Thursday, September 29, 2016

Frances Chesterton @ Aleteia

Head over to Aleteia.org to see my guest blog post on Frances Chesterton, G.K.'s wife. I used the adage "Behind every great man is a great woman" to demonstrate instead how Frances was sometimes beside her husband, sometimes ahead of him and sometimes behind him:

If Frances Chesterton had been behind her husband, we would never have seen her. Gilbert Keith Chesterton was a giant of a man in stature and personality. Instead, Frances stood beside him and even sometimes in front of him and thus we seen both her and her influence on him, especially through the efforts of Nancy Carpentier Brown in her 2015 biography, The Woman Who Was Chesterton. . . .

Frances and G.K. Chesterton met in 1896 at a literary debating society. His immediate admiration and growing love for Frances meant that she led him to greater faith in Jesus Christ and attendance at Church of England services. In 1911 Chesterton dedicated his epic poem The Ballad of the White Horse to her: “Therefore I bring these rhymes to you/Who brought the cross to me.” He would return the favor 26 years later when he became a Catholic in 1922 and led her to join him four years later.

They were engaged in 1898 and married on June 28, 1901. Frances stood beside Chesterton in his professional work but also led him to a healthier lifestyle as they moved away from London and the pubs to live in the country. They wanted to have a house full of children—hoping for “seven beautiful children”—but bore the crosses of infertility and ill health.

Please read the rest there! IF you like it, please share it and comment on it so the team at Aleteia might ask me to write for them again! Thank you.

Newman and the Angels


For the Feast of the Archangels Saints Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel, an excerpt from Blessed John Henry Newman's Parochial and Plain Sermon, "The Invisible World":

Angels also are inhabitants of the world invisible, and concerning them much more is told us than concerning the souls of the faithful departed, because the latter "rest from their labours;" but the Angels are actively employed among us in the Church. They are said to be "ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation." [Heb. i. 14.] No Christian is so humble but he has Angels to attend on him, if he lives by faith and love. Though they are so great, so glorious, so pure, so wonderful, that the very sight of them (if we were allowed to see them) would strike us to the earth, as it did the prophet Daniel, holy and righteous as he was; yet they are our "fellow-servants" and our fellow-workers, and they carefully watch over and defend even the humblest of us, if we be Christ's. That they form a part of our unseen world, appears from the vision seen by the patriarch Jacob. We are told that when he fled from his brother Esau, "he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun had set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep." [Gen. xxviii. 11.] How little did he think that there was any thing very wonderful in this spot! It looked like any other spot. It was a lone, uncomfortable place: there was no house there: night was coming on; and he had to sleep upon the bare rock. Yet how different was the truth! He saw but the world that is seen; he saw not the world that is not seen; yet the world that is not seen was there. It was there, though it did not at once make known its presence, but needed to be supernaturally displayed to him. He saw it in his sleep. "He dreamed, and behold, a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached up to heaven; and behold, the Angels of God ascending and descending on it. And behold, the Lord stood above it." This was the other world. Now, let this be observed. Persons commonly speak as if the other world did not exist now, but would after death. No: it exists now, though we see it not. It is among us and around us. Jacob was shown this in his dream. Angels were all about him, though he knew it not. And what Jacob saw in his sleep, that Elisha's servant saw as if with his eyes; and the shepherds, at the time of the Nativity, not only saw, but heard. They heard the voices of those blessed spirits who praise God day and night, and whom we, in our lower state of being, are allowed to copy and assist.

