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31st May 2009. Surviving the Titanic.

Millvina Dean was ten weeks old when she was let down in a bag from the sinking Titanic, being one of the first to escape. Surviving after being picked up by the Carpathia, with her 32 year old mother, and brother, she lived to be 97 before dying Today in Southampton.

She had the dubious honour of being the last living survivor of the disaster, after Barbara Dainton had died aged 96, in 2007.(1)

Millvina later in life and picture of Titanic.

Ironically the Dean Family emigrating, as steerage, to America, weren’t originally scheduled to sail on the Titanic, but owing to a coal strike were transferred from another ship of the White Star Line, the Adriatic.

Millvina later said no-one was interested in her until the wreck was found in 1985, when she became a celebrity.

In one of the  newspaper accounts at the time, the writer G.K. Chesterton used the disaster as a metaphor for, ‘our whole civilisation’.

‘The modern state and the unsinkable ship were alike in their power and impotence, security and insecurity, and while it indulged the rich, neither had provision for the poor and needy’.

The English Review magazine reflected that, ‘the ship was a place where one could demonstrate one’s contempt: first class on the boat deck, whilst the immigrants sorted out their own pecking order. First class in the upholstery of the Ritz; Second, of beef and kidney pies with its faux gentility’.

One of the ‘Ritz Class’ described, ‘the luxury of fresh daffodils on the table and her pretty cabin with its electric fire and pink curtains saying she never dreamed of sailing in such luxury’. Third Class would be lucky to have curtains.

Rich and poor, First and Steerage, disembarked from the Carpathia, at New York on Thursday 18th April. 

The only passengers interviewed at the Inquiry were the Duff Gordons, and Lord Ismay Chairman of the White Star Line, and was attended by Prime Minister, Mr Aquith and Miss Ismay (Chairman’s sister).

The Duff Gordons and Ismay were later criticised for taking to ‘Lifeboat I’, which only carried 12, but capable of holding 40.

Both fathers of Mellvina (travelling steerage) and Barbara travelling, 2nd Class, died because there weren’t enough lifeboats, but all other family members survived.

Of the 2nd class passengers all 24 children were saved and 50% of the women, which suggests that the rule, ‘women and children first’ was respected on the whole.

(1) On October 16th 2007 Barbara Dainton died aged 96, being the last, but one, survivor of the sinking. Barbara had sailed from Southampton on a family ticket for £27.15s.

References: 1.6.2009. obituaries.

theguardian. 1.6.2009. Damian Pears/Pic.



30th May 1660. A Fishy Story.

The word mackerel is derived from the 1300.s Old French Maquerel. The Romans used it to make garum, a fish sauce. Mrs Beeton’s Book on Household Management (1861) had a recipe for fennel sauce using mackerel.

Mackerel with rocket, spinach and watercress.

Shakespeare’s Henry IV (Act 2 Sc. 4), has Falstaff saying, ‘You may buy land now as cheap as stinking mackerel’.

Cries of London, showing if nothing else, the cavalier spelling of the 17thc.

Samuel Pepys was fond of a high protein breakfast involving the likes of brawn, but Today in 1660 he recorded in his diary, ‘that he had a dish of mackerel newly ketched (sic) for breakfast’.

Apart from showing how fish was important in the diet of the well-heeled in 17thc England, it also demonstrates how mackerel was regarded in the past.

However times and taste changed for as recently as the 1970.s mackerel had an image problem, as a survey in 1976 by the White Fish Authority showed a reluctance to depart from cod, haddock and salmon.

Less than 10% of respondents had ever bought mackerel, and only 3% did so regularly. Many fishmongers didn’t even stock it. Many housewives had heard rumours that mackerel had a bad reputation as a scavenger of dead material and so regarded as ‘unclean’.

