Monday, 2 May 2016

Gold Fever

It started as a long delayed job to tidy and finish a brief document about a lady in the 19th Century who had a full life and would be a nod to feminists who claim that there are many able and important women ignored in our history.  But as is the case, for completion, perhaps a few things needed to be checked for this and that.

This led me to Cecil Rhodes and the fact that his gold fields project nearly failed because his leading associate, James Rochfort Maguire, upset Lobengula, second and last King of the Northern Ndebele people and the tribal leaders by washing his false teeth in the sacred spring of the Matabele.  It cost a lot of time and effort as well as a great deal of money to sort that one out.

Along the way, Harriet, the lady in the case, according to her granddaughter, Lady Jane Grey McDonnell who wrote a memoir, printed privately, was on the visiting list for the Shah of Persia and the Princes of India, to pay their respects after being received by Queen Victoria.  Lady Jane was the daughter of the 5th Earl of Antrim, Mark Seymour Kerr McDonnell and Jane Emma Hannah Macan, daughter of Harriet by her first marriage to Turner Macan.

Lady Jane married the 21st Baron Clinton and had two daughters, one of which, Fenella Hepburn-Stuart-Forbes-Trefusis, married John Herbert Bowes-Lyon in 1914.  He had a younger sister, Elizabeth, who married quite well, her daughter, also Elizabeth, is now our Queen.

Of course, it is more complicated than this.  The picture above is of The Marlborough Set in 1906 with King Edward VII sitting in the middle.  They are his "gang" as we might put it.  They liked to go off for informal long weekend jollies in the country untroubled by press or publicity.  At the back, by the King's left shoulder, wearing a boater, is James Rochfort Maguire with his wife, Julia Beatrice, born Peel, yes those Peel's.

The King preferred to play his card games against people who could pay their dues at the end of play.  As Maguire by then was a Director of Consolidated Gold Fields, Chairman of Rhodesian Railways and with extensive other related posts, he would have no trouble, very different from all the aristocrats in hock to their creditors.

James and Julia married in 1895 at St. Margaret's, Westminster, by the Abbey and across the street from where her dad used to work.  He was Arthur Wellesley Peel, Speaker of the House of Commons.  In 1895 he became 1st Viscount Peel on leaving his job after the election of that year.  His grandfather was Sir Robert Peel, Prime Minister.  The name Arthur Wellesley was that of the Duke of Wellington, also once a Prime Minister.  Harriet's brother had lived across the fields from the Duke, both old India hands.

The best man at the wedding was Schomberg Kerr McDonnell, brother of Lady Jane and grandson of Harriet.  His Schomberg first name comes from a descent from the Duke of Schomberg, right hand man of King William of Orange.  The Duke fell at the Battle of the Boyne.  Schomberg Kerr McDonnell was a leading figure in the Orange Order.  Schomberg had an interesting and varied career.  At one stage he was Principal Private Secretary to the Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury, from 1888 through the 90's and at the time when Salisbury's government issued the Royal Charter, signed by Queen Victoria in 1889 to set up Rhode's British South Africa Company.

Later, during the Boer War, although by then fortyish, he volunteered for service and was involved in the relief of the siege of Kimberley where Rhodes and Mr. and Mrs. Maguire were holed up.  Later he was a prominent figure in the Conservative Party, had a senior post in Intelligence in 1914 but again in 1915 volunteered for service at the age of 54 as a Major in the 5th Cameron Highlanders.  He was killed in action in 1915 See here.

One of the select Directors of the Company, was Albert Grey, later 4th Earl Grey, succeeding his uncle, Henry, 3rd Earl.  Albert's father was General Charles Grey, Private Secretary to Prince Albert and later Queen Victoria.  Albert's grandfather was Charles Grey, 2nd Earl, Prime Minister at the time of The Reform Act, an ancestor of Diana, Princess of Wales.  Albert's sister, Louisa, married William McDonnell, 6th Earl of Antrim, brother of Lady Jane, above, and was Mistress of the Robes to Queen Victoria.

Harriet, born a Sneyd in 1795, married Turner Macan in Calcutta in 1822.  He was personal aide and interpreter to the Governor's General and a cavalry officer by trade.  His major interest was in the scholarship of the Persian and other languages and he played a major role in rescuing ancient texts, including the Shah Nameh of Firdausi.  His work for the Royal Asiatic Society meant that William Henry Whitbread, head of that brewing family, was a close friend and a few years after Macan's death, Harriet married William in London, setting up something of a salon.

