Sheela-na-Gig aka Jeanne Rathbone

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

Mr Selfridge newspaper editor is based on Frank Harris

Posted in Mr Selfridge newspaper editor is based on Frank Harris by sheelanagigcomedienne on February 26, 2014

sam west   mr selfridge     We have been watching the TV series Mr Selfridge. Mr Selfridge.   Our Aonghus has been an extra in it. I checked the cast list and was intrigued by Sam West’s ( Sam is a Battersea lad) character, newspaper editor and publisher called Frank Edwards, who was based on an intriguing  man called Frank Harris who was born in Galway. He had a fascinating life and amazingly he seemed to have emigrated to America when he was thirteen. frank harris     Frank Harris (February 14, 1856 – August 27, 1931) was an editor, journalist and publisher who was friendly with many well-known figures of his day. Born in Ireland, he emigrated to America early in life, working in a variety of unskilled jobs before attending the University of Kansas to read law. He eventually became a citizen there. After graduation he quickly tired of his legal career and returned to Europe in 1882. He travelled on continental Europe before settling in London to pursue a career in journalism. Though he attracted much attention during his life for his irascible, aggressive personality, editorship of famous periodicals, and friendship with the talented and famous, he is remembered mainly for his multiple-volume memoir My Life and Loves, which was banned in countries around the world for its sexual explicitness. life and loves 2

My life and loves : Harris, Frank, 1855-1931 : Free Download

Frank HarrisFrank Harris was born James Thomas Harris in Galway February 14, 1856 of Welsh parents. His father, Thomas Vernon Harris, was a Naval Officer from Fishguard, Wales. While living with his older brother he was, for a year or more, a pupil at the Royal School Armagh. At the age of 12 he was sent to Wales to continue his education as a boarder at the Ruabon Grammar School, a time he was to remember later in My Life and Loves. Harris was unhappy at the school and ran away within a year. Harris ran away to the United States in late 1869, arriving in New York  virtually penniless. The 13-year old took a series of odd jobs to support himself, working first as a boot black, a porter,  a general laborer, and a construction worker who assisted with the erection of the Brooklyn Bridge ] Harris would later turn these early occupational experiences into art, incorporating tales from them into his book The Bomb. From New York Harris moved to the American midwest, settling in, Chicago. There Harris took a job as a hotel clerk and eventually a manager.  Owing to Chicago’s central place in the meat packing industry, Harris made the acquaintance of various cattlemen, who inspired him to leave the big city to take up work as a cowboy. Harris eventually grew tired of life in the cattle industry and enrolled at the University of Kansas. He studied law and earned a degree, gaining admission to the Kansas state bar association. In 1878 he married Florence Ruth Adams, who died the following year. Harris was not cut out to be a lawyetr and soon decided to turn his attention to literature. He returned to England in 1882, later traveling to various cities in Germany, Austria, France and Greece on his literary quest. He worked briefly as an American newspaper correspondent before settling down in England to seriously pursue the vocation of journalism. Harris first came to general notice as the editor of a series of London papers including the  Evening News, the Fortnightly Review and the Saturday Review, the last-named being the high point of his journalistic career, with H. G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw as regular contributors. From 1908 to 1914 Harris concentrated on working as a novelist, authoring a series of popular books such as The Bomb, The Man Shakespeare, and The Yellow Ticket and Other Stories With the advent of WW1 in the summer of 1914, Harris decided to return to the United States. From 1916 to 1922 he edited the U.S. edition of Pearson’s Magazine, a popular monthly which combined short story fiction with sociialist-tinted features on contemporary news topics. One issue of the publication was banned from the mails by Postmaster General during the period of American participation in the European war. Despite this Harris managed to navigate the delicate situation which faced the left wing press and to keep the Pearson’s functioning and solvent during the war years. widle Harris became an American citizen in April, 1921. In 1922 he travelled to Berlin to publish his best-known work, his autobiography My Life and Loves (published in four volumes, 1922–1927). It is notorious for its graphic descriptions of Harris’ purported sexual encounters and for its exaggeration of the scope of his adventures and his role in history. A fifth volume, supposedly taken from his notes but of doubtful provenance, was published in 1954, long after his death. Harris also wrote short stories and novels, two books on Shakespeare, a series of biographical sketches in five volumes under the title Contemporary Portraits and biographies of his friends. George Bernard Shaw.


In the intro to his own Life and Loves he said Shaw ‘assures me that no one is good enough or bad enough to tell the naked truth about himself; but I am beyond good  and evil in that respect.  As literary editor and author he was the perfect Boswell to Wilde’s Johnson in the London literary scene; he also was one of the few who remained loyal to Wilde after his conviction in 1895 and his release from jail two years later. Colorful, opinionated, sympathetic, and always frank, Harris’s provocative biography vividly re-creates the celebrated wit and conversationalist.

