heritage

Anyone for Tennis?

Right now I'm spending a bit more time than usual watching sport on the TV.

No - I'm not talking about the football (or if you're reading this in the States, the 'soccer').

The Euro football tournament is  currently happening and of course, it's all over the British media, especially now because the English team will face up to Italy in the final at Wembley stadium on Sunday this weekend!

I put my hand up and admit that I'd actually rather watch paint dry than endure a football match on TV. I've been to 'live' matches and they are different. Great fun, much excitement.

But watching on TV, it's not just about the actual game. Hours upon hours are dedicated to all the pre-match conversations, then there's the so called 'expert' chat during half time and of course at the end of the match all those experts unpicking every minor detail of the 90 minutes of play - why what the 'experts' thought would happen didn't happen, and so on and so forth.  I find it all rather tedious. So I'm not talking about watching football.

No - I'm talking tennis.

Yes, I know many of you reading may think that watching a tennis match is also pretty boring. But not me.

You see, it all comes down to personal interest and personal choice.

I can't bear watching all the hype around football and all the machismo around the players and the game. But I love watching those tennis players with all the thought and tactics that are employed. I love experiencing the ups and downs of play, which can swing so quickly in favour of one player or the other. There's so much 'thinking' involved ... as well as the athleticism and dedication which we can all marvel at.

One of the tennis 'Grand Slam' tournaments, and the only grass court 'Major' competition  - is held in a town in southwest London which is world famous. 

Wimbledon.

In fact, the Wimbledon Championships is recognised as being the oldest tennis tournament in the world and is widely regarded as the most prestigious. 

Right now we're on the brink of the final weekend of Wimbledon 2021 ... it's the Ladies Singles Final tomorrow (Saturday) and the Gentleman's Singles Final on Sunday. And there will be the doubles finals as well. These days there are junior tournaments and the Wimbledon Wheelchair championship matches.

But on this day back in 1877 it was the start of the very first Wimbledon Championship. The tournament was held, as it still is today, at the  All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club (AEC & LTC) in Wimbledon, London.

The AEC & LTC had been founded in July 1868, as the All England Croquet Club. But as the interest in croquet was waning, in February 1875  lawn tennis was added to the interests at the club.

In June 1877 the club decided to organise a tennis tournament to pay for the repair of its pony roller, which they used to maintain the lawns, or the outdoor grass courts.

Although the game of 'tennis' can be traced back to 12th century France, in England it became what we now know as Real Tennis which was (and still is) played on an indoor court and became known as the 'Game of Kings'. There appear to have been various incarnations of the game in different countries.

It was the introduction of technology, namely the invention of the first lawn mower in Britain in 1830, which is thought to have led to the ability to prepare grass courts - or lawns laid to grass - which could be used as a fairly safe playing surface. This in turn enabled sports and leisure enthusiasts to create  pitches, greens, playing fields and ... tennis courts!

This development meant that the sports became more popular and people began to want standardised rules. It was in the mid 19th century that modern rules for many sports were first conceived, including ... lawn bowls, football, and lawn tennis.

The world's first 'tennis' club was actually founded in Leamington Spa in Warwickshire in England in 1872. In nearby Birmingham in the English Midlands, a few years earlier (between 1859 and 1865 actually) a chap called Harry Gem, a solicitor, and his friend Augurio Perera had developed a game that combined elements of another past time called 'racquets' (similar to squash) and the ball game pelota which hailed from the Basque region of Europe, on the French and Spanish border.
 
The duo first played the game on Perera's croquet lawn in Birmingham and a few years later the friends got together with two local doctors to  set up that first club on Avenue Road in Leamington Spa. It's here that the term "lawn tennis" was used as a name of an activity by a club for the first time. 
 
The game caught on and by May 1875 the Marylebone Cricket Club drew up the first standardised rules for tennis. 
 
Just two years later, the organisers of the first Wimbledon tournament had no precedent so, using those MCC regulations, they had to come up with a set of rules for a tournament.  
 
That first event only included a 'Gentlemen's Singles' competition, and 22 men played on the now famous grass courts, having each had to pay for the honour of taking part ... the entry fee was one guinea.
 
The tournament began on 9 July 1877, and the final – delayed for three days by rain – was played on 19 July in front of a crowd of about 200 people who each paid an entry fee of one shilling. Hopefully the club made the money they needed for that pony grass roller!
 
Until fairly recently, rain was an issue for Wimbledon and I've spent many an hour over the years watching re-runs of old matches on TV while 'rain stopped play'. However, in 2009 the All England Club put a retractable roof over the famous Centre Court, and in 2019 the other main show court, No. 1 Court, also got a roof.
 
Back on World Poetry Day on March 21, my 'One Day at a Time' blog featured one of my favourite poems - 'If' by Rudyard Kipling - but what I didn't point out at the time is that there's a line in the poem which is engraved over the entrance to Centre Court at Wimbledon.
 
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:
 
Wimbledon Triumph and Disaster
These are words, of course, to inspire those players who are about to perform, hopefully at their best, on one of the world's most prestigious courts at the oldest tennis tournament in the world, with all the history that involves.
 
