Tuesday, 24 November 2020

RAF Space Command Badge

 Following on from the announcement by the Prime Minister to increase funding for Defence part of which will go to an RAF Space Command I thought what would their badge be like?

Patch of the UK Space Operations Centre
Unlike what happened in the United States this Space Command will not be a separate service branch of the Armed Forces but will be an organisation within the Royal Air Force. Which is sensible giving that the RAF already operates a Space Operations Centre as part of 11 Group. However it is modest and defence analysts have said in some articles that it need expanding, and turning it into it's own 'Command' is probably a good way to go about it. Secondly by keeping it as part of the RAF it avoids some the PR disaster the US Space Force got with the comparisons to Star Trek and Starship Troopers SciFi series. 

At present the UK Space operations Centre already has a patch that appears to be worn on uniforms. I actually like it however while it is an acceptable uniform patch I think its to much in the American Air Force style. I think the RAF Space Command would have something more heraldic and less like a logo, an emblem that could be placed on a ceremonial standard.

So here is my proposal. First off is the name. I have specifically used the title "Satellite and Space Command" specifically as people are familiar with the widespread use of satellites to show this is not a type of SciFi space marines. 
The badge follow the standard pattern of RAF heraldry with the emblem being within a blue edged circle and wings surmounted by the crown, with the motto on a scroll below.

The emblem itself is symbolic of digital and satellite communications. It is set upon a black field rather than the more usual white field to be more distinctive and is something I thought could be unique to the Satellite & Space Command and any squadrons or groups that are subordinate to it. The emblem itself features two crossed lightning bolts with a beacon superimposed upon them. Emerging from the flames of the beacon is an armillary sphere .
beacons historically were used for signalling and combined with the lightning bolts is a symbol of electronic and digital communication. Armillary spheres were historically used by astrologers and schoolers to model objects in the sky in relation to the Earth or latterly the Sun. Hence when all these elements combine I think they are a good way of using timeless objects to symbolise the modern concept of manmade satellites. 
The motto is the same as that of the RAF which I think is an appropriate motto for the Space Command as it is generally translated to "Through adversity to the Stars". 

Friday, 13 November 2020

What is the oldest regiment in the British Army? Part One

 If you read some of the post of this blog you might have gathered I have an interest in military history. British military history is an interesting series of subjects and while doing a bit of reading a thought came to me. What is the oldest regiment in the British Army? The Army prides itself on its history and every regiment has a proud history, one of the things that makes the British Army interesting is the different identities, traditions, music. and uniforms & insignia of individual regiments. Thus the question which regiment is the oldest? There are actually quite a few claimants to that title, which I will examine here.

Royal Bodyguards

Gentlemen at Arms in the Palace of Westminster
Posted by Reddit user U/Terfan 
A good place to start this quest might be the Queen's bodyguard. Surely the honoured task of guarding the person of the sovereign would fall the oldest and most prestigious regiment. Well the closest and most senior Royal Bodyguard is Her Majesty's Body Guard of the Honourable Corps of Gentlemen at Arms aka the Honourable Band of Gentlemen Pensioners or simply the Gentlemen at Arms. These guards are seen in the closest proximity to the monarch at various ceremonies and although they wear 19th Century uniforms they trace their history all the way back to 1509 when Henry VIII raised a Troop of armed gentlemen to act as his mounted escort. It naturally consisted of members of the nobility. It accompanied Henry to France and saw action in the Battle of  the Spurs in 1513. They last saw action during the Civil Wars when one Gentleman Matthews saved the life of the Prince of Wales at the Battle of Edgehill
However despite being the most senior Royal Bodyguard they are not the oldest. That goes to the perhaps more well known Queen's Body Guard of the Yeomen of the Guard (often simply called the Yeomen of the Guard). Unlike the Gentlemen at Arms the Yeomen of the Guard's uniform is almost unchanged since Tudor times. Often they are mistaken for 'Beefeaters' who are in fact the Yemen Warders of the Tower of London, however it is a forgivable mistake given that they share their history and their uniforms are almost identical. 

Yeomen of the Guard at 2008 Garter Day Service
note the cross belt over left shoulder (public domain)
The Yeomen of the Guard claims to be the oldest military corps in the world. It was formed by Henry VII following his victory at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. In 1509 Henry VIII moved out of the Tower of London for more comfortable accommodation. While this meant that the Yeomen of the Guard moved with the King the Tower retained its status of a Royal Palace (and still does), so it was decided a small detachment of Yeomen would remain to garrison the Tower. This is when the Yeomen Warders became distinct from the Yeomen of the Guard (note that the Gilbert & Sullivan opera 'The Yeomen of the Guard' (Act 1 click here)is set before this distinction took place.). 
The Yeomen of the Guard served wherever the King lead his army last seeing action in 1743 at the battle of Dettingen (the last time a reigning British monarch personally led troops in combat). 
Yeomen Warders in ceremonial dress (note no cross belt)
at the Ceremony of the Constable's Dues
Picture credit Peter Rowley/Flicker/CC BY 2.0) 

Despite these long and illustrious histories and the fact it might include the world's oldest military corps the Royal Bodyguards do not qualify for being the British Army's oldest regiment because they are not considered part of the Army. Although they may have seen action in the past the gentlemen and yeomen of the 21st century are ceremonial bodyguards they are however mainly formed of former Armed Forces personnel. The Gentlemen at Arms are former commissioned officers. They wear a uniform styled after a dragoon of the 1840s and are armed with swords and ceremonial battle axes (which are each three centuries old). 

