Friday, 29 April 2016


Last night, I dreamt of you again.
A warm dream, a dream of comfort,
A dream of memory.

I held you.
Perhaps you held me,
And I knew love gain,
I knew happiness.

And then with the sun,
And the singing of garden birds,
I awoke to loneliness.
You had gone;
And I was cold.

Daniel B. Griffth the Chattering Magpie © 2015


Walking on velvet green. Scots pine growing.
Isn't it rare to be taking the air, singing.
Walking on velvet green.
Walking on velvet green. Distant cows lowing.
Never a care: with your legs in the air, loving.
Walking on velvet green.

Won't you have my company, yes, take it in your hands.
Go down on velvet green, with a country man.
Who's a young girls fancy and an old maid's dream.
Tell your mother that you walked all night on velvet green.

One dusky half-hour's ride up to the north.
There lies your reputation and all that you're worth.
Where the scent of wild roses turns the milk to cream.
Tell your mother that you walked all night on velvet green.

And the long grass blows in the evening cool.
And August's rare delight may be April's fool.
But think not of that, my love,
I'm tight against the seam.
And I'm growing up to meet you down on velvet green.

Now I may tell you that it's love and not just lust.
And if we live the lie, let's lie in trust.
On golden daffodils, to catch the silver stream,
That washes out the wild oat seed on velvet green.

We'll dream as lovers under the stars,
Of civilizations raging afar.
And the ragged dawn breaks on your battle scars.
As you walk home cold and alone upon velvet green.

Walking on velvet green. Scots pine growing.
Isn't it rare to be taking the air, singing.
Walking on velvet green.
Walking on velvet green. Distant cows lowing.
Never a care: with your legs in the air, loving.
Walking on velvet green.

Writer(s): Ian Scott Anderson/Ian Anderson
Copyright: The Ian Anderson Group of Companies Ltd.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016


20th June 1841 Sydney, New South Wales.

My dear father and Mother,

I have taken the opportunity of writing you these lines trusting the same will find you both in good health, Brothers and sisters, and all relations and enquiring friends, as it leaves me by the blessing of God in good health at present. I received your affectionate letters, and on account of being removed from my master prevented in answering your letters, my reasons for leaving my master, was that he objected to sign his name for my liberty.

It gave me great pleasure in one way of hearing from you and I was very much grieved of hearing the death of my Uncle, and my cousin Elizabeth but, I trust they are gone to a better world, in which they will enjoy everlasting happiness.

It was your particular wish to know the present state of the colony in regard of wages. If I was free I could get from thirty five pounds at least to forty pounds per year. I have been offered lately one pound per week and rations I have been engaged with a master at Wollongong. Soon even I am free and that will be on the 14th of October. I am very happy to think you have the intention of coming over, and there is not the least doubt of your doing well, provisions are very cheap – according to the wages. I am happy to hear from you, that I have learnt from difference Branches, since I have been in the colony.

Should I have the pleasure of meeting you again in the colony, I shall be able to make you comfortable and happy all days of your lives. I have given up the thought of returning home, on account of your having the intention of coming out here, and it will give me a great consolation of seeing after so long a time, and if you have got a neighbour that would like to come, come all together and not have the least danger in crossing the ocean for it is a delightful passage a person can take by cutter.

I conclude with my kind love to my brother, William and my sister Elizabeth and likewise to young Charles, and to the rest of the family and all relatives and friends, God be with you wishing you all prosperity and happiness trusting to the helps of a merciful providence of seeing you all out here. In the cause of twelve months.

From your affectionate son, James Foster.

Send me an answer if you intend leaving, before you sail so that I may know you are coming.


Friday, 22 April 2016


Have you seen Jack-In-The-Green?
With his long tail hanging down.
He sits quietly under every tree,
In the folds of his velvet gown.
He drinks from the empty acorn cup
The dew that dawn sweetly bestows.
And taps his cane upon the ground,
Signals the snowdrops it's time to grow.

It's no fun being Jack-In-The-Green,
No place to dance, no time for song.
He wears the colours of the summer soldier,
Carries the green flag all the winter long.

Jack, do you never sleep,
Does the green still run deep in your heart?
Or will these changing times,
Motorways, powerlines,
Keep us apart?
Well, I don't think so,
I saw some grass growing through the pavements today.

The rowan, the oak and the holly tree,
Are the charges left for you to groom.
Each blade of grass whispers Jack-In-The-Green.
Oh Jack, please help me through my winter's night.
And we are the berries on the holly tree.
Oh, the mistlethrush is coming.
Jack, put out the light.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016


“Sacrifice is a part of life. It's supposed to be. It's not something to regret. It's something to aspire to.” Mitch Albom.

