Saturday, 29 December 2007

Gangland refugees

One thing I have discovered in the last few days has been the realisation that the streets my gg grandfather and family lived in were at the very heart of the Glasgow razor gangs of the 1920s and 30s.

Carstairs Street, Swanston Street, Poplin Street and Colvend Street were within a stone's throw (probably literally) of Norman Street, home of the notorious Norman Conks and where a pitched battle took place between the Conks and the even more vile Billy Boys, led by the fascist Billy Fullerton.

It must still have been a major decision, to board a ship for New Zealand, but it is easy to see why it was tempting for my relatives who did choose to emigrate.

Electoral discrepancies in Labour constituency

Don't get too excited - the constituency was the Labour stronghold of Glasgow Bridgeton from 1929-39: the local MP being the legendary Jimmy Maxton.

My great great aunt, Rachel McCartney emigrated from the slums of Bridgeton to New Zealand back in 1929, leaving her husband and young son. The McCartneys in 1929 had just moved in with Rachel's mother, my gg grandfather's widow. Presumably, Rachel wanted to make sure that her son would be safe with granny before she left. Altogether, there were 23 adults in the tenement listed on the voters' roll. Rachel emigrated in November of that year, leaving her husband and son behind. It had been thought that she had abandoned them. However, John continued living at that address until after the Second World War. Presumably, he was sharing the childminding duties with his mother in law all the way through to 1939. The funny thing is, Rachel remained on the voters' roll all the way to 1939 also.

So, did Rachel abandon her husband and son, and her grief-stricken husband hoped desperately she would return, so maintained her on the electoral register? Or, had he known she wanted to emigrate (along with several of her siblings) and went along with it for reasons of his own? Who knows?

Perhaps there was wholesale electoral fraud at the time and the population of the supposedly overcrowded slums consisted of fifteen people and a dog actually living in some comfort. History is wonderful.

OK OK, I missed a day

I didn't get round to posting yesterday. The rain was coming down in sheets and Didactophobe decided to get round enjoying his holiday. Pursuing my genealogy hobby, I drove with Mrs Didactophobe around the part of Glasgow where one of my great great grandfathers lived. I found the streets where he and his second family lived, but the buildings had all gone. It was at the centre of the slum clearances, and the families who lived there have long gone.

Thursday, 27 December 2007

Benazir Bhutto

One consequence of today's horror journey is that I will remember where I was when I learned that Benazir Bhutto had been assassinated.

Having arrived at Glasgow, I went for some chips and I spotted the Evening Times billboard. It was incredibly brave, and perhaps foolish, of her to go back to Pakistan. Politically, the country is now a basket case. In the 'War on Terror', Bush and Bliar got too far into bed with Musharraf. He has to go and go soon: equally, it is important that we do not get an Islamist nutjob replacing him. The last thing we need is for an unstable state with nuclear capability falling into the hands of fanatics.

Take the National Express when your life's in a mess...

The song is wrong. It didn't make me smile. Having spent a fruitful genealogical day at the General Register Office in Edinburgh, Didactophobe arrived at Waverley Station about 4.30 for a train to Glasgow. I knew engineering work was playing havoc with services and I was just too late for the Scotrail trains to Queen Street and to Glasgow Central which were just leaving. Like any infrequent visitor to Waverley, I have never managed to figure out the platform layout, which is peculiar to say the least.

However, there was a late running National Express East Coast Mainline service about to arrive at Platform 19, which I was able to locate. The train trundled in about 10 minutes late, which the train manager helpfully announced was due to delays at Peterborough. Fair enough. It would only stop at Motherwell and would arrive at Glasgow around 5.35.

I was jolly hungry by this point, so Didactophobe located the buffet car. "What do you have to eat?" I asked hopefully. The helpful man behind the counter indicated the two leftover sandwiches which were all the stock he had left. Chicken tikka and chicken-something-else. Not much good for a veggie. The guy had a good go - credit where it is due. He highly recommended the chicken tikka.

So Didactophobe resolved to starve. Let's be honest - I expected the train to arrive comfortably before the ETA - why should it take nearly an hour to travel from Edinburgh to Glasgow with just one stop?

The train trundled along, taking an inordinate amount of time to pass Carstairs and arrive at Motherwell. Peterborough Schmeterborough - it hadn't made up a damn second of time. At about 5.50, the train arrived at Glasgow Central - or at least I thought it had.

The train came to a halt just shy of the platform. Nothing. Then there was an announcement from the driver for the guard to contact him. Then the guard announced there was a points failure just ahead of us. An engineer would come out and change the points manually, and the train would move again in about 5 minutes.

