Monday 31 May 2021

Elizabeth Barrett Browning (EBB)

 “After the first Anglo-Sikh war in India, one of these days our great Indian empire, will stand up on its own legs and make use of our own rope to scourge us. … what right has England to an Indian empire?

No more than the Duke of Sutherland to his broad estate, wait  a little, we shall see it all arranged, according to a better justice, on the small scale and the large”  


Her family made its money on the sugar planation of Jamaica


Elizabeth Barrett Browning     (1806 –  1861) 

was an English poet of the Victorian era popular in Britain and the United States during her lifetime. Born in Count Durham, the eldest of 11 children, Elizabeth Barrett wrote poetry from the age of eleven.  At 15 she became ill, suffering intense head and spinal pain for the rest of her life. 

In the 1840s Elizabeth was introduced to literary society through her cousin, John Kenyon. Her first adult collection of poems was published in 1838 and she wrote prolifically between 1841 and 1844, producing poetry, translation and prose. She campaigned for the abolition of slavery and her work helped influence reform in the child labour legislation. Her prolific output made her a rival to Tennyson as a candidate for poet laureate on the death of Wordsworth. 

She was married to Robert Browning. Elizabeth's work had a major influence on prominent writers of the day, including the American poets Edgar Allan Poe and Emily Dickinson. She is remembered for such poems as “How Do I Love Thee” (Sonnet 43, 1845) and "Aurora Leigh" (1858). 

700th Anniversary Declaration of Arbroath 1320

Arbroath Abbey

 The auld song is still being sung

 “”...for, as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom – for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.”

The STONE OF DESTINY was returned. It may be, it just may be, that on Christmas Day 1950 four young people wrote a new verse to that old song. Whatever we did, the song is still being sung.' 

On a drive up to Dundee I picked up a small book on Scots hero William Wallace.  Our national bard Robert Burns was inspired by Wallace and he visited the Leglan woods near Ayr where Wallace once hid. He later wrote his famous poem 'Scots Wa Hae wi Wallace bled' for all freedom fighters, after democracy reformer Thomas Muir of Huntershill was imprisoned

 It is strange how one journey leads us on to another. There I was on the road to Arbroath abbey, which we found was an imposing, red sandstone building steeped in Scottish history and built by William I of Scotland in 1178. Here men spoke of their cherished freedom back in 1320,  and here Glasgow students in 1950 returned the Stone of Destiny, on which Scottish kings had been crowned for 450 years at Scone Abbey near Perth. 

This was the place that the Arbroath Declaration of Independence was signed by lords, commons and the clergy of Scotland in 1320.  In it they had affirmed our right to be free to live our own lives in our own way.  


Declaration of Arbroath British museum

The Stone of Destiny

 In 1950 a group of Scottish students stole the Stone, led by Ian Hamilton. The Stone was returned to Edinburgh in 1997 with the setting up of the Scottish Parliament. Was this the real stone - the stone is a symbol of Scotland's long and unique history and identity.  

There is a clip of Ian Hamilton who led the students at the Arbroath visitors centre, speaking of his quest to awaken Scotland from its long slumber, his voice chokes as he speaks..  “...for, as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom – for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.”


I bought Hamilton's book THE STONE OF DESTINY, "On the morning of 11 April 1951, I left Glasgow with Bill Craig. At Stirling Bridge we thumbed a lift from a car driven by Councillor Gray, which contained the Stone of Destiny, now carefully repaired. At midday we carried it down the grass-floored nave of the abbey and left it at the high alter. It was a crucifixion.

