A. A. Milne … A Boy named Christopher … and a Bear

The discovery of 150 classified British Government documents
that had been kept by a certain Captain James Lloyd,
revealed valuable background into the character of
author A. A. Milne.

Milne’s work had never been of interest to me as a boy
being associated, as they were, with the captive
mascot bear of an Army unit in WW1.

That bear had been named after the Canadian city
of Winnipeg, in Manitoba;
and it was here that Milne derived the name
for his character.

Photographs I had seen of “Winnie” the Bear
clearly revealed its disgusting captivity in
a concrete box, from where the poor animal
looked out through iron bars.

Although I shall never stop associating that character
with the bear in the concrete cage;

nor with the fame that came to the writer who –
(I always thought) – could have spoken out in protest
at the conditions of animals in captivity
I was determined to, at least, give Milne’s book
a fair chance.

“You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest
waiting for others to come to you.
You have to go to them sometimes.”

It was the advice that I followed when opening
this Internet site as my attempt to “go to” people.

Sadly, even the advice of a well-meaning bear
does not always ring true:  People who arrive here,
cannot find the kindness even to say ‘Hello’.

As a boy whose childhood friends WERE his bears,
I felt a warm affection towards Milne’s son
whom I had seen featured in a series of portraits taken
of the boy with “ Edward“ – the real ‘Pooh’ bear.

Christopher Robin Milne, London, National Portrait Gallery

Born in London on the 18th of January, 1882,
Alan Alexander Milne, a contemporary of
Arthur Conan Doyle, was the creator of the
much-loved Winnie the Pooh,

and it is for that (much to his own consternation)
character that he is so widely known.

The discovery of lost papers however,
revealed a part of Milne that I had not known;
and allowed me to find, in him,
a seeming character trait with which I Could relate.

After the War, Milne spoke out as a Pacifist.

Not too many of us in this My-Country-as-god world.

The man who found those classified documents
that had been kept by Captain Lloyd, was his
great-nephew, 61 year old Jeremy Arter,
himself an officer in the British Army’s
Education Corps.

Arter had been de-Cluttering and was in the process
of throwing away accumulated papers,
when he noticed the acronym “MI7”, and decided to
look before discarding.

The documents revealed that after an injury
received in the battlefront, on the 7th of July, 1916,
upon arriving in England, Milne was sent to work
in the Department of Military Intelligence:
an office known as “MI7”.

Milne’s specific work was in the “b” section
– Propaganda, which was formed in 1916
to counter any anti-war sentiment then thriving
in Britain.

It was “b” ‘s commission to write media articles
about how great it is to sacrifice limb and life
in the furtherance of political war;
and to lie effusively about daily life in a trench.

Not a proficient liar, Milne found the work
troubling to his conscience. He was glorifying war
as “patriotic” heroism, rather than as pawns and
cannon fodder to bring about the political will
of the “conqueror”.

Whilst multitudes of nationalist fanatics view war
as a necessary “medicine”, Milne was emphatic
in declaring it to be “poison”.

If an invading army attacks your country, you repel
him from your borders with whatever force required.

But tyranny, invasion, and occupation –

occupying another nation’s geographic position,
forcibly subjugating people,
stealing their natural resources;
or commandeering their economy

– find no support in Milne’s wonderful work
“Peace With Honour” (1934, Methuen )

Milne believed himself obliged to change his position
during the Second World War when he admitted that,
in Hitler,

“ … we are truly fighting the Devil, the Anti-Christ…”

“Winnie the Pooh” was published in 1926.

The illustrations for the book
were drawn by artist Ernest Shepard,
who based the appearance of Winnie the Pooh –
not from Christopher Robin’s bear,

but from a ready-to-hand model:
his son’s bear, ‘Growler’.

Winnie’s title was conferred upon him thanks to
inspiration found in a swan named “Pooh”.

All was well for Christopher, who quite enjoyed
the celebrity – until, that is he entered Boarding School
where he found himself bullied for his
quite feminine looks (a result of his mother’s tastes)
by the type of sadistic thug children that grow up
to be vulgar, obnoxious adults.

Finding himself a perpetual object of curiosity,
by his later twenties, Christopher had become
so exceedingly resentful of his father’s work
that he estranged himself from their company.

Christopher Milne at 27, with his soon-to-be wife

Between the time of his father’s death in 1956,
and his mother’s fifteen years later, Christopher
visited with her only once.

