Sheela-na-Gig aka Jeanne Rathbone

Jeremy Paxman is just another arrogant, over-paid, establishment, media Tory bully like Clarkson,

Posted in Clarkson is a Tory establishment media bigot, Paxman is a Tory media bully by sheelanagigcomedienne on April 2, 2015

London Mayor, and wannabe PM Boris, gushingly extols the Jeremys in his Evening Standard election interview on behalf of the Tory White Boys Network. He cringingly praised Paxman as ‘ a genius’ and saying he is ‘absolutely brilliant. So is Clarkson. Bring back the Jeremys’. It has become ‘de rigeur’ for Tory politticians to show their laddish machismo, as Cameron did,  by endorsing the petrolhead misogynist bigot Clarkson. These guys enjoy being called rotweillers and grumpy old men. Boris PaxmanThey see them as terms of endearment. I am nauseated by the adulation of these powerful, over paid middle class, establisment, media figures like this pair of Jeremys.



I had blogged about anti-Irish racism Anti-Irish racism. | Sheela-na-Gig aka Jeanne Rathbone  and being invited to speak on News Night about it when an Irish maths professor Des MacHale brought out another of his dreadful Irish joke books.  His Worst Kerryman Jokes book published by Mercier Press is available on Amazon for 69p. Des Mac joke book Des paddy books Des M dublin wit








This was sometime in the 90s when I was still doing my Sheela-na-Gig act. What I am about to reveal is that Paxman is really quite cowardly and was seemingly threatened by this Irish comedienne.

“Anyway, getting back to my anecdote this nutty Professor of Maths from Castlebar has a most nerdy obsession to collate puerile jokes, mainly ethnic and Irish compilations as a sideline probably to ingratiate himself with his students or just to gain attention. He was  invited to be a spokesperson in defense of racist/ethnic jokes/humour and given further opportunities for remuneration over and above his salary from the University Of Cork.  However, on this occasion he was not available for comment for the Newsnight programme so they invited a Welsh Professor to defend the position that Irish jokes are not racist and me, as a comedian Sheela-na-Gig, to put the opposite view.

As I was invited as a comedian I asked Paxman if I could do two very quick visual gags with an English and Irish reference. In my act I used a novelty penis and made a further gag about how it made me think of the Irish  deputy Prime Minister who was called DICK SPRING and for balance I showed the British audience a packet of cigarettes called MAJOR implying the Irish were ‘taking the mickey’ by naming a cigarette packet after John Major the Prime Minister at that time. Major cigaerettes Penis nose





When I spoke to Paxman for the briefing he reacted vehemently against this and he put his researchers on ‘handbag duty’ to make sure that I didn’t make a move to reach for my props. Perhaps he doesn’t like to be upstaged or his programme seem to irreverent  I was disappointed.

I compared the Irish and the Welsh stereotypes saying that the Irish being portrayed as stupid, drunken, violent and potential terrorists had more serious effects compared to the Welsh being depicted as ‘sheep shaggers’.  He got caught in a ‘have you stopped beating your wife’ scenario by having to reply that he didn’t mind at all if he was perceived as a ‘sheep shagger’ !!

I have this abiding memory of Paxman and team viewing me as a potential hijacker and being under surveillance to make sure I didn’t reach for  my handbag. Women’s handbags and their contents can be dangerous.

I do hate these powerful interviewers/talk show hosts who play god. Smarmy Gay Byrne with The Late, Late show was my Irish bete noir. Gaybo and fryHere he is interviewng Fry recently and he looked askance/gobsmacked by the response he got.

Mick Lally, actor, had a Humanist funeral.

Posted in Mick Lally- great Irish actor and Humanist by sheelanagigcomedienne on February 8, 2015

I was prompted to do this when I read about the death of that lovely Galway actor Mick Lally who died untimely and suddenly at 64. His family held a Humanist funeral for him. I remember seeing him acting with the Druid Theatre Company in The Coachman which was a tiny space at the back of a hotel in Domnick Street. I had assumed that the Druid founders had come directly from UCG Dram Soc but it transpired that he had acted in Taibhearc na Gaillimhe  and was approached by Gary Hynes and Marie Mullen to form Druid. Mick Graduate

He was a big man who played, inevitably, those roles reflecting his physique, personality and his blas as a native speaker from Tourmakeady which is a gaeltacht – an Irish speaking area. I encountered his sister Rita many years ago as an activist in the Irish community in London.

We saw him in Wood of the Whispering in 1983.

