Saturday, 30 April 2011

Jersey's Independent Media 1856-1862 - Part 3

The Six Points of the People's Charter

1. A VOTE for every man twenty-one years of age, of sound mind, and not undergoing punishment for crime.
2. THE BALLOT - To protect the elector in the exercise of his vote.
3. NO PROPERTY QUALIFICATION for Members of Parliament - thus enabling the constituencies to return the man of their choice, be he rich or poor.
4. PAYMENT OF MEMBERS, thus enabling an honest tradesman, working man, or other person, to serve a constituency, when taken from his business to attend to the interests of the Country.
5. EQUAL CONSTITUENCIES, securing the same amount of representation for the same number of electors, instead of allowing small constituencies to swamp the votes of large ones.
6. ANNUAL PARLIAMENTS, thus presenting the most effectual check to bribery and intimidation, since though a constituency might be bought once in seven years (even with the ballot), no purse could buy a constituency (under a system of universal suffrage) in each ensuing twelve-month; and since members, when elected for a year only, would not be able to defy and betray their constituents as now.

The Chartist George Julian Harney had arrived sick and unwell in Jersey around 1856. Having recovered his health, he was offered by the proprietor the position of editor, and took up the mantle of pressing for social change once more. A. R. Schoyen's "A Portrait of George Julian Harney" tells us how he set to work:

The Independent was, as all of Harney's papers had been, a crusading journal. The duty of a newspaper, he informed his readers, was to "enlighten and lead the masses", as well as to collect and disseminate news. "Hitherto, plain-speaking--on the side of Truth and Freedom--had not been the rule in Jersey", he wrote in an early issue. "It is time, however, that a fashion so commendable should be introduced." "Fair Play" and "Constant Reader" now joined "Argus" & Co. in commending the editor when a proper response from his readers was not forthcoming -- a claque that did not always escape the attention of the Independent's rivals.

The Jersey newspapers, which enjoyed a total weekly circulation of 16,000 in a population of 50,000, pandered to the appetites of an audience whose penchant for violence ("the hit on the nose", as the bilingual writers for the English-language papers put it) burdened the calendars of the Royal Court. "Personal abuse flourishes with a vigour worthy of Yankeedom," wrote one observer. Harney lost no time in inhaling this bracing atmosphere, taking a projected visit of the Queen as an opportunity to comment judiciously on the fawning attitude of the "Jersey Timeserver" (the Jersey Weekly Times) and the "old fogies' journal, the superannuated British Press".

It is worth a brief digression on the local newspapers of the day. The local history site, Jeron, says that:

Although many early newspapers were written in French, there were none in Jerriais; the patois was predominantly a spoken language rather than a written one. The first newspaper written in the English language was the British Press, first published in 1822. During the 19th century several newspapers were published in the Island, although they were primarily intended for the UK market. They were avoiding English taxes (on paper, on publication, and according to the changes in the English taxation system). In this way Jersey was seen as a tax haven even in those days. The British Press joined with the Jersey Times in 1860, and as the British Press and Jersey Times survived into the 20th century.

The site, however, does not mention Harney or the Independent. It seems that he was keen to address local matters where there were social injustices, but that did not preclude him looking at the international scene. Schoyen's comments on this give us a flavour of Harney's work as editor of the Independent:

As the hot summer of 1856 wore on, he read of the Guards' triumphant return from the Crimea, their passage down Whitehall in showers of flowers thrown by elegant ladies and their review at Aldershot by the Queen--irreverently likened to "one of Astley's female equestrians" in her tight red costume by Reynolds's Weekly Newspaper. Harney wasted few words in mourning the opportunities lost in the war. The Independent's leading article on the evacuation of the Crimea featured instead the last Englishman to leave -- a thoroughly intoxicated member of the Land Transport Corps retrieved from a ditch by six Cossacks. Harney suggested that he should rent himself out to English Teetotal Societies as a "shocking example".

Other echoes from lost causes reached Jersey, such as the tumultuous welcome by a London crowd of 10,000 of John Frost, the leader of the Welsh Chartist rising of 1839, on his return from Van Dieman's Land; but it is doubtful that Harney regretted not being in the centre of things. His happiness in his retreat is apparent not only in the relaxed humour of the Independent's leaders, but in the round of small activities which were to be typical of the next six years. His reputation, as well as the consistently radical attitude of the Independent toward foreign affairs, ensured him a standing with the considerable local émigré colony; to the Poles he was a heroic figure (". . . remember me to the Immortal Harney", wrote the Polish leader Constantine Lekawski to Joseph Cowen some years later). It was natural when a distinguished refugee such as the famous Hungarian violinist Remenyi visited Jersey that the Independent's editor should preside over a fine dinner in his honour at the "Pomme d'Or" and give the toast to the "speedy liberation of Hungary". Such incidents shook no thrones, but they were pleasant.

A little background on those forgotten figures of the past.

John Frost (25 May 1784 - 27 July 1877) was a prominent Welsh leader of the British Chartist movement in the Newport Rising. After a dispute over a will, he had fallen out with the establishment in Wales and become a Chartist, convinced of the Chartist campaigned for basic democratic rights overlooked in the Great Reform Act of 1832 of universal suffrage. Only property owners were allowed to stand for parliament- and that excluded most ordinary people. Frost marched on Newport at the head of three thousand men, mostly miners from the Gwent Valleys. They converged on the Westgate Hotel in Newport where the Chartist prisoners were supposed to be held. Frost was captured, and put on trial, and sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered in 1840 - he and his two fellow leaders in the march were the last men in Britain to receive this sentence. After a huge outcry, this was commuted to transportation to life, Frost being sent to Van Dieman's Land. Frost eventually returned to Britain.

Van Dieman's Land was the original name used by most Europeans for the Island of Tasmania, off the Southern coast of Australia, and named by the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman after Anthony van Diemen, the Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies who sent Tasman on his voyage of discovery in 1642. In 1803, the British colonised it as a penal colony, but later, in 1856, this was changed to Tasmania after Tasman himself to remove the unsavoury connotations with crime.

Edouard Remenyi was one of the 19th century's most famous violin virtuosos, so technically proficient that he was pronounced "the Liszt of the fiddle. He was exiled from Austro-Hungary because of his part in the revolution, and despite spending much time in America, was appointed solo violinist to Queen Victoria in 1854. A lifelong friend of Franz Liszt, he also brought the talents of Johannes Brahms to light, after discovering the impoverished Brahms playing in a sailor's saloon on the Hamburg waterfront. His descendant, Mihály Reményi, opened a small violin shop in 1890, from this small beginning was to come the world famous Remeni House of Music.

A. R. Schoyen tells us that Harney also had become leader of the local radical party in Jersey:

His prestige was not limited to the émigré colony. By the time Engels, in ill health, visited Jersey in October 1857, Harney had become a leader of the radical party on the island -- which, in the pre-1789 stage of Jersey's political development, meant the middle classes of St. Helier. In a letter to Marx soon after his arrival, Engels wrote of Harney:

"He has acquired a strange appearance with a large, pitch-black beard, somewhat like the greasy Jew's who travelled in the small boat which landed us from the steamer--certainly an improvement. He regards his Jersey politics from the humorous point of view, saying he got a 'great deal of fun' from it, etc. . . . Later I went drinking with him and had him tell me about the local constitution, etc.; there was no talk of bygone days. For the moment he seems damn'd glad to have retired from high politics to his little kingdom of the blind. As a one-eyed man he is king of the opposition: on his right the first grocer, on his left the first tallow-chandler in the town. . . . For Harney the whole history of Jersey is divided into two periods: that before and that after the expulsion of the toads. Both periods are distinguished by the fact that nothing happened in them."

Engles, however, took a more ascerbic view a fortnight later when he wrote to Marx:

"He is terribly stupid and feels most comfortable here in his petty critical [spiessbürger] role. . . . Naturally, he expects the English workers to do something sooner or later, but that something is by no means of a Chartist nature. Anyway, all this is only theoretical phraseology with him, and it would certainly be unpleasant to him to be uprooted from his little agitation here. He is very busy, but busy doing nothing."

Ignoring the tone of acidity reserved for those who did not see eye-to-eye with the two Germans, it is evident from Engels's description that Harney had contentedly resigned himself to his idyllic backwater. Without taking the petty politics of the island very seriously, he was enjoying himself. "Our Royal Court scenes, our States' debates, our political meetings, our newspaper polemics at least 'keep us alive'," he wrote subsequently. Doubtless he would have minded very much being uprooted: where, after all, was he to go and how was he to live? Marx might live in great poverty, but, unlike Harney, he at least had a "Lieber Fred" with a Manchester mill to turn to in adversity. What really distinguished Engels and Marx from Harney, however, was their impenetrable sense of dedication and awareness of their historical importance. They were imbued with the fervour of the apostles of early Christianity; Harney was like a tired Roman reformer.

Who was the more in touch? Harney seems to have been more of a realist in the failure of Chartism to set the country on fire. Engels and Marx would develop, in time, a rationalisation within their own idealism for why the expected revolution had not arrived. The shift was towards a more collaborative stance with the Liberal party, which would later be seen in the position of Lloyd-George. By this time, although friendly with Engels, Harney had long fallen out with Marx over Harney's willingness to open the pages of his publications to a wide range of exiles including those with whom Marx was engaged in strife. Marx would not countenance other views than his own on these matters, while for Harney, as a newspaper editor, freedom of speech was paramount.

