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The other night we saw the first in a three-part series on BBC4, Britain’s Oldest Businesses.
The first in the programme profiled R J Balson and Son from Bridport, Dorset. Richard Balson is the current proprietor. He works together with his brother-in-law Rudi Boulay. The programme revealed that Richard Balson understood the business to date from 1535. However, a subsequent discovery, shown in the programme, dates back to 1515.
A year away from half a millenium of meat sales
The Balson website includes old family photographs of the shop and their first ‘modern’ 20th century delivery vehicle. It’s a short but fascinating read and, if the show is rerun (let’s hope it airs on PBS), it’s worthwhile recording for later viewing at home.
We learned that the first two documents dating the business referred to those Balson men being granted a stall at Bridport’s shambles, where butchery was done live in the main thoroughfare. More about shambles later in the post.
We also learned that market days — the only time butchery was allowed — were Wednesday and Saturday. Therefore, if you wished to make a living by selling meat, you often had to have another job.
One of Balson’s more recent ancestors from the 19th century ran a pub. He was able to sell more meat through the pub. (These days, outsiders go in to pubs to sell meat of unknown provenance, possibly stolen, at very low prices. Caveat emptor — buyer beware.) However, this proves that selling meat in the pub is an old tradition. It would be interesting to find out how many butchers ran pubs before they were allowed to open a shop throughout the week.
Another detail viewers learned was that the abundance of carcasses on display was generally photographed in the run-up to Christmas as a retail incentive.
Currently, a Balson relative living in the US sells meat from the family firm online. He still has the old date of 1535 in the banner heading.
The Telegraph has a good article — albeit with a misspelling of Thomas More’s name — about the Balson family business:
Although he’s interested in his business’s claim to fame, Richard Balson has never had the time to think about starting a history project. A butcher’s life is busy from cradle to grave. He grew up above the shop and remembers his father warning him from an early age that the Balson butchers never earned enough for a retirement …
Next year he will own a business that has been in the same family for half a millennium. Still, it’s not all good news: “Nothing exciting happened that year , except the birth of Anne of Cleves,” he says despondently.
More disturbing information is in store for Balson, whom we follow in the first part of the series. He becomes increasingly hooked as the story unravels: the shop has, quite miraculously it seems, survived a rather bloody history. One of the Balson butchers lived with a married woman and “had his head blown off” by her 10-year-old son [an accident]; another was sent to a Victorian asylum for electric shock treatment before cutting his own throat [in a wash house, the precursor to a launderette]. What makes these stories close to the bone, as it were, is that they all lived and worked in the same space – as indeed did Balson with his own father.
The Shambles — first butchery sites
‘The Shambles’ was the name for mediaeval and subsequent butchers’ stalls until the 18th or 19th century, depending on the town or city.
As the documentary on the Balsons showed us, shambles were set up in the main shopping — high — street in a central location. They were often roofed structures but might have been held up only by columns in some cases to allow freer passage of livestock to slaughter.
Farmers brought in their beasts to be slaughtered and butchered on market days. In principle, the documentary told us, the animals could be cut to order. Any meat not sold on that day could be salted — similar to corned beef — or sent to the local lepers, which was undoubtedly seen as an act of Christian charity; otherwise they might have starved.
However, the shambles represented a hygiene problem over the centuries. Whilst the blood and faecal waste from the animals could flow off into the recesses of the street, in time, cholera and other diseases were rife in these districts. Yet, it would not be until the 18th century when the ‘Godless’ Enlightenment (as many 21st century American fundamentalists perceive it as a whole) would enable town planning and some degree of cleanliness. At that point, Bath being one example, the shambles were removed from the public square and placed indoors with separate slaughter or butchery facilities at the rear of the shops. Some animals were killed offsite and brought into town. In the late 19th century, butchers were among the first to be able to purchase and benefit from refrigerated cold stores to keep meat fresh throughout the week. From that point on, many meat shops were open five or six days a week.
Shambles — etymology and current meaning
The American Heritage Dictionary traces the word ‘shambles’ as follows (emphases in bold mine below):
A place or situation referred to as a shambles is usually a mess, but it is no longer always the bloody mess it once was. The history of the word begins innocently enough with the Latin word scamnum, “a stool or bench serving as a seat, step, or support for the feet, for example.” The diminutive scamillum, “low stool,” was borrowed by speakers of Old English as sceamol, “stool, bench, table.” Old English sceamol became Middle English shamel, which developed the specific sense in the singular and plural of “a place where meat is butchered and sold.” The Middle English compound shamelhouse meant “slaughterhouse,” a sense that the plural shambles developed (first recorded in 1548) along with the figurative sense “a place or scene of bloodshed” (first recorded in 1593). Our current, more generalized meaning, “a scene or condition of disorder,” is first recorded in 1926.
A webpage on the history of York adds that ‘shamel’ also referred to:
Flesshammel, which means to do with flesh – it was the street of the butchers. In 1872 the number of butchers was recorded as 26. This figure dwindled over the years until the last butcher standing was Dewhurst at number 27 the Shambles.
Unfortunately, the nationwide Dewhurst chain disappeared in 1995. I remember seeing them in many towns and London boroughs when I first moved to England. However, the Vestey Group which, although British, branched out into large-scale South American food ventures instead of investing in the UK. They:
developed the country-wide Dewhurst the Butchers chain of butchers shops, which was eventually disbanded in 1995 in the face of increasing competition from the supermarket chains. Dewhurst were the first to introduce the innovation of glass windows on butcher’s shops – previously meat had been exposed to the elements and pollution.
I was in York’s Shambles on a visit 20 years ago. I remember we all laughed at the street sign which read:
We didn’t know what it meant, even though we were all steeped to an extent in English history.
However, as the York website explains:
It is said that in certain points you can reach out of the top window and shake hands with a person doing the same daft thing in the house opposite! But if you had walked the length of this street, say, 300 years ago, it would have been a very different experience! Livestock would have been kept behind the shops and slaughtered on site.
Later, when York had the cattle market it meant that cattle no longer lived behind the shops, but the slaughterhouses remained and the cattle were driven in on foot from the market. The middle of street would have been an open gutter and the waste from the butchers was washed out of the shops and into the street. Number 31 has a sloping floor for this reason.
There was also another hazard — human waste from the bedpans and chamberpots. Younger readers should realise there were no toilets at the time. Sorry, but this has to be said. We don’t know how fortunate we are to be living in our times.
In Edinburgh at the same time, there was a common saying among the locals living in similarly crowded conditions, where disease was also rife. Housekeepers and housewifes would empty the chamberpots and bedpans, quickly calling out, ‘Gardy-loo!’ I have heard several historical explanations of this, but the most likely seems to be a corruption of the French, ‘Gardez l’eau!’ or ‘Mind — pay attention to — the water’, not unlike the ancient fencing expression, ‘En garde!’
York’s website says much the same thing:
domestic waste would have been thrown down from the windows above to either drain into open ditches, or stagnate in the road. Manure was collected at night, but no great effort was made to take it very far away. The terribly unhygienic conditions led to several outbreaks of cholera, and yet it was not until the 20th century that changes were made.
It was not until the 20th century that ‘changes were made’ because Bazalgette’s modern sewage and sanitation system of its many u-bends was perfected in the 19th century in London. It made a near-immediate change for the better in the hygiene of London’s residents and was no doubt sent across the country as the way forward.
Never laugh when people talk about the benefits of modern toilet, drainage and water sanitation systems. You would not be reading this if they were not in place.
York: St Margaret Clitherow, butcher’s wife — and priest holes
Whilst in York, strolling along The Shambles, I don’t know if I knew there was a slaugherhouse (abbatoir) behind Nos. 37 and 38.
However, I did see the overhang of upper storeys of the centuries-old buildings:
There remain examples of late medieval buildings in the Shambles, which represents a good example of how houses – topped by overhanging “solars” through which it was hoped that sunlight might be brought through the windows into burgesses’ living quarters – were sometimes within arms’ reach of each other.
To the dismay of my Anglican companions, I — a fellow Anglican — did visit St Margaret Clitherow’s shrine at Nos. 35 and 36:
Margaret Middleton married John Clitherow, a widowed butcher who had his business at number 35. After her marriage Margaret converted to Catholicism. These were turbulent times for religion, with the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII and the continued religious warring throughout the reigns of his children. Margaret gave shelter to travelling Priests, and conducted Mass for local Catholics in her home. Warned and imprisoned for her continual refusal to conform to the protestant way of life, she continued with her activities.
The inspectors would count the windows outside the houses and compare them to the count inside, to see if an area had been concealed to hide a priest. On the evidence of a frightened child they arrested Margaret and charged her with providing cover for the Priests and with practicing Catholicism. She was offered a trial, but she insisted she had no crime to answer to, and so was sentenced to death. To be crushed to death in the prison under Ouse bridge.