Forgotten Londoners: Frank Harris, editor, prisoner and

He joined the Social Democratic Federation with Tom Mann, John Burns, Eleanor Marx, George Lnasbury Edward Avelong Ben Tillet etc. In 1883 he was appointed editor of The London Evening News. By this time he had left the SDF but the newspaper did run several campaigns against poverty. Harris developed a reputation as being hostile to the aristocracy with his emphasis on society scandals. Michael Holroyd pointed out: “He (Harris) quadrupled its circulation by sending his journalists to the police courts, and startling his readers with alluring headlines, Extraordinary Charge Against a Clergyman and Gross Outrage on a Female. It was Harris who had reported in scabrous detail the divorce case of Lady Colin Campbell, receiving an indictment for obscene libel that assisted the paper’s Tory proprietor in dismissing him in 1886.” Soon afterwards he became the editor of The Fortnightly Review. Harris married Emily Clayton on 2nd November 1887. She was the widow of Thomas Greenwood Clayton, a successful businessman. He intended to use her fortune of £90,000 to launch his political career. He joined the Conservative Party and became the prospective candidate in South Hackney. However, he withdrew his candidature in 1891, after supporting Charles Stewart Parnell in the O’Shea divorce.

frankandnelliealfrescoFrank and ellen

Harris appointed  Shaw and Beerbohm as drama critics for Fortnightly Review. He also published long articles by Shaw (Socialism and Superior Brains) and Wilde (The Soul of Man Under Socialism) about socialism. Harris also continued to campaign against the aristocracy and financial corruption. This made him many enemies and in 1894 he was sacked by Frederick Chapman, the owner of the journal, for publishing an article by Charles Malato, an anarchist who praised political murder as “propaganda… by deed”.  Harris now purchased The Saturday Review. The author, HG Wells, got to know him during this period: “His dominating way in conversation startled, amused and then irritated people. That was what he lived for, talking, writing that was loud talk in ink, and editing. He was a brilliant editor, for a time, and then the impetus gave out, and he flagged rapidly. So soon as he ceased to work vehemently he became unable to work. He could not attend to things without excitement. As his confidence went, he became clumsily loud.” Once again he appointed Shawas his drama critic on a salary of £6 a week. Shaw later commented that was “not bad pay in those days” and added that Harris was “the very man for me, and I the very man for him”. Shaw’s hostile reviews led to some managements withdrawing their free seats. Some of the book reviewers were so severe that publishers withdrew their advertisements. Harris was forced to sell the journal for financial reasons in 1898. Michael Holroyd has argued: “There had been a number of libel cases and rumours of blackmail – later put down by Shaw to Harris’s innocence of English business methods.” Margot and Herbert Asquith also met him at this time. Margot recalled in her autobiography: “He sat like a prince – with his sphinx-like imperviousness to bores – courteous and concentrated on the languishing conversation. I made a few gallant efforts; and my husband, who is particularly good on these self-conscious occasions, did his best… but to no purpose.” According to his biographer, Richard Davenport-Hines  Harris had a complicated sex life: “In 1898 Harris was maintaining a ménage at St Cloud with an actress named May Congden, with whom he had a daughter, together with a house at Roehampton containing Nellie O’Hara, with whom he possibly also had a daughter (who died young). He seems to have had other daughters with different women. O’Hara was his helpmate and âme damnée for over thirty years. Apparently the natural daughter of Mary Mackay and a drunkard named Patrick O’Hara, she was a clumsy schemer, battening onto Harris in the hope of millions but encouraging him in self-destructive and rascally courses.” Nellie and Harris.  In August 1913, Harris began a magazine entitled, Modern Society. He employed Enid Bagnold as a staff writer. She later recalled: “He was an extraordinary man. He had an appetite for great things and could transmit the sense of them. He was more like a great actor than a man of heart. He could simulate anything. While he felt admiration he could act it, and while he acted it, he felt it. And greatness being his big part, he hunted the centuries for it, spotting it in literature, in passion, in action.” She added: “His theory was that women love ugly men. He made sin seem glorious. He was surrounded by rascals. It was better than meeting good men. The wicked have such glamour for the young.” Hugh Kingsmill wrote a bigraphy of Harris in the thirties.

