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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The Declaration of Nazareth

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The Koch/Cunliffe Myth of Tartessian Celtic Origins

Phoenicia was the ancient name of a very small country situated between the 34th and 36th degrees of north latitude on the Eastern Mediterranean Coast to the North of Palestine.  The northern boundary is stated by our old friend Ptolemy to be the River Eleutherus and Pliny, Mela and Stephanus place it rather more northward in the island of Aradus, but the confines of the Republic must have varied at different times.  On the coast were numerous cities – the most famous were Tyre and Sidon.  The climate of that place was agreeable and salubrious, and the soil fertile and productive, so that this Land of Lebanon was a prosperous and pleasant land.

But listen with me to the words of the Prophet Ezekiel in his 27th chapter of the Book of God written about 500 B.C. when the Tyrians had already been trading for centuries – “Say unto Tyre, O Thou that art situate at the entry of the sea, and carry on merchandise with the people of many isles, thus saith the Lord God, ‘O Tyre, thou has said, “I am of perfect beauty. Thy borders are in the midst of the seas, thy builders have perfected thy beauty.  They have made all thy shipboards of fir trees of Senir, and have taken cedar trees of Lebanon to make thy masts.  Of the oaks of Bashan have they made thine oars; the company of Asurites have made thine hatches of well worked ivory, brought out of Chittim.  It was of fine linen and Phrygian broidered work from Egypt which thou madest thy spreading sails; and thy covering was of the blue and purple of the isles of Elishas.  The Sidonians and the men of Arvad were mariners in thy service, and wise men thy Pilots, O Tyre were in thee.  The elders of Gabel, and their able workmen were those who caulked the seams of thy vessels, and all the ships of the sea were employed in carrying thy merchandise.

The merchants of Tarshish traded at thy fairs on account of the great variety of all kind of thy riches, and brought silver, iron, tin and lead to thy market.  The ships of Tarshish did sing in praise of thy commerce, and thou wert replenished and made glorious in every part of the ocean.  Thy rowers brought thee into great waters, the east wind hath broken thee in the midst of the seas.  What city is like Tyre, like the destroyed in the midst of the sea.  When thy waves went forth out of the seas, thou fillest many peoples; thou didst enrich the kings of the earth with the multitude of thy riches and they merchandise’.  Where Ezekiel speaks of the rich purple dyes from the Isles of Elishas we may have the first written reference to the British Isles.  The purple dyes of our Islands were celebrated among the later Greeks and Romans and were very expensive.

These words of Ezekiel were of a Phoenicia in decline, but they show the magnificence of the great Ships which plied between Tarshish and Tyre in Olden Times.  Traditionally Tarshish has been connected with the region of Tartessos in Southern Spain, which is known principally from a Greek logbook, the Massaliote Periplus of the 6th century BC. (Ora Maritima of Festus Avienus), and thought to be in the Guadalquiver valley.  But Tarshish stood also for all the lands of the far west with which the Phoenicians traded, for it was the collecting point for produce from West Africa, tin from the mines of North-west Spain, or the richer deposits of Cornwall, as well as the rich mines of silver and other metals to which the navigable rivers of Guadiana and Guadalquiver gave easy access.  The tin islands (Casssiterides) were reached from Brittany, and are always distinguished from the British mainland.  Strabo dates the settlements west of the straits of Gibraltar soon after the time of Tyre’s first expansion which we know from the travelogue of the Egyptian Den-Amir, written about 1070 B.C. was already in progress.

It was the special trade with Tarshish which made the commercial greatness of the Phoenecians, and led to their colonisation of Spain and the West African coast.  This explains why the latter settlements are related to the earliest phase of Tyrian and Sidonian expansion in the early centuries of the first millennium B.C.  Thus the farthest points were settled first, and the need for intermediate stations to secure connection was felt later.  Josephus has fortunately preserved for us extracts from two Hellenistic historians, Dius and Menander of Ephesus, which supply us with a synopsis of the history of the Golden Age of Tyre.  Thus we learn that Hiram 1, son of Abibal, reigned from 980 to 946 B.C. and was the great friend of Solomon, king of the Jews.  The relations between Jews and Phoenicians had been generally friendly before this; it appears from Judges V. 17, Genesis XLIX, 13 and 20, that Asher, Zebulon, and Dan acknowledged some dependence on Sidon and had in return a share in its commence.

The two nations grew closer under the kings.  Hiram built David’s palace (2 Samuel, V, 11), and also gave Solomon cedar and fir trees from Lebanon, as well as workmen for his palace and temple, receiving in exchange large annual payments of oil and wine.  With similar commercial interests it was only natural that the two kings should send joint expeditions to King Solomon’s Mines on the coast of Aqaba at Ophir, and to the British Isles via Tarshish.  What were the names of the two great islands by which they knew them?  Our earliest sources are Greek so that we don’t really know, though Avienus writing about the year 380 A.D. (Ora Maritima) mentions the voyage of Himilco the Phoenician to Ireland in the year 510 B.C. and Himilco states our island to be called Sacra, its inhabitants to be mariners navigating in hide-covered barks to the Irish Sea. This name may be a corruption of the Greek for Ireland. That these people were not Celts we can see in their matrilinear form of inheritance, the polyandrous nature of their society and their original non-Indo-European speech, which survived latest in Caledonia.

We know that Tartessos had been trading with the Greeks since the voyage of Colaeus beyond the Pillars of Hercules about 638 B.C.  On the site of present day Marseilles in Southern France, the enterprising Greek mariners of Phocaea in Asia Minor founded about 600 B.C. the colony of Massalia (in Latin Massilia).  This settlement of Greeks in waters which the Phoenecians and their children the Carthaginians jealously reserved for their own commerce was not effected without a naval conflict.  It is, indeed, not improbable that the Phoenicians were settled at Marseilles before the Greek period, and that the very name of the place is Phoenician.The people from Tartessos became important trading partners of the Phoenicians, whose presence in Iberia dates from the 8th century BC, and who nearby built a harbour of their own, Gades (present-day Cadiz).

