Sheela-na-Gig aka Jeanne Rathbone

Thomas Brogan Mayor of Battersea 1912/13

Posted in Thomas Brogan Irish Nationalist and Catholic Mayor Battersea 1912 by sheelanagigcomedienne on June 11, 2014

I have nominated Thomas Brogan, who was Mayor of Battersea in 1912/13, to be included in Battersea Arts Centre Great Hundred

Thomas Brogan Mayor of Battersea 1912/1913. Thomas Brogan was the first Irish nationalist and Catholic Mayor in London. He was mentor to John Archer. It is important to put these two Battersea Mayoral appointments in their context. I leave it to Sean Creighton, our indefatigueable chronicler and historian, to do that.Sean Creighton 2






from exclusion to political control. radical and working class


The record of the Progressive Alliance on the Vestry and Council between 1894 and 1909 and from 1912 onwards was impressive. A 48 hour working week and improved employee wage rates had been introduced early on. It opened Direct Labour Workshops. The Department built library extensions, the Nine Elms swimming and slipper baths, a public laundry, a sterilised milk depot, an electric light station, and the Latchmere housing estate.
The facilities of Latchmere Baths were expanded. It was the first London Borough to set up a health visiting service. Its Medical Officer of Health played a leading role in the maternity and child welfare movement. The appointment of an electoral registration officer had helped to ensure a high electoral roll among the working class. It sponsored Borough Concerts andLectures, and University Extension Lectures. The facilities built up by the Vestry/Council were regarded by the labour movement as positive achievements needing defending and improving.
Battersea earned the title of ‘The Municipal Mecca’.


John Archer was half Irish.   INFORMATION – PEOPLE – University of Liverpool He said of his mother : She belonged to one of the grandest races on the face of the earth. My mother was an Irishwoman.

This awareness of British colonisation was something that both men understood well, as outsiders. Battersea was a radical and progressive Borough at this time and can boast so many firsts in social and political development.

Councillor Thomas Brogan was an electrical engineer and he worked at Price’s candle factory. He was Chairman of the Workers Institute in Battersea. He was a lay member of St Vincent De Paul which was a cathoilic charitable organisation. He spoke eloquently at a convention of which he was a principle guest in Manchester. Frederic Ozanam and the Establishment of the Society of St

The Mayor of Battersea, who delivered an eloquent address, said that the brothers were fighting together for the great common cause for the common good of the common people. Europe was an armed camp. The Cross and the Crescent had again been in conflict, and thousands of the dead were lying unburied on the battlefields of the Near East. In the factory, in the workshop, in the office, the brothers of StVincent De Paul had to preach the great lesson of Christian charity .They had to spread the noble gospel that the great work of life was not to destroy life, but to preserve it. They had to show to the world that the spirit of Frederic Ozanam was alive in their hearts to-day, and that it was growing up a great, powerful, dominant force, which would eventually make England a better England, the Empire a better Empire, and the world a better world. But there was other work than this—work nearer to hand and, perhaps, more easy of immediate accomplishment. In the richest country of the world, with the wealth of the world pouring into her coffers—in a land as beautiful as a poet’s dream, with a soil as fruitful as God’s own love with a climate as sweet as a mother’s smile, and teeming with inexhaustible mineral wealth, there were thousands perishing of hunger and starvation.

Battersea Town hall








His election as Mayor was of significance to the Irish diaspora. This is from a Boston Newletter. Page 3 — The Sacred Heart Review 30 November 1912

In this connection it is interesting to read that an Irish Nationalist, Councillor Brogan of Battersea has been elected Mayor of the Borough of Battersea, one of the twenty-eight Boroughs that compose the County of London. This is the first time in the history of London, the Dublin Freeman says, that a militant Irish Nationalist has been elected to such a responsible and honorable position in the public life of the English metropolis. Councillor Brogan was born in the Irish quarters of York forty-six years ago, of Irish parentage. His father and mother were natives of Ballina, Co. Mayo. At an early age, Councillor Brogan was left fatherless, and for some years he experienced the trials that are inevitable when the chief bread-winner of a family is only a boy himself, but his sturdy spirit and natural ability were successful in bringing him to the front.

News From The Dioceses – from the Tablet Archive

BATTERSEA: ELECTION OF A CATHOLIC MAYOR.—As a result of the activity displayed during the recent Borough Council elections by the Catholics of Battersea in an attempt which happily proved successful, South London Catholics are now able to boast of a Mayor of their own in the person of Councillor Brogan, who has for a number of years taken an active interest in various Catholic movements, especially in educational matters.

Thomas Brogan was president of the United Irish League and a familiar and fluent speaker on Irish Home Rule.

On his election as Mayor the MORNING ADVERTISER November 11th 1912 wrote; “His selection for the office of Mayor is popular not only amongst his own party and the large Irish element in Battersea but also among his political opponents”
I am nominating Mayor Thomas Brogan because I believe that his election as Mayor in 1912 was significant because he was the first Irish Catholic Nationalist to be elected in Britain. I also feel his Mayoralty demonstrates the contribution of Irish people in the life of this Borough which I think has been overlooked especially from the earlier years when they constituted a considerable portion of the population.

Unfortunately, I have not found a photo of Thomas although his friend and mentee John Archer, Mayor of Battersea the following year and first Black Mayor elected in London, was a photographer.John Archer stamp

Central London Golf Centre Funeral Service Venue

Posted in Central London Golf Centre allows funerals, Search for non-religious funeral venues by sheelanagigcomedienne on June 9, 2014

I have written to Rosie at the Natural Death Centre The Natural Death Centre  asking if they would introduce a section on venues that would allow funeral services to be conducted on their premises.

Natural death centre



 Dear Rosie,

I am still on a mission to find venues that will allow non-religious funerals to take place. So, I am asking if you would consider having such a search facility so that people organising a non-religious funeral can find a venue near them to hold their funeral service before going to the crematorium or cemetery for committal.

I found the Central London Golf Centre, which is a few minutes away from Lambeth Crematorium, will accommodate actual funerals with the coffin. I suspect that it just needs a few venues to say they are prepared to do it which would help to normalise the idea. Also, there are some churches who would allow non-religious funerals as part of their commitment to being a community facility for all. This happened recently when a funeral I was conducting when the family booked the church hall as it was the nearest venue to the cemetery whose chapel is closed. When the vicar realised it was an actual funeral he immediately suggested that we use his church which was so much nicer and needed no further preparations.

 If you did decide to provide a search facility for non-religious funerals venues it could include an invitation to churches who would also allow them. This would be good PR for the churches as a community resource for everyone. I envisage a future when venues will be advertising their suitability as funeral venues as it makes good commercial sense. This would all be part of moving away from the Victorian black traditional funeral ethos.

Rosie responded:   “This is certainly an interesting and valuable concept”  She is running it by her trustees and IT person and will get back to me.

Central london Golf Centre Venue for Funerals

Central london Golf Centre Venue for Funerals

Central London Golf Centre



As funerals are usually held during weekdays there must be many venues that are available to host funeral services which are convenient to crematoria so that a small group of mourners can go on to the crematorium for the committal of the body whilst the others remain at the venue. Obviously, there is an issue of physical access in order to faciliate carrying the coffin into the premises but, other than that, there is no reason why we can’t break social resistance to funerals being part of everyday life, as it was in the past. Of course, if the number of mourners is small the funeral ceremony could be held in people’s homes, gardens and residential homes.

Devonport Guildhall

Devonport Guildhall

I have written to Venues4Funerals Venues 4 Funerals  . Despite the name, they do not list any venues other than crems and cemeteries for funerals and the venues listed  funeral receptions are the very expensive, high-end, wedding ones. It is the affordable option that interests me – the pubs, community centres and ordinary hotels.

