Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Negotiations can now begin

‘Ambassador Tim Barrow, Permanent Representative of the UK to the European Union, hand-delivers the long-awaited letter to Donald Tusk. Nine months after the referendum, Theresa May has today given notice of her country’s wish to leave the European Union, triggering the two-year period under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union during which we must find an agreement for the UK’s orderly withdrawal and set out the framework for our future relationship. Negotiations can now begin.’ This is Michel Barnier, the European Commission’s Head of Task Force for Relations with the United Kingdom, writing in his diary exactly five years ago today. Once the negotiations were completed, Barnier published what he called My Secret Brexit Diary - A Glorious Illusion.

Barnier was born at La Tronche in the French Alps in 1951. Wikipedia notes that he was a scout and choirboy. He graduated from the ESCP business school in Paris in 1972. The following year he became a regional councillor for Savoie in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, also in the Alps. He served on the staff of various Gaullist ministers in the 1970s, before being elected in 1978, aged 27, to the French National Assembly as deputy for the Department of Savoie representing the neo-Gaullists, serving until 1993. In 1982, he had married Isabelle Altmayer ​and they had three children. He co-organised the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville.

Under Prime Minister Édouard Balladur, Barnier was first appointed to cabinet, as minister of the environment in 1993; and, in 1995, Jacques Chirac appointed him secretary of state for European affairs. Barnier then served as a European Commissioner for Regional Policy in the European Commission from 1999 until 2004. Back in national politics, he was made foreign minister in Jean-Pierre Raffarin’s government until  June 2005. Under Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidency, he re-joined the cabinet as minister of agriculture. Briefly (2009-2010), he was a Member of the European Parliament and President of the French delegation of the EPP.

But, in 2010, Barnier was back in Brussels as European Commissioner in charge of Internal Market and Services, a position he held until 2014. From 2015, he acted as a special adviser on European defence policy to the European Commission’s President, Jean-Claude Juncker. Then, in July 2016, Juncker made him the Commission’s chief negotiator with the UK over its arrangements for leaving the European Union, under Article 50, and over the EU-UK’s future trade deal - a couple of jobs which kept him busy until the end of 2020! Most recently, he made a failed bid to become the Republican’s candidate for the 2022 French presidential elections.

Barnier kept a detailed diary throughout the Brexit negations. This was published in French by Gallimard as La grande illusion: Journal secret du Brexit (2016-2020). The text was translated into English by Robin Mackay and published in the UK by Polity as My Secret Brexit Diary - A Glorious Illusion. Polity says: ‘From Brussels to London, from Dublin to Nicosia, Michel Barnier’s secret diary lifts the lid on what really happened behind the scenes of one of the most high-stakes negotiations in modern history. The result is a unique testimony from the ultimate insider on the hidden world of Brexit and those who made it happen.’ A preview is freely available at Googlebooks.

Reviewing it for the The Guardian, Jonathan Powell said: ‘Michel Barnier's new book helps explain why Britain ended up being comprehensively out-negotiated over Brexit and saddled with a flawed withdrawal agreement and a deeply disadvantageous future relationship, both of which will cause us major problems for decades to come. This is therefore an important account.’ And Adam Fleming of the BBC said: ‘If the treaties are the legal texts of the Brexit talks then this is the human version, revealing a Michel Barnier who is much warmer and far less diplomatic than his public persona. It’s a masterclass in how the EU operates, and a rare glimpse into the tensions on their side.’

Here are several extracts from the published diary.

‘Wednesday, 29 March 2017: Notification
Ambassador Tim Barrow, Permanent Representative of the UK to the European Union, hand-delivers the long-awaited letter to Donald Tusk. Nine months after the referendum, Theresa May has today given notice of her country’s wish to leave the European Union, triggering the two-year period under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union during which we must find an agreement for the UK’s orderly withdrawal and set out the framework for our future relationship. Negotiations can now begin.’

‘Friday, 31 March 2017: Sadness and regret
As I do every week, I go over the weekly report sent to me by the Directorate-General for Communication, which surveys the reaction to Brexit among the twenty-seven member states.

Unsurprisingly, today they arc all focused on Mrs May’s letter of formal notice. Most heads of state or government have issued official responses. Their statements and communiqués are full of sadness and regret, as exemplified by those of the French, Belgian and Polish governments, which, while respecting the choice made by the British people, express their deep regret at the decision.

In parallel, there is an increasing number of calls for unity among the twenty-seven, whether from Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar or Mariano Rajoy in Spain. Other governments, such as Denmark and the Netherlands, explicitly refer to the defence of their national interests.

In general, I am struck by a convergence of the prevailing tone. From Finland to Portugal, the priorities arc the same. Everywhere there is talk of securing the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and of maintaining good relations with the UK in the future.

Behind the remarks of the various parties, I detect echoes of the discussions we have had thus far in each capital. The insistence of all upon the need to do things in the right order - ensuring an orderly withdrawal before discussing the future relationship - is symptomatic in this respect.’

‘Sunday, 11 June 2017: A wager lost...
Theresa May’s strategy has backfired. She called a general election to strengthen her majority and her position in the Brexit negotiations. What happened was the exact opposite. Instead of gaining fifty or even a hundred more seats as it had hoped, the Conservative Party lost thirteen. The Labour Party gained thirty, achieving its best result since 2001. The Liberal Democrats also made gains, UKIP was eliminated, and there is no longer a clear majority in the House of Commons. This is a real political shock for London. Some commentators, including the Financial Times, explain it partly as ‘the revenge of the young and Remainers’.