At the centenary of the Easter Rising and the second year of the Great War, we can perhaps ask ourselves how true is the above quote? Is sacrifice always desirable and should it never be regretted? The year 1916 was a year of sacrifice, as across Europe and the World a futile conflict saw the shameful waste of the flower of youth. From numerous countries young men and women became involved in a conflagration of then unprecedented proportions, the first truly global conflict, the First World War.

Ireland had been unsettled for decades if not centuries, civil disobedience, violence and open rebellion were a symptom of the disquiet. The wish for independence, even if not universally supported, was never far from the surface of Irish society. It is perhaps a cliché to describe Ireland in 1916 as a powder keg awaiting ignition but it is an apt description which captures the mood of the times.

The Rising began on Easter Monday the 24th of April 1916 and lasted for six days. Patrick Pearse led the Irish Volunteers, they were joined by the Irish Citizen Army of James Connolly and approximately 200 members of Cumann na mBan. Together they seized key locations in Dublin and proclaimed the Irish Republic, making the General Post Office of Dublin their headquarters.

The military commander of the rising was James Connolly and the four other members of the Military Council were Patrick Pearse, Tom Clarke, Seán Mac Dermott and Joseph Plunkett. It was Patrick Pearse who standing on the steps of the General Post Office and surrounded by his comrades, read the proclamation of the Provisional Government of the Irish republic to the People of Ireland:

“Irishman and Irishwomen: In the name of God and of the dead generations from which she receives her old tradition of nationhood, Ireland, through us, summons her children to her flag and strikes for her freedom.

Having organized and trained her manhood through her secret revolutionary organization, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and through her open military organizations, the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army, having patiently perfected her discipline, having resolutely waited for the right moment to reveal itself, she now seizes that moment, and, supported by her exiled children in America and by gallant allies in Europe, but relying in the first on her own strength, she strikes in full confidence of victory.

We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland, and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible. The long usurpation of that right by a foreign people and government has not extinguished the right, nor can it ever be extinguished except by the destruction of the Irish people. In every generation the Irish people have asserted their right to national freedom and sovereignty; six times during the past three hundred years they have asserted it in arms. Standing on that fundamental right and again asserting it in arms in the face of the world, we hereby proclaim the Irish Republic as a Sovereign Independent State. And we pledge our lives and the lives of our comrades-in-arms to the cause of its freedom, of its welfare, and of its exaltation among the nations.

The Irish Republic is entitled to, and hereby claims, the allegiance of every Irishman and Irish woman. The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities of all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all the children of the nation equally, and oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien government, which have divided a minority in the past.

Until our arms have brought the opportune moment for the establishment of a permanent National Government, representative of the whole people of Ireland and elected by the suffrages of all her men and women, the Provision Government, hereby constituted, will administer the civil and military affairs of the Republic in trust for the people.

We place the cause of the Irish Republic under the protection of the Most High God, Whose blessing we invoke upon our arms, and we pray that no one who serves that cause will dishonour it by cowardice, inhumanity, or rapine. In this supreme hour the Irish nation must, by its valour and discipline and by the readiness of its children to sacrifice themselves for the common good, prove itself worthy of the august destiny to which it is called. Signed on behalf of the Provisional Government”

The proclamation itself was signed by Thomas J. Clarke, Sean Mac Diermada, Thomas Macdonagh, P.H.Pearse, Eamonn Ceannt, James Connolly and Joseph Plunkett. The document was dated Easter Monday, April 24th 1916.

The rebels seized a variety of key points within Dublin but failed in securing others due partly to lack of numbers and partly, due to some disorganisation. Outside of the Dublin the Rising was small, uncoordinated and bar one or two notable exceptions (such as the Ashbourne Rising of County Neath), failed to cause the British establishment any major discomfort. This left Dublin as centre stage for a tragedy that has affected Anglo-Irish relations ever since.

The first day was typified by only sporadic fighting, as the British were left unprepared, taken by surprise, they at first responded to the emergency with investigatory patrols. The death toll therefore remained relatively small on that first day but the tally would inevitably grow. The first civilian causality is believed to have been a uniformed nurse by the name of Margaret Keogh. She was shot accidently by British troops during an engagement near the South Dublin Union Workhouse.

By Tuesday evening the British response became a more coordinated and determined operation, martial law was declared and command handed over to Brigadier-General Lowe. Lowe was unsure of the numbers involved in the uprising and his response was slow, careful but planned. Identified Rebel strongpoints were over the course of the next few days bombarded and frontal attacks became better coordinated. The Rebels were no less lacking in their determination and the death toll including that of civilians, climbed alarmingly.