The great fall of the Ionic cities before the Persians, however, cut off the remote city of Massalia from close connection with the mother country.  Isolated amidst alien populations, the Massaliots made their way by the greatest prudence in dealing with the inland tribes, by the vigilant administration of their oligarchial government, and by frugality and temperance united to remarkable commercial and naval enterprise.  Their colonies spread east and west along the coast from Monaco to Cape St. Martin in Spain, carrying with them the worship of Artemis.

There is general agreement that the core area of Tartessos is around Huelva extending to the valley of the Guadalquiver, while the area under Tartessian influence is much wider.The Tartessian language is the extinct Palaeohispanic language of inscriptions in the Southwestern script found in the southwest of the Iberian Peninsula mainly in the south of Portugal ( Algarve and southern Alentejo), but also in Spain (south of Extramadura and western Andalusia). There are 95 of these inscriptions with the longest having 82 readable signs. Around one-third of them have been found in Early Iron Age necropolises or other Iron Age burial sites associated with rich complex burials. It is usual to date them from the 7th century BC and consider the southwestern script to be the most ancient Paleohispanic script with characters most closely resembling specific Phoenician letter forms found in inscriptions dated to c.825 BC.

Tartessian is usually treated as unclassified (Correa 2009, Rodríquez Ramos 2002, de Hoz 2010) though several researchers have tried to relate Tartessian with known families of languages. The American Celtic nationalist John T Koch of the University of Wales (2010 and 2011) claimed that much of the Tartessian corpus could be interpreted as Celtic, with forms possibly of sufficient density to support the conclusion that Tartessian was a Celtic language, rather than a non-Celtic language containing a relatively small proportion of Celtic names and loanwords. A critical view of Koch’s work considers it is not really convincing and points out inconsistencies, in form and content, and ad hoc solutions. Therefore his proposals have been largely rejected by the academic community and the script, which is “hardly suitable for the denotation of an Indo-European language, leaves ample room for interpretation.”

In 2011, in the Old Irish message list, David Stifter, of the National University of Ireland, Maynooth’s Department of Early Irish, said that the identification as Celtic relies on features “specifically medieval Irish” rather than Celtic in general, but Koch continued, against all the evidence, to disagree. What remains important, however, is that his myth was supported by the English academic, Barry Cunliffe, a remarkably unwise thing for someone of his standing to do. So why did he do so and thus adopt a Celtic nationalist position? And why has Koch, as Professor at the University of Wales Centre for Advanced Welsh & Celtic Studies, not concentrated on the known substratum of British or Brittonic in our placenames here, particularly in the known Pretanic or Cruthin heartland of Antrim and Down (Ulidia), instead of indulging in fantasy?

The Turdetani of the Roman period are generally considered the heirs of the Tartessian culture. Strabo mentions that “The Turdetanians are ranked as the wisest of the Iberians; and they make use of an alphabet, and possess records of their ancient history, poems, and laws written in verse that are six thousand years old, as they assert.” It is not known when Tartessian ceased to be spoken, but Strabo (writing c. 7 BC) records that “The Turdetanians … and particularly those that live about the Baetis, have completely changed over to the Roman mode of life, not even remembering their own language any more.”

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The Wolff/Frazer Myth of the Northern Ui Neill

“The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis” – Inferno:The Divine Comedy – Dante Alighieri

A wonderfully arcane and self-contradictory article has appeared recently on the Internet. It is an unpublished paper by the English academic Alex Woolf (University of St Andrews) which he has given several times in different venues. It was originally written in about 2001 as a response to Ewen Campbell’s “Were the Scots Irish?‟  Antiquity 75 (2001), 285-92.

Woolf says that he had never got around to finally writing it up for publication and although he hoped he would eventually do so he could not see himself getting it done anytime soon. Various people working in the field, such as the Canadian James E. Fraser, formerly of the University of Edinburgh, now Chair of the Scottish Studies Foundation at the University of Guelph and the Irish-American Thomas Clancy, now in the University of Glasgow, had seen it in draft and responded to it so he felt he should put it into the public domain and therefore posted it on on 9th April 2012. It had not been significantly updated since 2005.

Campbell had assumed an obviously Scottish Nationalist approach to propose that Scottish Gaelic Dalriada came first and Irish Dalriada was formed from it and not the other way round. Woolf accepts this on what he feels are linguistic grounds, even though he knows Campbell’s archæological evidence is untenable and his own conclusions are convoluted and even bizarre, but  the  hypothesis has now established itself in the academic pseudo-historical canon . Frazer downplays the Cruthin in Ireland in his work on the Picts, although it clearly worries him to do so. Clancy is responsible for promoting the notion that St Ninian and St Uinniau (Finnian of Moville) are one and the same person.

Woolf’s article contains the usual anti-intellectual and elitist approaches to my own work by politically motivated nationalistic “serious” academics, as my view that the Cruthin were the pre-Celtic inhabitants of these Islands, although they later spoke Gaelic (“Irish”) and Old British (“Welsh”), is completely misrepresented. And purposely so, to confuse and control the unwary.  I have transcribed his words with emphasis in bold on a most remarkable and telling admission, which explains everthing.

One of the most sensitive topics in the study of late prehistoric and early historical Ireland is that of the population group known as the Cruithin or Cruithni. Their name is the normal word used in medieval Irish for the Picts but it was also used for a group of túatha in the north of the country up until about AD 774. In origin this word is the Irish form of the British word for Britons, Pretani. In medieval Irish the Latin loan word Bretan was used for the Britons south of the Forth and Cruithni was reserved for the less Romanised peoples of the North who were termed Picti in Latin.