It was only much later – having married a cousin
and opened a successful bookshop in Dartmouth, Devon
that Christopher was able to talk freely about the books
of which he now felt able to mention being “quite fond”.

A. A. Milne died in Sussex on the 31st of January, 1956.
He was 74.

Christopher Robin Milne, bookseller and writer;
born in London on the 21st of August 1920,
died in Totnes, Devon on the 20th of April, 1996.

P Livingstone
philiplivingstone.org

Further Reading:

Milne, A.A. It’s Too Late Now

Milne, A. A. Peace With Honour

“People say nothing is impossible,
but I do nothing every day.”

William Cowper … The Best Friend I Never Met (Part 1)

William Cowper, 1799, Francesco Bartolozzi, London, Tate

PART 1: AN INCONCEIVABLE AFFINITY

“I will never count upon my list of friends,
the man who needlessly
sets his foot upon a worm.”

When, as a boy, I first read that statement
I was filled with genuine regard – a sense of
great relief that there could actually be one
other person who had the same tender-hearted
empathy, and moral conviction as me.

I had always thought – from what I saw and
heard of people around me – that I was
the only person on earth who felt that way.

The great sadness, though, was in realising
that the man who made that statement
had died 160 years before I was born.

Since I could never meet him, I was
determined, at least, to learn all I could
about him.

The man’s name was … William Cowper.

The fact that I have never had an appreciation
for poetry, does not mean that I cannot
appreciate the life of a poet.

One poet whom I would have considered it
a great honour to have met, was William
Cowper … not for his poetry, but for the
gentle nature that he and I clearly share.

Our personalities are Identical.

A SENSITIVE Soul

William Cowper (his family pronounced the name
as “Cooper”) was born on the 15th of November, 1731,
in Hertfordshire, to a church minister and his wife.

As a teen, every new, personal detail I learned
about William actually became … unsettling
because, in learning of his

tender disposition;
bullying at the hands of malignant students;
lifetime affliction from Melancholy;

preference for the conversation of women over
the conceited boasting of men;

willingness to forego the company of anyone
who displayed no empathy for an animal;

love of gardening;
and feeling utterly out of place in the world
(describing his home as a place of “blest seclusion
from a jarring world …” )

… I was reading about myself.

But I remember having to close the book
and walk away for a while, upon discovering
that William was moved to do the very same thing
that I had always done:

pledging a vow of care
to the three hares who were his beloved pets.

It was not merely that William Cowper
was a tender-hearted man in a crude world,
but that …We had the Same spirit.

When I have been feeling downcast from the abuse
of people whom I have given time, effort, emotion,
or personal possessions … to help,

I sit down and read a portion of William’s memoirs
– which makes me believe that I am not absolutely
alone in this world.

I can honestly say that William Cowper
– who lived two hundred years before I was born,

has been the only friend I have ever known.

CHILDHOOD: Boarding School

William’s beloved mother died in 1737
when he was only six years of age, and whilst
the child had been raised by a very kind
and affectionate woman,

it was testament to the heartlessness of his father,
that William was sent to Pittman’s Boarding School.

“At six years old, I was taken from the nursery,
and the immediate care of a most indulgent mother,
and sent to a considerable school in Bedfordshire.

Here I had hardships of different kinds
to conflict with, which I felt more sensibly,
in proportion to the tenderness with which I had
been treated at home.”

It was at the Boarding School that William was
subjected to the sadism of one malignant bully
in particular – a sadistic creature of whom
William would later write:

“But my chief affliction consisted in my being
singled out from all the other boys, by a lad
of about fifteen years of age,
as a proper object upon whom he might
let loose the cruelty of his temper.

I choose to forbear a particular recital of the
many acts of barbarity, with which he made it
his business continually to persecute me:

it will be sufficient to say, that he had,
by his savage treatment of me, impressed
such a dread of his figure upon my mind,

that I well remember being afraid to lift up
my eyes upon him, higher than his knees;
and that I knew him by his shoe-buckles,
better than any other part of his dress.

May the Lord pardon him,
and may we meet in glory.”

Such was the kind and forgiving nature
of the man.

William would be taken from the school
after two years, at the age of eight.

At eleven, William was enrolled at Westminster
School where, in 1742, he studied the Classics,
moving, at 17, to the study of Law – a profession
in which he had no interest.

Staying with an uncle in 1752 , William not only
discovered romantic feelings for a young woman
named Theodora … but found that they were returned.