As today's competitors step under that inscription, I'm sure they are aware of the many many incredible sports men and women who have preceded them and all those who have also played on that hallowed turf. I hope so, anyway. Because although I'm sure they are thinking about their own game, the legacy of those who have gone before, including the early pioneers of the game, must be acknowledged.
 
But the words can also inspire us.
 
We might not be able to play world class tennis, or kick a ball at the highest level of football, or change the world, or do something spectacular.
 
But we all face 'triumphs' and successes, and 'disasters' and failures in our lives.
 
Life is like that. Ups and Downs.
 
And if we can face them both with equal measure - then our lives can surely achieve some sort of 'balance'.
 
More of that tomorrow!
 
 

A Dark Day in History

Today I'm turning back the hands of time 81 years to June 28th 1940. 

It's not a date that you may know as important in history but for the people of the Channel Islands, and for Jersey and Guernsey in particular, it's a significant day.

It was a Friday and since September 1939 Great Britain, including the British Crown Dependencies - the Bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey, and the Isle of Man - were at war with Germany.

The first months of what is now known as the Second World War (1939-1945) is known as the 'Phoney War'. Relatively little happened in the way of conflict but it was in that time that Hitler began working seriously on his plans for world domination. Nazi influence grew in the homeland, and  troops began to flood across Europe, gradually encroaching on France. On May 10, 1940 the Nazis invaded the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Belgium in a 'blitzkrieg' (German for “lightning war”) and then their sights were set on France.

Allied troops based in Europe were moved back by the advancing enemy and by the end of May 1940 many thousands of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and other Allied troops were cornered in or near a small coastal town in the top most northern point of France near to the border with Belgium. Between May 26th and June 4th 1940 during what has become known as the Battle of Dunkirk (Dunkerque) an estimated 338,000 Allied forces were evacuated from Dunkirk, across the English Channel to England, as German forces closed in on them. The massive operation, involving hundreds of naval and civilian vessels, became known as the “Miracle of Dunkirk”.

With the defences now virtually non-existent, on June 22nd 1940 France surrendered, or at least agreed to an Armistice with German forces which came into effect after midnight on June 25th. As far as Hitler was concerned, next it would be Great Britain.

If you know where the Channel Islands are and the history of the time, you'll know what comes next. 

The Channel Islands are actually VERY close to France. The islands sit in the Bay of St Malo, and Jersey is the nearest to the French mainland - just 14 miles (or 22 km) away. On a good day from Jersey's East Coast we can see not just the French coast, but even houses and wind turbines on the French side of the small channel which separates us. 

By the end of June 1940, after months of anticipation, it had become clear that occupation of the islands was inevitable. The Germans were just across the water!

In summer of 1940 Hitler seemed unstoppable as he raced through Europe and was now almost in waving distance of the British mainland from northern France and the Low Countries. For Hitler, taking the Channel Islands was a big deal. Invading and occupying Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney and Sark would be a PR coup and, he hoped, strike fear into the hearts of the British people and their government in London, headed up by Winston Churchill.  It's reckoned he thought invading the Channel Islands would be a signal that he was on his way! Soon he would be marching through London in victory!

It was on July 1st 1940 that the Germans DID invade the Channel Islands - actually the only place in the British Isles to be invaded and occupied by German Nazi forces - and so began five long years of Occupation.

In the final weeks of 'freedom' confusion reigned. Many people with means and/or family in the UK had already left but now many thousands decided to evacuate, not wanting to hang around for the Nazis. The British government had made the decision that, to save lives, it would be best not to engage in military conflict with the Germans when they eventually came. There had been some British forces based in the islands, but by June 20th, any remaining military personnel had been withdrawn, so leaving an 'open door' for the enemy to invade.

Unfortunately no one told the German High Command.

Viscount's Inquest BookOn June 28th, being unaware that the islands were undefended, there was a German bombing raid on Guernsey and Jersey in which 44 islanders were killed  - nine in Jersey and the remaining poor souls in Guernsey. There was a desperate scuffle to inform the enemy of the situation, including a belated message on the BBC that the islands had been declared "open towns". Later in the day the BBC reported the German bombing of the Channel Islands. on June 30th the deaths of the islanders killed in Jersey were reported at an inquest and recorded in the Viscount's (the senior law officer) Inquest Book, which is now part of the Jersey Archive.

The islands would be occupied until May 9th 1945 and it was in the run-up to the 75th anniversary of that Liberation (Liberation75), while working at BBC Radio Jersey. that I recorded a fascinating project which would run for a whole year right though to May 9th 2020 and beyond.

I worked in partnership with the Jersey Archive, part of Jersey Heritage, with the experts there selecting 50 objects from the collections in the Archives and the Jersey Museum through which we told the story of the Occupation and Liberation of Jersey. The series ran from May 2019 through to June 2020 and we produced 50 short features each one focussing on one object from the collections that tell us a specific story about that part of our history. 

The features ran every Friday morning just after 0830 on the BBC Radio Jersey Breakfast Show. We ran the first on Liberation Day (May 9th) in 2019 and then we picked up the series on June 21st and ran a feature every day until Libertion75 and beyond.

Object Number 3 in the series happened to land on Friday June 28th 2019 ... exactly 79 years on from the bombing raids on Guernsey and Jersey which heralded the start of Occupation.

And so it was on that morning we heard from Linda Romeril, the Head of Archives and Collections at Jersey Heritage,  who brought out the object which tells that story ... that Inquest Book.

And so, as I said, let's turn back the clock 81 years to June 28th 1940 ...

50 Objects - No.3 from Jersey Heritage Vimeo on Vimeo.

I loved doing this series and I learnt so much. Each of the features is on the BBC Radio Jersey website under 'Breakfast' or various presenters, but Jersey Heritage/Archive also placed each feature on Vimeo - the whole series is there!

If you want to listen to this on the BBC Radio Jersey website - click on the link below

James Hand - 50 OBJECTS - the story of Jersey's Occupation and Liberation 1940-1945 told through 50 objects held by Jersey Heritage - BBC Sounds - Object 3 - 28 June 2019.

 

 


The Story of Brave Men

This week has been an exciting one in Jersey.

Among other things, we had a Royal Visit.

HRH The Princess Royal (Princess Anne) did a whistle-stop tour of our lovely island. And although we've had a very damp week, actually on Thursday we were blessed with glorious sunshine, so that was brilliant especially for all the islanders, including hundreds of children, who came out to greet her.

The Princess Royal opened our newest school (the fabulous Les Quennevais School) and a new sports training facility, and visited the Jersey Zoo ... she's the patron of the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust.

Waterloo memorial St Saviour's Church JerseyBut for me, her most important duty during the day took her to St Saviour's Church where she unveiled a very special memorial plaque in the church.

In St Saviour's Churchyard in Jersey there are many interesting stories. In 2018 I spent many months wandering around the graveyard with the then Rector of St Saviour, the Rev Peter Dyson, who was investigating the people laid to rest there.

This resulted in a series of 26 episodes broadcast by BBC Radio Jersey and it was fascinating. I learned so much.

As a result of his research, Peter found many dozens of men who are connected to the Napoleonic era... the Napoleonic and Peninsula Wars, including the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. Men were found who fought on the British side and even one who fought under the French emperor. It's thought St Saviour's is the resting place of more Napoleonic and Peninsula Wars veterans than anywhere else in the world. It's astonishing that so many veterans of these campaigns eventually found their way to Jersey.

In 2020 a book was published which outlines their stories - 'Napoleonic War Veterans Buried at St. Saviour’s Church, Jersey' edited by one of the world's leading experts in the period, William Mahon.

Napoleonic & Peninsula Wars memorial Oct 2020In Autumn 2020, a memorial was placed in the north Lady Chapel of the Church but the unveiling of the plaque was a year delayed because of the COVID19 pandemic. Finally, this past Thursday, June 24th 2021, that memorial was unveiled by The Princess Royal ... there was a special church service and colourful celebrations including lots of children and members of the Jersey community.

In October 2020, just before Rev Peter Dyson retired as Rector of the parish, I returned to the churchyard at St Saviour's Church to talk to him about the memorial, some of the stories it told and the importance of the research.

This was played in two parts on the BBC Radio Jersey Sunday Morning Breakfast show on October 4 2020.

Here is the complete story. 


*images from St Saviour's Church Jersey Facebook Page

 

 


Summer Prayer

About this time of the year in the northern hemisphere of our planet, it's the longest day of the year.

Between about June 20 and 22nd there is more daylight than darkness, more days of sunshine hopefully because it's the moment when the path of the sun is farthest north. For those of us north of equator, it's the beginning of what is called 'astronomical summer'! Otherwise known as 'Summer Solstice'.

And this year the beginning of that season ... midsummer ... is today -  June 21 - when give or take the UK will enjoy around 16 hours and 38 minutes of daylight, with the sun rising before 5am and setting around 9.30pm.

Summer Solstice (and actually Winter Solstice which here falls on or around December 21st) has always had cultural,  spiritual and even religious significance for humankind. Many cultures assign importance to the elements and the seasons and so this is a time for celebration, holidays, festivals and rituals. In many countries and regions this is associated with religion and even fertility as the Summer Solstice marks the time when crops are growing, nature is thriving and people are enjoying the goodness of life and are optimistic for the future. 

At places like Stonehenge - the circle of prehistoric Standing Stones on Salisbury Plain in the county of Wiltshire in England - ceremonies to mark the rising of the sun on this day have been held for thousands of years, as people recognised the religious significance of the mysticism of creation.

The Summer Solstice was and still is a marker for the year and the rolling out of the seasons. Neolithic humans may initially have started to observe the summer solstice as a way to figure out when to plant and harvest crops. We know that in Ancient Egypt, the summer solstice corresponded with the rise of the Nile River so it helped people to predict the annual flooding, and that was obviously related to the viability of their crops along the banks of the river, and the potential harvests later in the year. If you fancy reading more about this time of year there is loads online, including a great website hosted by the History Channel.