Mackerel is the common name for many species of Pelagic fish, (swimming in upper sea layers), and historically the fish was not preserved as it ‘went off’ quickly resulting in Scombroid fish poisoning. The Cambridge Economic History of Europe stated that there is more references to stinking mackerel than to any other fish.

Cries of London 18thc showing mackerel be bought at the door.

The growth of mackerel in the Scottish fishing industry, in recent times, has been regarded as a ‘god-send’, in an economy where off-shore oil is declining.

This is reflected in 2017 in the inclusion of the fish on the back of the polymer £5 note.(see below).

RBS £5 note showing two mackerel.





Today mackerel is sold smoked, filleted and vacuum packed, but importantly in health conscious Britain, as an oily fish, rich in Omega-3, selenium and Vitamin B12, its popularity had increased.

Dietary Information on mackerel,

References: of fish on plate. 11.10.2016. All hail the million pound note/Pic note.


theguardian. 7.2.2015. Article re Pepys. Rebecca Seal.

Economic History of Europe CUP. Clapham J.H.

29th May 1660. Return of a King.

With the return of Charles II his Coat of Arms was ordered to be placed over church chancel arches as a reminder of, and to restate, the authority of Anglicanism as established under Queen Elizabeth I.

Today is celebrated as Oak-Apple Day recalling the entry of Charles into London at the restoration of the monarchy in 1660. John Evelyn, the Diarist, was to write: ‘I stood in the Strand and beheld it and blessed God’. The date also celebrates the birth of the King in 1630. (1)

Oak Tree where Charles allegedly hid from Cromwell’s soldiers, whilst on the run.

On becoming king in 1660 he disbanded nearly the whole of the army with the exception of the King’s Regiment of Foot Guards, (now Grenadiers), despite the fact that there were still threats to monarchy, as in January 1661 when the 5th Monarchist, Thomas Venner made an abortive attempt to seize London, only to be defeated by Monck’s Regiment.(2)

Legislation of Charles II to reinforce Anglican religious dominance included the 1661 Corporation Act which required taking an Oath of Supremacy and members of Corporations were within one year, required to receive the Sacrament.

However the King had to accept the inevitable when the Cavalier Parliament’s, Clarendon Code of 1662, signified the parting of the ways, and destroyed all hope of a united church by accepting schism, but acknowledging Anglicanism to be the larger, richer and more favoured Church.

The monarch still needed to maintains some control over religious dissidents, as under the Quaker Act (1662) when Quakers were required to swear an oath to the King, which they couldn’t in faith do. Then the Act of Uniformity (1662) insisted on the rites and ceremonies according to the Anglican Book of Common Prayer.

The Conventicle Act of 1664 prevented more than five people assembling outside the auspices of the Church of England. The 1665 Five-Mile Act sought to prevent Non-Conformists from living in Incorporated and Chartered towns.

However some amelioration came with the March 1672 Declaration of Indulgence, issued in two parts for England and Scotland, which offered some relaxation from forfeiture, civil penalties and disabilities regarding Non-Conformists and Catholics, which suspended the execution of Penal Laws and allowed with conditions, the erection of dissenter chapels.

One cause of concern was a hidden clause of the Treaty of Dover, signed to acquire French help against the Dutch, which later revealed that the, ‘King of Great Britain, being convinced of the truth of the Catholic faith, is determined to declare himself a Catholic as soon as the welfare of his realm will permit’.

So 1673 saw the First Test Act against the fear of the monarch and his brother reviving Catholicism was forced on the King, for a Test that no man could hold public office or a King’s Commission, who would not solemnly declare his disbelief in the Catholic Doctrine of Transubstantiation.

One member of the five Counsellors of the King’s ‘Cabal’, Thomas Clifford 1st Baron Clifford of Chudleigh, as a Catholic couldn’t comply with the Test Act and resigned as Lord High Treasurer and committed suicide with his cravat from his bed tester.

Charles’ brother in 1688 showed his true colours by declaring himself a Catholic, being forced to flee and abdicate: the Jacobites were his natural followers.