During the course of the week British troops arrived from England to join reinforcements transferred from outside Dublin. This would eventually bring Lowe’s force to 16,000 men, the Rebel numbers are unlikely to have exceeded 1,500. Selected Rebel positions were bombarded by the patrol vessel ‘Helga’ on the River Liffey and as the weekend approached, the position of the Rebels had become untenable. The surrender which came on Saturday the 29th of April 1916 was perhaps inevitable.

The Easter Rebellion was by those within the British establishment regarded as a betrayal. An act of treason when the Empire itself was threatened, locked in a life and death struggle with other Imperial powers. The alternative perspective was to regard the war on the Western Front and elsewhere, as a waste of human life in a conflict devoid of meaning.

Sixteen surviving members of the Rising were tried and executed over the course of the coming weeks. This included all seven signatories of the Declaration of Independence and the younger brother of Patrick Pearse. Willie Pearse played only a minor role in the Rising and his execution has often been described as an act of British revenge.

This failure to recognise those involved in the Rising as prisoners of war, together with alleged British war crimes that included the shooting of non-combatants, such as the pacifist politician Francis Sheehy-Skeffington; did serious harm to the British position at home and abroad. Public opinion in Ireland itself, which originally was not universally supportive of the Rising, changed perceivably in the coming weeks.

This perceived heavy handling of the aftermath of the Rising by the British authorities, resulted in a swing towards support for an independent Ireland and a radicalisation of Irish youth. These and other factors that brought about an ever increasing anti-British feeling, would eventually lead to the Irish War of Independence.

The Easter Rising was a declaration of the right to self-determination by a nation and its people. Today when we see the discussion of International Trade Agreements and the future of the European Union, that principle is as relevant today as it was in 1916.

Prior to the Easter Rising, the Irish people had made numerous sacrifices for their nation. The Rising, the following War of Independence and the resulting Civil War, would see many, many more. The Emerald Ireland had been awash in blood for centuries and would be for years to come.

The sacrifice of those who fought in the Rising, were executed later and those that would die in the future wars, is a tangible part of Irish culture today. To understand Irish spirituality, one need only look at how the people of Ireland view their past. It is in folklore, myth and legend, that the Irish Gods and Saints are remembered, venerated and celebrated.

Yet equally an intrinsic part of Irish culture, is an awareness of the ‘Ancestors’ in blood and in spirit. From the ancient monuments of Ireland’s Iron Age past to the wars of the twentieth century, the people of today remember the people of the past. The Seven who signed the Declaration of Independence, those nine others that were executed with them and those that died in the Rising, have joined the ‘Ancestors’ and today hold a place of special veneration for the modern Irish Nation. There are many nations that could learn from Ireland, how to stand with pride with one eye on the past and another on the future.


Yet each man kills the thing he loves,
By each let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
Some with a flattering word,
The coward does it with a kiss,
The brave man with a sword!

Some kill their love when they are young,
And some when they are old;
Some strangle with the hands of Lust,
Some with the hands of Gold:
The kindest use a knife, because
The dead so soon grow cold.

Some love too little, some too long,
Some sell, and others buy;
Some do the deed with many tears,
And some without a sigh:
For each man kills the thing he loves,
Yet each man does not die.

Wednesday, 30 March 2016


Listen to my prayer, O my Gods, do not ignore my plea; hear me and answer me. My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught, because of what my enemy is saying, because of the threats of the wicked; for they bring down suffering upon us and assail us in their anger. My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen on me. Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me.

I said, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest. I would flee far away and stay in the desert. I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and the storm.” Lord, confuse the wicked, confound their words, for I see violence and strife in our city. Day and night they prowl about the walls; malice and abuse are within. Destructive forces are at work in our city; threats and lies never leave our streets.

If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were rising against me, I could hide. Yet it was a man like myself, who harmed my companion, with whom I enjoy sweet fellowship at the house of God, as we walk among the worshipers. Let death take our enemies by surprise; let them go down alive to the realm of the dead, for evil finds lodging among them. As for me, I call to our Gods and the Lord shall save us. Evening, morning and noon, we cry out in distress and they hear my voice. We are rescued unharmed from the battle waged against us, even though many may oppose us.

Our Gods, enthroned from of old, who do not change; they will hear us and humble them, because they have no fear of God. My companion was attacked and he violated her covenant. His talk was as smooth as butter, yet war is ever in his heart; his words are more soothing than oil, yet soon they turn to stone. Cast your cares and they will sustain you; they will never let the righteous be shaken. Our Gods will bring down the wicked into the pit of decay; the bloodthirsty and deceitful will not live out half their days but as for me, I trust in you.

The Ballad of Dick Turpin by Alfred Noyes

The daylight moon looked quietly down
Through the gathering dusk on London town

A smock-frocked yokel hobbled along
By Newgate, humming a country song.

Chewing a straw, he stood to stare
At the proclamation posted there:

“Three hundred guineas on Turpin’s head,
Trap him alive or shoot him dead;
And a hundred more for his mate, Tom King.”