But the significance of days like today transcends nature. Before humans understood how the earth interacts with our sun and why the days of light and darkness differ according to the seasons, this period of long days of daylight would have been connected with mysticism and powerful messages about the universe. The word Solstice is derived from the Latin words sol (Sun) and sistere (to stand still) ... this day it would have felt as if the sun was motionless in the heavens and so it would have had some spiritual significance and traditions and behaviours developed around the day.

According to pagan folklore, evil spirits would appear on the Summer Solstice so in order to ward these off, people would wear protective garlands of herbs and flowers. Some midsummer traditions involve dancing around the 'maypole'. Bonfires were lit, also to help banish those demons and evil spirits. Ancient 'magic' was thought to be strongest at this time of year and those bonfires were also thought to lead girls to their future husbands - again linked to that sign of fertility. 

The Summer Solstice is often associated with the ancient religions which pre-date Christianity and were closely aligned to nature and the seasons. And regardless of whether we are people of 'faith' or not, the Summer Solstice is a time when we can appreciate the warmth of the sun and the potential in our world, and be inspired for the future.

I could have given you all kinds of quotes about Summer Solstice today ... there are masses online ... but I found this prayer which, as a person of faith, says it all for me.

Enjoy this long day everyone!

And if you're in the southern hemisphere ... be assured that as you are now halfway through your 'winter', summer is on its way!

Summer Prayer

 

 

 

 


A June Wedding

Mid June is a popular time for weddings. The prospect of  fine weather always helps of course although in Great Britain and the UK one can never count on a good day, even in summer. But I guess there's more chance of sunshine in June than at other times and these days, of course, the photographs of the day will be the lasting memories for many couples so a bit of sun goes a long way to making a happy Wedding Day!

In the past year, a few of my friends have had to postpone or scale down their wedding day plans because of the coronavirus pandemic restrictions, and I know for some that has been rather traumatic. 

But I also know for many couples who've had to change their plans it has meant they have focussed more on the day and the commitment they are making rather than the 'party'. And that has to be a good thing, doesn't it? 

Why am I thinking about weddings? Well ... it's because it was on this day - June 16th - in 1855 that a couple called William Booth and Catherine Mumford were married in a very scaled down simple ceremony in London. 

Stand by for a blatant plug for the first book I wrote!

William and Catherine BoothWilliam and Catherine Booth were the founders of The Salvation Army, which is now a global Christian church and charity movement working in more than 130 countries, but on their wedding day they were still 'seeking' their future. William was a struggling Christian evangelist and his travels across England had kept him and his fiancée apart for many months.  

There are no photos of the day itself, although the couple did get photographs taken across the years so we know what they looked like when they were young.

Their marriage would be the start not just of a busy family life (eventually they produced eight children) but also of their shared Christian service which would take them around the country, working first in the Methodist Church and finally in their own evangelistic ministry which would lead them back to London a decade later. It was in 1865 that they would create The East London Christian Mission which in 1878 became The Salvation Army.

Since their first meeting in 1852 William Booth and Catherine Mumford had regularly written letters and notes to each other and that correspondence continued throughout their marriage, as they were often separated by work and circumstances. And it was those letters, which are held in the British Library in London, which inspired me to write my first book.

WIlliam and Catherine front cover Sept 2013 Monarch books

'William and Catherine, the love story of the founders of The Salvation Army told through their letters' was published by Monarch (Lion Hudson) books in 2013 and it draws not just on that personal correspondence but also on my imagination.

Included in the book are extracts from the letters, with kind permission of the Booth Family and the British Library. As I read their notes and letters I learned, I think, a little about Catherine and William's characters and so, in addition to extracts from many of the couple's letters and the historical narrative, my story also includes some 'imaginative' excerpts - my 'storytelling', my ideas on how they would have reacted to certain circumstances and events in their lives, some insignificant but others which are important in the history of The Salvation Army.

Which brings me to June 16 1855 and that quiet wedding in London. This excerpt, this little 'story', is in Chapter 7 of my book and is my imagining, based on what I know happened on the day and my understanding of the couple involved, of what transpired on that rather chilly day in mid June.