As to the basic question involved-- Harney's loss of faith in an independent English working-class movement under the conditions then existing--it is not too much to say that his understanding of domestic political feeling was more acute than that of the two Germans. The trend in English working-class radicalism was away from an independent and class-conscious movement to the collaboration with the middle classes which issued in the Gladstonian Liberal party. It was this drift which constituted "high politics" in the late 'fifties so far as the Radical working class was concerned; not, as Marx and Engels wished it to be, working-class preparation for revolutionary changes in the economic crisis they believed was imminent. The events of 1858, when a sharp commercial slump had hit Britain, were to show whose "theoretical phraseology" was closer to reality.

And Harney had also started looking at organising working men politically to obtain reform. When he had been in England, and secretary to the London Democratic Association, he had written in 1838 about the way in which the Associations for Working men were often run by other classes, to the detriment of any political thinking at all: "It is well known to the country that no efficient organisation of the masses has been established in the metropolis, since the dissolution of the National Union of the Working Classes. True, there is in existence clubs, societies and associations professing to represent the working classes; but this is a delusion, as evidenced in the simple fact that these societies are composed of a select few of the 'respectables'." Harney noted that the same kind of worthy but patronising bodies existed in Jersey:

Though Harney's preoccupation with local abuses seemed to Engels an abdication of his radical role it is more than doubtful that it represented anything of the kind to the established order in Jersey. The local Working Men's Association offered little scope for his reform efforts, being dominated by the local clergy and subject to lectures on such subjects as "Early Irish Music"; and Harney had turned his organizing zeal to the service of the class which suffered most from seigneurial domination and the anachronistic legal system--the "vassals" of Engels's satirical description.

The "Reform League", which came into being in September 1856 under Harney's aegis, was composed mainly of merchants, small ship-owners, bank employees and the like; and the main object of their attacks was the monopoly of power exercised by the old families of the island.

However - and this may seem familiar today - there was always a problem when those agitating for change became part of the Islands government, and often were assimilated into that body, for the lure of power and the knowledge that one is part of a special ruling elite can be dangerous temptations for the unwary:

This organization of the Radical middle class existed under one name or another during the entire period of Harney's stay in Jersey. Although it represented a powerful body of local opinion, its usefulness was impaired by the tendency of its leading members, in the rare event of their becoming Deputies in the States or Jurats (judges) of the Royal Court, to forget their grievances with those in power in the sharing of it. And while the Independent became known as the "eloquent organ of the reform party" so far away as Guernsey (twenty miles), it was as well for Harney that he retained a humorous objectivity about local politics, for the sober fact was that his support of candidates was, more often than not, fatal to their political ambitions.

Nevertheless, this did not prevent Harney from taking on a powerful opposition in the struggle to make Jersey a fairer society, and the next segment of this story will illustrate how he did so, as well as taking in the story of the man who turned most sharply from reform to establishment in Jersey politics of the time.

Works Cited
J. B. Payne, A Gossiping Guide to Jersey ( London: 1862), p. 197.
A Popular History of Jersey by Reverend Alban E Ragg, published in 1896
The Chartist Challenge: A Portrait of George Julian Harney. A. R. Schoyen,

Thursday, 28 April 2011

A Royal Wedding Retrospective

In Jersey, in 1863, the following events, as reported in Ragg's History of Jersey, occurred:

On March 10th, 1863, the Hospital as it at present stands was opened with much ceremony, whilst illuminations and other signs of joy were everywhere held in commemoration of the marriage of the Prince and Princess of Wales. The same year saw the burning down, on July 31st, of the old Theatre Royal, then situated in the Crescent, and also the swearing in, on October 28th, of Major-General Burke Cuppage as Lieutenant-Governor.

There is actually very little noted here about what the average person got up to with the marriage celebrations, so with a Royal Wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton, I thought in would be interesting to look back at a past Royal Wedding, and again delve into my archives, looking at  Whitnash Parish Magazine to see what was happening in 1863, where there are considerable details. Alongside, the celebrations, the more mundane life was also reported, with what seems to be a perpetual theme of any century, that of raising funds for Church restoration went on:

A box of useful and fancy needlework has been received, addressed to Mrs. Young, Whitnash Rectory, from some unknown friend. She begs to tender her best thanks, and she has added the articles to her collection towards the Church restoration.

The Royal marriage of 1863 took place on 10th March, and was between Albert Edward, son of Queen Victoria, and Princess Alexandra of Denmark. They married at St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle. Edward was 21; Alexandra was 18.

The Whitnash magazine gives details of a prayer that was to be used -"Almighty God, the Fountain of all goodness, we humbly beseech thee to bless Albert Edward Prince of Wales, the Princess of Wales, and all the Royal Family. Imbue them with thy Holy Spirit, enrich them with thy Heavenly Grace, prosper them with all happiness, and bring them to thy everlasting kingdom : through Jesus Christ our Lord." and the writer notes that:

It is this prayer which, in countless churches throughout the land, will be offered on Tuesday morning. It is the very marked characteristic of the intended rejoicings, that in so many places-in the cathedral city, the quiet village, and the country town-the rejoicings are to be ushered in by common consent, with a service in the church.

By way of contrast, most people this Friday won't be - by common consent -  in Church services, or singing patriotic hymns, but, if they are participating at all, be gazing at their television sets! The magazine goes on to tell of details the celebrations - and this was not a statutory holiday, but a discretional one, but such was the overwhelming loyalty to the Crown that most people kept it as a holiday, and there was a number of feasts, the equivalent of today's street parties. It is interesting that the more prosperous in Whitnash society also gave funds so that those less well off and the children could participate in this enjoyable occasion. It seems clear that this was also an occasion for Royal toasts for Bride and Groom, and patriotic singing. Interestingly, the noun used in one of the hymns is "Britains" for the people of Britain, not Britons (the modern term).

It seems a much more cohesive society than ours today, with everyone taking part, and an enthusiasm for the Royal Family that has much diminished today. And we have to remember that while prayers and services may have taken place at the time given for the wedding, and papers would have printed photographs of the Royal Couple, no newspapers reporting on the actual wedding would have reached the parishioners until the following today, so the celebrations were, in part, an exercise of the imagination as well.

The Prince of Wales Wedding

The festivities on the 10th March seem to have been more universal than upon any occasion on record. Every town and village throughout the land seems to have kept this day as a holiday, and not in England only, but in other countries wherever Englishmen congregate for business, health, or pleasure, they assembled to wish God speed to the Royal Bride and Bridegroom. In our own village a large number of the cottagers dined together at their own cost in Mr. Whitehead's large barn, while the more aged parishioners and the children of the Endowed and Infant Schools were feasted in the Rectory Garden I-louse, by a subscription among
the farmers and others.

More than half the Parish thus sat down to a hearty meal of beef, plum pudding, and ale, and the quantities provided were sufficient to supply most of those who were unable to attend the social gatherings. Upwards of 240 medals and rosettes were provided. The rosettes were made by Mrs. Young, assisted by the other ladies of the Parish, of Coventry ribbon, with the Prince of Wales' feathers and an inscription printed in red referring to the occasion.

A friend in Scotland writes to us that their people joined most heartily in singing, to the tune of "Scots wha ha wi' Wallace bled," the following words written for the occasion by our correspondent:-

Loyal Britains! far and near,
Where Victoria's name is dear,
Welcome with a hearty cheer
Our Prince's Bridal-day.

Let the welkin loudly ring,
While with heart and voice we sing
Blessings on our future King,
England's Royal Son.

Blessings on the Royal Pair;
Blessings on that Maiden fair,
Coming now his home to share,
Our Prince's chosen one.

Every joy be theirs below,
Joy that can no fading know,
Based on Love that passeth show,
Heavenly Love, Divine!
May this Bridal soothe the smart
Lingering in the Widow's heart,
And to Her, bright hope impart,
Hope to last for aye.
May She feel Her children's peace
Springs from Love that ne'er can cease ;
Love, that Time shall still increase,
Till in Heaven it shine !

Our readers will, we are sure, be glad to have a copy of the following beautiful Hymn, which may be sung to the well known tune. " Jerusalem the Golden"

O Love ! divine and golden !
Mysterious depth and height l
To Thee the world beholden
Looks up for life and light;
O Love, divine and gentle I
The Blesser and the Blest!
Beneath whose care parental
The world lies down in rest.

The fields of earth adore Thee,
The forests sing Thy praise,
All living things before thee
Their holiest anthems raise ;
Thou art the joy of gladness,
The Life of life Thou art,
The dew of gentle sadness
That droppeth on the heart.

O Love ! divine and tender !
That through our homes doth move,
Veiled in the soften'd splendour
Of holy household love ;
A Crown - without Thy blessing
Were labour without rest,
But Palaces possessing
Thy blessedness are blest.

The happy hones of England
In thee, O Lord, rejoice,
Their peace is in Thy presence,
Their gladness in Thy voice;
Blest be Thy holy pleasure
That all their joys have cone
In overflowing measure

To England's Central Home.
God save the Queen! and cheer Her
With hopes reviving ray,
May heav'n's blest blessings near Her
Watch ever night and day;
God bless the Prince! and o'er him
The Holy Spirit brood,
Till he, like One before him,
Be " Albert Great and Good."


Jersey's Independent Media 1856-1862 - Part 2

We demand Universal Suffrage, because we believe the universal suffrage will bring universal happiness. Time was when every Englishman had a musket in his cottage, and along with it hung a flitch of bacon; now there was no flitch of bacon for there was no musket; let the musket be restored and the flitch of bacon would soon follow. You will get nothing from your tyrants but what you can take, and you can take nothing unless you are properly prepared to do so. In the words of a good man, then, I say 'Arm for peace, arm for liberty, arm for justice, arm for the rights of all, and the tyrants will no longer laugh at your petitions'. Remember that.
(George Julian Harney, speech at Derby, 28th January, 1839)

The Chartist George Julian Harney had arrived sick and unwell in Jersey around 1856. His attempts to promote universal suffrage in England had met with failure, and he didn't know precisely what his plans were next.