The Good Funeral Guide posted Devonport Guildhall as a funeral venue.

There was a discussion The crying need for more funeral venues | The Good

Pembroke Lodge







Pembroke Lodge Belvedere

Pembroke Lodge Belvedere


I sent this email to Pembroke Lodge in Richmond Park which was the home of renowned Humanist Bertrand Russell.

I have been a Humanist celebrant for many years and I am on a mission to find I am on a mission to find venues that will allow non-religious funerals to take place. So, I am asking if you would allow a funeral service, with the coffin, to take place before immediate family go to the crematorium for committal.

I have taken weddings, Baby Namings and funeral ‘afters’ at Pembroke Lodge but I am trying to find venues who would be accomodating and allow people to hold the actual funeral service at their premises. Pembroke Lodge would make such a lovely venue for many of us who have frequented Richmond Park and the tea rooms. Pembroke Lodge is, after all, the childhood home of one of our best known Humanists – Bertrand Russell. How fitting it would be that this much loved venue becomes someone’s funeral location.

and received this curt reply.

I am sorry but as we are such a busy venue with daily events and the public catering side we would not be able to assist you with this.

I do hope you find somewhere suitable.

Kind regards


So, that’s a NO TO FUNERALS from Pembroke Lodge.

PLEASE, PLEASE help me with my research on the search for venues local to you that would allow funerals to take place and are affordable and have fun as you go and I would be grateful for you to share any responses you get. I think golf clubs are a good bet and try any suitable local pub. After all they take our money when we are alive so why not one last time after we are dead. That is not too much to ask.

Meanwhile , I will keep you posted.

Michael Collins and Michael Mac Hale at St Luke’s Music Society SW12

Posted in St Luke's Concert with Michael Collins Clarinet and Michael McHale piano. by sheelanagigcomedienne on May 20, 2014

We thoroughly enjoyed a concert in the St. Luke’s Music Society series 2014 with Michael Collins clarinet accompanied by Michael McHale on piano.

St Luke's Church SW12

St Luke’s Church SW12

Michael Collins

Michael Collins

Michael Collins (Clarinet) and Michael McHale (Piano) perform a lovely programme of music to end the 2013/4 season of St Luke’s Music Society Concerts in the superb acoustic of St Luke’s Church in Thurleigh Road SW12.

Burgmuller Duo in E Flat Op 15

Brahms Sonata in F minor Op120 No 1

Debussy Premiere Rhapsodie for Clarinet and piano

Muczynski Time pieces

Horovitz Sonatina

Michael McHale

Michael McHale


The two Michaels.

The two Michaels.

It was a delightful programme with pieces from Bach to Horovitz.

We were introduced to the clarinet works of Burgmuller, Muczynski and Horovitz who was one of Michael Collins teachers.

Johann Burgmuller

Johann Burgmuller

Johann Friedrich Franz Burgmüller1806 – 1874) was aGerman piansit and composer.  He was born in Regensburg Germany.  Both his father August and brother Norbert were musicians. Friedrich studied with Ludwig Spohr. After years of studies with Spohr and Hauptmann, he moved to Paris in 1832, where he stayed until his death. There, he adopted Parisian music and developed his trademark, light style of playing. He wrote many pieces of  salon music for the piano and published several albums. Burgmüller also went on to compose piano etudes intended for children.

Robert Muczynski

Robert Muczynski

Robert Muczynski, an American composer, whose parentswere of Polish and Slovak descent, died in 2010. He is regarded as one of the most distinguished American neo-Classical composers of his generation but also he is described as the most frequently-performed composer whose music is never discussed.  His Flute Sonata (1961) is in the repertoire of most flautists, and his Moments (1992) for flute and piano is well on the way to matching its success; his Saxophone Sonata (1970) is in the repertoire of most saxophonists; his Time Pieces (1984) is in the repertoire of most clarinetists; and his copious music for piano solo is heard on recitals .


Joseph Horovitz was born in Vienna in 1926 and emigrated to England in 1938. He studied music at New College, Oxford, with Gordon Jacob at the Royal College of Music where he won the Farrar Prize, and for a further year with Nadia Boulanger in Paris. The Festival of Britain in 1951 brought him to London as conductor of ballet and concerts at the Festival Amphitheatre. He then held positions as conductor to the Ballet Russes, associate director of the Intimate Opera Company, on the music staff at Glyndebourne, and as guest composer at the Tanglewood Festival, USA.

Joseph Horovitz

Joseph Horovitz


His compositions number sixteen ballets, nine concertos, two one-act operas, chamber music, works for brass band, television and radio, and a number of choral cantatas – most famously Captain Noah and His Floating Zoo. Since 1961 he has taught at the Royal College of Music, where he is now a Fellow. He has also won two Ivor Novello Awards, and in 1996 he was awarded the Gold Order of Merit of the City of Vienna. The Worshipful Company of Musicians awarded him the Cobbett Medal in 2008 for services to chamber music.

His Sonatina is a light, lyrical work.




There was a conversation with Michael McHale before the concert and they were signing their CDs afterwards at the back of the church.

Michael collins cd cover

Founded in 2003, St Luke’s Music Society is a local organisation that promotes a concert series each year in St Luke’s Church, South Battersea. It has a growing reputation for attracting and promoting a wide range of performers, from local musical organisations to internationally recognised artists. Performers in recent series have included Cleo Lane, the late Humphrey Littleton, John Williams, The Sixteen, Jacqui Dankworth, Nicola Benedetti and Sir Willard White.

We are members and attend as many concerts as we can and it includes the three Festival Chorus concerts that Dave sings with and has been doing now for over 25 years after he was roped into it by Barbara wen she first sang with them before she joined the London Symphony Chorus. in the nineties.

Despite, being in a church with pious hanging plaques urging humility,  godliness etc and a pulpit inscribed with WE PREACH CHRIST CRUCIFIED it is a great local facility attracting some big names because of Anthony Lewis-Crosby’s connections with the Barbican and Guildhall.

The next Festival chorus gig is a semi-staged concert performance of the Pirates of Penzance on Saturday 5th July 7.30.

The Festival Chorus | A large, no-auditions amateur chorus

St Luke’s Music Society is an excellent local addition to the cultural life of Batterea. St Luke’s Music Society – Concert series in South London and  deserves our support.

I have just booked for another example of the rich cultural amenities in Battersea by booking for the matinee tomorrow of an Irish play at the theatre above the Latchmere pub which has just been refurbished. Theatre503 | Book online or call the box office 020 7978 7040

The Latchmere

The Latchmere

A Handful of Stars

by Billy Roche

Starring Keith Duffy

30 April- 24 May,



We really are so lucky having so much on our doorstep with the Southbank a few minutes away by train.

Thursday MAY 22nd is election day.  VOTE LABOUR.

4 Humanist Funerals with live music

Posted in 4 Humanist Funerals with live music by sheelanagigcomedienne on May 20, 2014

I have conducted four funerals recently which had live music.

The first one for Michael at West Norwood Crematorium had some of his old band members playing, one of whom recognised me as I had taken his children’s Naming ceremonies. They played TANGERINE by Victor Schertzinger and Johnny Mercer.  We entered to Stephen Higgins on piano playing a selection of Chopin  pieces. Suzanne Holmes mezzo-soprano sang DITE, OIME  by Vivaldi from La Fida Ninfa. The service included a recording of Michael singing Beautiful Lady from his youthful band FLIX on Hurricane Records 1980 poignant and haunting. We were played out by Stephen to a piano cocktail medley including Summertime, Blue Moon, Isn’t this a lovely day, Lily of Laguna

West Norwood Crematorium and Cemetery entrance

West Norwood Crematorium and Cemetery entrance

Opened in 1837, West Norwood Cemetery contains 64 listed monuments of outstanding architecture. Burials include Mrs Beaton (of cookery book fame), Sir Henry Doulton (pottery), and Sir Henry Tate (English sugar merchant, art patron and public benefactor).