The Yeomen of the Guard are formed of former non commissioned or Warrant Officers with at least 22 years military service. Its membership is drawn mainly from the Army but also accepts Royal Air Force, Royal Marines and (recently) Royal Navy personnel. 35 members of the Yeomen of the Guard are selected to become Yeomen Warders of Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress the Tower of London, and Members of the Sovereign's Bodyguard the Yeomen of the Guard Extraordinary (aka Beefeaters). Unlike the Gentlemen at Arms and Yeomen of the Guard who only perform their ceremonial duties when summoned to do so, Yeomen Warder is a full time job and as such they not only work but live in the Tower of London. The ceremonial dress for the Yeomen is a Tudor bonnet, scarlet Tudor tunic with gold and black lace emblazoned with the Royal Badge of a rose, thistle and shamrock and Royal Cypher, scarlet britches and tights. They are armed with a partisan. The Yeomen of the Guard are distinguishable from the Yeomen Warders as they wear a scarlet and gold cross belt (although if you visit the Tower they will likely be wearing their non ceremonial undress uniform which is still Tudor style). 
An honourable mention should also be made for Queen's Bodyguard for Scotland, the Royal Company of Archers they date from 1676 and unlike the London based bodyguards which are drawn from the former members of HM Armed Forces membership of the Royal Company of Archers is via election by other members.  
 So although not the oldest regiments in the army the Sovereign's bodyguard are the oldest military institutions in the country. But what's the oldest regiment in the army?

The Foot Guards

From left to right Guardsmen from the Grenadier, Scots, Welsh, Irish & Coldstream Guards
in Full Dress Uniform (note collar badges and button spacing) 
Surely the regiments that guard the Monarch and the Royal households are among the oldest regiments? There are five regiments of Foot Guards who regularly perform these 'public duties' and although two of them (the Irish Guards and the Welsh Guards) were raised in the 20th Century the other three (Grenadier Guards, Coldstream Guards and Scots Guards) date back to the 17th Century. So these are some of the oldest regiments in the army.

 In fact if you google "oldest regiment in the British Army" the Coldstream Guards are top of the list. Even the regiments motto is "Nulli Secundus" (Second to None) seems to state this. The Coldstream Guards were formed in 1650 however they were not formed as guards. Of the three regiments of Foot Guards raised in the 17th Century only the Grenadier Guards were formed as Foot Guards. The Coldstream Guards were not even royal troops but republican! 
A Captain of the Coldstream Guards and guardsmen at 2011 Royal Wedding
note buttons arranged in pairs, Garter star collar badge and red plume on right of Bearskin
Picture Credit Magnus D/Flicker/CC BY 2.0
The regiment that would become the Coldstream Guards was formed by Colonel George Monk as part of Oliver Cromwell's Parliamentarian Army. Although 1650 is the date the regiment was formed if we trace it's linage back to its oldest possible antecedent regiment (which is what nearly all other regiments of the Army do) we discover its actually a little bit older. The regiment was formed in the Scottish town of Coldstream through the amalgamation of men from George Fenwick's Regiment and Sir Arthur Hazelrigg's Regiment. Both these regiments were raised as part of the New Model Army of 1645 and both contributed five companies each to form the new regiment. On the restoration General Monk the regiment's colonel greeted King Charles II as he landed, and the King bestowed him with the Order of the Garter, which is why the Coldstream Guards wear the Garter Star as their cap badge and collar badge. The regiment was to disband along with the rest of the New Model Army on 8th January 1661 but on the 6th January riots in London spread out of control, and the government fearing an uprising called in the regiment to restore order. Following this the regiment was spared disbandment (the only regiment of the New Model Army to be spared or was it?) and made a royal regiment of Foot Guards. 

Grenadier Guards sentry at Buckingham Palace. Note grenade collar badge,
buttons arranged singularly & white plume on the left of bearskin
Photo Credit Edgar Eli/Wikimedia/CC BY 3.0
The Grenadier Guards by contrast trace their linage back to a regiment of British expatriates raised in Flanders in 1656 to protect the exiled Charles II. It was raised by the Earl of Rochester but when he died in 1658 command passed to Lord Wentworth. This regiment was know simply as the Royal Regiment of Guards although it is also sometimes referred to as Lord Wentworth's Regiment. 
When the King returned to the British Isles in 1660 another regiment of Guards was formed under the command of John Russel. On the death of Lord Wentworth in 1665 these two regiments were amalgamated to form the 1st Regiment of Foot Guards which was granted the title of 'Grenadier Guards' via Royal proclamation in 1815 following service in the Napoleonic Wars (hence the regiment's flaming grenade badge).  The rivalry between the Coldstream and Grenadier Guards is well known, it is the popular complaint of the Coldstream Guards that they should occupy the Grenadier Guard's position as being the senior regiment of Foot Guards because they are older. But is that a fair complaint?