At one time some historians, including the great Eoin MacNeill, believed that the Pretani were the original inhabitants of both Britain and Ireland and that the Gaels had arrived at a late stage in prehistory displacing them from most of Ireland. According to this argument the Cruithni of northern Ireland were the last remnant of the pre-Gaelic inhabitants of the island. It has now become clear that this view is not supported by linguistic, historical or archaeological evidence. If British-speaking Celts ever did settle in Ireland they must have done so subsequently to the development, in situ, of the Gaelic language.  Unfortunately the idea that Northern Ireland was British ab origine has proved attractive to certain elements within the Unionist tradition during the political troubles of that province. As a result „Cruithni Studies‟, to coin a phrase, have become the preserve of Unionist apologists such as Ian Adamson whose most recent book on the Cruithni concludes with a chapter on the Scots-Irish experience in the Appalachians.

Serious historians of early Ireland, tending as they do to have nationalist sympathies or to be politically neutral have tended, understandably, to steer clear of the topic.  Jim Mallory is typical of most serious scholars when he summarises his brief discussion of the topic thus: “about the only thing the Cruthin hypothesis does emphasise are the continuous interactions between Ulster and Scotland. We might add that whatever their actual origins and ultimate fate, when the Cruthin emerge in our earliest texts they bear Irish names and there is not the slightest hint that they spoke anything other than Irish.”

Well actually they spoke Gaelic..And Mallory is wrong because there is an underlying substrate of P-Celtic or British (Cymric or Welsh) in our place names. He must surely know that Islay is a pre-Celtic name. There are place-names in many parts of Great Britain, especially river names (which are well known everywhere to preserve remnants of older languages), which are pre-Celtic in origin. English examples are the rivers Ouse, or the Thames-Teme-Tamar-Teviot series; or in Northern Scotland the Isla, Affric, Liver, Nevis and many others. And, of course, there are the pre-Celtic tribal names of Caledonii, Taezali, Vacomagi and Venicones of historical Pictland, the latter tribe becoming the Venniconii of modern Donegal. This language of Pretanic became more and more Celticised as one went further south by Gallo-Brittonic, so that a linguistic hotch-potch was created which we know today as Pictish. This may be reflected for us in the Bressay inscription.

In typically provocative style Professor Dumville alluding to this kind of statement in his, so far unpublished, British Academy Rhŷs Lecture in Edinburgh a few years ago (1997?), asked what the evidence for such an assertion might be. I can only imagine that Dumville was questioning whether we had any texts of Cruthnian provenance and whether we could be certain that Gaelic writers, clearly able to Gaelicise Pictish personal and place names were not doing the same for the Irish Cruithni. Mallory is of course right that there is not the slightest hint that the Cruithni spoke anything other than Irish just as Dumville is correct, if I understood him, that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, but is this really all that can be said? St Patrick aside, contemporary literary witness in Ireland begins only in the course of the century between AD 550 and AD 650 and it is true that our sources, the chronicles and hagiography, give us only the name of the Cruithni, which appears periodically between 446 and 774, to suggest their foreignness.

At the beginning of the sixth century the western frontier of the Cruithni seems to have been in the neighbourhood of the Lough Foyle although by the 570s they had been pushed back beyond the river Bann by the northern Uí Néill. In the East the boundary of the Cruithni seems to have been somewhere in the region of Belfast Lough. Crudely speaking their territory at the dawn of history was equivalent to the modern day counties of Antrim and Londonderry. To the West were the Uí Néill, to the South the Airgialla and to the East the Ulaid. In the middle of this territory, pushed up between the Bush valley and the north coast lay the lands usually assigned to the Dál Riata in Ireland by modern scholarship. This enclave was entirely surrounded by Cruithni túatha .

Is it not odd that the most Irish people in Britain were, in their Irish territories, surrounded by those Irish people who were described by their countrymen as British? Can it be coincidence? The simplest explanation of this paradox would be to assume that, pace the later synthetic historians and genealogists the Dál Riata and Cruithni were in origin two parts of the same people, perhaps ultimately British in origin, who formed a political, cultural and linguistic bridge between the two islands.”

So it is acceptable for “serious historians” of early Ireland to have “nationalist” sympathies but not “unionist” ones, is it ? For, certainly, the Englishman Richard “Indiana” Warner, with his Lost Crusade against the Cruthin, has stated publicly his sympathies are with the former. Warner and his colleague the Irish-American J P Mallory, formerly of the Queen’s University, Belfast, have spent  years following their Quest for the Holy Gael. We have seen that their definition of the first “Irishman” remarkably is someone who spoke the “Irish” language, that is Gaelic, The bulk of the population before this are relegated to the term “Irelander”. One would like to say that only an Englishman or an Irish-American could say this with a straight face. But no…Woolf says that “Jim Mallory is typical of most serious scholars”. Woolf, by the way, amazingly leaves out the Iveagh Cruthin of Down to the south of Ulster as well as the Cenel Conaill to the west in his article, suporting the myth that the Cenel Conaill are “northern Ui Neill”. And by “British”, he means “from Great Britain”, since he seems to deny that epithet to “unionists” and the ancient Pretani people of Ireland, mesmerised as he is by the term “Irish”.

Actually the people of Scottish Dalriada are Gaelicised native Epidian Cruthin and spoke Old British before Gaelic and non-Indo-European before that. They were Gaelicised from Ireland in the Late Roman period by a process of commerce and conquest, as the Venerable Bede has stated. And they now speak Gaelic, Scots or, universally, English, though they remain, as they have always been, Epidian Cruthin, The truth is the truth and we are bound by it, as Professor Rene Frechet of the Sorbonne University in Paris instructed me. Much of what I had written was new to him, and he was amazed and indeed appalled that he had never heard it before. He wanted to translate my work into French…the Irish academic elite wished to burn it.  But their “politically neutral” counterparts, friends and colleagues in Great Britain did nothing and in doing so supported them. And they are the most reprehensible of them all. As Woolf and Frazer seem totally unaware that the Donegal Cenél Conaill of the so-called “northern Ui Neill” were actually Cruthin, although also completely Gaelicised in the Late Roman period, it is to the Venniconian Cruthin Kingdoms of Donegal  that we must turn.