Rather than be naked, she made herself a shift of white linen. She lay with a large stone placed in the small of her back and a door was laid upon her body. Stones were piled upon the door until she was dead. She was canonized on October 25th 1970, and her right hand can still be seen in the Bar Convent museum.
I didn’t know about the Bar Convent museum, but visiting her former home was moving. I could feel a chill, which normally hasn’t happened to me in other such places, e.g. the Roman Catacombs. Perhaps this was because the martyrdom was more recent. I cannot say.
My Anglican friends must have felt something, too, because two stepped away quickly and the other suggested a quick exit. I stayed on to read what was written about her and was increasingly moved by her life.
By the way, there were such things as ‘priest holes’. Some were hidden by a heavy stone concealing door with a false appearance on one side. The priest, with some physical effort, could move the stone door, carefully find the staircase to a lower storey — i.e. cellar — and remain there indefinitely as long as someone brought him food, drink and candles. The stone door made the cellar soundproof and rendered the clergyman invisible for all intents and purposes.
Elizabeth I, the reigning Queen, was outraged that Margaret Clitherow had been sentenced to death. St Margaret Clitherow’s Wikipedia entry says:
She was born as Margaret Middleton, the daughter of a wax-chandler, after Henry VIII of England had split the Church of England from the Roman Catholic Church. She married John Clitherow, a butcher, in 1571 (at the age of 15) and bore him three children. She converted to Roman Catholicism at the age of 18, in 1574. Her husband John was supportive (he having a brother who was Roman Catholic clergy), though he remained Protestant. She then became a friend of the persecuted Roman Catholic population in the north of England. Her son, Henry, went to Reims to train as a Roman Catholic priest … A house in the Shambles once thought to have been her home, now called the Shrine of the Saint Margaret Clitherow, is open to the public (it is served by the nearby Church of St Wilfrid’s and is part of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Middlesbrough); her actual house (10 and 11, the Shambles) is further down the street.
… she was executed by being crushed to death – the standard punishment for refusal to plead – on Good Friday 1586. The two sergeants who should have killed her hired four desperate beggars to kill her. She was stripped and had a handkerchief tied across her face then laid out upon a sharp rock the size of a man’s fist, the door from her own house was put on top of her and slowly loaded with an immense weight of rocks and stones (the small sharp rock would break her back when the heavy rocks were laid on top of her). Her death occurred within fifteen minutes but her body was left for six hours before the weight was removed. After her death her hand was removed, and this relic is now housed in the chapel of the Bar Convent, York. Following her execution, Elizabeth I wrote to the citizens of York expressing her horror at the treatment of a fellow woman. Because of her sex, she argued, Clitherow should not have been executed.
From this, I gathered that St Margaret Clitherow would have been a patron saint of butchers. However, she is the patron saint of businesswomen, converts, martyrs and the Catholic Women’s League.
There are some mysteriously and absolutely foul revisions of the word ‘burgess’ in the Urban Dictionary. Some are simply unkind and others are scatalogical. None of them has a link to history and the original meaning of the word. Therefore, I have not supplied a link to them.
Burgess is a word in English that originally meant a freeman of a borough (England) or burgh (Scotland). It later came to mean an elected or unelected official of a municipality, or the representative of a borough in the English House of Commons.
It was derived in Middle English and Middle Scots from the Old French word burgeis, simply meaning “an inhabitant of a town” (cf. burgeis or burges respectively). The Old French word burgeis is derived from bourg, meaning a market town or medieval village, itself derived from Late Latin burgus, meaning “fortress“ or “wall”. In effect, the reference was to the north-west European medieval and renaissance merchant class which tended to set up their storefronts along the outside of the city wall, where traffic through the gates was an advantage and safety in event of an attack was easily accessible. The right to seek shelter within a burg was known as the right of burgess.
The term was close in meaning to the Germanic term burgher, a formally defined class in medieval German cities, (Middle Dutch burgher, Dutch burger and German Bürger). It is also linguistically close to the French term Bourgeois, which evolved from burgeis. An analogous term in Arabic, Persian, and Urdu is برج ‘burj’ or ‘borj’, which in itself variously means a high wall, a building, or a tower.
The term is also related to burglar, though this developed in the opposite direction in terms of social respectability.
From my reading of Simon Sebag Montefiore’s Young Stalin, the Russians also had a similar word, burgis.
The burgess’s status was underneath that of the alderman’s — alder, elder — who was his superior. However, the burgess was the precursor to the merchant class. As Wikipedia cites, the verses of the ancient song Greensleeves point out:
Thy purse and eke thy gay guilt knives, thy pincase gallant to the eye: No better wore the Burgesse wives, and yet thou wouldst not love me.
About.com gives a simpler definition:
A burgess was a landowner or householder in a town or borough. Burgesses paid their share of any communal dues and expenses and therefore shared in town privileges.
The term derives from the word borough (and its alternate pronunciations), as does burgher. Burghers and burgesses were different, however, in that burgesses had special privileges that derived from their support of the community.
Today, we still have boroughs (e.g. London and New York City) as well as aldermen (e.g. Chicago).
town residents contributory towards the customary payments due the king from boroughs, later in the Middle Ages its varied application does not suggest a precise, universally agreed, technical definition. Broadly, however, it referred to residents of a borough, usually those residents who were members of the borough community in terms of sharing in communal responsibilities and rights; hence we often find the term “comburgess” used, to emphasise that an individual was a fellow member of the enfranchised community (although the term also came to be used, on occasion, to refer to burgesses of higher status). At Lynn the poorest townsmen were clearly described as non-burgesses, “burgesses” evidently being equated with those residents who had become freemen; this appears also the case in Ipswich. Yet in Colchester the same class of poorer residents was described as being burgesses. Outsiders (“strangers” or “foreigners”) were sometimes allowed to acquire some of the same – notably commercial – privileges by entering the franchise under the special status of “foreign burgess”. Towards the end of the Middle Ages “burgess” was more likely to be used to distinguish one group of privileged townsmen from a less privileged group.
There was a fine line between ‘advantages of burgesses’ — a burgess was a freeman — and a ‘monopoly’ on trading. Burgesses became wealthy because they could share in the proceeds of market trade, as this example from old Norwich (Norfolk) municipal laws says, in modern English:
It was a fundamental right of freemen to be able to claim a share in any mercantile bargain made by one of their fellows, if they were present when the bargain was made. Only in special cases could they claim a share if not present. The use of multiple representatives undermined this equal shares principle, and favoured the urban upper class, which supplied most bailiffs – perhaps explaining the final clause of this chapter, suggesting that the bailiffs might be reluctant to investigate such abuses in absence of a specific complaint, and producing a statement of the source of political authority in towns.
Perhaps this is the source of European class conflict, which might well have started centuries ago. Let it further be emphasised that local lords or kings actually owned the land granted to the care of burgesses to rent — tenements (somewhat different to the early 20th century meaning) — on their behalf.
On a lighter note …
The city of Manchester’s website has a photographic history of their Shambles Square. If you scroll down one-quarter or one-third down the page, you will see Ye Olde Fyshing Tackle Shoppe.
The next photo shows that a Will Chambers owns it (look for the postcard reproduced with Jason Kennedy’s permission).
The following postcard or photo shows the same building at a slightly different angle. Could the writing on the card be from Will Chambers? It is certainly signed Will. It says — in as much as I can make out:
Dear Froggy cum ['with' -- Latin] sausage cum roast beef, how the dickens are you, have your muscles grown any, are you quite well, anything fresh, if so let me know, you owe me a letter, you [are] usually so punctual, what do you think of your new nephew, both [mother and son] are doing well.
Holdren is married and the father of two children. He also has five grandchildren.
In 2009, he said that the government could propose to seize babies from mothers who refused to have abortions.
Now Fox News unearthed another quote of his concerning reproduction (see penultimate paragraph in the left hand column). If this isn’t straight out of the Third Reich, what is? Emphases mine below:
A program of sterilizing women after their second or third child, despite the relatively greater difficulty of the operation than vasectomy, might be easier to implement than trying to sterilize men. The development of a long-term sterilizing capsule that could be implanted under the skin and removed when pregnancy is desired opens additional possibilities for coercive fertility control. The capsule could be implanted at puberty and might be removable, with official permission, for a limited number of births.
This is staggering. Suppose someone had enacted that against one of his children? He would be minus one or two grandchildren.
God gave us the capacity to reproduce. He wants His creation in this world. It is staggering that a scientist serving an American president could have suggested such a thing. Also, how can he be certain that removing this demonic capsule will allow a woman to bring a child to term? What happens if the child is deformed or mentally incapacitated?