For the third most senior regiment of Foot Guards is actually the oldest. It is perhaps one of those ironic little twists of history and something typically British that until the formation of the Irish Guards in 1900 the oldest of the Foot Guard regiments was regarded as the most junior! The Scots Guards trace their history back to 1642. The regiment was raised by the Marquess of Argyll under the authorisation of Charles I. The regiment was among nine Scottish regiments raised for service in Ireland. The previous year (1641) a Catholic rebels began an uprising against the mainly Protestant settlers of Ulster (many of whom were also Scots) and the uprising had spread across the island. This Scottish Army would see seven years of service in Ireland before returning to Scotland where what was left of it became known as 'the Irish Companies.' (in an interesting side note this Scottish Army played an important role in the ecclesiastic history of Northern Ireland for its chaplains founded the first Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, which is now the largest Protestant denomination in the province). 
Scots Guards at funeral of Baroness Thatcher 2013
Note buttons arranged in threes, thistle collar badge and no plume in bearskin
Photo Credit Ronnie MacDonald/Flicker/CC BY 2.0
Following the execution of Charles I, Charles II was crowned King of Scots at Scone and the Irish Companies were renamed the 'King's Lyfe Guards of Foot' in 1650. The regiment went on to face the invading English Parliamentarian Army at the Battle of Dunbar (where they found themselves on the opposite side what would become their fellow Foot Guards regiment the Coldstream Guards), from there they accompanied Charles II on his invasion of England before finally being defeated in 1651. Charles fled into exile and the regiment all but ceased to exist. However following the restoration in 1660 the regiment was re raised at Edinburgh and Stirling as the Scottish Regiment of Footguards. In the following years the regiment saw service against the Scottish Covenanters (somewhat ironic giving that their history with Lord Argyll and their service in Ireland), before being brought south to England in 1687 and being placed on the English establishment as the third senior regiment of Foot Guards (the Grenadier and Coldstream Guards being on that establishment much earlier).

The Coldstream Guards may be younger the Scots Guards but the reason they come up first in the google search is because the claim to be the oldest regiment in continuous service. However history buffs love to obsess over minor details and technicalities and despite this claim the regiment technically dates from 1661. This is because despite what is stated above the regiment that was formed in Coldstream was technically disbanded along with rest of the New Model Army in 1661. What actually happened was the regiment paraded for the last time at Tower Hill and symbolically laid down their arms and their association with the New Model Army. The men were then ordered to take up their arms again as Royal troops in the new standing army. This means that they technically formed a new regiment all be it a carbon copy of the one that was just disbanded. Of course most people would probably agree that this disbandment was merely a symbolic act and that in the real world the regiment that marched away from Tower Hill after the ceremony was the same regiment that marched to it. 
I'm not including this point to challenge the Coldstream claim only to illustrate a point that the answer to which regiment is the oldest depends on how you define and measure age. It also shows how many claimants to the title of oldest regiment use technicalities. The Coldstream's claim to be the oldest regiment is based on the technicality that they are the oldest in continuous service however that claim can also be challenged on the grounds of a technicality. 

 All five regiments of Foot Guards as well as being operational soldiers take part in the oldest military ceremonies still practiced: The Changing of the Guard, Trooping the Colour, Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London (video below) etc. I have only really touched on their origins here and regardless of who might be the oldest they all have long and distinguished histories to be proud of up to the present. 
Soldiers from the oldest continuously serving regiment in the army
performing the oldest regular military ceremony in the world
alongside members of the oldest military body in the UK
Old clip from 1960s of the Irish Guards performing the ceremony of the keys
Note that the .303 SMLE No.4 rifle and No.9 bayonet still in service here

 So in conclusion to part one. Of the three most senior Foot Guard regiments I would say the Coldstream Guards arguably have the longest history of continuous service, with the Grenadier Guards being the longest continuous service to the crown, and the Scots Guards having the earliest date of origin. 
But there are other regiments of the line that can claim to be the oldest regiment in the British Army which will be looked at in Part 2.

Saturday, 3 October 2020

Dunluce Castle - Romanticism, Legend, History and ghost stories.

The ruins of Dunluce Castle in the direction of Portrush at Sunset
Credit to David Getty & Causeway Coast Community

 On the Ulster coastline in the County of Antrim between the popular seaside town of Portrush and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Giants Causeway, sits another one of Northern Ireland's iconic land marks. It is not iconic because of its history although it is historic, but rather because of its dramatic and romantic appeal. I am of course talking about Dunluce Castle, or perhaps more accurately what is left of it because the castle is a ruin. An 1840 travel guide depicts a romantic and dramatic picture describing "The picturesque ruins of Dunluce Castle lay scattered over the surface of a rocky promontory projecting boldly into the wild and turbulent waters of the North Atlantic. These were once the feudal halls of powerful chieftains long ages ago shattered, unroofed and despoiled by war; and now but the naked wreck left by the slow mining hand of time." More recently it appeared in the Game of Thrones series as Pyke Castle (although it is almost unrecognisable due to the large amounts of CGI)

I visited Dunluce in August and took some pictures while I was there and thought I'd share them while telling the story of one of Northern Ireland's most iconic landmarks. Since the place is in ruins it has not surprisingly gained a reputation for being haunted so since its October and Halloween is approaching I'll throw in a couple of ghost stories too. Starting off with a brief history

