Friday, 9 December 2011

Friday Fasting, Hanseatic Hamburg and Gourock, united by Herring

I’m not really known for my cookery skills nor do I have any interest in the UK’s current love affair with middle class “foodie” bores, you know the ones, those awful TV chefs with the massive mock-rustic kitchens. Most of all, I dislike the absurd notion that having an interest in food somehow makes you more cultured or interesting. Newsflash…A liking for Pasta does not mean that you are intimate with the films of Fellini or the music of Verdi. Having said that, one food which I do eat plenty of is fish, especially smoked and pickled Herring served with vegetables and potatoes (especially on a Friday as part of my abstinence from meat). With the consumption of Herring comes a genuine and AUTHENTIC rich cultural and historic tradition which you won’t find among the Gastro-bores. The difference between Herring culture and the pseudo-Gourmet guff of the foodies is the fact that the tradition of catching and eating Herring is firmly rooted in the industrial working classes of Northern Europe and before that, it was popular among the peasants of rural Europe. (You’ll not find pickled or smoked herring on the menu a Gordon Ramsay’s.) It’s also worth contrasting the difference between the childish hysterics of Gordon Ramsey with the noble, dignified conduct of east coast Scottish trawler men out on the seas risking their lives. These men remain stoically calm despite the high risks involved in this type of work. If a trawler man has a bad day at work then there is the very real risk of death by drowning. However, if Gordon Ramsay has a bad day in the kitchen then worst case scenario, some bloated bourgeoisie won’t get fed, hardly the end of the world?

However, getting back to the noble Herring…Smoked Herring (Kippers) were once commonly enjoyed as treat; most popularly with the urban working-class population of Scotland before World War II. Today the eating of pickled Herring is still hugely popular in Germany, Holland, Belgium and in Sweden too. This is because of the Hanseatic League and their association with Herring. The Hanseatic League was founded in the twelfth century by an alliance between the northern towns of Hamburg and Luebeck. Luebeck’s fishing fleet had easy access to the herring spawning grounds off the lower coast of Sweden. A large portion of the diet of Northern European Catholics was made up of Herring since there were many fast days and the church forbade the eating of meat on Friday. Abstinence from meat during the fasts were rigidly observed at this time. (Oh how things have changed) As such, Luebeck was in a strong position to capitalize on the market in herring. Meanwhile, Hamburg had easy access to the salt produced in the salt mines at Kiel, and salting and drying of meat and fish made transport and distribution possible. It made sense then, for the merchants of these two towns to trade together. The trade between the merchant associations of Hamburg and Luebeck provided a model for the merchant associations of the other North German cities to follow and in 1201 joined the league.
Today, there are many different variations of pickled Herring which are popular in the Netherlands and Northern Germany such as Soused herring, Rollmops and Brathering but it’s not just the Dutch and Germans who love Herring, Scotland too has a long tradition of fishing and eating Herring.

Indeed, three hundred years ago, Herring was so plentiful here in the Firth of Clyde that some boats came from as far afield as the Isle of Man to fish these waters. In Gourock, local fishermen used mussels to bait their lines and the shells, discarded by generations of fishermen, formed a blue-black embankment along the shore. It is also thought that the first Red Herring ever cured in Great Britain was cured at Gourock in 1688. (The picture above is of a trawler of the coast of Gourock.) Also, Mallaig was once the busiest herring port in Europe and is famous for its traditionally smoked kippers, as well as Stornoway kippers and Loch Fyne kippers. In fact, the Scots were even involved in a battle for the fish. The Battle of the Herrings was a military action in France, just north of Orleans which took place in 1429. The cause of the battle was an attempt by the French to intercept and divert a supply convoy of Herring headed for English forces. The French were assisted by a Scottish Army in this battle.

So perhaps it would be good to restore the Friday Fast again and get back to eating the good old Herring, real Northern European “folk” food!

Monday, 5 December 2011

Adolph Kolping and the Gesellenvereine: A model for Social Teaching and the Catholic working classes

One of the worst things about the decline of Catholic Europe is the fact that this decline goes hand in hand with growing influence American Catholicism, especially through social media. Click on any generic Catholic forum and it will be dominated by angry right-wing conservatives spouting there own garish brand of distinctly American Catholicism. For example, look at the especially crass Michael Voris or Father John Zuhlsdorf. With this type of U.S. Catholicism comes their Calvinist baggage and a faith which is highly confrontational, dualistic and individualistic with little or no interest in Social Justice, Peacemaking or Workers rights. Such social concerns are dismissed by our American cousins as Marxism. Sure, you’ll find that they have plenty to say on abortion, euthanasia, Gay Marriage etc…but don’t ever expect them to ever question their own heretical patriotism, flag worship, nationalism and loyalty to the worst kind of free market exploitation.

On none of these forums will you ever read any criticisms of the worst excesses of de-humanizing capitalist materialism and consumerism. Instead, the Church’s entire Social teaching is basically ignored or labelled in the same box with the disobedient modernist, ultra-liberal wing of the Church (Most of whom are equally middle class). The problem we have here is that there is no real tradition of Christian Democracy or even Christian (Social) Democracy in the U.S.
Perhaps such Catholics would do well to look back to the politics of the various Catholic Parties, early Christian Democratic Parties and social movements of German Rhineland, Flanders and the Netherlands. All these movements were 100% loyal to the Magisterium but yet also concerned with the welfare of the working classes with no conflict between the two. The Christian Democracy movement forged the gap between the Catholic Church and the modern nation state. It did so by using Catholic social teaching, twinning solidarity – with its emphasis on the “social market” and the proper role of the state in economic life – and subsidiarity, with its support of the family and Trade Unions. This pro-family position could be seen in the parties actual economic policies such as fair wages. Compare this with our American “pro-family” cousins.

