablet in marble. The inscription reads:

This Tower is dedicated to the Glory of God, in grateful memory of the Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers and Men of the 36th (Ulster) Division and of the Sons of Ulster in other Forces who laid down their lives in the Great War, and of all their Comrades-in-Arms, who, by Divine Grace, were spared to testify to their glorious deeds.

The upper portion of the Memorial Tower provides accommodation for a caretaker. By the late 1980s however the Tower had fallen into disrepair and public access was limited. We therefore created a Farset Somme Project early in 1988 and a meeting was called on 21st April that year  of all people who had shown an interest in the project, with a view to informing them of the progress to date and hopefully to establish a support group  to back us in our future work. It was hoped that by then we would be able to report onwhether the Department of Finance were prepared to meet the cost of modernising the interior of the Tower and whether my proposal to acquire Thiepval Wood had developed any further.

As a result we were able to employ a Supervisor, David Campbell, for our Farset Somme Project, under our General Manager, Jackie Hewitt. At a meeting of Farset on Thursday 8th December,1988, David was able to report that a Press Conference for the Somme Project had been held in the Royal Ulster Rifles Museum, Waring Street, Belfast, under the auspices of Lt-Colonel WRH Charley on Tuesday 21st June, 1988. Rev Dr Ian Paisley and the then Lord Mayor of Belfast Councillor Nigel Dodds had attended, announcing the re-opening of the Ulster Tower at Thiepval. This had been formally performed by the Lord Mayor following a service of Commemoration at the Tower on Friday 1st July,1988. Dr Paisley announced that the Department of Finance had agreed to meet the cost of interior renovations at the Tower, A video presentation and photographic then took place inside the Tower. As Chairman I thanked all those involved in the proceedings including the local representatives from throughout Northern Ireland.

Early in 1988, I published ,under my imprint Pretani Press, After the War came Peace? by my friend Lady Coralie Kinahan of Templepatrick .This was a marvellous historical saga set within the powerful drama of Ireland during and after the Great War. Coralie’s husband, Sir Robin, a former Lord Mayor of Belfast, brought me to Kensington Palace to introduce me to HRH Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester.  And so, on 1 July, 1989, the Ulster Memorial Tower at Thiepval in France, the second Helen’s Tower, built by public subscription and completed in 1922, was re-dedicated under the auspices of our Farset Somme Project by HRH Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester. Hundreds of pilgrims from Ulster made the journey, among them veterans of the 36th (Ulster) Division and public representatives from throughout Northern Ireland.

We were delighted that the Duchess continued to be associated with our work by consenting to become the first President of The Somme Association, which I formally established in 1990. In the autumn of 2004 I was asked by the Royal Household to visit her in her private residence in Kensington Palace. I thanked her for all her work in support of the people of Northern Ireland. I kissed her and she smiled. We were further honoured that her son Prince Richard agreed to follow her in this role following her death in October 2004. He had opened our Somme Heritage Centre at Whitespots, Conlig in 1994. This also contains an exhibition on Nationalist and Republican Ireland, centring on the Easter Rising of 1916, to show both sides of the story as part of our shared history.

As founding Chairman of the Somme Association, I have travelled to France and Belgium every year since its inception to remember the ordinary soldiers from throughout Ireland who fought and died there. Prince Richard has accompanied us many times, officiating at our ceremonies of Remembrance in both France and Gallipoli, and meeting with President Mary McAleese in Turkey. In commemorating the 90th anniversary of the end of the First World War in 2008, I was especially privileged to attend three Services of Remembrance in Belgium and France. The first took place on Sunday 29 June at the memorial at Wytschaete (Belgium) for the 16th (Irish) Division, the Catholic and largely Nationalist division that had fought there alongside the Loyalist 36th (Ulster) Division at the Battle of Messines in June 1917.

Dr Ian and Baroness Eileen Paisley attended this service and Dr Paisley laid a wreath at the grave of Major Willie Redmond at Locre. I had been the first to lay a wreath there on behalf of the Somme Association. On Tuesday 1 July we attended the British and French Service at Thiepval Memorial led by the then Secretary of State, the Right Honourable Sean Woodward. As Chairman of the Somme Association I also officiated at the Ulster Tower Service in memory of the 36th (Ulster) Division and of their comrades in arms who had fought there at the Battle of the Somme. On Sunday 7 September 2008, the Association held a further service of remembrance at the 16th (Irish) Division memorial at Guillemont in honour its members who fought at Guillemont and Ginchy during the Battle of the Somme in September 1916. This service was attended by the Mayor of Derry, and by dignitaries from throughout Northern Ireland.