The Jersey of this time was gradually becoming more linked to the United Kingdom. Around 1857, submarine cables were introduced for a telegraph service by the Channel Islands Electric Telegraph Company (located in Library Place), and as Ragg's Popular History of Jersey tells us, in 1858:

communication was established between Plemont and England, and the first message sent across on September 7th, 1858, to Her Majesty the Queen, who replied with suitable words of congratulation; whilst, it is almost needless to add, throughout the Island the event was celebrated with every sign of rejoicing.

But what of the political situation which Harney found in Jersey? A. R. Schoyen's "A Portrait of George Julian Harney" fills in some of the details:

In 1855, Jersey could have served even better than pre-Reform England as the whipping-boy for a Jeremy Bentham. The laws, part English, part Norman, and thoroughly anachronistic, and the vaguely defined relationship between the local legislature and the "Sovereign in Council", provided an inexhaustible mine for lawyers. Coupled with this antique legal machinery was the inveterate local litigiousness expressed by the aphorism, "An Englishman goes on holiday; a Jerseyman goes to court." Periodic attempts to codify or modernize the law had failed because of the resistance of the seigneurs, who retained some feudal rights and controlled the States and the Royal Court, or because of insular jealousy when the reform was bruited in the form of an Order in Council. As an anonymous writer of doggerel pointed out in regard to a particularly crying abuse: "You may think this not fair, but the States, Sir, know best,/And the States will remain status quo, Sir."

Harney knew something of this. Nine years before in the Northern Star he had printed letters from Jersey in which the writers heaped vituperation on each other over issues which seemingly never died. But in his initial contact with Jersey he probably felt the common bewilderment of Englishmen at the customs of the island. Palmerston, for example, viewing the Channel Islands correspondence in 1854 in his capacity as Home Secretary, found that a debtor had been in a Jersey gaol since 1845, and asked in some astonishment if there was no Insolvent Debtors Act there. Even Engels, whose German background made him not unfamiliar with the peculiarities of small principalities, was struck by this small appendage of Britain. "There is much humour in the posthumous feudal setup and the whole mess is incredibly comical," he wrote to Marx from the island in 1857. "A modern lawyer as seigneur and the shopkeepers of St. Helier as vassals. The masquerade is quite a joke."

The Insolvent Debtors Act had been passed in 1816 in the United Kingdom, and it which allowed imprisoned debtors to apply for release providing they surrendered all their property and made provision to satisfy their debts. Charles Dickens' invoked this when he was sent to Marshalsea prison in 1824 for a debt of £40 and 10 shillings, and Dickens used this device in David Copperfield when Mr. Micawber invoked this Act to gain release from debtor's prison. Jersey had no such law, and had fallen behind the reforms taking place across the English Channel.

But despite this backward state of affairs, Harney could see the advantages of being in Jersey - principally that the food was good, and the cost of living was cheap compared to England, and taxation was extremely low:

If the legal system and land-laws badly needed reform, Jersey was not unique in this, and it possessed charms which almost justified the hyperbole of guide-book authors. Madame Hugo had found the country superb and the food cheap and abundant on her arrival in 1852; and though subsequent events give more than a trace of irony to her original impression, Jersey had seemed to her pre-eminently a land of freedom. "Passports are papers of which the meaning is not understood," she wrote. "Everybody comes and goes as suits his particular fancy." To complete this exile's paradise, residents were taxed only with a nominal police rate, and there were no duties, tolls or stamps.

In 1858, the Jersey Independent was founded on September. The same year saw the steamer Sir Francis Drake making her maiden trio to the Island. Harney was now settled in Jersey, and gradually his health would improve. The new paper would provide an opportunity for him to reconnect with his radical roots, and make a mark on the Island:

There was little in England for him to go back to--not even a living, so far as one can tell. While he had had no intention of remaining in Jersey when he arrived to aid the refugees, a bout of fever and general exhaustion kept him there until the new year, and when he had recovered he stayed on. The opportunity being offered him to edit the small, twice-weekly Jersey Independent, he accepted, probably with alacrity. Like Newcastle, Jersey may have seemed a cul-de-sac, but there was at any rate a garden at the end of it-the pleasant old tree-lined Royal Square, which could be gazed upon while consuming the excellent and inexpensive "beakers of burgundy" of which he was fond.

Harney had considerable experience of editing newspapers and writing for them. After working as editor of the Northern Star, he had founded his own newspaper, the Red Republican, which had published the first English translation of The Communist Manifesto in 1850. Due to lack of funding, the Red Republican ceased in December, 1850. But Harney decided to create another paper, the Friend of the People, which ran until April 1852, then Star of continuing to December 1852 and finally The Vanguard which ceased in March 1853.

After that he had moved to Newcastle where he worked for the Northern Tribune. R. G. Gammage, in the "History of the Chartist Movement" (1894) said that "Harney's talent was best displayed when he wielded the pen". So here was an extremely competent journalist, with a wide experience, both from the start when he was selling the "Poor Man's Guardian", an unstamped paper - the "unaccredited media" of its day - to his time at the Northern Tribune. So ending up in Jersey, it was not perhaps surprising that the proprietor of the nascent Jersey Independent would seek his talents, and it is clear he soon made his mark:

Even if the exact date of Harney's accession as editor of the Independent were lacking, it would be possible to date it closely from changes in the paper. In July a new and clearer format was introduced; the news content, both foreign and local, was increased; and the familiar vigorous and polemical style imposed itself on the leading articles. As early as April, one "Anglo Caesarean" had inveighed against the persecution of an Italian exile; after 5 July (when Harney took up the reins) a regular correspondent calling himself "Englishman" made his appearance, and in company with another new regular, "Argus", began to attack abuses at home and abroad. The style and viewpoint of this trio irresistibly suggest editorial ventriloquism. The Independent had been an earnest paper, but dull; now it became the most controversial and readable English-language newspaper in St. Helier, and in two years Harney's shrewd professional guidance made it the island's first daily.

In the next section, I shall look at Harney's time as editor of the Independent.

Works cited:
A Popular History of Jersey by Reverend Alban E Ragg, published in 1896
The Chartist Challenge: A Portrait of George Julian Harney. A. R. Schoyen, 1958
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Jersey's Independent Media 1856-1862 - Part 1

Balliene's History of Jersey tells us that:

1848 was a year of Revolutions, most of them unsuccessful, and Jersey became a haven of refuge for Republicans and Socialists of many nations. The first to arrive were the Poles. Then came Russians, Hungarians, Italians; then Frenchmen flying from the wrath of Louis Napoleon. In 1852 Victor Hugo arrived, poet, dramatist, novelist. He had stormed against Napoleon in the Assembly, and raised barricades against him in the streets, and had fled to Brussels with a price on his head. When Belgium expelled him, he came to join his fellow Proscrits in Jersey.

The French section of the refugees published a weekly paper, L'Homme, and in 1855 this got them into trouble. England and France were now Allies in the Crimean War, and Victoria paid a visit to Napoleon III in Paris. To the Proscrits Napoleon was a rattlesnake with whom no decent person could associate. Three French Socialists in London published An Open Letter to the Queen: `You have sacrificed your dignity as a Queen, your fastidiousness as a woman, your pride as an aristocrat, even your honour' ; and L'Homme reprinted this. Next day posters covered the walls: `Have you seen L'Homme? It says your Queen has lost her honour. Will you allow the first lady of the land to be insulted with impunity?' The Queen's Assembly Rooms, the largest building in the Town (now swallowed by the Ann Street Brewery) was crowded for an Indignation Meeting. The offending newspaper was burnt on the platform. Next day the Governor expelled the three Editors from the island. Hugo had disapproved of the letter; but he with thirty-five other Proscrits signed a protest against the banishment of their colleagues. The result was that they too were ordered to leave Jersey. Hugo and his family went to Guernsey, where they remained fourteen years. (1)

Meanwhile, events were taking place in England which would bring the Chartist George Julian Harney over to Jersey, where he would remain and create an independent media viewpoint, outside the regular Jersey establishment, and at odds with other newspapers in the Island such as the ultra-conservative Constitutional. He would arrive just as Hugo was leaving, and from 1856 to 1862 would be editor of the Jersey Independent. He does not feature in Balleine's History, even as a footnote, but his story is told here.

George Julian Harney, the son of a seaman, was born in Depford on 17th February, 1817. When Harney was eleven he entered the Boy's Naval School at Greenwich. However, instead of pursuing a career in the navy he became a shop-boy for Henry Hetherington, the editor of the Poor Man's Guardian. Harney was imprisoned three time for selling this unstamped newspaper.

This experience radicalized Harney and although he was initially a member of the London Working Man's Association he became impatient with the organisation's failure to make much progress in the efforts to obtain universal suffrage. Harney was influenced by the more militant ideas of William Benbow, James Bronterre O'Brien and Feargus O'Connor. (2)

Harney was at work in England, but had reached something of a dead end with his attempts to further the cause of universal suffrage. The public letter written by Felix Pyat in London began a chain of events which would lead to Harney coming to Jersey and Hugo being expelled. Pyat's letter went almost unnoticed in England, but in Jersey, its republication led to the action taken as described by Balleine.

A.R. Schoyen's book on Harney, however, suggests that the action taken against the French radicals in Jersey was not a sudden event, but a chance taken by an establishment which was actively seeking ways to discredit and get rid of the exiles:

The suspicious promptitude with which placards had appeared in St. Helier with an English translation of the letter which made the most of what was, in any case, not overly delicate in the original; the deliberate incitement of mob-action by a secret group including a French official in St. Helier and the omnipresent Sergeant Sanders, the Metropolitan Police refugee expert; and communications between the French and English governments on the one hand and instructions from the Home Office to the Lieutenant Governor in Jersey on the other: all this makes it sufficiently clear that L'Homme's publication of the letter was seized upon as a pretext by the government to expel the refugees.

