Archive for the History Category

Three Lions

Posted in Football, History with tags , , , , , , on July 11, 2018 by telescoper

I’ve been struggling and failing to put together lots of bits for a grant application today; the deadline is tomorrow at 4pm so it looks like I’ll be working late tonight (either side of the England-Croatia World Cup semi-final). Anyway, having a short break for a cup of tea I decided to put up a short post about the `Three Lions’ symbol used by the England football team and it supporters.

You can study the evolution of this symbol in detail here is based on a design originally brought to England by Geoffrey Plantagenet, Count of Anjou (in France), grant patriarch of the Angevin dynasty and father of Henry Plantagenet (who became Henry II of England). Geoffrey of Anjou’s emblem had six lions rather than three, and his son used designs with either one or two, but King Richard I and King John occasionally used versions with three lions and by the time of Henry III (who lived from 1216 to 1272) the Three Lions appeared on the Royal Coat of Arms pretty much as they are now:

En passant, in heraldic jargon this coat of arms is described Gules, three lions passant guardant Or. The objects shown in the centre of a coat of arms (i.e. the lions in this case) are called `charges’. `Gules’ is basically `red’ and `Or’ is yellow; `passant’ means `moving towards the viewer’s left’ and `guardant’ means `looking at the viewer’ – a lion passant would have its head facing the direction of motion.

Anyway, my point is that this symbol which is now taken to represent England was actually of Angevin origin and is really a French emblem. I don’t know for sure but I don’t think any of the Angevin or Plantagenet Kings mentioned above could even speak English…

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History of astronomy – reading the classics

Posted in History, The Universe and Stuff on June 7, 2018 by telescoper

I’m sharing this excellent blog post here on this blog for the edification and benefit of anyone interested in the history of astronomy as it contains a really useful list of references and comments related thereto!

The Renaissance Mathematicus

Most non-specialists get their knowledge of the history of astronomy from general surveys of the subject or from even more general surveys of the history of science. The information contained in these on Ptolemaeus, Copernicus and the other boys in the history of astronomy band is often from secondary if not tertiary or even quaternary sources and as a result also often inaccurate if not completely false. The solution to this problem is of course to read the originals but not all of us are blessed with the linguistic abilities necessary to tackle second century Greek or Early Modern Latin, to say nothing of Galileo’s seventeenth century Tuscan. However, the current scholar interested in the classical texts from the history of astronomy is blessed with modern, annotated English translations of these and in this post I want to briefly present these and some secondary literature to assist in understanding them.

View original post 1,650 more words

Captain James Doohan

Posted in History, Television with tags , , , , , on June 6, 2018 by telescoper

The pictures above are photographs of a young Captain James Doohan of the Royal Canadian Artillery.

Doohan was in action on D-Day where he served with exceptional courage and distinction during the assault on Juno beach. He killed two enemy snipers and successfully led his men on foot through a minefield. Doohan was then hit six times by machine gun fire, 4 times in the leg, once in the finger, and once in the chest. The latter round would probably have killed him but for the cigarette case he had in his tunic pocket which deflected the bullet.

In case you haven’t yet realised, after the war was over, James Doohan became an actor, best known for the role of ‘Scotty’ in the TV series Star Trek…

Captain James Doohan was just one of around 160,000 officers and men who took part in the invasion of Normandy that began on 6th June 1944.

Another, not now famous, whose name along with many others, I came across this morning while waiting for my plane, was a George Jones of No 4 Commando who landed at Ouistreham (Sword beach) with the 1st Special Service Brigade around 7.30am on D-Day. Between the beach and Pegasus Bridge, four miles inland, his unit was constantly under fire and all but 80 of his 500 comrades were killed or wounded.

George Jones, James Doohan and countless other brave men like them were fighting to liberate a continent from Nazi tyranny. It is to our shame that so many today who owe their freedom to the sacrifices of an earlier generation are once again marching to the fascist drum.

Lá Saoire i mí Mheitheamh

Posted in Biographical, History, Maynooth, Uncategorized with tags , , , on June 4, 2018 by telescoper

So here I am, in Maynooth, on my birthday. I’ve made such an impression here in Ireland since I arrived that they’ve declared this day a national holiday so I’ve got the day off.