Forty-eight hours later, Theresa May announced a deal with a dozen MPs from the Northern Ireland Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) that will enable her to achieve an absolute majority in the House. The DUP, founded in 1971, was headed for nearly forty years by Ian Paisley, a well-known Unionist leader. Arlene Foster, who was briefly First Minister of Northern Ireland, is now at the helm. The Unionist position is clear to all: they oppose anything that would remove Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom. What price will Theresa May have to pay for this alliance? And what are the consequences for negotiations on the sensitive issue of the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland?

On Twitter, I read that in Brussels there is rejoicing at Theresa May’s defeat, that I’m about to take a four-week holiday, and that I’m handing out champagne to my team. Frankly, I think I’ll keep the champagne on ice for now. In order to lead these negotiations and make them successful, we need a stable partner who knows what they want.’

Saturday, March 26, 2022

House blown up

‘Went to Capitol early and was met by a reporter who told me that my beautiful house at Foxrock had been destroyed by the Republicans. Servants turned out & house blown up was all the news!!’ This is from the diaries of Sir Horace Curzon Plunkett, an Anglo-Irish politician and pioneer of agricultural cooperatives, who died 90 years ago today. His work took him abroad often, and he was in the US when the IRA destroyed his country house (along with many others). ‘Nevertheless,’ his diary for that day continues, ‘delivered a longish speech to the Wisconsin farmers at the College of Agriculture . . .’ Plunkett left behind over 50 volumes of daily diaries, all of which are available online, thanks to the National Library of Ireland, as digital photographs of every page, and transcripts. 

Plunkett was born in 1854, the third son of Admiral Edward Plunkett, 16th Baron of Dunsany, County Meath in Ireland. He was educated at Eton College and University College, Oxford, of which he became an honorary fellow in 1909. Still in his mid-20s, he went to become a cattle rancher in the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming, where he remained for 10 years. He returned to Ireland in 1889 and devoted himself to the agricultural cooperative movement, first organising creameries and then, in 1894, the Irish Agricultural Organisation Society, a forerunner of similar societies elsewhere in the UK. A moderate Unionist member of Parliament for South County Dublin from 1892 to 1900, he became vice president (until 1907) of the new Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction for Ireland, which he had been instrumental in creating.

Plunkett fought strongly for an independent Ireland as chairman of the Irish Convention and, in 1919, as founder of the Irish Dominion League and of the Plunkett Foundation for Cooperative Studies. Between 1918 and 1922, the cooperative movement was targeted by the Black and Tans and other British government forces, as the creameries were alleged to be centres of sedition. Factories were wrecked and burned, stock was destroyed, and trade was interrupted. Plunkett's protests were unheeded and demands for compensation were rejected. In 1922, after the Anglo-Irish Treaty was implemented, Plunkett was nominated to the first Seanad Éireann, the upper chamber of the parliament of the new Irish state. During a visit to the US in 1923, his large house was one of many destroyed by the IRA. Subsequently, he moved to live in Weybridge, England. 

Plunkett, who never married, was made a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1902 and Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order in 1903. He continued to promote and spread his ideas for agricultural cooperatives, advising politicians at home and abroad. He died on 26 March 1932. Further biographical information is available from Wikipedia, Dictionary of Irish Biography, and Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Plunkett was a committed diarist, making entries nearly every day for over 50 years. Although full of the details of his daily work they are surprisingly interesting and broad-ranging. The National Library of Ireland holds 52 volumes, starting in 1881 and continuing through until the last year of his life. Every page of every volume is available to view through the Library’s website (though this can be a little confusing to navigate). Also, transcripts for every one of the annual diaries are available online as transcribed, annotated and indexed by Kate Targett, a Fellow of the Plunkett Foundation. That said there seems to be no links to these transcripts from any part of the Library’s website, but they can be accessed individually using this URL, and then changing the year (i.e. by replacing 1881 with 1882 etc.)


Here are several extracts taken from those transcripts, including one which refers to the destruction of his house, and another in which he describes listening to his mother’s diaries - his mother being the ‘most intimate friend of Florence Nightingale’.

10 September 1900
‘Got up at 5.30 A.M. took a cup of tea & worked at my speech for the night – my first reply to the attack of the Ardilaunites. Then all day I worked & at night I made the best speech I ever made. I think it will have increased my influence & my power for good. There was opposition in plenty at the meeting but that only brought me out. They have no case.

During the morning the memorial requesting me to withdraw was presented by Prof’r. Dowden, Nutting & Ball (the last is to oppose me). It was signed by 750 so they said by affidavit. But I am not to have the signatures.’

9 December 1900
‘Carey snored like a blast furnace & kept me awake most of the night. Started at 8 AM for a bitterly cold 3 hour (15 miles!) drive to Lookout Station across the Laramie plains. There got into a warm sleeper for Omaha. En route to Cheyenne saw the new grade of the U.P.R’y which gets round Sherman summit. The wisdom of this was illustrated by our train breaking in two climbing up the hill. At Cheyenne dropped Carey & picked up Windsor.’

15 May 1906
‘The Council of Agriculture met. The air was electric. I plunged into the constitutional question to be submitted to the Committee of Inquiry & laid down propositions which if accepted would have secured the status quo for the Department. If rejected would have produced the worst kind of Devolution – that is, delegation of business to politicians. The Council did neither. Its sense was on my side, its fears were against me! Moral cowardice illustrated & emphasised. I was well but timidly received. The Council was invited in the evening to Glasnevin & enjoyed the visit. Moore & Prof’r. Campbell did well.’