Take it further, however. What if certain people are targeted with this capsule, should it come to fruition? Christians, for example, because America has enough of them, let’s say. Furthermore, let’s say, they’re deemed stupid (I believe such a survey exists). The United States doesn’t need more of their type.
I do not think this will happen any time soon, but we should be aware that one of today’s ‘experts’ has posited it.
Continuing a study of the passages from Luke’s Gospel which have been omitted from the three-year Lectionary for public worship, today’s post is part of my ongoing series Forbidden Bible Verses, also essential to understanding Scripture.
Women Accompanying Jesus
1Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, 2and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means.
In these three verses, St Luke gives us more of an insight into our Lord’s ministry.
Jesus did not shy away from the countryside; he visited villages as well as cities (verse 1). He and his disciples travelled by foot, the exception being His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on what we call Palm Sunday.
What of His message? He does not speak of ‘social justice’ or ‘political change’. He speaks of ‘the good news of the kingdom of God’.
Charity and justice are not restricted to Christians. They are standard operating practice for world religions and secular humanism. To place those two planks — worthy though they are, and, yes, Jesus did say ‘love they neighbour’ — above salvation would be erroneous. Yet, this is what postmodern clergy — including the Pope and Archbishop of Canterbury — promote over faith, repentance, grace and the promise of eternal life.
When we have faith, we will naturally love our neighbour and practice charity because we have a better understanding of God’s sovereignty, His love and that Man was created in His image.
Jesus preached about His Father’s kingdom. He did not come to transform or rescue Israel from the Romans. He was not an earthly king in the way His contemporaries and we understand kingship. He spoke of more; He was the fulfilment of the Scriptures in a way that many then and now refuse to or cannot comprehend. He lived humbly. He was accessible. He was among people nearly every day.
The Twelve, Luke tells us, were with him (verse 1) as were three women. Our commentators, Matthew Henry and John MacArthur, surmise that the women were there regularly, probably until nightfall. They no doubt provided help with food or practical items to make the day’s journey and evening meal easier.
In addition to the Twelve and these three women, there were other disciples on these forays who felt compelled through faith to follow Jesus, whom they loved as a brother, a teacher and a healer. Matthew Henry says:
Some of them are named; but there were many others, who were zealously affected to the doctrine of Christ, and thought themselves bound in justice to encourage it, having themselves found benefit, and in charity, hoping that many others might find benefit by it too.
The three women whom Luke names in verses 2 and 3 were healed of demons or another illness. They also voluntarily contributed financially toward the upkeep of our Lord’s ministry.
The first woman named is Mary Magdalene. Magdalene refers to her home town of Magdala (Migdal, today). We often think of her as having been a prostitute, yet, both Henry and MacArthur say there is nothing in the New Testament to indicate this. The detail to remember is that Jesus cast out seven demons from her. It is a pity, then, that these verses have been omitted from the Lectionary; otherwise, every churchgoer would know this.
Then we have Joanna, who is married to Chuza, manager of King Herod’s household. Of her, Henry writes:
She had been his wife (so some), but was now a widow, and left in good circumstances. If she was now his wife, we have reason to think that her husband, though preferred in Herod’s court, had received the gospel, and was very willing that his wife should be both a hearer of Christ and a contributor to him.
MacArthur doesn’t say whether Chuza was still living at the time Joanna was a disciple, however, he says of both:
This is very, very, very high ranking. This is an official in the very palace of Herod, maybe the manager of Herod’s personal estate who ruled over his own household …
You have a woman who was from the highest possible state in the land.
Mary Magdalene and Joanna were among the first to find our Lord’s tomb was empty at the Resurrection. Mary Magdalene was also at His Crucifixion.
As for Susanna, we do not know any more than that she was a faithful disciple. This is the only time her name appears in the New Testament. MacArthur surmises:
We could assume that because there’s nothing to describe her that she was among the many non-descript who just came from the poor who dominated the land of Israel.
It is marvellous that the Holy Spirit inspired Luke to write of these ladies, all three from different social circumstances. I say this because a small minority of conservative American Christian men control everything their wives do. Some will not let them out of the house without permission and need to know every detail of their day. (Christian blogs on toxic churches have many stories of women who have sought divorce because they have been abused and treated like prisoners.) May these three verses remind our men not to act like obscurantist Muslims!
These three women — ‘and many others’ — gave of their savings to this divine ministry. Jesus had no real home anymore; His life was largely spent on the road, as it were.
Jesus’ ministry was supported by those whose lives He had changed. And that’s really the model of ministry. His ministry depended on the generosity of those who had been changed by that ministry. And there were many of them, no doubt women and men. They had a purse, John 13:29 says, they had a purse, they had a treasurer named Judas. They had more than enough because they were able to take out of their purse and give to the poor. Yet they didn’t have any possessions. The disciples had left all. Jesus had left all, didn’t have anywhere to lay His head, “The foxes have holes,” He said, “the birds have nests, I don’t have a place to lay My head.” At the end of His life they [the Romans supervising the Cross] gambled around the cross for the only possession He had and that was the clothes He was wearing. So they were dependent upon these contributions.
Henry draws a larger message for us today, which is that, when we are in need because of adverse circumstances, we should not be too proud to gratefully accept charity from our neighbour. Our Lord did:
Let none say that they scorn to be beholden to the charity of their neighbours, when Providence has brought them into straits; but let them ask and be thankful for it as a favour. Christ would rather be beholden to his known friends for a maintenance for himself and his disciples than be burdensome to strangers in the cities and villages whither he came to preach.
Next time: Luke 8:4-8
We’ve cut back on inviting others over for four-course lunches and dinners.
We used to push the boat out, but no longer.
We’ve simply had too many fussy eaters over during the past few years. There was one couple with a laundry list of ‘what we don’t eat’. Then there was the vegetarian, a guest among several carnivores. Then there was the guest who said our portions were too large. And another who said we served too many courses.
Fine. More for us to enjoy.
The most galling was the laundry list of ‘what we don’t eat’ which amounts to ‘We’ve never had these foods prepared properly or have never tried them’. They included eggs, mushrooms, fresh tomatoes, prawns, scallops, lobster, liver, cream — and many more.
I cannot tell you how difficult revamping that menu was.
We were planning to serve a starter of pan-fried foie gras d’oie (goose) with sauteed slices of plum. That had to go.
Then there was the main course of warm prawns and scallops with a light cream and chive sauce. That had to go.
Then there was the salad — a delight of spinach leaves, sliced mushrooms, bacon lardons and chopped boiled egg in a light vinaigrette. That, too, had to be ditched.
Whatever we planned for pudding — crème brulée, probably — was also out of the question.
Whatever we had (I can’t remember) was fine and we had a lovely evening — they were wonderful guests — but we shall not be inviting them again.
There is something to be said for introducing children to a wide variety of food as soon as possible. Begin with baby food in their infancy then move on to equally varied foods which require a child’s cutlery set so they also know how to use a knife and fork properly.
One mother we know has a son who doesn’t like mushrooms. If she serves them to him, he pushes them to one side. Yet, if she holds a pizza party where each of her children and their young guests assemble their own toppings on the crust, her son invariably piles on the mushrooms and eats them quite happily.
Moral of the story: the sooner you get your kids prepping and eventually cooking their own food, the less fussy they will be. If they add certain ingredients, they’ll love them because they had a hand in making the meal.
Similarly, adopt the example of the father in Spain (see last paragraph) who was able to easily get his children to eat fried calamari (squid).
Food can be an everyday adventure of pleasure and delight.
Of women, he said:
The four fatal words are ‘Darling, take me somewhere!’
SpouseMouse and I know a woman who seems to have adopted that as her personal maxim. She’s a homemaker and mother. Her husband makes a terrific salary. Yet, she has no interests outside the home except gossip with other women.
She barely cooks. She doesn’t garden. Her children are in school all day long. When her husband comes home after a long day, she asks him for a drink.
We imagine, probably correctly, that every Saturday and Sunday, she utters the fatal words to her husband who, incidentally, is often away from home on business:
Darling, take me somewhere!
They invariably go out to eat at the weekend. The whole family piles in the car mid-afternoon and off they go.
We long for the day when she says the four fatal words to her husband and he responds:
What about the kitchen, darling? A world of adventure awaits.
There is no excuse for a homemaker to not cook. None at all. If it’s a question of nail jobs, then, ditch the nail jobs and save some money or do them yourself so they’re less precious.
Nail jobs are around £10 or £15 every seven to ten days. A basic carvery-style lunch out is around £50 for four. That’s a conservative estimate. This man is spending £110 to £115 more per week than is necessary. Multiply that by 52 and add on extra for holidays abroad. That’s a tidy sum of money.