This was also seen in England, where Louis Napoleon was putting pressure for action to be taken against the exiles, and the cabinet was effectively blocked from moving to reintroduce an Alien Act which would restrict the rights of political refugees to asylum:

Under the pressure of Louis Napoleon's increasingly angry demands for action against the French émigrés, it would seem that the government entertained the idea of reenacting an Alien Act. Considering their ignorance of the government's dispatches, the Radicals' diagnosis of the real motives  behind the expulsion was remarkably accurate; and even the pro-government  Times immediately assumed that French pressure was responsible for the action. The result was a great outcry in England from Liberals and  working-class Radicals against the violation of the traditional right of sanctuary for political refugees and the threat of an Alien Act, the effect of which was to effectually block any steps by the cabinet.

It was as Hugo set sail that Harney arrived to discover that the locals were beginning to doubt the wisdom of the action taken, and began to see how they had been manipulated into supporting a course of action directed at a distance with the approval of the United Kingdom Government:

Meanwhile, as the envoy of the Newcastle Foreign Affairs Committee, Harney had arrived in St. Helier in time to see Hugo and his compatriots sail in a driving rain for what they considered but a temporary refuge in Guernsey and London. He found that sober second-thoughts had begun to afflict the local inhabitants, many of whom had shown little enthusiasm for the demonstrations against the "Red Republicans" from the first. ("An officer offered a sovereign to a workman to be the first to throw a stone; the workman refused," one observer reported of the "attack" on L'Homme's office which preceded the expulsion.)

It is interesting to see how the Constable of St Helier took the side of the Lieutenant Governor and needed to speak out to defend the actions which had been taken:

Loyalty to the Queen may have been a dominant Jersey characteristic, but jealousy of any encroachments on the island's legislative body, the "States", was even stronger; and uneasiness about the arbitrariness of the action taken by the Lieutenant Governor -- an appointive official whose position was evidently regarded in England as a sinecure for deserving brigadiers and in Jersey as having only nominal powers -- soon took overt form. Defending the Governor's and his own action, the Constable of St. Helier made heavy weather of it in the States. "We all know they [the refugees] insulted us. Have they not carried their red flag in our streets?" he asked with considerable irrelevance, adding, in a pungent comment on Jersey justice, "Had we brought the offenders before the court, it would only have been acting a comedy, which would never have an end."

Guernsey, in the meantime, had welcomed Victor Hugo and his fellow exiles with open arms, demonstrating both their own independence from manipulation, and seizing the opportunity for the publicity associated with the famous writer. Harney was to travel to Guernsey to pledge support from the English working class, and this was widely reported in press:

If it had been Harney's intention to rally support in Jersey for the exiles, his work was already being done for him in the typically devious local manner. A few weeks after his arrival he journeyed to Guernsey and, in a ceremony widely reported in the English liberal and ultra-radical press, presented an address to Hugo from the Foreign Affairs Committee pledging the support of the Tyneside working class. Hugo's thanks to "notre courageuse co-religionnaire" were undoubtedly heartfelt: Harney epitomized one section of a popular support which had forcefully indicated that English sanctuary for refugees was a matter that deeply concerned them. The whole affair was no more than a minor incident, perhaps; nonetheless it was an admirable display of liberal idealism in a Europe over which the forces of reaction had been uniformly victorious. So far as Harney's future was concerned, his part in the display had the paradoxical effect of taking him another step from English politics.

Harney now decided to make his home in Jersey, and recover his health. At that time, he had no notion of becoming involved in Jersey politics, even though his paper, the Northern Star, had printed letters from Jersey, but he had little knowledge of Island life, and the Island seemed to be still acting against the radical refugees.

He was now thirty-eight, ill, tired, and once more adrift. Jersey must have seemed to him a soothing refuge, green and fertile and ruled by laws and customs which teetered always on the thin edge of satire. One aftermath of the Hugo expulsion illustrates the tendency for the serious to lapse into the farcical on the island. As the Chevalier de Châtelaine indignantly informed the public, " Evangeline", the "saint-like daughter of Longfellow's muse", had shared the fate of the expelled refugees. The Nouvelle Chronique, which had been printing his translation of the poem into French, had suppressed the lines: "After your houses are built, and your fields are yellow with harvests,/No King George of England shall drive you away from your homesteads." This editorial ruthlessness could only mean one thing, wrote the Chevalier: "The journal thought fit to suppress so incendiary a passage, no doubt by command from headquarters."

In the next section, I shall look at how Harney took over as editor of the Independent, and how his own views changed over time, yet always retaining a degree of the radical edge with which he had arrived in the Island.

(1) A History of the Island of Jersey, G.R. Balleine, 1950
(3) The Chartist Challenge: A Portrait of George Julian Harney. A. R. Schoyen, 1958

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Miracles for Sale: A Review

I've just been watching Derren Brown's TV show "Miracles for Sale" where he tackles the scam of fake healers who gain considerable financial reward from their so-called ministries; not surprisingly, most of these come from America, where there is also a "prosperity gospel" which also elicits vast amounts of money from Christians. As Derren says:

"It's a huge business based around the prosperity gospel which says that if you give money to your pastor or church, then you will be rewarded financially. The pastors are billionaires and it is absolutely foul. It's quite important to me that if I have a knowledge of these areas - and really all these 'healers' are doing is a nasty scam - then I want to communicate that."

Derren and his team spent six months training a scuba diving instructor called Nathan to "heal" the sick, under the name of Pastor James Collins, with a fake web site set up at:  
What came across very strongly was Derren's anger at what these faith healers do:

"You have the despair of all those people who are no better - and it's despair because they're blaming their own selves and their faith for it not working," he says. "And then you have these hordes of people who are following these healers round America; chronically ill people going from gig to gig to gig - and it just never happening, so there's that wake of despair. And then there's the money side of it."

The top healers earn more than Hollywood A-stars, virtually have the local police in their pocket to protect their privacy, and because it's religion in the USA, it's all tax free. When the team visited Ken Copeland's church, the local sheriff appeared and gave them a caution that if they came back, they would be arrested. The power, finance, and security involved in these high powered preachers was quite grotesque, yet people believe that they can help, and may sink their life savings into these preacher's pockets in their desperation for a cure.

If I may digress, having a son with autism, and seen other parents, I know how desperate parents can be, and how they will try anything, and how the slightest improvement (which may happen anyway as autistic children get older) is seen as a sign that the therapy works. One introductory "taster course" in London cost around £1,000 around 2003, and from reports I have heard from those I know who attended, it is clear that the participants are worked upon as if in a revival meeting, with enthusiasm and belief whipped up by charismatic speakers. I myself was always suspicious of these kind of autistic therapies, but I have seen how the sheer desperation of parents for help leads them that way; what I think is needed, is more support in coping psychologically with the impact of what is akin to a perpetual bereavement and with decent respite care and support services. It is the lack of those proper resources which sends people off seeking a cure for autism.

The ethics of creating a fake act surfaced at various times during the production. They decided, correctly, not to use a PR company because that might have had a serious impact on those people's livelihoods by deceiving them. And the end of the actual healing performance, where Nathan is on stage in Dallas, Texas, was very carefully presented not to damage people's faith in God, but to end (at the moment when usually the plug would come for money) to warn them that God would have nothing to do with fake healings, and tell them about the deceivers in their midst who are making themselves rich at the expense of sick, ailing and desperate souls, who had nothing to do with God at all.

As Derren Brown said: "This is not an attack on God, or faith, or any of those things. It's about a scam, a greedy scam that has nothing to do with God apart from the fact they mention his name a lot."

What the programme didn't do, which time constraints and its focus meant it couldn't tackle, was the fact that there are far more ethical healing groups around, certainly in Jersey.

One example is the "The Universal Healing Group" which was formed in 1977 in Jersey:

On the 15th August 1977, a meeting of five healers under the leadership of a gentle, white-haired, moustached man named Evan Jones, formerly inaugurated the first healing association in Jersey, UK - The Universal Healing Group. The aim of this voluntary association was, and still is, to "bring together in full co-operation, healers of all denominations in order to offer a free Healing Centre to the Public." The other attendees at that initial meeting were David Henley, a Methodist lay preacher, George Mathys, a retired naval commander and two other local healers, Raymond Newall and Albert (Bert) Salter.

It describes healing in the following ways:

All healers accept that the healing energies come from a central source, be that God, Cosmic Intelligence, Universal Life Force, etc and is channeled through the healer by their focusing on purposeful intent and human empathy.

Healing is a natural energy therapy. It complements conventional medicine by treating the whole person - mind, body and spirit. Healers act as a conduit for healing energy, often described as 'love and light' which relaxes the body, releases tensions and stimulates self-healing. The benefits of healing can be felt on many levels, not just the physical, and the effects can be profound.

It is not Faith Healing, because the recipient has no need to believe in a deity or a religion. Faith by the patient is not required and healing can help people regardless of their religious beliefs.

And unlike the kind of scam involved this complements conventional medicine and in no way seeks to dissuade people from medical advice. I'd refer people to the full code of practice given on their website, which states that:

Members of the Universal Healing Group are bound by a Code of Practice which sets standards for practicing healer members and which acts as a reference on those standards for the public good.  

The most significant matters, in connection with the "Miracles for Sale" in the code of practice are the way in which it is made very clear from the start that this healing does not make the same kind of claims as the USA preachers about "miracle cures", and in no way seeks to dissuade the patient from seeking mainstream medical help; in fact it makes it absolutely clear that patients should also be seeking medical diagnoses as well, and taking any medication prescribed by doctors.