The sun emerged from behind the early summer clouds as Catherine and William stepped over the threshold of the Stockwell Green Congregational Church.
Catherine clutched her new husband’s hand, feeling small yet secure. William looked down at Catherine’s sweet face and smiled. He could feel her shaking ever so slightly and a rush of protectiveness towards this woman overwhelmed him. He could hardly believe that, after all this time and so many obstacles, they were at last man and wife.
It had been a short and solemn service and blessing. Perfect. Catherine had been pale and had spoken quietly, her voice quivering as she repeated her vows of love and obedience. In contrast, William had found that his voice, which he was accustomed to using to rather larger congregations, had rung loudly around the church. As his “I do!” echoed around the building it had provoked a little giggle from his beloved. Then, in the cavernous chapel, William and Catherine had knelt at the altar and pledged themselves to God and to each other.
Behind Catherine, William noticed that his father-in-law, John Mumford, and his sister Emma, the only witnesses to the solemn ceremony, were now exiting the building and squinting in the watery sunshine. For a moment he regretted the absence of the rest of his family. Of course, it was unlikely that Ann would attend, but he had hoped that his mother and her namesake, his sister Mary, all those miles away in Nottingham, might have been able to make it, even at such short notice. However, he and Catherine had been thrilled when Emma had sent word that they would be able to afford for her, at any rate, to attend. He knew Catherine’s day was also slightly saddened by the fact that her own mother had been disinclined to attend the ceremony, but, as he held Catherine’s little gloved hand in his, he felt a rush of love and appreciation for her commitment to him.
Catherine pulled her shawl closer around her neck and shoulders. She shivered again. Even with layers of petticoats under her skirts she still felt the chill of the day. Maybe she should, after all, have worn her coat. The few days of milder weather in May hadn’t lasted and it was still chilly, even for mid-June.
Catherine turned to the Revd David Thomas, who had so kindly agreed to preside over this most sacred of ceremonies.
“Mr Thomas, thank you!” she announced, grasping his hand and shaking it wholeheartedly. No simpering little handshake for this gentleman. She remembered their previous debates and discussions about the place of women in church and society, and she knew he would expect this forwardness from her, even on this day.
Father Mumford was calling from the street. The Stockwell New Chapel was tucked away from the main thoroughfare and he had a cab waiting. William, Catherine, and Emma took their leave of the minister and made their way to the horse drawn vehicle. It was but a short drive back home to Russell Street in Brixton, where, regardless of her unwillingness to attend the actual service, William was sure that Mrs Mumford would be waiting with some light refreshments. Whatever her views on the marriage, and he still wasn’t quite sure of her, she loved her daughter unconditionally and would, he was sure, come around.
William reached out his hand to Catherine. She grasped it and he helped her into the carriage. Whatever the future held now, they were one. The Lord would determine their way, and, whatever happened, they would face it together.

If you fancy reading more, my book is still available all over the place, including from the usual online sites as well as the Lion Hudson website. 

Thanks!

*image The Salvation Army Heritage Centre


May God give you .....

This past week I was having a conversation with a friend and in usual fashion, we chatted about anything and everything. Work, frustrations, our health (physical and mental health) ... and along the way the subject of Celtic Christianity came up.

Rather random, I grant you, but it's once again made me think about the ancient faith of many of our British forefathers and mothers, a spiritual tradition and theology which is connected not just to God but also to the earth and nature, the elements and the natural environment around us. 

I love this tradition and the sentiments and prayers which come out of it. These days you might often see these defined and described as 'Irish' blessings and prayers, but many of these come if not directly, then indirectly from the Celtic tradition. The fact that many of these blessings are based on very old spiritual traditions inspires me as I realise these prayers have been spoken silently and out loud for many hundreds of years by the faithful. They have brought inspiration and comfort, challenge and affirmation in equal measure.

I don't know anything about you, dear reader, or how you are feeling right now. But what I've learned down the years is that God sometimes gives us a thought which, without knowing it, will help someone else if passed on.

So today I bring you one of those blessings and trust it will bring you whatever YOU need.

Be Blessed Today!

 

Sunday blessing


A Night in June

I love a bit of poetry.

And today I want to share another poem from one of my favourite poets, William Wordsworth.

He was an English Romantic poet who, with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, helped to create the Romantic Age in English literature - in 1798 they worked together on a collection of poems entitled Lyrical Ballads which was really the start of it all.

Wordsworth, in my opinion, wrote some beautiful poems which really give us a picture of the English countryside and the culture of his age.

He's well known for some particular poems and within them are some phrases which have become part of English-speaking culture.

I've already posted one of my favourites - 'I wandered lonely as a cloud' ... which gives us eternal images of those lovely spring 'Daffodils'.

What about 'Composed upon Westminster Bridge, Sept. 3, 1802' - which includes the beautiful line "Earth has not anything to show more fair"? One of the things I love about Wordsworth is that he didn't try to come up with fancy titles for his poems but sometimes just told us where he had written them!

I can't talk about Wordsworth without mentioning one of his very early poems - 'Lines Written a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey' - that was included in the 'Lyrical Ballards'  and if you've never read it, it's well worth a look .. why not do so here ?

However, the poet is so much more than this handful of 'famous' poems. Wordsworth was Poet Laureate from 1843 until his death on 23 April 1850 and so even until the end of his life he was writing pieces to celebrate landmark moments in British history. 

But what I love about William Wordsworth is his imagery, and how he manages to write so beautifully about the things he sees and hears around him.

And so, as we're just into the month of June, let me share this rather less well-known Wordsworth poem ... perfect for this time of year! And beautiful!

Enjoy!

A night in June - Wordsworth



 

 

 

 


The Angel of Prisons

Are you someone who makes lists of 'Things to Do'?

And do you ever actually ever tick off all the points on the list before more are added?

No - me neither!

No sooner have you got through all the things you need to do in a particular timescale then something else crops up and you're back to Square One with MORE needing to be done.

I came across a quote which I've been saving for a relevant day to share with you. 

And today is THE day!

Elizabeth fry may 21 quote 2

It's a wise thought from a very wise woman - Elizabeth Fry.

You may have guessed that she's was a Christian person because this quote is actually a prayer

'Oh Lord, may I be directed what to do and what to leave undone'.