30 July 1906
‘Irish office, Treasury, J[oh]n Sinclair, Tommy, Caroe, & Conny & Raymond took the whole day.

Consulted Haig the Vegetarian. Chief points were, Reduce tea gradually. Morning worst time for tea. His patients got the early morning brightness without it. Breads better not brown - Hovis anathema. Nuts a complete food, walnuts, hazel, pine kernel. Best almonds but less digestible - roast them but don’t use salt - provokes cancer. Cheeses Caerphilly, Gruyere. Cheaper sorts best because less fat. 3 lemons in quart of milk in 2 hours produces 6 oz curd. Eat like Devonshire cream. Fish whiting or haddock boiled the best. Pruritis will certainly disappear with vegetarian diet & certainly not without. Avoid acids with starchy foods.’

22 April 1922
‘An emergency meeting of the Council of the Chamber of Commerce to decide what (if any) action should be taken to protest against the militarism threatening the country’s very existence as a self supporting one. On Monday a general strike, ordained by the Sovietists, as a protest against militarism looks to the bourgeoisie a remedy worse than the disease. On Wed[nesda]y the Dail is to meet and decide whether, & if yes where, an election is to be held. I found the Council discussing platitudinous resolutions to be debated by the whole Chamber 10 days hence, the earliest consistently with the rules. I proposed scrapping the rules and holding the meeting Tuesday. I spoke with some warmth (& effect) & carried my point. But I shall have to speak! & may have my house burned.’

5 August 1922
‘Packed off the Fingalls in a taxi, which hauled my “broken down” car into the Dublin garage. Went to see Commandant Staines in the H.Q. in Henry St. He was away. His deputy Welsh [sic] received me with friendliness and I told him of the car incident. Also that the charwoman, who comes in on Sat[urda]y morning, had brought the report that my house was to be burned tonight. Urged again the occupation of Foxrock & Carrickmines stations. Lunched at Kildare St Club where Robinson told me he had been visited & asked for his car with a revolver pointed at his forehead. He put his hand in his (empty) pocket & refused to give the car. The raiders thereupon said they did not want it!

J. Clerc Sheridan came for week-end. He is an Irishman from South Africa & bears a letter from Smuts advising Irishmen to listen to his words of wisdom on Dominionism. He seems very nice & well informed.’

30 January 1923
‘Went to Capitol early and was met by a reporter who told me that my beautiful house at Foxrock had been destroyed by the Republicans. Servants turned out & house blown up was all the news!!

Nevertheless delivered a longish speech to the Wisconsin farmers at the College of Agriculture & then spoke at the Capitol (as chief speaker) at the dedication of a hideous tablet to Charles McCarthy. On both occasions I was very well received. They didn’t know of my misfortune and I don’t know how it will affect my influence in Irish America.’

1 April 1923
‘A really good sleep this Easter Sunday night ended the worst suffering of my life. Whatever they say about the wonderful progress in the technique of this operation, it has not been rendered easy to be borne. But my previous bladder opening and the nearby operation for the X-ray burn had doubtless made me unduly sensitive. As bad luck would have it, a carbuncle developed inside the wound. However all is going well and this week I may well be moved to this Nursing Home’s (4 Dorset Sq N.W.1) branch at Brighton.

Gerald Heard - I have hardly seen any callers - has been wonderfully kind. He is a treasure. He is reading to me my mother’s diaries from her marriage on. It is a wonderful picture (so far) of Sherborne & Dunsany life. She was the most intimate friend of Florence Nightingale many of whose letters are inserted though many, many more were burned! She also had an intimacy with Princess Sophia (daughter of George III) after whom my eldest sister “Mary Elizabeth Sophia” was called. Unhappily the diaries are about one half religion of the dreariest imaginable kind.’

9 April 1929
‘To town to talk to Gerald about a permanent secretary. Never have I realised so clearly that it is not good for man to live or be alone. I must have a companion or come to town & be done for in a service flat. Gerald thinks the man with the necessary qualifications may exist but can’t be found. I admit it will be sheer luck if I do find him. A man who has no life of his own to live would be in all probability useless to me. If he had his own life to live he could not fulfil my conditions. The only chance is to find some one whose life has been accidentally interrupted as mine has by senescence. A widower, or one who has prematurely lost his job through ill health would be my best “strike”.’

Friday, March 18, 2022

Newfoundland’s Dr Rusted

Dr Nigel Rusted, a Canadian doctor much honoured and credited with having made outstanding contributions to the medical profession in Newfoundland and Labrador, died 10 years ago today - aged 104! Throughout his long life he kept daily diaries, one per year, for nearly 90 years. All these diaries, every manuscript page of them, are available online thanks to the Memorial University of Newfoundland - Digital Archives Initiative.

Rusted was born, son of a reverend, in 1907 in Salvage, Newfoundland, the eldest of six children, and grew up in Upper Island Cove. He attended the newly-established Memorial University College, graduating in 1927, before training at Dalhousie Medical School. During two summers, he worked as health officer aboard the SS Kyle which visited communities along the Labrador coast. On qualifying, he took a position at St. John’s General Hospital (New Brunswick). But, after suffering a severe throat infection in 1935, he worked on the floating clinic ship MV Lady Anderson for a year. He married Florence Anderson and they had three children.