We are then in a world of spirits, as well as in a world of sense, and we hold communion with it, and take part in it, though we are not conscious of doing so. If this seems strange to any one, let him reflect that we are undeniably taking part in a third world, which we do indeed see, but about which we do not know more than about the Angelic hosts,—the world of brute animals. Can any thing be more marvellous or startling, unless we were used to it, than that we should have a race of beings about us whom we do but see, and as little know their state, or can describe their interests, or their destiny, as we can tell of the inhabitants of the sun and moon? It is indeed a very overpowering thought, when we get to fix our minds on it, that we familiarly use, I may say hold intercourse with creatures who are as much strangers to us, as mysterious, as if they were the fabulous, unearthly beings, more powerful than man, yet his slaves, which Eastern superstitions have invented. We have more real knowledge about the Angels than about the brutes. They have apparently passions, habits, and a certain accountableness, but all is mystery about them. We do not know whether they can sin or not, whether they are under punishment, whether they are to live after this life. We inflict very great sufferings on a portion of them, and they in turn, every now and then, seem to retaliate upon us, as if by a wonderful law. We depend on them in various important ways; we use their labour, we eat their flesh. This however relates to such of them as come near us: cast your thoughts abroad on the whole number of them, large and small, in vast forests, or in the water, or in the air; and then say whether the presence of some countless multitudes, so various in their natures, so strange and wild in their shapes, living on the earth without ascertainable object, is not as mysterious as any thing which Scripture says about the Angels? Is it not plain to our senses that there is a world inferior to us in the scale of beings, with which we are connected without understanding what it is? and is it difficult to faith to admit the word of Scripture concerning our connexion with a world superior to us?

Newman writes often about angels in his sermons, his meditations, and his poetry. The choirs of angels sing "Praise to the Holiest in the Height" in his The Dream of Gerontius--here as set by Edward Elgar.

Happy Michaelmas Day!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

"England's Forgotten Muslim History"

Jerry Brotton, a professor of Renaissance studies at Queen Mary University of London, has written a book that gets the usual UK/USA treatment as to title and cover. In the UK his book is titled This Orient Isle: Elizabethan England and the Islamic World. In the USA, it's The Sultan and the Queen: The Untold Story of Elizabeth and Islam. The U.K. book description:

In 1570, when it became clear she would never be gathered into the Catholic fold, Elizabeth I was excommunicated by the Pope. On the principle that 'my enemy's enemy is my friend', this marked the beginning of an extraordinary English alignment with the Muslim powers who were fighting Catholic Spain in the Mediterranean, and of cultural, economic and political exchanges with the Islamic world of a depth not again experienced until the modern age. England signed treaties with the Ottoman Porte, received ambassadors from the kings of Morocco and shipped munitions to Marrakesh. By the late 1580s hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Elizabethan merchants, diplomats, sailors, artisans and privateers were plying their trade from Morocco to Persia.

These included the resourceful mercer Anthony Jenkinson who met both Süleyman the Magnificent and the Persian Shah Tahmasp in the 1560s, William Harborne, the Norfolk merchant who became the first English ambassador to the Ottoman court in 1582 and the adventurer Sir Anthony Sherley, who spent much of 1600 at the court of Shah Abbas the Great. The previous year, remarkably, Elizabeth sent the Lancastrian blacksmith Thomas Dallam to the Ottoman capital to play his clockwork organ in front of Sultan Mehmed. The awareness of Islam which these Englishmen brought home found its way into many of the great cultural productions of the day, including most famously Marlowe's Tamburlaine, and Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus and The Merchant of Venice. The year after Dallam's expedition the Moroccan ambassador, Abd al-Wahid bin Mohammed al-Annuri, spent six months in London with his entourage. Shakespeare wrote Othello six months later.

This Orient Isle shows that England's relations with the Muslim world were far more extensive, and often more amicable, than we have appreciated, and that their influence was felt across the political, commercial and domestic landscape of Elizabethan England. It is a startlingly unfamiliar picture of part of our national and international history.

Writing for The New York Times before the book comes out in the USA, Brotton summarizes his argument:

In the 1580s she signed commercial agreements with the Ottomans that would last over 300 years, granting her merchants free commercial access to Ottoman lands. She made a similar alliance with Morocco, with the tacit promise of military support against Spain.