Cobblers! A good 15 minutes later we were still stuck: the update from the guard was that there were now three engineers working on the line ahead of us. After at least 30 minutes of being stranded, we finally reached the station. An hour and three quarters to travel 50 miles.

Back on 24 September I had a rant about public transport. Much the same applies today.

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

And Adhanother thing

Muslims in Oxford are apparently demanding the right to broadcast their call to prayer by loudspeaker, to the anger of local residents.

Let us hope and pray that this is not allowed. This country has been Christian for 1000 years, and the sound of church bells on a Sunday morning is one of our finest traditions. Hearing warbling and wailing from a loudspeaker three times a day (and I have heard it in Turkey) is just not on. It is intrusive and threatening: a more sensible solution would be for the Adhan to be transmitted by text to Muslims' mobile phones - it would not disturb anything else.

Home truths for Islamonazi

In the 1992 US election, Bill Clinton famously had the words prominently displayed in his office, "It's the economy, stupid." It was a reminder that, whilst attacking George Bush snr on his foreign policy was all very well, the election would hinge on the economic downturn being suffered by the US.

Ahmadinejad's ranting about Israel has often been effective in Iran when it comes to rousing rabbles. However, as George Bush snr discovered, if a president does not deliver on the economy he is liable to find himself being severely criticised.

Her Majesty on Youtube

Being out for Christmas dinner this year, I did not catch the Queen's Speech live - I had to rely on Youtube.

It reminded me how lucky we are to have this Queen. This year's speech was excellent. Merging in scenes from her first ever Christmas Broadcast was a superb idea, which emphasised the continuity of her reign as well as the myriad of changes which have taken place in society and in the world during it. The theme of her speech: to remember the poor and the outsider as well as the brave men and women of our armed forces reminds us, as Her Majesty put it, that we are all part of one human family. The existence of our common humanity as well as the timelessness of Christ's Greatest Commandment to love God and to love our neighbour as ourselves should be at the forefront of everything we do. Her Majesty's frequent references to the teachings of Jesus remind us that, throughout her long life, she has been a faithful Christian, dedicated to duty.

I look forward to The Royal Channel's continued success and to many more videos being uploaded to it, to bring the monarchy and their part in this country's history to a new worldwide audience. 800,000+ views within its first week speaks for itself.

God save our gracious Queen,
Long live our noble Queen,
God save the Queen:
Send her victorious,
Happy and glorious,
Long to reign over us:
God save the Queen.

O Lord, our God, arise,
Scatter her enemies,
And make them fall.
Confound their politics,
Frustrate their knavish tricks,
On thee our hopes we fix:
God save the Queen.

Thy choicest gifts in store,
On her be pleased to pour;
Long may she reign:
May she defend our laws,
And ever give us cause
To sing with heart and voice
God save the Queen

Tuesday, 25 December 2007

A peaceful Christmas

At least it has been in the Didactophobe household. Christmas dinner at a delightful country inn (albeit pricey), with a vegetarian option for Didactophobe himself.

It has led to me thinking: What is Didactophobia? Is it a blog on religion, politics, education, current affairs, genealogy, all or some of the above? It has been one thing and another in the six months or so that it has been occupying cyberspace.

I think Didactophobia is, and should be, a record of my outpourings. In 2008, I shall aim to update it every single day. Obviously, that may not be possible; however, I shall get as close as I can. I don't expect my blog to reach a massively wide audience: I would be as thrilled as any other blogger if it did, but it is not my aim. It is, basically, a personal diary in which I shall write whatever seems interesting, relevant, funny or important to me. Bloggers such as Cranmer compete in the Champions' League of blogs: mine is in the fourth division of the pub league. But the pub league can be fun.

This Christmas, pray for the oppressed

I reprint extracts from an email received from the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. Read it and weep.

"Ironically, soon there may be no Christians left in Bethlehem. Oppression of Christians by radical Muslims, which rose sharply after Israel turned over control of Bethlehem to the Palestinian Authority in 1995, has led to a Christian exodus from the area. In 1995, Christians made up 62 percent of the population in the city of Jesus' birth. Today, that figure stands at approximately 15 percent.

Given the stories we've heard of threats and violence against Christians, it's easy to understand why. One pastor, Naim Khoury, who heads the First Baptist Church of Bethlehem, tells of being shot three times, and having his church bombed on 14 separate occasions.

The oppression of Christians by hard-line Islamists is common not only in Bethlehem, but throughout Palestinian-controlled areas. In Gaza, where 3,000 Christians live among 1.5 million Muslims, it is sometimes deadly. Last fall, Rami Khader Ayyad, owner of a Christian bookstore, was murdered by Islamic radicals. When Hamas terrorists seized power over the area in June 2007, numerous attacks against Christians were reported, including the ransacking of a convent. Clearly, in Gaza Hamas has created an atmosphere deeply hostile to Christians.