The second funeral at Lambeth Crematorium was for Martin who had met his partner Richard at the proms many years ago. Gudny Jonasdottir played movements from Bach’s 3rd Cello Suite at the crematorium and afterwards in the Nash Conservartory, Kew Gardens we were treated to a short harpsichord recital played by Christopher Bucknall whilst been entertained by the squirrels chasing each other up the trees. It was sooo charming.

Nash Conservarory, Kew Gardens

Nash Conservatory, Kew Gardens

Nas Conservaory Kew Gardens

Nash Conservatory Kew Gardens


The third funeral was for Julie, who was 54. She lived on our street some 25 years ago when I knew her because she was so friendly and her husband Dave who did some plumbing work for us.  I had also conducted the funeral for  Dave’s sister Susan a few years ago.  She was a delighful and ebullient Lancashire lass. Her friend Caroline Dennis who is a pianist, singer and comedienne whom Julie met in the laundrette on a cruise, treated us to I am a woman W O M A N. Later at the Central London Golf Centre she sang Fever giving us impressions of it as the Queen, Margaret Thatcher, Victoria Beckham, Ann Widdicombe and Janet Street Porter. She certainly is versatile and ready to improvise even when we couldn’t locate a CD player.

Caroline Dennis

Caroline Dennis, musician, singer actress, comedienne and cruise entertainer.

Caroline Dennis, musician, singer actress, comedienne and cruise entertainer.


She is the daughter of Bobby Dennis, an old-time comedian, who gigged with Dave Allen in the sixties in Australia.

Bobby Dennis comedian

Bobby Dennis comedian

Bobby Dennis – YouTube

The Central London Golf Centre Burntwood Lane SW17 said that they would be prepared to have a funeral service in their centre which is only minutes away from Lambeth Crematorium.  At last, I have found a local venue willing to allow a funeral service to take place. We have all heard how golfers themselves often say they would be happiest to die playing golf! I am on a mission to find premises that will allow our funerals to take place in the community rather than at the crematorium which is specifically designed only for funerals. Maybe it is only a question of time before they are used for other celebrations/events in the evenings and at weekends and n0n-religious funerals will be taking place in pubs, homes, parks, gardens and community venues.

Central London Golf Centre

Central London Golf Centre


The fourth funeral was for Buddy Bounds who was a jazz trumpeter. He was the father of Karen. I had conducted the funeral for her step-father Michael and her wedding ceremony when she and Sue got married. I briefly met Phil who preferred to be called Buddy (as in Buddy Holly) at their wedding which was held  in the delightful Estorick Gallery in Islington.

Buddy had loved things American. He played with Roy Orbison and was his musical director for a time.  The funeral was in Hampstead cemetery where his mother Norma was buried but the service was booked for a nearby church hall St. Luke’s. At the last minute the vicar  suggested that we use the church. He had thought the booking was for funeral afters and so he felt it right when he heard it was for the actual funeral ceremony.  It is an evangelical church so there was already musical equipment  there including a piano on which was placed a photograph of Buddy from the sixties.

Hampstead Cemetery

Hampstead Cemetery

St Luke's Church

Kevin the trumpeter played Send in the clowns  during the service and the Last Post  at the graveside. He played again when we retired to th snug at one of Buddy’s pubs  the Spread Eagle on Parkway, Camden Town.

spread eagle pub       spread eagle sign

We had one or two ‘Oh bits from obits’ when Buddy’s sister Mary told us that she remembered coming home from school to find Ronnie Scott playing on their piano while her Mum made him tea and sandwiches.  The second one was when Buddy took to fishing after he had to give up the trumpet and used to go to Clapham in the Yorkshire Dales,with his mate Roy who used to be married to Anne Davis. She had been Alan Bennett’s cleaner and lover and he had bought her the cottage which she had converted in to a quirky tearoom – Cafe Anne-  and this is where Buddy and Roy stayed. Anne died in 2009 and Roy later. There was a lovely photo of Buddy with Anne and Roy’s three sons.

These funerals were all rather different, but equally engrossing, as they reflected the people that we were honouring. I still think I am very fortunate to be a humanist celebrant.

Nunhead Cemetery Open Day 2014

Posted in Dying Matters Awareness week, South East London Humanist Group by sheelanagigcomedienne on May 18, 2014

The South East London Humanist Group had a stall at Nunhead Cemetery Open Day yesterday which also coincided with Dying Matters Awareness Week. South East London Humanist Group

Nunhead Cemetery Porch to burnt out chapel.

Nunhead Cemetery Porch to burnt out chapel.

The cemetery is the setting for the Victorian poet Charlotte Mew’s  exploration of death, insanity and social alienation In Nunhead Cemetery and is the setting for Maurice Riordan‘s final poem, The January Birds in The Holy a d, his 2007 collection. The Woman Between the Worlds, a 1994 science fiction novel by F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre set in Victorian England, depicts the burial at Nunhead Cemetery in 1898 (in a closed coffin) of a female extraterrestrial. The novel avoids citing a precise location for this grave, in case some reader believes that alien remains can be retrieved from the site.

The cemetery also featured in Episode 2 of the 2008 BBC series Spooks, although it was credited as Highgate Cemetery.


The Friends of Nunhead Cemetery organise the annual Open Day. They have produced a few fascinating publications.

Nunhead Symbols – Friends of Nunhead Cemetery

Nunhead Cemetery

Nunhead Cemetery

Great Headstone NunheadNunhead goth


I did take a funeral here many years ago of a bus man. The ceremony was at Conway Hall but the burial was at Nunhead and he requested that his friends organise a routemaster bus to transport his friends.

Nunhead funeral

Nunhead in snow

Nunhead in snow







On the annual Open Days local groups are invited to set up their stalls. We had secondhand books,  50P for paperbacks and £1 for hardbacks alongside all our leaflets. Colin erected the gazebo. There was a non-stop stream of people as books are always a great pull. One young man was keen to take our Namings leaflet for his friends as they were due to have their first baby and he seemed quite confident that he would be asked to be an oddfather.

Myself, Denis and Hester in front of our BHA stall at Nunhead Cemetery Open day

Myself, Denis and Hester in front of our BHA stall at Nunhead Cemetery Open day











Here are our new leaflets.

BHA leaflets on our ceremonies

BHA leaflets on our ceremonies

Dying m Leaflet_1_Cover-2Dying Matters Leaflet_3_Cover_ImageDying m Leaflet10WebDying matters  5







A stall opposite ours was selling these beautiful chinese watercolours that were painted by members of a mental health group. I chose these three pieces  which they were selling framed for £5 pounds!!  They were a lovely bunch of people.

Painting by mental health group members Southwark.

Painting by mental health group members Southwark.


















It was very sunny when I was there from 11.00 to 12.30 as I had to go on to a family visit for a Naming Ceremony in Clockhouse,  Beckenham. Joanna and Jo, the parents, and  Ellington and Valentine were lovely and Ellington (parents jazz fans) was enthusiastic about singing Old MacDonald for the ceremony in June.

I don’t know the origin of the name Nunhead. The head of the nuns is called an abbess.

A Nun

A Nun

A head nun=abbess

A head nun=abbess




DO VISIT NUNHEAD CEMETERY. It is definitely one of London’s hidden treasures. It is near Nunhead station.


Norwegian fjords cruise on the Marco Polo.