In "Miracles for Sale", Derren was rightly angry and also filmed Christian groups in the USA who are also opposed to these kind of scams; these people told tales of patients who had been told they didn't need medication, and if they failed to be healed, it was their fault, and of the suffering this caused.

The Universal Healing Group code of conduct, by contrast, is diametrically opposed to all and any of these malpractices, as these parts of their code of conduct make quite clear:

Healers shall at all times conduct themselves in an honourable and courteous manner and with due diligence in their relations with their patients and the public. They should seek a good relationship and shall work in a co-operative manner with other healthcare professionals, whether they perform from an allopathic or alternative/complementary base.

The relationship between a healer and the patient is that of a professional. The patient places trust in a healer's care, skill and integrity and it is the healer's duty to act with due diligence at all times and not to abuse this trust in anyway.

Healers must never claim to "cure". Possible therapeutic benefits may be described, recovery must never be guaranteed.

Healers should ensure at all times that they themselves are medically, physically and psychologically fit to practice.

Discretion must be used for the protection of the healer when carrying out treatment with patients who are mentally unstable, addicted to drugs/alcohol, severely depressed, suicidal or hallucinating. A healer must not treat a patient in any case which exceeds their capacity, training and competence. They must seek referral, where appropriate, to a qualified medical practitioner.

Healers must ask patients what medical advice they have received and be advised to see a doctor should they not have done so. In the case of Notifiable Diseases, the healer must insist the patient see a doctor and
must not permit them to come in contact with other people. This advice needs to be recorded for the healer's protection.

Healers must not countermand instructions or prescriptions given to a patient by a doctor, nor advise on any particular course of medical treatment.

Healers must never give a medical diagnosis to a patient in any circumstances. This is the responsibility of a Registered Medical Practitioner. Any "intuitive" feelings of dysfunction in the physical, emotional, mental or spiritual aspects of the patient may be mentioned with the advice that the patient sees a doctor for a medical diagnosis. Such advice must be recorded.

Advertising must be dignified in tone and not contain testimonials or claim a cure or mention any disease.

But does healing "work"? Well, it depends upon what is meant by "work". Jersey also has an affiliation with "The Guild of St Raphael", a healing guild within the Anglican Church, at St Brelade's Church. A brief history of this is as follows:

The Guild of St Raphael, founded in 1915, is a Christian organisation dedicated to promoting, supporting and practicing Christ's ministry of healing as an integral part of the life and worship of the Church. Originating from within the Anglican Communion, it has expanded to include members from other Churches and is now ecumenical in outlook. It is also international in scope with over one hundred branches throughout the world.

On the Guild website there are a number of articles, but I found the one by the (aptly named) Reverend Stephen Parsons to be most in tune with my own thinking on these matters:

From my perspective there is no doubt that such 'natural' gifts of healing exist. Whether they go deep into helping a sickness or other cause of distress or merely promote a sense of well-being, the fact remains that a certain amount of good is often achieved in such techniques.

Natural' healing may belong to the immense of range of realities that occur whenever people relate to one another. The fact that we do not understand it or are able to classify it does not make it less real. Love is a reality which spans the emotional, physical and spiritual levels of human functioning and we do not withhold love because we do not understand fully what it is. I feel that Christians need to learn to be far more generous towards things and phenomena that they do not understand, and see that we live in a world that is full of mysteries which transcend our understanding whether from a scientific or 'Biblical' model.

While I certainly accept scientific models of causation, these are models, not reality itself, and I am not prepared to rule out other kinds of causation which are not properly understood, and for which the language itself may be making use of metaphorical terms in order to try to grasp a reality which is at present beyond our comprehension. Just because the language may be inadequate, I think that it would be a mistake to thereby simply write off these kinds of healing as impossible.

This may, of course, turn out to be a reality which a future science would understand; it is always a mistake (as the history of science itself shows) to use the current understanding of science as a procrustean bed upon which to measure all our understanding of the world. After all, to a scientist at the time of Newton, modern science would, as Arthur C Clarke has noted, seem like magic.

But equally, science is a human endeavour, despite its success in understanding the world, and there may be inherent limitations built into our own understanding, the way in which our minds work, which may limit its scope, just as (by way of analogy) there are known limitations to the completeness of mathematics (as Gödel demonstrated).

Regarding alternative medicine in general, Parsons takes what might be called the Gamaliel argument (""if it be of men, it will come to naught, but if it be of God, ye will not be able to overthrow it; lest perhaps ye be found even to fight against God") that Christians should not automatically assert some kind of monopoly on healing. Instead he makes the following point:

If we are to identify and discriminate properly in the area of alternative medicine as well as the area we have identified as 'natural healing', we need two things. First we need to suggest a fair and realistic model of the way that such practices could become objectionable or evil; secondly we need to know what Christians think they are doing when they pray for and minister to the sick so that the comparisons and contrast with something wholesome and good may become more apparent.

His conclusions are very pertinent in the aftermath of Derren Brown's "Miracles for Sale, as he identifies the chief evil lurking in the healing process as the abuse of power in its various forms, which Derren's show has done a good service in exposing. As Parsons says:

We need nevertheless to recognise that there are evils lurking potentially in the healing process. The chief of these is the abuse of power. Such abuse can pollute every form of healing whether medical, Christian or otherwise.

This abuse of power may involve finance, sexual or emotional exploitation or simply a distressing experience of being used by another person. Sadly abusive practice among Christian healing methods has come to light over the last few years and we need to be aware of this fact. I am sure that such evil also exists among alternative healing practitioners as well, though in most cases professionally trained practitioners are equally alert to ethical issues as Christians. For Jesus, the naming and identification of power abuse was a major aspect of his ministry and indeed it was the issue that aroused his anger in a way that nothing else did.

The Christian response to and understanding of alternative healing cultures has been dogged by an unhealthy obsession with wanting to associate it with the occult. That has been, I believe, a totally unhelpful approach. Christians have been thus blinded to the real issue of evil within healing practices, including their own, which is the use of inappropriate and abusive power to damage and hurt individuals. Jesus himself recognised the existence of power structures that devalue and dehumanise people as a great evil and so should we.

A true evaluation of alternative healing will want to see it, not as evil, but as being good as far it goes, but nevertheless subject to the same potential for corruption as any other form of healing.

Derren Brown has done a singular service in exposing these abusive power structures, and it should be noted that some healing groups, of much lower key than high powered preachers, have clear ethical guidelines to prevent such abuses of power. Their techniques will not be showy, or produce instant (and fake) miracles of the kind exposed, and they will not claim a definite cure, but they may well help people considerably, none the less. There is a lot of counterfeit money around, but as one of the characters in G.K. Chesterton's remarkable play "Magic" remarked, that does not rule out the possibility of genuine money:

You were saying that these modern conjuring tricks are simply the old miracles when they have once been found out. But surely another view is possible. When we speak of things being sham, we generally mean that they are imitations of things that are genuine.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Whither Jersey? Jersey and GST

Jersey has one of the highest incomes per head of any jurisdiction in the world. But that also means it has one of the highest disparities in income. Substantial numbers of people in Jersey suffer from relative poverty, most obviously inflicted on them through the cost of housing. But more important still are those living in absolute poverty, of whom there are far too many in a community of Jersey's size. As unemployment rises, this problem will only get worse.

Care for the poor should be an issue for all in politics, in society, in churches and faith groups and beyond: it is the symbol of the ability of people to work in community. Arguing against provision for those who are in need indicates a lack of that compassion and indicates a failure of society.

It is a minor inconvenience to decide whether a Jaffa cake is subject to GST or not compared to the importance of being able to put food on the table before hungry children. It is an indication of moral failure that the former appears for some more important than the latter. (1)

As the debate comes back again, and some politicians groan that we've been here before, and it is time to accept GST on food and domestic fuel, and never mind that food prices are increasing rapidly and fuel costs are rocketing sky-high, with prices increasing weekly.

What are the fundamental consequences of maintaining this model of GST for the future, and it rising beyond 5%? Here are some speculations for  how Jersey society may change:

a) At time point, Jersey will become too expensive a place to live for casual labour, or the cheapest labour. That kind of immigration will slow down and may even cease. Traditionally, most of this was in the hospitality industry and farm working. And I think we have already begun to see this, with the move to shift the unemployed into hospitality, which is already suffering from a dearth of numbers.

b) Jersey will still see immigration, but this will be into well paid sectors like finance, where the prospects are still sufficiently good to mitigate against the rise in the cost of living. These are the people who can afford to send their children to private schools, and there will be, as we have seen, sharp political pressure against any attempt to seriously damage private education. That's not to say a squeeze won't come, but it will squeeze those on the margins, not the better off, and will have to come in more gradually.  Meantime, the economic downturn means that the finance sector may well contract, so that immigration here too will fall. The time for housing qualifications may be further reduced, to encourage people to come and work in Jersey without excessive rental demands, and also to encourage those who want to work in the finance sector with the promise of qualifications in a shorter time.

c) The public sector will continue to pay outrageously high wages for "the best people", as this ensures that the top jobs will be filled regardless of cost, and unlike the private sector, there is not the same pressure for restraint. Politicians will attempt to introduce vetoes, but the caveats surrounding such restrictions will make them very difficult to operate in practice.

d) The ageing population will have to work longer to ensure less of a burden on the social security pension fund. This will not, however, prevent richer residents from retiring up to two years earlier, and taking money from the fund which will take around 16 years to catch up with (or never if they die before that). As a result of the increase in working age, more of the wealthy will choose to retire early.

e) The "captive population", those who have invested personally in living in Jersey, but who do not have wealthier jobs, will find the cost of living and the burden of indirect taxes increasing hard to cope with. Some may choose to leave. Those who have lived here for many years will find this harder to do so, and the degree to which people require income support will rise, prompting resentment from wealthier taxpayers who resent paying their taxes to support the less well off. This will play out into the political arena, where rhetoric will attack those who argue for compassion for the poorer.

f) Politics will become even more polarised that it has at present, with a political elite seeking any means it can to cling on to power. Kinds of gerrymandering, such as election deposits, will return to be debated, further disenfranchising the poorer members of the population. The length of speeches will be shorted so that opposition politicians have less of a public forum in the States to make their constituents views known. A "lean government" party will emerge, fueled by the resentment against high salaries and high departmental expenditure, and this will seek to reduce the income burden by making income support more difficult and with higher thresholds.

g) The health of the poorer members of society will become increasingly worse as prescription charges are re-introduced, and it becomes harder to face the burden of medical costs, especially for emergency call-outs. As a result, mild epidemics will become more severe.