‘An extremely fine piece of work … out of this candid recognition of weakness there comes a living portrait which has made at least one reader who found Frank Harris’s personality violently antipathetic understand why a great many people adored him and forgave him.’ Rebecca West, Daily Telegraph ‘Hugh Kingsmill’s biography of Frank Harris … is adroit, rather malicious and very entertaining. Little did poor Harris realise, when he was busy roaring his own praises at this young man, that he would be served up with such sauce.’ J. B. Priestley, Evening Standard – See more at:
An extremely fine piece of work … out of this candid recognition of weakness there comes a living portrait which has made at least one reader who found Frank Harris’s personality violently antipathetic understand why a great many people adored him and forgave him.’ Rebecca West, Daily Telegraph – See more at:
An extremely fine piece of work … out of this candid recognition of weakness there comes a living portrait which has made at least one reader who found Frank Harris’s personality violently antipathetic understand why a great many people adored him and forgave him.’ Rebecca West, Daily Telegraph – See more at:
An extremely fine piece of work … out of this candid recognition of weakness there comes a living portrait which has made at least one reader who found Frank Harris’s personality violently antipathetic understand why a great many people adored him and forgave him.’ Rebecca West, Daily Telegraph – See more at:
An extremely fine piece of work … out of this candid recognition of weakness there comes a living portrait which has made at least one reader who found Frank Harris’s personality violently antipathetic understand why a great many people adored him and forgave him.’ Rebecca West, Daily Telegraph – See more at:
An extremely fine piece of work … out of this candid recognition of weakness there comes a living portrait which has made at least one reader who found Frank Harris’s personality violently antipathetic understand why a great many people adored him and forgave him.’ Rebecca West, Daily Telegraph – See more at:
An extremely fine piece of work … out of this candid recognition of weakness there comes a living portrait which has made at least one reader who found Frank Harris’s personality violently antipathetic understand why a great many people adored him and forgave him.’ Rebecca West, Daily Telegraph – See more at:
Drawing by Max Beerbohm of Frank Harris and himself at dinner. Beerbohm wrote: The Best Talker in London, with one of his best listeners.
Drawing by Max Beerbohm of Frank Harris and himself at dinner. Beerbohm wrote: “The Best Talker in London, with one of his best listeners”.

Harris now moved to Nice. After the death of his second wife he married Nellie O’Hara. Harris’s response to becoming sexually impotent was to write an autobiography about his sex life. Harris told Shaw “I am going to see if a man can tell the truth naked and unashamed about himself and his amorous adventures in the world.” The first volume of My Life and Loves  was published in 1922. The first volume was burnt by customs officials and the second volume resulted in him being charged with corrupting public morals.

By 1913, Harris was editing a magazine called Modern Society and was charged with prejudicing a trial after publishing an ongoing divorce case.  ’It seems to me you have a certain disdain for this court,’ noted the judge during his trial. ‘Oh, if I could only express all the disdain I have,’ replied Harris.That did it. Harris refused to apologise publicly and was sent to Brixton Prison for contempt. The cartoonist Max Beerbohm visited Harris in Brixton and drew a cartoon, ‘To the best talker in London – from one of his best listeners’. Prints were made and posted all over London in a bid to raise public awareness with the message: ‘This is the man that was sent to prison.’Harris was released after three months, complaining afterwards that ‘what I suffered most from in prison was lack of books’. Shortly after his release he left London and never lived there again. He died in Nice in 1931.
He was a not a religious believer. In his biography he wrote. ‘The religion that has has directed or was supposed to direct our conduct for nineteen centuries has been finally discarded……The silly sex-morality of Paul has brought discredit to ….Paul was impotent ..wished that all men were. Paul and the Christian churches have dirtied desire, degraded women, debased procreation, vulgarised and villified the best instinct in us’
original atheists
He features in this book.
Cultural references
Cole Porter’s song “After All, I’m Only a Schoolgirl” references Harris and “My Life and Loves”, in a tale about a girl who is learning about adult relationships from a private tutor.
French writer and diplomat Paul Morand met an aged Frank Harris in Nice in 1920 and borrowed much of his personnality to create the character of O’Patah, a larger than life writer, publisher and Irish patriot, “the last of the irish bards” in his short story La nuit de Portofino kulm (part of the famed collection of short stories fermé la nuit published in 1923 by Gallimard.
Harris appeared as a character in the play OSCAR WILDE written by Leslie and Sewell Stokes, at the Fulton Theatre, New York, 1938, starring Robert Morley  in the title role.He is seen as a minor character in The Trials of Oscar Wilde (1960) played by Paul Rogers. Harris had specifically warned Wilde against prosecuting Queensberry for criminal libel, which led to his downfall.
The feature film Cowboy (1958) is an adaptation of the semi-autobiographical novel My Reminiscences as a Cowboy. Harris is played by Jack Lemmon.
Harris featured in an episode of The Edwardians (1972), he was played by John Bennett. Daisy, mistress of Edward VII and a convert to Socialism looks back at her life as she dictates her memoirs to Frank Harris.