In Israel, on the other hand, the right to worship freely is protected for Jews, Christians, Muslims, and Druze alike, and perpetrators of religiously-motivated attacks are punished with the full force of the law. No wonder, then, that even many Palestinians living in areas of Israel that could be turned over to the Palestinian Authority in peace negotiations have voiced strong opposition to any such deal...

Please take a moment to pray that Christians in hostile Arab and Muslim countries will be released from their bonds of oppression. And, to all my Christian friends everywhere, please accept my sincere wish that this Christmas is one of joy and peace. I feel greatly blessed by your continued support for Israel and the Jewish people, and your prayers for the peace of Jerusalem."

Monday, 24 December 2007

Sarah Boyle

You have probably never heard of her. She is Didactophobe's great great grandmother. She lived between about 1860 and 1944. She was orphaned at an early age and was looked after by her grandmother. Sarah married a man called John Reddock in 1875. Within six weeks, he had abandoned her to join the army, leaving her pregnant. Life in those days was not easy for single mothers: no council house; no truckloads of welfare benefits. She didn't know whether her husband was alive or dead, and she took up with a man called John Smith. A very ordinary man: a poor labourer, as unremarkable as his name.

Within a few months, she found herself pregnant by him. What to do then? She got married: she committed bigamy. She needed a man to protect her (that is the way the world was) and she had found a man who would love her and look after her. So they married in late 1880. Irony of ironies, within a century one of her descendants would be divorced on the grounds of five year desertion. If that had been open to her in 1880, there would have been no problems. But this was the Victorian era.

Sarah gave birth to her second child. Marion was sickly and would die within the year, of measles and bronchitis. Ailments of the poor. Sarah worked as a steam loom weaver to support her children and her new husband John laboured away.

At some point in late 1881 or early 1882, John Reddock was discharged from the army. He came looking for his wife, and discovered her living with another man. She was also pregnant, expecting twins.

Sarah was charged with bigamy and appeared for a first hearing in court. She was almost eight months pregnant: she was committed to prison on remand. After five weeks, she came back to the court for a second hearing. Her lawyer, Arthur Sturrock, asked the court for leniency, given that she had already spent time in prison. She was sentenced to two months: no backdating of sentences in those days, nor time off for good behaviour. She was sentenced on 6 April and it would be 6 June before she was released from prison.

On 10 April 1882, at 2am, the prison governor was woken from his slumbers. Sarah was going into labour. At 7.30am, she gave birth to a son, whom she named John after his father. Shortly afterwards, the second twin was born, stillborn. The sex was not recorded.

What happened then? Don't know. By 1891, she was living with her grandmother and John Smith, the son she had given birth to in prison. Her second husband had disappeared. Her bastard of a first husband had custody of their daughter and was reproducing at a fine old rate with his second wife, whom he married bigamously.

Sarah lived a long life and died of cerebral thrombosis on 9 March 1944 at the age of 83 (approx). What happened to her in the intervening 53 years? Don't know. Maybe I shall find out some of her story. I certainly intend to try. I hope and pray that she had some happiness.

I am no socialist. I am no feminist. But stories like this make you realise how and why they began.

God bless you, Sarah. May you rest in peace.

I'm back - in time for Christmas

Yes, Didactophobe has returned to the blogosphere. The end of term has arrived; Christmas Eve is here; Mrs Didactophobe is working nightshift and it is just me and Didactofeline in the Didactoresidence.

Bethlehem this Christmas is enjoying a period of relative peace. What the future holds for the besieged Christians, God only knows. But let us be thankful for this year.

We celebrate the birth of God Incarnate, Jesus Christ, God's greatest ever gift to humanity. Through faith in Jesus, we can achieve salvation, overcoming the effects of sin. No other man in history made the claims Jesus did and was taken seriously. No other man in history has inspired so many to good.

Matthew and Luke tell in their gospels of the miracle of Jesus' conception: the Virgin Mary being impregnated by the Holy Spirit. A ridiculous story? There are lots of stories concerning Jesus' life and death that would be ridiculous, were they told about anyone else. Yet people, not only Christians, sense that there is something different about Jesus. Why is Christianity the major target of secularists and militants? Why do dedicated atheists like Richard Dawkins expend energy attacking Christianity? What is it about Jesus that he can motivate and inspire even those who claim not to believe in him?

Jesus Christ WAS God incarnate. Jesus Christ is alive today and for ever more. The child born in Israel 2000 years ago IS the greatest man who ever lived and the ONLY one who can promise salvation for those who believe in him. God offers you charis, his grace freely given; a gift which can never be earned. It is the greatest Christmas present ever. Accept it.

Peace to all the world.