Posted in Fjords cruise on Marco Polo and meeting with Dara O'Briain in Bergen. by sheelanagigcomedienne on May 2, 2014

We had a relaxing six night fjords cruise on the Marco Polo where we had a deluxe cabin which means it had big windows and room for a settee and a chair. Food was great, entertainment jolly. Bobby Dazzler the comedian. We enjoyed the violin and piano Carmen Duo- Tatiana and Varvara -  most enjoyable as they played in the Captain’s Club. We shared a table for eight at dinner in the Waldorf restaurant and they were a an interesting bunch as we had few laughs with them.

Marco Polo          Captains club lounge Marco PoloCabin 804 De Luxe

Me at the front of the shipsailing up the Naerofjord the narrowest fjord in Europe

Me at the front of the shipsailing up the Naerofjord the narrowest fjord in Europe











We stopped at Eidfjord, Flam and Bergen.

Sculpted face in Eidfjord

In Eidfjord we took a delighful two hour walk in brilliant sunshine up the hill, through the woods- a Norwegian wood – down to the lake and back along the river. Dave took a side trip up to the waterfall.

Campsite Eidfjord

Campsite Eidfjord

Bus stop

Bus stop










Red wood sculpture

We passed a 12th century church with a graveyard.gable of old church in Eidfjord  Norwegian wood


There was a gravestone with a Humanist symbol which I was delighted to see amongst all those with the christian logo of the cross – an instrument of torture.


Humanist gravestone in Eidfjord churchyard

Humanist gravestone in Eidfjord churchyard

Church gable

I liked this red painted wood art piece.

Red wood sculpture








At Flam we took the train to Myrdal. The Flam railway has ten stations, twenty tunnels and one bridge. The maximum gradient is 5.5 percent (1:18), making it the steepest standard gauge railway in Europe. Because of its steep gradient and picturesque nature, the Flåm Line is now almost exclusively a tourist service and has become the third-most visited tourist attraction in Norway.

  snow scene









House with a bike ner Myrdal station

Flam carriageFlam railway carriage interior







Our last stop was Bergen. We did the ‘must-do’ funicular trip from the Floibanen station.

Floibanen funucular station

Floibanen funicular station

View from above

View from above




Bergen manhole cover

Bergen manhole cover















and strolled around Bryggen.

Bryggen Bergen           Houses Bergen







clapperboard houses

Hotel window

Hotel window











We ambled 0nto the octagon-shaped lake Lille Lungegardsvann. There is a statue of an unhappy boy and a voluptuous woman.unhappy boyVoluptuous women

Lille lake bergen







Art Deco theatre

Art Deco theatre

The theatre Den Nationale Scene has a little garden in front and this stern statue of Ibsen.



Theatre faces











We encountered this statue of a soldier boy.

Boy soldier

Boy soldier


We went to see the Grieghallen. I noticed one event taken place there was a Humanist Confirmation Ceremony.

Humanist Conformation in Grieghallen

Humanist Conformation in Grieghallen


I took the photo of the little Grieg statue.GriegAs I turned around this recognisable person came into view and so as I had my camera in my hand I took his photo.

Dara giving an interview

Dara giving an interview

We got talking and the chap interviewing him showed me his smooth shave which he got done when he was in Galway the previous day!

As we chatted the cameraman kept filming. I told them that when I did my show in Galway in Taylor’s bar that a Norwegian film crew came along and filmed my show as they were in Ireland researching the Sheela-na-Gig figures. This review is from The Connaught Tribune when I did my show in Galway a year before I took it to the Edinburgh Festival in 1996. I don’t know if they ever showed it in Norway.

A Norwegian film crew, rain drumming off the marquee and rivulets running underfoot set the bizarre scene for Jeanne Egan’s opening performance of “Sheela-na-Gig’ at Taylors Bar.

Perhaps none other than a Scandanavian TV crew could dwell upon the incongruities of two millenia of western development as brought out here . They just happended to be exploring the Sheela-na-Gig phenomenon after discovering some figures in their home country.

P.S. Wearing ties not recommended.

Sadly Taylor’s bar is no more as that part of Galway has become sleaze street with dives like this and a casino.

Le Paradis Club formerlyTaylor's Bar Galway

Le Paradis Club formerlyTaylor’s Bar Galway

I had a bit of craic with Dara and told him about being compared to Dave Allen and then conducting his funeral in 2007. Of course, I knew that Dara was a humanist supporter and is a friend of our President Jim Al Khalili with whom he has done some television work. It was a serendipitous  encounter with Dara who was on tour in Scandinavia.

IMELDA- Ireland making England the Legal Destination for Abortion and President Higgins visit.

Posted in Ireland and abortion and President Higgins visit. by sheelanagigcomedienne on April 10, 2014


The indomitable Ann Rossiter, who has been supporting Irish women forced to come to England for an abortion, is still campaigning against the shameful treatment of Irish women. She wrote  Ireland’s Hidden Diaspora: The Abortion Trail 

Ann Rossiter Abortion Story – YouTube

Ann and her book


She is now a member of IMELDA.Speaking of Imelda

Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A. is a direct action feminist performance group that seeks to challenge the ongoing problem of Ireland Making England the Legal Destination for Abortion. We operate against the shaming and silencing of women who have had abortions in the Irish region and more widely.

IMELDA was the secret code name for abortion used by the Irish Women’s Abortion Support Group, a group of activists based in London who provided support to women travelling from Ireland to England for abortions between 1980 and 2000. This code name enabled Irish women travelling to England for abortions to keep their plans secret so as to avoid stigma, and up until 1992 when the right to travel for abortion was implemented, criminalization. Up to six thousand women travel from the Irish region continually travel to the UK each year to access abortion services. Apart from the considerable expense and stress of having to travel abroad for a medical procedure, these women are denied follow-up after-care. Furthermore, in 2013 the Irish Republic implemented a 14-year prison sentence for women who have abortions in Ireland illegally. This has dire consequences for women who take pro-abortive medication because they cannot afford to travel or are not permitted to leave the country. We want women in the Irish region, and more widely, to have control over their own bodies and medical services to support their choices. In reclaiming the name IMELDA we wish to act in solidarity with women’s groups who have sought to counteract the inhumanity of state legislation in both Northern and Southern Ireland, while operating against the silencing and shaming of women who have abortions.
Imelda at Irish centre

Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A is based in London. We do not represent anyone but ourselves. We exist in solidarity with pro-choice groups in Ireland and throughout the world who fight draconian patriarchal regimes. We maintain that reproductive choice is a human right and that all women should have access to safe and legal abortion services in both the North and South of Ireland. We campaign for changes in Irish law so that women, north and south, may have the choice to have legal safe abortions and follow up care.

Contact us:


They performed outside the Irish Embassy when Michael D Higgins – our President-  visited in April. ( I knew him as a student when we both served on the Literary and Debating Society committee and hasn’t he done well.) Michael D acknowledged them, smiled and waved. Sabina was modelling as many colourful outfits created by Irish designers as was possible. She is tall and elegant compared to Michael D but he is the great orator and statesman.   queen and michael dMichael D and Charles

Michael d and Sabina  Bridge

Michael D and Sabina

They have already been mentioned in the Irish Times rt at:  and you can see IMELDA on You Tube     On Tuesday morning at the beginning of the President of the Irish Republic’s state visit celebrating improved relations between Ireland and Britain, the pro-choice performance group, Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A., made a striking presence outside the Irish embassy in London. Dressed in red, singing ‘Sail Away’ and waving a shimmering red cloth representing the Irish Sea, Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A. highlighted a much less-publicized facet of Irish-British relations: the 12 women a day who are forced to travel to England for an abortion because this choice is denied to them in Ireland.

