Women in War and Peace 1919

Women in War and Peace 1919

One hundred years ago, on Monday 30th June 1919, the day after Prime Minister David Lloyd George returned to London having signed the Versailles Treaty, the Liverpool Courier carried the article below from his wife Dame Margaret Lloyd George, its message being reported widely in the Press. On the Saturday she had presided over the massive London women’s Victory Loan demonstration in Trafalgar Square, supported by Mrs Pankhurst and others. Ahead were the Peace Day celebrations due for 19th July. Dame Margaret is greatly under-appreciated, not only for tirelessly canvassing support for Liberalism, for her husband and for his Coalition government but also for the gentle, subtle and energetic ways in which she promoted her own causes. Perhaps most consistently she was a champion for opportunities for women in a man’s world. The article is written in her familiar style, with the simple opening: ‘Women have at least two substantial reasons for rejoicing in the establishment of peace on earth’.

‘War is absolutely alien to woman’s nature and does violence to everything that she cherishes in life.  Woman’s thoughts are thoughts of peace, and to her war is an unspeakable torture, an indescribable agony.  Woman is so constituted that peace is essential to her wellbeing and the return of peace she therefore hails with joy unfeigned.

‘She can rejoice, too, because she has contributed so magnificently by her endeavours and by her endurance to the great victory which has made peace possible.  Though she loves peace and loathes war, yet she laboured with unexampled devotion to end the war.  Without women’s help we might have seen the end of the war but we could not have seen the war end in victory for us – victory which crowns the efforts of our valiant men on land, on sea, and in the air.  That the enemy has been hoist with his own petard is due in no small degree to woman’s help.  In every sphere the women of Britain have undertaken work uncongenial, arduous and often very perilous.  If every woman in Britain had received due “recognition” at the hands of the state the Honours List would be almost as long as the Directory’. 

‘Nor must we forget the women whose part in the tragic struggle was to suffer in silence, and today are longing for “the touch of the vanished hand” and for “the sound of the voice that is still”.  “They also serve who stand and wait”.  They have mourned; they have never murmured.  Throughout the whole of the long dark night (and how dark the night we have passed through we do not even yet realise) there was one star that shone brightly, clearly, constantly.  The spirit of the people never failed us, not even flickered.  It was a phenomenon without parallel in the history of this land, and unexcelled in any other land at any time’. 

‘If we can for the purpose of peace retain that spirit of unity, the Peace day will mark not only the end of the war, but the end of one and the beginning of another era in the history of Britain, an era brighter and better than Britain has ever known in her long history; and the inauguration of that era will be the richest compensation for all the sacrifices of the war.  We have an unexampled opportunity and responsibility’. 

Dame Margaret does not waste words. She writes straight to the point. She does not pull any punches. There is a total absence of sentimentality. You could not hope for a clearer tribute to the contribution of women during that dreadful war.

Sadly that “war to end all wars” did nothing of the sort and the peace that was signed was flawed, the allies arguing between squeezing Germany “till the pips squeaked” to granting less crippling terms. The World War Two settlement was more successful, learning from the past. May we never underestimate how, since 1945, the degree to which most Europeans have enjoyed peace in their time.

Dame Margaret’s typed copy of this article now makes part of the J.T. Rhys Collection, a new archive available at the National Library of Wales. The Rev. J.T. Rhys, my grandfather, was Dame Margaret’s Private Secretary from 1917 to 1922, whilst she was at No. 10 Downing Street. Her photograph is by Elliot and Fry, copyright National Portrait Gallery.

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Drop the O’, You Don’t Want Enquiries – a Story of Irish Migration

Drop the O’, You Don’t Want Enquiries – a Story of Irish Migration

In 1844, just before the Great Famine hit Ireland, my Irish forebears left for London.  All I ever really knew was that, on arrival, the 5 year old Cathy, my great grandmother, asked “Is that the same moon as we have in Ireland?”… a story that was passed down over the years.  Since then I have discovered just what it took to make a new life in London.  This latest album is an 11 song cycle retelling their story.  If they hadn’t made it, there wouldn’t be a me.  Each track starts with a short narrative before the song takes hold.