The June Bank Holiday (Lá Saoire i mí Mheitheamh) in Ireland is actually the equivalent of last week’s late May Bank Holiday in the UK, in that both have their origin in the old festival of Whitsuntide (or Pentecost) which falls on the 7th Sunday after Easter. Because the date of Easter moves around in the calendar so does Whit Sunday, but it is usually in late May or early June. When the authorities decided to fix a statutory holiday at this time of year, presumably to reduce administrative difficulties, the UK went for late May and Ireland for early June. Whit Sunday was actually on 20th May this year.

Incidentally, when I was a lad, ‘Whit Week’ was always referred to as ‘Race Week’. Geordie Ridley’s famous music hall song The Blaydon Races begins “I went to Blaydon Races, ’twas on the 9th of June, Eighteen Hundred and Sixty Two on a summer’s afternoon…”. Easter Sunday fell on 20th April in 1862, so Whit Sunday was on 8th June. After raucous scenes at the Blaydon Races, they were scrapped and replaced with a Temperance Festival on the Town Moor in Newcastle which evolved into one of the largest open-air funfairs in Europe, The Hoppings.

Anyway, with this birthday, I have now reached the minimum retirement age in the UK university pension scheme, so I could start drawing my pension when I leave Cardiff University next month. For a time I was planning to do that, but Ireland has given me a new lease of life, so to speak, so thoughts of retirement have receded.

Today also represents a short hiatus before our formal Exam Board meeting tomorrow, then I’ll be back in Cardiff for exam business there. And next week I’ll be in neither Cardiff nor Maynooth…

The Maynooth Pound

Posted in History, Maynooth with tags , , on June 2, 2018 by telescoper

Taking a stroll around Maynooth this afternoon I came across a little bit of local history that I thought I would share. On the appropriately name Pound Lane, right next to the stream that used to run past an ancient mill where there is now a shopping centre, there is a small enclosure called the Maynooth Pound, marked with this sign:

If you can’t read the sign it explains that this is the only surviving example of a type of pound which used to be common all over Ireland. Stray animals were brought here to be fed and watered before being reunited with their owners (for a small fee).

The walls are of interesting dry stone construction and have survived the passage of time rather well; they were built in 1822, although the Pound itself is a bit older.

The interior of the Pound was virtually derelict until quite recently but has been tidied up and is now a pleasant place to sit down and perhaps feed the birds. The old mill was famous for its crows, of which there are still a great many in Maynooth although they tend now to congregate on the playing fields near the Royal Canal.

In the picture, the mill stream is to the right of the shot and you can see the roof of the Manor Mill shopping centre to the upper right.

Thirty Years since Section 28..

Posted in History, Politics with tags , , on May 24, 2018 by telescoper

I was reminded by twitter that today is the 30th anniversary of the enactment of the Local Government Act 1988, which included the now notorious Section 28, which contained the following:

I remember very well the numerous demonstrations and other protests I went on as part of the campaign against the clause that became Section 28. Indeed, these were the first large political demonstrations in which I ever took part. But that repugnant and obviously discriminatory piece of legislation passed into law anyway. Students and younger colleagues of mine born after 1988 probably don’t have any idea how much pain and anger the introduction of this piece of legislation caused at the time, but at least it also had the effect of galvanising  many groups and individuals into action. The fightback eventually succeeded; Section 28 was repealed in 2003. I know 30 years is a long time, but it’s still amazing to me that attitudes have changed so much that now we have same-sex marriage. I would never have predicted that if someone had asked me thirty years ago!

I think there’s an important lesson in the story of Section 28, which is that rights won can easily be lost again. There are plenty of people who would not hesitate to bring back similar laws if they thought they could get away with them.  That’s why it is important for LGBT+ people not only to stand up for their rights, but to campaign for a more open, inclusive and discrimination-free environment for everyone.

International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia & Biphobia

Posted in History, LGBT with tags , , , , on May 17, 2018 by telescoper

Today is May 17th, which means that it is International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. If you’re wondering why May 17th was chosen, it’s to commemorate May 17th 1990, which is when the World Health Organisation removed homosexuality from its list of “mental illnesses”.


Please remember at although attitudes in the UK are much more enlightened than they were only a few years ago, homophobic violence still happens with distressing frequency and in over 70 countries around the world being gay is still a criminal offence. Moreover, the rights we have won over the past 50 years could so easily be lost.

 

The theme for this year is “Alliances for Solidarity” so, even if you don’t identify yourself as LGBT+, then this should still be an important day for you. Here, for example, is a handy guide produced by Pride in STEM on how to be an ally: