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Articles on this Page
- 03/31/17--12:00: _Mother's Ruin - gin
- 04/04/17--01:00: _ Chautauqua: adult ...
- 04/07/17--13:00: _What happened to pa...
- 04/11/17--01:00: _Stefan Zweig - defe...
- 04/14/17--13:00: _Innovative housing ...
- 04/18/17--01:00: _Mata Hari - seducti...
- 04/21/17--13:00: _Guy Fawkes and his ...
- 04/25/17--01:00: _My favourite Art De...
- 04/28/17--13:00: _Christina Stead - l...
- 05/02/17--01:00: _Maremma dogs protec...
- 05/05/17--13:00: _Did France accept d...
- 05/09/17--01:00: _Israeli trials of J...
- 05/12/17--15:00: _Mussolini's fake na...
- 05/16/17--01:00: _The British Raj in ...
- 05/19/17--13:00: _Mentoring Noel Pear...
- 05/23/17--01:00: _Corfu - was it Vene...
- 05/26/17--13:00: _Revolutionising the...
- 05/30/17--01:00: _cold case squad, DN...
- 06/02/17--13:00: _Colour and emotion ...
- 06/06/17--01:00: _Let's celebrate Can...
- 06/09/17--13:00: _Gilded Age in the U...
- 06/13/17--01:00: _Australia's Flying ...
- 06/16/17--13:00: _Stairway to heaven ...
- 06/20/17--01:00: _Les Darcy - Austral...
- 06/23/17--13:00: _A stately home, sex...
- 03/31/17--12:00: Mother's Ruin - gin
- 04/04/17--01:00: Chautauqua: adult education in the USA 1874-1933
- 04/07/17--13:00: What happened to pacifists in WW1?
- 04/18/17--01:00: Mata Hari - seductive dancer in Paris or German WW1 spy?
- 04/21/17--13:00: Guy Fawkes and his 12 Catholic co-conspirators
- 04/25/17--01:00: My favourite Art Deco portraitist - Tamara Lempicka
- 04/28/17--13:00: Christina Stead - literary hero or forgotten Australian?
- 05/02/17--01:00: Maremma dogs protect fairy penguins from rampant foxes: Australia
- 05/09/17--01:00: Israeli trials of Jewish kapos from WW2 - 1950-1972
- 05/12/17--15:00: Mussolini's fake nation - the Italian Social Republic (1943-5)
- 05/16/17--01:00: The British Raj in India - in perfect control or in chaos?
- 05/19/17--13:00: Mentoring Noel Pearson - a guest post
- 05/23/17--01:00: Corfu - was it Venetian, British, Greek or something else?
- 05/26/17--13:00: Revolutionising the care of spinal injuries - Ludwig Guttmann
- 05/30/17--01:00: cold case squad, DNA science and a 1984 murder - Kylie Maybury
- 06/02/17--13:00: Colour and emotion in Vincent van Gogh's post-impressionist years
- 06/06/17--01:00: Let's celebrate Canada's 150 years since Confederation
- 06/09/17--13:00: Gilded Age in the USA - Edith Wharton and her home, The Mount.
- 06/13/17--01:00: Australia's Flying Kangaroo: a history of Qantas
- 06/16/17--13:00: Stairway to heaven - Dante-inspired architecture in Buenos Aires
- 06/23/17--13:00: A stately home, sex, class & power: the Profumo Affair
Gin is a spirit which derives its predominant flavour from juniper berries. From its earliest medieval beginnings, gin has evolved from an herbal medicine to the commercial drink that the Dutch physician Franciscus Sylvius (1614-72) invented. By the mid C17th, many small Dutch and Flemish distillers had popularised the re-distillation of malt spirit or wine with juniper, anise, caraway and coriander which were sold in pharmacies and used to treat such medical problems as kidney ailments and gout.
Gin was loved by English and Dutch troops who were fighting the Spanish during the Thirty Years War (1618-48). In particular they noticed its calming effects before battle. By 1663, there were c400 Dutch distillers in Amsterdam alone.
Gin only became popular on English soil when Prince William of Orange and Princess Royal Mary took the English throne in 1688. But note that the original Dutch spirit-jenever was only c30% alcohol. The gin distilled in London was very strong and often mixed with impurities eg turpentine or sulphuric acid. London gin didn’t have the “dry, botanical-based sophistication” of Amsterdam gin. London’s was more of a hellish drink.
bought when the new Great Central Railway terminus was to be built in St John’s Wood
and restored in 2014.
Photo credit: Britain Magazine
At the same time, a drop in food prices ensured that working people had a larger disposable income to spend on alcohol. This was a crisis waiting to happen.
So what went so tragically wrong? By 1721 magistrates were already decrying gin as "the principal cause of all the vice and debauchery committed among the inferior sort of people". “How surprisingly this Infection has spread within these few Years … it is scarce possible for Persons in low Life to go anywhere or to be anywhere, without being drawn in to taste, and, by Degrees, to like and approve of this pernicious Liquor." For a few pennies, London’s poor found an escape from cold, hunger and misery.
Yet alcohol consumption was high at all levels of society, as William Hogarth showed in A Midnight Modern Conversation 1733. Well dressed, bewigged gentlemen were fall-down drunk in a "coffee-house".
By 1730 c7,000 gin shops and street corner stands (plus an unknown number of illegal drinking dens) were in business in London, with millions of litres of gin distilled each year. Though many other drinks were available, it was gin that became known as Mother's Ruin and caused the greatest public concern. The British government had to act!
The Gin Act 1736 taxed retail sales at a rate of 20 shillings a gallon on spirits and required licensees to take out a £50 annual licence to sell gin, an impossibly high fee. The intended aim was to effectively prohibit the trade by making it economically unfeasible. The actual outcome was mass law-breaking and violence (particularly towards informers who were paid £5 to dob in illegal gin shops).
The illegally distilled gin which was produced following the 1736 Act was less reliable and more likely to result in poisoning. Gin was blamed for misery, rising crime, madness, prostitution, higher death rates and falling birth rates. Drunkenness of the common people was said to be universal. In an infamous case of 1734, one infamous woman collected her toddler from the workhouse, strangled him, dumped the body in a ditch and sold the child’s new set of clothes for 1s 4d to buy gin.
As consumption levels increased in Britain, an organised campaign for more effective legislation was led by Bishop Thomas Wilson; he complained that gin produced a drunken, ungovernable set of people. Prominent anti-gin campaigners included authors Henry Fielding (who blamed gin for both increased crime and increased children's ill health) and Daniel Defoe (who complained that drunken mothers were threatening to produce a fine spindle-shanked generation of children). The 1736 Act had failed and had to be repealed!
It passed more bills aimed at slowing the city's endless love for gin, despite creaming off serious taxes from the trade. The Gin Act of 1751 successfully prohibited distillers from selling to unlicensed merchants. Gin was no longer being sold in small dingy gin shops, but in smarter pubs where quality control was tighter. And another thing. When English grain became more expensive, land owners became less dependent on income from gin production. A series of poor harvests resulted in lower wages and increased food priced.
Parliament had passed five major Acts, in 1729, 1736, 1743, 1747 and 1751, designed to control the consumption of gin. But the gin crisis only ended after the 1751 Act. In the later C18th tea, coffee and beer began to rival gin.
Dr George Birkbeck of the Andersonian Institute in Glasgow gave the first lectures in 1800 to local mechanics i.e skilled workers. His subject was new technology. The lectures were so popular that a Mechanics’ Institute was launched to provide adult education for the working classes in Glasgow. And most importantly the facilities were free in an age when learning and libraries were only available to families with money.
The second facility to open was The Edinburgh School of Arts (in 1821) and soon Dr Birkbeck moved south to open the London Mechanics’ Institute (in 1823). The next couple of decades saw the foundation of hundreds of institutes spread across Britain, clearly filling a gaping hole in the education system in the years before compulsory schooling for all children. The typical mid-C19th institute offered courses of lectures (usually on a range of subjects, both vocational and academic), discussion groups and a library.
It did not take long before the rest of the British Empire became entranced with the concepts of adult education and Mechanics’ Institutes. The first in Australia opened in Hobart as early as 1827. It should not surprise us that in Hobart it was a Scottish academic, Dr James Ross from Aberdeen University, who lectured to the ambitious young men on engineering, mechanics and steam engines.
In small Australian cities, adult education was a voluntary self-help association, set up for the workers of a town, assisted by a few leading residents who had money and education. The workers had to raise, by means of small weekly fees, a fund to be expended in the instruction of the members. And the Institutes could also be funded by local industrialists who would benefit from having skilled workers. Trustees and committee members were dedicated to the improvement of their local communities. Weekly lectures in science and literature was welcomed; subjects like religion and politics were specifically excluded. Victorians took the concept of self improvement very seriously.
As previous posts have shown, the the Mechanics’ Institute concept was working well across Britain and its Empire, particularly between 1850-1914.
If I had thought about adult education in C19th USA, I would have guessed it would have been very similar to the Scottish model. Or perhaps the lyceum movement which, in Pre-Civil War America, paid important people to give speeches on religious, political and scientific topics to gatherings in small or rural towns.
At first Miller financed and organised a two-week summer training course for Sunday school teachers in all Protestant denominations. Rev Vincent was named superintendent of instruction and was responsible for overseeing the curriculum and organising faculty. It worked! At the first summer in 1874, 142 Methodist Sunday school teachers from 25 states and four countries attended the assembly.
Then 4-week sessions were staged each summer. They were utilising “the general demand for summer rest by uniting daily study with healthful recreation, and thus rendering the occasion one of pleasure and instruction combined”.
Within a few years, the scope of the Chautauqua Institution had broadened to include adult education to the general public. Along with the educational courses (including the arts and public affairs), thousands of summer residents attended concerts and social activities. The range of serious subjects grew. Hebrew and Greek were added in 1875, English literature in 1876, French and German in 1878.
In 1878, they developed a home study programme known as the Literary and Scientific Circle for those who could not attend the summer sessions. c7000 people took part in the first year of this well organised correspondence course cum book club, and more joined later.
By the late C19th, Chautauqua was nationally known as a centre for educational activities that aimed at intellectual & moral self-improvement and civic involvement. Victorian values were clearly applicable on both sides of The Pond. The programme had provided learning opportunities for those who, because of age or life situation, could never have attended institutes of higher learning.
The Chautauqua idea of adult education spread to many towns, especially in rural areas where opportunities for secondary education had been limited. The new chautauquas introduced people to the new issues of public concern, science, culture and philosophy across half the country by 1900. Especially in the Midwest where tent cities popped up every summer! By the peak of the Chautauqua Movement in 1915, some 12,000 communities had hosted a chautauqua. People flocked, whether they were watching Shakespeare or vaudeville acts.
The Chautauqua Movement brought learning, culture and finally entertainment to the small towns of America during the late 19th and into the inter-war era. Lifelong learning was seen to be one of the keys to living a happy, fulfilling life.
Yet the movement largely faded by the mid-1930s. The Depression had destroyed the ability of many rural families to even think about summer holidays. And for those families with a bit of money, perhaps the family radio and the local cinema were more appealing.
The Chautauqua Trail takes interested readers from Halifax in Nova Scotia to Boulder in Colorado.
Pre-WW1 pacifism was the belief that violence was always immoral, even in self-defence. The belief might have been grounded in religious commitment against the killing of human beings or in a secular belief that war could never replace peaceful negotiations as a means of solving disputes.
The No-Conscription Fellowship/NCF was a British pacifist organisation which was founded in London in Nov 1914, after WW1 had failed to reach an early conclusion. The activities of the NCF clarified what was faced by those who refused to take up arms: from social ostracism to imprisonment and even capital punishment.
There are three important books to read: Pacifism in Britain 1914-1945: The Defining of a Faith by Martin Ceadel (Oxford UP 1980), No More Soldiering: Conscientious Objectors of the First World War by Stephen Wade (Amberley Publishing, 2016); Conscientious Objectors of the First World War: A Determined Resistance by Ann Kramer (Pen & Sword Books Ltd 2015).
It was not until Jan 1916 that the Military Service Act was enacted in Parliament, bringing in conscription after the large-scale loss of manpower in the major Western Front campaigns. The Act created a formal site of confrontation between the military establishment and the pacifists and COs. Across Britain, young unmarried men who would not fight found themselves hauled before tribunals of elderly men, appointed to decide their fate. Then married men were also conscripted.
Martin Ceadel wrote that in Britain, the Military Service law had actually been quite liberal. In principle it exempted those of any or no religious affiliation from fighting. Some pacifists were prepared to work in war zones as long as it was in non-combat roles eg medical orderlies, stretcher-bearers, ambulance drivers, cooks or labourers. Others were prepared to do alternative, non-combatant or civilian work of national importance at home eg farming, forestry or community service like The Red Cross. A small number refused to do anything that might help the war effort.
Clearly many Britons particularly disapproved of tolerance being shown by military-service tribunals that recognised secular objections. As a result the tribunals were said to have hounded atheists and socialists, believing they were lazy, degenerate, ungrateful shirkers, seeking to benefit from the sacrifices of others. [This was not true for every one. Lady Ottoline Morrell was already sharing the Bloomsburies' Fitzroy Square gatherings where she met the regulars. She was herself a pacifist, so during WW1 she found jobs on her Oxford estate so that COs from the Bloomsbury Group could gain exemption from serving in the army. Secondly she welcomed injured soldiers to her home, to support their pacifism and to get their literature published].
There were 16,500 COs in 1916, most of whom were awarded some kind of moral acknowledgement by their tribunals. But because religious men who accepted the literal truth of the Bible wanted total exemption, they had a worse struggle. Only 985 British objectors held out against ANY type of alternative service, yet they attracted most public attention. Their prison sufferings were widely publicised.
c6,000 objectors were inducted into the army, though after a few weeks of harsh treatment they were usually handed over to the civil authorities. Despite the 34 capital punishment sentences, none carried out, most objectors compromised by undertaking non-military work of national importance under a new Home Office scheme. Did anyone see the bitter irony of handing out death sentences to men because they objected to killing men?