Moving In

The first 3 songs set the stage:  Drop the O’ reminds us that the Irish weren’t popular, even though they virtually built Victorian London – so to help integration the O’Briens became Bryans and the O’Neilles, Neals.  As the song says, it isn’t easy being green especially when you’re Irish.  In Wherever the Moon Is (my favourite song on the album) Cathy asks her father the big question and like many children’s difficult but simple questions, each answer begs another, as her father seeks to reassure Cathy.  The image here is a contemporary painting of the very street they lived in, Lincoln’s Court, later to be replaced by the Peabody Buildings.   And in Rookery Rock we are reminded that their new home was the worst area of Dickensian London, close to the St Giles Rookery, often called Little Dublin or a variation thereof.  And I tell the story of their near-neighbour Ellen Donovan who lost her life trying to save children in the overcrowded firetrap where they lived, Lincoln Court.  Ellen is commemorated in a plaque in Postman’s Park, Little Britain, near St Paul’s Cathedral, which honours the people’s heroes of the time.

Settling In

The next three songs see my great grandparents, Cathy O’Neill and Charles O’Brien meeting, marrying, and starting a family – opening with the saddest song, Cathy Met Charlie. My father told me his father was one of four children, along with his two sisters and a brother.  Actually there were twelve, but eight died either within a week of birth or didn’t make it beyond five years old.  The font where they were christened is still there and is in the video.  But Charlie got himself a job as a street seller of fruit and vegetables – they did live close to Covent Garden after all – as I sing in The Costermonger’s Song. And the next song celebrates the work of the Irish labourer (Cathy’s father, a linen weaver in Ireland, may have been one of them) as they built Victorian London, in Building Boomers.

Was It Worth It?

But it clearly was really tough.  I was stunned when I found in a book the drawings of the firegrates of the very houses my family lived in: the old Georgian houses, No’s 6 and 7 Wild Court, grand in their day – and the only houses in the terrace for which any detail was recorded.  These houses were very crowded, and were demolished in the early 1880s.  The street, Wild Court, is still there, running West off Kingsway, Holborn.  Just as amazing was discovering that this Georgian terrace was recorded for posterity by an artist, complete with costermongers’ carts, before it was demolished – see painting above.  It made me think what Charlie and Cathy may have thought, looking at those firegrates, as they tried to Make It Worth It.

New Job, Two Weddings and a New Home

But make it they did.  Step One, in Hold the Front Page, was for Charlie and Cathy’s son Charlie, my grandfather, to get work in Fleet Street, as a compositor at the Pall Mall Gazette (now part of the Evening Standard).  Step Two, in At the Double, was to marry Londoners, which they did in a double marriage when Charlie and his sister Ellen O’Brien married the sister and brother Louisa and Tom Banan … a family from Sussex and possibly from Huguenot weaver families.  And Step Three, to get a better home, in the new Victorian garden city of Noel Park in Wood Green, where my father was born and where the ageing Cathy reflects on their lives in Come Into the Garden.

A Story For All Our Times

And I wrap it all up in Old Times, Modern Times, just a reminder that this is not an old story, it is a story of every age.  Listen out for little Cathy having the final word as the credits fade………….

Hotel May Theresa: The Answer to Two Great Unanswered Questions of My Life

Hotel May Theresa: The Answer to Two Great Unanswered Questions of My Life

Great Unanswered Question 1: how will Brexit turnout?

Great Unanswered Question 2: What is the Eagles song Hotel California all about?

I’ve cracked the code:  Just read these lyrics, to the tune if you remember it……….. the bold words are all that I have had to change for it all to make sense!! I’ve posted someone else’s Youtube version of the original with original lyrics at the end. Enjoy!!  Welcome to the Hotel May Theresa!!