“When we turned away and stood for a minute at the gate, and looked down the long nave flanked by the blood-red sandstone of the walls to the alter where the Stone lay under the blue and white of a Satire. I heard the voice of Scotland speak as clearly as it spoke in 1320. “ 


I continue my journey learning Scots history and considering it is so interesting, it’s a dreadful loss

that it practically died out in schools after the great war. Then we had to aspire to being second rate, when the Scots language was beaten out of us and learn English history - The Tudors, Wordsworth and Shakespeare etc. at Secondary school in Edinburgh. I was fortunate though that at my Primary school I had a Mr MacDonald from the Hebrides, a tall man who often wore a blue kilt, for my headmaster and we learnt a Burns poem every year and sang Burns songs with our school choir. I have such fond and vivid memoirs of this.  It is wonderful to note that today things have changed somewhat and Scottish school children do now learn about their own country's past.  (I hope!)

 A Short history.

During Alexander II's reign things were stable in Scotland. He was married to the daughter of the English king and his daughter married the King of Norway. Sadly his two sons died and his daughter died too giving birth to a daughter (who later died). Storm clouds were brewing and Alexander had no heir. Disaster was predicted and when he suddenly died and the Scottish Wars of Independence began. There was no clear line of succession. When Edward Longshanks, the Hammer of the Scots, paraded north, he stole the Stone of Destiny from Perth and put it under a new Coronation throne in Westminster. Scottish kings had been crowned on the stone for 450 years.  After Robert the Bruce and the Battle of Bannockburn, Edward II agreed to return the stone to Scotland in 1328 – but did not. 

Hamilton writes –

"The symbol of her liberty had come back to Scotland, and we felt that some sort of rude ceremony was needed to mark the return of the Lia Fail to the custody of its own people.

We stopped and drew the coat back and exposed the Stone to the air of Scotland for the first time in 600 years. From the provision basket we produced the gill of whisky, and poured a libation over the stone's roughness. thus, quietly, with little fuss, with no army, with no burning of houses or killing people, and for the expenditure of less than £1000, we brought Scotland back the Stone of Destiny." 

'When on 25 march 1707 James Ogilvie, Earl of Seafield, Chancellor of Scotland, signed the Act of Union, ending Scotland's ancient independence, and merging the two parliaments of Scotland and England into the United Kingdom Parliament, he threw down the quill with these words: 'Now there's the end of an auld sang.'   

It may be, it just may be, that on Christmas Day 1950 four young people wrote a new verse to that old song. Whatever we did, the song is still being sung.' 

Friday 30 April 2021

BIO photography 2021

Transatlantic Sessions

Music is our first and last memory. It’s the most interconnected and emotional of all the arts. I came across the strong impact of live music on the folk scene in Scotland and Edinburgh - with those soaring fiddles, strumming guitars and banjos, the beats and rhythms of the bohran. The immediate energy, the collective voice and instinctive collaborations; the power of the moving ballad, sung by a plaintive female singer; or the emotion and memories of a traditional ballad.

Many of the greatest songwriters start of by singing the history and past times of the traditional folk ballads and tunes –notably Bob Dylan and Robert Burns being two.


I’ve long held a passion for the visual image. I enjoyed sketching with those varying thickness of pencils: from the softest 5B to the hard edges of 5H pencils, or with charcoal or water paints and ink. I took art at school and I played piano too. I explored portraits, still life and the sense of lost horizons.


I began shooting music photography in 2007. I discovered that a good image is mostly about having a good eye, while good technique and equipment helps. I shot mostly at small venues and festivals, and received positive feedback and commissions. 

Paul McCartney Hampden
Snow Patrol Bellahouston
Van Morrison

Some highlight concerts: Michael Marra Mugdock theatre: Elton John SECC; Van Morrison Concert hall; Fleetwood Mac SECC; Bob Dylan Braehead arena; Paul Simon Clyde Auditorium; Del Amitri Hydro; Paul McCartney Hampden; Nicola Benedetti Concert hall; Snow Patrol Bellahouston; Nile Rodgers at Edinburgh book festival Unbound;


At Milngavie Folk Club: (2012 – 2018) often had an amazing line up of top Scots folk artists. Dick Gaughan, Dougie MacLean, Rab Noakes, Barbara Dickson, Cara Dillon,Karine Polwart, Kris Drever, Blue Rose Code,

And every August I took photos at the Edinburgh festivals.