Mick in wood of the Whispering in 1983

Mick in wood of the Whispering in 1983

Garry Hynes writes: Mick Lally was a lion of a man. In the early 1970s, he strode through the streets of Galway with his tawny mane, beard, long coat and growing reputation as an actor and significant member of Galway’s arts/music/pubs/whatever you’re having yourself scene.

Mick Lally obituary | Stage | The Guardian

Lally attended St Mary’s College in Galway and University College Galway, where he read Irish and history. In extra-curricular time, he acted in the Irish-language college drama society, and won the British and Irish intervarsity boxing championship. He would later comment that acting, even in ensemble, was not unlike being alone in the ring.

From 1969 Lally taught at a vocational school in Tuam, County Galway, meanwhile acting at Galway’s Irish-language theatre, An Taibhdhearc, until in 1975, with Garry Hynes and Marie Mullen, he founded Druid Theatre Company, which transformed the way in which Irish and international, audiences received both classic and contemporary plays. Their first production was a challenging, chthonic reappraisal of JM Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World, in which he played Christy Mahon, revisiting the play in 1979 as Old Mahon and again in 2005 in the DruidSynge celebration of the playwright’s entire canon on stage and film. Druid went on to lead the way in Irish theatre, and forged an international reputation for presenting new and classic works.

Film also claimed Lally’s attention. In 1978 he played opposite Cyril Cusack, Niall Toibin and Donal McCann in Bob Quinn’s Irish-language Poitín; in 1990 with Julie Christie, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and Iain Glen in Pat O’Connor’s production of William Trevor’s Fools of Fortune; in 1994 with Albert Finney, Michael Gambon and Brenda Fricker in the Wilde-inspired A Man of No Importance; and in 2004 with Colin Farrell in Oliver Stone’s Alexander. These were cameo roles, complemented by similar TV appearances in James Plunkett’s Strumpet City and Thomas Flanagan’s The Year of the French. His TV portrayal of James Duffy, in Joyce’s story A Painful Case (1984), is regarded as a classic interpretation of a classic character.

I remember him in POITIN as Irish Women In Wandsworth screened this film in a few of the libraries in Wandsworth back in the eighties. Indeed, I had to collect the film from Bob Quinn from the Irish Club in Eaton Square.

Druid Unveils Memorial to Mick Lally on the First …

Mick Lally auditorium

I was heartened that his family held a Humanist funeral for him in the Crematorium in Dublin lead by fellow Humanist celebrant Brian Whiteside. By all accounts there were wonderful, honest, poignant and humorous tributes paid to him and his memory. There they could pay proper tribute to him, without the false promise and  religious stuff  which would have been so wrong for an atheist/humanist who thought religion was codology.

Whenever a Humanist funeral of a well loved and well known person happens in Ireland it will always publicise Humanism and the increasing numbers of good, honest, moral people who reject religion and the supernatural. It helps others to come out as humanist/atheists although it still seems like there is a long way to go as parents still insist on imposing the shameful infant exorcism  on their babies when they have them baptised and then won’t withdraw them from the awful Holy Communion/Confession medieval stuff now coated in kitsch mini-Bride/Groom outfits.

Mick was an atheist who did not believe in an afterlife, and in a radio interview, regarded religion as nonsense and “codology”.   

Up the Junction screening with Nell Dunn presented by the Battersea Society at the Dyson Building Royal College of Art Battersea Bridge Road 25th February 2015 at 7.30

Posted in UP THE JUNCTION film with Nell Dunn Q& Aat Dyson Building 25th Feb 2015 at 7.30 by sheelanagigcomedienne on February 2, 2015

The Battersea Society is presenting a screening of the film UP THE JUNCTION with Nell Dunn for a Q&A at the Dyson Theatre in The Dyson Building of the Royal college of Art  Hester Street/Battersea Bridge Road on Wednesday 25th February 2015 at 7 for 7.30. Admission £5. Great value. Please reserve place by ringing Maureen on 7228 4873 or email

Come along and see this iconic and evocative film of life in Battersea in the 60s in Battersea with a Battersea audience with Nell Dunn.


Royal College of Art | Postgraduate Art and Design University

Up the Junction book cover


The College has a new, purpose-built campus in Battersea, which houses the School of Fine Art – the Painting, Photography, Printmaking and Sculpture programmes – as well as InnovationRCA and the Moving Image Studio. Dyson BuildingDyson Lecture Theatre and River Foyer at Hester Road are accessible via lifts.