The MacQuillans and the MacDonnells

A little bit like Game of Thrones much of the castle's story revolves around the rivalry of two great clans, with a little bit of conflict with the Crown thrown in for good measure. 
A hiding place dated to the early Christian period
cut into the rock in the castle inner ward
There has been human settlements on and around Dunluce since pre history (the 'Dun' in the name suggests the presence of a ringfort) and there was a castle at or near Dunluce in the 13th Century however the history of the current castle begins in the early 16th Century. According to the guide leaflet I got when I visited the earliest standing remains of the castle date to around 1500 and accordioning to DiscoverNorthernIreland it was first documented in 1513.
The MacQuillans were of Scottish descent and came to Ireland in the 13th Century as gallowglasses, They became lords of a territory known as the Route the 15th Century which basically extended between the Rivers Bann and Bush (its a little more complex but thats perhaps a subject for a different time). The MacQuillans were powerful in fact the name of their territory is thought o derive from the word "rout" which was the common term for a private army. 
A view of the Inner Ward from the Outer Ward
The MacQuillans built the castle however in 1554 another Scottish family fought with the MacQuillans for possession of the castle. This was the MacDonnells who were a sept or branch of the Clan MacDonald. As a result the castle changed hands between the two clans various times before the MacQuillans were finally beaten in 1565 at the Battle of Aura. The battle took place in a bog Oral tradition tells us that the MacDonnells lead by the fantastically named Sorley Boy MacDonnell stood on firm ground but by covering the bog with reeds and rushes were able to trick the MacQuillans to enter the bog where they were easily cut down. 

The inner ward sits on an outcrop the outer ward is to the left
The outer ward was used to greet guests, house visitors and staff, and featured
lodgings, a stable, and possibly a brewery (arguably the most important building)

A view from the lodgings

remains of a fireplace in the outer ward lodgings

inside the lodgings in the outer ward, another fire place is to the right

Path down to the cave beneath the castle known as the Mermaid's cave
Due to Covid19 restrictions it was closed on the day of my visit so I have no pics of the cave

The Castle under the MacDonnells

After taking possession of the castle permanently Sorley Boy made it his seat of power, and as such made it more comfortable. He rebuilt much of it in the Scottish style of the period and much what survives of the castle can be traced to this period. However that was not the end of conflict at Dunluce Castle. For after taking his land from the MacQuillans the MacDonnells spent much of the remainder of the century trying to keep it from the forces of Elizabeth I. In 1584 the Lord Deputy of Ireland, Sir John Perrot laid siege to and took Dunluce Castle for the Crown. Local legend goes that Sorely Boy was able to retake the castle by being hauled up the cliff in a basket (presumably with some of his men at arms) by one of the servants in the castle. Sorely Boy and Perrot reluctantly entered into negotiations which culminated with Sorley Boy pledging loyalty to the Queen and she regranted him his lands and the castle.  

The Funnel and the Bridge. Originally this was a draw bridge 
but it was later replaced my a stone arch and wooden walkway
The Gatehouse to the left was originally built by the MacQuillans but was rebuilt
in its present Scottish style by the MacDonnels as was the curtain wall to the right
note the openings added to house cannon from a wrecked ship of the Spanish Armada

An impression of how the funnel, gatehouse and curtain wall looked in the 17th Century

Detail of the First Trust £10 note featuring the Girona
Sorley Boy appears to have mostly remained loyal to the Queen although there is one event where that loyalty can be questioned. On the night of 26th October 1588 the Spanish Galleass 'Girona' was making her way around the Antrim coast to Scotland. Girona was one of the ships of the Spanish Armada. Following the Armada being scattered by the wind and by English fire ships it made its way around Scotland and Ireland in order to return to Spain and lost many ships in the process. The Girona was one of the many stragglers, she was designed for the calm waters of the Mediterranean and was unsuited to  
19th Century engraving of the wreck of the Girona
Lacada Point and the Spanish Rocks are in the background

the British coastline. After making repairs in Donegal it was decided to sail for neutral Scotland rather than attempt to make the perilous trip to Spain . After passing Lough Foyle she was caught in a storm and was driven onto rocks not to far from Dunluce Castle at Lacada Point (the rocks in question would from henceforth be known as the Spanish Rocks) and sank with the estimated loss of 1300 souls. There were nine survivors who despite his allegiance to the Queen Sorley Boy helped escape to his kin in Scotland. However Sorely Boy also salvaged riches from the wreck with which he was able to improve the castle including two ship's guns which were installed in the curtain wall beside the gatehouse. 
The Girona has become another part of the local folklore and is even depicted on the reverse of the £10 Northern Ireland banknotes that were issued by First Trust Bank prior to 2019 (although no longer being printed they are still legal currency until June 2022)

The Earls of Antrim

Armorial bearings of the Earl
of Antrim at Dunluce
Sorely Boy was a winner and was successful in walking the tightrope between rebellion and loyalty to the crown to secure his family's future as the rulers of Dunluce Castle and the lands around it. Sorely Boy's 4th son Randal succeeded him as head of the clan, and with the support of the new King James I founded a town outside the castle in 1608. This town was inhabited not just by Scottish settlers but also many local Irish tenants. In 1618 while much of the rest of Ulster was undergoing the plantation, the King made Randal the 1st Earl of Antrim increasing the lands, power and wealth of the MacDonnells further. Randal set about making the castle more comfortable and built the manner house in the centre of the castle as well as remodelling some of the other buildings in the castle. 
This was heyday of the castle however for the town of Dunluce was burned to the ground in the 1641 rebellion and following the Cromwellian reconquest of Ireland the lands of Dunluce were granted to Cromwell's soldiers and the castle was abandoned. However it was reoccupied with the restoration of Charles II in 1660 and the town rebuilt. However unlike most of the other plantation towns, Dunluce was not a success. It's economy suffered from the lack of a natural harbour making trade difficult and it was abandoned again by the 1680s never to be reoccupied or rebuilt. 
The ornate frontage of what remains of the Manor House