Helen’s Tower at Clandeboye contains a beautiful room in which are inscribed poems by Lady Helen Dufferin, Lord Alfred Tennyson and Rudyard Kipling, amongst others. Tennyson’s verse reads:

Helen’s Tower here I stand,

Dominant over sea and land.

Son’s love built me, and I hold

Mother’s love in letter’d gold.

Love is in and out of time,

I am mortal stone and lime.

Would my granite girth were strong

As either love, to last as long

I would wear my crown entire

To and thro’ the Doomsday fire,

And be found of angel eyes

In earth’s recurring Paradise.

This poem is replicated in the Ulster Tower at Thiepval, but slightly altered to make it a fitting tribute to the Sons of Ulster and their comrades–in–arms who fought and died in the First World War:

Helen’s Tower here I stand

Dominant over sea and land

Son’s love built me, and I hold

Ulster’s love in letter’d gold.

This suggested to me the importance of literature as a means of understanding the experience of those who fought in the Great War and of paying tribute to them. To this end, I established the Somme Association’s “Battlelines” journal. This regular publication also kept the “Friends of the Somme” and general public informed as to developments within our organisation and included interviews with First World War veterans, biographies of Irish V.C. holders, features on cemeteries and memorials, reprints of prominent newspaper headlines and general historical articles.  Amongst the soldier authors so remembered were Tom Kettle, journalist and professor at the National University of Ireland, who died as a Lieutenant with the 9th Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers at Ginchy in September 1916, and Francis Ledwidge, who was killed while labouring with a working party in Flanders on 31 July 1917. These two poets were specially remembered at our services in 2008. Captain Lord Dunsany, Ledwidge’s patron and senior officer in the Royal Inniskillngs, wrote at the time: “I gave my opinion that if Ledwidge had lived, this lover of all seasons in which the blackbird sings would have surpassed even Burns, and Ireland would lawfully have claimed, as she may do even yet, the greatest of the peasant singers.”

On Monday 10 September 2007, Dr Paisley, as First Minister of Northern Ireland, and President Mary McAleese, as head of state of the Irish Republic, shook hands for the first time – another symbolic milestone on Ireland’s road to reconciliation – on the occasion of an exhibition held at the Somme Heritage Centre on the role of the 16th (Irish) Division and its largely Catholic and nationalist soldiers in the Battle of the Somme. President McAleese paid tribute both to the event and to the museum, stating that:

“It is an honour to be here at the opening of this exhibition commemorating the Battles of Guillemont and Ginchy, part of the heroic struggle of the Battle of the Somme fought over ninety years ago. Congratulations to Dr Ian Adamson, Carol Walker and all the members of the Somme Association for this labour of love, which allows the stories of those who fought and died to be honoured and respected and better known by a new generation.”

QueenAs Dr Paisley’s Advisor on History and Culture, this gave me the greatest of pleasure. The event also helped pave the way for the visit of Her Majesty The Queen to the National Irish War Memorial at Islandbridge, Dublin, on 18 May 2011, where I felt no less honoured to be presented to her by President McAleese on behalf of our Association. I knew that William, Lillah and Granny Kerr would have been pleased.


[i]Ian Adamson, The Identity of Ulster: The Land, the Language and the People (Bangor, 1982); reviewed by René Frechet in Réforme, no. 1811, April 1982.

[ii] Ian Adamson (1987), Bangor, Light of the World (Belfast, 1979).

[iii] See Battle Lines: Journal of the Somme Association, no. 1, 1990.


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Common Identity – The Millenium of Ukraine’s Christianity

On Thursday, 19th May 1988, I flew from Dublin to New York and on to Philadelphia as a guest of my friend W Paul Loane and Monsignor Michael Fedorovich of the Ukrainian Cathedral Church of the Immaculate Conception.

Click to enlargeLocated in the historic Northern Liberties district in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania the Church was erected in 1966 through the effort of Ukrainian Catholics in America. This magnificent edifice, designed by Julian K. Jastremsky, replaced the old Cathedral Church which had been purchased in 1907 by Bishop Sotor Stephen Ortynsky, O.S.B.M., the first bishop of Ukrainian Catholics.

The present Cathedral, constructed to reflect authentic Byzantine architecture, is built in the same style as Hagia Sofia(St. Sophia) Cathedral in Constantinople (present day Istanbul, Turkey). It also mirrors the beauty and richness of the religious and cultural heritage of the Ukrainian people. Basic geometric forms were purposely and consistently used to develop the character of the building. Almost no ornamentation is needed, though the completion of the interior embellishments is an ongoing process which will continue over the years.