The traditional understanding of the history of the Venniconian Kingdoms of Donegal maintained that at some time in the late fifth century the sons of Niall of the Nine hostages, Caipre, Conaill, Enda and Eogan had launched an invasion into that territory from Tara, having defeated and conquered the indigenous people, or at least the rulers of those people. The four brothers were said to have divided out the territory of Donegal between them and each then established a kingdom which subsequently bore his name.  In one form or another these kingdoms were believed to have lasted for all of the early mediæval period.

Collectively these kingdoms were never linked but are known to us now as the “Northern Ui Neill”, who went on to conquer the rest of western and central Ulster. Two of the kingdoms, Cenel Conaill and Cenel nEogan, were said to be the most dominant and for about three centuries after their establishment, the kingship of the whole territory was shared between them.  In addition, when each of their kings was ascendant, they respectively claimed provenance of the prestigious kingship of Tara, which seems to have had some sort of overriding national influence. The ancient principality of Tír Eogain’s inheritance included the whole of the present counties of Tyrone and Londonderry, and the four baronies  West Inishowen, East Inishowen, Raphoe North and Raphoe South in County Donegal.

As we now know, however, that story is a later propagandistic fiction, rather than a summary of what actually happened.  Almost certainly it was given its classical form by and on behalf of the Cenel nEogan during the reign in the mid eighth century of their powerful and ambitious king, Aed Allan, who died in the year 743. Whatever his actual victories and political successes, they were underlined by a set of deliberately created fictional historical texts which reported to give him and his ancestors a more glorious past than they had actually enjoyed.  The same texts projected his dynasty back to the dawn of history and created a new political relationship with the neighbouring kingdoms.  Whatever the initial reaction to them, these political fictions were plausible enough to endure and have been ultimately accepted as history by most commentators over the past thirteen hundred years. Aed’s pseudo-historians were probably led by the Armagh Bishop Congus, who exploited the opportunity provided by the alliance with the King to advance the case for the supremacy of his own church.  Congus died in 750.

There appears to be no evidence that any of the rulers of the Venniconian Kingdoms of Donegal were related by blood to Niall of the Nine Hostages or to the Ui Neill.  On the other hand it seems that there is evidence that Cenél Conaill were a Cruthin people associated in some way with the Ui Echach Coba and other east Ulster peoples.  The Cenel nEogain, on the other hand, may well have had connections with the Dal Fiatach of maritime Down.  The remarkable fact in all this is that of the groups said to have belonged to the Northern Ui Neill, Cenel Cairpre may have been the only genuine decendants of Niall of the Nine Hostages to have invaded South Donegal in the sixth century.  And whatever evidence we have for the mid sixth century seems to show that it was the Cenel Conaill, rather than the Cenel nEogain, who were dominant among the Donegal Kingdoms at that time.

Conall Gulban , perhaps as Conall  Cernach of the Ulster Cycle, is the figure most closely related to the ancestry of the Cenél Conaill. Whether he existed or not as an actual person, his name demonstrates a powerful political reality of some sort, in that he was definitely  the ancestor of the fully historically attested Cruthin people of Ui Echach Coba of County Down, the Conaille Muirthemne of north Louth, the Sil nAedo of County Meath, and the Clann Cholmain of County Westmeath. The rise to power of what was said to have been Conall Gulban’s immediate descendants is equally something of a mystery. And among those descendants was our Colum Cille (Columba), the founder of the Monastery in Iona, where ironically in an Irish context the practice of keeping Annals and therefore  the study of history seems to have been promoted.

We know almost nothing genuinely historical about Colum Cille’s early clerical life prior to his departure for Iona.  On one occasion Adomnán writes that “this blessed boy’s foster-father a man of admirable life, the priest Cruithnechan” was apparently responsible for the child Colum Cille  In view of the identification above that the saint’s people, the Cenél Conaill, actually belonged  to the Cruthin, the priest’s  name, which is diminuative of that, may be very significant indeed.

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The British Ethnic Community in Albion (Great Britain)

Glasgow is the modern form of the ancient Cumbric , Old British or Brittonic  name Glas Cau, meaning “Green Hollow” (Glas-gau in Cymric or Modern Welsh). possibly referring to the area of Molindar Burn where Glasgow Cathedral now now stands. The later Gaelic name Baile Glas Chu, town of the grey dog, is purely a false charachterisation like the pseudo-Gaelic Craic for the Old English or Scots Crack. Glasgow was once part of Yr Hen Ogledd (The Old North), a Brittonic “Welsh” or Cymric term which refers to those parts of what is now northern “England” and southern “Scotland” in the years between 500 and the Viking invasions of c. 800, with particular interest in the Brittonic or Old British-speaking peoples who lived there. Until recently, knowledge of the Old North has been suppressed by the partisan nationalist academic elites of Ireland, Scotland and England, but teaching our people about it through the internet will be an essential part of the modern Ulster and Appalachian cultural revolution.

Places in the Old North, the Middle Lands, that are mentioned as kingdoms in the literary and historical sources include:

  • Alt Clut or Ystrad Clud – a kingdom centred at what is now Dumbarton in “Scotland”. Later known as the Kingdom of Strathclyde, it was one of the best attested of the northern British kingdoms. It was also the last surviving, as it operated as an independent realm into the 11th century before it was finally absorbed by the Kingdom of Scotland and its ecclesiatical centre of Govan superceded by Glasgow.
  • Elmet – centred in western Yorkshire in northern “England”. It was located south of the other northern British kingdoms, and well east of present-day Wales, but managed to survive into the early 7th century.
  • Gododdin – a kingdom in what is now southeastern Scotland and northeastern England, the area previously noted as the territory of the Votadini. They are the subjects of the poem Y Goddodin, which memorialises an ill-fated foray by an army raised by the Gododdin on the English of Bernicia.
  • Rheged – a major kingdom in Galloway and Carrick that may have included parts of present-day Cumbria, though its full extent is unknown. It may have covered a vast area at one point, as it is very closely associated with its king Urien, whose name is tied to places all over northwestern Britain.