(1) Charles had been crowned King of Great Britain, France and Ireland at Scone after agreeing to support the Presbyterian cause on January 1st 1660, and was crowned a second time on 23rd April 1661 as King of England, Scotland and Ireland.

He was the last Monarch to make the traditional journey for his crowning, from the Tower to the Abbey the previous day.

(2) Which became Lord-General’s Regiment of Foot-Guards, later the Coldstream Guards, at a time when English Regiments were named after the colonel who raised them.

Venner was Hanged Drawn and Quartered for High Treason.


lookandlearn.history/Pic. Illustration for pictorial records. James Sangster 1880.



28th May 1503.

The 33 years old James IV of Scotland and Margaret Tudor the 13 years old, eldest daughter of Henry VII were married at Holyroode Abbey in August 1503. The bride brought a dowry of 30,000 gold nobles, and the poet William Dunbar wrote a poem the ‘Thrissel and the Rois’.(1)

It was a dynastic marriage in an attempt to settle border incursions, endemic for centuries, with 14thc invasions by Edward III and James IV in 1496/7. Also Henry regarded the union as a precursor to the two countries being united with England as the senior partner.(2)

In 1502 a Treaty of Everlasting Peace was agreed which England ratified at Westminster in October 1502 and Scotland in December 1502.(3)

Arms of James IV at Stirling Castle, where the King was born.

The two countries parties to the Treaty were bound in perpetuity not to wage war or both kings suffer the penalty of Excommunication by the Pope Alexander VI (Rodrigo Borgia), who to add authority to the Treaty put his signature to the document Today in 1503.

Both kings needed some needed stability; Henry as he feared a Yorkist uprising after his defeat of Richard III at Bosworth in 1485.

James also feared, after siding with dissident nobles against his father James III, who after being pressured  to abdicate, was killed at the Battle of Sauchiburn, with both sides flying the Lion Rampant. His son was crowned at Scone in 1488.

Scottish  copy of the Treaty of Perpetual Peace.

The first effect of the Treaty, which lasted for 10 years, was a lull in fighting between England and Scotland which had intermittently lasted for 200 years.

James IV of Scotland.

King James took advantage of the Peace Treaty by subduing the Lord of the Isles and went to created a small navy, King’s College, Aberdeen and the Edinburgh College of Surgeons.

Then Henry VIII, by now king in 1513, felt safe enough at home to invade France, which proved too much of a temptation for the Scottish King, who keen to reclaim territory around Berwick, invaded England.

This proved to be one of the moat fatal moves in British history as he was met by the Earl of Surrey at Flodden Field in 1513, resulted in the loss of 30,000 men and most of the Scottish nobles and knights, and the King himself.

James according to the Treaty was duly excommunicated, so unable to be buried in consecrated ground, Henry had him buried at Sheen Priory, Surrey.

Then came the monastic dissolution and James’ grave was lost, though the writer John Stowe said his body was removed to London.

James IV proved to be the last British king to die in battle: his great-grandson ended-up as king of a united Great Britain in 1603.

(1) The were married by the Archbishops of Glasgow and York.

(2) On 8th August 1503.

(3) Ratified at Westminster on 31.10.1502 and Scotland on 17th December 1502.


wardsbookofdays. National Records of Scotland/Pic. article.

27th May 668 CE. The Church Triumphant.

The Establishment: Church and State, historically a tension seen in King, Barons and Church contending for power based on land ownership and supported by tithes and other taxes extorted from the people.

After the fall of Empire it was the Roman Church, which stepped briskly into the vacuum, keen to adapt the secular trappings under one Emperor, into one God-head. (1)

Thus following in the steps of the Legions, and Augustine his predecessor at Canterbury, Theodore of Tarsus set off Today in 668, arriving here a year later to the day, to become archbishop. (2)

Theodore’s grave at Canterbury, simply marked.

