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Interesting Implications in a Poem by Gilbride the Scot

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Gille Brighde Albannach (Gilbride the Scot) flourished as a jobbing poet in the early decades of the 13th Century.

He and his friend Muireadhach Ò Dàlaigh (Murdoch O’Daly [1180 – 1222 AD], the founder of the Clan MacMhuirich – nowadays called the Clan Currie) spent some time around 1219 AD on the rather disastrous Fifth Crusade to Damietta in Egypt.

About that time, 1219, Gille Brighde wrote a stirring poem entitled A ghille gabhas an stiūir (“Lad who takes the helm”) about their sea voyage from Cyprus to Egypt in appalling weather. In it he describes them praying for deliverance from the storms in terms that raise interesting speculations.

Gerard Murphy, writing in Éigse: A Journal of Irish Studies (Volume 7 (1953), pp 719) which he edited, in his paper “Two Irish Poems Written from the Mediterranean in the Thirteenth Century” stated, “He prays for help to Mary Magdalen, and to Brigid, after whom he is named”.

Actually, in the context it appears that he is conflating Brigid with Mary:

“…a Muire mhōr… a banamail barrbhuidhe. A Brigid, a bruinne glan…” […great Mary… O modest one with the yellow locks. Brigid of the bright bosom…].

The peculiar sentiments appear in verses 5 to 7:

As dorcha na neōillsi a-noir
tic ō Acras ‘nar n-aighoigh;
tarr, a Muire Mhagh-dā-lén,
7 glan uile in t-aighēr.

[These clouds from the East are dark
As they drive us from Acre;
Come, Mary Magdalen*,
And wholly clear the air.]

Fiar is tarrsna thēid ma long,
a Muire magrūn mērchorr;
do ghuidhe re dīrgad dūnn,
a Muire mīnglan mhaghrūn.

[My ship sails crosswise and obliquely,
O tapering-fingered Mary of Plain-mysteries*;
May your intercession avail to set us straight,
O gentle bright Mary of Plain-mysteries.]

Tuccas aighidh ort fēine
a hucht Crīst, do chaīmchēle;
to(i)rche, a chūl slatach sleman,
d’atach dūnn in Dūilemhan.

[I have approached thee,
In the name of Christ, thy goodly spouse;
Come, ye of the smooth-tressed hair,
To intercede with the Creator on our behalf.]

(Note: The italics are letters that have been conventionally added so as to make sense of the abbreviations used. The “7” was a common abbreviation for “agus”, “is”, or “‘s” meaning ‘and’.)

*”Muire magrūn” ‘Mary of Plain-mysteries’ refers to the mysterious meaning that Mary Magdalen’s name seems to have in its Gaelic form, i.e. “Mary, Plain of two Sorrows” (Muire Magh-dā-lén).

The interesting implications for these Thirteenth Century Gaels are that for them:

1. Mary/Muire is Mary Magdalen, rather than Mary the Mother of Christ;
2. Christ and Mary Magdalen were husband and wife;
3. Mary Magdalen was seen as having intercessory saintly powers with the Creator;
4. Might these be Celtic Christian beliefs, and might they thus be indicative of survivals of the Old Way despite Roman suppressions and persecutions?

London, Friday 9 August 2013.

© D Rosser-Owen 2013 All Rights Reserved

Written by David Rosser Owen

November 25, 2013 at 8:41 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

“No Popery or Wooden Shoes!” becomes “No Islam or Sharia Law!”

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The word ‘mob’ comes from the Latin phrase ‘vulgus mobile’, or the ‘fickle mass of the common people’ according to my copy of Lewis and Short. It would appear that the fickle herd has always had the capacity to get exercised by some incident or issue or other that excites its passions of the moment.

The eighth century Northumbrian monk Alcuin (Ealhwine) of York advised the Holy Roman Emperor Charles the Great against listening to what it wanted: “nec audiendi qui solent dicere ‘Vox populi Vox Dei’ quum tumultuositas vulgi semper insaniae proxima sit” (and those people should not be listened to who keep saying ‘the voice of the people is the voice of God’, since the riotousness of the crowd is always very close to madness).