Several regions are mentioned in the sources, assumed to be notable regions within one of the kingdoms if not separate kingdoms themselves:

  • Aeron – a minor kingdom mentioned in sources such as Y Gododdin, which gave its name to Ayrshire in southwest Scotland. It is frequently associated with Urien of Rheged and may have been part of his realm.
  • Calchfynydd (“Chalkmountain”) – almost nothing is known about this area, though it was likely somewhere in the Hen Ogledd, as an evident ruler, Cadrawd Calchfynydd, is listed in the Bonedd Gwyr y Gogledd. William Forbes Skene suggested an identification with Kelso (formerly Calchow) in the Scottish Borders.
  • Eidyn – this was the area around the modern city of  Edinburgh then known as Din Eidyn (Fort of Eidyn). It was closely associated with the Gododdin kingdom. Kenneth Hurlstone Jackson argued strongly that Eidyn referred exclusively to Edinburgh, but other scholars have taken it as a designation for the wider area. The name  survives today in toponyms such as Edinburgh, Dunedin, and Carriden (from Caer Eidyn), located fifteen miles to the west. Din Eidyn was besieged by the English in 638 and was under their control for most of the next three centuries.
  • Manau Gododdin – the coastal area south of the Firth of Forth, and part of the territory of the Gododdin. The name survives in Slamannan Moor and the village of Slamannan in Stirlingshire. This is derived from Sliabh Manann, the ‘Moor of Manann’. It also appears in the name of Dalmeny, some 5 miles northwest of Edinburgh, and formerly known as Dumanyn, assumed to be derived from Din Manann. The name also survives north of the Forth in Pictish Manaw as the name of the burgh of Clackmannan and the eponymous county of Clackmannanshire, derived from Clach Manann, the ‘stone of Manann’, referring to a monument stone located there.
  • Novant – a kingdom mentioned in Y Gododdin, presumably related to the Novantae people of southwestern Scotland.
  • Regio Dunutinga – a minor kingdom or region in North Yorkshire mentioned in the Life of Wilfrid . It was evidently named for a ruler named Dunaut, perhaps the Dunaut ap Pabo known from the genealogies. Its name may survive in the modern town of Dent, Cumbria.

Kingdoms that are not descibed by the academic elite as part of the Old North but are part of its history include:

  • Dalriada (Dál Riata) – Alhough this was a Gaelic-speaking kingdom in early Mediæval times, its people were indigenous Epidian Cruthin (Pretani) and the family of Áedán mac Gabráin of Dalriada appears in the Bonedd Gwýr y Gogledd (The Descent of the Men of the North).
  • English Northumbria and its predecessor states, Bernicia and Deira, which engulfed the Middle Kingdoms.
  • The Caledonian Cruthin or Pretani Kingdom of Pictavia.
  • Bryneich – this is the Brittonic name for the English kingdom of Bernicia and was the  pre-Anglo-Saxon Brittonic kingdom in this area. 
  • Deifr or Dewr – this was the Brittonic name for the English Deira, a region between the River Tees and the Humber. The name is of Brittonic origin, and as with Bryneich, represented the earlier Brittonic kingdom.
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The British Ethnic Community in Ireland (Little Britain)

This year 2017 is the 1500th Anniversary of the birth of Comgall, venerated as the Father of Monks by the Protestant, Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches and a significant figure in our Common Identity. Originally a soldier and not a nobleman, Comgall  was born at Magheramorne, County Antrim in 517 of the People of the Dalaradian Pretani or ancient British.  Having shown great promise in his early years of a vocation to the Christian ministry, Comgall was educated under St Fintan at Clonenagh among the Loigis Pretani of Southern Ireland, and is also said to have studied under Finnian at Clonard and Mobhi Clairenach at Glasnevin.

Following his ordination as a deacon and priest, Comgall was imbued with a great missionary zeal and founded many cells or monasteries before finally establishing Bangor on the coast of County Down under the patronage of Cantigern, Queen of Dalaradia, whose life he had saved. To distinguish it from the other Bangors in the British Isles it became known as Bangor Mór, ‘Bangor the Great’. Bangor means a wattled enclosure in Old British or Brittonic and there is an ancient City of that name in Wales.

The original language or languages of Ulster have long been subsumed but elements of the Old British or Brittonic tongue, now known as Cymric, Cornish and Breton, may be traced in the personal names of the oldest inhabitants, the Cruthin and Ulidians whose political influence declined following defeat by the Gaelic “Ui Neill” at the Battle of Moira (637) and Crew Hill (1004). This was the original tongue of Dalaradia, and indeed of the tribes such as the Brigantes, Manapii, Velaborii, Coriondii and Gangani, recorded by Ptolemy in his second Century map of Ireland or Brittania micra, Little Britain.

The Brittonic or Old British languages (Cymric or Welsh : ieithoedd Brythonaidd/Prydeinig, Cornish: yethow brythonek/predennek, Breton: yezhoù predenek) form one of the two branches of the Celtic language family; the other is Gaelic or Erse  The name Brittonic derives ultimately from the name Prettanike, recorded by Greek authors for the British Isles. Some authors reserve the term Brittonic for the modified later Brittonic languages after about AD 600.

