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 Kr├╝ger, 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