One such movement is the Kolping Society with its origins firmly rooted in the working classes of Cologne… The Gesellenvereine (usual translation Journeymen's Unions) were German Roman Catholic societies set up in the nineteenth century. They were originated by Adolph Kopling, called the “Journeymen's Father” (Gesellenvater). They had for aims the religious, moral, and professional improvement of young men 1849 Kolping was appointed assistant-priest at Cologne Cathedral. With friends, ecclesiastics and laymen, he founded a Gesellenverein, and began free instruction through it. The Cologne society soon acquired its own home, and opened there a refuge, or hospice, for young travelling journeymen.
Kolping was energetic and eloquent both as speaker and writer. He visited frequently the great industrial centres of Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Hungary. In a short time societies of young Catholic journeymen were formed in many Rhenish towns, in Westphalia, and finally throughout the German-speaking world.
When Kolping died (4 December 1865), the Gesellenverein numbered about 400 branch unions. In 1901 they had reached the number of 1086, with a membership of 80,000 journeymen and 120,000 master-workmen. They existed in many other European countries, also. Besides providing for Catholic doctrine, the societies conducted classes (book-keeping, arithmetic, drawing, literary composition, music, natural sciences, etc.) In the larger cities there were free classes in crafts. Instruction was designed especially for those workmen who aimed at establishing a business of their own. The principal publication was the Kolpingsblatt.

The society still exists today, from the website…

The International Kolping Society is a catholic social organization founded by Adolph Kolping. The members create a family-like and life accompanying community. The International Kolping Society promotes through education and activities the development of its members in many fields of the daily life. It consists of local Kolping families which form diocesan or regional organizations and National Kolping Societies.

Goals and tasks

According to its programme the Kolping Society wants to:
enable its members to prove themselves as Christians in the word
in their profession, marriage and family, in the Church, society and state.
To offer help to its members and to the society as a whole.
To promote the common good in the Christian spirit through the active participation of its members, individually or as a group, and to take part in the continuing improvement and humanization of the society.

More trouble in Flanders

According to Rorate Caeli blog St Catherine's church in Brussels is soon to be turned into a fruit and vegetable market. Apparently, it serves too few of the faithful, St. Catherine’s Church is in the heart of the Belgian capital.

And it also sounds like a second reformation is happening in Flanders according to a report from the National Catholic Distorter...

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM -- The week before the start of Advent, four Flemish priests issued a church reform manifesto that called for allowing the appointment of laypeople as parish pastors, liturgical leaders and preachers, and for the ordination of married men and women as priests.

This is all very sad, I love both the Netherlands and Belgium very much, especially Flanders. What we have here is the classic Liberal-Traditionalist culture war on top of the terrible scandals which have caused so much hurt in the region. Perhaps cheer yourself up and think on happier times with the above painting by Pieter Bruegel or have a read at this excellent blog...

And also this very good Facebook Page devoted to good King Baudouin...

Pray for the good people of Flanders and all our brothers and sisters in the Low Countries

Friday, 11 November 2011

Duke Franz of Bavaria...German, Catholic, Anti-Nazi and true heir to the British throne

A Top bloke...Franz Bonaventura Adalbert Maria Herzog von Bayern was born 14 July 1933. Known as His Royal Highness The Duke of Bavaria he is the head of the Wittelsbach family, the former ruling family of the Kingdom of Bavaria. His great-grandfather Ludwig III was the last King of Bavaria before being deposed in 1918.

Franz is also the current senior co-heir-general of King Charles I of England and Scotland, and thus is considered by Jacobites to be the legitimate heir of the House of Stuart as king of England, France, Scotland, and Ireland.

His family, the Wittelsbachs were opposed to the Nazi regime in Germany, the entire family including Franz, then aged 11, were arrested. They were sent to a series of Nazi concentration camps including Oranienburg and Dachau. At the end of April 1945 they were liberated by the United States Third Army. After the war Franz received his high-school education at the Benedictine Abbey of Ettal.

Franz is the current Grand Master of the Royal Order of Saint George for the Defense of the Immaculate Conception. He is also Grand Master of the Order of Saint Hubert and the Order of Saint Theresa. All sounds good to me! Congratulations Franz, you've got the job of king! When can ye start?

That awkward moment when you realize that Greenock probably supported the Southern Confederates

I’m currently reading an excellent book called Clyde built: The Blockade Runners, Cruisers and Armoured Rams of the American Civil War by Eric J Graham. It’s a great book which describes how during the American civil war shipyards on the River Clyde were working around the clock, employing 25,000 men in the construction of Blockade Runners for the Southern Confederates. Around 3,000 Scots worked onboard the vessels, breaking Britain's law against subjects becoming involved in foreign wars, but for the captains it was a business too lucrative to ignore. Many were earning $3,000 per run, and those who made it through the blockade to Charleston with their holds laden with food and arms, were able to fill them up with bales of cotton which they then sold in Scotland for 30 times the purchase price. The Confederates even sent agents to Greenock to purchase warships and weapons.

It also goes onto say that the Paisley workers were pretty much for the North, but all the shipyard and dock workers on the Clyde were all for the South – there was a huge divide. You could say that Glasgow was more pro-South and Edinburgh was pro-North. It thought that, because Scotland is a nation with a cultural heritage which exists uneasily within a larger British cultural identity (plus many Scots were seeking independence) then it's not surprising that the Scots had a respect for the Confederacy.