In 1635 the second Earl married the widow of the Duke of Buckingham and she lived here
It is said she was always uneasy being so close to the sea, and left after part of the savants' quarters collapsed

The interior of the manner house with its big fire places and large windows

Plaque at Dunluce depicting the Manor House

The Kitchen Collapse and the ruin of the Castle

The Kitchen next to the Manor House
Local legend has it that sometime towards the end of the castle being occupied there was a great feast being held on a dark and stormy night. However the feast was cut short when the Earl and his guests heard a mighty crash and screams; as the storm caused the cliff supporting the kitchen to collapse into the sea taking the kitchen with it, as well as all those that were in it at the time. Only a single member of the kitchen staff survived and this was a young serving boy who happened to be standing in the one small corner of the kitchen to remain as the rest plummeted into the sea. The wife of the Earl refused to live in the castle after that and the MacDonnells abandoned the castle leaving it to fall to ruins. 
We know this is the kitchen due to the large ovens
Ask anyone in Northern Ireland what happened to Dunluce castle and they will tell you some form of that story. While it is a great story it is I am afraid just a story. The kitchen did not fall into the sea, in fact if you visit the castle you can clearly see the remains of the kitchen complete with its great stone ovens. However like most legends it does have a basis in fact, the MacDonnells did indeed leave the castle for the more comfortable Glenarm castle and this remains the seat of the Earls of Antrim to this day. Alexander MacDonnell the 3rd Earl of Antrim was the last of the MacDonnells we know was born at Dunluce Castle. During the Glorious Revolution of 1688 he raised a regiment for James II, and with that regiment went to take over the garrison of Londonderry but had the gates closed upon his men (starting a stand off that would end in the Siege of Derry), thus setting into action a chain of events the would cumulate in the vanquishing of James II to be replaced as King of Ireland, England and Scotland by William III & Mary II
Antrim finding himself on the losing side was no longer able to support the expense of maintaining the cast and thus abandoned it to ruin. At some point  a portion of the in the inner ward fell into the sea, giving rise to the legend of the kitchen. Although despite that fact it is said that on dark stormy nights you can still hear rock shattering and the ghostly cries of the servants as they once more plunge to their deaths in the icy sea below.
The Courtyard of the Inner Ward housed servants' quarters and workshops

Inside the remains of one of the buildings in the Inner Ward Courtyard

The chimney of the above building

Looking out at the coast

The  rear most building of the court yard fell into the sea 
long ago. This corner is all that is left

A view of the white rocks with Portrush in the distance

The ghosts of Dunluce

Like all good castles Dunluce has its fair share of alleged hauntings. As well as the souls of the kitchen staff reliving the night of their death (even though the kitchen never actually collapsed and is largely still intact today) there are other apparitions and panorama activity that have been reported over the centuries. 
We will star with the south east tower. This is the one beside the curtain wall closest to the gatehouse. For it is said to haunted by the spirit of Peter Carey. Carey was the Constable of the castle after it fell to the Queen's Lord Deputy, however when Sorley Boy MacDonnell retook the castle he took his revenge on Carey by hanging him from the southeast tower. It is said his spirit never left that tower and is allegedly seen on dark nights roaming the ramparts. Carey's ghost is identifiable as he is in a dark purple cloak and is wearing a ponytail which might actually be the rope that killed him. Visitors to the castle also report feeling someone push past them inside the southeast tower despite the fact they are the only ones there.
Originally built by the MacQuillans to protect the Curtain Wall
It was improved by the MacDonnells and features gun loops
The castle's constable was hanged from this tower in 1584

View of the outer ward from one of the cannon ports

A view of the lodgings from the gun port

These columns were part of a loggia which overlooked
a garden before the manor house was built 

Next is the north east tower which is said to be haunted by a white lady. There are slightly different variants of the story, however they all agree that the white lady is the spirit Mave McQuillans who was imprisoned in that tower by father to prevent her from seeing the man she loved (a match her father evidently did not approve). However here the stories differ for one read that she pined away in the tower and died of a broken heart. She is said to have met her lover at the castle when he was either a prisoner or one of the soldiers tasked with guarding it, stories differ. Another version of the story states that Mave fled with her lover to the Mermaid's Cave to escape to Portrush in a boat hidden in the cave. However the sea proved to rough and they pair drowned. While her lover's body was washed ashore the next morning the Sea refused to give up Mave's body and as such she was denied a Christian burial. Where the stories agree again is that Mave's spirit haunts the tower she was imprisoned in. After the tragedy servants refused to enter the tower however on the rare occasion a living soul entered the tower it is said that it was spotless, without even a speck of dust. The ghost of Mave apparently keeping it clean. Because the tower Mave is still said to reside in the tower it became known as the MacQuillan Tower even after the MacDonnells took over.
The north east tower was built at the same time
as the south east. Both were closed off as Covid19 percussions 
It retains its Irish style with an upper room and separate
ground floor vault. 