Jersey doesn't have to change like this - these are just "what if" speculations. But sometimes it is as well to have the unexpected consequences of actions in mind before they occur, and while they are still preventable. Rather than thinking, in "Imagine Jersey" fashion, along pre-programmed lines of action, which will (it is assumed) produce particular results, and which is still behind the thinking of some politicians on GST, it is worth considering the worst that may happen, and seeking ways to actively prevent that. As Karl Popper memorably notes:

Whenever we are faced with a moral decision of a more abstract kind, it is most helpful to analyse carefully the consequences which are likely to result from the alternatives between which we have to choose. For only if we can visualize these consequences in a concrete and practical way, do we really know what our decision is about; otherwise we decide blindly. In order to illustrate this point, I may quote a passage from Shaw's Saint Joan. The speaker is the Chaplain; he has stubbornly demanded Joan's death; but when he sees her at the stake, he breaks down : 'I meant no harm. I did not know what it would be like .. I did not know what I was doing .. If I had known, I would have torn her from their hands. You don't know. You haven't seen : it is so easy to talk when you don't know. You madden yourself with words .. But when it is brought home to you; when you see the thing you have done; when it is blinding your eyes, stifling your nostrils, tearing your heart, then-then-O God, take away this sight from me!' There were, of course, other figures in Shaw's play who knew exactly what they were doing, and yet decided to do it; and who did not regret it afterwards. Some people dislike seeing their fellow men burning at the stake and others do not. This point (which was neglected by many Victorian optimists) is analysis of the concrete consequences, and their clear realization in what we call our 'imagination', makes the difference between a blind decision and a decision made with open eyes; and since we use our imagination very little, we only too often decide blindly." (The Open Society and Its Enemies, Karl Popper)

Richard Murphy, Letter to JEP

Sunday, 24 April 2011

The Dog and The Lantern

This is one of T.F. Powys "Fables", which I am sharing here for Easter. There is nothing in the tradition of the English short story quite like his Fables. They are often set in a country village setting, with realistic characters - the shepherd, Mr Poose, and the rich and godless farmers Mr Told and Mr Lord, who are clearly drawn from rural life - yet they are quite fantastical and surreal. They often dwell on Christian themes, but in quite unexpected and challenging ways that confound the reader's expectations, and do not fit into a nice boxed religious tradition. And above all, they are not like Aesop's Fables - they do not have a single moral point. Instead, they are disturbing and unsettling tales, almost a rich mythology which has been drawn from Powys' own deep roots as a countryman, which linger in the memory long after.

The Dog and The Lantern
by T.F. Powys

THERE was once a wise dog that every day used to follow his master, the shepherd, to the fields. There the dog would labour honestly, tending and watching over the sheep, obeying his master in all things. The dog had been trained, when very young, by his father, a wonderful creature that the shepherd had the highest regard for, and when the old dog died, Mr. Poose himself undertook the task of instructing the puppy in a proper behaviour.

The good shepherd sometimes found it necessary to chastise him mildly, though that happened but seldom, for the young dog took to his tasks so well that he soon became exceedingly clever in the art of fetching the sheep to the fold, even though they might have strayed far over the downs. All the time that the lessons lasted the dog never showed himself as careless or indolent. In his leisure moments he would romp and play as happily as any of his kind, though sometimes he would prefer to lie still and to contemplate the wonders of nature.

His forbears, who had so long and so faithfully served man, had handed on to this dog a wisdom that far exceeded the wisdom of his fellows, and for this reason his mind had early taken a moral turn that became more pronounced as he grew older, and led him to meditate upon such subjects as the existence of the Devil, God the Father and Christ the Son.

The dog would often lie down near to the shepherd's hut, and when his master supposed him to be asleep, he would really be considering what kind of person the God was that his father had told him about. The poor dog always believed that one day or other a light would shine before him and tell him the truth, so that the doubts that sometimes afflicted his mind might be dispersed. And, meanwhile, in order to prepare for the great event of his life-the coming of Christ-that is, indeed, the most wonderful vision that can happen to anyone, the dog lived as an honest dog should, resisting all the temptations to do evil that came to him.

And even when sometimes his master would forget to chain him to his kennel, he used to take up the chain with his teeth and make such a clatter with it that Mr. Poose would leave his lit room and his basin of cock-broth, and going out to the dog, would tie him up. Then the dog would fawn upon him and lick his hands, feeling that his master had done him the greatest service in fastening the chain upon his collar and, by so doing, keeping him from evil.

So well had this good dog trained himself to bear the troubles of life that he would receive with patience the utmost provocation from other dogs, and would only sometimes look a little grim at them and show his teeth did they insult him too much.

One winter's day the dog was lying beside his master's hut and hoping that he might see God with his own eyes. The day was windy and cold, and the angry gusts that swept over the fields dashed swift storms of rain against the body of Mr. Poose, the shepherd, who was preparing the fold for the sheep.

In order to protect himself as well as he might from the storm, Mr. Poose had bound round his hat and tied under his chin a stout cord, and had also bound straw bands about his legs, so that he might be kept dry in all the mire and wet. As he bore the hurdles from one place to another, he appeared to do battle with many an enemy. The mists in great clouds rolled upon him, so that sometimes his for m would be entirely lost to view, but again it would appear struggling with the hurdles upon his back, and, when the wind drove the mist away, he would be seen quite clearly, so that even his patched breeches could be noticed when a gust lifted his coat.

The afternoon was waning, and the dog, having received the command from his master, ran to the down and fetched the sheep to the fold that was now ready for them. A part of the flock, however, had never left the fold, for the lambing time was come. Mr. Poose now turned his attention to these, while the dog lay down again beside the hut. Mr. Poose tended a ewe in labour, and then, after carrying a lamb that had been lost back to its mother, he fed all the sheep with bundles of sweet hay. As the dog watched the shepherd and saw his figure standing lonely-a figure marked with that nobility that comes from constant toil--he was filled with a mystic fervour and, remembering that his father had once told him that, when he least thought of it, he would see God, he now fancied that God was none other than his master, Mr. Poose.

In every way Mr. Poose seemed to answer to the description that his father had given to him concerning God. For had not his father crept into the church and seen a figure in the window that exactly resembled a very honest shepherd? It was unfortunate that his father should have died before he had been able to explain to his son more about religion, which he would certainly have done at greater length had he been spared a little longer. But never once did his son, after hearing his instructions, allow the wickedness of his natural nature to take the lead in him, and he wished if possible to love all the world. He never passed a little child without permitting it to stroke and fondle his rough fur, for he had heard his father say that Jesus Christ had once been a child too. And once, when little Tommy had fallen into the river, through his desire to become a minnow, Mr. Poose's dog sprang in, and, being a good swimmer, brought the child safe to land.

About the middle of the time of lambing, those of the sheep who had not yet lambed had chanced to wander far upon a high down, and, when the time came for them to be brought home, the dog was told by his master to bring them in. He would have finished this task with honour, but, unfortunately, one of the ewes that he was driving-the dog was much too well trained ever to hurry them-happened to fall into a little pit and to break two of its legs. The dog, who knew his duty, howled mournfully and remained beside the dying sheep until Mr. Poose arrived to see what was the matter and, perceiving that the case was hopeless, dispatched the sheep with his knife.

"Here indeed," thought the dog, "is God Almighty, because he saves or destroys as he chooses."

Mr. Poose carried the dead ewe to his hut and placed it at a little distance, so that he might skin the carcass when the opportunity came. Mr. Poose now visited the ewes and saw that nothing at that moment needed his attention, and, because a storm of rain came on, he called to his faithful dog and entered the hut, intending to rest a little before he carried the hay to the flock and settled them safely for the night. Mr. Poose lay down upon a sheepskin and was soon fast asleep.

The Evil One, as 'tis said, makes it his pleasure to cast discredit upon a good man, and so it came about, by Satan's management, that Farmer Told - to whom the flock of sheep belonged that Shepherd Poose had the charge of-entertained, upon this very day, a friend of his at an early dinner.

Anyone who has heard rich farmers talk at home or elsewhere must have noticed that their mouths are filled with boasting, not of their good deeds - though that would be bad enough, did they ever have any good deeds to boast of but of what they or their servants could do, their possessions, their rude children, their grand management of affairs, and so on.

While the dinner was still upon the table-a dinner that consisted of a great joint and thick pastry pies Mr. Told's friend, the fine Farmer Lord, had been exclaiming, in his usual loud and boisterous manner, what a good shepherd he had at home and how constant were his attentions to the flock. Mr. Told replied to him by saying that "by God" he believed Shepherd Poose was the better man of the two. The voices grew louder in the great parlour at Grange Farm. The port wine and the strong brandy inflamed the gentlemen. Farmer Lord struck the table with his fist, and Told affirmed, with many an oath, that whatever time he or anyone visited the fold, they would be sure to find Shepherd Poose looking to the sheep, and though now' and again a sheep might die naturally, yet no sheep had died of an unlooked-for accident ever since Poose had been shepherd.