Where I see a coming dystopia, this woman sees an ongoing middle-class existence, the kind she’s always known.
I pity her the day she comes to us in desperation asking for cooking lessons. Refusal often offends.
(In case you think that’s cruel, we have already offered to teach her as well as give her gardening tips. ‘Oh, no, I’m not interested.’)
Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee year ended with a 60th Anniversary Service of thanksgiving at Westminster Abbey on Tuesday, June 4, 2013.
It was heartening to read that even though he is not in the best of health at the moment, Prince Philip was able to attend. (Last year, he was in hospital for a brief stay and missed the service at St Paul’s.) Unfortunately, today he was taken to The London Clinic in Harley Street, where he is expected to remain for the next fortnight. Well wishers hope that he recovers soon.
Over the past 12 months, I have read websites where Americans described our head of state in various insulting terms. These are conservatives, not Obama supporters, by the way.
I am sorry they feel that way. I suppose to many of us, Queen Elizabeth is the only queen most of us in the world have ever ‘known’. Yes, there are other queens, but they pale by comparison.
Consequently, we have the idea that Queen Elizabeth II’s life has been one bowl of cherries with no real work at all and no enemies.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The Queen still has a calendar full of official engagements, private meetings and papers to review every day.
And that her succession was plain sailing was far from the truth in the years between Edward VIII’s abdication in 1936 and George VI’s death in 1952. (George VI was the subject of the Oscar-winning film The King’s Speech.) After the Second World War ended, the King’s continued declining health preoccupied many in royal circles.
As historian Christopher Wilson wrote recently in the Daily Mail, two rival factions were at work at that time which could have changed England’s Royal Family and the institution of the monarchy forever.
As most 50+ Britons can tell you, Prince Philip was not the most popular when he was courting the then Princess Elizabeth.
Palace courtiers along with some members of the Royal Family were suspicious of the ambitions of his uncle, ‘Dickie’ Mountbatten. They believed that Mountbatten wanted Philip to become King Consort and that the House of Windsor would become the House of Mountbatten.
Princess Marina, widow of the Duke of Kent, spoke for many in the royal circle when she warned that the Mountbattens were ‘dangerous people… determined to be the power behind the Throne when Elizabeth succeeds’.
And so, as the King ailed, pandemonium reigned. The most influential figure at court, Sir Alan ‘Tommy’ Lascelles, the King’s Private Secretary, joined forces with the Master of the Household, Joey Legh, in bitter objection to Philip as a future consort.
They were joined by the King’s closest male friends – Lord Eldon, the Marquess of Salisbury, and Lord Stanley. Also voicing disdain of the young naval officer was the King’s brother-in-law, David Bowes-Lyon …
Indeed, even those closest to Elizabeth had caught the anti-Mountbatten fever. Her Comptroller and devoted servant, the war hero ‘Boy’ Browning, warned: ‘Remember Dickie – he’d always rather do something under the table than above.’
And to a visitor to Elizabeth and Philip, briefly resident in Malta, Browning begged they ensured ‘Princess Elizabeth isn’t bossed about by Dickie’.
It is worth remembering that these men — as well as the rival factions — saw in young Princess Elizabeth a vulnerable future monarch. Most had her best interests at heart; however, others did not. Furthermore, certain courtiers were concerned for their own future.
Mountbatten represented one faction.
The other was headed by Kenneth de Courcy, well connected with cabinet ministers of the day and a dining partner of Edward VIII. After the Abdication, de Courcy continued to communicate the latest royal news and intrigue to the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.
In the early postwar years, de Courcy’s goal was to have the Duke installed as Regent until Princess Elizabeth became older.
The Duke and Duchess — alternating between homes in Paris and the Côte d’Azur as well as holidays in New York and Palm Beach — seriously considered de Courcy’s idea. And de Courcy was not short of advice. He counselled the Duke to tone down his extravagant lifestyle and ingratiate himself once more with the British public. (Not only had the Duke abdicated, he had also married a divorcée and had a certain admiration for the Third Reich.) To the Duchess de Courcy wrote:
I should like to see you and the Duke buy an agricultural property somewhere near London, and the Duke devote a good deal of his time to experimental farming on the most advanced modern lines. This would make a great appeal to the country.
Wilson writes that the Duke did spend a short time in London after this appeal and thinks that the weather put him off pursuing a possible Regency.
We won’t know the full story for years to come. Even today, Wilson says there is still a set of de Courcy’s papers under lock and key in the Hoover Institution’s archives at Stanford University in California.
Perhaps a providential hand was at work. During the late 1940s when the Duke got cold feet and it was unclear just how long George VI would continue to live, Wilson concludes:
… the King was on the road to a recovery and would remain on the throne sufficiently long for the nay-sayers to finally get used to the idea of Prince Philip.
Had either Mountbatten or the Duke of Windsor had exercised control over the monarchy, it could have been dangerous to Britain’s interests. Who knows what alliances with foreign powers and potential enemies could have been made which would have jeopardised our Royal Family?
A footnote on Prince Philip. As I mentioned last year, he said many years ago that he was the only man in the world whose children did not carry his surname. I found out recently that this changed in 1960 when their children who were not in line for succession were given the name Mountbatten-Windsor. That is Princess Anne’s maiden name as well as Prince Andrew‘s and Prince Edward‘s surname (used only when needed, e.g. marriage register).
As for our gracious Queen, we wish her many more years as our monarch and head of state. We look forward to another Jubilee celebration. Even now, many English people still carry the spirit of last year’s festivities in a renewed pleasantness and kindness.
On April 27, 2013, BBC2 aired a 90-minute documentary on Margaret Thatcher’s early years, Young Margaret.
The programme content was based largely on the many letters the future (late?) Prime Minister exchanged with her sister Muriel, four years older.
It is still difficult for people to imagine that Margaret Thatcher was ever a youngster — or human. The debate goes on in our own home. SpouseMouse maintains she ‘ruined Britain forever’. I say she was preferable to James Callaghan or Neil Kinnock. My better half replies, ‘She killed off our society. End of’.
Anyway, onto the programme, which I found fascinating. I touched on some of these topics after Lady Thatcher died several weeks ago. Young Margaret elaborated more on them.
The Methodist Church
Alf and Beatrice Roberts were faithful Methodists.
Alf did not allow Sunday newspapers in the house. He did not find them suitable Sabbath reading material.
For Alf, the Methodist Church was the only church. He was dismissive of other Protestant denominations and had a particular distrust of the Catholic Church. He became concerned when Margaret made friends with one of her schoolmates, Mary. Alf feared that Mary would lead Margaret to Catholicism.
Alf was a lay minister. As such, the Roberts family attended church services three times on Sunday. Alf preached at many of these. Margaret absorbed these sermons, which in many ways, defined her spiritual and temporal values.
Although Margaret later attended more Anglican services as an adult, she and her husband Denis (Anglican) were married in the Wesleyan Chapel in City Road, London.
High fashion and impeccable appearance
Alf and Beatrice raised their two daughters above Alf’s corner grocery in Grantham, Lincolnshire.
Beatrice preferred to stay in the background, and it does not appear as if the girls were particularly close to her. That said, Beatrice was a seamstress and the girls absorbed their knowledge of fabric and fashion from her. Beatrice made items of clothing for Margaret, including lingerie. Beatrice also sewed a variety of items for the home, including curtains.
As an aside, anyone who has had a tailor or seamstress in the family cannot help but be interested in good taste with regard to clothes and appearance. Some readers might wonder why I place such value on aesthetics. It is because my paternal great-grandfather (whom I never met) was a tailor. Like Beatrice Roberts, he made many outfits — including coats — for his daughters, among them my grandmother. My grandmother took all of this on board, and what she couldn’t sew for my late father and aunt when they were young, she bought with a particular eye for fabric and cut, even during the Great Depression. My aunt didn’t sew too much but always bought stylish suits and skirts. Similarly, my father was very careful in choosing his attire. My mother also had an eye for clothes — quite possibly because my maternal grandmother spent hours at the sewing machine for her daughters. Along with attention to clothes goes hair and accessories. Dad had two or three pair of high-quality cufflinks which he wore; he was particular. The women in the family chose jewellery with care and their hair was immaculate.
So it was with the Roberts girls, Margaret in particular. Although Alf did not allow his daughters to go to dances until they had finished secondary school, both had fashion sense. When Muriel was away in Birmingham studying physiotherapy, Margaret would write her asking if she could borrow a strand of pearls for social events.
In an interview from 1982, Mrs Thatcher (as she was then) explained why she enjoyed wearing pearls:
They give the face a little lift.
She also advised:
Never press a hem. If you want to let the skirt down, you won’t be able to [because of the crease].