In 1936, Rusted opened a private clinic in St. John’s and also became a junior surgeon at the General Hospital. He married From 1954 to 1968, he served as chief surgeon; he also served as medical director, chief of staff and chief surgeon at the Grace General Hospital, and senior consultant at St John’s two other hospitals. In 1968, with the opening of Memorial University’s medical school, he was appointed Clinical Professor of Surgery.

Rusted retired from surgery in 1982 and from clinical practice in 1987. Over the years, he received numerous honours, including the Order of Newfoundland and Labrador and the first William B. Spaulding Certificate of Merit for contribution to the history of medicine in Canada. In 2011, he was made a Member of the Order of Canada. He died on 18 March 2012. Further biographical information is available at Wikipedia, the Canadian Medical Association Journal, or the Memorial University’s website.

Rusted kept a daily journal from 1925 through to the year of his death - 88 yearly diaries in all. Every single one of them has been digitalised and made available online by the Digital Archives Initiative of the Memorial University of Newfoundland. They have not, however, been transcribed, and so, although Rusted’s handwriting is legible enough, the pages cannot be scanned or searched efficiently. Rusted also published a memoir based on his diaries and this was published by the university in 1985 - It’s Devil Deep Down There.

Monday, March 14, 2022

A spear through the throat

‘During the days march we passed many rings of fires made by the natives, doubtless for the performance of some one of their extraordinary ceremonies; the inner space in all are perfectly bare, and the small fires forming the ring are about a foot apart, in some I counted ten and in others 12 fires. [. . .] What the ring is for would be very interesting to know, perhaps in some way connected with their superstitions.’ This is  from the Australian outback expedition diary of the British naturalist John Gilbert, born 210 years ago today. He would never discover any more about the rings as that very night, after completing this diary entry, his camp was attacked by aborigines: he was killed by a spear through the throat. 

John Gilbert was born on 14 March 1812 in Newington Butts, south London. Very little is known about his childhood but aged 16 he was employed by the Zoological Society of London where he was trained by the ornithologist John Gould. In 1836, Gilbert seems to have married a widow, Catharine Clump, but she must have died for he then married Esther Sadler. He was appointed curator for a newly-established Shrewsbury natural history museum as well as for a private collector, but, before long, he was back in London, staying with Gould. Gilbert employed by Gould to take part in his forthcoming expedition to Australia to gather material for books on the birds and mammals of the (almost unexplored) new continent.

Reaching Hobart Town with his employer’s party in September 1838, Gilbert at once set about field-work in (what was then still) Van Diemen’s Land. The following February he was sent to the Swan River settlement (later to become Perth) in Western Australia. There he stayed for nearly a year, collecting birds and mammals, and making notes on their habits and native names. On returning to Sydney in April 1840, he found that the Goulds had left for England three weeks earlier. Uncertain what to do, he landed at Port Essington (in the very north of Australia), which had been smitten by a hurricane, remaining until March 1841. Landing back in England in September, he was soon persuaded by Gould to return to Australia.

On his second visit, Gilbert stayed a year and a half in Western Australia collecting over 400 specimens of birds, 300 specimens of mammals, many reptiles, and a great many plants. By the end of January 1844, he was in Sydney again, and thence travelled to the Darling Downs (east of present day Brisbane). There, he joined an expedition to Port Essington led by Ludwig Leichhardt, a Prussian naturalist and explorer, soon proving himself experienced enough to become second in command. However, Gilbert was killed by a spear through the neck during an aborigine attack at Mitchell River (Queensland), and died on the night of 28 June 1845. Various geographic features in Australia have been named after him, as have several animals. Further information is available from Wikipedia, the Australian National Dictionary of Biography, and the National Museums of Liverpool.

Gilbert’s three diaries of his last expedition are held by the State Library of New South Wales. The library’s website gives the following detailed description of these diaries: ‘Volume 1 is a small field notebook. The account of the journey towards Port Essington, written in ink, begins on page 81, with the heading ‘Port Essington Expedition’, and covers the period from 18 Sept. to 31 Dec. 1844. This volume also includes entries for the last part of the diary, 23 to 28 June 1845, written in ink over pencil notes (pp.2-10). Includes pencil sketches of Biggs Range (p.126), Peak Range (pp.159-160) and Expedition Range (p.164). Pages 11-59 contain notes, mainly on birds, in very faint pencil. Pages 60-79 contain diary entries from 10 March to 21 May 1844, in extremely faint pencil, for a journey which began with a steamer trip from Sydney to the Hunter River near Maitland. Volume 2 is written on sheets of paper which have since been sewn together. The account covers the period from 1 Jan. to 21 June 1845. The concluding part  of the diary is contained in volume 1. Volume 3 comprises fragments kept with the diary, including the entry for Sunday 22 June 1845.’

The diaries have not been published as such but the library does have a typed transcript freely available as a pdf on its website. Here are several extracts including the very last one, as well as a note from the transcriber on Gilbert’s death.