The only problem was, Theodora was his cousin;
and his uncle was obliged, in 1755, to strictly forbid
any continuance of the blossoming relationship.

This (around 1753) was probably the occasion
of William’s first terrible descent into the grip
of Melancholy. William was 22.

Although frequently seen attempting to play the part
of the cheerful extrovert at various social circles
from the mid-1750’s until the early 1760’s,

it is highly evident from the entire record of William’s
life, that his favourite haunt was the sitting room,
by the fire; his preferred companionship being the quiet
and genteel women with whom he was acquainted.

It was the observation of acquaintance William Hayley
that, as a young man, William

“… in his conduct was far more decorous
than the generality of his youthful associates … ”

Hayley then went on to summarise one bout
of Melancholy that afflicted Cowper:

“His health now rapidly mended, and in June, 1765,
it was no longer thought necessary that he should
continue under the roof of Dr Cotton …

In 1773, however, his malady returned, and he sunk
into a state of blackest despondency, from which
he did not begin to recover till the year 1778 …

That the disorder which again visited Cowper
was deeply rooted in his constitution has already
appeared … “ [ William Hayley, 1805 ]

William Cowper’s timid disposition led him,
on several occasions, to attempt suicide.

But it is the events that occurred during each of these,
that are staggering for any contemplative reader to
contemplate.

Something far more than coincidence
was responsible for William’s being unable
to carry out his intent:

1. –

Seated calmly in his room to poison himself
using Laudanum –

… he found himself constantly interrupted
by household staff.

2. –

Intent upon jumping off a pier to drown himself
in the Thames – on arrival, William discovered that –

.. the tide was out.

3. –

Whilst making determined effort to stab himself
in the chest with a dagger –

… the knife broke.

4. –

Attempting to hang himself from a door
and kicking a chair out from beneath his feet –

… the ligature broke.

There was, in the life of William Cowper,
an over-riding Circumstance which clearly
prevented him from ending his own life.

It is the practice of would-be commentators
to maintain – without clarification, that William
was committed to an asylum for … ‘insanity’.

Ignorant statements like this feed, I suppose,
the glib, callous mentality that so epitomises
the type of crude humanity that is such a
repulsive characteristic of the bulk of conceited,
smug humanity:

‘If … I … cannot relate to it, then it must be
ludicrous’. ‘If a man can be touched by the pain
of a worm – then he Must be … insane.’

Rather than consider that there Could Possibly
Exist, those who are more tender-hearted and
compassionate than their arrogant selves,
crass ignoramuses leap upon callous presumption
concerning things which are beyond them.

This glib Ignorance of Commentators was noticed
even by sober-minded men of Cowper’s own day:

“There is reason to regret that any of his biographers
should have fallen into the use of a phraseology
calculated to favour in some degree,

the erroneous impressions which have been
entertained with respect due to the true nature
of his afflictive malady …

… It excites no surprise to find writers, who have
apparently little knowledge of Christianity,
falling into this error.”

[ London Eclectic Review, October, 1816 ]

(Then again, William believed in a Sovereign God,
whose providence guided events much like a fogbank
might affect, or guide, the course of a ship;

a God who will, on a most certain Day of Judgment,
demand an account from every man and woman,
of how they have used their lives in the time
that was given them on this earth.

To those who readily accept every dictate, theory,
and assertion from the lab-coated priests of the
religion of “Science” … it is hardly surprising that
no other indicator of “insanity” is required, than that. )

To find such glib declarations made of William, by
people who profess themselves to be “Christians”,
is disgustingly indicative of where any mental aberration
truly lies.

[ End of Part 1 ] Continued in Part 2

philiplivingstone.org

Cowper: Memoirs of the Early Life, 1816

A Study in Scarlet … Part 1: Dispelling Modern Ignorance

It is actually – distressing to hear, on occasion, the
now-all-too typically-characteristic derision
borne of Ignorance, in those who express their distaste
for Doyle’s first adventure with Mr Sherlock Holmes:

their “complaint” ? … the Inexplicable
“Wild West Story”
that comprises roughly the second half of the novel.

As a boy reading Holmes, whenever we,
as schoolchildren, encountered an unfamiliar word

or did not know to what some historical reference referred,
we … laid aside the book we were reading
and opened up the household OXFORD Dictionary,
or went to the local library.

We Made the Effort to Learn.