Stephen Wade described the traditional accounts of COs that painted them as at best cowards, and at worst traitors and collaborators. He focused on the history leading up to the introduction of the 1916 Act, and the forced conscription of civilians into the British Army. He too described the 16,000 British men who refused conscription on grounds of conscience, and believed it wrong of any government to force them to kill.
At least 500 of the objectors were imprisoned under brutal conditions, some spending long sentences locked up. Of course nothing that the authorities did broke the determined resistance of these men. Ann Kramer looked at who the men were, why they took their stand and how they were treated. To bring their voices and experiences to life, Kramer used contemporary interviews, memoirs and newspapers articles. She thus described what it was like for COs to face hostile tribunals, be forced into the army, defy army regulations, be brutalised and endure repeated terms of imprisonment.
When discussing WWI now, attention is still focused on those soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice: men who fought and died in the trenches so that future generations could live in a democracy. Yet the level of scorn aimed at those who made every attempt to avoid killing continues. Was it ever deserved? Ceadel, Wade and Kramer proved that those who refused to kill were also courageous.
Many of those who had called themselves COs before 1914 continued to regard themselves as COs after, despite participating in the war effort in some way. And not surprisingly pacifism became widespread as a reaction to the WW1 massacres and to universal male conscription. My grandfather was a passionate supporter of the Russian Revolution in 1917, yet by 1930 was a total pacifist.
People Power: Fighting for Peace is an exhibition at the Imperial War Museum London until late August 2017. From conscientious objectors to peace camps and modern day marches, hear the stories of passionate people since 1914 on, and the struggles they endured for the anti-war cause.
Zweig had a warm relationship with Theodor Herzl, the clever journalist/political activist who led the World Zionist Movement. Zweig and Herzl met when the latter was still the literary editor of Neue Freie Presse, then Vienna's main newspaper. Herzl accepted some of Zweig's early essays for publication, even though Zweig believed in the unification of Europe and internationalism, and Herzl believed in Jewish nationalism and the creation of a Jewish state.
At the beginning of WWI, patriotic sentiment was widespread in the German-speaking countries, and extended to most German and Austrian Jews, including Zweig & philosopher Martin Buber. Zweig was a pacifist, so he did his national service in the Archives of the Ministry of War, and maintained his pacifist stand.
Zweig married Friderike Maria von Winternitz in 1920 and adopted her two children.
He became a prominent and prolific writer in the 1920s-30s, close to Arthur Schnitzler and Sigmund Freud. He was very popular in the Europe and Spanish speaking South America, but he was not well known in English speaking countries. True, some literary critics thought he was lightweight but others found his humanism and simplicity to be effective.
This was a time of growing national violence in Europe; Zweig was becoming very alarmed, and quite depressed. So he retreated to a safe area of writing that everyone would love: historical biographies eg Balzac (published in 1930), Freud (1931), Queen Marie-Antoinette (1932), Erasmus of Rotterdam (1934), Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles (1935) etc. He could be a great exponent of the Jewish humanist and Viennese ideals, at the same time.
But the end was in sight. In 1933, following Hitler's rise to power in Germany, Joseph Goebbels organised book burnings in Berlin and other cities. All the brilliant books written by Einstein, Marx, Kafka, Freud, Schnitzler and of course Stefan Zweig were thrown onto bonfires; cosmopolitan modernism turned to ash in minutes.
In 1934 Zweig left Austria for Britain. Yet he managed to sustain a close working relationship with German composer Richard Strauss, and provided the libretto for their opera The Silent Woman. Strauss was very brave in defying the Nazi regime by refusing to remove Zweig's name from the programme for the opera’s première in 1935 in Dresden. Naturally Goebbels walked out in high dudgeon and the opera was banned after three performances. Zweig later collaborated with Strauss a second time, providing him with the libretto for one other opera, Daphne, in 1937.
Zweig divorced Friderike Maria in 1938 and married his Viennese secretary, Lotte Altmann, in London the very next year. But 1939 was not a happy year for European Jewry. In the aftermath of the invasion of Poland, Great Britain declared war on Germany. Zweig and the other German speaking intellectuals were immediately declared enemy aliens in the UK. Irony after irony!
Because of the swift advance of Nazi troops west-wards, Zweig and his new young wife travelled briefly to Yale University in the USA to save themselves. Then in Aug 1940 they moved on to the Brasilian mountain town of Petropolis, near Rio de Janeiro.
Alas life was tragic for the couple. Firstly Zweig had for many years been depressed at the collapse of European peace and culture, even before WW1. Secondly this great writer lost his German publisher, Insel Verlag, and thus his main source of fame and income. Thirdly exile to the cultural wilderness beyond European borders was intolerable. Finally Stefan heard from reliable sources that his second home/library in Salzburg had been destroyed by the Nazis. By February 1942 he was very depressed about the growth of brutal authoritarianism, and had no hope for the future.
Stefan wrote a farewell note in Feb 1942 and both Zweigs suicided in their Brasilian home.
If Zweig had used history to remind his readers that a better, more cultured life was possible, then his suicide was the most historically significant event of them all. Just as well he had been a passionate collector of manuscripts. The British Library's Stefan Zweig Collection, donated by the family in 1986, focuses on autographed music manuscripts, including works by Bach, Haydn, Wagner, Mahler. The most precious item is Mozart's own handwritten thematic catalogue of his works. And there is an important Zweig collection at the State University of New York. The last place to visit on a literary pilgrimage is the family home in Brasil, Casa Stefan Zweig, which has since been opened as a cultural centre.
The Impossible Exile: Stefan Zweig at the End of the World by George Prochnik was well reviewed in The Telegraph by Frances Wilson in 2014.
By 1932, during the Great Depression, at least one-quarter of the American workforce was unemployed. When President Franklin Roosevelt took office in 1933, he needed to strengthen the economy ..and provide jobs and relief to the nation’s working families and to the unemployed. Over the next eight years, the government instituted a series of experimental programmes that aimed to restore some dignity to working families. This was the New Deal.
President Roosevelt's New Deal legislation tackled the increasingly desperate housing shortage via the formation of the Housing Division of the Public Works Administration in 1933. In Oct 1934 the National Association of Housing Officials held a conference which:
a] established housing standards,
b] devised a plan for creating projects through local agencies, and
c] criticised slum clearance policies.
Very soon a bill was presented that would give federal money to local authorities for low-income housing projects. In 1937 Congress finally approved the United States Housing Act, "to provide financial assistance to the states and political subdivisions thereof for the provision of decent, safe and sanitary dwellings for families of low income." It had taken 4 long years!!
Even though the USA was not sending soldiers off to WW2 yet, The Defence Homes Corporation-DHC was created in October 1940 to finance housing subdivisions and apartment complexes for workers in war industries. Conservatives were furious! In order to insure conservative opposition would not prevent the legislation from going ahead, DHC agreed only to construct public housing where the private home-building industry was NOT functioning. Hundreds of housing projects were completed and hundreds more were started, but hostile right wing political campaigns continued.
Gropius and his equally modernist architectural colleague (also from Bauhaus) Marcel Breuer designed Aluminium City Terrace/ACT in New Kensington Pennsylvania quickly: in 12 frantic days of work. They planned 250 apartments, grouped in 35 multi-unit row house buildings!
The documents for this project, written in July 1941, illustrated the architects' concerns for the overall health and well-being of the workers who would live at ACT. So Gropius and Breuer produced a layout in which almost every one of 35 row houses faced the sun. Large windows let the light flow into the open-plan interiors, which used low partitions to divide the internal living spaces. All this made the homes seem larger. Wooden awnings shielded the windows from the high summer sun. In addition to the beautiful green areas around the entire project, each tenant had his own private terrace opening from his own living area.
The name Aluminium City Terrace was used because of the historic Alcoa plant that had been there, employing 7,000 workers. But they did not use aluminium. Even when ACT was being built, the local aluminium was being redirected from consumer products to the burgeoning war effort. The buildings were made of brick, cedar and glass, still reflecting the very spare, very rectangular Bauhaus style developed in Germany.
As did the communal facilities. The Community House offered a large meeting room with a demonstration kitchen, a nursery for babies, and a room for arts and crafts. Then the Child Welfare Building provided additional space for community activities, a preschool and a children's clinic.
When the war ended in 1945, the federal government began planning to sell off defence housing projects quickly and cheaply. However, by July 1946, the government’s National Housing Agency (NHA) issued a plan for the "disposal of permanent war housing to mutual ownership corporations."
Aluminum City Terrace was the first defence housing project in the USA to be purchased by tenants under provisions of the Mutual Ownership Plan of 1948. This was despite more protests from a hostile Congress and from local landowners who predicted that working families would inevitably create a future slum and lower property values. In 1948, the experiment in wartime housing did indeed become a co-op. Since then, the management of the neighbourhood has been overseen by a board of directors, all residents, who meet monthly to do ensure the upkeep of the buildings and gardens, and other communal tasks.
Since then the buildings have been significantly and sensitively remodelled. In the 1960s, most of the wood siding were removed and the wooden sun screens were replaced with long, aluminium, louver-like sunscreens. While they don't look like the historic Bauhaus-style product they once represented, the buildings are still attractive. And the Terrace meets the requirement that Gropius set so long ago: that housing for working families be as well designed as anything he produced for affluent clients.
In 1995, the Historic American Engineering Record performed careful visual documentation, as required for all important historical architecture. Just as well! Most housing communities built during the war were demolished, even though they were designed by such notable architects as Louis Kahn, and even though they had achieved international fame by 1945. Aluminum City Terrace was perhaps the only one to survive and thrive.
I am not surprised other public housing projects did not survive across the USA. Conservatives believed the ACT never served as a model for post-war private housing because it did not offer the traditional single family, suburban housing that Americans wanted. Millions of working American families, on the other hand, thought ACT was a democratic, affordable and attractive version of suburban housing. As do I.
Margaretha Geertruida Zelle (1876-1917) came from Leeuwarden, born to her Dutch father Adam Zelle, a failed merchant. Her Javanese mother Antje Zelle fell ill and died when the four children were still at school. The grieving children were packed off to live with various relatives.
In the mid-1890s, Margaretha answered a newspaper ad seeking a bride for Rudolf MacLeod, a wealthy but brutal military captain based in the Dutch East Indies. The teenager sent a seductive photo of herself and despite their age difference, they married in 1894. During their volatile, alcohol-affected marriage, Margaretha had a daughter who survived and a son who did not.
By the early 1900s, Mata Hari's marriage had failed. Her husband divorced her and disappeared with their daughter, so Margaretha moved to Paris. There she became a professional dancer, teacher and translator, and when she was hungry, she became the mistress of a French diplomat.
In Edwardian Paris, Margaretha's exotic looks were perfect. She created the Temple Dance by drawing on cultural and religious symbolism that she had picked up in the Indies. She called herself a Hindu artist, draped in veils that loosely covered her body. In one exotic garden performance, Mata Hari appeared with a naked bottom on a white horse and breasts covered with beads. Completing her dramatic transformation from military wife to an Indonesian princess trained in exotic rituals and Hindu dances, she called herself Mata Hari.
Mata Hari’s dances drove the Paris salons wild, then Berlin, Vienna, Madrid and other European capitals. Reporters across Europe described her as "slender and tall with the flexible grace of a wild animal, and with blue-black hair.""She was feline, extremely feminine, majestically tragic, the thousand curves and movements of her body trembling in a thousand rhythms."
But youth doesn’t last forever. As younger dancers came to fame, Mata Hari's bookings reduced. She boosted her income by seducing government and military men; sex was purely for money. Despite the growing tension in Europe pre-WWI, her lovers included German officers.
Despite the Netherlands remaining neutral in WW1, her relentless travelling and random sexual liaisons attracted attention from British and French intelligence who carefully surveilled her.
At 40 Mata Hari fell in love with a 21-year-old Russian captain, Vladimir de Masloff, in 1916. During their courtship, Masloff was sent to the Front, where an injury left him blind in one eye. Determined to earn money to support him, Mata Hari accepted a lucrative assignment to spy for France from Georges Ladoux, an army captain who needed her “contacts” for French intelligence.
Mata Hari insisted that she planned to use her connections to seduce her way into the German high command, get secrets and hand them over to the French. So when she met a German attaché, she began tossing him bits of gossip, hoping to get some valuable information in return. Instead, she got named as a German spy in communiqués he sent to Berlin which were immediately caught by the French.
Some historians believed that the Germans suspected Mata Hari was a French spy and subsequently set her up, deliberately sending a message falsely labelling her as a German spy. Others believed that she was in fact a German double agent. In any case, the French authorities arrested Mata Hari for espionage in Paris in Feb 1917. They threw her into the filthy prison at Saint-Lazare, where no family or friends were allowed to visit.
During lengthy interrogations by the military prosecutor Captain Pierre Bouchardon, Mata Hari seemed uncertain of which events in her life actually happened and which she had made up over the years. Eventually she admitted too much: A German diplomat had once paid her 20,000 francs to gather intelligence in Paris. But she had always remained faithful to France - the money was compensation for furs and luggage that had once disappeared on a departing train while German border guards hassled her. "A courtesan, I admit it. A spy, never!" she repeated many times.
Mata Hari's trial for espionage came at a time when the Germans were advancing. Real or imagined spies were convenient scapegoats for explaining military losses, and Mata Hari's arrest was one of many.
So when Mata Hari (?accidentally) admitted that a German officer paid her for sex, the French prosecutors depicted it as espionage money. And money she claimed was a regular stipend from a Dutch baron was portrayed in court as coming from German spymasters. Sadly the Dutch baron was never called to testify before the military tribunal. Nor did they call Mata Hari's maid, who handled the baron's payments. Worst of all, she had the three most criticised character flaws - she was foreign, divorced and had sex outside marriage. "Without scruples, accustomed to make use of men, she is the type of woman who is born to be a spy," concluded Bouchardon.
The military tribunal deliberated for only 45 minutes before returning a guilty verdict. The defendant couldn’t believe it ☹. She made a direct appeal to the French president for clemency and was horrified when he too turned her down.
Mata Hari was executed by firing squad on 15th Oct 1917. Dressed in a French uniform, she had arrived at the Paris execution site with a minister and two nuns and walked quickly to the kill-site. She then turned to face the firing squad, removed her blindfold and was instantly killed.