And each January at Celtic Connections festival (2008 – 2020) Transatlantic Sessions, Grit orchestra, Capercaillie, Richard Thompson, the Chieftains, Punch Brothers, Julie Fowlis, Eddi Reader, Aly Bain, Jerry Douglas, Kris Drver, Karine Polwart, Tim O’Brien, Martin Carthy, Russ Barenberg; Blazin Fiddles; Lau, Rosanne Cash, Ross Wilson, Martha Wainwright, and many more.


Dick Gaughan & Karine Polwart
Eddie Reader

Sandy Bells bar Edinburgh

I’ve taken images at Edinburgh International Book festival from 2010 – 2019, Charlotte Square Edinburgh Scotland. 

This festival is one of the first and biggest book festival begun in 1983. Many famous faces, authors, artists, scientists, musicians, politicians, 

At first its strange meeting very well known faces – Seamus Heaney, Neil Gaiman, Edna O’Brien, Alexander MacColl Smith, Carol Joyce Oats, Ruth Rendall, Alan Cumming, Brian Cox, John Byrne, 



I have a large archive of images on my photo website -


John Byrne

Alexander Macoll Smith

Alan Bissett

Jackie Kay

Ian Rankin

Iain Banks & Alex Salmond

Seamus Heaney
Nicola Benedetti

Elotn John SECC

Centenary Northern Ireland: Old black & white photo


In April it will be the first centenary of Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland consists of the six counties - 

County Down, County Armagh, County Fermanagh, County Londonderry, County Tyrone.

While the rest of Ireland is the Free State of 26 counties. 


Northern Ireland did have a Protestant majority, as there is now a balance equally between Catholic and Protestant. My parents were Ulster unionists and I grew up over in Edinburgh Scotland and visited Ireland in the summers growing up. I have mixed views and during the Brexit debates I couldn’t believe that the English debates never gave any thought to what on earth might happen in Ireland. So much time and effort went into establishing peace with the Good Friday agreement. So much wasted time on this ill-advised Brexit. 


I remember the nightly news during the Troubles of bombings, murders or knee cappings. I felt angry that Brexiteers gave no thought to these issues. The troubles began with peaceful protests by Catholics of decent housing. Especially as I still have no understanding of why or what Brexit is about – except saving the Tory party and avoiding the new EU regulations for tax avoiders. Or was it about saving Englanders view of themselves. 

 In 1921 the first Prime minster of Northern Ireland Stormont assembly was Viscount Craig


**The Captain of his Football team

Recently I discovered an old black and white photo of my fathers’ father – my granddad – who was captain of his Irish football team. And also a letter from my father to my son dated 1986, when he wrote this treasured photo was from 75 years ago. This photo was taken in 1911– 100 years ago. He played football for the Ards team and won caps by playing for the Ireland team.

Ards Football Team 1912


I realised then this photo was before partition and before the Troubles that followed. 

I remember visiting Northern Ireland when there were long road blocks and helicopters hovering over head. Scary times. 


Northern Ireland is divided into six counties, namely: 

County Down, County Armagh, County Fermanagh, County Londonderry, County Tyrone.

Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Londonderry and Tyrone.

As well as "Ireland", "Éire" or "the Republic of Ireland", the state is also referred to as "the Republic", "Southern Ireland" or "the South". In an Irish republican context it is often referred to as "the Free State" or "the 26 Counties".


 Ireland / Eire

also known as the Republic of Ireland (Poblacht na hÉireann), is a country in north-western Europe occupying 26 of 32 counties of the island of Ireland. The capital and largest city is Dublin, which is located on the eastern side of the island. Around 40% of the country's population of 4.9 million people resides in the Greater Dublin Area.The sovereign state shares its only land border with Northern Irelandwhich is part of the United Kingdom.