In 2013, the Republic of Ireland introduced a 14-year prison sentence for women who have abortions in Ireland illegally. The new 14-year prison sentence has especially dire consequences for women who take pro-abortive medication because they cannot afford to travel or are not permitted to leave Ireland to travel. In this morning’s performance, some women were banished under the ‘sea’, symbolizing the powerful hypocrisy of Ireland’s anti-choice laws and their cruel disregard and neglect of women’s reproductive health, including the daily banishment of 12 women across the Irish Sea.

Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A. members respect President Higgins’ achievements to date. However, its members intervened at the Irish Embassy this morning since any discussion and celebration of Irish-British relations should have to engage with the ongoing cruel hypocrisy of I.M.E.L.DA. – Ireland Making England the Legal Destination for Abortion. Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A. members were pleased that President Higgins acknowledged their presence by smiling and waving when departing the Irish Embassy for Windsor.

More photos here

Ann and Marian Larragy  produce the London Irish Feminist Network Newsletter after the demise of the London Irish Women’s Centre. Marian is also part of IMELDA. They jointly wrote Beyond the Pale: Ireland and the British Women’s Movement

Ann MarianThe photo with Marian in the centre was taken at a talk at the Feminst Library. Womens Studies Without Walls and London Irish Womens Network event                 ‘Making and Breaking: Images of Irish Women’

I attended another talk there with Mary Lodato who is a very determined as she strives to towards a PhD although she was illiterate until her mid thirties. She is feisty and funny. Mary Lodato

London Irish Women’s Network hosts an afternoon focussed on the Magdalene Laundries

The keynote speaker is Mary Lodato, who is writing a PhD on her personal journey of survival, redress and recovery, charting the childhood experience of institutional abuse in an Industrial School which had a Magdalene Laundry attached to it. Some of Mary’s artwork will be on display and Survivor poet, Emer O’Keefe, will read poetry.

Some of us have been here for decades but still striving to have our place in both Irish and British history recognised.

Keats House visit and Eliza Chester.

Posted in Keats House and Eliza Chester by sheelanagigcomedienne on April 3, 2014

I went to Keats House in Hampstead after a family visit for a funeral for Midge who lived in Elephant and Castle. After buying some knickers from the market and yet another beret- grey- I decided to go on the northern line to Hampstead to visit Keats House. It was such a lovely sunny day and I used my rt Fund card for free entry. I was a delighful walk in spring leafy Hamspead Streets to get to the house he lived in before he left for Italy when he got ill an in which he met Fanny Brawne. The house is next to the Branch Library which is now run by volunteers – council cuts. We were guided by a chirpy chap. The museum is run by the City of London as is the nearby Hampstead Heath and not the Borough of Camden. It is a delightful, charming museum. I bought a small book of his poems from the wee gift shop, as you do.


Keats House – the City of London Corporation


Keats Housekeats

The Romantic poet John Keats lived in this house and was inspired to write his most memorable poetry here. 

The grade 1 listed building is open to the public as a museum and literary centre, where Keats’s memory lives on through events, creative activities and special displays.

Visitors can explore Keats’s study, the bedroom where his consumption was first diagnosed, and the garden which he shared with the love of his life, Fanny Brawne, and in which he composed his famous ‘Ode to a Nightingale’.

​John Keats was born in 1795 and began to write poetry from the age of 18. Encouraged by his school friend, Charles Cowden Clarke, Keats abandoned his profession as an apothecary surgeon to concentrate on poetry full time. Heavily influenced by Shakespeare and Milton, Keats became one of the principal poets of the English Romantic movement along with Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley. During his lifetime, Keats was attacked by the critics and branded as a ‘cockney poet’, but his posthumous influence has been significant.

Keats wrote some of his best poems at Wentworth Place and it was here that he met and fell in love with ‘the girl next door’, Fanny Brawne. The engagement ring , which had belonged to his mother, is on dispaly which he gave to Fanny. Fannys ring

The house was built during 1814–1815 and was probably completed between November 1815 and February 1816. The house was one of the first to be built in the area known as the Lower Heath Quarter.

This Keats own parlour where he did his writing.

“If Poetry comes not as naturally as Leaves to a tree it had better not come at all.”

– John Keats

keats parlour

By October 1816, Charles Wentworth Dilke and his friend Charles Brown had moved in. Other members of the Dilke family occupied two other adjacent houses. John Keats began visiting the house in 1817 after he had been introduced to Dilke by John Hamilton Reynolds, who was part of Leigh Hunt‘s circle of friends. In December 1818, after Keats’s brother Tom died of tuberculosis, Brown invited Keats to “keep house” with him. Keats paid £5 per month, equivalent to about £250 in 2008 prices, and half the liquor bill.

Keats interior

Dilke and his family left on 3 April 1819 and let the house, probably furnished, to Mrs Brawne, a widow, and her family, who had briefly occupied Brown’s half of the house when Keats and Brown were on their walking tour of Scotland.

He was the oldest of Thomas and Frances Keats’ four children.

Keats lost his parents at an early age. He was eight years old when his father, a livery stable-keeper, was killed after being trampled by a horse.

His father’s death had a profound effect on the young boy’s life. In a more abstract sense, it shaped Keats’ understanding for the human condition, both its suffering and its loss. This tragedy and others helped ground Keats’ later poetry—one that found its beauty and grandeur from the human experience.


Brown transferred his part of Wentworth Place to Dilke’s father on 18 June 1822 and left for Italy in the same year.

After Keats’s death, his sister Fanny became friends with Fanny Brawne. Fanny Keats and her husband Valentin Llanos occupied what had been Brown’s half of the house from 1828 until 1831. Mrs Brawne died in December 1829 after an accident. By March 1830, the Brawnes had left the house.

Keats other room

Brown’s parlour containg the grandfather clock which was returned here by his descendants from New Zealand and seemed to have acquired a new body but is still working.

He was the oldest of Thomas and Frances Keats’ four children.

Keats lost his parents at an early age. He was eight years old when his father, a livery stable-keeper, was killed after being trampled by a horse.

His father’s death had a profound effect on the young boy’s life. In a more abstract sense, it shaped Keats’ understanding for the human condition, both its suffering and its loss. This tragedy and others helped ground Keats’ later poetry—one that found its beauty and grandeur from the human experience.

A Thing of Beauty (Endymion)

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its lovliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
A flowery band to bind us to the earth,
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
Of all the unhealthy and o’er-darkn’d ways
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
From our dark spirits. Such the sun, the moon,
Trees old and young, sprouting a shady boon
For simple sheep; and such are daffodils
With the green world they live in; and clear rills
That for themselves a cooling covert make
‘Gainst the hot season; the mid-forest brake,
Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms:
And such too is the grandeur of the dooms
We have imagined for the mighty dead;
An endless fountain of immortal drink,
Pouring unto us from the heaven’s brink.

John Keats Biography – Facts, Birthday, Life Story –      Keats devoted his short life to the perfection of poetry marked by vivid imagery, great sensuous appeal and an attempt to express a philosophy through classical legend. In 1818 he went on a walking tour in the Lake District. His exposure and overexertion on that trip brought on the first symptoms of the tuberculosis, which ended his life.

He was the oldest of Thomas and Frances Keats’ four children. He lost his parents at an early age. He was eight years old when his father, a livery stable-keeper, was killed after being trampled by a horse.

His father’s death had a profound effect on the young boy’s life. In a more abstract sense, it shaped Keats’ understanding for the human condition, both its suffering and its loss. This tragedy and others helped ground Keats’ later poetry—one that found its beauty and grandeur from the human experience.