It was NEVER a hardship, for us in the 1960’s, to
educate ourselves – raise ourselves to a higher standard
than that which we had just ten minutes earlier.

Today – with precious rare exception,
anything that requires minimal personal effort
and the humility to learn,
is immediately dismissed as ‘too difficult’.

The refusal to pause … and discern between
Vacuous Opinion – (which should be kept private
… to conceal one’s foolishness);

and Apathetic or Intentional Error – (which should be
exposed and withstood … to defend honourable folk
from malignant bullies),

has all but vanished from the world that deifies “Me”
and is insulted that anyone should care enough to
make the effort to correct their error.

I was often asked by students, as a schoolteacher
in Venezia, if I could recommend the best thing
for my Italian students to read in order to become
proficient in proper, grammatical English.

Without hesitation, my reply was always …

“find an unabridged, un-modernised, unedited copy of
“The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes”.

“There”, I would point out, “you will see how English
was – and should be – spoken and written;
spelled and punctuated.”

Familiarise yourself with Holmes’ English
of a century ago,

and you will immediately be able to detect
the difference between properly spoken English,
and the barely-literate grunting of the
21st century.

Conan Doyle’s 1887 introduction of Holmes
was the very same introduction that I read
to Italian schoolchildren 120 years later.

And I cannot recall there ever being any difficulty
for 14-year old Italian students,
in understanding the Victorian narrative.

What woeful tragedy then, in modern-day minds
who claim English to be their ‘native tongue’,
but require their books, ‘bibles’, and ‘English’
to be dumbed down, modernised, or edited.

A STUDY IN SCARLET

It is in this 1887 novel, A Study in Scarlet,
that Edinburgh native and physician,
Arthur Conan Doyle recounted the meeting of
Holmes and Watson,

and provided the reader with a glimpse
into the background of both literary figures.

Having changed his character’s name
from “Sherrinford” to “Sherlock”;

and replacing “Ormond Sacker”
with “John Watson”,

Conan Doyle introduced Sherlock Holmes
to the world at large in the one shilling edition
of Beeton’s Christmas Annual.

Written within living memory of the 1857 Mountain
Meadows Massacre in America – wherein 120 men, women,
and children were butchered by Mormons in Utah –
Conan Doyle drew upon the outrage for this, his first novel:

“A Study in Scarlet”.

A summary of history will enable the reader today to
understand the outrage that existed at the time
– and should exist today – over the savagery
of which men are capable,

when they place the proclamations of self-appointed,
pseudo-religious ‘leaders’ over and above the old Bible
– while pretending to the world that they have something
(however tenuous) to do with “Christianity”.

1. Some sadistic tyrant claims to follow the Bible.
2. Said tyrant rapes/brutalises/massacres peaceful people.
3. Mindless humanity, therefore, blame the Bible
– which the perverted tyrant used as a cover for his depravity.

IF infantile multitudes had the maturity to control themselves
at any mere mention of the word “Bible” –
WITHOUT the knee-jerk vomiting of obscenities
as though they were starring in the 1973 film, “The Exorcist”,

they MIGHT be able to exercise that once-commonplace,
adult quality that used to be known as … “discernment”.

It might also help them to understand why Conan Doyle
evidently felt compelled to centre his first novel
around an incident involving what was touted as some
supposedly Christian-esque sect in America.

It seems wholly unknown in the 21st century,
that a (genuine) Christian is one whose life
– conduct and conversation -At All Times,
is characterised by the doctrine and example
of Christ …

… and NOT the “special revelation” proclamations
of Popes, Pastors, Faith-“healers”, or Evangelical Showmen.

The mature will have the intelligence
to discriminate the true from the false;

and realise that those who are … truly …
godly people WILL conduct themselves
in accordance with the old Bible

which makes no allowance for mass murder,
emotional hysteria, or fleecing the gullible.

This was NOT an Old Testament war against sadistic nations
who held parties where they placed their babies
on to the red-hot ‘arms’ of bronze statues of Molech,
and then beat drums and danced while the babies
screamed in agony …

… this was the butchery of peaceful settlers – women
AND children included.

THAT is why the “Wild West” story appears.

Now, please: be man or woman enough
to understand Doyle,

rather than put that bemused look on your face
while expressing bewilderment to your YouTube fans.

IF you have the maturity
to endure the sight of words
such as “Christ” or “Bible” carry on reading;

If not, kindly stop criticising Doyle
for writing about something
of which you have no capacity to understand.