On a dark Dover highway, hands running through my hair

Warm smell of fajitas, coming from God knows where

Up ahead in the distance, I saw a red tail light

The lorries lined up, nowhere to go

I had to stop for the night

 

There she stood in the doorway

Heard the Division bell

And I was thinking to myself

‘This isn’t heaven, looks like Hell’

Then she lit up a candle, promised she knew the way

There were voices down the corridor

I thought I heard them say

 

Welcome to the Hotel May Theresa

Keep a straight face (keep a straight face)

I know it’s a waste

Doom and gloom at the Hotel May Theresa

Any time of year (any time of year) nothing to fear

 

Her mind you know it’s not twisted, won’t drive a Mercedes Benz

She got a lot of pretty, pretty boys, that she calls friends

How they dance in the Commons, Brexiters don’t sweat

Some dance the Remainer, some dance to forget

 

So I called up the Juncker

“Please listen this time”

He said “we haven’t heard that one before at least since half past nine”

And still those voices are calling from far away

Wake you up in the middle of the night

Just to hear them say

 

Welcome to the Hotel May Theresa

Keep a straight face (keep a straight face)

I know it’s a waste

Livin’ it up at the Hotel May Theresa

How the time flies (how the time flies), no more alibis

 

Mirrors on the ceiling,

Mogg champagne on ice

And she said, ‘we are all just prisoners here, of our own device”

And in Disaster’s chambers,

They gathered for the feast

Underneath the Speaker’s eyes,

But they just can’t kill the beast

 

Last thing I remember, I was

Running for the door

I had to find the passage back to the place I was before

‘Relax’ said the Euroman,

‘We are programmed to receive.

You can check out any time you like,

But you can never leave!’

 

with full acknowledgment to The Eagles and Hotel California

Now you know what the song was about!!  I did warn you before the referendum – see my blog of 7th June 2016, Check out time? Think again. Vote Remain, complete with The Eagles’s great punchline.  I stand by every word I wrote then.

Richard Rhys O’Brien

 

Women’s Boat Race 1927 Eye witness report

Women’s Boat Race 1927 Eye witness report

On March 15th 1927, 91 years ago, the first women’s boat race between Oxford and Cambridge took place on the Isis at Oxford.  It was Boats for Women as well as Votes for Women.  Margaret Teify Rhys, my aunt, known as Tiffy, coxed the Cambridge eight and in a forthright interview in March 1989 recalled the controversies and the highs and the lows of that time. On this first occasion Cambridge was represented by the the Newnham College boat, before other women’s colleges had begun rowing.  The interview by Alana Martin was broadcast on BBC Woman’s Hour to mark the first time that both men’s boats were coxed by a woman.

You won’t be surprised eyebrows were raised at the idea of women taking part at all.  You may have heard about the mismanagement and mix up over the rules.  They tried to keep it quiet, racing at 1.15 hoping that everyone would be at lunch.  I hope you will be entertained.

Richard Rhys O’Brien

You can’t sit out the dance

You can’t sit out the dance

For this little homily song on our journey through life, I have chosen a few pictures from my own travels.  This song niggles at me whenever I’d rather hide away from the world, trying to “sit out the dance”.  Perhaps subconsciously we write about the challenges we know from experience are hard to meet.  Having spent much of my working life helping people deal with the future, it’s always been worth remembering that whatever the future, or present, you have to work with it.  That way you also have a chance of shaping it! It’s not the first song I’ve written that has made me think I should practice what I preach!

Decisions, decisions

So we start with an obvious train-track image setting out clearly the long journey ahead: but I just love the chap standing bang in the middle of the tracks as if he is wondering what to do next – well, he is on the phone to someone trying to find out perhaps.  Of course the alternative could be to take the road on the left….

 

 

Some like to know where they’re heading

Some rather just leave it to chance

But however you tackle the future

You know you can’t sit out the dance

Rich or poor, you still have to play the game

Whoever you are, you still have to play the game you are in.

 

 

It may be a ball, with champagne on ice

It may be a barn dance, with the straw and the mice

Whatever your fancy, whatever your home

You can’t sit out the dance

Life keeps you jumping

I love this photo of the boys playing cricket on the endless beach of Chennai, India.  Wherever the ball goes or is coming from you have to play the game.  Though sometimes when you are young you are directed where to go, like these Japanese schoolchildren.

 

Life keeps you jumping, rest when you can

Between boredom and surprises, between dry toast and jam

Keep smiling and look forward, celebrate and applaud

All those who keep dancing, sweet lady, sweet lord

The dance of life follows many rhythms

 You can be on your toes, you can wallow in the mud, but you are still in the dance.

 

You may like the polka and wear little red shoes

Or something much slower, dance to the blues

Whatever you do, dance!

 

 

Move with your partner, sway with the band

Take your place for the dance

Thank you for reading and listening!  Enjoy the dance!