He had money to spare and did well by her family.  The Whitbread's had made marriages with the Grey's, so Harriet's daughter, Caroline Nesbitt Macan, married Charles Conrad Grey in 1845, nephew of the Prime Minister Charles 2nd Earl Grey.  Both Caroline and Charles died young, so Maria, their daughter, was cared for by General Charles Grey, above.  He introduced her to Court and she married the heir to the Earldom of Home, later the 12th Earl of Home, becoming Countess in 1881 and grandmother to the 14th Earl of Home of recent memory.

In Africa, as Lobengula's health deteriorated, he weighed in at 19 stone and led an active life, the Company began to introduce the modern world in the shape of mining, railways, new settlers and urban centres, one named Salisbury.  It was bringing to an end the centuries of pastoral living and endless tribal wars and constant displacement and loss of population.  Lobengula at one time massacred over three hundred of his family in a dispute.  There were two colonial wars in the 1890's in Matabeleland, the first when Lobengula put his large standing army into the field without success and after his death in 1894 another.

The press reports of Maguire's wedding has a lot about the frocks and details all the presents.  It is a roll call of society.  It is no surprise to see the Rothchild's and the Coutt's listed among such as the Duchess of Sutherland etc. The landed met with the bankers and the speculators.  Lord Randolph Churchill is there and one might wonder if his son Winston was impressed and influenced by the example of these men.

In the City of London, the long argument over whether the pound should be based on gold, or a bimetallic system of gold and silver was won by the gold lobby by the 1890's.  A consequence of this was The Fall Of The Rupee in India, whose currency was silver based.  The Treasurer of India at the time was Auckland Colvin.

He was a nephew of Harriet's.  It was a small world in many ways.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Cold Comfort

There has been comment about why many new graduates at present seem to be stuck in a pay freeze and have little prospect of much improvement; if any.

When I was a student we had a song about this:

Economists are  a blot on the whole human race.
You never see one with a smile on his face.
Here's my definition,
Believe me dear brother,
Supply on the one hand,
Demand on the other.


Tuesday, 26 April 2016

The Hillsborough Coroner's Jury Verdict

Below is my post from 12 September, 2012 under the title "Bring Me The Balls Of Kelvin MacKenzie".  You will understand why.


At last we have had something like the real story behind the 1989 disaster at Hillsborough Stadium, Sheffield, at the semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest and the shoddiness of the handling and cover-up of what occurred.

It was during the 1970’s when there were about three or four times when I went to the Sheffield Wednesday Hillsborough ground.  One was the semi-final in 1974 when Newcastle United beat Burnley 2-0 in what was a tight technical game.  Malcolm McDonald got loose a couple of times and that was it.  In the Cup Final at Wembley that year Liverpool made sure he did not get loose and won 3-0.

Like very many soccer grounds it had a lot of unsatisfactory features arising from locations in built up older parts of the cities and occasional extensions that were not planned for comfort, for convenience of admission or leaving or for safety.  It was certainly buyer beware when you paid for your entrance.

Which is why, when I took any of the young ones it was seats that were chosen.  This arose from long experience of many grounds from the early 1940’s onwards.  There were quite a few with standing areas that were a horror and with casual policing.  The Shed at Molyneux was a bad one but typical of too many.

One ground I had been to was the old Burnden Park at Bolton, the Wanderers ground where a disaster had occurred on 9 March 1946 at a cup tie against Stoke City.  The steep bank behind one of the goals was bad at any time with a large crowd, but when the number of fans well exceeded any reasonable limit it took only a minor accident to trigger a major disaster.

There was a report into this, the Moelwyn Hughes Report which recommended that clear crowd limits should be established and adhered to with better policing.  In the next forty years this was honoured far more in the breach than the observance.  Even if a sensible figure for crowd limits was established it was common for a combination of bad management and limited policing to allow more in.

In fact in some cases where the number of those wanting to see the match was far higher than the ground could take the restricted areas outside the ground were just as much of a danger.  In cases of this kind it was not unknown for many to be let in because it was thought safer than leaving them outside with no control.

The Leppings Lane entrance to Hillsborough had always been difficult under pressure either to get in or to get out.  Which was why after a game many fans simply hopped over the low wall to use other exits at the end of a game as was often the case in other places. 

The trouble was that when pitch invasions by hooligan elements became fashionable many grounds put up strong fencing to keep the fans off the pitch at all costs, which meant that it became impossible to get to any less used exits.  Hillsborough was one such ground having had problems with local “skinheads”.