Background to The MORMONS

In appalling perversion of biblical writ,
it was maintained by Joseph Smith –

(whose claim to angelic visitation and Extra-Biblical revelations
– a feature of EVERY sect, cult, and Charlatan – became Mormonism,
in April of 1830)

– that the blood of Christ was insufficient to atone
for some sins … and that the only way for redemption
was for “sinners” to have their Own blood spilled.

This blasphemy against the Christ (kindly note) of the Bible,
permitted murder on any “sinner” over the age of eight.

For Smith’s successor Young, to murder certain people was to
… “love” them enough … to shed their blood.

Such was the Mormon notion of “Blood Atonement”.

And at Mountain Meadows, Utah … That Principle
was certainly carried out – children and all.

A Utah settler from Denmark, named Anderson
– for the sin of adultery – was held over an open grave,
whereupon his throat was sliced open from ear to ear.

They held him poised over the grave as the blood
drained into it; dressed his corpse in fresh clothing,
and dropped him into the grave.

This was the mentality immediately before
the massacre at Mountain Meadow.

MOUNTAIN MEADOWS

A party of settlers going under the name of
“The Fancher Party” was attacked by a band of Mormons
and “Indians” which (many strongly suspected)
might not have been ‘Indians’.

Successfully holding the attackers at bay,
the company noticed one of their potential killers
approaching under a White Flag.

Accepting the White Flag of peace, the Fancher Party
let down their defences, spoke with the representative,
and agreed to the Mormon proposal of safe passage
out of the area.

Having surrendered their weapons, the emigrants
began to trek in the direction that their Mormon
escorts led them.

The men – at the front of the convoy – were
butchered first.

The women … and children judged to be over
the age of 7 years … were slaughtered next.

Younger children, presumably, became “Mormons”
whether they wanted to or not.

In the wake of this historical atrocity, a man named
Lee was the only one of the Mormon killers to be executed
(by firing squad under the command of a certain Marshal Nelson)
for his blind allegiance to Brigham Young, Governor
of the Utah Territory.

Lee’s final words before execution included:

“I do not believe everything that is now being taught
and practiced by Brigham Young. I do not care
who hears it. It is my last word – it is so.

I believe he is leading the people astray, downward
to destruction … I studied to make this man’s will
my pleasure for thirty years.
See, now, what I have come to this day!”

It is firmly asserted – by its present adherents, that
modern Mormonism no longer practices “Blood Atonement”
… yet, IF the mind-set has indeed been removed,
it is puzzling to note that Mormons have repeatedly
pushed blame elsewhere;

and tried to bring about the wholesale banning
of Conan Doyle’s “Study in Scarlet”.

I am a British Citizen.

And I understand that Great Britain became “Great”
in the 18th century … because it butchered people
who could not fight back … made slaves of multitudes
… and terrorized, invaded, and occupied the lands of
those who did not acquiesce –

much as another nation took over the reins
a century later, and now boasts freely and loudly
of its “greatness” and “might”.

Yet I – as a British man – do not seek to ban
the truth of British tyranny in the 17- and 1800’s.

I had nothing to do with it …

Despise those who did …

And believe that political corruption and murder
SHOULD be open to historical criticism and loathing.

And that the citizens – of ANY country – SHOULD BE
capable of summoning enough Integrity and Maturity
to stop living in a fantasy world of ego, apathy,
and the fanatical pagan religion of nationalism.

It strikes me as strange then, that certain Mormons
in the American state of Virginia, should seek to ban
“A Study in Scarlet” as being “anti Mormon”
[ The Guardian, 16 August 2011 ] …

… rather than acknowledge the incident
upon which it was based,
and have the maturity and integrity to reassure
the world that nothing like it could ever
happen again at their hands.

Conscience, in the most of humanity,
has observably been a thing of the past
for the last thirty years.

The massacre at Mountain Meadows
most definitely did occur:

Conan Doyle based this novel upon it,

and I forward the title now
for your consideration.

If any visitors are unfamiliar with the “origin”
of Mr Sherlock Holmes, they will readily find
the account in the opening chapters of …

A Study in Scarlet

which is featured below, in Part 2.

PL

A Lifetime … Contained Within a Children’s Book

In 2004, I gave away my entire library to people
whom I was certain would appreciate the books, and who, I knew,
did not have the means to acquire copies of their own.