As money poured in, Elizabeth began writing letters to her Muslim counterparts, extolling the benefits of reciprocal trade. She wrote as a supplicant, calling Murad “the most mighty ruler of the kingdom of Turkey, sole and above all, and most sovereign monarch of the East Empire.” She also played on their mutual hostility to Catholicism, describing herself as “the most invincible and most mighty defender of the Christian faith against all kind of idolatries.” Like Muslims, Protestants rejected the worship of icons, and celebrated the unmediated word of God, while Catholics favored priestly intercession. She deftly exploited the Catholic conflation of Protestants and Muslims as two sides of the same heretical coin.

The ploy worked. Thousands of English traders crossed many of today’s no-go regions, like Aleppo in Syria, and Mosul in Iraq. They were far safer than they would have been on an equivalent journey through Catholic Europe, where they risked falling into the hands of the Inquisition.

The Ottoman authorities saw their ability to absorb people of all faiths as a sign of power, not weakness, and observed the Protestant-Catholic conflicts of the time with detached bemusement. Some Englishmen even converted to Islam. A few, like Samson Rowlie, a Norfolk merchant who became Hassan Aga, chief treasurer to Algiers, were forced. Others did so of their own volition, perhaps seeing Islam as a better bet than the precarious new Protestant faith. . . .

Elizabeth’s Islamic policy held off a Catholic invasion, transformed English taste and established a new model for joint stock investment that would eventually finance the Virginia Company, which founded the first permanent North American colony.
Read the rest there.

Writing for The Catholic Herald, however, Francois Soyer, associate professor in Late Medieval and Early Modern History at the University of Southampton, sees some problems with Brotton's thesis:

England’s ties with the Muslim Ottoman Empire did indeed make an impact on military events but in a very different way. They must be studied within the wider background of diplomatic and military developments elsewhere in Europe, the Mediterranean and even the Middle East. . . .

For Philip II of Spain, the heretical Protestants in Northern Europe came to dominate all other issues: the Calvinist rebels in the Netherlands, their English allies, and the Protestants in France posed a danger to the Catholic Church and Philip’s own authority.

Similarly, the primary threat for the Sunni Ottoman Sultan became the Shiite Safavid dynasty in Persia (modern-day Iran). As Shiites, the Safavids challenged the theological legitimacy of the Sultan in the Islamic world and threatened the Ottoman heartlands in Anatolia. The Ottomans initiated a conflict against the Safavids in 1578 (until 1590) and the rivalry between both Muslim dynasties continued into the seventeenth century. Both the superpowers of the age had effectively decided that the enemies within their faith represented a great threat than the infidel.

It is therefore hard to see how the ties Elizabeth forged with the Ottoman played any role in “holding off a Catholic invasion”. Indeed, in this respect her strategy could be seen as having been a singular failure. When the Armada sailed against England in 1588, it comprised a number of ships that were redeployed from Mediterranean squadrons due to the absence of an Ottoman threat. The galleass La Girona, which sank off Country Antrim with tremendous loss of life in October 1588, was just one of these redeployed galleys and galleasses that were more suited to naval warfare in the Mediterranean than the North Atlantic.

The Ottoman Sultan and his officials may well have welcomed English envoys and trade links and made pleasing diplomatic noises. But they offered no real military help. Diplomatic relations in early modern Europe and the Mediterranean were often moulded by a brutal realpolitik in which expediency trumped religious loyalties: my enemy’s enemy was my friend, whether or not he was an infidel. Elizabeth wasn’t the first European monarch to seek a Muslim ally (the French Kings had previously sought Ottoman help against the Habsburgs); she wasn’t the last, either (even Philip III of Spain would later seek to cultivate relations with the Safavids to counter any Ottoman threat).


Read the rest there.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Blogging about Blogging: The Quebec Act @ NCReg

So this is a meta blog post, posting about another blog post at the National Catholic Register: a follow-up with background to explain why Fanny Allen's mother and stepfather were so worried about her going to Catholic Canada:

This fear of Catholics and of Canadian Catholics in particular had deep colonial roots in the French and Indian War (part of the Seven Years’ War fought between France and England in several colonial territories) and the 1774 Quebec Act. Great Britain, with help from their British colonists in North America, won the war in 1763 and had obtained the French territory of Quebec in Canada. The colonists were pleased with the defeat of Catholic France.