Ok, life’s a puzzle….

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Mad about Models: Building Blog 5 Twin Towers to Single Arch

Mad about Models: Building Blog 5 Twin Towers to Single Arch

This fifth and final blog on selected iconic buildings of London modelled by Timothy Richards is of the now departed Wembley Twin Towers.  The model in its larger size shown here was presented to various dignitaries at the ceremonial events at the time of their demolition in 2003 – a noble souvenir of what had once been noble.  Smaller bookend versions are still available.

Resurrection unlikely

Unlike the buildings in my previous blogs, the Twin Towers are very unlikely to be resurrected, not least because very little remains of them. Nor did they find a new use which might have prevented demolition. However you could say that as with Temple Bar and Euston Arch, the idea of a highly visible construction lives on in the new Wembley Stadium Arch. I suspect more Londoners have seen the arch, albeit at a distance, than the towers – unless you were a football fan.

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A White Arch for Wembley

A new icon?

Of course the Arch may not become such an iconic building as the old Twin Towers, but usually that is for history to tell us. The world changes and certainly the Wembley area, like elsewhere, has seen its fair share of change over the years.

In the right light……

It looks good in the sunshine and with great lighting!

The tower that never was

In one sense the new Stadium Arch brings to Wembley what the Towers’ predecessor, Watkin’s Tower or Folly, tried to do.  This was the partly-built tower on the style of the Eiffel Tower, never finished and demolished in 1907, almost a century ago.  If completed like in Paris this would have been a landmark for miles. We might note that Eiffel’s masterpiece was not only completed (in 1889) but withstood plans for early demolition and still stands 127 years later. The Eiffel Tower was of course a pioneering construction, which is not something you could claim for Watkin’s Tower nor the Wembley Arch.

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Went missing 110 years ago

Demolition blues

Compared to Temple Bar (200 years in Fleet Street, 125 years in a rural park, restored at the age of 330) and Euston Arch (125 years in place, 34 years underwater, another two decades so far in storage), the Twin Towers were mere 75 year old youngsters. Interestingly, like the Eiffel Tower, the 1923 Wembley Stadium, built specifically for the Empire Games, was slated for demolition in 1925, but was saved from this early demise. The stadium made it into the second Millennium, but though the plan to demolish the towers was first met with considerable opposition,  they finally succumbed to progress. The concrete icons eventually became mere rubble, just as the Euston Arch was used to plug a hole in an East London river. Plans to preserve some parts of the Towers for display have apparently been ground into dust.

A video set to music records the demolition, and much was made of the fact that it was a German digger that began the demolition. 1966 anyone?

A pile of rubble becomes a playground

What I do know, from researching this blog, is that every time I leave London on the A40 Western Avenue, not long after I have passed the Hoover Building of the previous Building Blog No 4 ,  I pass the main graveyard of the old Stadium, the rubble helping to build the Northala Fields mounds. Bet you didn’t know that either. The Twin Towers moniker hasn’t died totally, labelling some of the new tall buildings steadily surrounding the stadium.

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The Mounds of Northala

So thanks for the memory

The Twin Towers moniker hasn’t died totally, labelling some of the new tall buildings steadily surrounding the stadium. Likewise there is now a bar and restaurant, with a strong Irish and sporting theme, called Watkin’s Folly, and a Watkin Road. Perhaps the strongest memories will live on in the minds of the many thousands who enjoyed their football, watched the Empire and Olympics Games or listened to their favourite rock group under the watch of the twin towers of Wembley. And the models hold up my old books nicely.

That’s all folks, for now

That’s it for now for my five part series of blogs on a few models of iconic past and present London buildings, or more fully, buildings, towers and arches. Buildings that have been demolished, moved, relocated, resurrected, changed to survive or just plain disappeared off the face of the Earth … or have the Twin Towers just gone underground?  There’s more to our buildings than meets the eye.  And do take a look at all the other wonderful models that Timothy Richards has on offer!