The Brittonic languages derive from the Common Brittonic tongue, spoken throughout Great Britain south of the Firth of Forth during the Iron Age and Roman period. Brittonic was  originally spoken in the British Middle Kingdoms straddling the Borders between  modern England and Scotland, many of whose inhabitants, known as the Border Reivers, were forced into Ulster by James 1. These kingdoms were Strathclyde (Areclut) or modern Glasgow, Goddodin or modern Edinburgh, Aeron or modern Ayrshire, Rheged or modern Galloway,  Dumfries and probably Cumbria, Elmet or modern Yorkshire, Bryneich , later Northumbria, Deifr or Dewr , a region between the River Tees and the Humber.

Brittonic was also spoken in Ireland before Gaelic or Erse and elements are still present in placenames particularly in Antrim and Down (Old Ulster or Ulidia) but also throughout the island. Prominent are Bangor, Lambeg, Glenavy, Tullycarnet, Ballymiscaw (Stormont), Castlereagh and Knockbreda In addition, North of the Forth, the Pictish Language is considered to be related; it is possible it was a Brittonic language, but it may have been a sister language. In the 5th and 6th centuries emigrating Britons also took Brittonic speech to the continent, most significantly in Brittany and Britonia. During the next few centuries the language began to split into several dialects, eventually evolving into Cymric, Cornish, Breton and Cumbric.

Paul Tempan has identified the following place names in Ulster, which have unsatisfactory meanings in Gaelic: Drummillar ( Gaelic droim + Old British or Brittonic moel bre ‘bare hill’), Rathlin Brittonic or Cymric (Welsh). rhygnu “to rub/scrape”; Skettrick cognate with Cymric (Welsh) scethrog ‘rocky place’; letter (as in Letterkenny) cognate with Cymric (Welsh) llethyr ‘slope’; Breda < Bredach ‘ higher ground’ cognate with Brigantes; Teelin cognate with Cymric (Welsh) telyn ‘harp, bow’ ; Old name for Downpatrick, Dún dá Lethglais = ‘fort of Lleth Gadwal’, Old British or Brittonic  form of ‘Cathal’s half’. But there are also Brittonic elements throughout Ireland, for example, the term Gaoth which occurs in Gaoth Barra and Gaoth Dobhair (Gweedore) in Donegal, as well as Gaoth Sáile in Mayo.

The name Gael itself is derived from the Brittonic ‘Guidel’, modern Welsh ‘Gwyddel’, meaning ‘raider’, and would suggest that the newcomers had no common name for themselves until they had come into contact with foreigners. The Romans called them Scotti (Scots) or marauders. And prominent families here more recently spoke the tongue; families such as Welsh, Walsh or Wallace, Rice or Price (ap Rhyss), Lewis (Llywelyn) , Evans or Bevan (Ifan), Griffith or Griffin (Gruffudd) and Meredith (Morgetuid or Margetiud). We still use Cymric in our British passports, translating The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland as Teyrnas Gyfunol Prydain Fawr a Gogledd Iwerddon. The ancient name of Pretania is retained in the Cymric as Prydain.

Although no literature has survived of the old British language in Ulster, the Goddodin of Aneirin and the Odes of Taliesin, who wrote in praise of the war-like deeds of his Lord, Urien of Rheged in South-West Scotland, have survived. Cymric and Breton continue to be spoken as native languages, while a revival in Cornish has led to an increase in speakers of that language. Cumbric is extinct, having been replaced by Gaelic and English speech. The Isle of Man and Orkney also  originally spoke a Brittonic language, as did the whole of Ireland, later replaced with a Gaelic one. Due to emigration, there are also communities of Brittonic language speakers in England, France and Y Wladfa (the Welsh settlement in Patagonia, Argentina).

On 9th March, 1999, as an Ulster Unionist MLA , I gave a speech on Linguistic Diversity. I said then that Ulster sits at the north-eastern corner of Ireland, facing Scotland across a narrow sea. The characteristics of her language, since the dawn of human history, had been moulded by population movements, large and small, between the two islands. Therefore, we have had a wide range of dialects in the northern part of the island, including dialects of Gaelic and of the older Scottish tongue. When I read the part of the Belfast Agreement which deals with rights, safeguards and equality of opportunity, I was delighted with these words:

“All participants recognise the importance of respect, understanding and tolerance in relation to linguistic diversity, including in Northern Ireland, the Irish language, Ulster Scots and ” —equally important, of course —“the languages of the various ethnic communities.”

Ulster-Scots had been particularly important to me because of my love for the literature of Scotland, from the times of the old Makars, who created the older Scottish tongue in its literary form, to modern poets, such as Burns, and the weaver poets of Ulster, including James Orr of Ballycarry, whom I considered to be the equal to Burns himself.

But, besides this interest in cultural, and especially linguistic, diversity, I have always had a love for the oldest tongue used in the British Isles, and from which the British Isles get their name. They were the Britonnic  isles — the islands of the Pretani. This tongue receded dramatically in the face of successive invasions but it was the original tongue of Ireland and it was the original tongue of Ulster. It was also the language of the old Scots of the Lowlands and the Border Reivers. It is still present today in the British Isles in a much-reduced form. It is still used as a living language. I will read some of it: a translation of the passage in the Belfast Agreement I have just quoted.

“Mae pawb sy’n cymryd rhan yn cydnabod ei bod hi’n bwysig parchu, dirnad a goddef amrywiaeth o ieithoedd. Yng Ngogledd Iwerddon mae hyn yn cynnwys Gwyddelig, Scoteg Wlster, ac lieithoedd y gwahanol gymunedau ethnig sydd I gyd yn rhan o gyfoeth diwylliant Iwerddon.”

This language is known in its native land as Cymric. It is the oldest British tongue; it is the language of the Welsh. But it is also the oldest extant language of the British ethnic community in Britain and Ireland. And if we are to fufil to the letter the detail of the Belfast Agreement, this language, as part of the inheritance of the British ethnic community here, must be given due consideration in any Language Act.. It is an important aspect of our Common Identity and we will ensure that it is given due Respect, Equality and Integrity in our Society throughout the British Isles…

Diolch yn fawr i chi

Thank you very much.