Eleven years later, Parliament passed the Quebec Act, integrating the former French colony into British Canada. American colonists were not pleased with many of the decisions reached by Parliament. Although the issue of religious liberty among Protestants was tremendously important in the revolutionary period, as Thomas S. Kidd recounts in
God of Liberty: A Religious History of the American Revolution (Basic Books, 2012), American Protestants did not think that Catholics should be free to practice their faith.

The Quebec Act allowed Catholics in Canada, unlike Catholics in England or other British colonies, not only to practice their faith freely, but to serve in government offices without taking an oath that denied their faith. Catholics in England, Scotland and Ireland could not serve in political office because they would have had to deny the Real Presence in the Eucharist (which the government called Transubstantiation), the invocation of saints, and the authority of the pope. Catholics in Canada could simply swear loyalty to King George III.


In the background for all the British American colonists, even those in Pennsylvania, like Benjamin Franklin (picture in the fur hat that he procured in Canada and that became such a fashion statement in Paris), the specter of James II--and the more remote horrors of the Gunpowder Plot, the Spanish Armada and even the fires of Smithfield--dominated their view of Catholics and the Papacy. Franklin, with his career in Pennsylvania, should have known a little about William Penn's support of James II's efforts to bring religious toleration to England. His speaking and campaigning for the Act of Toleration got Penn in trouble: he was imprisoned and accused of being a Papist!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Handing Down Family Relics: Thomas More's Descendants


In her National Catholic Register article about the exhibition on St. Thomas More at the Saint John Paul II National Shrine in Washington, DC, Charlotte Hays notes the source of several of the relics on display:

Several objects in the exhibit were given to the Jesuit college in the 18th century by Jesuit Father Thomas More, the last male descendant of St. Thomas More (More had four children, three daughters and a son). These include an enameled gold crucifix that has three pearls hanging from it and likely contained a relic, now lost, of an earlier saint. Because of the size of the crucifix, it likely sat on More’s desk rather than worn around the neck and likely was on his desk in the Tower of London. A homey gift from Father More was the saint’s reversible nightcap, made with golden thread and gilded spangles. Family history attributed the cap to More’s beloved daughter Meg.

The Center for Thomas More Studies has this resource for the family tree (though not in the form of a family tree) for the More family, based upon a book from Gracewing. According to this site:

Fr Thomas More—the last descendant in the direct male line of St.Thomas More, Lord Chancellor of England—died on 20 May 1795 in Bath. He had been the Jesuit provincial superior at the time of the suppression of the Society in 1773.

Thomas More was the eldest of the five children of Thomas and Catherine (née Giffard) of Barnborough or Bamburg Hall in the West Riding of Yorkshire. Born on 19 September 1722, he was followed by Christopher, Bridget, Catherine and Mary. Both sons became Jesuits. Bridget married twice—Peter Metcalfe and Robert Dalton and had descendants; she died in 1797. Catherine died unmarried in 1786. Mary became Sister Mary Augustine of the Austin Canonesses at Bruges and died in 1807. Their home, Barnborough Hall, had been in the family since John, the only son of St. Thomas, had acquired it by his marriage to Anne Cresacre and it remained so until the nineteenth century.

In one of  the appendices to a book written after More's beatification by Father Thomas Edward Bridgett, you may read about all the relics of St. Thomas More that Father Thomas More, SJ gave to Stonyhurst College, including their family history and provenance.

I really think I may have to plan a visit to Washington, DC to see this exhibit, visit the National Shrine, etc. 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Copley-Maryland Connection