Ode to a Nightingale

Ode on a Grecian Urn

  • Ode to Fancy
  • Ode – (Bards of Passion and of Mirth)
  • Lines on the Mermaid Tavern
  • Robin Hood – To a Friend
  • Ode to Apollo

keats poems

  • I stood tiptoe upon a little hill
  • Specimen of an induction to a poem
  • Calidore – a fragment
  • To Some Ladies
  • On Receiving a Curious Shell, and a Copy of Verses from the Same Ladies
  • To – Georgiana Augusta Wylie, afterwards Mrs. George Keats
  • To Hope
  • Imitation of Spenser
  • Three Sonnets on Woman
  • Sleep and Poetry
  • On Death
  • Women, Wine, and Snuff
  • Fill For Me a Brimming Bowl
  • Isabella or The Pot of Basil
  • To a Young Lady who Sent Me a Laurel Crown
  • On Receiving a Laurel Crown from Leigh Hunt
  • To the Ladies who Saw me Crown’d
  • Hymn to Apollo
  • The Eve of St. Agnes
  • To – [Had I a man's fair form, then might my sighs]
  • Written on the Day that Mr. Leigh Hunt left Prison
  • How many bards gild the lapses of time!
  • To a Friend Who Sent Me Some Roses
  • To G. A. W. [Georgiana Augusta Wylie]
  • O Solitude! if I must with thee dwell
  • To My Brothers
  • Keen, fitful gusts are whisp’ring here and there
  • To one who has been long in city pent
  • On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer
  • On Leaving Some Friends at an Early Hour
  • Addressed to Haydon
  • On the Grasshopper and Cricket
  • To Koscuisko
  • Happy is England! I could be content
  • Sonnet on Peace
  • Sonnet to Byron
  • Sonnet to Chatterton
  • Sonnet to Spenser

    Give my Love to Fanny and tell her, if I were well there is enough in this Port of Naples to fill a quire of PaperI do not feel in the world…I dare not fix my Mind upon Fanny, I have not dared think of her. The only comfort I have had that way has been in thinking for hours together of having the knife she gave me put in the silver-case-the hair in a locket – and the Pocket Book in a gold net – Show her this. I dare say no more – Yet if you must not believe I am so ill as this Letter may look, for if ever there was a person born without the faculty of hoping I am he.

    Keats wrote this in his letter to Mrs brawne, Fanny’s mother,  from Italy.

Keats extensionThis lovely room was added by in 1838 when it was bought by the actress Eliza Jane Chester.

eliza jane chesterEliza removed the staircase in the Keats/Brown side of the house and knocked through the walls to create a single house. She also added the drawing room at the eastern end of the house (the Chester Room). Miss Chester was famous during the 1820s and early 1830s for playing the lead roles in comedies and especially for her appearances as Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing and Lady Teazle in The School for Scandal. She was known for her beauty and elegance rather than her acting ability or her voice. She had a wealthy and influential patron, and later became a favourite of King George IV.eliza chester bookHer portrait by John Jackson 1920 was used on this book by Margaret Telfer. Forget Me Not tells the tales of five women from the Chester, Robins and Devenish families set in both England and Western Australia.

More tales of hypocrites for CofE schools

Posted in Sharp-elbowed CofE mother by sheelanagigcomedienne on March 17, 2014

Here is another item which was mentioned on our local Print website about a mother/journalist  explaining in The Telegraph Polishing wine chalices and learning the Gospels: how I got my children into the perfect school’  what she did and is prepared to do as a sharp elbowed ‘Christian’ to get her children into a selective and exclusive CofE school for her offspring. She is responding to David Laws – the Schools Minister who defended the ‘sharp-elbowed’  parents who will do anything to get their children into the ‘good’ – selective, snob -  schools which try to ape public schools except for the pupil /teacher ratio, the expensive sports and other facilities, the advantages of the ‘old school tie’ network etc etc.

I wondered if it was a spoof, at first. Apparently she is a journalist who specialises in undercover operations exposing criminals and wrongdoers for the TV series and is writing about her exploits.  James Blonde! Meet the English Girl Who Went Undercover to

It would seem that The Telegraph readers approve of such determined behaviour and would laud it as good parenting. When I checked out this woman I found that I had previously read an item by her in The Guardian about her Peter Pan husband who had finally grown up after eight years of marriage - It was only when she threw him out that he realised he had to give up his laddish, late-night drinking ways and take responsibility.

Isn’t interesting how chameleon journalists can write for these different newspapers and adapt their material and style. This is from   The Guardian     My Peter Pan husband is growing up at last | Life and style | The

Then I found another article this time from The Daily Mail about about how she escaped a gang attack.  Lisa Brinkworth and her children were caught in a gang Dail

I’d drawn attention to my fleeing family, and a splinter group gave chase after us, calling out ‘get the whities’…….We’ve now decided to move out to the countryside, albeit close enough to the city so that the boys can still go to the same excellent schools.

So, there are discrepancies about why she and her family moved homes but she can obviously adapt her personal and family life to fit any story  she writes.

Lisa Brinkworth’s elbows are blade-sharp when it comes to getting her children into the best schools. She explains what lengths she went to, even offering to iron her priest’s cassocks

Lisa Brinkworth and her brood.

It wasn’t sheer luck that enabled our two eldest sons to land places in an outstanding, oversubscribed Church of England school in West London. We moved heaven and earth to get them there. We gave up our spacious house in a leafy suburb for a cramped two-bedroom, basement flat in the school’s London catchment area. I gave birth to our second child two days after moving in. Since we would need to attend our local church for two years before applying for a coveted nursery place for our first son, there was no time to lose.

As well as our unblemished church attendance record, I was required to take up ‘voluntary service’ in the church if we were to secure the children’s places. Consequently I helped run the Sunday school – collecting cotton wool balls and fabric trims for shepherd collages and reading up on the Gospels. Every Tuesday morning, I would wheel my newborn and toddler through the church doors, and attempt to pacify one and occupy the other as I polished silver candlesticks and wine chalices. The boys of course were too young to understand this was all for their own good.

I was over the moon when I opened the letter informing me that our eldest son had been granted a school place. And I jumped for joy again, a year later, when our second son got in.

But I couldn’t afford a lapse even when both boys were firmly ensconced in their classrooms. There were far too many Rottweiler-like mothers outside the school gates waiting for a parent to neglect their church duties and subsequently free up a school place. And so I doubled my efforts in the church with four jobs to cope with. So determined was I to keep our places, I even offered to iron the priest’s cassocks!

When baby number three arrived, I’m quite sure our family accomodation would have officially been classed as ‘overcrowded’. But we were staying put. We needed a school place for our third too and so he slept in his cot next to us for almost three years. One local mother claiming benefits, couldn’t understand how we could voluntarily subject ourselves to such discomfort when she had just been upgraded to a three bedroom house with a spanking new kitchen, due to the imminent arrival of her third child.

My efforts paid off just as I’d anticipated. As well as academic excellence, the school provided a nurturing and disciplined environment, which helped shape my sons into studious and caring individuals.

Then a casual chat with a school’s governor duly exploded my bubble.

She told me that while my children were in the borough’s best primary school, there was a poor choice of state secondary schools for boys and if we were serious about our sons’ education we would need to think about moving them again.

Our eldest son was still only six and although getting them both into the primary were the biggest triumphs of my life, I couldn’t bear the idea of my boys languishing in a local sink secondary from the ages of 11 to 18. The governor warned that any parent worth her salt wouldn’t allow her child to step through the doors of one failing academy.

And so began our two year nationwide search for a location outside London with excellent secondary schools.

I found the perfect school in a remote Gloucestershire village and persuaded my husband to do the two and a half hour commute to and from work every day. It didn’t worry me one jot that the house we were about to buy had a flood history. “We’ll put up flood gates and raise electric sockets from floor level,’” I said hopefully. The building insurers were more pessimistic and turned us down flat.