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The Two Heroes and the Belgae: Part 3

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The Two Heroes and the Belgae: Part 2

The Gallic Wars





On Wednesday 30th June 2010, our Somme Pilgrimage took us from Arras on a full day’s tour into Belgium. On the road to Ieper (Ypres) I had the opportunity to tell our group of the continuation of the Roman Road to the land of the Belgae from whom Belgium gets its name and the tribes who once lived there.

On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, 9th, 10th and 11th January 1963 I played the role of Julius Caesar in William Shakespeare’s play of that name performed in the school hall in Bangor Grammar School. Brutus was played by Gus Hancock, who was to become the Professor of Chemistry at Oxford University The program explained the events leading up to the action of the play. The Roman Republic had long relied for its strength upon a sound citizen body headed by an aristocratic Senate. From just before 100 BC, the balance of power swung towards such successful generals as could control the now great empire. Julius Caesar was perhaps the greatest of these generals. He had out-generalled and defeated the great soldier Pompey; shown more political acumen than the Senators; conquered Gaul and fought in Britain, Spain and North Africa, Greece and Anatolia to assert his predominance and become dictator. He was now transforming the very basis of government throughout the empire.

He was a radical and tended to reform without sufficient concern for others. He was impatient with the reactionary Senate. The final and fatal error was his alleged aspiration to Kingship. This was quite alien to aristocratic sentiment. The play begins in 44 BC when a small group of men, because of the reasons mentioned and through their own private motives have conspired to act against Caesar, and assassinate him.

The last phase of colonisation of Britain before the Roman conquest came with the Belgic settlements in the south east during the first century BC. These Belgic colonies gave rise, according to Julius Caesar, to the different petty states of Britain the name of those from which they came. Caesar’s report was the first and only record from historical sources of Celtic or part Celtic migration to Britain. His famous Gallic Wars gives us a personal account of Gaul and the battles he fought there.

Caesar tells us that the Gaul of his day was divided into three parts, inhabited by three nations; Belgae, Celtae and Acquitani, all of whom different in language institutions and laws. Since the Romans knew all three as Gauls and the leaders and tribes at least have Celtic names, we may assume all were Celtic speaking though of different dialects and ethnic origins, the Belgae having strong Germanic elements.

Caesar limits the Celtae to that country included from north to south between the Seine and the Garonne and from the Ocean on the west to the Rhine in Helvetia, and the Rhone on the east. The Veneti were the most powerful of the Celtae and inhabited the country to the north of the mouth of the Loire, (Liger). We know that the Domnonii of Cornwall and Devon were the most cultivated of their British relatives and that the Veneti traded with them for the tin of Cornwall. The Domnonian Britons reserved the legend that they came from Glas-gwyn, from the country of the Liger. Migrating to Ireland under Roman pressure and displacing the aboriginal pre-Celtic Pretani or Cruthin, they called themselves Lagin or Domnainn maintaining the tradition that they were originally from Armorica. When the Irish Lagin later invaded the Lleyn Peninsula in Wales later from Ireland it took the name of Guined (Gwynedd) which derives directly from Veneti.

The Belgae inhabited what is now north eastern France and the Low Countries. The tribe which never sued for peace from Caesar was the Manapii who were originally seated on the Meuse and on the Lower Rhine. This great tribe was to become known to the later Gaels as the Fir Manaig, Men of the Manapii , who gave their name to Fermanagh and Monaghan, an area originally known by its Pretanic name of Erdinia. It is probable that they also inhabited the Isle of Man (Monapia) before the Gaelic conquest. It was the Manapii along with the Morini and other Northern tribes who maintained an independent Gaulish area following Caesar’s campaign of 57 BC, when he massacred 50,000 Belgic warriors at the earliest recorded Battle on the Somme.

In 56 BC the Veneti threw off the yoke of Rome and the whole coast from the Loire to the Rhine joined the insurrection. Caesar attacked the powerful Venetian navy and destroyed it, selling the defeated captives into slavery to a man. And it was the help they received from their British relatives which prompted his invasion of Britain in 55 BC.

To be continued

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The Two Heroes and the Belgae: J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis: Part 1

Second Lieutenant J.R.R. Tolkien

Part 1: The Two Heroes

On Tuesday 29th June 2010, the Somme Association took 47 senior politicians and general public from Northern Ireland to visit the Battlefields of the Somme prior to the Ceremonies at Thiepval, the Ulster Tower and Guillemont on 1st July. It was my custom as Chairman to relate the story of the Two Heroes J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis on our journey to Thiepval from Arras. And this is what I said.

During the Great War, J.R.R. Tolkien enlisted into the Lancashire Fusiliers as a Second Lieutenant. The Lancashire Fusiliers enjoyed a fine reputation They dated back to the landing of William of Orange in the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and had shattered the French Cavalry at the Battle of Minden in the Seven Years War. Following the Napoleonic War, Wellington had described them as “the best and most distinguished” of British regiments, just as he had also said that “the 27th of Foot (Inniskilling Fusiliers) saved the centre of my line at Waterloo”.

My grandfather Samuel and his brother from Bolton served with them in the Boer War when they suffered the heaviest casualties in the attack on Spion Kop, but had gone on to the relief of Ladysmith. Of Tolkien’s school friends in the TCBS (Tea Club and Barrovian Sociey) Robert Quilter Gilson had joined the 11th Suffolks and Geoffrey Bache Smith the 3rd Salford Pals (19th Lancashire Fusiliers).This battalion had just achieved fame in the securing of “W Beach” in Gallipoli when it had won a historic six VCs in one morning.