Thomas Copley, former favorite of Elizabeth I, died in exile on September 25, 1584. He was in exile because he had returned to his family's Catholic faith and it was not safe for him to stay in England. His sons and daughter found different ways to deal with their inherited recusancy. According to the Dictionary of National Biography:

of Gatton, Surrey, and Roughay, Sussex, and of the Maze, Southwark, who was knighted (perhaps by the king of France), and created a baron by Philip II of Spain, and who is frequently referred to by contemporaries as Lord Copley, was one of the chief Roman catholic exiles in the reign of Elizabeth. Camden styles him ‘e primariis inter profugos Anglos.’ He was the eldest son of Sir Roger Copley by his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Sir William Shelley of Michelgrove, a judge of the common pleas [q. v.], and was one of the coheirs of Thomas, last lord Hoo and Hastings, whose title he claimed and sometimes assumed. Lord Hoo's daughter Jane married his great-grandfather, Sir Roger Copley. Another daughter married Sir Geoffrey Boleyn, and was the great-grandmother of Anne Boleyn. The lords of the manor of Gatton then, as for nearly three centuries afterwards, returned the members of parliament for the borough, and in 1554 Copley, when only twenty years of age, was returned ‘by the election of Dame Elizabeth Copley’ (his mother) as M.P. for Gatton. He sat for the same place in the later parliaments of 1556, 1557, 1559, and 1563, and distinguished himself in 1558 by his opposition to the government of Philip and Mary (Commons' Journals). He was then a zealous protestant, and was much in favour with his kinswoman Queen Elizabeth at the commencement of her reign. In 1560 she was godmother to his eldest son Henry. According to Father Parsons (Relation of a Trial between the Bishop of Evreux and the Lord Plessis Mornay, 1604) the falsehoods he found in Jewel's ‘Apology’ (1562) led to his conversion to the church of Rome. After suffering (as he intimates in one of his letters) some years' imprisonment as a popish recusant, he left England without license in or about 1570, and spent the rest of his life in France, Spain, and the Low Countries, in constant correspondence with Cecil and others of Elizabeth's ministers, and sometimes with the queen herself, desiring pardon and permission to return to England and to enjoy his estates; but acting as the leader of the English fugitives, and generally in the service of the king of Spain, from whom he had a pension, and by whom he was created baron of Gatton and grand master of the Maze (or Maes) (Camden). He also received letters of marque against the Dutch. His title of baron and these letters form two of the subjects of the correspondence that passed between himself and the queen's ministers (Cal. State Papers, Dom. Ser.) Much of his correspondence is to be found in the ‘State Papers,’ and in the Cottonian, Lansdowne, and Harleian MSS. He died in Flanders in 1584, and in the last codicil to his will styles himself ‘Sir Thomas Copley, knight, Lord Copley of Gatton in the county of Surrey’ (Probate Office). By his wife Catherine, daughter and coheiress of Sir John Luttrell of Dunster, Somerset, he had four sons and four daughters. His eldest son Henry, Queen Elizabeth's godson, died young; William succeeded at Gatton. The third son was Anthony.

According to the History of Parliament for Gatton, William was also a recusant, so his prospects were few:

The manor of Gatton was in the possession of the Copley family by the early sixteenth century. In 1547 the Members were elected by Sir Roger Copley as ‘burgess and sole inhabitant of the borough’.9 However Sir Roger’s son Thomas†, his widow, and his son William, were Catholics, and spent much of the reign of Elizabeth in exile. In their absence, parliamentary patronage was exercised by Lord Burghley (Sir William Cecil†) and Lord Howard of Effingham (Charles Howard†), subsequently 1st earl of Nottingham, the latter being lord lieutenant of Surrey and part owner of Reigate manor.10

William Copley returned from exile and took possession of his lands shortly after the accession of James I, but his prospects of exerting electoral influence were compromised by his continued recusancy.11 Both the Members elected in 1604, Sir Thomas Gresham and Sir Nicholas Saunders, were Surrey gentlemen. Saunders may have had the support of Nottingham, with whom he had served on the Cadiz expedition of 1596. He may also have enjoyed the backing of Copley, for although he conformed to the Church of England he had strong Catholic connections.