I was asked, as the Guest of Honour representing Ireland, to speak to the Ukrainian people on the occasion of the celebration of the Millenium of the Christian Church in Ukraine, Russia and Byelorussia..My book, Bangor, Light of the World had reached the Ukrainian people throughout the Americas..Strangely enough, as an Ulster Protestant and British Loyalist, Monsignor Fedorovich said that I was considered more amenable than the American Irish community, who had, through the Molly Maguires, been a source of oppression to the Ukrainian community. Although Roman Catholic, and they had recently honoured the Pope, they followed the Eastern Rite and had married priests, to the distain of the conservative Irish Catholics. Given under the previous Soviet regime, the speech still has resonance today.

The Millenium of Ukraine’s Christianity

An Imitation of Christ


by Ian Adamson 

One thousand years ago, Grandprince Volodymyr, the ruler of a realm known then as Rus’, the ancestor of present day Ukraine, baptised his people, thus, in effect, forging a Christian nation out of the diverse pagan Slavic tribes which then inhabited Eastern Europe. This one single act, or rather this great historical event, is of tremendous importance to the modern Ukrainians, and no less to us their brothers and sisters in Christ who know and love them throughout the world.

The baptism of the nation of Rus’ in 988 was the culmination of a long-term Christianization which some scholars maintain reached back even unto Apostolic times. Others have proposed that the influence of the Bangor Columban mission to Europe in the seventh century, which emanated from our very diocese of Down and Connor, may have spread as far as Kiev during the great period of re-evangelisation in the former Roman Empire. Volodymyr was to adopt, however, the Christianity of Byzantium and this, with the augmentation of Ukraine emotionally, touched all aspects of Slavic human existence to become accepted as a special gift by the people who cherished it. The old Ukrainian state was dominated by the Rurikide dynasty, which ruled from the second half of the ninth until the end of the sixteenth century, and thus the faith was brought later also to Moscow and more northern lands. So Christian enlightenment became a blessing for all three east Slavic Nations, the Ukrainians, the Russians and the Byelorussians; and Kiev came to be seen as the cradle of civilisation in Eastern Europe.

The Kievan, ie., Ukrainian, brand of Christianity was quite different in its make-up from that of the Russian. Kiev was the source of kenotic spirituality, the principle of which is articulated in the Pauline idea of kenosis, or “self-emptying”. In his essay entitled “Ukrainian Spirituality”, Jaroslav Pelikan provides an explanation of this kenosis, enabling us to see this precious feature of the Ukrainian religious mind.

He writes, “To accept Christian discipline is to become a disciple of Jesus Christ, and the Christian way of life may be summarised in the simple command of our Lotrd, “Follow me.” In the Imitation of Christ of Thomas a Kempis or in the ideals of St Francis of Assisi…we can see the power of this call to deny oneself, take up the cross, and follow Christ. If we take it in this broader sense, we may see “kenosis” as a term for many kinds of Christian spirituality, not only for the Eastern form. But, (and this is important) the concept of “Kenosis” acquired a special significance that was expanded when Byzantine monasticism was transplanted into the Slavic lands, ie., into Ukranian soil.

“The seedbed of kenotic spirituality among the Slavs was the Pechers’ ka Lavra, the Kiev cave monastery. “Together with the Cathedral of St Sophia…this monastery became the focus of religious life for Ukrainian Christianity”…Conformity with Christ was central to the kenoticism of the Pechers’ ka Lavra. The message of the apostle in such statements as that of Romans 8:17, “provided we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him,” became a paradigm for the monk of how the Christian ought to live. For example, fasting which was one of the points of discipline at issue between East and West – was interpreted not merely as a form of self-mortification, but as a way of knowing in one’s own experience the power of Christ made perfect in our weakness. The Imitation of Christ, which has so easily been given a moralistic content in the West, was thus transposed into the principle that by the Incarnation God has taken on the form of our weakness and self-emptying, may participate in His power and grace.”