This idea – that appeals to the crowd produced policies of superior wisdom – appears to have originated in democratic Athens, from where the word demagogue comes, perhaps the most famous, or notorious, of these being Cleon. And there have been such orators ever since –some good, and some simply rabble rousing.

It has always been easiest to whip up the mob by appealing to some issue of the day that causes resentment among it, often the existence of a class or a category of people. In the case of the French Revolution, it was the aristocracy; in the case of the Russian Revolution, it was the Bol’sheviks’ perception of the bourgeoisie. In England, certainly since the later seventeenth century, it was the Roman Catholics. Today, perhaps, it is the Muslims.

The idea had become lodged in the minds of the common people that Roman Catholicism was inextricably bound up with French imperial ambitions. Furthermore, from their experiences during the Tudor period, and the way that the Church’s taxes and tithes left the country poor – at least, that was how the populace perceived it (not without justification, as Thomas Cromwell’s Abolition of the Monasteries seemed to show).

Certain Acts of Parliament that appeared to favour Catholics like the Act of Toleration 1689, even certain phraseologies and clauses in the Act of Settlement 1689 and the Bill of Rights Act 1689, and the Popery Act 1699 fed into this resentment. And so, almost anything that appeared further to favour Catholics or indulge them in some way could set off a riot with the consequent loss of life and destruction of property.

Although the Popery Act contained certain penalties and disabilities imposed on Catholics over the following hundred years many of these fell into disuse and a faction in parliament felt that they should be repealed. Hence, in 1778, the Papists Act was passed.

This was immensely unpopular not only “on the street” but with certain influential figures like John Wilkes, the maverick parliamentarian and journalist, and a body called The Protestant Association which was headed by a Scots aristocrat and MP, Lord George Gordon (son of the 3rd Duke of Gordon).

In May 1780, the Protestant Association marched on parliament and delivered a petition demanding the repeal of the 1778 Act. Gordon was an able rabble rouser, and so on 2 June 1780 a huge crowd –estimated to have been some 40,000 to 60,000 strong – marched on parliament again, with banners demanding “No Popery”, and its numbers swelling as it progressed. It effectively laid siege to the Houses of Parliament until troops were called to disperse it.

It then attacked a number of embassies, until things quietened down somewhat during the night.

Then the next day, 3 June, the mob reformed and descended on Moorfields, which was an impoverished area of London where many Irish labourers lived. Eventually much property was attacked and burned including three prisons (Newgate, The Clink, and The Fleet), the Bank of England, several embassies, catholic churches and chapels, and the houses of prominent figures (such as that of the Earl of Mansfield LCJ – the hero of the famous Somersett’s Case 1772 by which slavery was outlawed in the British Isles). Painted on the wall of Newgate prison was the proclamation that the inmates had been freed by the authority of “His Majesty, King Mob”.

Finally Lord North’s government got a grip and on 7 June several army units were tasked to deal with the situation: about 285 people were shot dead, some 200 others injured, and around 400 rioters arrested (some 20 to 30 of these were later hanged for treason).

It would appear that not a lot has changed in 233 years. King Mob is still able to raise his head, and cause death and destruction largely to the innocent. And the unscrupulous are able to get him to do their bidding and, callously, allow others to pay the bill.

Lord George Gordon and the Protestant Association have been replaced by various American hate-mongers operating through a number of islamophobic hate sites on the internet, which the gullible lap up as ever they did in the days of the Gordon Riots.

“No Popery or Wooden Shoes!” has been metamorphosed into “No Islam or Sharia Law!” with as much validity. At least we haven’t been presented with the death and destruction that the Gordon Riots did to London in the later eighteenth century. Dei Gratia.

London 28 May 2013

© D Rosser Owen 2013 All Rights Reserved

Written by David Rosser Owen

November 25, 2013 at 7:20 pm

Posted in Uncategorized