Likewise the MacQuillan Banshee still haunts the castle and lands surrounding it. It is said that screams of the Banshee echo around the castle whenever a member of the Clan MacQuillan is on their death bed. Some have even said the screams originate from the north east tower leading some to speculate that the spirit of Mave and the Banshee are one in the same. 
In the 16th Century a woman in white was said to appear on the cliffs beside the castle every day at sunset. She was said to always gaze out to sea and some accounts state she wailed like a fury, but all agreed she soon disappeared. No one knows exactly who this was, some say it is the spirt of Mave MacQuillan, some that it was the Banshee and some that it is both. A story says that in 1534 one of the MacQuillan children saw the Lady in white on the shore, where she disappeared into thin air in front of him. He returned the next night with his siblings but the lady didn't appear. There continued to be reports from locals of the Lady walking along the shore before sunset throughout the following decades. When the child now a man in his 30s returned to the spot he originally seen the apparition the lady materialised to him. He attempted to speak with her but once again she vanished and has not been seen since.
Poltergeist activity has also been reported in the castle reception and gift shop. Staff report that they will come to work in the morning to find that someone has rearranged the shelves during the night, despite the fact the shop is locked and there is no sign of a break in. Sometimes they will also find the radio has been turned on despite the fact it was switched off at the end of the day before!

The Castle today 

The castle ruins have inspired music, art and literature and are today still the property of the
MacDonnells although the seat of the Earldom is Glenarm castle. However Dunluce is a monument in state care being cared for by the Northern Ireland Department for Communities (Previously the NI Environment Agency). The Government of Northern Ireland have had guardianship of the ruins since 1928 and seek to preserve them as much as possible for the benefit of future generations. Although undoubtedly one day nature will take her course and the ruins will fall to the sea. However until that day comes (hopefully in the far future) the castle will no doubt continue to awe and inspire. 
Dunluce Town however has been likened as an Irish equivalent of Atlantis. The town was considered lost to history until archaeological discovery in 2011. It was found that it may have been built on a grid system with complex houses with indoor toilets (new in Europe at the time). Its estimated 95% of the town is yet to be rediscovered. 
The above feature digital reconstructions of the ruins of six British castles first of which is Dunluce. In the meantime if you are ever on the North Antrim coast I would recommend spending some time to explore these majestic ruins and soak up the history and the legends.  

Wednesday, 26 August 2020

Rule Britannia - The Lyrics and the history

Detail of a patriot postcard from 1903

 Yesterday (25/08/2020) I read an interesting column by a certain peer of the Realm in the Sun, (I don't often read the Sun but it was the only newspaper in the Lunch room). While he agreed with my viewpoint over the recent controversy the British Broadcasting Corporation has brought upon itself I was a little bit taken aback aback at what he said was the history behind the lyrics and suggesting that most people who enthusiastically sing the song while waving flags were ignorant of the said history. 

I am not going to say here if patriotic songs like Rule Britannia or Land of Hope and Glory should or should not be sung enthusiastically or even sung at all at the Last Night of the Proms nor am I going to attack the BBC decision. I am however going to look at the history of the song and you the reader can make up your own mind on the subject. 

Who or what is Britannia?

Firstly lets look at the question of what is Britannia. Britannia is the Latin name for the island Great Britain which is also applied to the personification of the United Kingdom which is inspired by the Goddess Athena from Greek and later Roman mythology. Although she has appeared on coins minted by every British monarch since Charles II she became a more widely accepted symbol for Britain during the reign of Queen Victoria, probably in no small part because she is a female personification. She is generally depicted in a white toga wearing a Corinthian style helmet and armed with a trident and a Union Shield. She is often although by no means always depicted seated with a lion. Of there is tones of symbolism in the white being seen a symbol of purity or even peace, the trident symbolic of mastery of the sea etc etc (I will suggest reading the chapter on personifications in my book on Northern Ireland flags and emblems for more details) 

Origins of the Song

The music was written as part of an opera about Alfred the Great by Thomas Arne, David Mallet and James Thompson. It was first performed for the Prince of Wales in 1740. Arne wrote the music for this work. Alfred the Great was the King of the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Wessex which was the most powerful of the seven kingdoms of Anglo-Saxon England. He was viewed by antiquarian historians as the father of the English nation (although he himself was never king of England) for defending the islands against Viking conquest. He is sometimes called the father of the Navy as he was the first English King recorded to construct and man ships for war. 

Thompson was a Scottish unionist and believed in embracing a British identity shared by English, Scots, Irish and Welsh people. This is probably his motivation when he wrote 'Rule Britannia' in 1740 for the opera. 

1759 is known as Britain's year of Wonders for it saw British forces triumph over the French and their allies on land and sea all over the world (the Seven Years War is sometimes refereed to as the first ever world war). The land as a result was full of patriotic zeal not least of which resulted from the numerous achievements of the Royal Navy and this is the backdrop to which Rule Britannia a song from an opera which about great victories on land and sea against a foreign enemy became popular. (It is also the year the Royal Navy's quick march 'Heart of Oak' was written and is the "wonderful year" referred to in the first verse of that song)

The Lyrics

Thompson wrote six verses to 'Rule Britannia' although since 1759 usually on three are actually sung (as is the case in the below clip) or in some cases only two. In any case I will examine and explain all of Thompson's lyrics as the three verses that are sung (with the exception of the first verse) usually vary.