A few remaining volumes that I kept
could be carried easily in both hands.
They would, I thought, be the last books that I would own.

I could never have imagined that – ten years later –
I would find a book that I would never have thought to see
during whatever was left of my lifetime.

Desperately missing the conscientious humanity
amidst whom I was raised, I never thought that
there could be anything that would allow me
to escape – to so fully ‘return’
to those days of the early 1960’s …

But entering one antiquarian bookshop
… allowed me to do just that — Escape.

I remember seeing the book as soon
as I turned the corner; a moment when
there seemed to be a delay:

My mind was racing. But time seemed to slow.
I just could not accept what I was seeing.

It was, I suppose, like travelling on the
other side of the world, and turning a corner
to ‘see’ someone that you know from home –

you Know that it can’t possibly be! … But it is !!!
And you need to search for an explanation.

( I remember, on my second day in British Columbia –
seeing a woman I knew from Scotland – standing in a
shopping mall, here on the other side of the world
… where I had only just arrived.

I actually started towards her with a beaming smile
on my face, until Reason tapped loudly
on the inside of my head. )

Then the old brain sets everything in order
and you realise that it is someone who (incredibly!!!)
looks exactly like the person back home.

This time, I saw the book.

I knew what it was – instantly.

But I just could not take in that I was actually seeing
The Exact Same cover … the exact same edition,
after fifty years.

BOOKS

I would have been about five when my grandma
and grandpa would ask to hear me read to them
from the old Bible. I liked to read – but I liked it
a lot more whenever I could make other people
happy just by reading to them.

The first certain memories I have of reading books
are of the (then widely varied) “Ladybird’ books
that I used to receive as birthday presents:
a page of text on one side,
with a wonderful full page drawing on the other.

I had a fair sized library, grouped by subject – and all
lined precisely a ruler width from the edge of the shelf:

The Ladybird Book of … Horses, Stamp Collecting,
British Birds, and, What to Look for in Spring/Summer
/Autumn/Winter – accompanied several dozen other titles
including, of course, David Livingstone – who was a
not too distant relative.

Ned the Lonely Donkey made me cry:
not the book for a child with a tender heart.

But the book that is forever ingrained in my memory –
the one that I read three times in succession –
was Enid Blyton’s “Valley of Adventure”.

The first chapter was absolutely terrifying – and enthralling –
I could not put it down (until my mum appeared at the bedroom
door … “Put that book down and go out and play!”)

It was not merely a story … it WAS an Adventure!

Four children going for an aeroplane ride
with their mother’s friend, Bill …

… being directed to the ‘plane on the tarmack,
climbing onboard, and sitting quietly in the back –

even when Bill returned,
in heated discussion with another man;

only to realise after take-off
that these gruff men were strangers,
and that the children had boarded the wrong plane.

As always, when reading, I immediately put myself
in the character’s place.

I remember making certain that my bedroom door
was wide open … and finally falling asleep with the blankets
held tightly up to my ears.

It was, for me, high excitement.

Now, 50 years later, ALL those memories
came rushing back and my hands shook a little,
as I took the book in my hands … stared at it
… and opened the cover:

It had belonged, once, to another little boy, or girl,
who lived a child’s lifetime before I was born;

and who was given this book,
in the very same year that it was released.

Looking down at the book in my hands,
I could suddenly ‘smell’ the heavy woollen blanket
on my bed;

see the sloping roof of my attic bedroom;
and hear the sheep from the field across the road.

In an instant, my life had vanished:
I was six years old once again –

thoroughly lost in this Valley of Adventure.

Finding this book has taken me back to a time
when the postman, the milkman, and the lollipop man,
always had a big smile and a friendly wave;

when you felt safe as long as there were people around;

And where one obnoxious little brat –
(once, as we were all walking home from school) –
told a little girl to “go to hell” …

only to have ‘old’ Mrs Johnson reach over her garden gate,
grab the top of his ear, and tell the malignant creature
to never use language like that again, anywhere near her house
– never releasing her grip on the wretch until he apologised –
to her, and to the little girl.

We learned common sense; self control; manners;
and knew right from wrong,
from the example of the adults around us.

And now, in an instant … this dear old children’s book
brought all those memories back to life –
after all these years.

Then again, I am not so sure that the joy
of those by-gone memories is entirely a good thing:

once the book is closed,
the grim reality of the 21st century still remains.

But for one blissful moment, I was back in my bedroom:
The feeling of excitement … turning the next page
with a euphoria of wonder:

‘What would happen next?’