He crouched like a tiger about to spring.
Then he looked up, and he looked down;
And chuckling low, like a country clown,

Dick Turpin painfully hobbled away
In quest of his inn – “The Load of Hay”...

Alone in her stall, his mare, Black Bess,
Lifted her head in mute distress;
For five strange men had entered the yard
And looked at her long, and looked at her hard.

They went out, muttering under their breath;
And then – the dusk grew still as death.

But the velvet ears of the listening mare
Lifted and twitched. They were there – still there;

Hidden and waiting; for whom? And why?
The clock struck four, a set drew nigh.

It was King! Dick Turpin’s mate.
The black mare whinnied. Too late! Too late!

They rose like shadows out of the ground
And grappled him there, without a sound.

“Throttle him – quietly – choke him dead!
Or we lose this hawk for a jay, they said.”

They wrestled and heaved, five men to one;
And a yokel entered the yard, alone;

A smock-frocked yokel, hobbling slow;
But a fight is physic as all men know.

His age dropped off, he stood upright.
He leapt like a tiger into the fight.

Hand to hand, they fought in the dark;
For none could fire at a twisting mark.

Where he that shot at a foe might send
His pistol ball through the skull of a friend.

But “Shoot Dick, Shoot” gasped out Tom King
“Shoot! Or damn it we both shall swing!
Shoot and chance it!” Dick leapt back.

He drew. He fired. At the pistols crack
The wrestlers whirled. They scattered apart
And the bullet drilled through Tom King’s heart...

Dick Turpin dropped his smoking gun.
They had trapped him five men to one.

A gun in the hand of the crouching five.
They could take Dick Turpin now alive;

Take him and bind him and tell their tale
As a pot house boast, when they drank their ale.

He whistled, soft as a bird might call
And a head rope snapped in his bird’s dark stall.

He whistled, soft as a nightingale
He heard the swish of her swinging tail.

There was no way out that the five could see
To heaven or hell, but the Tyburn tree;

No door but death; and yet once more
He whistled, as though at a sweethearts door.

The five men laughed at him, trapped alive;
And – the door crashed open behind the five!

Out of the stable, a wave of thunder,
Swept Black Bess, and the five went under.

He leapt to the saddle, a hoof turned stone,
Flashed blue fire, and their prize was gone.....

He rode for one impossible thing; that in the
Morning light
The towers of York might waken him-
From London and last night.

He rode to prove himself another,
And leave himself behind.
And the hunted self was like a cloud;
But the hunter like the wind.

Neck and neck they rode together;
That, in the day’s first gleam,
Each might prove that the other self
Was but a mocking dream.

And the little sleeping villages, and the
Breathless country side
Woke to the drum of the ghostly hooves,
But missed that ghostly ride.

The did not see, they did not hear as the ghostly
Hooves drew nigh,
The dark magnificent thief in the night
That rode so subtly by.

They woke, they rushed to the way-side door,
They saw what the midnight showed,-
A mare that came like a crested wave,
Along the Great North Road.

A flying spark in the formless dark,
A flash from the hoof-spurned stone,
And the lifted face of a man –
That took the starlight and was gone.

The heard the sound of a pounding chase
Three hundred yards away
There were fourteen men in a stream of sweat
And a plaster of Midland clay.

The starlight struck their pistol-butts as they
Passed in the clattering crowd
But the hunting wraith was away like the wind
At the heels of the hunted cloud.

He rode by the walls of Nottingham,
And over him as he went
Like ghosts across the Great North Road,
The boughs of Sherwood bent.

By Bawtry, all the chase but one has dropped
A league behind,
Yet, one rider haunted him, invisibly, as the wind.

And northward, like a blacker night, he saw the moors up-loom
And Don and Derwent sang to him, like memory in the gloom.

And northward, northward as he rode, and sweeter than a prayer
The voices of those hidden streams,
The Trent, the Ouse and the Aire;

Streams that could never slake his thirst. 
He heard them as he flowed
But one dumb shadow haunted him along the
Great North Road.

Till now, at dawn, the towers of York rose on
The reddening sky.
And Bess went down between his knees, 
Like a breaking wave to die.

He lay beside her in the ditch, he kissed her lovely head,
And a shadow passed him like the wind and left him with his dead.

He saw, but not that one as wakes, the city that he sought,
He had escaped from London town, but not from his own thought.

He strode up to the Mickle-gate, with none to say him nay.
And there he met his Other Self in the stranger light of day.

He strode up to the dreadful thing that in the gateway stood
And it stretched out a ghostly hand that the dawn had stained with blood.

It stood as in the gates of hell, with none to hear or see,
“Welcome,” it said, “Thou’st ridden well, and outstript all but me”.