In letters to Muriel, Margaret described in great detail what she wore to dances and, once she went up to Oxford, dates with her beaux.
In fact, even one of Margaret’s boyfriends from Oxford — Tony Bray — could recall years later what she wore when they once went out for a country pub lunch. It was a fetching blue dress with matching coat. Bray said his date looked stunning.
Incidentally, the programme revealed that it was Tony Bray who, years later, mooted the idea of council tenants purchasing their own flats and homes. He and Margaret — then Prime Minister — discussed the plan privately at his suggestion.
Margaret also illustrated her letters with new additions to her wardrobe, including lingerie. She was particularly delighted when another suitor, Willie Cullen (more about whom later), gave her a beautiful black leather handbag with a monogram on the flap: MR. She wrote Muriel saying that, although she had no intention of marrying Willie, she was duty bound to continue dating him now that he had given her such a lovely gift.
Margaret also went into great detail about every meal she had, including drinks. She described the restaurant or ballroom decor in a way that must have made Muriel feel she was there with her.
Mark Thatcher — her son — told the interviewer that he rarely saw his mother in trousers. She wore them only when instructed to for certain official visits (e.g. military).
Home life in Grantham
Alf ran the corner shop, conveniently placed right at the dividing line between the middle and working class neighbourhoods of Grantham. By all accounts, he was a good grocer.
Conversation at home revolved around either the church or politics. In later years, Alf became mayor of Grantham and an alderman.
Therefore, it is no wonder that Margaret became politically active as an adult.
Alf was conscious that he was providing Muriel and Margaret with advantages that few of their contemporaries had. He later wrote Muriel about this, lamenting that Margaret did not seem very appreciative of the sacrifices and trail blazing he had done on their behalf.
He was right. My late mother-in-law was about the same age as Margaret Thatcher. She desperately wanted to go to university, but her father — an executive — said that girls were unsuited to higher education. My mother-in-law waited until she was married to pursue her interest in painting and art history. As a young mother, she also earned her City and Guilds certification in tailoring. She sewed many of her own outfits as well as items for the home: curtains, silk lampshades and cushions.
Schooldays and a love of America
Margaret was a diligent student and won a scholarship to Kesteven & Grantham Girls’ School, which describes itself as ‘a specialist science school’.
Note that she later took the title Baroness Thatcher of Kestaven (pron. ‘KESS-tuh-vun’), not Grantham!
It was at this time that she and Muriel began many years of correspondence. Margaret wrote of teachers she disliked, students whom she considered academic deadbeats and her own detailed school reports.
Margaret became a prefect and, in 1943, head girl. Her classmates remember her as a young woman with presence who was self-contained, mature beyond her years. One said that most were ‘impressed’ and ‘in awe of her’.
In her free time, Margaret enjoyed going to the State cinema in Grantham. She wrote Muriel about the films she and Beatrice saw. The same year she became head girl also saw the arrival of the United States Air Force at a base near Grantham.
The combination of American films at the State and American military in her town started her lifelong love affair with the United States. Thatcher biographer, journalist Charles Moore, explained that Margaret would have known of Ronald Reagan from the movies she saw and that he represented the American man she knew from the Second World War. Therefore, it was normal that the two would create or cement ‘the special relationship’ between the two countries in the 1980s.
Somerville College, Oxford
When Margaret went up to Oxford to read Chemistry at Somerville College, her life and connection with Grantham ended.
Again, Alf deserves much credit, especially for encouraging Margaret to apply to Oxford. Many fathers would not have done so. In fact, as Kesteven & Grantham Girls’ School did not offer Latin, Alf hired a a local schoolteacher to tutor Margaret in Latin so that she could pass the entrance exam.
Oxford students were encouraged to do their part for the war effort and Margaret, not surprisingly, joined the committee which provided entertainment for American troops stationed nearby.
It took Margaret time to settle in to life in college. She wasn’t close with the other girls at Somerville. Some of her contemporaries interviewed said this was because Somerville was known for being left-wing. However, I think Margaret had the outlet for her feelings and experiences in her correspondence with Muriel, so that need was already answered. It is also worth noting that both young women had similar forthright and feisty personalities.
The other girls, those interviewed said, noticed that Margaret was self-contained and had an intellectual curiosity.
It wasn’t long then before she needed an outlet for this. She joined the Oxford University Conservative Association. One of her contemporaries was the Duke of Buccleuch (pron. ‘Bookh-lew’). (The Duke, incidentally, is probably the most qualified by heritage to be our monarch.) He described Margaret Roberts as
very focussed — she knew what she was doing.
These qualities impressed not only the Duke but also the other members of the aristocracy who belonged to the university’s Conservative Association. In fact, the Duke once organised a whipround for Margaret when she was low on funds. Other members donated gladly.
Margaret’s social life largely involved around parties and dances with Conservative Association members. They frequently met at the city’s iconic Randolph Hotel, which features in a number of Morse episodes.
So esteemed was Margaret that the Conservative Association elected her president.
She earned a Second Class degree in Chemistry in 1947.
The world of work — and courtship
As is common for many university graduates, the real world is a letdown. Margaret had the same experience as she interviewed for her first job.
She also had the handicap of being a woman who was forthright and knew her own mind — qualities which, even today, are valued in men but not the ‘fairer sex’. One ICI interviewer wrote that she was too overbearing to ever have a career there. This may go some way towards explaining why there is no ICI today.
Margaret was hired by a plastics firm in Manningtree, Essex, on the River Stour. Manningtree was close enough to London, which pleased her as she had hoped to enrol in law school. However, letters to Muriel reveal that Margaret found the work tedious and, contrary to what she had thought, the post to which she was assigned offered no advancement to management.
Still, work, as we know, pays the bills and finances social activities. Margaret missed her sparkling Oxford social life and decided to join the Colchester (Essex) Young Conservatives.
Another aside here. In the years following the Second World War, the Young Conservative associations were a gateway to courtship and marriage. My mother- and father-in-law met through the Young Conservatives as did their closest friends, with whom they maintained lifelong contact. Friendships and marriages formed there were strong and, from what I understand, the enthusiasm was infectious not only on the hustings but at social gatherings.
Margaret briefly dated a fellow Young Conservative, Brian Harrison, who had recently graduated from Cambridge. He remembers her as being a very good dancer.
In October 1948, Margaret was part of Oxford’s graduate delegation attending the Conservative Party conference that year. It was through that meeting that she met the people who would later propose her in 1950 as Conservative candidate for Parliament in Dartford, Kent — a safe Labour seat. One Dartford Conservative described her enthusiasm:
Hearing her speak was exciting!
Margaret began dating a farmer, Willie Cullen, aged 35 — the man who would later buy her the monogrammed handbag. Margaret seemed to find out all sorts of financial details about Willie and described his situation to Muriel. Whilst he seemed to fit the bill, she was unsure whether she could live as a farmer’s wife. She also wrote Muriel about a dinner party he had where the other farmers’ wives went off to the sitting room afterward. Margaret stayed with the men to talk politics, which was not well received by some of the farmers. One leapt to her defence saying that there was no way the women would be discussing politics. Margaret was allowed to remain with the men.
Margaret enjoyed being with men a few years older than she. Those who were interviewed for the programme suggested that she actively sought them out. In the latter days of her relationship with Willie, she also met 36-year old Denis Thatcher and 47-year old Dr Robert Henderson. Thatcher, divorced, owned his own business. Henderson, never married, was the inventor of the British version of the iron lung. He worked at a hospital in Dartford.
In 1950, Margaret was the Conservative candidate for MP of Dartford. At a local civic event, her Labour opponent expressed his fascination with her and asked her to dance. Although Margaret later lost the election, she was able to increase the number of Conservative votes by several thousand.
It was at this time when Margaret was seeing more of the doctor and less of Willie. She felt obliged to make the break as painless as possible for Willie. In a letter to Muriel, she effectively handed the farmer over to her sister, provided she was in agreement. Muriel met Willie and within several weeks they were engaged. Margaret was maid of honour at their wedding. Muriel settled in to farming life easily and the couple raised three children. One of them, Andrew, was interviewed for the programme. Muriel bequeathed her letter collection to him.
Meanwhile, Margaret had concerns about Dr Henderson, despite her great admiration for him. She was aware that they had come from different social classes and feared he would marry someone else. She believed it was only a matter of time.
Life in London — and marriage
In 1951, Margaret moved to London. She worked hard to fix up her own flat with some assistance from decorators. Denis Thatcher proved a welcome distraction from hours spent on DIY.
Three months after moving into the flat, Margaret broke off her relationship with Dr Henderson. However, she seems to have remained friends with him as evidenced by a medical question she put to him some years later when her son Mark was born.