I think it's a good mantra to live by, because sometimes we just have to accept that we will NEVER get everything done in the time we set ourselves.

But we do need to prioritise what we do. Sometimes when we make our list we may (even subconsciously) put at the top the things we know will be easy to achieve. So if we start from the top of our list and work downwards, we MAY get some challenges completed, but some of the BIG issues we need to address may never be achieved.

So perhaps a little guidance, even if not from Almighty God, might be helpful. 

I don't know the context of this quote but I do know a bit about the author and I'm guessing not just from this prayer, but also because of what she's famous for, she was a woman with a rather long daily 'To Do List'.

Elizabeth Fry is best known for being a social and prison reformer - and she was born on this day (May 21st) in the year 1780 in the city of Norwich in the county of Norfolk in East Anglia in England.

She was a Christian philanthropist and a Quaker, a member of the Religious Society of Friends - sometimes also known simply as 'Friends' - who among other things believe that there is something of God in everybody and that each human being is of unique worth.

Valuing all people equally and opposing anything that may harm or threaten them is part of the Quaker 'theology' and from the beginnings of the Quaker movement in the mid 17th century, 'Friends' got involved in many social movements and philanthropy.  Quakers were among some of the first settlers in the USA where they got involved, among other things, in the abolition of slavery. Across the world they were involved in social justice projects, including prison reform.

In addition, as many started as craftspeople and artisans, they also grew businesses which not only made profit but improved the lot of the workers and their families. This was particularly significant because as the movement matured it coincided with the Industrial Revolution, which saw huge growth in manufacturing and industry, not all of which was beneficial to those who made it possible and put in the hard graft.

Some of the well known business and brands we know today have Quaker roots -  banks and financial institutions like  BarclaysLloyds, and Friends Provident and chocolate and confectionery brands like CadburyRowntree and Fry.

Which brings me back to Elizabeth Fry. The Fry family was a big Quaker clan whose influence was felt far and wide and not just in busines..

Looking into her life I discover that she was from a leading Norwich family. Her father, John Gurney, was a partner in Gurney's Bank, which would one day merge with Barclays. Elizabeth's mother, Catherine, was a member of the Barclay family who were among the founders of Barclays Bank.

Aged 20, Elizabeth married Joseph Fry, who was also in the banking business, and they moved to London. Within a year of marriage the first child arrived - between 1801 and 1822 she produced eleven (yes you heard right) children but Elizabeth was not just a 'stay at home Mom'. 

She was a recorded as a minister of the Religious Society of Friends in 1811 - remember this was at a time when women preachers were VERY VERY rare and the concept of women in Christian ministry was radical. Just two years later she was invited to visit Newgate Prison where she encountered deplorable conditions. Particularly horrifying for Elizabeth were the conditions in the women's section of the jail, which was was overcrowded with women and children.

Long story short, she set her mind and heart to reforming the prison system in Great Britain and as a result has earned the reputation as the "angel of prisons". From setting up a school for prisoners' children to campaigning for the rights of those transported to far off lands like Australia, sometimes for what we would now call quite petty crimes, Elizabeth was a woman on a mission. Her work helped to start a movement for the abolition of transportation.

Elizabeth Fry promoted the idea of rehabilitation instead of harsh punishment and encouraged the learning of skills while people, especially women, were incarcerated so that they could support themselves and their families when they were released. She was a major force behind new legislation to make the treatment of prisoners more humane, and she received support from the highest authority in the land, being granted meetings with and support from a young Queen Victoria

Her humanitarian work extended to helping homeless people and even after her death in 1845 her reputation inspired many social reformers. From 2001 to 2016, Elizabeth Fry was depicted on the reverse of £5 notes issued by the Bank of England, where she was shown reading to prisoners at Newgate Prison. 

So although we may not know much about her and her life, many of us will have carried her in our purses and pockets for years.

And today, as we remember Elizabeth Fry and all the things she managed to do in her relatively short life, I for one am pleased she prioritised what she did. There may have been times when, with her many family commitments, visiting prisoners and challenging some of the conventions of the day might not have been on the top of her 'to do' list, but thank goodness she somehow received the inspiration she needed to achieve all that she had to do. For without that, the world could have a very different place especially for those without a voice at a time when the world was changing so rapidly.


All Shall be Well

There's a great quote which has over the years given me great comfort, especially during difficult times and periods of 'trial' in my life.

Julian of norwich quote May 13

The quote, as you may see. is attributed to a Christian mystic and theologian called Julian of Norwich and it wasn't until I actually moved to the 'Fair City' of Norwich in the county of Norfolk in England that I took the time to find out more about her.

Julian lived in the 14th century and resided for most of her life in the city, which has a history as a commercial centre as well as a place with a vibrant religious life. 

So the story goes, it was when Julian - possibly not her real name although we don't really know much about her - was aged around 32 when she became seriously ill. It was the year 1373 and on her deathbed when she received a series of visions of Jesus, or what was described as "shewings" of the Passion of Christ - visions relating to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

And actually it's on May 13th in 1373 that it's reckoned she received those visions which is why I'm thinking about this especially today.