**Northern Ireland Centenary 

Its the centenary for Northern Ireland in May, so it’s a time to reflect and consider the benefits and drawbacks. When Northern Ireland was set up the Protestants has a clear majority there, but not anymore. So the loyalist community feel under threat and not protected by the British empire as they once did.


There is existential crisis going on across the British Isles - in Scotland and in Northern Ireland is under strain and something has to give. The loyalists there feel more British than many in London, but find themselves cut off from the mainland by Boris Johnson, false lies and his Northern Ireland protocol erecting a border Irish Sea.


The hard Brexit has caused so many problems – for Ireland, for fishing, for farmers, for exports, for immigration and for Scotland. Brexit is a disaster for Scotland – loss of immigration, 40% loss of trade. For businesses in Northern Ireland, its cheaper and easier to deal directly with the EU deliveries, so many are going to consider what’s the point of the present situation. Trying to bring Catholics and Protestant children together in schools worked when we were all in the level playing fields of the EU single market.


The only solution that I can realistically see, is a return to the EU single market – that Scotland has been pushing for. Since 2016, this ill advised Brexit has been a disaster – who actually benefits from it? So far I’ve found no answer to this question (except those with offshore tax funds) If Brexit is about English Nationalism, then its time for English independence – and its well past time for a new constitution.


The Loyalists feel let down by all sides. and ignored in all this. The Tories try to claim this is all about the EU being too strict over the border. The trouble is the British empire no longer exists. The problems Northern Ireland are not only sectarian, they run very deep. Protestants in Northern Ireland feel more British than  many in London and fly union jacks constantly. Its an existential crisis made much worse by this ill advised Brexit. Those in London never considered the dramatic effect Brexit would have on Ireland or Scotland. Brexit makes a united Ireland more likely for instance, for both trade and business reasons.

Lack of History teaching.


Today, in Germany children are taught over and over how easily evil dictatorship can take over, to protect and ensure this is never repeated. Its a sad state of affairs that History is sidelined in UK schools and often hardly taught at all. We are taught of the Tudors but nothing of more recent and crucially important histories of Empire and imperialism.

However Boris is on a mission to reclaim the glories of Rule Britannia on the ocean. But this past is well and truly gone: most of the empire are now independent nations since the great wars.


Story of Northern Ireland
Several Gaelic kingdoms, 16th century Ulster most resistant to English control (1596 – 1603).  Norman Irish Lords
The Pale, around Dublin controlled by the English. 
Henry VIII, Tudor English king, declared himself King of Ireland in 1542.


The Plantation of Northern Ireland began under the Tudors, and Elizabeth and continued under James Stewart, after union of the crowns 1603.

Flight of the Earls. Ulster Irish Lords O'Neills, after defeat fled to Europe. Lands confiscated crown and colonized by British Ulster Protestants. The War of Three Kingdoms ended English Parliament.


Conquest ensured Anglican Protestant rule. 

Williamnite – Jacobite war 1688-90 – Siege Derry, and Battle of the Boyne. 

Scots migrated to Ulster due to Scots famine. There was Institutional discrimination with Penal laws to disadvantage Catholics and Presbyterianism. 


250K Ulster Presbyterians emigrated to America and now there is 27m Scotch-Irish Americans and Scotch-Irish Canadians.

1700s there was secret militant socialites.

1801 – United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland formed, governed from London. Pushed for 2 kingdoms to merge to quell sectarianism, remove discriminatory laws and to prevent spread of French republicanism and reform for democracy.


Late 19th century, Irish nationalists MPs, Westminster committed the Liberal party, to Irish home rule, first bill defeated, third home rule introduced, suspended by first world war. Conservatives opposed and threatened violence – 1914 weapons smuggled from Germany: By UVF to oppose Rome rule for Ireland. 


Easter Rising 1916 – full independence rather than Home rule. Irish Convention 1917-18

British Lloyd George proposed Home rule.

Fourth home rule to divide Ireland passed May 1921, with creation of Northern Ireland. 

26 counties Dublin/ 6 countries Belfast