But it’s not just 19th Century Greenock and Port Glasgow Shipyard workers on the Clyde who admired the Confederates. Even today, many modern neo-Confederates in Southern States of the US admire the cause of modern Scottish nationalism, seeing the cause of the South’s independence as similar to the Scotland’s Cause. They identify Scottish secession from the British Union with Confederate secession and their own current hopes for secession. This concept of brotherhood between Scots and Confederates is compounded by the theory that a great many people in the South and especially the descendants of the Confederates are in fact the descendants of Scottish Highlanders displaced by the Highland clearances, Scottish Covenanters and Lowland Scottish Planters in Ulster (Williamites). The theory claims that Confederates are of the same Ulster Scots Presbyterian stock. That said, there are more than a few holes in the theory that the Confederates cause and ALL the folks in the South are closely linked to Scotland …

For example, those seeking to join the cause of Scottish Independence to the Confederate cause seem to have forgotten about all the Scots who fought on the Union side and the Scottish Highlanders who settled in the Appalachian mountains in the American South. These Appalachian Scots in the South during the Civil War are known to have been strongly against the Southern Confederate secession and the lowland slave-owning interests. In fact, about half as many Southerners fought against the Confederacy as those who fought for the Confederacy. Many of the Southern unionists who came from the Appalachian mountains were poor farmers with no slaves and most of these people would have been of Scottish origin. It would have been unacceptable for these independent freedom loving Scots to accept that the new lands opening up in the west should be denied to independent poor farmers but instead be bought up by rich slave owners who would buy up the best land and work it with slaves, forcing the white farmers onto marginal lands

Also, we cannot ignore the fact that for generations, many folks in the South though of themselves as being descended from southern English Cavaliers not Scots. The idea of the South as a place of so-called “Anglo-Saxon purity” had been strongly believed in for a long time and originally, the (English) Episcopalian Church in Southern States was very big. All this suggests an early English presence (distinct from later Irish Catholicism or Scottish Presbyterianism) did exist in the South, throw into that mix Germans, French and Spanish and the genetic make up of the South is a little more complex and mixed than we might think. It’s also true to say that inn some rural pockets of America's Deep South; they still speak a dialect of Elizabethan English that lingers on from the first 17th-century colonists. Yet despite this evidence, we are now suddenly expected to forget all that and instead think of the Confederates and their descendants as Irish and Scottish Gaels in the Rob Roy mould.

The other problem with this kind of modern link with the Confederate Cause is that many of the Loyalist-Protestant Scots in Scotland today (and also modern Loyalist Ulster-Scots in N. Ireland) are not interested in Scottish or Irish Independence themselves. They don’t want to “secede” from the British Union so it’s absurd to think that they’d support freedom for those breaking away from the American Union while still supporting the British Union at the same time? It’s doubly absurd if we consider the fact that the Protestant Ulster-Scots in America fought bitterly against Britain in the American Revolutionary War of Independence. In reality, Southern rebels and republicans have very little in common with many of their Scottish and Irish Presbyterian cousins who are both Unionists and Monarchists despite the fact that they MIGHT share SOME the same bloodlines and cultural heritage.

So perhaps those modern Confederate sympathizers in the South who are still looking to break away from the United States would do better to look at Civic Scottish Nationalism. Perhaps they should think more about the SNP’s own brand of civic nationalism, the SNP are the most leftwing mainstream party in Britain. Most of all, they should embrace Scotland’s radical streak, humour, kinship, egalitarianism, our improving racial equality and improving integration of people from other nations rather than our old prejudices and bigotries which still persist. However, it should be noted that not all Confederates or their admirers today are racists or pro-slavery. Far from it, the history of this period is very complex much like the people involved. It’s a fact that Confederate leader Stonewall Jackson was against slavery, even General Lee freed slaves and helped repatriate them to Liberia. While on the Union side Grants family owned slaves and Lincoln and Sherman were quite racist. The fact is most Southerners fought because they were attacked and for state sovereignty. For them the war was about liberty, not slavery. Even the reigning Pope during the war, Blessed Pius IX had some sympathy with the Confederates since essentially the South stood for agrarianism over industrialism, (the Ancien Régime over new ideologies) more like a traditional European culture over a Brave New World. I think this also explains the appeal to Scots and suggests that even within a traditional hierarchical society we can potentially still have more personal and social freedom than in a modern liberal democracy? But that is a discussion for another day.

***Note on Confederate Tartan above***
Following the War, the South was under military occupation until 1877, a period referred to as Reconstruction. During this time, the Southern people were stipped of their Constitutional rights, including the right to vote and right to free speech. The display of Confederate symbols, and the wearing of Confederate uniforms, were banned during this occupation. In and identical way after the failure of the last Jacobite rising in 1746, the kilt and tartan were banned in an attempt to stamp out the culture in Scotland.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Kosovo the Flodden of the Balkans and Scotland’s Vidovdan

The legends represent the imagination of the country; they are the kind of history which a nation desires to possess. They betray the ambitions and ideals of the people, and in this respect, have a value far beyond the tale of actual events and duly recorded deeds which are no more history than a skeleton is a man."
Standish O'Grady

Serbia v Scotland tonight, offers a paper thin excuse to look at the cultural similarities between our two nations. One could be forgiven for being understandably jittery about discussing such a topic considering Serbia’s lurch towards ultra-nationalism and recent shameful history. However, a positive predisposition and interest toward the culture, history, and people of Serbia does not necessarily have to be an endorsement of Serbian ultra-nationalism or far right politics.
So let me first say that while I detest racism and petty nationalism and hold no strong feelings of patriotism, I am (paradoxically) at heart, both a Romantic Nationalist and also a Cultural Nationalist. That is to say, I believe that Scottish communities and wider Scottish society should concern itself with its ethnic identity and our rich cultural heritage rather than just political matters. Or in other words, I feel that our music, dialects and folklore, mythology and the spiritual value of local customs and traditions are just as important as our political autonomy. Without these things, without tradition, we are nothing and have nothing apart from a grey mono-culture based on nothing else but capitalist materialism and consumerism.