On television, Harris was played by Leonard Rossiter in a 1978 BBC Play of the Week: Fearless Frank, or, Tidbits From The Life Of An AdventurerFearless FrankLeonard Rossiter (1978) – YouTube

He is a character in the 1997 Tom Stoppard play The Invention of Love, which deals with the life of AE Housman and the Oscar Wilde trials. He appears as a close friend of Wilde’s in the play by Moisés Kaufman: Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde. He appears in the first episode of the 2001 miniseries The Infinite Worlds of H. G. Wells, rejecting a story from Wells for being too long and too preposterous. Harris appears as a vampire in Kim Newman’s 1992 novel Anno Dracula, as the mentor and vampire sire of one of the novel’s main characters.

life and loves3

Cheers for non-shaving/waxing women

Posted in Women and body hair by sheelanagigcomedienne on February 19, 2014

I was recently sent a utube link about a young Irish women who made the most momentous decision not to shave her armpits. OMG.

Now if a geriatric women , like myself, made such a proclaimation it would be NO news at all. This is yet another sexist/misogynistic/ageist issue over women’s bodies and their appearance –  body hair, make-up, pre-pubertal and anti-ageing obsession, female genital mutilation,  foot fetishism – stilettos, chinese foot-binding, ballet en pointe, shoe collections, female fashion, body shape/anorexia/permanent dieting etc….

The Daily Mail online asked

Can it EVER be socially acceptable to have hairy armpits? Woman who gave up shaving debates prickly subject on This Morning

I have never shaved, waxed or used creams to get rid of any of my NATURAL  body hair from my legs, armpits or pubic hair. I HAVE plucked a few facial stray whiskers over the last few years. Body hair reduces with age except for those strange, straggly hairs giving us a laugh in old age as they appear on faces/eyebrows.
The first thing I learnt from Wikipedia was that body hair is called androgenic hair as opposed to vellus hair which is the lighter downy hair which covers most of the human body. So, such hair is natural and normal.

According to Wiki  Pubic hair removal occurs in certain cultures; for example, it has long been practiced widely, if not universally, in the Muslim world due to a religious injunction. In Western culture, beginning in the 1980s, there has been a trend among women to remove or trim pubic hair, either partially or completely; the trend later spread to men as well.

Most mammals have light skin that is covered by fur, and biologists believe that early human ancestors started out this way also. Dark skin probably evolved after humans lost their body fur, because the naked skin was vulnerable to the strong UV radiation as would be experienced in Africa. Therefore, evidence of when human skin darkened has been used to date the loss of human body hair, assuming that the dark skin was needed after the fur was gone.

So there is a significant evolutionary link to humans shedding fur/hair becoming bipedal and people in hot climates becoming dark skinned.

Here is the link, from the London Irish Women’s Network,  to the utube video clip of the young Irish women,  Dr. Emer O’Toole who now lives in Canada.

It’s the year of the bush – time to rediscover all female body hair

Emer otooleHere’s a piece from the Daily Mail online.

Like it or not, there are few sights more arresting than a woman with a hairy armpit. The unfettered growth of female underarm and leg hair is considered one of the ultimate social taboos, dismissed as the kind of eccentric behaviour that should only adopted by hippies…and a staggering 80 per cent of the viewers agreed with her, as a live vote carried out during the debate saw an overwhelming majority of those calling in say they were horrified by the idea of a woman with hairy legs and armpits…..

Ms O’Toole mentioned a recent scandal in Dublin where salon owners were accused of offering ‘virgin hair’ waxes to 11 and 12 year-olds, claiming that such early action would ensure full adult hair never developed…..
It is this kind of irresponsible behaviour that Ms O’Toole claims is adversely affecting young girls, adding to the already growing pressure they feel to remove all their hair from a young age…… but insists it is generally women, not men, who are most offended by her armpits and legs…..
Men are utterly unfazed by the hair, she says, citing the fact that they too have hairy armpits as the reason for their acceptance. 4th May 2012 Daily Mail

On the one hand, we applaud Emer for taking a stand against what she believes is the unfair expectation that women look a certain way, but on the other hand — and we’re being totally honest here — all that furriness is really freaking us out. And we suppose that’s the whole point. To recondition our understanding of beauty.