14 January 1845
‘Continuing our route down the Mackenzie, at 2 1⁄2 miles crossed a large Flagstone creek running in from the westward, this was the extent of the Drs. reconnoitring: from this we kept the banks of the river, passing many fine reaches of water, the banks very much cut up into deep gullies and ravines, rendering it rather difficult travelling, but our Bullocks have now become so accustomed to this sort of work, they face the crossings without any attempt to throw off their loads as at first. At about three miles from the flagstone creek we came upon a sudden bend of the river to the westward, on the opposite side of which a large creek from the eastward came in; up to this part the rivers course was about NE, it now ran West and NW for about 5 miles, at first very narrow and the bed frequently dry; at the end of a large pool we came upon the rocky shallow bed, from the sides jutted out several thin layers of Coal, nodules of Quartz, Iron stone &c were lying in the bed, but the general formation is sandstone. Here we found three new shells, a Cyclas and a Potamis and a Paludina. From this we came upon a beautiful clear grassy flat, and where we could have camped, but the bed of the river was dry: we moved on about half a mile further and camped at the junction of a small creek, the banks of the river still as steep and as difficult to reach water as before; it being but a small pool we did not succeed in catching any fish. Just before coming to camp, we saw two Native women busily engaged in collecting Mussel from the opposite bank; as soon however as they observed us they ran up the banks in the greatest fright. That we are in a country much inhabited seems clear to us all from the many indications we everywhere meet with, but more particularly from the immense collections of Mussel shells everywhere met with in heaps on the banks; as yet however we have not met with bones of fish and very few of Kangaroo and other animals. The Dr. & Brown set off to explore the river downwards, Charlie accompanied them to lead us a short stage tomorrow. We today made a discovery which is important to us all, particularly those with indifferent teeth, hitherto our dried Beef which has always been so excessively hard and ropey that, notwithstanding the different methods of cooking, always produced a pain in our jaws and gums. Today we beat the meat with a hammer before stewing and found a most agreeable change in consequence, the general flavour of the meat seems improved and the soup richer and the meat not at all stringy.’

26 May 1845
‘Today we got through the rocky pass tolerably well; one Bullock, a large & very heavy beast, was however very lame from the commencement, and the rocky days work did not at all improve the poor brute; with this exception our whole number of Bullocks travelled exceedingly well the whole day. In the afternoon, the Dr. with Brown started off to reconnoitre the next stage. The Dr. returned in the evening; Brown succeeded in shooting a Bustard & 3 Ducks, which will be a welcome breakfast to us tomorrow. Our Salt is now reduced to half a pound, which is kept for our next killing tomorrow; having not salt, none of us feel at all inclined to take our soup as formerly, but prefer having it grilled; cooked in any way dry we do not feel the loss of salt so much. While out this morning, the Dr. came upon a camp of Natives, who at first handled their spears as if disposed to stop him, but seeing that their threats had no effect, they all rushed off in the most hurried & alarmed manner: on the Dr’s return he was surprised to see they had not returned during his absence, and he helped himself to a drink of their prepared Honey water, and ate some of their potatoe-like roots. At night we had a change of weather; heavy clouds with a strong westerly wind began rising at sunset, and during the night it rained in light showers.’

6 June 1845
‘Today we made a further addition of 10 miles down the river; during the whole stage we had tolerable good travelling; there are several rocky ranges still coming upon the river bank, some of which we crossed without difficulty, and one or two of the worst parts we avoided altogether by taking the bed of the river; several large creeks came in from the North & East. During this stage, I was fortunate enough to kill for the first time Geophaps plumifera, a species hitherto only known from a single specimen sent home by Mr. Byrnes of the Beagle; the irides were bright orange; naked skin before and surrounding the eye bright crimson; bill dark greenish grey; scales of the legs and toes greenish grey; the naked skin separating the scales light ashy grey; in its flight and actions on the ground it precisely resemble the two other described species of Geophaps. I only saw the single specimen killed, but I afterwards learnt from Brown, that he had just before observed a flock rise, as do the G. scripta. At the pool of water we camped beside a second pair of Tadorna rajah was killed. The morning set in with very cloudy weather which continued during the day, with a tolerably strong breeze from the Eastward.’

28 June 1845
‘Ten miles further gives us no greater indication of the coast than hitherto: we had again rather a change of country on crossing the creek, we entered a finer forest than we have met with for some time past, the timber consisting principally of Stringy Bark, Box and Bloodwood, and very fine grass; from this we entered a flat wet country again; at about four miles we crossed a considerable creek, or as the Dr. thinks the Nassau, running to the westward; from this the remaining part of the stage was through a beautiful open country, thickly studded with Lotus ponds, at one of which we camped. Natives fires in every direction and very near us, but none of the natives seen: about a mile to our right appeared the dark line of a scrub probably edging the creek we crossed. Dendrocygna again abundant, Brown killed 6 at a shot. The wood Duck, Teal and Black duck still abound, and the Kites as numerous as ever, in fact we have marked several of them and seen them again and again at succeeding camps, so that there is no doubt that they regularly follow us from place to place, as do the crows, which we a long time ago remarked. Another new incident worth noticing are the beautifully constructed ant hills, which are miniatures of the large Turreted ant hills of Coberg Peninsula. Today we passed another of the singular constructions of the natives, which the Dr. thinks are houses. This like the former, had its piece of ground with bent sticks, and as observed in all the former ones, two detached platforms which have no marks of fires. During the days march we passed many rings of fires made by the natives, doubtless for the performance of some one of their extraordinary ceremonies; the inner space in all are perfectly bare, and the small fires forming the ring are about a foot apart, in some I counted ten and in others 12 fires. Round them at a little distance are round heaps of stones sunk in a slight hollow of the ground, where they appear to have been engaged in cooking their food, and pieces of bark or bough, showing it has been a regular camping ground. What the ring is for would be very interesting to know, perhaps in some way connected with their superstitions.’

Transcriber’s note 
‘During the night of the 28 June, the aborigines attacked the camp, throwing a shower of spears among the tents, but were frightened off with gun shots. Roper and Calvert suffered severe spear wounds. John Gilbert was killed with a spear through his throat. The site of his grave was not discovered until 1983. There is a Memorial to Gilbert in St. James Church, Sydney.’