One of William's sons became a Jesuit and worked with Lord Baltimore on the mission of Maryland. His real name was Thomas, but his alias was Philip Fisher, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia:

b. in Madrid, 1595-6; d. in Maryland, U. S., 1652. He was the eldest son of William Copley of Gatton, England, of a Catholic family of distinction who suffered exile in the reign of Elizabeth. He arrived in Maryland in 1637, and, being a man of great executive ability, took over the care of the mission, "a charge which at that time required rather business men than missionaries". In 1645, Father Fisher was wantonly seized and carried in chains to England, with Father Andrew White, the founder of the English mission in America. After enduring many hardships he was released, when he boldly returned to Maryland (Feb., 1648), where, after an absence of three years, he found his flock in a more flourishing state than those who had opposed and plundered them. That he made an effort to enter the missionary field of Virginia, appears from a letter written 1 March, 1648, to the Jesuit General Caraffa in Rome, in which he says: "A road has lately been opened through the forest to Virginia; this will make it but a two days' journey, and both places can now be united in one mission. After Easter I shall wait upon the Governor of Virginia upon business of great importance." Unfortunately there is no further record bearing on the projected visit. Neill, in his "Terra Mariae" (p. 70), and Smith in his "Religion under the Barons of Baltimore" (p. VII), strangely confound this Father Thomas Copley of Maryland with an apostate John Copley, who was never a Jesuit. Father Fisher is mentioned with honourable distinction in the missionary annals of Maryland, and, according to Hughes, was "the most distinguished man among the fourteen Jesuits who had worked in Maryland".

The third son Anthony, was a poet. According to the University of Manchester Press, which publishes his magnum opus in its Manchester Spencer series:

Anthony Copley's A Fig for Fortune was the first major poetic response to Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene. Written by a Catholic Englishman with an uneasy relationship to the English regime, A Fig for Fortune offers a deeply contestatory, richly imagined answer to sixteenth-century England's greatest poem. Through its sophisticated response to Spenser, A Fig for Fortune challenges a contemporary literary culture in which Protestant habits of thought and representation were gaining dominance. This book comprises the poem's first scholarly edition. It offers a carefully annotated edition of the 2000-line poem, an overview of English Catholic history in the sixteenth century, a full biography of Anthony Copley, an assessment of his engagement with Spenser's Faerie Queene, and information on the book's early print history. Extensive support for student readers makes it possible to teach Copley's poem alongside The Faerie Queene for the first time.

There was a fourth son, John, born in Louvain, who became a Catholic priest but then left the Church, became an Anglican and a Church of England minister. One daughter, Margaret, married John Gage of Barstow Manor in Surrey, but they had no "issue". British History Online refers to her as being "of the noted recusant family."

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Our Lady of Walsingham, First Shrine to the Mother of God


This recent Catholic News Agency (CNA) story comments upon the continuing popularity of the shrine of Our Lady of Walshingham, which is a Memorial today in the dioceses of England, noting that it was the first pilgrimage shrine to Mary, the Mother of God in Christendom, with its origins in 1061:

“From that time, through till the reformation, in 1538, Walsingham was one of the great shrines of Christendom,” and the only shrine dedicated to Our Lady, Msgr. Armitage said.

It is a great source of pride that Walsingham is the site of the oldest Marian shrine in the world, he said.

“Indeed, if you go to Nazareth, and you stand in front of the Holy House in Nazareth, if you look up, you’ll see all the different images of the Shrines to Our Lady around the world. And the first one that is displayed there is the shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham.”

Although the shrine itself was destroyed in 1538, a small nearby chapel where pilgrims en route to Walsingham would stop remained. “It’s where the pilgrims would come and before they entered the shrine ground, they would go to confession and then they would take their shoes off, and leave them at the slipper chapel – hence its name – and would walk barefoot into the shrine in the village.”

This tradition continues to this day, the rector added. “Once (the pilgrims) have finished their devotion at the slipper chapel shrine, they then walk along what’s called the Holy Mile into the village.”

After the shrine was rebuilt in the 20th century, the site began to see a resurgence of pilgrims which continues to this day.

“Walsingham is a great crossroads of Catholics in England,” Msgr. Armitage said, and many consider it to be the “spiritual heart” of the country.