It was an improbable end for the exotic dancer and courtesan, whose name came to stand for sexy spy who charmed war secrets from her lovers. At the time, The New York Times merely called her "a woman of great attractiveness and with a romantic history."
What do people believe now? Mystery and intrigue still surrounds Mata Hari's life and alleged double agency. Many people saw the 1931 film Mata Hari, starring Greta Garbo as the courtesan-dancer-spy and Ramon Novarro as her Russian flier-lover, called Lieutenant Alexis Rosanoff in the film. The conclusion seems to be that Mata Hari was thoughtless in her selection of sexual partners during WW1, but certainly not working as a spy for the Germans (or for anyone else). The military files used against her were filled with information gaps, exaggerations and blatant lies.
This year is the centenary of Mata Hari’s execution, so there is a renewed interest in her story: Paulo Coehlo’s new novel The Spy, Ted Brandsen’s ballet by the Royal Dutch Ballet, and an exhibition at the Fries museum. Perhaps Mata Hari's letters, edited by Lourens Oldersma offer a more human side to this woman, as a victim of domestic abuse and historical circumstances.
Remember, remember the fifth of November,
gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason
why gunpowder treason
should ever be forgot.”
Guy Fawkes Night aka Bonfire Night was and is the anniversary of the foiling of the Gunpowder Plot on 5th November 1605. The plot was centred around a group of Roman Catholic revolutionaries, furious at the persecution of their co-religionists in England. After 45 years of persecution during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, the plotters had hoped their struggles would end once King James I took the throne in 1603. Certainly James was a Protestant, but the Catholics knew that James had had a Catholic mother, Mary Queen of Scots. And James had himself made informal overtures to Catholic powers like Spain, Savoy and Tuscany.
In 1603, in Hampton Court, James was known to be receiving some leading Catholic gentry who brought a petition for toleration. And the treaty negotiations between Spain, England and Flanders were concluded in Aug 1604, but there was still no mention of toleration for the English Catholics.
Disenchantment quickly with King James set in. Robert Catesby and a group of his Catholic friends created a plan to kill the king, Prince of Wales and all the parliamentary ministers who had oppressed Catholics. The plotters wanted to blow up the Palace of Westminster during the state-opening of parliament when everyone would be there.
Apart from the plot leader Robert Catesby, the other members of the group were Thomas Bates, Robert and Thomas Wintour, Thomas Percy, Christopher and John Wright, Francis Tresham, Everard Digby, Ambrose Rookwood, Robert Keyes, Hugh Owen and John Grant. Each plotter had a specific role. For example the Wright brothers travelled to Holland to recruit Guy Fawkes. And they visited the King of Spain to ask for his support in the expected revolt that would follow the killing of King James I. Thomas Percy (who had contacts at the court of King James), hired a cellar beneath the House of Lords.
Sir Everard Digby and his servants would wait at the Red Lion Inn. As soon as he learned of the plot’s success, Catesby would leave London for the Midlands where the men would mastermind the next stage of the plot - the Catholic Rising. Thomas Percy helped fund the group and secured the leases to certain properties in London. When the plotters successfully kidnapped King James' daughter, Princess Elizabeth. Percy would remain in London and capture her brother, Prince Henry.
Guy Fawkes was an explosives expert, called in by the others to set the fuse. Fawkes was a Protestant Englishman who converted to Catholicism following his father’s death. He left England to join the mercenaries fighting for the Spanish against the Protestant Dutch. By renting a house near the palace, Fawkes could smuggle 36 barrels of gunpowder under Westminster and prepared to blow it to oblivion. Modern scientists have calculated that the blast have obliterated an area 500 ms wide.
Towards the end of the planning, some of the plotters worried about killing parliamentarians who had actually supported Catholicism. But the scheme was only revealed when an anonymous letter was sent to Lord Monteagle (1575–1622) in the House of Lords, warning him not to go into Parliament. I am assuming the plotters did not want to kill Lord Monteagle since he was married into many Roman Catholic families, including being the brother-in-law of Francis Tresham, one of the plotters. In fact we need to note that ten of the plotters (except for Guy Fawkes, Sir Everard Digby and Thomas Bates) were all related to one another, either by means of blood or through marriage.
The timing of this warning to Lord Monteagle was perfect - Fawkes was caught red-handed in the cellars by the guards. After his capture he was tortured till he gave up his fellow plotters. All of them died, either shot on the run OR put on trial for high treason, convicted and then hung, drawn and quartered in Jan 1606. As Fawkes awaited his punishment on the gallows, he leapt from the platform to avoid having his testicles cut off, and broke his neck. Fawkes was only 35 when he died.
From left: Thomas Bates; Robert Wintour; Christopher Wright; John Wright; Thomas Percy; Guy Fawkes; Robert Catesby; Thomas Wintour
engraving, artist unknown, c1605
Soon Bonfire Night was celebrated by the lighting of bonfires, the burning of guys/effigies of Guy Fawkes and the explosion of fireworks. The celebration was designated in law by King James I a few months after the plot failed and remained on the statute books until 1859. Also by way of symbolic commemoration, the yeoman of the guard searches the (modern) cellars of the Houses of Parliament in time for the state-opening each November.
Only one memorial came as a shock to me. The 13-strong group of plotters included brothers John and Christopher Wright, from the village of Welwicks in Yorkshire. There is now a Coreten steel statue dedicated in 2013 to Guy Fawkes, Robert Catesby, John and Christopher Wright, installed at the village entrance near the Wright brothers’ home. It is very tall (2.4m)! Since the anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot is still marked in Welwicks each year by Bonfire Night, the statue was probably built as a stark reminder of the reality of a historical specific event.
I have some last questions. Since the gunpowder plot of 1605 was seen as a dangerous challenge by the Catholic Church to Protestant England, why was the focus of the plotting limited to Guy Fawkes? Why was the role of the other 12 plotters largely excluded? And what about all the other well-connected people who aided the plotters with money, supplies and advice? Did the near-catastrophe in Westminster give some insight into how Catholics were suffering, leading to less severe penal laws against the practice of Catholicism in England? Does the reigning monarch only enter Parliament once a year even today, because of some lingering fear that remains since 1605?
To analyse the 13 major plotters and four other minor participants, see The Co-Conspirators.
Maria Gorska (1898-1980) was born into a very comfortable Russian family somewhere in the Empire. After her mother and father divorced, her grandmother sent her to boarding school in Lausanne. Maria wintered with grandma on the French Riviera and summered in St Petersburg with her Aunt Stephanie and her millionaire banker husband. Two nice lifestyle standards for the teenager to aim for!
In 1914, Maria spotted a handsome man at the Opera and decided she would marry him; it turned out to be a lawyer named Taduesz Lempicki (1888–1951). Two years later they were married in fashionable St Petersburg with her banker-uncle providing the dowry. As Lempicki had no money of his own, he was delighted to marry this young lass. A year later, Taduesz was arrested by the Bolsheviks; Tamara bravely had him freed, flashing the officials with her charms and using the help of the Swedish Consul. The re-united couple fled to Paris, along with many other upper class Russians escaping the Revolution.
In Paris and now called Tamara de Lempicka, the refugee studied art with Andre Lhote, and enrolled at Academie de la Grand Chaumiere. She became a well-known portrait painter with a distinctive Art Deco manner. Quintessentially French, Deco was the part of an exotic, sexy, and glamorous Paris that epitomised Tamara's living and painting style. Unlike Picasso’s random art, Lempicka’s style would be seen as Soft Deco i.e novel, clean, elegant and exact.
Montmartre was becoming too expensive and too crowded, so most artists gradually moved south. Montparnasse had wide boulevards and great light. And there were still many small courtyards. Paris was the centre of the world for art creation and the ideal meeting place for the artists - Lempicka, Jacques Lipchitz, Tristan Tzara and Piet Mondrian were near neighbours, producing a unique and colourful style.
private collection, Switzerland
The flat and square dresses of the 1920s provided an ideal canvas to display Art Deco taste. Skirts were shortened and the female figure became formless and androgynous - the waistline dropped to the hips and did not return to its natural position until the 1930s. Nylon, satin, silk and crepe were the most popular materials used to make shaped dresses. Short tubular dresses, long cigarette holders, cloche hats, bobbed hair, plucked eyebrows, bands of diamond bracelets and long, hanging earrings were loved. Socially it was the age of the Flapper, a young woman who went to parties without a chaperone, smoked cigarettes and drove cars. Tamara Lempicka made it her own.
The female silhouette was slim, tall and elegant, inspired by Hollywood films. Girl In Green With Gloves 1929 (Musée National d'Art Moderne Paris) was probably de Lempicka's most famous painting that clearly epitomised the Deco style and modernity. The fabric and hair combined sharp lines and flowing curves.
In Portrait of Madame M 1930 (private collection), Tamara demonstrated her fashionable sense, sleek and seductive. Some curves were back and they were emphasised by the use of fabrics cut on the bias. Early on hemlines dropped to just above the ankle and remained there until WW2. Necklines were lowered; shoulders were squared. Dress waists returned to the natural waistline. Fuller skirts were accentuated a small waist and minimised the hips. Dress bodices were designed with inset pieces and yokes. Necklines were dramatic, with wide scallop-edged or ruffled collars. Skirts were also designed with great detail. Upper skirt yokes were used, designed in a v-shape. The skirt bottom often had pleats or gathers.
Hollywood and F. Scott Fitzgerald popularised sporty outfits for golf, tennis, swimming; similarly clothes and hats were designed for travelling in ships, trains or motoring in streamlined cars. With freedom of movement a priority, designers such as Elsa Schiaparelli, Jean Patou, Madeleine Vionnet and Gabrielle Chanel created style for the modern woman in the fashion capital of the world, Paris.
Tamara de Lempicka definitely moved in smart and intellectual social circles! In the 1920s she became closely associated with some of my all-time favourite women in the inter-war literary set, especially Vita Sackville-West and Violet Trefusis. It probably didn’t matter to Tamara that her husband divorced her in 1931 in Paris.
Art Deco made great progress in fine arts and industrial designs, based on simple format, clean lines and vivid colours. The improvement of technology, especially in industrial products like cars, ships and trains, emphasised stylised angular forms. Tamara de Lempicka found soul mates in fashion illustrator Erte, glass artist Rene Lalique and graphic designer Cassandre.
de Lempicka had 3 fashion imperatives: simple cubist lines, as in Woman Wide Brimmed Hat 1934; clear, glowing colours; and a strong interpretation of the female form. She was the demonstrator of the female form in 1930s Art Deco clothes - sleek and seductive, abstract-ish and modern.
de Lempicka herself received acclaim for her cool Garbo-esque beauty, her parties and love affairs. Her beauty and opinionated nature also increased her celebrity. Her style only declined as conservatism started to challenge the feminist advances she had championed. The Art Deco woman, that was once an object of desire, was seen to regress toward demeaning caricatures of unbridled sexuality.
In 1934 de Lempicka married Baron Raoul Huffner (1886–1961), one of her earliest and wealthiest patrons and a recent widower. When WW2 broke out, the couple moved to Beverly Hills in America, and she became the Favourite Artist of the Hollywood Stars.
The Baron and Tamara moved to New York City in 1943, and continued painting in the old style for a while. Tamara decorated the apartment with the antiques she and the Baron had rescued from his Hungarian estate. And when the war was over, she reopened her famous Paris studio in the rue Mechain.
It took until 1966 for Musee des Arts Decoratifs to mount a commemorative exhibition in Paris, re-creating a serious interest in Art Deco. And Alain Blondel opened Galerie du Luxembourg and launched a major retrospective of Tamara de Lempicka. But it was too late in her career. In 1978 she moved to Mexico and died in 1980.
In 2009 masked gunmen stole art from a Dutch museum. Police said several robbers threatened a guard with a gun before making off with two paintings. The robbers a work by surrealist Salvador Dali. And they took La Musicienne 1929, a de Lempicka oil painting that showed a woman in a vivid blue dress playing a mandolin instrument. It had been a treasured painting.
Author Christina Stead (1902–1983) left Australia in 1928 at 26. She embarked on a successful literary career with the publication of Seven Poor Men of Sydney and The Salzburg Tales, 1934. But the inter-war period was a difficult time to be an Australian writer. Censorship was rife, publishing houses was conservative, and publishers were rarely interested in manuscripts emanating from the colonies. Stead’s first London publisher, Peter Davies, paid royalties irregularly, although he did champion her two novels in London and New York. Only Simon & Schuster and Harcourt Brace in New York were a bit more attuned to Stead’s House of All Nations and For Love Alone.
Stead became involved with the German/American writer, broker and Marxist political economist Wilhelm Blech aka William J Blake (1894–1968), with whom she travelled to Spain in 1936, just in time for the Civil War (1936-9).
Stead always blamed her father David Stead in Sydney for “deforming” her and so she wrote no letters to him after she left Australia. The Man Who Loved Children, first modestly published in 1940, was the novel that enshrined her rage and love. The novel was an autobiographical study of a family dominated by an overbearing and narcissistic father. Alas it was the only book of Stead’s that I read, and I didn’t like it!
Angus & Robertson, Australia’s main publisher, declared Stead’s cosmopolitan novels too literary and un-Australian. So the couple preferred the Eastern European publishers who translated and produced their novels in handsome editions, and paid proper royalties.
Like her heroine Teresa in For Love Alone (1944), Stead had wanted to escape the stifling parochialism of Australia. During WW2, she taught Workshop in the Novel at New York University. And after the war, she returned to London and married Bill Blake (1952).
All Australian authors who lived abroad for many years must have paid a hefty price for their cosmopolitanism and subject matter. Famous author Henry Handel Richardson NEVER returned to Australia. Mega-famous Patrick White did, but continued to be published primarily in London and New York. Stead, always scathing about the English class system, craved an Australian readership!
Overseas reviews emerged in the Australian literary pages. Literary critic Nettie Palmer started writing to Stead, passing on Rebecca West’s praise of Seven Poor Men of Sydney. The women had been delegates to the first International Congress of Writers for the Defence of Culture, a gathering of intellectuals against Fascism in 1935.
What was the chance of finding a box of letters in a Canberra basement that would shed new light on the work and life of Christina Stead? Under-read at home for much of her life, the great Australian writer created her own literary legend in letters and books. Her letters show Stead, living aboard from 1928-74, was highly regarded among influential literary circles, especially in America.