But we just don’t know if we could take that plunge ourselves. Sure, it’d be nice not to have to deal with the daily monotony of whipping out the razor, or the awkward experience of getting our below-the-belt follicles ripped out by a total stranger, but there’s just something about smooth, fuzz-free skin that makes us feel slightly more well-kept and — we’ll say it — hygienic. That can probably be attributed to some deep-seated gender conditioning regarding how a woman “should” look, but that doesn’t change the fact that we just feel better after we’ve jettisoned all that extra fuzz.

That said, we don’t think Emer deserves any of the vitriol that is being directed at her. Scrolling through the harsh comments, it’s really depressing to us that the majority of the detractors appear to be female. Can’t we all just get along? (The Daily Mail)

The negative responses and remarks, often from women, are depressingly full of self-loathing and plenty of misogynistic comments and blogs too.

Here are some women who don’t shave, wax etc but accept their bodies.

I Don’t Shave | Paloma Goñi – Huffington Post

woman who wont shave

It’s My Body, and I Won’t Shave Unless I Want To | Empowering Girls

On Shaving: It’s MY Body | BlogHer

The Straight Dope: Who decided women should shave their legs

If life was too short for superwoman Shirley Conran ‘ to stuff a mushroom’ surely Shirley would agree that it also too short to shave, wax etc to satisfy men or to demonstrate  their revulsion with their natural state.

Show Jesus and Mo cartoons supporting Maajid Nawaz

Posted in Jesus and Mo cartoons furore by sheelanagigcomedienne on February 2, 2014

We should all take ‘I’m Spartacus’ type action   I’m SpartacusSpartacus (8/9) Movie CLIP (1960) HD – YouTube by displaying some of the amusing Jesus and Mo cartoons. Jesus and Mo

The Guardian 28th January: The row blew up after Nawaz took part in a BBC debate where two students were wearing t-shirts depicting a stick figures of stick figure of Jesus saying “Hi” to a stick figure called Mo, who replied: “How you doin’?”

The politician, who is founder of the Quilliam Foundation, an anti-extremist think-tank, tweeted what he believes is a “bland” image and stated that “as a Muslim, I did not feel threatened by it. My God is greater than that”.

This sparked a petition to have him dismissed as a parliamentary candidate, including by Mohammed Shafiq, a Lib Dem activist, and a series of death threats.

Last week, Nick Clegg, the Lib Dem leader, intervened to say he strongly supported Nawaz’s right to express his views and condemned death threats as “totally unacceptable”.

Yesterday, Nawaz and Shafiq released a joint statement saying: “We now call on those on both sides of this argument to return to moderate debate, free of insult and threat and we do so because we believe this is in the interests of our party, of the wider Muslim community in Britain and of the principles of peace to which Islam is committed.”

Shafiq, who is chief executive of the Ramadhan Foundation, later said on Twitter that he continues to think Nawaz’s position as a parliamentary candidate is untenable and strongly objects to his tweeting of the

Jesus and Mo care      Jesus and Mo cat

I have enjoyed and been uplifted by these cartoons for some years as the National Secular Society Newsline depict them.

I am surprised that there doesn’t seem to be any bleatings complaints from the Jesus camp foll0wers as their main chappie is depicted in bed with another man AND referred to as a prophet and not GOD ALMIGHTY which they believe him to be.

Jesus and Mo christmas        Jesus and Mo black egg


The Lib/ Dems response has typically been a bit of  of a shambles as they still don’t understand either their liberal bit or their  democrat bit, especially Paddy Ashdown. They have also got their knickers in a twist over their Lord Rennard who is accused of sexual harassment but who has his own ‘little black book’ his party’s sex scandals to expose if he is expelled from the party.

Maajid Nawaz wrote a ccolumn in the Comment is free in The Guardian on Tuesday 28th January

Why I’m speaking up for Islam against the loudmouths who have hijacked it

Maajid writes; I am acutely aware of the populist sentiment in Britain that derides Muslims who seek special treatment for their sensibilities, so I tweeted the bland image and stated that, as a Muslim, I did not feel threatened by it. My God is greater than that.

By the time the week was up I had received death threats, the police were involved, and a petition set up by some conservative Muslims to have me dismissed as the Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn had gained 20,000 signatures. Then a counter-petition went up in my support, and many liberals jumped to my defence. In other words, all hell broke loose. So why did I do it?

Why I’m speaking up for Islam against the loudmouths who have

Meanwhile the artist behind the Jesus and Mo was interviwed by the peace man PAXMAN –  playing God, Judge and Jury –  on Newsnight. Note quizzical sneer.

Jesus and Mo (and Maajid Nawaz) – YouTube


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