Miraculously Julian recovered and wrote two versions of her experiences, one which we think was completed very soon after her illness and another written years later. The book was entitled Revelations of Divine Love. It contains a series of Christian devotions and thoughts.

Although she was probably religious before all this, it's thought the experiences eventually led Julian to become what is called an 'anchorite', or 'anchoress' living in permanent seclusion in a cell which was attached to a chapel known as St Julian's Church, Norwich.

Julian was not unique in her Christian calling and not the only person who chose this lifestyle. The anchorite was and is someone who withdraws from secular society to devote their life to intense prayer and the ascetic lifestyle where they choose a frugal life without possessions and 'sensual pleasures' in favour of spiritual pursuit and enlightenment. 

This choice to separate from ordinary life is not just a Christian concept, we find it in many religions but in the case of Julian and other Christians, becoming an anchorite ... a kind of hermit who stays one place ... was about a focus on the Christian Eucharist as well as prayer and devotion. Often these people became considered a kind of living saint. The earliest anchorites are recorded in the 11th century but by the 13th century when Julian was living, it's reckoned there could have been as many as 200 anchorites in England alone. The anchoritic life is considered to be one of the earliest forms of Christian monasticism and in fact some still exist today ... in the Roman Catholic Church it's described as one of the "Other Forms of Consecrated Life".

Regardless of the fact that she was separate from society, Julian did make an impact. Although she apparently preferred to write anonymously even in her own lifetime she was influential. There are surviving records of four wills in which she was named and there's an account by another celebrated mystic called Margery Kempe who writes about the advice and counsel she received from Julian.

While Julian remained separate, her 'anchorage' was attached to the side of the chapel so she was still able to play a part in the life of the church - she could receive communion and hear Mass. By the time she died, sometime after 1416, she had been in her cell for about 25 years!  

Although little known outside of Norwich and East Anglia in her lifetime and for many centuries,  Julian of Norwich's Revelations, including her second 'Long Text' in which she revealed a few personal details as well, have fortunately been handed down to this generation.  In the 17th century she became popular and loads of people translated her work. She did disappear from view for a while in the mid to late 19th century but was 're-discovered' in 1901 when a manuscript in the British Museum was transcribed and published with notes by an editor and translator called Grace Warrack.

Since then many more translations of Revelations of Divine Love  (which is also known under other titles) have been produced and Julian is now very popular. Her spirituality and thoughts and reflections appear to ring true with 21st century seekers after truth.   

Since 1980, Julian has been remembered in the Calendar of Saints in the Church of England with a Lesser Festival on May 8th, and she is also commemorated on that day in the Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the USA. While she has not been formally beatified or canonised in the Roman Catholic Church,  she is venerated by Catholics as a holy woman of God, and is sometimes referred to as "Saint", "Blessed", or "Mother" Julian.. In the Roman Catholic tradition her feast day is today - May 13th. And if you visit the magnificent Anglican cathedral in Norwich, at the West Porch you'll find a statue of Julian created by the local sculptor David Holgate and commissioned to commemorate the new millennium. 

There are many quotes from Julian of Norwich from her Revelations that have made it online but I still love this one more than others. 

Julian chose a hard, prayerful and thoughtful life but she was still a human being, a woman, and it must have been tough at times. Detached from the world, sitting in a cold cell in the perishing Norfolk winter and sweltering in the summer. Not following her own will, but that of God. 

Although I'm sure her resolve and faith were strong, she maybe at times did feel isolated and perhaps even, occasionally, wondered if she was spending her life usefully.

Most of us can recognise and perhaps empathise with those emotions.

So today I imagine Julian receiving this message and finding the comfort and peace and courage to move forward in life.

"In my folly, afore this time often I wondered why by the great foreseeing wisdom of God the beginning of sin was not letted: for then, methought, all should have been well. This stirring was much to be forsaken, but nevertheless mourning and sorrow I made therefor, without reason and discretion. But Jesus, who in this Vision informed me of all that is needful to me, answered by this word and said: It behoved that there should be sin; but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well." (The Thirteenth Revelation, Chapter 27)

 


A Voice from the Past

Happy Liberation Day!

If you live in or hail from the Channel Islands you'll know why I'm greeting you like this today.

Here in the islands, May 9th is a day for celebration and commemoration every year and has been since 1945, the day that Jersey and the other Channel Islands gained their freedom after nearly five long years of Occupation by German Nazi forces during what we now call 'the Second World War'.

Usually, when we aren't living under Covid19 pandemic restrictions, it's a day packed full of events including luncheons for people who lived through the war years, parades and fun, as well as commemorations and thanksgiving including special church services.

Last year was the 75th anniversary of the Liberation - Liberation75 - and all the commemorations had to be online or virtual.

Object 50 - Welcome Home JsyHeritage copyrightThis year it's a little more relaxed, although there are none of the usual large gatherings planned. For instance, there will be no re-enactment of the Liberation of Jersey on May 9th 1945, that moment when British troops came ashore at the harbour in St Helier, marched the short distance to what is now called 'Liberation Square' and were welcomed by thousands of islanders who saw the British Union Jack raised on the Pomme d'Or Hotel. After five years of the Nazi Swastika flag on local flagpoles, that must have been an incredible moment.