Dr Leonid Rudnytsky of La Salle University in Philadelphia, one of the world’s foremost authorities on Ukrainian culture, comments, “Already here, so early in the history of Ukrainian Christianity, lie the seeds of its life-sustaining and life-giving quality, which has enabled the Ukrainian people to overcome centuries of suffering, of persecution, and of attempts to eradicate them as a people from this earth. Suffering, in Ukrainian tradition, is a moral good, and its resigned acceptance, an imitation of Christ. This is reflected throughout Ukrainian history and there are numerous examples in Ukrainian literature and Ukrainian tradition that testify to this precious trait of `Ukrainian spirituality. Ukrainians are unique as a nation in that they celebrate military defeats as national feast days. Not victories are celebrated, although there were a few of them during the course of the Millennium, but defeats, showing as it were, that suffering, sacrifice, and weakness are the salient qualities of Ukrainian spiritual make-up. Perhaps in the long run, it is not a question of whether a nation is weak or strong, whether it wins or loses its battles, but whether it can outlast the historical measure of its suffering – be it spiritual or physical. And we Ukrainians have outlasted our measure of suffering for 1,000 years. Most importantly here, however, is the fact, that the Church in Ukraine, be it the Ukrainian Orthodox or the Ukrainian Catholic Church, always acted as a carrier of Ukrainian tradition and as a custodian and protector of the Ukrainian national identity. For the long centuries, when there was no Ukrainian state, the Ukrainian Church was that ark which carried the Ukrainian people onward to their destiny. And the people, in turn, cherished and loved their Church, sensing as it were, that without it, they would become am amorphous mass with no claim to nationality and sovereignty, that indeed, without the Church they would soon cease to exist as a nation. Thus, the Ukrainian Church is ultimately responsible for the miracle of continuity of Ukrainian being”.

The Russian ecclesiastical structure, on the other hand, which often has appeared to be in the service of the Russian government – prior to the Revolution in the service of the Czarist and latterly in the service of the Soviet Government – has been seen by Ukrainians as too concerned with the expansion of the Russian realm. It seemed no accident therefore, that after the revolution the Bolshevik regime liquidated the Autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the 1930’s, and following WW11 in 1946, Stalin liquidated the Ukrainian Catholic Church. Despite these ruthless measures, despite the repressions which in 1946 resulted in the deportation to concentration camps of ten Ukrainian Catholic bishops, the incarceration of hundreds of priests, and the forceful “conversion” of several millions of its faithful to the Russian style Orthodoxy, the Ukrainian Catholic Church continues to exist in the catacombs. Today its faithful in Ukraine, although members of an outlawed Church, continue to seek recognition on the part of the Soviet Government, and to ask for permission to exist legally in their own country.

Looking at the current situation of the Church in the Soviet Union and while welcoming genuine attempts at Glasnost, many Ukrainians still feel that the Soviet Union remains the heir of Czarist Russia, that under a different flag Russian bourgeois nationalism, that ideology which Lenin himself termed as “Great Russian Chauvinism” and promised to eradicate, is alive and well and continues to serve the Russian realm which today bears the image of a multinational Marxist state. Thus the Millennium of Christianity which the Ukrainian people are celebrating this year has an altogether different meaning for the Ukrainians and Russians. For the Russians it is a time in history to consolidate their forces and to ensure their hold on the past and the present, and with it the survival of their realm into the future. For the Ukrainians the Millennium of Christianity is a historic moment to give thanks to God for the continuous existence of one of His most faithful people. In this sense the Jubilee is of the utmost importance. Within the collective consciousness of the Ukrainian people lives on that unique event of baptism of the inhabitants of Kiev one thousand years ago. This is, to borrow a term from Freud, the protoexperience of the Ukrainian people, because through their baptism they become a nation, and as such have survived for one thousand years. So the very history of this survival, holds lessons for each and every one of us, and the non-violent approach to state repression, just as the imitation of Christ remains our hope for all mankind.

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Common Identity – The People of the Book

In May, 1988 I was invited to be the Guest of Honour at the Celebration of the Millenium of the Ukrainian Church in Philadelphia. I had many friends there, one a Roman Catholic priest, who asked me to attend one of his services…The congregation was mostly of the Black Community and the service was as near to Church of Ireland as made little difference…I asked him why this was. He said that the congregation was once Irish Catholic but they had long since moved to the suburbs. He had tried to convert the new Black people around him but to no avail, so had just had to facilitate them…They were all, he said, “People of the Book”.

The People of the Book (Arabic: أهل الكتاب  ′Ahl al-Kitāb) is a term used to designate non-Muslim adherents to faiths which have a revealed scripture called, in Arabic, Ahl-Al-Kitab (Arabic: أهل الكتاب ‎ “the People of the Book” or “people of the Scripture”). The three types of adherents to faiths that the Qur’an mentions as people of the book are the Children of Israel, including Jews, Karaites and Samaritans, all Christians and Sabians. But some Muslim scholars have also seen the Supreme Creator Being of the Book in Hinduism and even in its Buddhist off-shoot.