Skipping all the fancy theory of risk and the rest many grounds were big accidents waiting to happen.  The trouble was that neither the football authorities, the clubs nor some local police forces recognised this and in any case did not regard themselves as having much, if any, responsibility for real crowd control.

All this was well known and essentially just part of the football furniture.  It was common at many full grounds for the St. John’s Ambulance men to be busy and for people to be carted off to hospital or passed down to the pitch edge over the heads of fans.  All this was one reason why in maturity I avoided the standing areas.

Also, it was why when I saw the footage of the Hillsborough disaster in 1989 it was crystal clear to me that it was not the fans that were at fault.  The Leppings Lane end was difficult whenever it was full.  So there had to be a gross failure of control both inside and outside the ground.

But that was the whole point of organising grounds, controlling and managing the areas outside to ensure that the flows and movement of people were satisfactory and inside to ensure limits were kept and the “bunching” that could occur did not.  At Hillsborough none of this happened.

That much of the media at that time, notably the Murdoch press, could neither admit what was a well known and long standing problem nor that very serious questions arose from the whole nature of the disaster was disgusting.  In particular that of the “Sun” was filth journalism at its worst.

Murdoch and MacKenzie went on to many more profitable things and they and their friends ensured that the memory of those lost was smeared and their families robbed of any justice.  They, at the time, were probably those placed to seek and tell the truth and they did not.

So what does this tell us about our media and their friends?


I have nothing to add, or to remove.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Shakespeare In Brief And At Length

The world of William Shakespeare was a different time, but much of what we are told reflects matters of the present and recent past.  There is some of that world that is lost but a lot that is ignored, often because it is difficult to comprehend or explain or may interfere with the accepted narrative.

This is a lady from the mid 20th Century who was very influential in her field of study. Her handling of subject material and analysis were first class and she was held in great respect by all her students and her colleagues.  For those who had thought the Middle Ages were about wars, dynasties, power and theologies she was the voice of another reality.

What she has to do with Shakespeare is far from obvious.  But the England he lived in was one were the Wool Trade was a key, perhaps even the key, economic activity beyond agriculture.  He grew up in a town that was concerned with it and adjacent to The Cotswolds, then a major centre of the trade and the wealth that it created.

A few days ago an item posted was about Leslie Stuart, a major composer, performer and theatrical impresario of his day, but one of the last of his kind.  It is possible to see Shakespeare as one of the first of these who emerged in the 16th Century and to trace a line of connections between the two.

He was a businessman, an impresario, a writer and composer who was part of a highly complex network of his time and close to the leaders of society.  More to the point, he had his work printed and in the following generations it was possible for the families who knew him to keep alive his name and works.

In a post on 25 October 2011, "Shakespeare, Family And Friends", I dealt with this.  It was long, detailed and very complicated, simply because that was the way it was and few academics or others have attempted to delve into and weave their way through all these families, their marriages and their status.

There was a short post on Friday 23 April 2010, "Brush Up Your Shakespeare" which does not add much and on Sunday 15 February 2015. "More On Tudor Times", I picked up on a key aspect relating to the "Wolf Hall" TV series.

All these relate to the networks, but behind this, there are  the economics of the Wool Trade and it's connected trades, activities and crucially the financial systems of the period.

So much has been written about this period, yet we understand so little.

Friday, 22 April 2016

A Plea To Obama

Here is an extract of what David Cameron will sing in welcome to President Obama on his arrival:

"Oh!  Mr. President, what shall I do?
I want to go to Panama, but I'm stuck in an EU!

Take me back to Chelsea because I'm in a jam,
Oh! Mr. President, what a silly boy I am!"

Apologies, and there can't be enough of them, to Marie Lloyd and George and Thomas Le Brunn in borrowing from "Oh, Mr. Porter".

Wikipedia says that the song was alluded to in the book "Ulysses" by James Joyce, I suppose that makes more sense than Cameron.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Question Of The Day

Would you buy a used car from this person?

Making Choices

It is fashionable, apparently, for people to chose their gender.  Some schools think that this should be a first priority for a child in primary education.

Long ago, when at school, we had a lot of problems with the gender business, our teachers in the relevant subject could be quite fanatical about it.

It is explained here in an attempt to make it simple.  Personally, I never quite got the hang of it.

However, seeing myself as only one small part of a complex system, a participle in a way, I had another way of defining my existence as a construction of DNA.