Although Margaret was not keen on Denis when she first dated him — prior to moving to London — he grew on her and they enjoyed each other’s company. Alf also gave his stamp of approval to the relationship.
Later that year, Margaret ran again as Conservative candidate for Parliament for Dartford. Again, she lost to her Labour opponent but continued to build on the Conservative votes from the preceding year. Denis helped to campaign for her but they kept their engagement a secret; as Denis was divorced, it would not have looked good for her. Recall that, two years later, Princess Margaret was forced to break off her relationship with Group Captain Peter Townsend for the same reason. It would not have reflected well on the Royal Family, especially the young Queen.
This [marriage] was the biggest thing in life!
The couple spent their wedding night at the Savoy before flying to Madeira for their honeymoon.
And so it proved an enduring, loving union. Denis was a reliable and unfailing source of support for his wife. He was happy to remain in the background, offering advice in private. He also acknowledged that he didn’t care much for meeting people, although he did meet many. He had a close circle of loyal friends. Private Eye parodied these friendships whilst Margaret was Prime Minister in the series Dear Bill, a collection of fictional and witty letters from Denis to one of his friends.
The Thatchers lived in Denis’s home in London’s fashionable Chelsea, where they often entertained their friends.
It wasn’t long afterward that Margaret began studying law. As if this were not enough, she applied to Conservative Central office in June of 1952, asking them to put her forward as a Parliamentary candidate. Even then, the Conservatives were looking for more female candidates — this is nothing new. Yet, this proved difficult. Margaret’s forthright personality did not always gel with the local Conservative associations. Central Office made other excuses: she didn’t understand farming; industrial constituencies needed men, not women.
In August 1953, Margaret gave birth prematurely to fraternal twins Mark and Carol. Denis, who hadn’t expected his wife to go into labour so early, was at a test match at the Oval at the time.
Five months later, Margaret passed her law exam. A nanny minded the babies, but Margaret wrote Muriel that she was conscious that the nanny also needed her rest, so she shared night duty with her. To give her more time at home, Margaret decided to specialise in tax law.
It was around this time that Margaret and Muriel wrote each other less. Each had their own lives by now. Muriel was on the farm in Essex and Margaret was still eyeing a political career. However, the families still visited each other, which continued even when Margaret spent prime ministerial weekends at Chequers.
Andrew Cullen said that Margaret Thatcher — one of the most famous women in the world for over a decade — was an affectionate aunt, ‘like anyone else’s aunt’. He added that she remembered the Cullen children’s birthdays and big occasions. He described their parents and the Thatchers as
all good friends.
Life in politics
In 1958, Margaret was selected as candidate for Finchley and won the seat in 1959 with a majority of 16,000 votes. One of her constituents at the time said:
We were lucky to have her!
At last, Margaret Thatcher was able to take her place as a Member of Parliament.
Alf was ‘proud as punch’ to see Margaret in the House of Commons. He died in 1970, so never saw her become Britain’s first Prime Minister in 1978.
Once she became an MP, Margaret’s correspondence with Alf became rarer and rarer. Alf wrote Muriel with his concerns. Muriel’s contact with her sister was somewhat more sustained.
All credit to Alf and Denis
Mrs Thatcher was careful to credit Alf with her success.
Indeed, it could be Methodism’s prominent placement of women as church leaders which influenced Alf in ensuring his daughters were well educated. He also had no objection to Margaret’s entering politics.
John and Charles Wesley’s mother Susanna was a powerful influence not only in the home but during Mr Wesley’s absences. Susanna, a lay preacher told me, used to lead prayer meetings in the family home whilst Wesley was in London.
John Wesley granted a licence to preach to six women, the first being Sarah Crosby in 1761. It seems unlikely that these women softened the church. As he was such a keen evangelist, I doubt he would have chosen women who were seen to dilute the Methodist message.
This is what Wesley had to say in a sermon of his from 1786, ‘On Visiting the Sick’. He, like I, believed that keeping women submissive is Islamic (emphases mine):
It has long passed for a maxim with many that “women are only to be seen but not heard.” And accordingly many of them are brought up in such a manner as if they were only designed for agreeable playthings! No, it is the deepest unkindness; it is horrid cruelty; it is mere Turkish barbarity. And I know not how any women of sense and spirit can submit to it.
It is heartbreaking to read today of ‘Christian’ men — Catholic and Protestant — who want to restrict women in society.
My Catholic maternal grandfather was guilty of this around the time when Alf was encouraging his girls to fly the coop. My mother, Lady Thatcher’s age, was forbidden to move out of the house until she married. My mum — gifted, responsible and diligent — dreamed of moving to the big city and pursuing her own career, but he said no. My mother did not marry until she was 35. She had a long wait. Even then, she was handed over to my dad. She never had any independence in between. Yet, her Catholic friends from childhood did; by the time my mother got married, her girlfriends had been living on their own for years.
Therefore, finding out more about Alf’s fatherly example is important to me. We need good models of manhood, fathers who do not fear or denigrate women.
Denis Thatcher falls into this category, too.
Again, it is soul-destroying to read about Catholics and Protestant husbands who think it’s all right to beat their wives into submission.
I give Denis full credit for being such a wonderful husband and support to his wife. Her ambitions were not his, yet he was there for her. He was his wife’s confidant. They were best friends as well as a married couple.
I would ask all men to reflect carefully on their attitudes towards women. Some are angry at them. Some love them as long as they are subjugated. Some fathers have a really unhealthy relationship with their daughters (purity rituals). Some husbands have a pathological and abusive relationship with their wives.
To those men, my message is to look at the example of Alf and Denis and to learn well from it.
It doesn’t matter what we think of Margaret Thatcher’s politics. What does matter is that she had a father who raised her to lead and a husband who faithfully encouraged that leadership.
Over the past few years, English courts have convicted Muslim gangs luring vulnerable girls into sex slavery with drink and drugs.
Previous cases concerned Rochdale, Derby and Telford. All involved Muslim men and white girls. The latest case to be tried involved a group of men from Oxford.
The case was heard at the Old Bailey. The Guardian reported (May 14, 2013, emphases mine below):
Seven men were found guilty of a total of 43 charges relating to six victims. The gang included two sets of brothers, Akhtar Dogar, 32, and Anjum Dogar, 31, and Bassam Karrar, 33, and Mohammed Karrar, 38. The other men were Kamar Jamil, 27, Zeeshan Ahmed, 27 and Assad Hussain, 32. All lived in Oxford.
Mohammed Hussain, 25, who was cleared of three counts of sexual activity with a child, had insisted he thought the girl was over 16. A ninth defendant, who cannot be named, was cleared of a similar charge.
Ahmed had to be removed from the dock by security staff after he punched one of the acquitted men …
All of the girls — 50 in total — were in ‘care’ under the local authority. They came from one private care home. Staff and managers in those homes are supposed to protect their charges. Yet, the ‘grooming’ of girls by this group of men had been going on since 2004 — nearly ten years. It was only investigated in 2010, thanks to a proactive detective, Simon Morton. Testimony revealed that social services were aware of the goings-on as were Thames Valley Police.
Girl A, 14 at the time, attempted to escape the evil. She took a taxi back to her care home but had no money for the fare. The manager of the home refused to pay the driver, who drove the girl back into Oxford and, inevitably, to the gang.
If I had been the driver, I would have swallowed the fare and left her at the home. The manager, incidentally, has since been fired.
One can only imagine the trauma these girls have been through physically and psychologically. There is also a sociological element here, an inconvenient truth. How will these young women handle the rest of their lives coming into contact with Muslim-dominated occupations — minicab drivers, convenience store staff and post office employees?
The Guardian has been told by one victim, known as Girl C, in an interview after she gave her evidence, that the men exclusively wanted white girls to abuse.
Girl D described how she was branded by her abuser, Mohammed Karrar, and sold to other men for £600 an hour. Over five years she was repeatedly raped by groups of men in what she described as “torture sex”.
Kudos to the detective who took the time and the care to break this ring of abuse. I would be interested to know how much opposition he met with. No doubt there would have been political correctness on the one hand and aspersions cast on the girls.
The Guardian describes how the case unfolded. It would make an excellent teleplay:
Simon Morton, then detective chief inspector, put the men under surveillance, traced their phones, pulled every social services record of missing girls in Oxford who he thought were victims and built the case against the gang meticulously.
He said: “All the girls are really pleased and proud that they have given evidence. What this was was an organised criminal gang who effectively owned these girls. They isolated them and turned them against everyone: adults, carers, loved ones, social services, the police. The girls were completely brainwashed.
“These men managed to hide their activities for a considerable time and it takes a different mindset to understand what was going on.