We relocated instead to a county which boasts five top grammar schools. The village itself is busier than we would have liked and the house not our first choice of residence, but it’s the boys’ schooling that counts.

And so I gave up our hard-earned church school places, polished the last goblet and hung up the Priest’s cassocks for the last time. Parents who’d fought as hard as we had were astounded that I would do something so drastic. Of course the boys’ places were filled within minutes of me withdrawing them.

We moved all three of our children into the local pre-prep, where they are exceptionally happy and thriving. With 11-plus exams looming, and competition for the grammar schools fierce, I’ll soon be sharpening my elbows again.

Lisa Brinkworth has been a journalist for 25 years, specialising in undercover investigations until she became a mother. She specialised in exposing criminals and wrongdoers for the BBC’s Macintyre Undercover series, and is now writing a novel about her undercover exploits.

There is a further article exploiting her children’s education by this intrepid pushy middle England mother from The Times.   ‘I feel guilty that I am driving a social divide between my sons’ |

Three Faiths Forum – 3FF and Humanists

Posted in 3FF reject me as a Humanist speaker by sheelanagigcomedienne on March 4, 2014

I was turned down as a volunteer to be a speaker with 3FF ENCOUNTERING FAITH AND BELIEFS after I attended their training day.

The difficulty with the 3 Faiths Forum is quite evident in their title alone. They evidently realise that they have to somehow incorporate Humanism into their programme as it is now part of the curriculum for RE. The review of the Religious Education Council for England and Wales (REC) has published a new subject framework for Religious Education (RE), which, for the first time, puts non-religious worldviews such as Humanism on an equal footing in terms of curriculum time with religious beliefs. This is why 3FF are attempting to squeeze Humanists onto their format. Therein lies the problem with their ECB set-up which claims its  ‘ young speakers’ explain their beliefs and how they came to hold them.

They state that: 3FF’s flagship workshop gives students the chance to meet our young speakers from Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Humanist, Muslim, Jewish or Sikh backgrounds, who are role models in interfaith dialogue and co-operation. Evidently, I didn’t fit the bill in terms of age and am not considered to be a role model in interfaith dialogue and cooperation!!

I first encountered the 3FF at our British Humanist Association meeting of SACRE (Standing Advisory Committee on Religious Education) members annual meeting the invited speaker was the director Stephen Shashoua of 3FF -  Three Faiths Forum and later that month I attended an event at Alleyn’s school in Novemeber 2013 based on the format of the 3FF.

Alleyn’s is an independent co-ed christian school in Dulwich.  Their website states:  The six aspects of Alleyn’s Vision are underpinned by the values of Alleyn’s Christian Foundation, whose motto is ‘God’s Gift’, and further enriched by those of other faiths which are all respected and valued at Alleyn’s.Alleyn'sIt was an evening event and the audience was a mix of adults and pupils with their parents. It was instigated by one of my fellow Humanist celebrants who was keen to set it up with Alom Shaha as the Humanist speaker. Alom is an ex-pupil of the school and author of The Young Atheist’s Handbook. It followed the usual format of the 3FF of a facilitator and speakers telling their personal story of how they came to their beliefs. The usual format is, of course, three speakers but this had four!

Here is the for that event

Encountering Faiths and Beliefs

Whatever our own backgrounds, the opportunity to hear from people with different faiths or beliefs from our own is rare. Based on a programme developed by 3FF (Three Faiths Forum), on 28th November you can come and hear four speakers – Christian, Jew, Humanist and Muslim – explain their beliefs and how they came to hold them. And afterwards, there will be a question and answer session.

The panellists are :

• Abigail Kay: graduate charity management trainee
• Alom Shaha: author of The Young Atheist’s Handbook and a trustee of the British Humanist Association
• Rev. Paul Collier: Copleston Centre Church, Peckham
• Themina Kazi: Director, British Muslims for Secular Democracy


It was quite interesting and I thought I would inquire further about volunteering as I reckoned that it sounded like a good way to volunteer to speak in schools about Humanism. As so many young people are NOT religious believers I think it is very important that this is acknowledged and that they get an opportunity to have their natural beliefs validated. Most importantly, I think that any forum should be INCLUSIVE. However, it is apparent that the very title 3FF is PROBLEMATIC and  I had reservations about it.

I checked out their website.     Three Faiths Forum | 3FF

It was the Encountering Faiths and Beliefs that interested me as this seemed to be the only section that even mentioned Humanist! So I applied and was invited to the training day which happened to coincide with the Wednesday of the Tube strike but I did manage to get to it via the overgorund to Kentish Town West from Clapham Junction without getting strike crowd Clpham Junction

Encountering Faiths and Beliefs

3FF’s flagship workshop gives students the chance to meet our young speakers from Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Humanist, Muslim, Jewish or Sikh backgrounds, who are role models in interfaith dialogue and co-operation. Speakers share short personal narratives side by side, and students have the chance to have their burning questions answered.

Through this workshop students will:

  • Deepen their learning about different faiths and beliefs by engaging directly with people from various belief traditions and communities.
  • Identify key similarities and differences, within faith/belief traditions as well as between them
  • Have the opportunity to ask (often controversial!) questions in a safe space
  • Practice skills for  creating positive relations between people of different beliefs

Inspire young people. Share your story in our interfaith workshops.3ff photo

Are you based near London? Do you want to promote understanding of your faith or belief?

We are looking for confident and enthusiastic volunteers from a variety of religious and non-religious backgrounds to speak with us in schools across London and occasionally further afield. Help us tackle misconceptions and inspire young people by sharing your experiences and beliefs. 

You don’t need to be an expert – you just need some knowledge about your tradition in order to answer the students’ questions, a passion for discussing issues of faith and identity, and a willingness to engage constructively with others.

We’ll provide you with training to help you share your story in an exciting way, and tips to improve your knowledge. You’ll become part of the 3FF speaker network, with regular meetings, opportunities for personal development and interfaith events. All your expenses will be covered (including the necessary DBS check) and you can pick the sessions which match your availability.



Here is the response that I got from  3FF.

Dear Jeanne,

 Thank you so much for applying to become a Speaker with 3FF, and attending Speaker Training on Wednesday.

We much enjoyed meeting you, and would like to thank you for sharing your many interesting ideas and contributions throughout the day.  However, we do not feel that becoming a speaker with 3FF is the right volunteering opportunity for you at the moment.  We have to be very careful at 3FF that we retain a positive interfaith message during our workshops.  Whilst we aim to be as inclusive as possible of all faith and non-faith perspectives, we also have to ensure that we do not send speakers into schools who give negative or critical views of religion.  Although we have no wish to ‘police’ our speakers’ use of language and we encourage them to express their experiences honestly, we are also conscious that some of the vocabulary which appeared in your story on Wednesday could cause offence in some contexts; and we have to tread very carefully to ensure that we are respectful of other people’s beliefs and ideologies.

We are grateful for your interest in 3FF and hope that you will continue to be involved with our work through other capacities.  Please sign up to our mailing list to be kept informed of different opportunities and our ongoing work.  Do also feel free to contact us if you would like to discuss the points in this email further.

With thanks again for your interest, and all good wishes,


At the training session I said what my early experience of being brought up by nuns in the very Catholic Ireland of the 1950s which included the the early preparation , aged seven, for making confession to and having to go to tell our to a priest in a dark confessional box like a wardrobe and how we had to learn by rote the dogma of the church using the questions and  answer format of the cathecism in preparation for receiving Holy Communion which is supposed to be the body and blood of Jesus Christ in the form of a little white wafer whilst dressed as minature brides in white, dress, veil and matching accessories. I said how it was strange and spooky but how a seven yearold couldn’t question it.  I said that I came to realise later the role of women in Catholicism  and religon was repressive and that the ethos and influence of the church in Ireland was one of the main reasons why I emigrated.