The farmers drank deep, for there were more spirits consumed in that house than in all the rest of the village.

Raising his glass, half-filled with brandy, Farmer Lord laid a bet that if they walked up to neighbour Told's sheep they would discover Shepherd Poose snugly asleep in the hut and giving no more thought to the care of his flock than if they had been a thousand miles away. Mr. Told, with a hearty laugh, agreed to take the bet, that was for five guineas. On his part, he laid that Poose would be out in the fold, busy with the sheep, watching their wants and ministering to their needs.

The two men rose up to prove the bet. With their well-filled paunches and reddened faces, and stout boots and gaiters, they cared not for the muddy pools and thick sticky soil that they trampled over. In a little while they reached the sheepfold where Farmer Told had bet they would find the shepherd. Only the sheep were there.

On the way they had, with loud and. noisy oaths, cursed the land, out of which they had ever greedily clutched at all it would yield, by means of the labour of others.

"These damned lands," they cried, "are but miry puddles, where many a good man may labour all his life and get nothing. A pish for the fool who made them! They are nothing but sour puddings! - and how can a poor farmer pull a living out of them?"

Seeing that there was no shepherd at the fold, Farmer Lord leant against a hurdle and laughed heartily, while his neighbour Told walked angrily here and there amongst the sheep.

When the Evil One points his horns at a poor man, Nature, who is sometimes Satan's chief captain, aids his designs, and so it unluckily happened, though all was well when Mr. Poose left them, that a ewe shortly chanced to be in labour, and needed at that moment the kind help of man.

But no aid did she receive in her pains, for Farmer Lord, instead of giving his assistance or helping the poor creature that groaned near to him, still leant drunkenly against a hurdle, that by his weight was near borne to the ground, while Mr. Told, jeered on by the taunts of his friend, strode to the hut and kicked at the door.

The dog had watched him, and now, when he was come to the hut door near which the good dog lay, he considered him carefully. The heavy farmer, his grisly face shining with malice and wine, his cheeks bulging with arrogance and many deceits, made the dog feel sure that he was none other than the Devil that his father had told him of. The old dog, indeed, had advised his son to look out for the Devil as a rich and wicked farmer, who ravishes the maids, robs the servants of their wages, beats and ill-uses the dogs, and defies God to single combat.

Thinking that the dread enemy of mankind was so near to him, the good dog growled and would have made Mr. Told pay dear for his unpleasant behaviour had not his master, who awoke then and stood at the hut door with his crook in his hand, bid him be quiet.

When the shepherd appeared Told inquired of him how a dead sheep, that lay a little way off, met its end. Mr. Poose, in a mild tone, informed his master that the dog had discovered the sheep dying in a pit.

"Tie up the dog," shouted Mr. Told; "he killed the sheep-we will beat him to death."

Mr. Poose told his master that the dog had but called him to the sheep, whose death had been accidental.

"You lazy liar," exclaimed Mr. Told, "'twas your damned dog that killed the sheep, and now that I've lost five guineas, I will give the dog fifty strokes."

Farmer Lord, convulsed with drunken mirth, laughed loudly, and in his merriment he fetched a heavy stake and struck at the dog a blow that would have ended his life, had not the shepherd received it upon his own arm.

The dog, being secured by a stout rope, was now beaten with the greatest cruelty, though he uttered no whine nor moan nor made any sound at all, and only crouched down as the blows fell upon him. When the dog was being beaten the poor shepherd would have come to his aid, only Mr. Lord kept him in the hut by force, having first shut the door upon him, against which he placed a large wooden trough. At length the farmers, tired with their play, went off cursing the weather, and the God that made it, and Shepherd Poose liberated the dog and carried him in his arms to his cottage.

The dog's grief at his beating was nothing to his sorrow when he considered that his master the shepherd could by no means be God. Such an idea seemed now to be impossible. The good dog remembered well enough how his father had told him that the Almighty was all-powerful and could, with one little pellet no bigger than a mustard seed, destroy all his enemies.

"How could such a one," he reasoned, "if he were God, be shut in a little wooden hut by a friend of the Devil's!"

Shepherd Poose had been in the habit of leaving the dog, during lambing, in his kennel at night, while he spent the time with the flock. But now that the dog was so cruelly wounded, he did not care to leave him behind, for fear that the rats that lived in a hole under the dog's kennel might take advantage of the poor creature's plight and come out to devour him. And so that evening the dog saw his master come to him, carrying in his hand a new lantern that shone brightly, and lit up the little garden in a fine manner.

The dog had always been used to lie in the back of the great barrel that was his kennel, and had usually been asleep when his master passed by with his old lantern, that was nothing near as bright as the new, but now that Mr. Poose came and called him, showing him the light, the dog considered that the lantern was a more wonderful thing than the sun or the moon or any of the stars. And all the way, in following his master to the field, that he did slowly with now and again a faint, moan of pain, the dog could only look at the lantern, wondering what noble thing it was that lightened the way in the night's darkness.

As he walked behind his master, he believed-the lantern was none other than the glorious Son of God!

Although the dog had suffered much, no sooner did he believe that the lantern was Jesus than all his pain left him.

They were now arrived at the hut, and as all was well with the sheep, Mr. Poose tended the poor dog's wounded back with some sweet oils, and then lying down upon the sheepskin bed he was soon fast asleep. With his master asleep, the good dog felt now more than ever the loving presence of the lantern, that burnt with a fair clear flame, for Mr. Poose had bought the lantern that very day, by means of Mr. Balliboy, the carrier, who joyfully performed the commission, knowing Mr. Poose as an honest man, and carried him home from the town the finest hurricane lantern that could be had for money, observing, as he received the price for it, " 'Twill shine as a daytime sun. ."

A strange, though joyful, awe overcame the good dog as he looked at the lantern, and, as he looked, he remembered how his father had told him that Jesus Christ had been beaten and bruised, even as he himself had been, so that all quiet and harmless dogs might be saved from their sins.

The dog knelt before the lantern in meek adoration. He had not knelt long, however, before a miracle happened, that was brought about by the poor dog's wonderful faith. For the Christ, who had once entered the body of a man, now became in truth and reality Mr. Poose's lantern.

The first words that the lantern said - and we can well imagine them-were to bid the dog to forgive Mr. Told for his horrid cruelty.

"I am sure your father would have advised that you should forgive him," said the lantern.

"I forgive him most readily," answered the dog, "for without that beating I doubt whether my faith would have been strong enough to know who you are."

"The Saviour of the world," replied the Christ, "can be everything. Little Betty may find a lucky stone by the seaside - that stone am I. Dig down into the clay where poor Tom, the madman, lies buried. His coffinboards are rotted, his flesh is clay - I am he. The sexton stole the church oil - I was that too - and sold it to the shepherd, who filled me with it."

"Perhaps that made it easy for you to change your nature from one burning and shining light into another," agreed the dog.

"You have put the case rightly," replied the lantern, "and if you will pardon me the liberty that I am taking, I will now change into a large fire."

"And may I worship you in that form?" inquired the dog anxiously. "Certainly," replied the lantern, and immediately went out.

The light in the lantern had only just gone when a great noise and clamour arose from the village-that was but a few fields away - where everyone seemed to be awake and shouting "Fire!"

The shouting awoke Shepherd Poose, who, leaving his darkened lantern behind him and followed by his wounded dog, quickly reached the scene of the disaster.

Though his master went near to the burning - for the whole of Grange Farm was well alight - the sick dog remained at a safe distance. His faith bounded free of all limitations. The Christ that had so lately been a lantern was now a raging fire. Evidently the Godhead could change easily. He might be the lantern, he might be Shepherd Poose, he might be a fire.

The poor dog turned over, gave one groan, and expired.

Lost in Translation - Agape and Philia

Jesus said to them, "Come and eat." None of the disciples dared ask him, "Who are you?" because they knew it was the Lord. So Jesus went over, took the bread, and gave it to them; he did the same with the fish. This, then, was the third time Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from death. After they had eaten, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you love me more than these others do?" "Yes, Lord," he answered, "you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Take care of my lambs." A second time Jesus said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" "Yes, Lord," he answered, "you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Take care of my sheep." A third time Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter became sad because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" and so he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you!" Jesus said to him, "Take care of my sheep.
(John 21:12-17)

This is a well known Easter story in the Fourth Gospel, but almost every translation gets it wrong, or loses the nuance in the original Greek, from the Latin Vulgate, to the King James Bible to the modern New International Version, using one word "love" for two different Greek words. But in each of the first two times, Jesus asks the question using the word "agape", and Peter responds with a different (and in this context) lesser word for love, "philia", which is more like friendship or or fondness - for caring for someone. When translated this way - a better translation is given below - the last time Jesus questions Peter, he has asked him in Peter's own terms, he has met him where he is - and this subtlety - which is clearly important in understanding the text - is sadly lost in translation.

It is not just a mirror of the denial of Jesus by Peter we see here, but Jesus reaching out to meet Peter with his words where Peter is still unable to meet him after that denial. That extra layer of psychology makes the narrative much more powerful and interesting.

Jesus said to them, "Come, eat breakfast." Yet none of the disciples dared to question Him, "Who are You?"--knowing that it was the Lord. Jesus then came and took the bread and gave it to them, and likewise the fish. This was now the third time Jesus was manifested to His disciples, having been raised from the dead. So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I care for You." He said to him, "Feed My lambs." He said to him again a second time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I care for You." He said to him, "Shepherd My sheep." He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you care for Me?" Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, "Do you care for Me?" And he said to Him, "Lord, You know all things; You know that I care for You." Jesus said to him, "Feed My sheep.
(John 21:12-17)

Saturday, 23 April 2011

The High Priestess

Another in my sequence of Tarot related poems...