Theodore arrived in Canterbury rather than London owing to that city being in the hands of the East Saxons where the king was less favourable to Christianity, as opposed to his Kent counterpart. London was not set to have a bishop or cathedral until the next century.

Theodore arrived at a difficult time of conflict between bishops Wilfred and Chad, causing him to depose both from their Sees at different times. Also all but three of the bishoprics were vacant.

He was also forced to summon a Synod to deal with the heretical teaching of eastern Emperor Heraclius of monothelitism, which denied that Jesus had a human will.

The new Primate reduced the size of dioceses in sparsely populated areas such as East Anglia, and was eventually to make Canterbury the centre of the most accomplished school of biblical studies between the fall of Rome and the rise of the medieval universities.

The stage was set for a thousand years of powerful, vastly inflated Orders of Clerks in Holy Orders, dressed in the style of the Roman, as a mosaic in Ravenna reveals where Archbishop Maximiniarus appears on the right of the Emperor, in vestments not unlike modern high church clergy.

Plan of foundations of Saxon Canterbury Cathedral show it to have been as large as the present building.

Basilica sites became enormous cathedrals, as at Canterbury, after the Norman Conquest to be supported financially by the Parish System of a church, which became the owner of great swathes of land exacting tithes and other impositions.

The Church controlled education empowering the clergy, so granting a monopoly through literacy, on monastic copying and translating of the Bible, a process started by Jerome in the 5th century.

Clerics thus as the only literate members of society were destined to seamlessly control the machinations of  medieval state administration, an influence which continues indirectly, as bishops, of a reformed church, still sit in the House of Lords. 

(1) The Western Roman Empire went into decline when the German chieftain Odoacer forced the Emperor Romulus Augustulus to abdicate in 476.

(2) Church control then was at ‘arms’ length’, as the Synod of 987 at Cealchythe, Kent called by Offa and Beorhtric of Wessex, attended by a Papal Legate, was the only time in Saxon times when a Papal representative came to an English Church Council.

References: theodore_of_tarsus. canterbury-cathedral/Pic.

26th May 1882. Educating the Masses.

‘Lighthouses- beacons of the future- capsules with hundreds of little seeds in each out of which will spring the wiser better England of the future’: Sherlock Holmes referring to the new London Board Schools in the ‘Naval Treaty’ by Arthur Conan Doyle.

Many in London were designed by E.R. Robson in the Queen Anne style; 400 being built between 1870 and 1895. This one is at Highbury.

Today in 1882 it was recorded in the School Log-Book of Eldwick School in Bingley, West Yorkshire that, ‘Another case of the same sort as last week happened again last Monday-a woman using insulting language in the presence of all the children after her boy being sent home for his school money’.

It went on: ‘The case was reported to the clerk & on Wed. night the Board decided to take such measures as would put a stop to all such conduct’.

Public education of some kind had been a feature in Britain from the early 19thc being promoted by the likes of Samuel Whitbread MP who in 1807 introduced a Parochial Schools Bill.

However opposition came from the Archbishop of Canterbury saying, ‘it subverted the first principles of education that it be under the control of the Establishment’.

Then Davies Giddy MP said, ‘it would be prejudicial to their morals and make them despise their lot instead of making them good servants in agriculture and other laborious employments, making them insubordinate and rendering them fractious and refractory’. But more was to come from the good MP. He went on: ‘It would enable them to read seditious pamphlets and vicious books and publications against Christianity’.

It was a view supported by landowners and farmers who relied on child labour, not surprisingly the Bill didn’t pass, but it was an important forerunner of a series of proposals which culminated in the Elementary Education Act of 1870.

So in the meantime there were Dame, Charity, Sunday and Ragged Schools with up to 40% of working-class children attending by 1831.(1)

List of rules for an early 19th century, pre-Board School.