The correspondence selected for A Web of Friendship, was preserved by family members, by agents and publishers, by writerly friends and acquaintances all over the world. Her best literary friendships were always with men. She and Blake first met American poet and critic Stanley Burnshaw in New York in 1933, at the office of the communist journal New Masses. Stead’s letters reflected the reciprocity that was so crucial between literary friends — they wrote a detailed analysis of the other’s work, sent each other advance copies, and raged about the treatment they received from editors and critics. Many years later Burnshaw, then at Holt, Rinehart and Winston, ensured the reissue in 1965 of The Man Who Loved Children, and commissioned a great introduction by the critic Randall Jarrell. Burnshaw understood the difficulty of being an expatriate writer.
The Australian literary quarterlies Meanjin and Southerly, publishing occasional stories and commissioning critical articles, began building her public at home. These magazines, dependent on small amounts of support from universities and the Commonwealth Literary Fund, paid little money but often provided substantial editorial feedback.
Her correspondence was a map of an emerging Australian culture. Editors, writers and academics eg Nancy Keesing, Dymphna Cusack, Dorothy Green and Judah Watensought her out whenever they were in London and fretted about the invisibility of her great opus. Their students were encouraged to read her; they included her in anthologies of new Australian writing and nominated her for awards.
Prof of English Ronald G Geering first wrote to Stead early in 1960, acting as a go-between with Angus & Robertson to get paperback editions of her novels published in Australia. He visited her in London a few years later. His respect for her work was strong and her reliance on him grew, so eventually he became Stead’s literary trustee.
Not until after Blake died did Stead return to Australia in 1969, the recipient of a Australian National University arts fellowship. Her novels were largely out of print here, unattainable even in libraries. But she found herself an Official Personage, interviewed, photographed, feted everywhere. It was all a great strain, she said; she hated public speaking and drank too much.
During the loneliness after Bill’s death, it was Ron Geering who was left to collect the hundreds of letters she had written over decades. Stead had earlier destroyed all her drafts, most of her private papers and diaries from family and friends. Thank goodness they had kept hers. Even so, the correspondence of an American friend Harry Bloom was not found until 2007.
For years she has been known as the disappointed, insular woman of Australian literature, a novelist who plundered her friends for characters, found it impossible to enjoy normal relationships and may have repressed her own sexuality. She saw herself as unlovable, craving passion, fearing rejection. So perhaps it was surprising that the enjoyment of reading the letters left by Stead got ever stronger, covering her passionate narratives and the country’s past. The letters’ awkward Australian core, their cosmopolitan sensibility and their intelligent ferocity, drew Prof Geering and Hilary McPhee in.
The two main contenders for The Great Australian Novelist, Patrick White and Christina Stead, were almost unknown in Australia back in the day. White’s The Tree of Man did not appear until 1956 and he didn't win The Nobel Prize in Literature until 1973. Christina Stead was largely unpublished here till 1965. It was not until the 1970s that Australians embraced her nearly 20 novels and short-story collections. In 1974 she returned home to live and received the prestigious Patrick White Award for Literature. Today Stead is regarded as one of Australia's finest novelists.
Readers will enjoy A Web of Friendship: Selected Letters 1928-1973, written by Christina Stead and edited by RG Geering in 1992. Thank you to Hilary McPhee for her new introduction to the Web of Friendship, published in 2017.
The Fairy Penguin once bred all along the southern Australian coastline, and were an important food source for the indigenous population. They were also eaten by early European settlers, sealers and whalers in the early 1800s. Sadly British settlers also introduced large numbers of rats, dogs, cats and foxes many of which became wild and preyed on the little penguins, along with many other native species.
There were records of the penguins at Warrnambool’s first fully manned lighthouse station which was built in SW Victoria in 1855. But my first contact with the story started with the tv programme Coast Australia, with Scotsman Neil Oliver.
In Middle Island, off the coast of Warrnambool, red foxes had been decimating small colonies of Fairy Penguins. Normally Middle Island was cut off from the mainland for most of the year, but when the sandbar to the island became bigger during some months of the year, red foxes could walk across at leisure. When a newspaper article exposed how the endangered penguins were being killed en masse in 2004, a local chicken farmer became very alarmed.
Allan Marsh, known locally as Swampy, had already bought a maremma dog to protect his chickens from the marauding red foxes. So then he got the idea of using dogs to protect the Fairy Penguins. In 2000 there had been hundreds alive and thriving; by the 2004-5 summer, only four penguins were left on the island. Dead penguin carcasses lay everywhere, chewed up by foxes. Extinction of the island colony was imminent.
Marsh believed that his faithful maremma dog Oddball could protect the few surviving penguins. Indigenous to central Italy, particularly to Abruzzo and Tuscany, the maremma is a breed of dog that protects livestock. These self reliant dogs have a solid, muscular build, thick white coat and large heads, and have been used for centuries by Italian shepherds to bond with the sheep and guard them from wolves. The Fairy Penguins are normally found in the ocean, but they breed on land and live in burrows dug out in the sand. So the maremma dogs would be perfect because they are light-footed and would not disturb the penguins nests.
Warrnambool City Council told the chicken farmer that dogs were not allowed on Middle Island, because the dogs would be more destructive than the foxes. So Swampy had to wait until someone new started working at the council before he could take the plan any further. Then it happened! Warrnambool conducted the world's first trial using a maremma to guard the dwindling penguin population, starting in 2006.
Oddball originally went to the island for three weeks but she became homesick and swam home. Then her maremma-aunt Missy was sent out there, but she also swam home. Swampy finally managed to get the authorities to see that they needed two dogs on the island, to prevent loneliness.
Maremmas clearly showed an exceptionally strong sense of territory. They focused on guarding their territory on the island and were simply tolerating the penguins. But when a fox tried to invade the dog’s territory, there was a great deal of barking, biting and not a few fox deaths.
Warrnambool City Council and Deakin University quickly formalised the Middle Island Maremma Project. Once every two weeks during the breeding season, a group of volunteers looked for the penguins on Middle Island to count them, in front of film crews from many countries. Middle Island's current maremma guards, Eudy and Tula, live on the Island for a week at a time and are famous everywhere.
The penguins are now thriving and are back up to a population of 250. The island seems to be fox-free. These successes not only triggered international media interest, but stirred the scientific community. Scientists from Deakin University’s Warrnambool campus have presented lectures on the project at Oxford University several times. And publication in a scientific journal will make the project story available to an even wider audience.
The maremma project won the 2010 Australian Government Coastcare Award. And tourism started to increase. When not on Middle Island, the dogs live at Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village in Warrnambool, so tourists can meet the maremmas there. Middle Island has been closed to the public since 2006, to protect burrows, penguins, penguin chicks and eggs from human trampling. But it will be possible to join small, guided tours in the southern summer (December-April) at low tide.
And soon international media outlets wrote or filmed the island and dogs. One film crew arrived in 2014 to film scenes for a cinematic production called Oddball which was released in 2015. In the film, Shane Jacobson was the actor starring as the chicken farmer and Oddball’s grandson starred as Oddball the dog.
Red fox carrying off a dead penguin.
While using maremma sheepdogs to guard an endangered species has not been common, some breeds of livestock guarding dogs have long been appreciated by environmentalists. Those dogs made it possible for livestock to coexist with predators such as wolves and coyotes, reducing their predation by at least 75%. Now there is a Wombat Rescue organisation in New South Wales that uses a maremma to help tend and protect rescued wombats.
In The Voice of the Vanquished, Alicia Alted reported that c465,000 Republican Spaniards fled to France during the years of the Spanish Civil War, especially during the winter of 1936.
On 23rd Jan 1939, Franco's forces finally broke the Republicans’ resistance in Barcelona and the city fell. Surviving Republicans fled north across the Pyrenees; they thought that France, a fellow Republic, would receive them as heroes, or at least welcome them as idealists with shared beliefs.
Wrong! Even after the Spanish Civil War ended in April 1939, France was still not prepared to accept the Republican refugees; they wanted to force them either to return to Spain, or to emigrate on to Mexico, Chile or Dominican Republic. Only 140,000-180,000 Spaniards remained, in hideous French prison camps.
And not just on the French mainland. A fleet of small boats left for Algeria from the port of Alicante in March 1939, in the final days of the Civil War, with c3000 Spaniards on board. When the ships arrived in the Algerian port of Oran, the French authorities there initially refused to allow passengers to disembark. Many drowned and the survivors were eventually transferred to internment camps.
Why was southern France, Britain’s greatest ally, seen to be pro-German? After he retired from the army, Marshall Petain became the first French ambassador to Franco’s Spain in March 1939. Then he was re-called back to France and appointed Prime Minister in June 1940 – just as France appeared to face military collapse against Nazi Germany.
After France's trusted Maginot Line failed to hold back the Nazi onslaught, the German Blitzkrieg poured in. France surrendered to the Germans in mid 1940, and Paris was abandoned. French parliamentarians joined the mass escape to the south, ending up in the city of Vichy. France was split into two parts: a] Occupied France under direct German control and b] Vichy France, a pro-German independent territory with the elderly Marshall Petain at its head.
That same June 1940, Pétain concluded an armistice with the Germans. This was not a good time to be a left wing refugee in Vichy France.
The UK did not want to accept dirty, sick or radical Spanish war refugees, but Mexico did. Mexico was then ruled by President Lázaro Cárdenas who had a progressive agenda of agrarian reform, control of the army and universal health care. 24,000 Spanish refugees, including many children, settled in Mexico between from the Civil War until December 1942, when Germany directly occupied Vichy France. Most remained in Mexico. Other Spanish war refugees ended up in Argentina, Chile, Cuba and Dominican Republic.
As many as 100,000 of the Spanish refugees were herded down into the French internment camp of Argelès-Sur-Mer. They were treated like animals, not given any food or shelter, and 10,000 of them died in French camps. The bloated dead bodies lay where they fell.
Young and fit Spanish men remaining in the French camps were required to work for the French military authorities. Perhaps they were the lucky ones, assigned to help strengthen the Maginot Line in NE France.
When the Allied armies landed in France in 1944, they helped liberate many towns in southern France. The Spanish refugees were convinced that, after defeating Hitler and Mussolini, the Allies would turn on the dreaded Franco. So several thousand crossed back into the remote north of Spain to establish a bridgehead and wait for Allied reinforcements. None came. So their return home to Spain had lasted less than a fortnight. Worse, the returning Republicans were greeted with suspicion by their fellow countrymen, who were exhausted by war.
Camp de Rivesaltes, near Perpignan, was just 30km north of the Spanish-French border. The camp was built as an internment centre for 21,000 Spanish Republican men, women and children. Alas half of the prisoners were sent on to concentration camps, usually Mauthausen.
Later, during WW2, Camp de Rivesaltes was also used to hold Jews and gypsies. The camp's dark history continued in the 1950s-60s when it was used to detain harkis, Algerian soldiers serving in the French army during the Algerian war.
Decades later, there were many attempts to destroy evidence relating to the camp; in 1998 thousands of files relating to Rivesaltes were discovered in a skip. When local authorities and the French government announced that they would bulldoze the internment camp, relatives of former inmates were devastated. A memorial museum opened at Camp de Rivesaltes in 2007. The memorial is a windowless cement building buried underground, a poignant symbol of forced imprisonment. Inside the families of the survivors can see the photographs, videos and maps, and sit in the auditorium for discussions.
Plus there is another memorial. The relatives of Spanish Republicans who survived the internment camp of Argelès-Sur-Mer participate in a ceremony that takes place every year in late Feb.
The defeat of Fascism in 1945 allowed millions of displaced people to make their way home. Yet in 1945, hundreds of thousands of Spaniards remained in France, gradually adapting to life there. And they kept their heads down, afraid of being treated as outcasts. Unfortunately for them, Franco stayed in power until 1975!!
1. When Spaniards were the refugees, by Jaime Rubio Hancock, Sep 2015 In El Pais
4. Refugees and the Spanish Civil War by Larry Hannant, History Today, Jan 2017.
Were the French uniquely unsympathetic to the desperate asylum seekers back in 1939? Of course not. As we know from the Conference on German and Austrian Jewish refugees held in Évian-les-Bains in July 1938, only Argentina, Paraguay, Chile, Bolivia and Cuba responded morally. Britain, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, USA and Canada would not! And there is every reason for us, in 2017, to think that the current Syrian asylum seeker crisis is exactly replicating the exodus of Spaniards to France. Apparently we have learned nothing; in fact I would argue we are even more brutal to refugees now than we were in 1938 and 1939.
A kapo was a prisoner in a Nazi camp assigned to the SS guards, to supervise the forced labour. It was cheap for the SS since they didn’t have to pay the kapos. But more importantly for the SS, making an ordinary person into a kapo could turn one Jewish victim against all the other Jewish victims that he guarded.
In towns the functionaries would have been Jewish policemen or members of the Jewish Councils, not kapos.
Between 1950 and 1972 the newly formed State of Israel prosecuted 39 Holocaust survivors in the Kapo Trials.
The identification of Jewish policemen and kapos in post-Holocaust Israel was easy. Citizens travelling on the same bus or drinking coffee in the same café would recognise their tormentors from 1941 Poland or 1944 Hungary, and would scream out loudly until the offender had been firmly identified. Israel’s Knesset/Parliament, in a tiny nation that absorbed over half-a-million battered survivors, HAD to act. Potential violence against the kapos had to be channelled into the proper court system; otherwise they might have been faced with summary justice in the buses and cafés.
In August 1950 the Knesset enacted the Nazis and Nazi Collaborators Punishment Law. Entirely retroactive, the law targeted only those crimes committed during the Nazi regime; the nation would conduct trials of Nazis, their associates and collaborators who committed War Crimes Against the Jewish People, or Crimes Against Humanity. The punishment for Crimes Against Humanity could be capital punishment. Between 1950 and 1961 this law was used to prosecute only 39 (35 men and 4 women) Jewish Holocaust survivors, alleged to have been Nazi collaborators. The rest of the accused Jewish kapos either escaped from Israel before being brought to trial, or were not charged because the eye witnesses’ accounts were conflicted.