The Five Building Blogs

  1. Temple Bar and the end of geography
  2. Euston Arch, a hub of controversy
  3. Floral Hall, Orchids to Oysters to Opera
  4. From Hoover to Tesco
  5. Wembley: Twin Towers to Single Arch

 

Mad about Models: Building Blog 3 Orchids to Oysters and Opera

Mad about Models: Building Blog 3 Orchids to Oysters and Opera

In my first two building blogs I featured iconic London buildings that have been demolished: in the case of Temple Bar, dismantled and relocated twice, in the case of Euston Arch demolished, drowned and a candidate for restoration.

In this third blog we look at the Floral Hall at London’s Royal Opera House, the first of two examples of how buildings learn to survive. As always these buildings live on in the wonderful models made by Timothy Richards. In the next blog we will look at the Hoover Building on Western Avenue, London.

Orchids to Opera

In central London the exodus of the Fruit and Veg market from London left an almost vacant space and buildings needing a new life.  Unlike Les Halles in Paris, we have retained most of the buildings, which I prefer to the way Paris has struggled with the space. Despite the crowds, sometimes Covent Garden seems rather soulless, a tourist attraction with restaurants of all kinds and some street entertainers.  One building that could easily have been demolished was the Flower Market building next to the Royal Opera House.

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The Floral Market 1913  Picture source: Historic England Archive

Oysters and Opera

The Floral Hall retains a sense of history though it was completely rebuilt when being made part of the Royal Opera House.  In the words of Historic England it is designated a Grade 2 building “As a fine example of Victorian technological innovation despite its dismantling and re-erection in the 1990s; For the high quality of its design and decorative elements; As an example of the work of the eminent Victorian architect EM Barry; For group value with the same architect’s Grade I listed Royal Opera House, which it was originally designed to complement”.  In truth from the outset the Floral Hall was part of the Royal Opera experience, in that not only was it designed by the same architect, E.M.Barry, the third son of Charles Barry of Houses of Parliament fame etc, when redesigned the Opera House itself, but also the occasional ball was held in the Hall.

The Floral Hall now provides entertaining space for the Opera House, with its oyster bar and other dining areas, and a roof terrace overlooking the Covent Garden piazza when you need a breath of fresh air in the interval.

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Floral Hall set to party

Tim’s model focuses well on the Hall’s Victorian 1870s ironwork and glass facade, the light shining through. It pairs up well with his second model of the Opera House itself.

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Floral Hall on the left, Royal Opera House on the right

Echo-chamber and informal performance space

One downside, inside, is that despite the high ceiling it is a really noisy space.  I’ve never actually stopped for oysters but have watched the crowd briefly as I glide upwards on the escalator to the bar upstairs.  In this first video the echo-chamber effect makes it sound more like a railway station than a genteel watering hole for opera.

In the second video a flashmob seems to quieten it down.

Vilar to Hamlyn

What I also rather like is the name on my particular model, the Vilar Floral Hall. Many of our buildings are now advertising boards for their sponsors. The rescued Floral Hall was originally named after the arts sponsor Alberto Vilar who pledged funds to many musical ventures around the world – but this was not the only one where he fell short of delivering on his full pledge. Convicted of fraud, money laundering amongst other things I believe he is still serving his sentence in the US. I like to think my out-of-date model is a bit of a collector’s item, like stamps that have been wrongly printed. It is now the Paul Hamlyn Hall, following a grant from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation (founded by the late publisher) for education and community activities at the Royal Opera House.

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Collector’s piece

Windows maketh a building

The glory of the building is not only in the sweeping ironwork curves in their windows – and doubtless were key features is preventing destruction. There is value in windows- no wonder they were once taxed. It’s probably irrelevant, but I note the window tax was finally abolished in 1851, less than a decade before the Floral Hall was built in 1858/9.

How buildings learn

All this leads to the question of how buildings adapt, or, in the phrase of Stewart Brand, how they “learn”.  For a longer discourse on how buildings learn to survive I do recommend looking at Stewart’s  1997 BBC programme “How buildings learn” with music by Brian Eno. The programme, based on Stewart’s book of the same name, was also innovative by being filmed entirely, I believe, with handheld cameras, doubtless cutting filming costs!

Also changing to survive……

Next week, from Hoover to Tesco, a look at the one of the classic industrial buildings built alongside the arterial roads running out of London, the Hoover Building.

Previous Building Blogs

  1. Temple Bar and the End of Geography
  2. Euston Arch: A Hub of Controversy