There were also the Dickens’ Dotheboys Hall type of infamous private establishments, catering for those who could afford to get unwanted children out of the way.(2)

Two key people in pushing for ‘education for all’, were Andrew Bell and Joseph Lancaster, a clergyman and a Quaker, using the Monitorial System where a headmaster taught monitors, who then passed on the instructions, in a mechanical way, to quiet, orderly children: and it was cheap.

Anglican (church) provision for a small fee, came from their National Schools which closely followed the early non-denominational Lancastrian Schools.

Then in 1870 came state intervention from Forster’s, Elementary Education Bill with the slogan: ‘Upon the speedy provision of elementary education depends our industrial prosperity’.

The Lords cynically guided by bishops passed the Act only because the church schools had a monopoly, though the Cowper-Temple clause later disallowed denominational religious teaching. 

Under the Act grants were doubled to (church) Voluntary Schools, and Local Boards, on The Rates (local taxes), were set up to fill any gaps.

In 1880 the Mundella Act made education obligatory for all between 5 and 10 years, with the option to work part-time, if they reached a certain Class Standard.

Typical Board School class of the late Victorian era.

From 1890 Payment by Results was gradually dismantled and block grants instituted. Three years later the leaving age was raised to 11, and to 12 in 1899, and set to remorsefully rise in the next century.

(1)  In 1840 there was a range of males signing with a cross, from about 20% in Middlesex to about 55% in Bedfordshire, with a median of 35%.

In 1846, 29% of bridegrooms and 47% of brides, were still ‘making their mark’ in parish registers.

(2) Featured Dickens’ novel, Nicholas Nickleby.


parliamentaryarchives. 19thc. on 10 best school buildings. 2.11.2015. Rowan Moore/Pic of Highbury School.

Google Images/other Pics.

25th May 1803. Battle between Pen and Sword.

Today in 1803 one of the more significant of writers of the Victorian Age, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, 1st baron, was born at Heydon Hall, Norfolk to General Lytton.

Heydon Hall, Norfolk, home of the Lytton Family, where the village is still owned by the family.

Though now largely forgotten as a writer, Bulwer-Lytton left to posterity a memorable adage in his 1839 play, ‘Richelieu; or The Great Conspiracy’, where Prince Richelieu, Chief Minister to Louis XIII discovers a plot to kill him, but unable to take up arms as a priest he says: ‘Take away the sword, the State can be saved without it. Great beneath the rule of men entirely, Pen is more mighty than the Sword’.(1)

The quote in a nutshell represents the notion that language is more effective than direct violence and highlights the dichotomy between the intellect of word and associated ideas and the raw, physical, naked power of the sword and its associated violence.

An Illustration of Cardinal Richelieu. H.A. Ogden 1892 from works of Bulwer-Lytton.

This powerful statement has resonated down the ages reappearing in a different guises as in George Whetstone’s Heptameron of Civil Discourses 1582.: ‘the dashe of a Pen, is more greeuous [grievous] than counterabuse of a Launce’.(sic).

Then in 1600 eloquently expressed in Shakespeare’s Hamlet (Act 2 Sc.2), where we read : ‘Many wearing rapiers are afraid of goosequills’.

A few years later in the 17th century, Robert Burton’s, Anatomy of Melancholy, described how, ‘bitter jests and satire can cause distress and that a blow with a word strikes deeper than a blow with a sword’.

So by the 1840.s the phrase had become somewhat commonplace before Lytton. However history has shown that when words fail, ‘Jaw-Jaw gives way to War War’, turning on its head Winston Churchill’s famous phrase.

Using another adage, ‘Actions do speak louder than Words’, when the sword’s power to protect comes into play, and then the constructive intellect which fashioned the sword can be turned into a destructive force. Man is both creator and destroyer, the eternal conflict.

(1) The play opened at Covent Garden, London, on 7th March, 1839, with the famous William Macready in the lead role.


bbc,co,uk/news magazine. 9.11.2015. Alison Gee. of Hall. Richa Kaur.