 Therefore, I was a little disappointed to read that any so-called Braveheart style sentiment has been banned from the 'Yes' campaign. While I understand this move, I actually think it’s a bit rash to ban all references to romantic historicisms not matter how flimsy or cheesy. A celebration of our history need not be small minded, xenophobic or jingoistic. Similarly, I would prefer to hear more Scottish Nationalists admit that we might not be financially or economically better off after independence, but more importantly, we are making a claim our ancient land's most sacred rights. I don’t think this is anything to be ashamed of? This is what is known as the so-called “Scottish cringe”, we are supposed to feel embarrassed about our entire mythology and ancient history. Yet the Czechs are not ashamed of Smenta’s national epic Vltava. Finnish people are not ashamed of Sibelius or the Kalevala and Germans are not embarrassed by the work of the Brothers Grimm. With regards to the Brothers Grimm and Serbia itself, Jacob Grimm once said…”The ballads of Serbia occupy a high position, perhaps the highest position, in the ballad literature of Europe. They would, if well known, astonish Europe... In them breathes a clear and inborn poetry such as can scarcely be found among any other modern people.”

So, just as every nation has its mythical Golden Age so does it also have its mythical decline (ideally suited to sad laments) Scotland’s Golden Age is thought to have taken place at the time of Alexander III and it’s great disaster is considered to be the Battle of Flodden Field. The most famous lament with regards to Flodden is the song known as “Flowers of the forest”. This is a lament to honour the death of King James IV of Scotland and also many of his nobles, and over 10,000 men who died at Flodden in Northern England in 1513. This event truly was a disaster for Scotland. But I actually think the most sentimental and Tolkienesque lament which makes reference to a Scottish defeat can be found in a verse from the much maligned Flower of Scotland (despite the fact that this song is about a Scottish victory)…

The hills are bare now
And autumn leaves lie thick and still
O'er land that is lost now

I really do like these overly sentimental lines. They could have been taken directly from The Lord of the Rings. They could almost be a reference to the ruins of Osgiliath and the fallen and overgrown statues around Amon Hen. Similarly, the Serbs also lost an entire class of nobility and a Prince against the Turks at The Battle of Kosovo in 1389, just as the Scots did at Flodden. In his book “The War and Democracy” R.W. Seton-Watson describes Kosovo as the Flodden of the Balkans and if we look at the similarities then we have to agree that “The Flodden of the Balkans” is an accurate description for Kosovo. Especially since Prince Lazar of Serbia died at the battle alongside most of the Serbian nobility just like King James and the Scottish Nobles at Flodden.
Yet, in Scotland notions such as this are often dismissed and patronized as backwards, kitsch or just another excuse for corny tartanry. As a nation we are almost embarrassed by such potent imagery and emotion simply because it’s part mythical. Not so in Serbia where the events surrounding Tsar Lazar and the battle of Kosovo, are highly regarded in the stories, songs, folklore and culture of the Serbs; Lazar is venerated as a martyr and saint as Saint Lazar and he is also a hero in Serb poetry. Perhaps it’s time we developed the confidence to create our own memorial day to Scotland’s great Kings, Saints and Christian Warriors just as the Serbs celebrate Vidovdan. The Feast of Vidovdan is the day when Serbs honour Saint Prince Lazar and the Serbian holy martyrs who gave their lives to defend their faith at Kosovo against the Ottoman Turks. This feast day is sacred to them and through the centuries, Serbian historical events such as the Battle of Kosovo became sources for spiritual strength just as Flodden should be for Scots.

On a final note, would it be politically incorrect to add that if the rallying cry of the Serbs is “Kosovo je Srbija” (Kosovo is Serbia) then Shetland is Scotland! And so is Berwick J  Just kidding!  

Monday, 7 November 2011

Quisling Churches...The Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association and the (so-called) Old Catholic Church

We all know "Quisling" to be a term used to refer to puppet governments and collaborators. We might currently describe the dreadful Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association as a Quisling Church. This is a fake pseudo-church created by the Communist Chinese Government to undermine the Roman Catholic Church in China. They ordain their own Bishops and persecute the true Church in the same way the Chinese Government cynically creates and back Chinese rivals to the Dalai Lama in Tibet.
However, we may not ever think to describe any of the many western Liberal Churches like the "Old Catholic Church" as Quisling Churches. Today the Old Catholics are the fun, cuddly liberal option standing against the evil dogmatic Vatican. Yet despite the name, the Old Catholic Church was forged within a climate of growing nationalism and hostility to the Pope in the Netherlands and in Germany.

For example, according to wikipedia..."The Old Catholic Church in Germany received some support from the new German Empire of Otto von Bismarck, whose policy was increasingly hostile towards the Catholic Church in the 1870s and 1880s. In Austrian territories, pan-Germanic nationalist groups, like those of Georg Ritter von Schönerer, promoted the conversion to Old Catholicism or Lutheranism of those Catholics loyal to the Holy See". Hardly liberalism?

Some might say that this is ancient history and nearly all Churches have had moments of shame caused by getting too involved with the state at various points in history. This is true but what is not ancient history is the fact that Churches like the Old Catholic Church now share the same liberal, modernist, relativistic agenda as the nation states of the west. Therefore, both groups seek to impose a form of liberalism upon the other authentic faith communities who still hold to traditional christian values.

In this sense, they are as every bit as statist and anti-Pope as the all the other State-sponsored Lutherans and Anglicans(with whom the Old Catholics are in communion with) Yet, depsite their petty nationalism, don't expect to hear any voice from within these Churches speaking out against the growing Turkish and Chinese influence in Europe.

Regional Dialects, Social Justice, Rhenish Political Catholicism & Beer…these are a few of my favourite things

If there are four things in this world which interest me then it’s…

•Regional dialects and words from Scots to Afrikaans, from Low Saxon to Friesian
•The history of Rhenish Catholics and political Catholicism
•Outspoken Anti-fascism and radical social justice in the Catholic Church
•And Speciality Beers!

So writing a post about all four is indeed something special. Let’s start with word Kölsch, I had always understood Kölsch to be a popular beer brewed only in Cologne. (I assume that this was the beer which Karl Marx is speaking about when he said that the revolution would never work in Cologne, because the bosses went to the same pubs as their workers) I have only ever tried this beer once and if I’m being honest I found it a little too hoppy compared to premium pilsners like Krombacher or Veltins. However, I later learned that Kölsch was also the name given to a group related dialects. Kölsch is spoken in, and around Cologne . Interestingly, Kölsch was the dialect used by the famous Anti-Nazi Archbishop of Cologne Josef Frings. Frings was a vocal and strong opponent of the Nazis and Hitler. He was also a political Catholic who joined the CDU. However, what I find most fascinating are Frings thoughts on Social Justice, he once said that…

“We live in times where the single individual, in his need, ought to be allowed to take what he needs to preserve his life and health, if he cannot obtain it through other means, work or bidding.”

This was a reference to poor Germans looting of coal trains during especially bad winters: Amazingly, Frings also inspired a word in the Kolsch dialect which expressed this idea that it is sometimes morally acceptable to steal as a last resort if you are really desperate. Naturally then, the word which evolved from Frings concept was “Fringsen”. So in the Kolsch dialect "Fringsen" means taking food and fuel for the winter among people in Cologne.

I’m not sure how many people would still agree with “Fringsen" today? I certainly do, but it’s worth noting that Frings later added that we must always quickly try and return any unlawful gains, or repay the original owner as soon as possible. Regardless, Archbishop Frings was clearly a great man not matter what we might think about Fringsen. If only we had such bold men of clear vision and direct politics around today.
For example, compare Archbishop Frings to the current Archbishop of Canterbury and the recent debacle around St Paul ’s Cathedral. This fiasco shows how nervous and disjointed Chrstians have become around politcs. Last week seen constant procrastinating over whether or not the Church should speak out on inequality and Bankers bonuses or if the Church should instead just stay out of politics for fear of being branded a bunch of undemocractic Theocracts. In reality, the Church's teaching (for all Churches) is quite clear on the relationship between worldly politics and the role of the Church. The two cannot be split up despite what we are told. Nor should an involvement in politics ever compromise the Church's main concern for the good of souls.

Today, too many Catholics want the Church to be either Socialist or Captialist. Some others dream of a Chesterton based Distributist Utopia but until that day comes it would be helpful to revisit the core values of early European Christian Democracy and the social market/common good ideas of great Germans like Konrad Adenauer and of course Josef Frings.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Konrad Adenauer

These words could have been written yesterday about The Tories current attitude to Europe...

"I wish that an English statesman might once have spoken of us as Western Europeans."
Konrad Adenauer 1945

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

RIP Bert Jansch, the greatest ever German-Scot

A moment of silence please for Bert Jansch who passed over to his reward today. Bert Jansch was a Scotsman born in Glasgow of North German descent. The name Jansch seems to be found mostly around the Hamburg area. Like most Germans in Scotland his ancestors arrived late in the 19th Century from around Hamburg.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

The Enemy Within- Pro-Boer Germans and Pro-Boer Irish in Inverclyde

In the 1980’s the hated Margaret Thatcher (Well hated by me and my own community) once called the Miners and their communities 'the enemy within" Today the far right try to put this label on ordinary British Muslims and as such we see sickening racist and bigoted attacks on innocent people just as Jews and Irish Catholics would have been attacked 100 years ago. The concept of an "enemy within" is a very interesting one which feeds on paranoia and prejudice. It’s the idea that lingering in the shadows of our society lurk these shady individuals who are secretly sympathising with the enemy. Perhaps plotting to destroy the nation from within? But is there ever really any truth in the accusations…

A while back the Greenock Telegraph had a good article in it about the ending of the siege of Mafeking in 1900 by Baden Powell during the Boer War. It was reported in the Tele that after the British victory over the Boers the Bells of the Midkirk were rung, huge crowds mobbed into Cathcart square to celebrate and down in Gourock Bonfires were lit at Ashton and Pierhead. However, it's also thought that the Boer War was actually a deeply un-popular conflict among Scottish people at the time. It was thought to be a waste of time and money fighting a war in a far away land for the benefit of the British Empire. Similarly, we have to wonder how the Germans and Irish living in Greenock, Port Glasgow and Gourock at the time felt about this great British victory. Germans were seen as Boer spies since Germany supported the Boers and to be fair many Germans did admire the Boers. This admiration came from the fact that many of the Boers were of German origin, the two most notable being the South African President Paul Kruger whose ancestor, Jacobus Krüger, emigrated from Berlin to South Africa in 1713 and Stephanus Schoeman, also President of the South African Republic whose forefathers arrived in the Cape in 1674 from Ditmarschen in Germany. Ditmarschen itself had been a kind of Boer Republic (Burenrepublik) of Merchant-farmers. Anti-German hostility in British towns and cities deepened 1896 after the Kaiser congratulated Paul Kruger for resisting the British. In 1900 during the 2nd Boer War a German barber in Tottenham was accused of pro-Boer sympathies and attacked, and in 1901 there were attacks on Germans travelling by train in east London.

Likewise, the Irish were also seen as Boer sympathizers, and it is true that some Irishmen fought alongside the Boers against the British. Two units of Irish commandos fought alongside the Boers against the British forces during the 2nd Boer War. John MacBride, a friend of Arthur Griffiths organized what became known as the Irish Transvaal Brigade. It’s hard to look back now and understand why mostly Socialist leaning Irish republicans would support the Boers who went onto create the horrific, racist Apartheid regime, but at this time The Boers were seen as struggling against British Imperialism just as the Irish were. Also, The Boer War was a conflict which seen the British apply a scorched Earth policy, Ethnic cleansing and the creation of Concentration Camps. The wives and children of Boer guerrillas were sent to these camps, which had poor hygiene and little food. Many of the children in these camps died, as did a large minority of the adults. This policy attracted hostility from the German Empire and also from people in Ireland who could relate to similar such acts of cruelty carried out by the British Army.
It’s also important to note that many famous Orangemen fought for Britain during the 2nd Boer War. For example, Colonel Robert Hugh Wallace the Canadian minister of defence was an Orangeman as was Sir Samuel Hughes Most notably James Craig (the prominent Irish Unionist politician, leader of the Ulster Unionist Party first Prime Minister of Northern Ireland) served in the Second Boer War and was actually taken prisoner in May 1900, but released by the Boers. If only the Brits had showed similar restraint. Contrast this with the Irish community around Inverclyde at this time which also included many Irishmen who fought for Britain but at the same time, within our community we had many Greenock and Port Glasgow based republicans who went on to join the local Scottish Brigade of the Old IRA fifth battalion B Company. In reality the lessons we should learn from this period of history, our community and all it’s intertwined peoples is perhaps far more complex and complicated than many would have us believe. Better I think that we conclude that good and evil runs through the heart of every individual be they Irish, Scottish, English, German or Dutch and in reality, most people just want to live in peace.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Remember the German Priests in Scotland

This Friday marks the feast of our Patron Saint Ninian and the first anniversary of Pope Benedict's visit to Scotland. On this day it's worth taking the time to reflect on the often overlooked contribution of German priests in Scotland. Many of these priests came here escaping the Kulturkampf persecution and it's also worth remembering that in ancient times the faith was originally brought to Germany by Scottish missionaries. Especially the Schottenkirche in Regensburg where Pope Benedict himself comes from. Below are just a few of the German Priests and some others from that period who appear to be Flemish or from the South Netherlands who served us here in Scotland...

Father Ludger Kuhler - In 1891 Father Kuhler arrived at St. Mary's in Greenock and also spent time at St. Ninian's in Gourock as well as St. Augustine's in Coatbridge

Father Martin Jansen - Also served at Saint Augustine's in Coatbridge in 1889

Father Peter Terken - 1879-1914 A Dutch priest, served at Saint Bridget in Baillieston

Father Gilbert Hartmann - 1879-1893 Assistant Priest at St. Bridget's

Father Octavius F Claeys - Assistant Priest at Holy Cross in Croy from 1903 to 1906

Father Peter Hilgers - Father Hilgers was the much loved Parish Priest at St. Ninian's Gourock from 1897 to 1912. He was born 20th Feb 1876 in Geilenkirchen in the Rhinelands and died at St. John's in Barrhead 22 May 1926. Father Hilgers was a German recruited with several others, by Archbishop Eyre for the Scottish Mission.

God Bless them all, Saint Boniface pray for us

Monday, 12 September 2011

Marvin Gaye in Oostende

Great article from the visitoostende site on Marvin Gaye in Oostende, a great place to visit if you ever get the chance. I went here on family holidays a couple of times...

Marvin Gaye’s career was in a doldrums at the time. He was depressed and even attempted suicide. Marvin was having trouble at various levels: he owned the IRS millions in back taxes, there was the long drawn-out divorce from Anna Gordy, other family problems with his second wife Janis, difficulties with Motown Records, and on top of all this, he was in the throes of a drug addiction. Ostend-born Freddy Cousaert, a passionate music fan and soul lover, arranged a meeting with him in London. During this meeting he invited Marvin to Ostend to get his life back on track.

"One week after that first meeting he tried to call me at home. I wasn't in, but my wife spent half an hour on the phone talking to him. He sounded depressed, she said. When I rang him up he was in Brighton. Marvin loved the rain and the wind, the honesty of the sea. When I told him that all this and more was available plentifully in Ostend, he immediately decided to visit Ostend for two weeks. We set up an apartment for him and cared for him as if he was a member of the family. The two weeks turned into a month, and the rest is history. “
Freddy Cousaert

On February 14th 1981 Marvin Gaye and his son Bubby arrived by boat in Ostend. He spent his first weeks in an apartment that the Cousaert family arranged for him. This is the beginning of a fascinating story about Ostend, and about Marvin Gaye and the relationship between the two.

November 2011
Toerisme Oostende vzw launched a mobile app which takes you on a tour of Ostend, in the footsteps of the great Marvin Gaye during his Ostend period. During a walking tour of the city, you learn all there is to knowabout his recovery and how the monster hit "Sexual Healing" came about. A varied tour elaborates on this local story, and on the larger international scope.
The story is told through a mix of moving images taken from existing archival footage, completed with photos, newspaper clippings and interviews with the people involved, by a narrator . The walk is introduced by none other than the famous Jamie Lidell. He is the ideal representative of a new generation of soul musicians who were heavily influenced by Marvin Gaye’s music.