CNA also provides this prayer to Our Lady of Walsingham:

O Mary, recall the solemn moment when Jesus, your divine son, dying on the cross, confided us to your maternal care. You are our mother, we desire ever to remain your devout children. let us therefore feel the effects of your powerful intercession with Jesus Christ. make your name again glorious in the shrine once renowned throughout England by your visits, favours, and many miracles.

Pray, O holy mother of God, for the conversion of England, restoration of the sick, consolation for the afflicted, repentance of sinners, peace to the departed.

O blessed Mary, mother of God, our Lady of Walsingham, intercede for us. Amen.

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Lost Songs of St. Kilda


This kind of story and endeavor resonates with me. Although the Catholic faith and culture in England didn't come down to one man giving that knowledge to another, there was a remnant left to sustain it and help revive it when the time came. The new CD, The Lost Songs of St. Kilda represents an even more tenuous remnant: one man remembering the old songs of a forsaken home and teaching them to another; that other man in old age remembering the old songs of that forsaken home and playing them; and a third man, recording the songs for the rest of us to hear and glimpse the life that is gone. As BBC Scotland News tells the story:

It all began when Trevor Morrison sat down at the piano in Edinburgh's Silverlea Care Home 10 years ago and began to play.

The magic did not go unnoticed.

The tunes were simple, naive even, but memorable and with an extraordinary emotional depth.

As a 10-year-old child on the west coast island of Bute during World War Two, Trevor had been taught piano by a former resident of St Kilda.

His teacher had left the remote archipelago in the outer Hebrides when they were evacuated in 1930.

Somehow, a lifetime later and in failing health, Trevor managed to remember the tunes his teacher had shown him.

Stuart McKenzie, who had been volunteering in the care home, offered to record them.

"He played the most astonishing tunes. They were so different. Complicated, but simple," Mr McKenzie says.

"I went home, got my computer, downloaded a bit of software and went along to a local electrical store and paid £3 for a microphone we could put down the back of the piano for him. And away he went."


Decca has combined the recordings of Morrison made by McKenzie with orchestrations of the melodies and works inspired by the music. This website has samples of the music and a timeline of the history of St. Kilda, which is not really named for any saint as far as anyone can tell.

The album won't be released in the United States until early October. It is a remarkable survival of aspects of a lost culture.

For Members Only


You have to be a member of The Tudor Society to access the material and every issue Tudor Life on-line, although there is a small sample the public may see, and a monthly issue option. In the October issue, editor Gareth Russell kindly featured my explanation of the name and main symbol of The Pilgrimage of Grace on the cover! More information about The Tudor Society here. One of the aspects I like about Tudor Life is that it is multidisciplinary, offering articles beyond historical narration and biography, including information about music, diet, clothing, etc--all those other aspects of life during the Tudor era.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

How to Make An Author's Day


When I woke up Tuesday morning and checked my email, I found this message:
Dear Ms. Mann,

I got up early this morning to finish reading your fine book Supremacy and Survival. My wife and I found this book recently in the gift shop at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Alabama (the shrine established by EWTN's Mother Angelica.) While we were there I bought 5 different books. I read The Autobiography of a Hunted Priest by John Gerard, S.J. first and followed that up with your book. I am Catholic, 63 years old and really never knew anything at all about the persecution/martyrdom of many Catholics in old England. When I was a kid my father used to talk about St. Edmund Campion , but it never really sank in. I never heard any of this despite 12 years in Catholic schools. I don't think any of my 5 sons learned of any of this either, despite 12 years of Catholic school education.

I want to thank you for an excellent text covering the English Reformation and its aftermath. Yours and Father Gerard's book really were fascinating eye-openers and I hope to do more reading in these areas. Both these books were very hard to put down---real page-turners you might say. I plan to spend time going over your blog articles. I hope you write other books on these subjects in the future. You write succinctly and with great clarity. It makes me feel greater pride in being a Catholic. Spreading this information could lead to more religious vocations, I think.

God bless you and your efforts. Sincerely, Martin P. Harpen, M.D., Suffolk, VA
Dr. Harpen gave me permission to post his email (I added the italics).

What a way to start the day!