For the residents of Jersey who had lived through nearly five years of Occupation, since German Nazi forces invaded the island on July 1st 1940, this was a moment to be not just celebrated but cherished and remembered. Annual events keep the Occupation in the mind of Jersey residents, children learn about the period not just through their families but also at school. As those who lived through the era gradually leave us, their legacy is ensured by the annual commemorations and the guardians of our history.

In 2019 and 2020 I worked with the experts at Jersey Heritage to create a radio series which would tell the story of the Occupation and Liberation of Jersey through 50 Objects which are held in the collections at the Jersey Archive and the Jersey Museum. The series was broadcast on BBC Radio Jersey on the Friday morning Breakfast Show on May 9th 2019 and then every week from the end of June that year up to and beyond Liberation75 on May 9th in 2020. This was part of our contribution to Liberation75, and I was privileged to learn that it became part of the official online commemorations.

During the making of the series we looked at documents, official and personal, diaries, posters, registration cards, items which told how the islanders lived under increasingly difficult conditions, made do with what they could lay their hands on to put food on the table and survived the deprivations of Occupation. We heard how children grew up in that period, how they played and how adults kept themselves busy, including having fun in local amateur dramatic productions. We explored transport and medicine and all the shortages which gradually began to show themselves as the war progressed, as Germany began to lose ground and headed towards ultimate defeat.

Our 50 stories included Jews who lived in fear and secret and we heard about those individuals who resisted the enemy forces and those, including families of English origin, who were sent to work and internment camps in Europe, some never to return. We also heard about those who collaborated with the enemy, and we heard the harrowing stories of slave workers who built massive fortifications as the Nazis under Hitler desperately hung on to the islands. We even heard the tales of some of the Germans who were based here and how they lived.

SO many stories, all wrapped up in objects and documents held in trust by Jersey Heritage. It was fascinating and I learned so much about that period of history in my home island. I developed a new appreciation for the resilience of the Jersey people, including members of my own family who lived through the Occupation years. 

As I said, our 50 Objects series didn't end on May 9th 2020 because, actually, Liberation wasn't done and dusted on that day. It was just the start of a period of readjustment for those who had lived through the days when they were imprisoned and controlled by the enemy within the confines of this small island.

And for some 'liberation' would come later. Guernsey was also liberated on May 9th 1945, Sark on May 10th but in Alderney, the most northern of  the Channel Islands from where pretty much the whole population had been evacuated in June/July 1940, their 'Homecoming' would not be until December 1945. Alderney residents had to wait until the end of the year before they could return, mostly because their whole island had become one big German defence base and after May 9th 35,000 mines had to be removed, with some casualties, before the population could safely return. Homecoming in Alderney is now annually celebrated every December 15th!

For many thousands of Channel Islanders who had left their homes before the Germans invaded in 1940, there was a gradual return after May 1945. 

The evacuation of civilians from the Channel Islands in 1940 had, as I just said, seen the evacuation of virtually the entire population of Alderney ( 1,500 people). In Guernsey around one third of the population left the island in the run up to July 1st 1940 when the Occupation began. That was around 5,000 school children and 12,000 adults out of the resident population at the time of 42,000. In Jersey, although 23,000 civilians registered to leave, the majority of islanders followed the advice of their island government and remained. Only 6,600 Jersey residents out of 50,000 left on the evacuation ships in summer 1940, just before Occupation.

For some islanders, of course, the move away would be permanent. Although they were 'evacuees' many settled well in various locations in England and other parts of the UK. Some got jobs, got married, had children. And they would not return. 

But once the war was over - VE (Victory in Europe) Day was May 8th and Liberation was the following day - islanders scattered across Great Britain started to think about and plan their homecoming.

This week in my blog I decided to dip into my 50 Objects series ... I hope you've enjoyed listening to some of the stories. Just seven, and there are 43 more if you feel you'd like to go to the Jersey Heritage pages on Vimeo.

And so today I turn to the final feature in the series - Object 50 - which isn't actually an 'object' at all.  

It's a voice, a voice from the past, the voice of one of those returning evacuees.

Nelley Lebredonchel (née Hotton) was a child when she was evacuated and when she returned with her family. By all accounts she was quite a character, as Senior Archivist at the Jersey Archive Stuart Nicolle discovered when he interviewed her for the 60th anniversary of Liberation. She and her parents and siblings spent the war years in the north of England, as many islanders did, and they returned to Jersey and the family here in September 1945 just a few months after the original 'Liberation Day'.

Her story and her voice is now part of the Archives ... and it was to Nelley that Stuart turned for our final feature...

50 Objects - No50 from Jersey Heritage Vimeo on Vimeo.

If you want to listen to this audio feature on the BBC Jersey website click on the link below

Breakfast on BBC Radio Jersey - 50 OBJECTS - the story of Jersey's Occupation and Liberation 1940-1945 told through 50 objects held by Jersey Heritage - BBC Sounds - Object 50 - May 22nd 2020

*image copyright Jersey Heritage