In Islam, the Muslim scripture, the Qur’an, is taken to represent the completion of these scriptures, and to synthesize them as God’s true, final, and eternal message to humanity. Because the People of the Book recognize the God of Abraham as the one and only god, as do Muslims, and as they practice revealed faiths based on divine ordinances, tolerance and autonomy is accorded to them in societies governed by sharia (Islamic divine law).

In Judaism the term “People of the Book” (Hebrew: עם הספר, Am HaSefer) was used to refer specifically to the Jewish people and the Torah, and to the Jewish people and the wider canon of written Jewish law (including the Mishnah and the Talmud). Adherents of other Abrahamic religions, which arose later than Judaism, were not added. As such, the appellation is accepted by Jews as a reference to an identity rooted fundamentally in Torah.

In Christianity, the Roman Catholic Church rejects the similar expression “religion of the book” as a description of the Christian faith, preferring the term “religion of the Word of God”, since the faith of Jesus  Christ, according to Roman Catholic teaching, is not found solely in the Christian Scriptures, but also in the Sacred Tradition and Magisterium of the Infallible Church. Nevertheless, members of Protestant denominations, such as the Baptists and Methodists, particularly in the former Confederate States of America, especially the beautiful Black Community, forming the Common Identity of all its inhabitants, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Seventh Day Adventists, as well as the old Puritans and Shakers, have embraced the term “People of the Book.”

So it is that respect for the Book of God is considered a Divine Ordinance by a large percentage of the people of our world. The decline of the old aristocracy in our British Isles following the Great War, culminating in the rise of the Blairite meritocracy, made up of the mammon of our time – Corrupt Politicians and their new Life Peer cronies, London City folk, Bankers, Media Moguls and stars of the fashion, entertainment and sports worlds – has resulted in the replacement of new money for old. This Mediacracy controls our lives. And, worshipping mammon rather than God, they despise the Book which tells them otherwise.

“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” 

Jesus of Nazareth

Matthew 6:19–21,24 (KJV)

Surely every man walketh in a vain shew: surely they are disquieted in vain: he heapeth up riches, and knoweth not who shall gather them

  — Psalm 39 v 6

King James Version

She should have died hereafter;
There would have been a time for such a word.
— To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing.

— Macbeth (Act 5, Scene 5, lines 17-28.

William Shakespeare

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Common Identity – The Muslim Jesus

When I was a young doctor in the City hospital I was asked to look after a devout young Muslim from Pakistan. I brought him to the Doctors’ home where they were watching a Rugby match on the television. Someone shouted out an obscenity about Jesus and the young Muslim became deathly white and I practically had to carry him out of the room and gave him water to drink. I asked him: “Brother, what is wrong?”. He said: “Beloved Ian, they were blaspheming against the name of our Prophet Jesus”….

Despite the obvious stereotypes and pure ignorance that have sometimes obscured it, the long relationship that has existed between Christians and Muslims has also been mutually very appreciative and productive. No more so than that both traditions have for centuries shared a deep love for the Prophet of Galilee, Jesus of Nazareth.

Isa Ibn Maryam ( Arabic: عيسى, translit.: ʿĪsā ), known as Jesus in the New Testament, is considered  to be a Messenger of God and al-Masih (the Messiah) in Islam, who was sent to guide the Children of Israel (banī isrā’īl) with a new scripture, al-Injïl (the Gospel). The belief that Jesus is a prophet is required in Islam, as it is for all prophets named in the Qur’an. This is reflected in the fact that he is clearly a significant figure in the Qur’an (appearing in 93 ayaat or verses).

The Qur’an states that Jesus was born to Mary (Arabic: Maryam) as the result of virginal conception, a miraculous event which occurred by the decree of God (Arabic: Allah). To aid in his ministry to the Jewish people, Jesus was given the ability to perform miracles (such as healing the blind and bringing dead people back to life), all by the permission of God rather than of his own power. The Qur’an emphasizes that Jesus was a mortal human being who, like all other prophets, had been divinely chosen to spread God’s message.

The Muslim Jesus, Sayings and Stories in Islamic Literature, Edited and Translated by Tarif Khalida 2001, presents in English translation the largest collection ever assembled of the sayings and stories of Jesus in Arabic Islamic literature. In doing so it traces a tradition of love and reverence for Jesus that has characterised Islamic thought for more more than a thousand years. An invaluable resource for the study of religions, the collection documents how one culture, that of Islam, assimilated the towering figure of another, that of Christianity. As such it is a work of great significance for the understanding of both and of profound implications for modern inter-sectarian relations and ecumenical dialogue. For demeaning of the name of Jesus causes great offence to Believers of both.

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