Launch: Mid-November 2011
Available in Dutch, French, German and English.
Downloadable for iPhone, iPod and android.
Toerisme Oostende vzw also rents out iPods.
Price voor verhuur.
Prijs: tbc

© foto Jean-Jacques Soenen

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Franciscan Nuns of the SS Deutschland...built in Greenock sailed from Bremen

Deutschland was an iron passenger steamship built by Caird & Company of Greenock, Scotland in 1866. Constructed as an emigrant passenger ship, the Deutschland's maiden voyage was made on 14 October 1866, from Bremen to New York via Southampton.

In 1875 the Deutschland sailed from Bremerhaven with 123 emigrants bound for New York via Southampton. Weather conditions were very bad, and the ship had ran aground in a blizzard off Harwich.

Among the victims were five Franciscan nuns from Salzkotten, Westphalia who had been emigrating to escape the anti-Catholic Falk Laws during the Kulturkampf. Their death inspired Catholic poet Gerard Manley Hopkins to compose the poem, "The Wreck of the Deutschland". Four of the five nuns were buried in St. Patrick's Cemetery in Leytonstone, London (a fifth who was never found is recorded on the memorial) and their deaths are commemorated every year in a memorial service held on 6 December by the Wheaton Franciscan Sisters of Wheaton, Illinois - the destination of the five Sisters.

This an extract from the poem below...

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–89). Poems. 1918.

4. The Wreck of the Deutschland

To the happy memory of five Franciscan Nuns exiles by the Falk Laws drowned between midnight and morning of Dec. 7th. 1875


THOU mastering me
God! giver of breath and bread;
World’s strand, sway of the sea;
Lord of living and dead;
Thou hast bound bones and veins in me, fastened me flesh, 5
And after it almost unmade, what with dread,
Thy doing: and dost thou touch me afresh?
Over again I feel thy finger and find thee.


I did say yes
O at lightning and lashed rod; 10
Thou heardst me truer than tongue confess
Thy terror, O Christ, O God;
Thou knowest the walls, altar and hour and night:
The swoon of a heart that the sweep and the hurl of thee trod
Hard down with a horror of height: 15
And the midriff astrain with leaning of, laced with fire of stress.


The frown of his face
Before me, the hurtle of hell
Behind, where, where was a, where was a place?
I whirled out wings that spell 20
And fled with a fling of the heart to the heart of the Host.
My heart, but you were dovewinged, I can tell,
Carrier-witted, I am bold to boast,
To flash from the flame to the flame then, tower from the grace to the grace.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Moin! Please meet the ancestors but don't mention the War

Germans were the masters of the Sugar Trade and most of the warehouses in Greenock were built by Germans. Naturally these German engineers and bosses brought over there own workers. At the time Germany was a very backwards rural country with little work, much like Ireland. Plus Germany and Britain had a very strong relationship. Most of the ethnic Germans in Greenock came from around Hanover. At one time the House of Hanover and Britain had the same King and the King's German Legion had fought for Britain in the Napoleonic War, the Hessians had fought for Britain in the American War. Even in WW1 there were ethnic Germans known as the Kaiser's Own fighting for Britain.

Immigration from Germany went from about 1850ish up to 1880ish. By 1900 there were over 800 ethnic Germans in Greenock.

By WW1 this figure was dramatically reduced with most immigrants going back to Germany or onto the US. (We still have distant cousins among the "Fancy Dutch" in Pennsylvania due to this today.)

My Great, Great, Grandfather Bernhardt Dietrich Ahlfeld was born in 1845 near Bremen, Germany his father Hermann Ahlfeld (Born 1815) was a farmer but when he died his mother re-married and Bernhardt and his brother Carl Hienrich Ahlfeld (Born 1850) both ran away and came over to Greenock to work in the Sugar Trade.

Strangely, German-Britons have always been an integral part of British culture, we are the people of Handel and Holbein. We have given you Tolkien, Betjiman and the entire House of Hanover, Saxe-Coburg Gotha and Battenburg. Yet, most German Britons today either don't know their own family history, don't care or are trying to forget it, and who can really blame them...

Ahlefeldt family
This old aristocratic family are recorded as far back as the Middle Ages in the North Germany. In 1543 Bartholomäus von Ahlefeldt, permitted the Mennonites to settle in Wüstenfelde located between Hamburg and Lübeck.

1710 = Great, Great, Great, Great, Great, Great Grandfather Carsten Ahlfeld lived as a farm worker in Altenesch near Lemwerder

1744 = Great, Great, Great, Great, Great Grandfather Johann Ernst Ahlfeld (Carsten's Son) farm worker, is born in Altenesch 1744, April 17 married Anne Cathine Drees (born 1737, Sept. 30 in Hude, died in Hiddigwarden 1820, Dec. 21, buried in Berne Dec. 26). They lived in Hiddigwarden and had 8 children.

1747 = The German chemist Andreas Sigismund Marggraf used alcohol to extract sugar from beets. The interest in Sugar refinery, consumption and importing grows in Europe but especially in Prussia.

1765 = 1st large refinery built in Greenock by German Mark Kuhll at the bottom of Sugarhouse Lane.

1775 = Thousands of German Hessians fight for Britain in the American Revolutionary War.

1781 = Great, Great, Great, Great Grandfather Johan Hinrich Ahlfeld (Johann Ernst's 6th child)is born in Hiddigwarden 1781, June 24, Married in Berne 1806, March 7, Gesche Margarethe von Hatten (born in Harmenhausen, parish Berne, 1786, Sept. 23

1801 = Sugar Refining continues to grow in Germany and under the patronage of Frederick III of Prussia, the world's first beet sugar factory opens at Cunern in Silesia.