Verse One:

When Britain first, at heaven's command,
Arose from out the azure main,
This was the charter of the land,
And Guardian Angels sang this strain:

To understand the first verse we must remember the song is written for an opera about Alfred the Great. Alfred who is being regarded as the father of the nation, defeated the Great Heathen Army of the Vikings and thus preserved Christian civilisation in England and arguably Great Britain as whole. Hence the line "at heaven's Command." Azure is a shade of blue and in heraldry is the tincture for blue, hence the second line is referencing the island nation identity and possibly even the creation of the land itself. 
The Charter is a little bit more difficult to determine as Britain has an unwritten constitution (which is misleading term as the British constitution is long and complex with an awful lot of witting) it could be referring to Magna Carter (which means Great Charter) regarded as the founding document of British Rights and Freedom, it could be the much more recent Bill of Rights from the reign of William III and Mary II or it could be one of the numerous documents of Alfred the Great or even the Bible. 
Then the last line returning back to the theme of Christian civilisation triumphing over the Great Heathen Army sets up the Chorus

The Chorus:

Rule Britannia!
Britannia Rule the Waves!
Britons Never, ever ever will be slaves!

Throughout this song you see the poet in Thompson but particularly in the chorus, for rather than simply evoke Britain ruling the waves he personifies the nation in the figure of Britannia. The lyrics about ruling the waves were originally references to Alfred defeating the Vikings who were of course excellent sailors who'es exploits can be found throughout the Northern hemisphere. Since 1759 however its been used to evoke the victories of the Royal Navy in that year and the years since. 
The line "Britons Never will be slaves" is the particular line the BBC thinks is controversial despite the fact its clearly about fighting slavery rather than practising it. What is this line about, were British people (Britons) ever faced with slavery?
Well during Anglo-Saxon times they were. Viking raiders often took slaves as did many of the people of raided the British coast in the centuries since. Slavery was (and still is) also not enforceable in Britain under British Common Law (there were numerous court cases between the reign of Elizabeth I and George III that proved this most notably the case of Somerset vs Stewart in 1772) although such laws admittable did not extend to the colonies, and Britain benefited from trade with the colonies. 
There is also a line of thinking that this line was inspired from one of Thompson's earlier works. The 'Tragedy of Sophonisba' (1730) is about a Carthaginian (another naval power form antiquity) princess who ultimately commits suicide rather than submit to Roman slavery.

Second Verse:

The nations not so blest as thee
Must, in their turn, to tyrants fall,
While thou shalt flourish great and free:
The dread and envy of them all

Again in the context to the original opera the song was written for the first two lines of this verse references the peoples who fell to the Vikings. The last two lines simply compare the free peoples of Britain who's greatness is both envied and dreaded by other nations. Admittable there might be a bit of chest thumping here but that is hardly unique to British patriotic music. 

Third Verse:

Still more majestic shalt thou rise,
More dreadful from each foreign stroke,
As the loud blast that tears the skies
Serves but to root thy native oak.

The first two lines of this verse is simply saying in a more poetic manner that Britain always comes out of fight stronger. Likewise the last two lines imply that whenever British people or British values are threatened and attacked, rather than scare or submit British people become more defiant and more entrenched in the position they held. This is being visualised with an oak tree representing the British people, which is rooted rather than felled by a blast.  

Fourth Verse:

Thee haughty tyrants ne'er shall tame;
All their attempts to bend thee down
Will but arouse thy generous flame,
But work their woe and thy renown.

The first line of this verse follows the theme of the previous verse simply stating the nation will never be tamed by tyrants. The tyrants in question probably originally intended to be Vikings but since 1759 the word referring to the French and other foreign foes. France at this time of course being an absolute monarchy whereas Britain was a constitutional monarchy with restrictions on royal power. The second and third lines really repeat the theme of the last two lines of the previous verse. This time it compares Britian to a flame which burns brighter when tyrants attempt to bend Britons down. Of course there is great symbolism in flames and light being associated with freedom and enlightenment as well as with passion which Thompson is attempting to convey to the audience. 
Renown mean highly acclaimed or highly honored hence The last line simply states that while others work their woe (a word meaning sorrow or distress) Britain is also at work to the opposite effect.

Fifth Verse:

To thee belongs the rural reign;
Thy cities shall with commerce shine;
All thine shall be the subject main,
And every shore it circles, thine.

As is with many patriotic songs it talks about riches and resources and hence the first two lines speak of resources of the land (rural reign) and the cities shining with commerce. 
The last two lines are open to be misinterpreted as being colonialist as they are talking about territorial possession. However they are in fact talking about British territorial integrity. The 'subject main' being the island of Great Britain and the "shores it circles" being the numerous other islands of the British Isles. 

Sixth Verse:

The Muses, still with freedom found,
Shall to thy happy coasts repair.
Blest isles! with matchless beauty crowned,
And manly hearts to guard the fair.

The "Muses" are minor Gods in Greek mythology and personify the musical, literary and visual arts as well as Science. Hence the first two lines of this verse are stating that Britain is a welcoming place for culture and science. The third verse salutes the natural beauty of the British Isles where as the last verse describes the people of the said isles as fair and guarded by manly hearts. This probably has subtle notes to 18th century notions of femininity and purity as well as manhood and strength.