The High Priestess
In her hands, Mary took up the Torah
As a living scroll, an incarnate avatar
She mirrors a form in becoming divine
But as yet, still concealed, sublime
Queen of the Universe, a borrowed light
Reflected in the moon by night
Bride and mother in this place
Adorned in gauzy flowing lace
A vision of the mystic way
Incense rising here to pray.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Ergroah's Web

Another of Lilias Erskine's "Breton Stories", the Folk-Tales and Legends of Brittany which she translated in 1932. The gray wolf (canis lupos) of the story used to be common in France, but died out around 1937. Now, however, it is returning:

For millennia the wolf has been the object of our fear and loathing, wolves everywhere have suffered timeless persecution and sadly by 1927 the last of the wolves in France were eradicated. In modern times with a greater understanding of the environment and indeed the wolf, it has been allowed to return. During the last 20 or so years they have been slowly increasing in numbers in the mountainous regions of the Alps notably the Mercantour national park where they have crossed the border from Italy. This has caused an ongoing battle between environmentalists and French sheep farmers who blame the wolf for loss of livestock. The estimated size of the wolf population in Mercantour is around twenty or so with the main pack comprising of eight wolves. (1)

Once, however, the wolf was so common that in the 9th century, special officials called "Luparii" to control wolf populations. But after the Revolution, anyone could kill a wolf for monetary rewards, and with the advent of flintlock weaponry, the kill rate expanded significantly:

From 1818-1829, 14,000 wolves were killed each year. This high kill rate coincided with the increased distribution of flintlocks. At the dawn of the 19th century, there were up to 5000 wolves in France, a number which was reduced to half that amount by 1850. By 1890, the wolf population had been reduced to 1000 animals, and further fell to 500 in 1900 due to increased usage of strychnine. Wolves temporarily increased during the First World War, though by the time it ended, the population was estimated to be between 150-200 animals. The last confirmed French wolf kill occurred in 1937. (2)

The habits of wolves and their hunting in packs come into the Breton tale, where a wolf steals the stew; later in the story, a pack hunts together. Both these features of the narrative true to the actual behaviour of wolves:

Wolves eat ungulates, or large hoofed mammals, like elk, deer, moose and caribou. Wolves are also known to eat beaver, rabbits and other small prey. Wolves are also scavengers and often eat animals that have died due to other causes like starvation and disease

Wolves live, travel and hunt in packs of 4-7 animals on average. Packs include the mother and father wolves, called the alphas, their pups and several other subordinate or young animals. The alpha female and male are the pack leaders that track and hunt prey, choose den sites and establish the pack's territory.(3)

A wolf hunting or attacking a young girl, as we have in the tale of "Little Red Riding Hood", is seen as a predatory and dangerous animal. This is not the usual behaviour of wolves, as seen today. But we do not live as close to wolves as the rural peoples of the past, and there is clear evidence of predation taking place against human beings. The historian J.M. Smith notes how the evidence is overwhelming, and there is documentary evidence for up to nine or ten thousand deaths by wolf attack in France between 1500 and the early nineteenth century:

 "The practice in France was to send women and adolescent children into the fields with the flocks and the herds," he says. "So there were many frail and isolated people, usually armed with nothing more than a staff, available for hungry wolves."(4)

In fact, there are a considerable number of reports of wolves attacking human beings, as for instance, this one from 1888 in North America:

The news has just reached here that a father and son, living several miles northeast of this city, were destroyed by wolves yesterday. The two unfortunate men started to a haystack some ten rods from the house to shovel a path around the stack when they were surrounded by wolves and literally eaten alive. The horror-stricken mother was standing at the window with a babe in her arms, a spectator to the terrible death of her husband and son, but was unable to aid them. After they had devoured every flesh from the bones of the men, the denizens of the forest attacked the house, but retired to the hills in a short time. Investigation found nothing but the bones of the husband and son. The family name was Olson. Wolves are more numerous and dangerous now than ever before known in North Dakota.(5)

The winters of 1886-1888 in Dakota were very harsh, and it is likely that this was a contributory factor towards the behaviour of the wolves, as the diminution of their natural sources of food may have led them to attack and eat the men. Other occasions have been reported, but while well-documented, they are occasional, not a rule. One of the latest attempts by a wolf to attack a child was recorded - "Attempted Predation of a Child by a Gray Wolf, Canis lupus, near Icy Bay, Alaska" as recently as April 2000:

On 26 April 2000 a six-year-old boy was attacked and repeatedly bitten by a Gray Wolf (Canis lupus) in a logging camp near Icy Bay, Alaska. The animal's behavior during the attack clearly contained elements of predation. The wolf was killed shortly after the attack and found to be in normal physical condition; tests for rabies and canine distemper were negative. Low densities of ungulate prey and increased energetic demands associated with denning may have influenced the wolf's behavior, but we believe the wolf's habituation to people was a more significant factor contributing to the attack. Food-conditioning may have facilitated the habituation process, but there was no evidence the attack resulted from a food-conditioned approach response.(6)

They noted that:

The wolf's attempt to carry and drag the boy away from rescuers cannot be explained as an agonistic act and despite the possible agonism reflected in the wolf's initial approach, the final result clearly contained elements of predation.(6)

What seems most clear is that the Icy Bay wolf became habituated to the presence of people. Habituation was a factor common to predatory attacks by Coyotes on children in North America (Carbyn 1989) and presumably to wolf predation on children in India where wolves continually live among high densities of people and natural foods are often scarce(6)

Habituation can be a powerful engine for changing behaviour. Locally, from scavenging off rubbish and learning to tear open plastic bin bangs for food, seagulls have become much more used to people than even 30 years ago, and beach cafe's have fine wire's strung over outside tables to deter the birds, who will quite easily take food even out of someone's hand.

So we can see how the period in which folk tales arose about wolf predation came when most people lived outside cities, on the land, in small rural communities, where wolves could become habituated to the presence of people. Modern intensive farming, and the mass migration of people to cities, even in France, would have changed that pattern.

Modern environmentalists do insist that wolves are not the dangerous beasts of folklore, but an experiment with taming wolves and foxes from cubs, breeding successive generations for docility and tameness was a failure with wolves, but a success with foxes, despite the DNA of wolf and dog being extremely close. Wolves certainly are not generally dangerous, however, unless you live close enough in proximity for them to be habituated to your presence.

A dog is essentially a wolf, but if you try to bring up a wolf in your house, you'll run into serious problems, as experiments show. When they're tiny wolflets they're dead cute, but then suddenly they're, well, totally wolves, causing havoc in the living room, blowing the house down from the inside (8)

And now to the Breton tale of Ergroah and the Wolf:

Ergroah's Web

An old woman called Ergroah lived once upon a time in a tiny house in the middle of a forest. Every day at noon she made a fragrant stew of meat, herbs and vegetables, and if she knew that any of her neighbours were ill, she would put some in a bowl and carry it to them, after she had had some herself.

One day, on returning from one of these visits, she found that all the remains of the stew had gone.

" Aha ! That is the wicked old grey wolf," said she. " I will teach him to steal my good food."

So she went into the forest and gathered stinging-nettles and wove them into a large web. Then she made a new stew, and hid herself behind her cupboard. Presently the grey wolf crept up to the house and, seeing no one about, he came in and devoured the savoury stew with great relish. Just as he was finishing the last morsel Ergroah jumped out and threw the web of nettles all over him. The wolf cried out in great pain, for he was stung all over. He tried every way to free himself, but the web wound itself faster and faster round him. At last, after a great struggle, he managed to break loose and fled for his life, far out into the forest.

Old Ergroah laughed gleefully. " Now I am at least free of that old thief," said she. But she spoke too hastily, for the wolf was so stung and bruised that he determined to have his revenge and he lay in wait for her in the forest.

A few days later Ergroah was walking down a shady pathway, when she met the grey wolf. Instantly he sat up on his haunches and howled and howled ! On hearing his call, all his comrades assembled with great speed and ran to his aid. The poor old woman, pursued by nearly fifty wolves, ran through the forest as fast as she could. But she was not very young and not very fleet of foot, and she soon grew tired and knew that she could run no farther.

A tall fir tree grew close to where she had stopped, panting and gasping and very much afraid. This she climbed, with as much haste as possible, and sat down on the top branch. The wolves gathered round the foot of the tree and debated amongst themselves as to what they should do.

The grey wolf said he wished to be the first to attack Ergroah, so they settled to stand upon each other's shoulders till they reached the top of  the tree, and the grey wolf should have the last place. Accordingly they climbed one upon the other till it was the grey wolf's turn to climb.

Just then Ergroah, who had been looking round her, saw that a large holly bush grew quite close to the fir tree in which she sat. Leaning forward from her branch, she managed to reach a holly bough and hastily plucked some prickly leaves from it.

As the grey wolf reached the top of the fir tree Ergroah hit his face with the holly leaves. His eyes were so pricked that he could not see she had only three holly leaves ; he imagined that she had the whole of her nettle web up in the tree with her ! Remembering the terrible stings he had had before, he jumped off the tree in great fear and so startled the other wolves that they all fell down in a heap, hurting themselves very severely. The grey wolf fled away into the forest and the others, so enraged at his desertion, ran after him and devoured him and hung his skin upon a holly tree !

Since that day Ergroah has lived in peace and plenty. In fact her days have passed so evenly and uneventfully that she has forgotten how old she is and how many years ago it is that the grey wolf came to steal her stew!

(7) BBC Horizon: The Secret Life of the Dog