Friday, March 11, 2022

Waiting for Horace

‘Waiting for Horace to come home. The hours drag. I wait for his footsteps - his breathing - this long day at the college must be very exhausting. I feel ready to burst into tears with loneliness and worry.’ This is an extract from the diaries of the Russian-born American poet Marya Zaturenska about her poet husband Horace Gregory. She died 40 years ago in January (see The Diary Review), and he died just a couple of months later, 40 years ago today. 

Gregory was born in 1898 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and educated mainly at home. In 1918 he visited New York and Long Island but returned to Wisconsin to attend the university in Madison. He started to write poetry while studying Latin at college; he moved to New York in 1923 to earn a living as a copywriter and reviewer. During his years in New York, he married the poet Marya Zaturenska and they had two children. A first collection of his poems - Chelsea Rooming House - came out in 1930, and is said to have combined the idiom of modern life with literary influences. Seven or so more collections would follow. He also published translations of Ovid and Catullus.

In 1933, Gregory published Pilgrim of the Apocalypse, a study of D. H. Lawrence;  and in the late 1950s, he would also write biographies of Amy Lowell and James McNeill Whistler. Together with Zaturenska he compiled A History of American Poetry, 1900-1940. He taught modern poetry and classics at Sarah Lawrence College until 1960. He was awarded the Bollingen Prize in 1965. His collected essays, Spirit of Time and Place, were published in 1973. Over the decades his work appeared in many magazines, including The New York Times, The New Yorker, Contemporary Poetry, and Poetry Magazine. He died on 11 March 1982. Further information can be found at Wikipedia, The Poetry Foundation and Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Gregory does not seem to have been a diarist but Zaturenska kept diaries throughout her life. A selection of her diary entries - replete with references to her husband - were published in 2002 as The Diaries of Marya Zaturenska 1938-1944. This can be previewed at Googlebooks and borrowed digitally from Internet Archive. See also Diary Review article on Zaturenska - Obsessed by new poems

Here’s a few sample extracts in which Zaturenska is close to obsessing about her husband. 

14 December 1938
‘Endless days in which the tension lifts when dear Horace comes in the house again after a hard day’s work. Count the days when the Christmas holidays will begin and we can be together. I feel safe and secure when he is near me.’

19 January 1939
‘Horace exhausted with overwork. When he returns he talks over and over again of the difficulties and strains at the school. It’s as if he couldn’t shake off the load from his shoulders.’

13 April 1939
‘Horace went to a dinner at the Oxford University Press for Auden, Isherwood and MacNeice. He had a very good time, the crowd, as is usual in these things, was diverse and curious. Freddy Prokosch, who H. says has gotten very fat in the behind, was a sort of social hostess or master of ceremonies. Auden, says Horace, was very gay and witty and Isherwood, utterly delightful. He thought that Auden bore the most amazing resemblance to the portraits of Oscar Wilde. The Boys were surrounded by fawning satellites so Horace, his curiosity satisfied, left early, having had a pleasant enough time. This must have impressed the Boys, for the next day Isherwood phoned and said they all wanted to see him again. Would he come this Sunday to a small party at Selden Rodman’s? Selden, who had been chilly for a long time, phoned too to tell Horace how much the Boys liked him and would I come to the party too. Horace said that no doubt he may have pleased them by talking lightly and cheerfully about nothing in particular and avoiding “shop” and “politics.” ’

13 May 1940
‘A rainy Saturday - closing a difficult week. Work on my book, overcome with dissatisfaction at it - do not dare to lean too heavily on Horace for criticism on it, since I feel he resents my taking his time. When he drinks nowadays I prepare for torment. He is not unjustified. I have become a complete parasite on him and my looks are going. He is nerve-wracked, overworked - no time for his own writing - isolated (and as a good wife I should build some social life around him - and I don’t seem to be able to do it). My only excuse is that I too am far from well - but my ill health has lasted so long that I may as well learn to adapt myself to it. Have had more infected teeth pulled recently. An ordeal.’

16 August 1940
‘Left for Europe on the eleventh - a hot day. Helen McMaster and my brother Max seeing us off. Excited and trembling with joy. Even Horace worn out with last-minute work at Columbia lightened up as the boat came in view. We shall never get over the delight, the joy of traveling.

Horace and I working on our poetry history book, and I’ve just finished a piece on Lizette Reese and am almost through with a piece on Adelaide Crapsey. Though Horace’s critical pieces are sounder than mine, yet I do think my little essays are well written and with a fine narrative sense and a real feeling for the form of the thing. I’m enjoying doing prose very much. And if only Horace had more time for collaboration our book would be going along at a great rate.’

15 December 1940
‘Horace turned in the manuscript of his selected book of verse, Poems, 1930-1940. Have much hope and fear for it. It’s a beautiful and powerful book.’

10 April 1941
‘Dear Horace’s birthday and the first day of real spring weather. The gold, the brightness of the green utterly astonishing. One is taken by surprise every year.

Muriel is giving a birthday party for Horace today. Dread facing people. Wish only to be with Horace. The rest of the world is full of horror, murder, poisonous spirits; the air drips blood, the ground is wet with it and the streets smell like a jungle.

Took a bus ride to town with Joanna, very lively, pretty and gay. We met Horace in front of the Forty-second Street library looking a little guilty because he had bought a new English ash walking stick at a sale. My poor dear, he needs a stick badly and he has bought almost nothing for himself.