“This was happening in Oxford – the city of dreaming spires. If it was happening there, the ramifications for all cities are huge.”
I’m awaiting future cases in Birmingham and London. Given our ‘turn a blind eye’ and ‘you cannot say anything’ society, it will be some time before these get investigated. It’s much easier to ignore such crime in the name of promoting diversity.
Unfortunately, life is not like a 1970s Coca-Cola commercial. Not everyone holds hands and wants to ‘teach the world to sing in perfect harmony’.
My prayers go out to these girls — future wives and mothers.
As for the gang, they have not yet been sentenced but Judge Peter Rook QC [Queen's Counsel] said that long custodial sentences were ‘inevitable’. Let’s hope so.
Another Easter passes and, with it, no shortage of Episcopal Church closures in the United States.
Americans of a certain age remember the friendly signs with the Episcopalian shield which read:
The Episcopal Church welcomes you
Those, sadly, will go the way of the Burma Shave signs and the dodo.
Where we travel in the US, the Episcopal signs no longer exist. I wonder why … when all one has to read is Virtue Online (David Virtue, that is) for the latest closures:
Virginia City, Nevada – February 2013 – Please pray for the faithful as they struggle to keep St Paul’s the Prospector open:
Right now, the small parish, which was founded in 1861, is struggling to preserve its church, built in 1876 after the original structure was destroyed in the famous Virginia City fire of 1875. Attendance at Sunday services might number only a dozen or so people with a collection of $60 or so, said parishioner Helen Sundt.
Foremost on the list of things to do is to upgrade the church’s massively outdated electrical system. The cost of fixing it will run about $400, but only because a friend of the church is donating his labor, said the Rev. Ken Curtis, pastor.
Avon, Connecticut – December 2012 – Christ Episcopal Church closed:
The Rev. Halsey (“Chip”) Stevens III retired as priest-in-charge last December. Rev. Peter Stebinger has been serving as chaplain for Christ Church since then.
Canaan, Connecticut – February 2013 – This Christ Church hangs by a thread:
If, indeed, the church closes, the effect will ripple through the community. Its faithful congregants will be most directly affected, deprived of the spiritual comfort of a beautiful sanctuary where some of them were baptized and married. A classic stone church, based on the design of Richard Upjohn, the American architect who pioneered the restoration of Gothic architecture for American churches, its construction materials were dug out of Canaan’s rocky hills and it has been a defining presence in the center of Canaan for 168 years. Without its congregation it will become a hollow presence, another rent in the fabric of the town.
Erie, Pennsylvania – February 2013 – The Church of the Holy Spirit closed:
‘Sunday, February 10 is our last day of worship at our church at 501 West 31st Street. From this point on, we will be worshiping with the congregation of Saint Mark’s Episcopal Church at 4701 Old French Road,’ said a terse statement at the church’s website.
Totowa, New Jersey – January 2013: Another Christ Church closed its doors after 91 years:
There are not enough parishioners and is not enough money to keep the church going, according to Reverend Mark Waldon, who leads the church.
There are 15 to 20 worshipers on any particular Sunday, he said. While the priest, who has been a member of the church clergy since 1969, can remember a time when there were about 75 church-goers on the typical Sunday.
Gerhardt attributes the decline in membership to the aging population of the church.
Or, perhaps, in some cases, there is something else afoot. The general timbre of the Episcopal Church, maybe?
With a tip of the hat to my Lutheran friend, Dr Gregory Jackson, we find spurious postmodern accounts of the Resurrection at no less than … the Episcopal Cathedral in Washington, DC, featuring their Bishop, Marianne Budde. An Episcopalian, Dr David Virtue (‘VOL’ below), has a go at the bishop.
Excerpts follow, emphases mine:
Washington Episcopal Bishop Marianne Budde, writing in her blog on the subject of Resurrection, opined that if someone were to discover a tomb with Jesus’ remains in it, the entire enterprise would not come crashing down.
VOL: Actually, Bishop it would. Our faith would be in vain and we would be of all men (and women) most miserable. St. Paul writes in I Cor. 15, “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance[a]: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas,[b] and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.”
BUDDE: Someone once asked me if I thought the resurrection was necessary. He meant it in the most sincere way, as a person of both faith and doubt who wondered if we needed to be bound by so unreasonable a proposition that Jesus’ tomb was, in fact, empty on that first Easter morning. I hesitated in answering because there seemed to be layers of argument behind the question. My answer was yes, resurrection is the foundation of Christian faith, but probably not in the way he meant it.
VOL: What way is that, Bishop?
BUDDE: To say that resurrection is essential doesn’t mean that if someone were to discover a tomb with Jesus’ remains in it that the entire enterprise would come crashing down. The truth is that we don’t know what happened to Jesus after his death, any more than we can know what will happen to us. What we do know from the stories handed down is how Jesus’ followers experienced his resurrection. What we know is how we experience resurrection ourselves.
VOL: Total rubbish, Bishop. This is pure solipsism and subjectivism. (See above.) There were eyewitnesses to the event. The Bible says the risen Christ first appeared to Mary Magdalene and other women. Even the apostles did not believe Mary when she told them the tomb was empty. Jesus, who always had special respect for these women, honored them as the first eyewitnesses to his resurrection. Now I would have thought, Bishop that you, as a raging feminist, would have latched onto that if for no other reason than that women were the first to see and believe. The male Gospel writers had no choice but to report this embarrassing act of God’s favor, because that was how it happened. Your argument also completely ignores the historical fact of Christ’s resurrection that no serious theologian has ever really denied (and please don’t defer to Spong or Countrymen as they are jokes). St. Paul through Augustine to Cranmer, Calvin, Luther, Wesley, Billy Graham and Rick Warren and tens of thousands of archbishops, bishops and laity in between, have all affirmed the bodily resurrection of Jesus. Not a single Pope has ever denied it.
“How we experience resurrection ourselves…” could just as easily apply to ice cream or a good steak dinner. Building your argument on experience is as vacuous and empty-headed as a teenager announcing he’s hungry after quaffing down an entire 5-course dinner (with seconds) and then declaring that his experience tells him that he wants more.
One Episcopal theologian upon reading Bishop Budde’s take wrote to VOL, “Judicious, seemingly reasonable — and utterly inadequate. We ‘don’t know what happened to Jesus after his death’? Really? Why bother?”
VOL: Actually, Bishop, it is not our “self-consciousness” that is the problem. It is our SINFULNESS …
Your views border on the heresy of Docetism, Bishop, a view that held that the disciples thought his body had been actually reanimated. Docetism taught that Jesus only appeared to have a body, that he was not really incarnate, (Greek, “dokeo” = “to seem”). This error developed out of the dualistic philosophy which viewed matter as inherently evil, that God could not be associated with matter, and that God, being perfect and infinite, could not suffer. Therefore, God as the word, could not have become flesh per John 1:1,14, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us.. ” This denial of a true incarnation meant that Jesus did not truly suffer on the cross and that He did not rise from the dead.
The basic principle of Docetism was refuted by the Apostle John in 1 John 4:2-3. “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; and this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.”
There are at least seven proofs for the Resurrection Proof that would be well worth your while declaiming from the pulpit in Washington National Cathedral, bishop, and they are these:
#1: The Empty Tomb of Jesus
#2: The Holy Women Eyewitnesses
#3: Jesus’ Apostles’ New-Found Courage
#4: Changed Lives of James and Others
#5: Large Crowd of Eyewitnesses
#6: Conversion of Paul
#7: They Died for Jesus
If you don’t, Bishop, your diocese will continue to rot from the inside out and, in time, die.
Oh, yes, that is a very real possibility, indeed. This is why I urge readers to study the Bible, not their favourite popular authors’ opinions on the Bible. (That said, one will need solid commentaries by proper biblical scholars.)
A number of ignorant Episcopalian clergy wonder what is happening to their congregations. The alert, Bible-believing ones work to repair the damage in their own with scriptural preaching and pragmatic godliness.
It’s interesting that Virtue’s commenters linked ‘white women”s activities to closures, dating from the temperance movement of the 19th century to 20th century holy orders and, from there, to 21st century apostasy. Hmm. I’ll leave you to ponder that one.
My only riposte would be that, whilst I agree, there have been many men of different races who have travelled — and continue to pursue — that same road. I’ve known a few personally.
I realise that that Global South (‘developing world’) understands the clarity between good and evil much better than many Westerners do — partly because of their personal circumstances — but do they have an answer for Westerners balanced on a theological-philosophical plane? How can we in the West persuade our clergy out of the postmodern revisionism of the 20th century back to the eternal truth of Scripture?
If that sounded Episcopalian or Anglican, it was meant so to do.
This is where the Anglican Communion in the West finds itself in the present day.
Lord, who will answer?