Dr Porat studied the case of a kapo who had murdered a group of Jews in his camp, despite there being no SS guards in sight. The Jewish kapo was sentenced to death by the Tel Aviv district court, but this ruling was overturned by the Supreme Court. The idea of the grey zone, by which some Jews willing served the Nazis, counters our ideas of the Holocaust and thus we tend to ignore the ambiguous.
At the Sydney conference I was deeply offended by the concept of capital punishment. If a court felt it was necessary to punish a particular kapo, I would have been happy to have seen the criminal in gaol for the rest of his life, fed on bread and water. But for a Jewish judge or hangman to execute a kapo for doing what he had to do under Nazi control... that judge or hangman would have in turn been reduced to the level of the Nazis.
As it turned out, only two people were ever executed in Israel's history. In 1948 Meir Tobianski was an officer in the Israel Defence Forces who was executed as a traitor on the orders of the IDF Intelligence Branch's Director. A year after the execution, Tobianski was exonerated of all charges. (Did the parliamentarians apologise to his widow and orphans?) In 1952, capital punishment for Nazi war crimes under the Nazi Collaborators' Law was imposed on a Jewish kapo called Yechezkel Jungster, a man who was convicted of viciously beating other Jews in the camp. Thankfully the sentence was commuted to two years' imprisonment.
The second and last execution was carried out in 1962, when Holocaust planner Adolf Eichmann was hanged for genocide and crimes against humanity.
The world's lack of knowledge about the Kapo Trials comes from two causes, Porat noted. First the state archives and Yad Vashem archives prevented access to the trial documents for 70 years. Second the idea that a few Jews may have acted in horrible ways does not match the dichotomy we have of victim and perpetrator. It is still inconceivable to us that our parents and grandparents were tortured by kapos who may have gone to the same school as our parents in the late 1930s.
Yet if I was faced with my parents starving to death and my children’s diseases untreated, would I not have cooperated with the SS guards? Probably yes. Jews in Poland, Hungary and other threatened communities were desperate; to have not taken the remote chance of survival by cooperating to some extent with the Germans would have been the equivalent of writing the family’s own death certificates.
Yet British historian Paul Bogdanor has written a detailed book showing that Rudolf Kasztner was an unscrupulous Nazi collaborator in Hungary, rather than a Jewish functionary merely trying to keep his family alive. Kasztner’s Crime (Transaction 2016) clarified that by collaborating with the Nazis wholeheartedly, he wanted to avoid jeopardising, at any cost, the special privileges he received from them. So in the end he was said to play a small but specific role in the death of thousands of Hungarian Jews, by helping the Germans and their Hungarian allies buy precious time.
Would the Hungarian Jewish catastrophe have turned out differently, had Kasztner not cooperated with the Germans? Of course not. But the Kasztner Train in June 1944, which saved 1684 Jews by taking them to Switzerland instead of to Bergen Belsen death camp, was said to be more due to careful Nazi planning than to Kasztner’s heroism.
How ironic then that after the war, Kasztner moved to Israel and became a successful worker in the ruling Labour Party. After an Israeli court accused him of having collaborated with the Nazis, Kastner became a hated figure in Israel, and was assassinated in 1957 by people who knew him during WW2. The Supreme Court of Israel overturned most of the judgments against Kastner in 1958, but it was too late.
Historians will learn a great deal by reading Porat, Dan State of Suspicion: Israel Prosecutes Holocaust Survivors as Nazi Collaborators, AAJS Conference Sydney Feb 2017. And Porat, Dan Changing Legal Perceptions of 'Nazi Collaborators' in Israel 1950-1972 which is easier to find.
In July 1943, the Allies had pushed Italy out of North Africa and subsequently invaded Sicily. The war had been going so badly for Italy that a meeting of the Fascist Grand Council, with the support of King Victor Emmanuel III, overthrew and arrested Il Duce Benito Mussolini. One of those who voted against Mussolini was his son-in-law, the foreign minister Galeazzo Ciano)! The following day, Mussolini was dismissed by Victor Emmanuel III saying ‘My dear Duce, it’s no longer any good. At this moment you are the most hated man in Italy.’
The Italian Fascists took revenge against the 19 members who had voted against Mussolini: death! Even Ciano was dismissed from his post by the new anti-Fascist government of Italy after his father–in-law was taken. In Aug 1943 Ciano, Edda and their three children fled to Germany, but the Germans sent them back. Ciano was then arrested for treason, imprisoned, tried and executed.
and their children, 1930
Once the anti-Fascist Italian government had declared war on Germany, a disastrous civil war broke out between those Italians who stuck with the Central Powers (in the north including Rome) and those Italians who sided with the Allies (in the south). In March 1944 the Italian resistance exploded a bomb in Rome that killed 33 German soldiers. Retaliation was swift and brutal – for each German soldier killed, Hitler ordered the execution of ten Italian civilians. 335 civilians were immediately shot in a hideous retribution called the Ardeatine Massacre. When Mussolini met Hitler in April 1944, the Italian protests were totally ignored.
In late April 1945, Mussolini's republic came to an end on a day labelled Liberation Day. On this day a general partisan uprising, alongside the Allies during their final offensive in Italy, largely ousted the Germans from Italy. By the time of its demise, the Italian Social Republic had existed for only 19+ months. On 27th April partisans caught Mussolini, his mistress Claretta Petacci, several RSI ministers and other Italian Fascists, while they were attempting to flee to Switzerland. The next day the partisans killed Mussolini and most of the other captives, including Claretta. Vittoria Mussolini, the second son, escaped to Argentina via The Vatican Route and was welcomed by the Minister for War, Juan Peron.
The Italian Social Republic might have been a make-believe state, but in its short existence, 240,000+ Italian civilian and soldiers died. The RSI Minister of Defence surrendered the survivors on 2nd May when the German forces in Italy capitulated; this put a final end to the crisis.
Villa Feltrinelli, where Il Duce lived, is now a luxury hotel that I visited (but could only afford afternoon tea). Down the road in Salò is the Museum of Salò on the shores of Lake Garda, that only opened in 2015. Richard Bosworth reviewed the museum of Fascist history and found it very unbalanced. The Museum’s stance was that the Germans were the perpetrators of evil and the Italian Fascists were the tragic victims. And there was no reference to Fascism in practice or theory towards the peoples of the Italian Empire.
The Dutch and Portuguese had dominated European trade with the Subcontinent during the 1500s. England (then Britain from 1707 on) was a late-comer to Asia. After Vasco da Gama discovered a sea-route to Asia in 1498, the Portuguese established forts and settlements around the coast of India and SE Asia. Netherlands sent dozens of ships in the 1590s, each returning with large profits. Alas the first English voyages were disasters.
So the East India Company was formed in 1600 to undo the humiliation English merchants had felt in Asia. Queen Elizabeth I gave the Company a royal charter on England’s trade with Asia and from then on, the Company zealously protected its monopoly.
My high school British History teachers stressed how progressive Imperial Britain had been in India. Undoubtedly the Indians wanted to run their own country, uninvaded by military or corporate raiders. But the teachers could give wonderful examples about British railways systems were built, British laws legislated, economies developed, irrigation systems installed and young Indian women protected. All in all, it was a civilising mission accomplished.
Then I read India Conquered, where the author Jon Wilson suggested that far from rescuing India from chaos, the British caused it. Even on legal issues, the British didn’t manage to reform and universalise personal law, leaving a confused tangle of property legislation that impeded modern commercial relations. With nothing to replace them, periods of food-price inflation led to the deaths of millions of Indians.
Critics argued that the Company was actually protecting its own corporate power and status, not Britain’s commercial relationship. The Company’s aggressive approach created a tense relationship with Indian merchants and political leaders. Its officers hid behind the walls of forts and military garrisons whenever they could. Negotiations were short; force resolved difficult situations.
The first major clash began in 1686, when Company officials were anxious that a] the Mughal empire wasn’t letting them trade without paying taxes and b] the Mughals were collaborating with private English traders to flout the Company’s monopoly. So war was declared on the Mughal empire. A fleet of 19 ships and six army companies was sent to liberate the English. But the Company’s ships were scattered by bad navigation and they were easily defeated by the Mughal military at Bombay.
By 1710 the Mughal empire practical power had begun to fragment. But until the early-mid C18th, India’s political system was powerful enough to defend against the Company. Violent events in 1720 could have led to the British conquest of Kerala, had the East India Co. not been embroiled in bigger battles elsewhere. A fleet and a small army sailed down from Bombay to take revenge, and land was “conquered from the natives”. But the fight in Kerala was quickly abandoned. In 1721 the British ships and troops were needed to defend Bombay against the Marathas of Maharashtra state.
As noted by my history teachers, the standard view of Britain’s empire in India emphasised its control, stability, success and the rational pursuit of profit. After all this story had been recorded by the empire’s governors and generals, after they returned to Britain.
The reality was that British actions were messy and chaotic. The Persian ruler Nader Shah invaded India in 1739, overthrowing the Mughals and stripping their treasuries. The invasion provoked conflict in the capitals of India and sent bands of warlords to ransack the country side.
Company forces led by Robert Clive sailed from Madras to a battlefield north of the Company’s base at Calcutta, and defeated the army of Bengal’s nawab Siraj ud Daula in Oct 1756. Then the Battle of Plassey, in June 1757, was the most important event that led to the Company’s conquest of India. It pitted 3,000 soldiers of the British East India Co. against the 5,000-strong army of the young Nawab of Bengal and his allies. When the Company refused to back down, the nawab marched, driving the British from Calcutta. After Calcutta was retaken and Siraj signed a peace treaty granting all they demanded, the British marched to depose the Nawab! British trade and honour were protected by violence; Robert Clive, perhaps an unstable sociopath, became known as the Conqueror of India.
The British replaced Siraj on the throne with the more compliant Mir Jafar. But always paranoid about Indian actions, trust broke down again. Allies became antagonists and the British began to assert power more widely. Mir Jafar was blamed and ousted, apparently because conquest didn’t lead to quick profits. But Bengal’s wealth was rapidly draining into Britain, while its prosperous weavers and artisans were coerced like slaves by their new masters.
In April 1857, the north Indian city where the Commissioner of Meerut was stationed became the heart of the greatest-ever insurrection against Britain anywhere in the British empire. During the Indian Rebellion of 1857, much of north India was ruled by leaders hostile to the Company. Atrocities happened on both sides, but the last days of the Rebellion were so brutal, Indian Delhi and Lucknow were destroyed. The British massacres of rebel sepoys and unarmed citizens were war crimes.
The days of the British Raj in India were numbered. After 1858 the Company was abolished and Queen Victoria was proclaimed India’s direct sovereign. British power was exerted through law courts and public works, railway timetables and codes of law, not just military violence. Yet imperial power was still limited and messy.
The British finally left India in 1947.
I was born in Eastern Europe and eventually moved into a UN refugee camp for people seeking visas to safe countries. Life for me was fine once we got to Australia, but I was always aware how my parents worked long, miserable hours every week to give us children a decent life. It must have succeeded because my sister became a 4-language translator in the Health Department, my brother became a mathematician and maths teacher, and I became a doctor.
Throughout those years of struggle, my parents never forgot the people who mentored them, enrolling them for citizenship ceremonies (successfully), teaching them English (with mixed success) and helping them with driving lessons. Now it was possible to mentor a new generation of young people in medical practices, preferably migrants or the children of migrants. Each year my colleagues and I decided to take one undergraduate student into our practices; there they spend one term of hard work, professional supervision and personal support. A very minor contribution to be sure, but one that brings an emotional thank-you from parents in the same heavily accented English my parents spoke.
The young legal graduate had to do his articled clerkship in a reputable, large legal firm so he chose Arnold Bloch Leibler, in a totally unfamiliar city 2000 ks away - Melbourne.
Pearson wrote “During an articled clerkship at ABL’s Collins St headquarters, I came to know the story of Australia’s Jewish community and how a people endured oppression and discrimination through history; how they rose up from the ashes of the Holocaust”.
“It was Ron Castan QC who recommended me to Leibler. Ron was one of the greatest legal advocates this country has known and I got to know him following his long crusade with Eddie Mabo to establish native title in the Murray Islands. He later worked with us on the Wik people’s claim to Cape York and was a paternal mentor to me.”
“My time at ABL was a crucial period: I learned so much interacting through the firm with the Jewish community of Melbourne, in the worlds of business, education, arts and culture. I learned how you can be victimised by discrimination but never succumb to victimhood. How you can never forget history but you must engage the future.”
“I came to understand Castan and Leibler’s mentorship in their community is a virtuous cycle through the generations. So I was inspired to start sponsoring young girls from Cape York Peninsula, enabling them to attend private boarding schools in Brisbane. The first one went on to become the first university graduate from her community. Others started their own programs”. [All the quotes come from The Australian Newspaper, 21/12/2013].
Mentoring is valuable.
I (Helen) would like to add two thoughts. Readers might like to find Noel Pearson'sQuarterly Essay 55 A Rightful Place: Race, recognition and a more complete commonwealth, published in Sept 2014. Pearson shows how the idea of race was embedded in the constitution, and the distorting effect this has had. Now there is a chance to change it. Pearson shows what constitutional recognition means, and how true equality and a renewed appreciation of an ancient culture would be possible. This is a wide-ranging, eloquent call for justice.
At the 1967 referendum on removing discrimination against Aboriginal people from the constitution, 91% of us voted yes, making it the most successful in Australia's history. Now each of Australia's major parties committed to hold a referendum to change the constitution to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Leaders have yet to agree on the model for change, so the words of the change to the constitution remain uncertain. But the Federal Government will announce a timetable for the referendum soon. May 2017 is the 50th anniversary of Australia's landmark 1967 referendum.
The Ionian island of Corfu, off the west coast of Greece, is 56 ks long but only 18 ks wide.
Now some quick and messy history. Before the French Revolutionary Wars, the Ionian Islands had been part of the Republic of Venice. Then the 1797 treaty dissolved the Republic of Venice, and Corfu was annexed to the French Republic as the French departments of Greece. In 1798-9, the French were driven out by a joint Russo-Ottoman force. The occupying forces founded an island republic which enjoyed relative independence under Ottoman and Russian control from 1800-7; Greek was to be the primary local language.