Waiting for Horace to come home. The hours drag. I wait for his footsteps - his breathing - this long day at the college must be very exhausting. I feel ready to burst into tears with loneliness and worry.’

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Depressed and neurotic

‘Home very tired, midnight. Message to phone Marcia. Did so. She is very depressed and neurotic. Talked for 75 minutes. Attacks Joe, Albert and me. Says we are all out for ourselves. Ganging up against her. And that I am out to replace her. She says she will retire to her country house and wait for HW to sack us all and come personally to ask her to return.’ This is from the Downing Street diaries of Bernard Donoughue, a political adviser to Harold Wilson. Donoghue is writing about Marcia Williams (later Baroness Falkender) - born 90 years ago today - who, notoriously, wielded a powerful influence over Wilson.

Williams was born Marcia Matilda Field in Northamptonshire on 10 March 1932. Her father, a Tory, managed a brickworks. Her mother may have been an unacknowledged illegitimate daughter of Edward VII when he was Prince of Wales. She studied history at Queen Mary College London and was chairman of the college Labour Club. In 1955, she became secretary to the General Secretary of the Labour Party, and the same year married Eddie Williams, chairman of the Conservative Club (though they divorced in 1961). A year later, she became political and private secretary to Harold Wilson, MP, a position she retained through until 1983, covering the years of his leadership of the Labour Party and his premiereship. She had two sons in the late 1960s by the former political editor of the Daily Mail, Walter Terry

Williams was elevated to the peerage in 1974 as Baroness Falkender (her mother’s maiden name). She wrote two books about her time in Downing Street: Inside Number 10 and Downing Street in Perspective. After retiring from working in Downing Street, she worked as a columnist for the Mail on Sunday, though she continued to work for Wilson, handling his private business from the time of his resignation in 1976 until his death in 1995. 

Throughout the Wilson years, there was much speculation about Williams’ role in No. 10, and her influence over Wilson. Indeed, when he unexpectedly resigned in 1976, it was claimed Lady Falkender drafted his controversial resignation honours list, dubbed ‘The Lavender List’ because some of the names were written on lavender-coloured paper in Lady Falkender’s handwriting. In 2007, she successfully sued the BBC for libel over her portrayal in a drama-documentary which wrongly claimed she had compiled the list and that she had included people for her own personal interests. She died in 2019. Further information is available from Wikipedia and various obituaries (The Guardian and the BBC for example). 

There is no evidence that Williams kept a diary, but she figures very prominently in the first volume of diaries kept by Wilson’s political adviser, Bernard Donoughue - Downing Street Diary: with Harold Wilson in No. 10 (see Donoughue's Downing Street Diary). The book can be freely borrowed and read online at Internet Archive. Here are two extracts which give insight into how Williams wielded her power within Wilson’s entourage.

7 March 1994
‘In the morning I telephone Marcia from home. She was ill. Had fainted in the night. Not coming into the office this morning. I offered to bring her in by car, but she declined.

Went in to Downing Street at 9.30. HW seeing ministers. I talked to Jim Callaghan. Saw Albert Murray, who is very depressed about his insecure position in the PM’s entourage. He is a marvellous cockney and we must help him. [. . .]

Return to my room at noon. There waiting are Mary Wilson, Marcia and HW’s long-time housekeeper, Mrs Pollard (also from a Northamptonshire village close to where Marcia and I were born). They want me to recruit a cook for No. 10 to provide meals at all times. We spend some time discussing this. I had not realised I was also to be head of catering, but it appears so. I have already secured a fridge, an infra-red stove and a lot of frozen food. Now we need personnel.

Gerald Kaufman joins us. A family gathering.

But Marcia is jumpy. We go off upstairs to lunch - HW, Marcia, Joe, Albert and myself. Discuss appointments. Marcia starts a row over the exclusion of Bill Rodgers from the government. She thinks it is wrong and a political mistake. Joe and HW say that he was not a complete success as a minister previously. She says nor were most of the people he has appointed. It would be a stupid error, possibly a disaster, to leave Bill out.

I sit silent at first because they all know I am a friend of Bill’s. Then I said I thought he was very capable and disagreed with their criticism. But could not see how my intervention at this stage would help.

At the end of the meal Marcia walks out in a temper and HW is clearly upset. She had attacked him viciously in front of the waiter. He was very calm and patient with her. I get the feeling that everything he does in politics is to please her. He does not care about the people, the party or himself. She is the daughter who he delights in, however outrageous, and who he is working to please. It is amazing to watch. His patience with her is endless.

He leaves the table and Joe goes to help him with the next speech.

I go downstairs and have some appointments. I went into Marcia’s room and she is there with Albert, with her coat on. She has a temperature. Is leaving. We see her out and I said I would telephone her later.

Home very tired, midnight. Message to phone Marcia. Did so. She is very depressed and neurotic. Talked for 75 minutes. Attacks Joe, Albert and me. Says we are all out for ourselves. Ganging up against her. And that I am out to replace her. She says she will retire to her country house and wait for HW to sack us all and come personally to ask her to return.

She was also disturbed by what she called my ‘coolness’. Because I never got angry or upset. She also attacked HW bitterly and said he did not understand how to deal with civil servants.

She felt upset that she had carried the brunt of supporting Bill Rodgers at lunch.

Then it all came out. That HW was no longer consulting her. And I had not telephoned her this evening. She suspected because we all wanted to appoint the government without consulting her. Quite paranoic. Yet still shafts of bright perception and immense intelligence and judgement among the neuroses.’