I responded and attached my revised bland personal story.

Thanks for email letting me know that you do not want me to become a 3FF volunteer based on my story presentation at Wednesdays training. As this was something I had written before coming on the training I went ahead and delivered it on the basis that it would have to be altered according to the feedback and training. I, like many BHA members, have rejected religious beliefs as we search for knowledge and answers.

I thought that part of this training was to share with others my particular story and journey to becoming an atheist/Humanist Celebrant from my early experiences of the religious schooling and repressive Catholic culture of Ireland in the 50s and 60s which was one of the main reasons that I emigrated. I would have thought that many personal stories representing non-religious beliefs would have come from people who had some awareness of religious cultures and been reared in nominally Christian countries like Britain who then reject them. As a non-believer I am acutely aware that school assemblies have to be of a ‘mainly Christian character’ and that is something that the BHA challenges.

Most members of the British Humanist Association would have been brought up in some sort of religious environment and are therefore predominantly C of E atheists. People from an Irish Catholic or Muslim background are very rare!  I also did notice that the three Humanist stories that we were presented with at the training were male and I recognised who they were!

I have attached my revised story based on this feedback and the requirements of 3FF. I found this to be a useful exercise for myself, given the brief. As a Humanist Celebrant and member of my local SACRE I do get invited to schools and groups as a speaker to represent the atheist/Humanist perspective. Uually this does not include my personal story but more a presentation of Humanism, using our questionnaire as starters to help people see where they lie on the religious/humanist spectrum.
I was a little suprised that I was rejected as someone unsuitable to reperesent a Humanist perspective with the 3FF without being able to my submit my revised personal story as to how I became a Humanist. I accept your decision and I found the training session useful and interesting and will use my revised personal story.

My personal story of how I became a Humanist.

My name is Jeanne Rathbone and I am a Humanist. I was born in Ireland and left as a teenager and came to London and I have lived here for 52 years since 1962. I have three children and a grandchild. I have had a varied career from being a laboratory technician, childminder, youth worker, Women’s Officer in local government, trainer, adult education tutor, counsellor, comedy performer and now Humanist ceremony celebrant.

Ireland was a very Catholic country in the 50s and most schools were run by nuns and priests.  At the age of seven I was beingprepared, like all the other children, for the religious rituals  of confession and first communion. I had to learn by rote the teachings and rules of the church from the catechism which was done in a questions and answers format. I felt uneasy about a lot of this but I felt that I couldn’t question it and went along with it and the compulsory attendance at church every Sunday after that.  By the time I was a teenager I knew that I didn’t believe in gods and I had resolved that as soon as I could that I would stop going to church.

I went to University in my home city of Galway. I was the first in my family of seven to go to University and, as my father was paying for it, he would only fund me if I studied science rather than arts subjects. I failed my examinations and felt I had to leave home and so I came to London and stayed for a short time with one of my sisters who was married with a family.  I ended up working in a laboratory because of my qualifications but didn’t like it.

Soon afterwards I met my husband and we actually got married in a church in Ireland, where my uncle was the priest, because there were no registry offices in Ireland then. However, to get married in the church we had to attend a pre-marital course run by a priest. It did feel hypocritical but my husband thought it was funny as I always seem to argue with the priest. After that I had nothing to do with the church.

After I had two of my three children I went to study philosophy at University. I enjoyed it. One of the subjects was epistemology and metaphysics which is examines truth, belief and the supernatural. By then it was obvious that I would be described as an  atheist.

At the same time I got interested in feminism and attended groups and classes which focused on why women were treated differently to men and what the origins of this might be.  Again I concluded that many of the misogynistic attitudes towards women came from religious thought and that men were predominantly the leaders and the writers of the holy books and women had  a secondary place.    

I became involved in the Labour party, in local politics, in feminist and Irish groups and campaigns.  I was a school governor for decades and believe that all children should be educated together.  I feel strongly that inequality in wealth, power and  opportunity is bad for us all and society. I believe in democracy, free-speech and challenging privilege and unfairness. 

About twenty years ago I went to a few funerals here and in Ireland which were all conducted by a religious minister although the people who died were not religious believers. I knew there had to be an alternative and when I looked into it I found that there were organisations representing the non-religious but it was the British Humanist Association that reflected most what I felt and believed.

I joined and when I got the welcome pack it mentioned that they did provide people who conducted the rite-of- passage ceremonies of funerals, weddings and namings sometimes called hatchings, matchings and dispatchings. They were called ‘officiants’ then but now we are called ceremony celebrants. All our ceremonies are personal and different. It is the most rewarding and interesting work that I have ever done. The funerals are the most important as we are helping people to say goodbye to someone they loved. I help people to say what needs to be said at this time and encourage them to share their thoughts and memories of their loved one. Namings and weddings also include family and friends speaking and wedding couples write their own vows to each other and there is a section called the ‘Story so far’ which is all about the couple, how theymet and the dynamics of their relationship.. There is usually humour as I believe that it is essential to life.   

My first feeling after joining the BHA was ‘at home, at last‘. I applied to train as a celebrant. It felt like all my knowledge, experience and skills came together and that I had finally found out what I wanted to be when I grew up.

I describe myself as Humanist. Although I don’t believe in gods or the supernatural I do not want to be described only as an atheist as it says nothing about what I do believe. Humanism is a philosophy of life and ethics that is based on human nature and the natural world. I believe that we have to take responsibility for each other, for solving the problems of humanity and for keeping a balance between our needs and nature. 

I have served on faith and belief groups as I believe that there should be a humanist perspective included but also because it is crucial that we come together as an inclusive group of religious and non-religious. I am a member of my local SACRE which decides on Religious Education syllabus and I am invited into schools as a humanist speaker.

I think that the 3FF format is one of the best ways of introducing children to different religions and beliefs with a facilitator and three different faith/beliefs represented with their personal stories followed by a Q&A session. I think young people relate to it very well and as they become more informed they can pass it on to their parents.

Jeanne Rathbone

11th February 2014


I was so delighted when I recently read the poem by Paula Meehan who is Ireland’s National poet. The poet Laureate and the other four national poets are ALL women. Hurrah.   (from left) Liz Lochhead, Carol Ann Duffy, Gillian Clarke and Paula Meehan Photograph: Southbank Centre where they are performing this Saturday for International Women’s day.
Composite image showing (from left) Liz Lochhead, Carol Ann Duffy, Gillian Clarke and Paula Meehan
Paula’s poem reflects what I said in my piece for the 3FF and in my Sheela-na-Gig show about CONFESSION, God and the priests made in his image.     DIRTY OUL FECKERS  she said.
Hannah, Grandmother

   Coldest day yet of November
   her voice close in my ear--

   tell them priests nothing.

   Was I twelve? Thirteen?

   Filthy minded.

   Keep your sins to yourself.

   Don't be giving them a thrill.

   Dirty oul feckers.

   As close as she came to the birds and the bees.
   on her knees in front of the Madonna,

   Our Lady of the Facts of Life
   beside the confessional--
   oak door closing like a coffin lid

   neatly carpentered
   waxed and buffed.

   In the well made box of this poem
   her voice dies.

   She closes her eyes

   and lowers her brow to her joined hands.
   Prays hard:

   woman to woman.
Here is Paula reciting it.         Cúirt 2013: Paula MeehanHannah, Grandmother – YouTube
Happy Women’s Day -  La na mna faoi shona duit.
Int nat womenA woman is like a tea bag – you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water. - Eleanor Roosevelt

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