Late on Sunday 4th June 1916 Tolkien set off for London and thence to France where he was present at the Battle of the Somme. The approximate centre line of the battlefield was defined by this Old Roman Road to the Land of the Belgae which runs straight from Albert in the West to Bapaume in the East. Tolkien’s battalion disembarked in Amiens and marched on to a hamlet called Rubempré ten miles away. Here they were billeted in those conditions of the Western Front to which they would soon become accustomed.

Then on Friday 30th June they moved near to the Front Line. The attack began early the next morning, but they were not to be in it, for they were to be held in reserve, going into battle several days later when it was planned that the German line would have been smashed open and the Allied troops would have penetrated deep into enemy territory.

At 7.30am on Saturday 1st July the troops of the British Front Line went over the top including, of course, the famous 36th Ulster Division. Rob Gilson of the TCBS serving in the Suffolk Regiment was among them. Tolkien’s battalion remained in reserve, moving to a village called Bouzincourt, where the majority bivouacked in a field. Soon the awful truth dawned that on the first day of battle twenty thousand allied troops had been killed and the 36th Ulster Division had suffered five-and-a-half thousand casualties. To their right the 1st Salford Pals (15th Lancashire Fusiliers) were all but wiped out, the remnants joining the Ulstermen. Only they had been able to penetrate the German lines, which generally had remained intact. On Sunday 2nd July, Tolkien attended Mass in front of a portable field altar, being administered by a Chaplain of the Royal Irish Rifles as his battalion’s Padre was an Anglican averse to Roman Catholics, something Tolkien never forgot.

On Thursday 6th July, Tolkien’s 11th Lancashire Fusiliers went into action, but only A Company was sent to the trenches and Tolkien remained at Bouzincourt with the remainder. Finally on Friday 14th July, B Company went into action. The sights which Tolkien now experienced, the images, sounds and the people he met , stayed with him until his death in 1973. He never forgot what he called the “animal horror” of trench warfare.

His first day in action had been chosen by the allied commanders for a major offensive and his company was attached to the Seventh Infantry Brigade for an attack on the ruined hamlet of Ovillers, which was in German hands. The attack was unsuccessful and many of Tolkien’s battalion were killed around him by machine gun fire. On his return to the huts at Bouzincourt, Tolkien found a letter from his friend G P Smith, to say that Rob Gilson had died at La Boisselle, leading his men into action on the first day of battle. A Service of Remembrance is held at the Lochnagar mine crater near La Boiselle every year on the morning of 1st July and we visit it regularly.

Day now followed day in the same pattern; a rest period, back to the trenches and more attacks. Tolkien was among those who were in support at the storming of the Schwaben Redoubt, a massive fortification of German trenches, upon which Northern Ireland’s National War Memorial, The Ulster Tower, stands facing Thiepval Wood which is now owned by the Somme Association. Although he was to make revisions to “Kortirion among the trees “during two days in a dugout in the Thiepval Wood front line, none of the “Lost Tales” which form the basis for the much later “Silmarillion” can be dated to his time in France, let alone in the trenches, when all his energies, like those of his men, were devoted to pure survival .

British losses continued to be severe and many more of Tolkein’s battalion were killed. On 27th October 1916 he was rescued from the battle by “Pyrexia of Unknown Origin” (PUO) or as the soldiers simply called it “Trench Fever”, a highly infectious disease caused by a Rickettsial organism Bartonella Quintana, carried by the louse Pediculus corporis. By 8th November he remained ill and was put on a ship back to England. But his other friend G B Smith was not so lucky. He had been walking down the road in a village behind the lines, when a shell burst near him and wounded him in his right arm and thigh. An operation was attempted, but fatal gangrene set in. They buried him in Warlencourt British Cemetery, where we visit him.

The Young C.S. Lewis 

C S Lewis arrived at the Front Line trenches on his nineteenth birthday, 29th November 1917. To his great surprise he found that the Captain of his company of the Somerset Light Infantry was none other than his old teacher P G K Harris. Lewis was also to suffer from Trench Fever at the beginning of February 1918 but returned to the Front on 28th February and during the First Battle of Arras from 21st to 28th March 1918 he was in or near the Front Line. By this time three of his “old set” of friends had been killed, Alexander Sutton, Thomas Davy and room mate Edward Moore. Edward was posthumously awarded the Military Cross and, as he had promised, Lewis took care of his mother Jane until she died thirty-three years later.

Still around Arras, Lewis saw action in the battle centred on Riez du Village between 14th and 16th April when he was wounded by a British shell exploding behind him. The medical board described Lewis’ wounds thus: “shell fragments caused three wounds, in the left side of his chest, his left wrist and left leg.” The shell fragment in his left chest was to remain lodged in the upper lobe of his left lung for the rest of the War. Sadly the news that his Serjeant Harry Ayres had been killed next to him caused him great grief. Lewis remained in hospital until June, when he was transferred to convalesce in Bristol. He remained there until October and did not return to France.

Thus Tolkien and Lewis had survived the Great War and it was perhaps their similar experiences which drew them together in Oxford to form that legendary friendship which culminated in the development of the group of friends, all of whom were male and Christian, and most of whom were interested in literature, which was known as the Inklings. Certainly for Tolkien, Lewis must have seemed like all his former friends rolled into one.

The first story which Tolkien put on paper was written during his convalescence at Great Haywood early in 1917. This is the Fall of Gondolin, which tells of the assault of the last Elvish stronghold by Morgoth, the prime power of evil and these are the Elves who form the basis of the Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings. Discussing one of the principal characters in the Lord of the Rings, Tolkein wrote many years later, “my Sam Gamgee is indeed a reflection of the English soldier, of the privates and batmen I knew in the 1914 war and recognise as so far superior to myself.” The Hobbit itself is almost a parallel of the Great War as Bilbo Baggins is plucked from his rural life and plunged into a brutal conflict. So also are Sam Gamgee and Frodo Baggins pitched against the forces of darkness and witnesses to a carnage in Middle-earth reminiscent of Armageddon which could only have been imagined by those Heroes of World War One.

To be continued

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