Such is the power of a well-written book,
upon an industrious human mind.

Now, all these years later, one thing I do know
about this simple children’s book, is that

– every now and again … whenever I want,

I can again lie down on the soft, green moss
In the cave behind the waterfall …

… and peer out safely through the lush curtain
of fern fronds that screen the cave from view,
and hide me from the threat of evil men.

I have the chance to experience – with the same book
in my hand – the thrill, the fear, and the adventure
that I felt in that little attic bedroom,
a lifetime ago.

And that,

for me …

is truly wonderful.

P Livingstone

philiplivingstone.org

Tom Crean: Tragic Epilogue of a Childhood Hero

 

After a peaceful stroll around the deserted harbour,
we walked the ten minutes distance
to our favourite second hand bookshop
for a bit of a root around.

There, in my regular haunt – the shelf of the European
History section, was the incredibly clean-looking spine
of a hardcover volume, whose title I recognised instantly.

Gently sliding it from the shelf, I even imagined that
I heard the slight crack of binding as I opened the cover
and looked at the frontispiece …

there, in the centre of the typescript, two words
that I would never have thought to see in any book
that would interest me, greeted my eyes.

First. Edition.

If the book had ever been read, it must
have been read only once. It was pristine.

The author being an American, this particular title
had been the only account of Shackleton
(or, rather, featuring a boyhood hero, Tom Crean)
that I had not read growing up in Northern Ireland.

From County Kildare … Ernest Shackleton

For me, as a boy in the 1960’s, Shackleton’s escape
from Antarctica was legendary.

Moderns can prate on all they care to about
“technological advances” …
in a world where human beings worship machines,
cannot exist for thirty minutes without being
somehow connected to one;
and enthuses about time-wasting, mind-liquefying toys:

we were adamantly assured, in the Royal Navy,
that

– apart from the exceptional 3500+ nm voyage
forced upon William Bligh as a result of the mutiny
on HMS Bounty –

Shackleton’s voyage in the James Caird rates
as the single greatest exhibition of seamanship
in historical record – not merely as relating to
pure nautical mileage, but for its appallingly
extreme conditions of endurance for human beings.

A wee while ago …

(Ship’s photographer, I am to the far right, in the front row.)

As a boy, the perseverance-in-adversity of those men
filled me with admiration.

But it was the Aftermath – the return to ‘daily life’
of Tom Crean, that affected me deeply.

It was a dreadful atrocity, I always thought,
to have realised that – after all his heroic efforts
with Scott, and later, Shackleton;

and upon his retirement in Ireland
as the landlord of his own ‘public house’,
The South Pole Inn, in Annascaul, County Kerry,

Tom Crean could never speak openly about his
life and adventures in the Antarctic.

Tom had, of course – during those adventures,
been with the Royal Navy: any reference
to that would be deemed to be admiration
of Britain by the type of stupid, sectarian mind
that blindly worships My Country and everything
to do with it.

Upon on his return to Ireland, Tom met with
this same brutal, mindless fervour from the low-grade,
scurrilous thugs of the Irish Republican movement.

In April, 1920, Tom’s beloved brother,
a member of the Royal Irish Constabulary,
had been ambushed and killed – shot four times –

by the same type of useless, vicious dregs of humanity
that run in ‘gangs’ because they are, in themselves
incapable of anything noble, heroic, or honourable.

And now, he was forbidden to speak
of his adventures and ‘daring do’,
by the same organisation of cut-throat thugs
who had murdered his brother …

“A three man RIC party based at Innishannon,
was ambushed while on patrol at Ballinspittal,
a village mid-way between Kinsale and Bandon,
by members of the Third West Cork Brigade
under the leadership of battalion adjutant Jim O’Mahony.

Sergeant Cornelius Crean
and Constable Patrick McGoldrick were killed outright,
while the other RIC man escaped uninjured.

Forty-eight year old Sergeant Crean, from Annascaul, Co. Kerry,
had twenty eight years police service,
having been a farmer before joining the RIC.

He was a brother of the famous explorer Tom Crean,
who had accompanied Ernest Shackleton
on his voyage to the South Pole in 1909.”

Tom, with Roger, Toby, Nell and Nelson

Obliged by sectarian thugs to ‘keep a low profile’,
Tom would outlive his brother by eighteen years.

Tom Crean died in July of 1938.

PL