The Ionian Islands were briefly re-occupied by the French, but very soon after, in 1809-10, the UK defeated the French fleet and captured some Greek Islands. After Napoleon, many countries were interested in the control of the prize island, Corfu island. Thanks to the aid of a Greek General, a treaty was signed in Paris in 1815 that recognised autonomous Ionian islands under exclusive British control.
Venetian buildings in Corfu Town
The first (1815-23) British high commissioner (and Governor of Malta) was Sir Thomas Maitland, a rather repressive dictator who quickly stirring strong complaints from the locals. Yet the British era (815-64) was probably the most flourishing period in the history of Corfu. Corfu established the first Greek University, the Ionian Academy, which was established by Frederick North, 5th Earl Guilford in 1824. Its 3 faculties included Medicine. The establishment of schools, which had been neglected by the Venetians, was improved and by 1850 there were 200 schools. Corfu gained its first Philharmonic Orchestra and the first School of Fine Arts.
There were extensive public works providing prisons, hospitals, marsh clearance, a widened road network and a public aqueduct water-supply system that still operates. Commerce with the neighbouring countries grew impressively.
Despite these benefits, the islanders came to resent British rule. And it all came to an end when a 1863 treaty demanded Britain renounce the Ionian islands. In March 1864, representatives of the UK, Greece, France and Russia pledged the transfer of sovereignty to Greece, under the newly installed King George I of the Hellenes. And in May 1864, by proclamation of the Lord High Commissioner, the Ionian Islands were united with Greece. The city of Corfu lost power in favour of Athens, but the rest of the island began to prosper both politically and economically.
Even then, British influence continued. Way back in 1823, a cricket match was held in Corfu between Royal Navy officers and men in the British Garrison. Thus began a lasting union of this most British of games and the Greek island of Corfu. Of the many cricket clubs drawing excited crowds on the island these days, the loveliest field is Spianada square in town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a view of the Old Fortress. Also organised by local British-ex pats, Corfu was where the first tennis clubs opened in Greece.
But the biggest attraction for British tourists now seems to be the tv series The Durrells (2016). Based on The Corfu Trilogy by Gerald Durrell and set in 1935, the Durrell family left home in Britain and settled near Corfu Town. So modern tourists want to rent a villa in the pretty NE corner, where The Durrells was filmed, or stay in the flats at the White House in nearby Kalami, where Lawrence wrote. The lovely bay of San Stefano has the tortoises that fascinated young Gerald, especially in late June. Plus pods of dolphins and sea-turtles.
The quotation inscribed at the foot of a statue of author and naturalist Gerald Durrell in these beautiful gardens was dedicated to him and his brother Lawrence. The brothers’ writing, especially ‘My Family and Other Animals’, popularised this green isle in the world’s imagination.
Corfu Town is a unique blend of histories, with a nod to all the nations that controlled it during its mixed history. On arrival in Mandracchio harbour, the Old Fort can be seen from the water. Fit visitors climb to the top of the fort and can enjoy the magnificent view over the town. Then the fit and the unfit can visit the blackened remains of St Spyridon, Corfu’s patron saint, in his church. The public buildings of the Venetian rule blend well with narrow winding streets, lovely little bars and shops, and small secluded squares.
Cultural sites are everywhere. Once home to Greece’s King George I, the elegant Saint Michael and George Palace sits on top of a hill outside Corfu Town. The Palace, also the birthplace of Britain’s Prince Philip, opens its elegant interiors to the public and hosts a museum displaying artworks, statues, historical and archaeological treasures.
The British Cemetery is near San Rocco square. Founded in 1814 by the British Protectorate it was used as a garden cemetery where the British officials, soldiers and residents were interred. After the departure of the British, the cemetery served as the graveyard for the foreign families who stayed on (and it is still being used as a cemetery for the Anglican residents of Corfu today). Note the monument to the seamen of the two Royal Navy destroyers mined by the Albanians in The Corfu Channel Incident of 1946.
Ludwig Guttmann (1899-1980) was born in Upper Silesia Germany/now Poland, into a religious Jewish family. His parents were Bernhard and Dorothea, and his sisters were Margarethe Guttmann, Alice Bamberger and Liesel Karger. He started studying medicine at the University of Breslau in 1918 and continued his studies in Würzberg and Freiburg, graduating in 1924.
Guttmann returned to Breslau and worked with Europe’s leading neurologist Prof Otfrid Foerster from 1924-8. In 1928, he was invited to start a neuro-surgical unit in Hamburg but this post only lasted a year as Foerster asked him to return to Breslau as his assistant. Guttmann remained in this job until 1933 when the Nazis forced all Jewish staff and patients to leave Aryan hospitals. Fortunately Guttmann became a neurologist in Breslau's Jewish Hospital for 6 years.
On Kristallnacht (9th November 1938), Guttmann gave orders that any male person entering the hospital was to be treated, despite the racial laws specifying that Jewish doctors could only treat Jewish patients. The next morning, he had to justify to the Gestapo the large number of admissions. In fact he saved 60 Jews from certain death by telling German officers they were too sick to be transported.
There must be a God in heaven; Guttmann was already in contact with the British Society for the Protection of Science and Learning, and was suddenly offered a position in Britain, plus visas. Ludwig left Germany in March 1939 with his wife Else and children, and went to live in Oxford. [His parents and relatives all died in Germany in 1943, except for Curt and Alice Bamberger who survived by escaping to the USA].
In 1939 Guttmann worked at the Radcliffe Infirmary and at St Hugh’s College Military Hospital for Head Injuries. But as WW2 continued, the British Government became acutely aware of the influx of paralysed servicemen. So in Sept 1943, they asked Guttmann to become Director of the new National Spinal Injury Centre at the Emergency Medical Services Hospital, Stoke Mandeville in Aylesbury.
When the centre opened in Feb 1944, Guttman did not like what had been the typical care for spinal patients in Britain – flat on their backs, full body plaster casts and pain relief. As director of the UK's first specialist unit for treating spinal injuries, Guttmann believed that physical activity was the major method of therapy for injured servicemen and car accidents, helping them build up both strength and self-confidence. Thus he was the neurologist who revolutionised the treatment for, and lives of those with spinal injuries.
Of course Guttman was seen as a bit of a radical neurologist, and his many conflicts with colleagues and the hospital administration were loud. But he was an attractive doctor, and compassionate. And his relationships with his patients were heartfelt. He challenged the old-fashioned staff and insisted his patients participate in their own recovery. Central to His Big Plan, Guttmann introduced the idea of physiotherapy as a medical treatment. Physiotherapy was the way to build strength and to fight depression. He hired an army physical trainer to lift weights with patients and practise movements.
Within months, his Spinal Unit became a place of optimistic noise and activity. In a few years he had transformed the treatment of spinal patients, first in Stoke Mandeville then across Britain. The knowledge, gained in treating and preventing complications to young soldiers and traffic accident victims, forced Stoke Mandeville’s Spinal Unit to expand rapidly. Only one productive thing had come out of WW2 - Guttmann and his staff gave paralysed patients the skills and treatments to face a useful future and to be reintegrated back into normal society.
To coincide with the opening of the 1948 London Olympics, Dr Ludwig Guttmann held the first Stoke Mandeville Games on the lawns of the hospital. He presided over a wheel chair archery competition where the competitors, 16 ex-servicemen, were young people with severe spinal injuries.
Stoke Mandeville Sports Stadium, 1969
By 1960, 400 athletes from many countries* participated in the first Olympic Games For the Disabled which were held in Rome, alongside the Rome Olympics. In Toronto in 1976, two other disability groups (blind and amputee athletes) were added and a truly international sports competition took place. In the same year, the first Paralympic Winter Games took place in Sweden.
The Stoke Mandeville Stadium is the National Centre for Disability Sport in Britain. Located alongside Stoke Mandeville Hospital, the stadium was formally opened in August 1969. When Ludwig Guttmann died in 1980, it was renamed Ludwig Guttmann Sports Centre, Stoke Mandeville.
Melbourne girl Kylie Maybury (born 1978) was abducted and murdered, during the Melbourne Cup Day holiday on 6th Nov 1984. Kylie was with her mother, Julie, visiting a neighbour when she was sent to a nearby shop to buy sugar. She was walking home along Plenty Rd Preston when she was taken. At 12.45am the next day her body was found in a gutter, not far from the flats where Kylie lived with her mother. The six year old had been raped and possibly strangled.
Police released a composite image of Kylie Maybury as she may have looked on the day she died. And police released an image of the Mayburys' neighbour, Lorna Simpson, in the hope that it would jog a key witness's memory. This potentially crucial witness approached Simpson while she was searching for the girl on the corner of Gregory Grove and Plenty Road at the time she was taken. The witness, a slim young Italian girl, told Ms Simpson she saw a child fitting Kylie's description in a white station wagon. A man was driving the car, which turned left onto Murray Rd. The girl then crossed Plenty Road and walked towards a pizza shop. That girl would be a woman aged about 50 now.
The story was much bigger than the victory of Ronald Reagan in the USA.
The Melbourne Sun newspaper, 7/11/1984
The crime was so horrible that police always worked on the basis that there were few suspects capable of such a thing. So dozens of dedicated police investigated the case for a very long time. It was taking so long that some of the detectives who had originally investigated the murder had since died. But the beauty of cold forensic science is it can be used to catch killers from years back, and it can be used to clear those wrongly accused.
As would be expected, the victim's clothing showed obvious signs of the nature of the attack, but it was in pre-DNA days and any forensic examinations took the police no closer to the killer. Two relatives of Kylie, her grandfather (in Oct 1985) and her paternal uncle (in his cell at Pentridge Prison in Feb 1987), committed suicide in separate incidents after the murder. Homicide investigations had already totally cleared these two men of any involvement in Kylie’s death.
The block of flats in Preston where Kylie lived with her mother
Photo credit: The Age
The local shop where Kylie bought a packet of sugar
Photo credit: The Age
School children walking past Herald Newspaper headlines,
Photo credit: The Age
Before Australia had a Cold Case Squad, Canada had already developed a new police science and offered to help detectives on the Maybury case (3AW 28/12/2016). Canadian police forces had already begun using DNA tests in the early 1990s, but only rarely; the procedure was pricy, time-consuming and used up the entire biological sample. In the mid-90s, a new polymerase chain reaction technology allowed tests to be conducted on much smaller samples. And it seems the Canadians taught us the Automated Finger Print Identification System. It compared finger and palm prints from people who were charged with crimes with those found at crime scenes.
These new developments in DNA and fingerprint technology allowed cold case investigators to revisit old cases and come to scientifically reliable conclusions. As we will see.
Seven years after the Maybury murder, there was a remarkably similar crime against another six-year-old Melbourne girl, Sheree Beasley, who was abducted in June 1991 near her Rosebud home. Her body was found in a drain on Sep 1991 in Red Hill. Former church elder Robert Arthur Selby Lowe was convicted of the Beasley murder and sentenced to life in prison.
But by 1995 the similarities between the two old murders grabbed detectives’ attention. Both 6 year old girls had been abducted while returning from errands at local shops. Both died from asphyxiation. One victim was dumped in a gutter and one in a drain. Kylie was abducted on a public holiday and Sheree on a Saturday when Lowe was not working.
A re-examination of the Maybury case now made Lowe the main suspect for the 1984 murder as well! Police found Lowe was offending against 3 young girls in the Preston area, around the time Kylie was killed, less than 1k from where Kylie's body was found! Lowe's psychotherapist said Lowe was fascinated with little girls wearing pink. Sheree Beasley was dressed in pink and Kylie Maybury carried a pink bag. It was a compelling circumstantial case and, with similar factual evidence, some police believed they had their man.
In 1995 experts found there was enough DNA material on the clothing to identify the killer, using the new DNA tests. But when the police finally got a sample, Lowe was fully cleared of Kylie’s rape and murder. Lowe, who is still serving his first life sentence for Sheree’s rape and murder, has since recruited criminals to smuggle child porn into Ararat prison.
Witnesses came forward with new information about Kylie and a middle aged man in his early 1970s Holden. Now a 73-year-old man, Gregory Keith Davies was charged in June 2016 over the 1984 murder of six-year-old Kylie Maybury in Preston. The accused had been taken to the Spencer St police complex in the CBD, where he was interviewed by detectives.
Homicide squad detectives alleged the then-42-year-old Mr Davies abducted and raped Kylie on the night of 6th Nov and murdered her on 7th Nov when her body was discovered. Detectives did not confirm whether police still had a DNA sample taken from Kylie's body back in 1984 - clearly charges would not have been laid, had the DNA evidence eliminated Davies. But they did say that in 1894 Davies lived in his parents’ Preston home, only 500m from where Kylie’s body was found.
Davies was first arrested at his country home near Kilmore. Then he was charged and remanded in custody to appear at the Melbourne Magistrates' Court. He faced a brief out-of-sessions court over the abduction, rape and murder of six-year-old Kylie Maybury. Davies was further remanded to face a committal hearing next in May 2017.
Gregory Davies was charged this week (May 2017) over the 1984 rape and murder of six-year-old Kylie Maybury. 33 years after the unsolved murder, Davies immediately pleased guilty and was remanded in custody to appear before the Supreme Court for sentencing.
Post Impressionism is a term initially used to refer to the styles developed during the last two decades of the C19th by French painters like Paul Cezanne, Paul Gauguin and Georges Seurat. The most famous Post Impressionists independently developed their styles, yet all were united in their rejection of Impressionism. Impressionism recorded Nature in terms of light and colour, while Post impressionists rejected these limitations and instead sought to be more expressive and less idyllic.
The term Post Impressionism was invented by English artist and art critic Roger Fry in Nov 1910, calling his London exhibition Manet and the Post-Impressionists. The exhibition was held after many of the Post Impressionists artists had died; none of them ever used the term themselves.
The Post-Impressionists stressed their personal view of the visual world and preferred a freely expressive use of colour and form to describe emotions and movement. The bold, intense colours and very expressive work stood out, particularly in Gauguin. But I had never thought of the Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh as a Post Impressionist, at least in the early years of his very short, 10-year career.