The ancient ceremony of the Churching of Women is no longer used in the Anglican Communion.
In recent years, the Thanksgiving for the Gift of a Child has replaced it. These prayers are said during a Sunday service, which involves the whole family.
In the 20th century, both feminists and clergy objected to the Churching of Women which they believed denigrated women, suggesting the necessity for personal purification and supplication.
However, a two-part essay from 1995 by Natalie Knödel from Durham University questions whether postmodernists really grasped the ceremony’s significance. Whilst she acknowledges that it could be construed as being devised by men as a statement about women’s sin dating from Eve, her research has uncovered that, centuries ago, women considered it as their day to celebrate with each other.
Those who are interested in Church history and traditions or in women’s relationship with the Church will find Knödel’s essay ‘The Thanksgiving of Women after Childbirth, commonly called the Churching of Women’ of interest: parts 1 and 2.
As I mentioned at the end of last week in my Candlemas post, Mary went to the Temple 40 days after giving birth to Jesus. This was after her ritual purification as mandated in Leviticus and Exodus. After her ritual bath — mikvah — on the appropriate day, she could once again be accepted into the Temple for public worship. However, the infant Jesus also had to be presented at the Temple on the same day. Joseph accompanied both; he might have been asked to read from the Torah. Whilst Catholics put the emphasis of February 2 on Mary, Protestants who commemorate the feast day place more importance on Jesus’s Presentation.
From the example of the Holy Family, it would appear that today’s brief ceremony of the Thanksgiving for the Gift of a Child is truer to St Luke’s Gospel (Luke 2) than the Churching of Women which came about centuries later.
Knödel tells us that sequestering a woman who had given birth and welcoming her back into society was and, in some cases, a part of cultures around the world. Childbirth, then and now, is still fraught with risk for millions of women and newborns. It is something which men fear; only recently have they been encouraged to be present in Western delivery rooms. (Watching a film of an actual childbirth as I did at university is a harrowing experience. You’ll either really want children or be put off for life — no pun intended. It is bloody and gory for some and ‘absolutely beautiful’ for others.) Therefore, some societies designate a specific day on which they reintegrate the mother into daily life. This means they can work in the fields or tend house once again.
With regard to Europe and Christianity of the Middle Ages, Knödel points out that the Church had laws in place to protect pregnant women. Expectant mothers were relieved of the obligation to fast and anyone who beat them was subject to ecclesiastical punishment.
In the early Church up to the Middle Ages, prayers during a service involving a newborn focussed on the churching of the child rather than the mother. Often this was part of the christening ceremony. However, privately at home, various prayers and rituals revolved around the mother’s safe delivery. Some of these prayer sessions involved intercessions to St Anne, Mary’s mother. Other women prayed that St Margaret of Antioch — patron saint of childbirth — intercede. It was not uncommon for women in these home prayer groups to place small written blessings on the womb of the mother.
Meanwhile, during this era of home ceremonies, clergy were debating the day when new mothers should reappear in church. Augustine of Canterbury asked Pope Gregory the Great for his advice on the matter. The Venerable Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of England records that Pope Gregory — in a minority of clergy — believed that sternly forbidding the woman to return to church before a certain time would intimate that she was personally guilty of Eve’s sin, thereby turning this sequestration period into a punishment. A more usual tack taken by clergy and emperors was to forbid their presence for 40 days and grant a home visit for Communion only if the women were very ill or dying. Others allowed the women to appear in church but seated with unbaptised enquirers — catechumens — meaning that they could not receive Communion.
Around the 11th century, receiving mothers back into the church was codified as a separate ceremony. Clergy developed various rules, including a special pew — ‘churching seat’ – where the women sat or placement at the entrance of the church (in the back, separate from husband and family) and a certain type of veil for them to wear. Where mothers were allowed to receive Holy Communion, some churches set aside a certain part of the altar rail for them.
Once the rite was codified, it focussed on the mother, not the child. In pre-Reformation England, the Sarum Missal was widely used. Whilst called a ‘benediction’, the Sarum rite for the churching of women started with a purification ritual whereby the priest sprinkled or placed holy water on the woman. She stood outside of the church whilst he did this. Once the holy water was administered, she could then go inside.
During the Reformation, the holy water element was dispensed with as it was seen as a ‘magical’ Catholic superstition. However, the earliest editions of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer retained most of the Sarum rite. The Puritans later objected to the Churching of Women, asking why childbirth was so special and, interestingly, why prayers should be said on every occasion.
Therefore, during the Interregnum (Cromwell’s rule between Charles I’s beheading and Charles II’s Restoration in the 17th century), the Puritans banned the Book of Common Prayer and with it the Churching of Women. By that time, however, the ceremony had become a traditional event which women enjoyed. It was a ‘girls’ day out’, because the father and baby were not necessarily required to attend church on that day. This meant that the mother and her lady friends — ‘gossips’ (a corruption of Godspeaks) or ‘goodies’ (goodwomen) — could go to church and celebrate afterwards, probably at someone’s home. Given that information, it comes as no surprise when Knödel reveals that it was common for women in Puritan times to ask an Anglican priest to perform the ceremony in secret.
Two years into the Restoration, Charles II issued a new edition of the Book of Common Prayer. Anglicans still use his 1662 version today. It includes the Churching of Women. Puritans who were still in England at the time refused to have their women churched, running the risk of church discipline. Yet, even the Anglicans who went to the American colonies included the rite in their Prayer Book of 1789. It remained in subsequent Amerian editions until 1979, when it was replaced with A Thanksgiving for the Birth or Adoption of a Child.
As stated above, the Anglican Communion has returned to a set of prayers and Psalms which focus on the child, as Candlemas does on February 2 with the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple. The Roman Catholic church includes a prayer of blessing for the family as part of the baptismal ceremony.
Whether the emphasis lay on the mother or child, the Church has recognised God in creating human life, His goodness in granting a safe delivery and thanksgiving that He preserves both the life of the mother and child.
At this point, you might be wondering what happened where births out of wedlock or where the deaths of mother or child were involved. Where the old rite of the Churching of Women was concerned, Knödel writes that unmarried mothers were required to appear in church and confess their sin of fornication before being churched. A mother could still be churched even if her newborn had since died; the ceremony focussed on the mother, not the child. In the event that the mother died, whilst some churches allowed a substitute lady to be churched in the mother’s place, the Church of England frowned on the practice. Although interred in the church graveyard, unchurched mothers were sometimes buried in a section apart from other church members and women of childbearing age — 15 to 45 — were instructed not to enter that part of the cemetery.
In closing, what follows are excerpts of the 1662 prayers and Psalms for the Churching of Women. Note how thanksgiving is very much a part of the ceremony — and the ‘quiver full’ verse in Psalm 127:
The Woman, at the usual time after her Delivery, shall come into the Church decently apparelled, and there shall kneel down in some convenient place, as hath been accustomed, or as the Ordinary shall direct: And then the Priest shall say unto her,
ORASMUCH as it hath pleased Almighty God of his goodness to give you safe deliverance, and hath preserved you in the great danger of Child-birth: you shall therefore give hearty thanks unto God …
(Then shall the Priest say the 116th Psalm.) Dilexi quoniam.
AM well pleased: that the Lord hath heard the voice of my prayer;
That he hath inclined his ear unto me: therefore will I call upon him as long as I live.
The snares of death compassed me round about: and the pains of hell gat hold upon me.
I found trouble and heaviness, and I called upon the Name of the Lord: 0 Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul.
Gracious is the Lord, and righteous: yea, our God is merciful.
The Lord preserveth the simple: I was in misery, and he helped me.
Turn again then unto thy rest, 0 my soul: for the Lord hath rewarded thee …
Or, Psalm 127. Nisi Dominus.
XCEPT the Lord build the house: their labour is but lost that build it.
Except the Lord keep the city: the watchman waketh but in vain.
It is but lost labour that ye haste to rise up early, and so late take rest, and eat the bread of carefulness: for so he giveth his beloved sleep.
Lo, children and the fruit of the womb: are an heritage and gift that cometh of the Lord.
Like as the arrows in the hand of the giant: even so are the young children.
Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed when they speak with their enemies in the gate …
Minister. Let us pray.
ALMIGHTY God, we give thee humble thanks for that thou hast vouchsafed to deliver this woman thy servant from the great pain and peril of Child-birth: Grant, we beseech thee, most merciful Father, that she, through thy help, may both faithfully live, and walk according to thy will, in this life present; and also may be partaker of everlasting glory in the life to come; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Woman, that cometh to give her thanks, must offer accustomed offerings; and, if there be a Communion, it is convenient that she receive the holy Communion
The mother’s offering to the church was generally the cap or alb (robe) in which her child was christened.