1803 = Seeking to strike at the British, Napoleon occupies the Hanoverian Electorate over which Britain's dynasty still reigns. One consequence of this French aggression is the steady and increased movement of Hanoverians to Britain. Plus, another Cholera outbreak in Prussia. In this year the King's German Legion is created to fight in the Napoleonic War.

1815 = Great, Great, Great Grandfather Hermann Ahlfeld (Heuerman) born in Abbehausen near Nordenham in 1815. Married to Anna Margaritha Feldman born Neunkirchen 1814.

1833 = German Lear Wrede's opens the Cappielow Refinery in Greenock.

1845 = Great, Great, Grandfather Bernhardt Dietrich Ahlfeld born Bremen Germany.

1852 = Carsten (Carl Heinrich) Ahlfeld (Bernhardt's brother) born 1852 in Lemwerder/Altensch near Oldenburg.

1853 = British German Legion is created to fight in Crimean War

1860 = Hermann dies, his wife remarries a man called Franz Augustus Reisenhausen. Her sons Bernardt and Carl-Carsten do not like their new stepfather, both live for a short time with an Uncle in Bremehaven before running away to sea

1862 = Bernhardt arrives in Greenock with his brother Carl Henrich Ahlfeld from Bremen to work in the sugar warehouse along with a few dozen other German farm workers from around the north western part of Germany (Hanover Plains).

1866 = Bernhardt marries Sarah Anderson in Greenock Mid Kirk, Carl Henrich goes to Pennsylvania.

1875 = Great Grandfather Hermann Ahlfeld born Anne Street, Greenock.

1881 = Bernhardt's stepson John Anderson Ahlfeld begins working in the Sugar Warehouse.

1891 = German Priest Father Ludger Kuhler comes to St. Mary's Parish in Greenock.

1897 = German Priest Peter Hilgers from Cologne arrives at St. Ninian's Parish Gourock. (Ahlfeld family belong to this Parish today)

1901 = Bernhardt dies. Census shows approximately 1000 ethnic Germans living in Greenock.

1912 = World War One begins resulting in the rapid decline of ethnic Germans from Greenock back to Germany or onto America on a massive scale.

1913 = Grandfather Robey Ahlfeld born Gourock

1921 = Tate and Lyle formed from a merger between Abraham Lyle of Greenock who had expanded into the east end of London and Henry Tate, who had set up a sugar refinery in Liverpool

A royal by any other name and the West Ham Pals regiment

The unveiling, by Sir Trevor Brooking at the Boleyn Ground, of the Memorial Plaque dedicated to the service and sacrifices made by the Men of the 13th (Service) Battalion (West Ham) Essex Regiment ('The Hammers') took place on Remembrance Sunday, 8th November at 10.55am.Among the West Ham pals was Ernest Sherman, born in Whitechapel, who was originally a Corporal in the 2nd battalion Essex regiment. He was severely wounded by accurate shellfire during the Battle of Arras in April 1917 and was awarded the Military Cross at the age of 20.

It is interesting to note that, Sherman was of German origin, German immigration into the UK was very common in the late 19th Century because of the Royal family's strong German connections.***See note on family history**** Most Germans like my Great Great Grandfather Bernhardt came to work in the Sugar wharehouses in Greenock , Liverpool and the East End of London. This was because Tate and Lyle was formed from a merger between Abraham Lyle of Greenock who had expanded into the east end of London and Henry Tate, who had set up a sugar refinery in Liverpool. Lyle himself brought quite a few Scots to the East End .

However, by the time the First world war arrived the Royal Family switched to an English-sounding name because of anti-German feeling, as did some of their subjects. For those ordinary German-Britons who did not change their names like my own family there was then additional pressure to prove ones loyalty. The best way to do this was to enlisted and many German-Britons did just that...

In fact, a battalion of the Middlesex Regiment was formed to accommodate men with German names from London, and was promptly christened "The Kaiser's Own". A number of German names can be found in the pages of the London Gazette as receiving decorations

Returning to the Royals...Since the marriage of Victoria - the last of the Hanovers - to Prince Albert, Britain's royal family had been "of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha", or Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. In a time of brutal war with Germany, a more German family name would be hard to find.

The in 1915, with the war less than a year old, the sinking of the liner Lusitania by a German submarine - with the loss of almost 1,200 lives - prompted a fresh wave of outrage in Britain, as well as the US and the Empire. The consequences for Germans in Britain were grave. Days of anti-German rioting in London, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and elsewhere saw Germans menaced and buildings wrecked.

So many bakers' shops were destroyed in the East End of London, with bags of flour emptied and loaves smashed in the street, that a local shortage of bread immediately followed. In Bradford and Nottingham, groups of naturalised Germans rushed to sign letters expressing their desire to see Britain victorious and Germany crushed.

The newspaper backed the segregation of all Germans of military age and the deportation of those who were not. There were estimated to be 60,000 Germans, Austro-Hungarians and Turks in the country as well as 8,000 naturalised citizens of "enemy origin". These words would have chilled King George V to the marrow. Austrian-born Prince Louis of Battenberg, a key member of the royal circle, had to resign his position as First Sea Lord because of his German heritage in 1914. By 1917, the pressure had spread to the whole family.

So in 1917 the royal family saw their name change overnight, princes lost their titles and became lords, the Battenbergs opted for literal translation and became Mountbatten, and the quintessentially royal and English "Windsor" was introduced - the brainchild of the king's private secretary Lord Stamfordham.