In summer 1887 in Paris, van Gogh painted Still Life with Wildflowers and Carnations and three other canvases, all featuring summer blooms in a vase. Note his chromatic brilliance in the high keyed contrasts of crimson, cobalt blue and pure white. And note the heavily textured surface and vibrancy that might have been modelled on Adolphe Monticelli, a French painter who died just a year before (1886).
Van Gogh admired Gauguin enormously but couldn’t get Gauguin to join him in Arles until the end of 1880, when the two finally painted together. Van Gogh and Gauguin visited Montpellier in December 1888, where they saw works by Courbet and Delacroix in the Musée Fabre. As we know now, their relationship was doomed. Gauguin was arrogant and domineering while Van Gogh was depressed and anxious.
Their fighting was bound to lead to a crisis. van Gogh returned alone to his home in Arles, where he was overwhelmed by voices and severed his left ear with a razor. van Gogh voluntarily admitted himself to an asylum in Saint-Rémy de Provence for a year (May 1889-May 1890). I mention it because the year was probably the most difficult of his entire life, filled with personal demons. And possibly because Post Impressionism used expressive use of colour and form to describe strong emotions, the year was also one of his most creative and productive years. Amazingly he completed 142 paintings in that time.
Theo Van Gogh was searching for a home for his brother on his release from the Saint-Rémy asylum in May 1890. Camille Pissarro, a former patient of Dr Paul Gachet, told Theo about Gachet's interests in working with artists, so Theo sent Vincent to the doctor's second home in Auvers, Paris. Thus Vase with Daises and Poppies (mid 1890) was VERY late in Van Gogh’s career - only months before the artist’s death. The painting featured brilliantly coloured poppies and some small daisies, in addition to other meadow flowers.
The stunning Portrait of Dr Gachet was painted as a thank-you in June 1890. It was sad but gentle, clear and intelligent. The ultramarine blue coat of Gachet was set against a lighter blue background of hills; two bright yellow books were displayed on the table, alongside the purple medicinal herb foxglove. Despite Vincent having sold only one work in his life time, his paintings are now very valuable. In 1990 Christie's sold this original Portrait of Dr Gachet, with van Gogh's signature, for $82.5 million.
Vincent Van Gogh died in Auvers in July 1890 and was buried in the municipal cemetery there. He was 37.
Queen Victoria gave royal assent to the British North America Act, so that Canadian Confederation could occur. 150 years ago in July 1867 the old province of Canada was divided into Ontario and Quebec; and along with the British colonies of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, Federation appeared. One Dominion of Canada, consisting of the 4 provinces!
Manitoba joined in July 1870, British Columbia joined in July 1871. The Terms of Union negotiated by the governments of Canada and British Columbia included a Federal commitment to quickly build a railway connecting British Columbia to the railway system of Canada. Prince Edward Island joined in July 1873, once there was a guarantee by the federal government to operate a ferry link or, later, Confederation Bridge in 1997. Alberta and Saskatchewan finally confederated in September 1905 and Newfoundland in March 1949. Nunavut officially separated from Northwest Territories in 1999.
Over the years since Confederation, Canada has seen numerous territorial changes and expansions, resulting in the final union of ten provinces and three territories in 1999. It became a unified nation by gradual consent, not by war.
In 1925, Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King established a committee to design a truly Canadian flag. Despite the failure of that committee, citizens still wanted to fix the flag problem and new designs were proposed for decades later. After committee meetings in the early 1960s, Elizabeth II Queen of Canada proclaimed the new flag in January 1965.
The Centennial in 1967 was when most people believed they were looking at being distinctively Canadian and actively creating a Canadian identity. So Expo 67 was a World's Fair held in Montreal from Ap-Oct 1967. With pavilions from 62 nations and 50.3 million visitors, Expo 67 was considered to be one of the most successful World's Fairs of the C20th.
But the battle over symbols was one small manifestation of a larger shift. After the Centennial, Canada started to seriously confront the divisions and gross inequities that had been masked in the past, beneath a patina of colonial gloss. Canada would have, over the next 50 years, two secession crises - a battle over the North American economic identity and a hard-fought political reawakening of Canada’s indigenous nations. Yet these were the crucial struggles of becoming a real country, of finding a governing mechanism and a common culture to bring together those long-disparate peoples.
Leaders liked to believe that starting in the late 1960s, a series of political decisions, parliamentary votes, court rulings and royal commissions descended upon an innocent, paternalistic, resource-economy Canada and forced upon it an awkward jumble of novelties: non-white immigration, bilingualism, multiculturalism, refugees, indigenous nationhood, liberation of women and gays, the seeds of free trade, individual rights and religious diversity. But the great majority of Canadians had already moved on; one could see the 1967 centennial struggling to catch up with them.
So the 150th celebrations will need to be different from the 50th. This year, 2017, the Celebrate Canada festivities will be bigger than ever! They will highlight the evolution of the country from its Indigenous origins; the history with the French and the birth of Canada’s Francophone heritage; through to more recent waves of immigration that have led to the development of a modern society. Diverse, inclusive and democratic!
In cooperation with national Indigenous organisations, the Government of Canada designated 21st June as National Aboriginal Day, a celebration of Indigenous culture and heritage. This date was chosen because it corresponds to the summer solstice, the day many Indigenous groups celebrated their culture and heritage. National Aboriginal Day is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the cultural diversity of Inuit, Métis and First Nations peoples, and discover their unique accomplishments in the arts, agriculture and the environment. Colourful performances will be held in 8 Canadian cities as part of National Aboriginal Day Live.
The Government of Canada, by Royal Proclamation, designated 27th June as Canadian Multi-culturalism Day. This is an opportunity to celebrate diversity and commitment to democracy, equality and mutual respect, and to value the contributions of the various multicultural communities to Canadian society. This year, major celebrations will be in three Canadian cities with live performances.
The cultural pride and heritage of Canada’s Francophones are expressed in the colourful parades and festivities that mark Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day, Fête nationale du Québec et de la Francophonie canadienne. Celebrate Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day, especially in Quebec, where 24th June is an officially declared National Holiday. Major performances showcasing Francophone artists will be held in six Canadian cities.
These major celebrations will culminate in Canada Day (1st July), a time to celebrate the heritage passed down through the works of authors, poets, artists and performers. It is a time to rejoice in the discoveries of scientific researchers, in the success of entrepreneurs, and to commemorate the nation’s history. A full weekend of activities is planned for Canada’s Capital Region (Ottawa–Gatineau metropolitan area) to celebrate Canada Day. Celebrate the shared achievements which were born in the ancestors’ vision and which are voiced in every language through the contribution of New Canadians.
As the birthplace of Confederation, Charlottetown always enthusiastically celebrates Canada Day. A ten-hour concert will showcase Prince Edward Island’s musical talent with everything from jazz to fiddles to rock. The city’s harbour will also be a guest port in a trans-Atlantic 150th Celebration Regatta, bringing forty tall ships and a waterfront festival focusing on Canada’s historical seafaring.
For an authentically Canadian experience that’s boisterous and historic, pack up the Klondike regalia for Dawson City. The pancake breakfast, parade, paddle races, country picnic, stern-wheeler tours, bannock fry up, Cancan girls and gold panning competitions will reawaken the gold rush days.
Edith Newbold Jones (b1862) grew up in a privileged Massachusetts society that barred women from achieving anything other than a suitable marriage. Her education was limited since she never went to a proper school or university, and her mother maintained a strict literary censorship over Edith’s reading. Yet this woman of the Gilded Age (Civil War-WW1) travelled to Europe many times and became fluent in three European languages.
Because Edith wasn’t pretty, getting married wasn’t going to be easy. Nonetheless in 1885 she married Edward Wharton. Despite Teddy being an affable dud of modest means and a man who was displaying early symptoms of mental illness, the couple filled their early years with travel, houses and dogs (but no sex).
The Berkshires worked as a place where wealthy families relaxed each summer. A separate and poorer community of writers and artists also lived in Lenox, including Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes and Herman Melville.
Writing years earlier in the Newport Daily News about Georgian style, Wharton had noted that in America “the Georgian house does not affect to be a castle, a fortress or a farmhouse ...it possesses the important merit of affording more space, light and comfort for a given price than any other structure with the slightest architectural pretensions”.
Wharton had outlined her house design according to the principles in her book The Decoration of Houses (1897). The house and gardens were an integral part of her life and she was proud of her achievements. “The core of my life was under my roof, among my books and my intimate friends ... I am amazed at the success of my efforts. Decidedly, I’m a better landscape gardener than novelist.
The exterior architects that Edith chose, Hoppin & Koen, used the Georgian-style Belton House (1684-1686) in the British county of Lincolnshire as a model for The Mount.
The Mount, with its 35 rooms, four floors and formal gardens, was said to be a tad modest for a Gilded Age home!! So Wharton hired her friend Ogden Codman to do the building’s Italian and French interiors. This was appropriate since Codman was both a practising architect-interior decorator AND he had co-authored her The Décoration of Houses book. But he did not get along with the increasingly psychotic Teddy Wharton.
Wharton usually worked in the morning while lying in bed.. so her bedroom was an important space. Visitors can still enjoy afternoon tea on the expansive terrace, an Italian element requested by Wharton. Then visitors enter the wood-panelled library where Edith worked in the afternoon. Her closest cultural friends – Sinclair Lewis, Henry James, Bernard Berenson and F Scott Fitzgerald– met her in this library. Her literary hero was Walt Whitman and the library still holds her annotated copies of his poetry books.
Though the marriage eventually fell apart, the house succeeded - it helped her work. While living there Wharton wrote a book a year, including the big novel that would launch her into fame and wealth, The House of Mirth 1905. In it Lily Bart was a well-bred woman without money in New York’s fin de siècle high society. Wharton wrote of a stunning beauty who, though raised and educated to marry well, was running out of marrying years.
Edith also wrote the following novels while living at the Mount: The Touchstone 1900; The Valley of Decision 1902; Sanctuary 1903; Madame de Treymes, 1906; The Fruit of the Tree 1907 and Ethan Frome 1911. She also wrote at least three important works of non-fiction: Italian Villas and Their Gardens, 1904; Italian Backgrounds, 1905 and A Motor-Flight Through France, 1908.
So The Mount sustained Edith in that important and creative period, until Teddy’s mental instability led to divorce. She sold the estate in 1911 and the couple divorced two years later. Teddy moved in with his sister in a different Lenox house and Edith moved permanently to France. “It was only at the Mount that I was really happy,” she later wrote in her memoir, A Backward Glance.
Foxhollow School for Girls, which took over The Mount, closed down in 1976. For the next two decades, the property was taken over by Edith Wharton Restoration, used as the home of Shakespeare & Co.
The Mount became a National Historic Landmark; and it also became an autobiographical house that specifically embodied the soul of its creator. Now the Mount is available to anyone who wants to drive across New England to Lenox. And so far 40,000+ people have visited this year, following the tours listed. Additionally the Mount invited theatre companies, prominent writers and intellectuals to come and give lectures to sold-out auditoriums. Clearly there was a great hunger for intellectual content in Lenox.
Edith Wharton wrote 40+ books throughout her career, including important works on interior design, architecture and gardens. She was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1921 and she achieved full membership in the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1926. She died in France in 1937 and was buried in the Protestant cemetery at Versailles.
Thank you Edith. You were one of my role models from the world of English literature written by women.
Three men believed that aviation could benefit the outback communities of rural Queensland. They were Hudson Fysh (1895-1974), Paul McGinness (1896-1952) and Fergus McMaster (1879-1950). Based on their air force experience in WW1, McGinness and Fysh surveyed an air route across northern Australia in 1919 using a Model T Ford. A fourth man, Arthur Baird (1889-1954) later established the company’s reputation for engineering excellence.
Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services/Qantas was formed in Nov 1920, centred in Winton, Queensland. The very next year they moved the company’s headquarters to Longreach in Queensland. And in 1922 the first scheduled Qantas mail and passenger flight flew from Charleville to Cloncurry, Queensland.
Qantas didn’t build its own aircraft until 1926, once again based in Longreach.
In 1928, a Qantas DH50 aircraft was leased to John Flynn and the Australian Inland Mission; it was the first flying ambulance for the Australian Aerial Medical Service. And right in the depths of the Depression (1930), Qantas established its headquarters in Brisbane. From there, Qantas carried airmail to Darwin, as part of an experimental mail service to the UK.
Jim Eames' book The Flying Kangaroo: Great Untold Stories of Qantas (Allen and Unwin, 2015) reminded us why Qantas remained such an important part of Australiana. But I wanted far less on the technical issues and near accidents, and far more on nationalism, advertising, colours and symbols. For example the Australian carrier adopted the flying kangaroo only in 1944. The symbol was itself adapted from the Australian one penny coin, back in those pre-decimal days.
Qantas supported the war effort from 1939 on, evacuating personnel who risked being captured by advancing Japanese forces and dropping supplies to troops in New Guinea. The airline pioneered history-making flights of 30+ hours in Catalina aircraft between Perth and Ceylon, maintaining a crucial link with the Allied Forces. Endless pilots and engineers led a very large workforce, maintaining and flying DC3s, Catalinas and single-engine bush aeroplanes.
Post-war aircraft appraisals in the airline’s most formative years saw Qantas leading in fleet decision-making. Eames recounted the way Qantas steered itself through or around political pressures to maintain loyalty to the UK. The book shared new insights into the ever-shifting ground surrounding Qantas’ ownership, mergers, management interactions and its ultimate privatisation.
What were the crises? In Aug 1960 a Constellation crashed and burned when an engine failed on takeoff at Mauritius (with no fatalities). The handling of this accident was later hailed as a model of safety management and a credit to Qantas’ crew training. Nonetheless Jim Eames gave a painful and honest version of how all on board escaped alive.
In Feb 1969, there was a temporary loss of control in a Boeing 707 high over the Persian Gulf (with no fatalities). It suddenly displayed inconsistent flight information in the cockpit and was put into a 5 km spiral dive so stressful that the airframe nearly ruptured. The post incident analysis offered major lessons that improved the safety of the newly booming industry across the world. In 2010 near Singapore the most famous of all of Qantas’ heroic saves was QF32, when an Airbus A380 was very damaged by an uncontained engine failure.
The air traffic controllers were also learning quickly, including a near-collision over Thailand in Sep 1990. A giant US Air Force C5A Galaxy air transport JUST missed a Qantas B747, in civilian airspace. The US military seemed to have suppressed the evidence.