8 March 1974
‘Spent restless night thinking about the conversation with Marcia. Decided to offer my resignation. Have not come into this, taking massive cut in income and mistrust of old political friends, to sit up half the night being accused of self-seeking. Even worse were the attacks on Albert.

Arrive at No. 10 at 9.30 a.m., before anybody else. Sort out my letters and papers. Then go to sec HW. Tell him two points:

(1) If I stay, have decided to accept a lower position in No. 10 rather than be a deputy secretary on the staff of the Cabinet Office. I want my position to be totally at No.10. And I don’t want him bothered by my personal problems any more. It means a cut of £7,000 p.a. in my income.

(2) I report that Marcia has talked to me, is afraid I am replacing her, and that I do not wish myself or him to be in that position. Therefore he has my resignation in his pocket from that moment. And when he wishes to exercise it, I promise to say to everybody, private as well as public, that it is because of my heavy family commitments, with no mention of Marcia’s jealousy and hostility.

He is very charming, says he appreciates the offer and that the fact that I have made it means it won’t have to be exercised. He tells me that Marcia has at one time or another demanded the resignation of all his previous assistants, including G. Kaufman and J. Haines. And when HW has suggested he might sack them, each time she has reacted by saying that if he did she would resign and tell the press that he was betraying his loyal aides.’

Monday, March 7, 2022

Mochtar Lubis in prison

Mochtar Lubis, one of Indonesia’s best-known and respected journalists of the 20th century, was born a century ago today. Variously imprisoned under the Surkarno and Suharto post-independence regimes for, essentially, defending his and his newspaper’s right to free speech, he also kept diaries during at least two of his prison terms.

Lubis was born on 7 March 1922 in Padang, West Sumatra, to a high-ranking civil servant working for the Dutch administration. After studying at business school, Lubis worked as a teacher in Nias, North Sumatra, and for a bank in Batavia. During the Japanese occupation in World War II, Lubis translated international radio news for the Japanese army (and also for his brother who was in the resistance). In 1945, he married Asia Raya, and they had three children.

Also in 1945, after independence, Lubis joined the Indonesian news agency Antara as a reporter; and, in 1949, he cofounded the daily newspaper Indonesia Raya, later serving as its chief editor. From 1952 to 1954, he concurrently edited the English-language Times of Indonesia. But his responsibility for Indonesia Raya led to him being imprisoned several times for dissent, the longest period being between 1957 and 1966, during the latter three years of which he was held in Madiun, East Java. The newspaper, too, was intermittently shut down (such as between 1958 and 1968), until its permanent closure in 1974.

In 1975, Lubis was again arrested, this time in relation to the 1974 riots during the visit of Japanese Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka. He was imprisoned, without trial, but then released after a few months. He went on to found and co-found numerous other publications and foundations, including the Obor Indonesia Foundation in 1970, Horison magazine, and the Indonesian Green Foundation. He was generally regarded as an honest, no-nonsense reporter; and, in 2000, he was named as one of the International Press Institute’s 50 World Press Freedom Heroes of the past 50 years. He died in 2004. Further information is available at Wikipedia, and from The Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation.

Lubis appears to have kept a diary during some of his prison periods. In 1980, Sinar Harapan published Catatan Subversif (Subversive Notes) which is said to be a diary of his time in prison in the late 1950s and 1960s. For a bit more about this, see C. W. Watson’s Of self and injustice: autobiography and repression in modern Indonesia which can be read at Googlebooks.

Then, in 2008, Yayasan Obor Indonesia published a diary that Lubis had written during his detention in 1975 - Nirbaya: catatan harian Mochtar Lubis dalam penjara Orde Baru (Nirbaya, Diary of Mochtar Lubis in a New Order Prison). Some parts of the book - in Indonesian - can be read online at Googlebooks, but a few extracts translated to English can be found in a Jakarta Post article. ‘The late Mochtar Lubis,’ the article states, ‘is arguably Indonesia’s best known, internationally acclaimed newspaperman and veteran political prisoner of two presidents. [His] diary is a sharp, open rebuke to Indonesia’s legal system.’

10 February 1975
‘Food rations at Nirbaya are no better than during the Old Order [Suharto was the Old Order, Sukarno was the New Order]. The rations for the Gestapu/PKI detainees [those allegedly involved in the abortive coup of October 1965] are worse. Hariman and I still get one piece of scrambled egg for lunch, and once in a while a perkedel [potato-based dumpling] in the morning or in the evening, with some cooked vegetables. But the Gestapu/PKI prisoners get only one piece of tempeh [fermented soybean cake] or bean curd with vegetables morning, noon and night.’

19 March 1975
‘They have been held for too long without any trial. This is not good for the soul of Indonesia.’ [When Lubis was released, in May 1975, he lamented that he was freed sooner than the others, who had been in custody for more than nine years.]

22 March 1975
[Of the pride in his wife for staying calm.] ‘I want you to be like that always. Do not worry about me. If you are strong, I will be strong too. I get my strength from you, and hope you will get strength from me. . . Thank you for your flowers. Each time I look at them I see your love in them.’

14 April 1975
‘Many detainees were held for months, and in some cases for years, before they were brought to trial. Judges tended to sentence them according to the existing length of their detention. This situation shakes confidence in the rule of law.’

‘This is a good read for younger Indonesians,’ The Djakarta Post concludes about the book, ‘to learn about the untold chapters of the Soeharto years and of the character of one man in facing the trials of that period.’

This article is a slightly revised version of one first published on 7 March 2012.