Concluding Remarks

Of course the song could well evoke different things for different people for a variety of reasons. However I think it is clear from the examination of the history and lyrics of the song that it is neither intended to be about Slavery or Colonialism. While it is a song that evokes naval and military power Thompson was careful to frame that power in a defensive nature. It is true the song was written in an era of colonialism when Britain benefited from the triangle trade but . However that can be said of numerous songs and poetry from history. Shakespeare wrote his plays in a time where English people were persecuted for their faith, yet no one is saying we shouldn't enjoy those plays. The same is true of Rule Britannia, enslavement and subjugation are not what I think is evoked in the song. It could be argued that the lyrics are at worst hypocritical of what Britain was or is, but I think the lyrics are more an expression of what Britain can achieve and what we as Britons should aspire for our country to be.
Those are merely the conclusions I have drawn from this examination of the song, I invite you you to draw your own.

Monday, 13 July 2020


 one of the oldest if not the oldest tune you might hear on the twelfth. It dates directly to the Glorious Revolution.
The melody was first published by English composer Henry Purcell in 1687, as a quick step on the basis of a traditional song.

In either case it became popular in 1687 when the MP for Buckinghamshire Thomas, Lord Walton composed a satirical poem about the appointment of the Earl of Tyrconnell as Lord Deputy of Ireland. The poem quickly took on musical form being set to Purcell’s quickstep and gained popularity as James II brought regiments of the Irish Army to England. Wharton would later boast that his song had sung James out of the Three Kingdoms. It sometimes being said that James made the final decision to flee the crown when he heard the sentry outside his personal quarters whistling the tune!
The tune was carried back to Ireland by troops in the Williamite Army. The tune continues to be used as a military march to this day. Over the time other songs and lyrics have been set to it, most notable ‘The Protestant Boys’ but also the tavern song ‘Nottingham Ale,’ and the American Civil War song ‘Overtures of Richmond’ which keeping in the theme of the original song is a satire of Jefferson Davis the president of the southern Confederacy.
The song was adopted in World War II by the BBC as the opening for the program ‘Into Battle.’ Later being used as the interval signal, its use continuing long after the war until the 1990s when the World Service finally dropped the practice.
It continues as a march today being the formal march of the Corps of Royal Electrical & Mechanical Engineers and the Corps of Royal Australian Electrical & Mechanical Engineers. Both of whom were formed in WW2 and given rise with some debate with the BBC as who adopted the tune first.


The 1688 lyrics feature two satirical Irish Jacobites looking forward to the completion of James’ perceived policies in Ireland under Tyrconnell:

Ho, brother Teague, dost hear the decree?
Lillibullero bullen a la
We are to have a new deputy
Lillibullero bullen a la
Lero Lero Lillibullero
Lillibullero bullen a la
Lero Lero Lero Lero
Lillibullero bullen a la
Oh by my soul it is a Talbot
Lillibullero bullen a la
And he will cut every Englishman's throat
Lillibullero bullen a la
Though, by my soul, the English do prate
Lillibullero bullen a la
The law's on their side and the devil knows what
Lillibullero bullen a la
But if dispense do come from the Pope
Lillibullero bullen a la
We'll hang Magna Carta and themselves on a rope
Lillibullero bullen a la
Who all in France have taken a swear,
Lillibullero bullen a la
That they will have no Protestant heir
Lillibullero bullen a la
Now Tyrconnell is come ashore
Lillibullero bullen a la
And we shall have commissions galore
Lillibullero bullen a la
And everyone that won't go to Mass
Lillibullero bullen a la
He will be turned out to look like an ass
Lillibullero bullen a la
Now the heretics all go down
Lillibullero bullen a la
By Christ and St Patrick's the nation's our own
Lillibullero bullen a la
There was an old prophecy found in a bog
Lillibullero bullen a la
The country'd be ruled by an ass and a dog
Lillibullero bullen a la
Now this prophecy is all come to pass
Lillibullero bullen a la
For Talbot's the dog and Tyrconnell's the ass
Lillibullero bullen a la

The Lyrics explained

Teague derived from the Gaelic masculine name Tadgh identifying who is speaking. The Deputy referred to is the new Lord Deputy of Ireland Richard Talbot, Earl of Tyrconnell. The two conversaionists then talk with one saying that Tyrconnell will cast out the English slitting their throats, while the other one points out that the law is on the side of the English to which his fellow states that the law of the Catholic Church overrules that and would allow them to do away with English law and hang its liberties first laid down in Magn Carta.  The Commissions galore refers to the cashiering of Protestant officers from the Irish Army and replacing them with officers from the Catholic gentry as well as Catholic middle classes. Following that the subjects of the song talk about persecuting non Catholics. Followed by the widespread believe at the time in prophecies and ancient writings among people in Ireland. The Refrain ‘Lillibullero’ is apparently based on the watchword of insurgents in Ulster during the rising of 1641.Although it has also been interpreted as a garbled version of the Irish words Lile ba léir é, ba linn an lá, "Lilly was clear and ours was the day" referencing the heraldic symbol of the Kingdom of France.
We know that the tune was played at the Battle of the Boyne. Accounts of who witnessed the advance of the Dutch Blue Guards across the river recall that their corps of drums were playing “the popular lillberlero.” This means Lillibullero is probably the only tune you might hear on the twelfth that was actually played at the Boyne.