Eames highlighted the leadership role that Qantas developed through its history, partially because its route distances were among the world’s longest and most demanding. The distance factor went right back to the 1920s when Qantas had to build its own biplanes in Longreach to keep its fleet well-maintained with distant spare parts.
The book also documented the tyranny of seniority in the flying ranks; the entire hierarchy of humiliation that applied to law, public administration, the ABC and the strong manufacturers and shipping lines of post-war Australia.
The Flying Kangaroo also revealed much of the thinking and score settling that characterised the merging of Australian Airlines/TAA and Qantas in mid-1995. The book discussed the politically complex factors of Bob Hawkes personal friendship with Sir Peter Abeles at Ansett and the abandonment of the late 80s infatuation in Canberra with a three way merger of Qantas, Australian and Air New Zealand. One wonders what might have otherwise happened?
In my Gap Year programme abroad in 1966, there were 13 English speakers and 110 Spanish speakers, so I had to learn enough Spanish to survive. And quickly! The reward would be that eventually I could travel around South America and would be shown the joys of Argentina, Peru, Paraguay and Uruguay. The trip didn’t happen, but I have always been alert to South American history and architecture ever since.
Italian immigrant and cotton businessman Luis Barolo (1869-1922) arrived in Argentina in 1890. Believing that Europe had begun drifting towards a collapse, Luis Barolo wanted to build in the New World. So he commissioned the Italian architect Mario Palanti (1885–1978) to design a fabulous building in Buenos Aires. Palanti had been educated in Milan and moved to Buenos Aires in 1909. Together Barolo and Palanti would provide a place to house the bones of the jewel of European culture, Dante Alighieri. If that failed, they would have at least created a safe haven for the poet’s soul. The building would be called Palacio Barolo, based on the C14th epic poem Divine Comedy.
Luis Barolo and Mario Palanti’s shared admiration for Dante could be seen throughout the entire structure of the building and in every reference. The enormous height of 100 ms corresponded to the 100 cantos of Dante’s work. The height of the building wa 100 ms because there were 100 songs in Dante’s work.
In the central space, the gorgeous ground floor marble lobby had nine access vaults that represented the nine steps of initiation and the nine infernal hierarchies (Hell): for Dante, this was the starting point for the eventual arrival in Paradise. And each of the six transverse vaults, as well as the two lateral ones, contained inscriptions in Latin.
The building’s 22 floors reflected the number of stanzas in the Divine Comedy, and like the text, the building was divided into three sections: Hell, Purgatory and Paradise. As people moved from the bottom to the top, they thus climbed out of Hell and on until Heaven.
The entire Palace was a commercial enterprise, so Barolo requested hidden lifts, to move from its offices to the basement. Thus he avoided contact with the tenants who occupied most of the floors. When the building ended in 1923, it was blessed on 7th July by the apostolic nuncio Monsignor Giovanni Beda Cardinali.
A working lighthouse was placed on the building’s roof, symbolising the nine angelic choirs to be found in paradise. Over the lighthouse was the Southern Cross constellation, aligned with the actual constellation on July 9th, Argentine Independence Day.
The palace may have been a symbol of the City architecturally, but it began to fill with legends about boxing, early death and stolen sculpture. In 1923, there was a historic boxing match between the Argentinian Luis Angel Firpo and the American Jack Dempsey for the World Heavyweight Title held at Madison Square Garden in New York. If the light at the top of Barolo Palace turned white, it meant that the nasty American was the winner, while a green light would represented the triumph of the godly Argentinian. Firpo took Dempsey out of the ring and the top light did turn green, but after only 19 seconds, the rival came back up and knocked Firpo out. The light quickly turned to white and millions of Argentinians felt betrayed by God, the Catholic church and the entire sporting world.
Barolo himself never lived to see the finished building that bears his name: he died suspiciously in 1922 at age 52. Was it a suicide, a poisoning or a heart attack. Perhaps Barolo committed suicide not only because the building was not finished, but because the sculpture that represented Dante climbing to the sky made by Palanti disappeared. After all, people asked, why did Palanti return to Italy to create the sculpture when he could have done it locally?
Later, the missing sculpture was found in the hands of a collector in Mar del Plata, who refused to sell it. Eventually the sculpture was mutilated and disappeared altogether. Was it Barolo’s relationship with The Divine Comedy and the mystery of the sculpture that caused his early death in 1922?
Organised daytime tours are offered on weekdays every hour from 4-7pm in both Spanish and English. Evening tours start at 8pm, and included a visit to the lighthouse and wine. Towards the end of the tour, visitors can take photos from the dizzying heights of Paradise. Not me! I don’t do dizzying heights!
In the Uruguayan city of Montevideo, there is a building in Plaza Independencia that is very similar to Barolo, called Palacio Salvo. Also designed by Mario Palanti, the idea was to reflect the the mouth of the Rio de la Plata as a welcome to foreign visitors arriving by boat from the Atlantic.
James Les Darcy (1895-1917) was born near Maitland in NSW, one of ten children of a struggling Irish Catholic family. Leaving primary school in 1907, Les worked then was apprenticed at 15 to a local blacksmith. As his father was at times unemployed, and his elder brother was partly crippled, Les had to help his very large family.
Darcy made his first money in the boxing ring at 14. In 1912-13 he won several fights at Newcastle and Maitland. In Nov 1913 he lost to the Australian welterweight champion Robert Whitelaw, but his performance did attract the attention of the Sydney promoters. In July 1914 he appeared for the first time at the Sydney Stadium, against the American Fritz Holland. Darcy was already a local hero — his supporters came from Maitland in two special trains. When Holland won on points there was a riot. But the experts need not have worried since Darcy had impressed the sports promoter Snowy Baker. He became the stadium's leading draw-card.
WW1 did not slow him down. In Jan 1915 Darcy fought the American Jeff Smith in a world welterweight championship. He lost sensationally, but this only enhanced his fame. That defeat was his last: by Sept 1916 he had won 22 consecutive fights! He was now comparatively well off — each contest was netting him c£300, and he was also being paid for exhibitions and for acting in a film.
He wanted 4-5 fights in the USA to make his family financially secure, and then he would go to Canada or England to enlist. He sailed clandestinely from Newcastle in Oct 1916, the day before the national conscription referendum. The patriotic press denounced him as a shirker.
In New York a major fight was arranged, but it was banned by New York Governor Whitman, because of the manner in which Darcy had left Australia. The decision was disastrous for Darcy: American promoters began to lose interest in him, so he gave some vaudeville exhibitions instead. After a bout he had arranged in Louisiana was also banned, Darcy took out US citizenship and volunteered for the American army. Yet another fight was arranged in Memphis Tennessee, and Darcy's call-up was deferred so that he could train.
In late April 1917 Darcy collapsed. He was admitted to hospital with septicaemia and endocarditis; his tonsils were removed but he developed pneumonia and died, aged 21; his fiancée by his side. His body was brought back to Australia and, after immense funeral processions in San Francisco and Sydney, was buried in the East Maitland cemetery.
Darcy had all the makings of a folk hero. His remarkable ring record, losing only 4 professional fights and never being knocked out, was associated with his extraordinary physique: a muscular body apparently impervious to the heaviest blows and a reach greater than his height (170 cm) suggested. He neither smoked nor drank, he spent most of his income on his family and he attended Mass most mornings.
His decision to leave Australia secretly, in breach of the War Precautions Act, provided the controversy and the enemies, without which no hero-figure is complete: his lonely death gave him an aura of martyrdom. So powerful a legend did he become that fifty years after his death, flags flew at half-mast.. and a memorial at his birthplace was unveiled by a former Governor-General.
Three separate issues seemed to me to have worked against Darcy enlisting. Firstly he was seen as having been maligned due to his Irish-Catholic working-class heritage. Secondly he said he tried to enlist but he was under-age and his mother refused her consent. Thirdly he was one of 10 children of an Irish Catholic share-farming family, so family money would always be desperately needed. Only winning boxing championships would guarantee that income.
Was Darcy eluding conscription in Australia? No! A conscription referendum provoked furious debate, and when people voted in Oct 1916, the proposal was narrowly defeated. In 1917 the Prime Minister called for yet another conscription referendum. This campaign was just as heated as the first, with the most prominent anti-conscription activist being the Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne, Dr Mannix. In Dec 1917 the nation again voted No.
Only by fighting in the USA, Darcy believed, could he further his career and finally guarantee his family’s financial future. Even though the press vilified him as a coward and deserter! But let us be clear - when he secretly stowed away to the USA on an oil tanker, the SS Cushing, there was NO conscription in Australia. Darcy may well have been leaving his homeland without a passport, but he was hardly in breach of critical wartime regulations.
It was said that Americans were also caught up in war fever in 1916. Definitely it was the American State Governor who banned him from boxing! Definitely the American promoters abandoned him and American boxing fans sent him white feathers! This does not make sense at all. The USA was neutral in WW1 (until April 1917) and did not have conscription for its own citizens. What did Americans care if a Maitland lad did or did not enlist in the Australian army?
My question remains. How did Darcy go so quickly from a heroic boxing success (in 1914-15) to a vilified coward and shirker (1916), a secret escapee to the USA (Oct 1916) and new citizen of that country (April 1917), and finally death and national sporting hero status back in Australia (April 1917)?
The Cliveden House land in the Chiltern Hills Bucks was owned by Geoffrey de Clyveden in 1237. By 1300 it had passed to his son William who owned mills along the tree-less chalk escarpment high above the Thames. By 1569 a lodge existed on the site along with many acres of land.
It was on this very high, exposed site that George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham (1628–1687) chose to build the first Cliveden house. The Duke of Buckingham pulled down the earlier buildings and chose Captain William Winde as his architect. Winde designed a four-storey house above an arcaded terrace.
Although the Duke's intention was to use Cliveden as a hunting lodge, he later housed his mistress Anna, Countess of Shrewsbury there. In the Duke's eastern garden, flints have been laid in the lawn as a rapier dated 1668, to commemorate the duel between the Duke and his mistress' husband Lord Shrewsbury. Lord Shrewsbury died of his wounds, as told by Samuel Pepys in his diary.
John Evelyn, another diarist, visited the Duke at Cliveden in 1679 and recorded the following impression in his diary: "I went to Clifden of the Duke of Buckingham. On the terrace is a circular view of the utmost verge of the Horizon which with the serpentining of the Thames, is admirable and surprising. The cloisters, gardens and avenue through the wood august and stately.”
The present Cliveden House is a blend of the English and Italian Palladian styles. The Victorian three-storey mansion sits on a 120m long, 6m high arcaded terrace/viewing platform which remains from the mid-C17t house. The house facade is covered in Roman cement, with terracotta balusters, capitals, keystones and finials. The roof of the mansion is for strolling, and there is a circular view, above the tree-line, that includes Windsor Castle.
Whereas Charles Barry's original interior showed off a square entrance hall, a morning room and a separate stairwell, Lord Astor wanted a more impressive entrance to Cliveden. He chose to have all three rooms enlarged into one, very large Great Hall. His aim was to make the interior as much like an Italian palazzo as possible. Most English of all is the library, panelled in gorgeous cedar wood.
In 1984–86 the exterior of the mansion was overhauled and a new lead roof installed by the National Trust, while interior repairs were carried out by Cliveden Hotel. In 2013 further restoration work on the main house was carried out including the windows and doors.
I knew all about Cliveden’s architecture and decorative arts from both lectures and a tour. But I had forgotten about the Cliveden Set. After their marriage, American expats Nancy (nee Langhorne) and 2nd Viscount Waldorf Astor married in 1906 and moved into Cliveden, a wedding gift from Astor's father. Nancy Astor became a prominent hostess at Cliveden House for a social elite; she attracted a group of upper class and very influential people in post-WW1.
Nancy Astor was the first female MP in Britain, Waldorf Astor owned The Observer, Geoffrey Dawson was editor of The Times, Samuel Hoare was Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Edward Wood Lord Halifax was a government minister and Edward Fitzroy was Speaker of the Commons. Alas Nancy Astor was anti-black, anti-Semitic and, as the 1930s went on, increasingly pro-German. So were her most of her powerful colleagues in the Cliveden Set.
And I had forgotten that the Profumo Affair, an event that rocked all British countries in 1961, had started at Cliveden. There was a summer party at the Cliveden estate of 3rd Viscount William Astor in 1961; this was the very same weekend that Stephen Ward, Astor’s residential osteopath, had a party. Lord Astor’s friends were mainly aristocratic eg the Conservative politician and British Secretary of State for War John Profumo (1915–2006). Ward’s friends were less than aristocratic, including the sexy dancer Christine Keeler and her lover, the Russian military attaché Yevgeny Ivanov.
To cool down from the summer heat, Lord Astor walked his guests to over to the family pool where Profumo caught a sight of Christine Keeler swimming naked. It was love at first sight! Through Ward’s connections, the very married Profumo began an affair with Keeler, and rumours of their involvement soon began to spread. In March 1963 Profumo lied about the affair to Parliament, stating that he had never had sexual relations with that woman, with Miss Keeler. A short time later Profumo resigned, admitting with deep remorse that he had deceived the House of Commons.
The real tragedy was not that extra-marital sex took place at Cliveden House, nor that the British Secretary of State for War was forced to admit that he had deceived Mrs Profumo. The real tragedy for the Conservatives was that the scandal led to the eventual downfall of Prime Minister Harold Macmillan’s government. The opposition Labour Party soon defeated the Conservatives in a national election.
The personal results were strangely unequal. Profumo began a career in charity and was honoured by the queen in 1975 for his work. He never spoke about politics in public again. Stephen Ward was convicted on two counts of living off immoral earnings, took an over-dose of sleeping pills and died three days later. After Christine Keeler’s release from prison in 1964 and two brief marriages, the ex-showgirl largely lived alone.
It was never proven that Yevgeny Ivanov had attempted to entrap Profumo or to use Keeler as an agent. And Profumo’s relationship with Ms Keeler was never proven to lead to a breach of British national security in Russia. Ivanov was recalled to Moscow in Dec 1962 and although his naval career continued back in the Soviet Union, he was assigned to a distant fleet well away from the centres of power.