It should be an interesting evening with this screening in Battersea of this film made in 1968 usually described as ‘gritty’ with Nell Dunn of the adaption of her book who also wrote the screenplay. Today the film is often fondly remembered by fans of sixties cinema for its south London setting, colorful mod fashions, beehive hairdos, boastful bikers and jazzy psychedelic pop score by Manfred Mann. But UP THE JUNCTION has more to offer viewers besides an abundance of great style and an unforgettable soundtrack.

upjposterup the J manfred mann  UPJ Waterman







Nell Dunn left her middle-class home and moved to Battersea where she began to write about the area and the people she encountered there. Some critics understandably accused her of ‘slumming’ after Up the Junction was published but Dunn’s writing is sharp, perceptive and nonjudgmental. She had a wonderful ear for dialogue that painted an intimate portrait of the working-class women she befriended.

Nell Dunn by Lord Snowdon

Nell Dunn by Lord Snowdon

Nell Dunn


Nell Dunn recently wrote a play HOME DEATH  Award-winning writer Nell Dunn on her new play, Home Death  She wrote  Home Death because after the death of her partner Dan at home, she realised  that she knew so little about how to comfort and take care of the dying. She began to ask other people, and what she learned she put into the play. The main impetus was curiosity – a desperation to know. This has, of course, very much resonated with those of us involved in death and funerals.

Rough, Raw & Randy: UP THE JUNCTION (1968)

Kimberley Lindbergs wrote: UP THE JUNCTION presents a gritty snapshot of postwar Britain. The film adaptation centres around a pretty, well-heeled and naïve 21-year-old woman named Polly (Suzy Kendall) who decides to abandon her swinging lifestyle in Chelsea and move to Battersea. Polly sees poverty stricken Battersea as a kinder and simpler alternative to the posh and pompous world she grew up in but the war torn houses that litter the streets and the ragged faces that occupy them tell us another story.

Up-The-Junction- 3 girls in arms

Director Peter Collinson is probably best known for his classic crime caper THE ITALIAN JOB (1969), which starred Michael Caine.  Collinson, who came from a broken home and grew up in an orphanage, was no stranger to poverty and adversity so it’s not surprising that he was drawn to Nell Dunn’s vivid descriptions of life in South London. Dunn was one of the few women writers who came to prominence during the British New Wave, which is often associated with Angry Young Men such as John Osborne, Kingsley Amis, Alan Sillitoe and David Storey.

UPJ girls singing

Up The Junction – pub scene (1968) – YouTube

After getting a humble job at a candy factory, Polly befriends two fun-loving sisters (Adrienne Post and Maureen Lipman) and falls for a working-class lad named Peter (Dennis Waterman).Up The Junction Intro – YouTube

Polly’s innocence, determination and optimism are refreshing to Peter but her sheltered existence has also made Polly somewhat immune to the hardships faced by her less fortunate neighbors and their budding romance is complicated by Peter’s desire to have the kind of luxurious life that Polly happily left behind starring Dennis Waterman, Suzy Kendall, Adrienne Posta, Maureen Lipman and Liz Fraser.upjunction and power station

The motorbike clip coming on a fracas.Up The Junction Clip – YouTube

The bigoted landlords, abusive husbands, lack of gainful employment and back alley abortions might not make much of an impact on pretty Polly but the film doesn’t shy away from showing us the bleaker aspects of this poor London borough. The film ends on a downbeat note suggesting that any happiness is hard gained and fleeting no matter what side of the tracks you come from but Polly’s naiveté remains intact.

The Power Station clip . Up The Junction Scene 2 – YouTube

up-the-junction-ws-rmst_360 The film looks stunning on Blu-ray thanks to Olive Films’ pristine widescreen disc. Colors pop and the gritty streets of Battersea have never looked more alive.

upj women

This should be a great evening as the oldies reminisce about Battersea then and the younger folk look amazed at how things have changed – how radical, socialist Battersea became gentrified and and is now a Tory Borough vying with its neighbour Westminster Council as it oversees a huge transformation of north Battersea from Nine Elms at Vauxhall back to the Power station site in one of the biggest regeneration sites in Europe.

I worked as a laboratory technician in Gartons Glucose, next to Price’s Candle Factory, in 1966 and have seen those changes too as I arrived from Ireland initially in 1962. Price’s was built on the site of York House, a London home of the Bishop of York and where it has been claimed Henry V111 first met Anne Boleyn.

My friend Joan O’Pray was pregnant in 1967 when Up the Junction was being filmed as she walked through Clapham Junction Station Approach and was asked if she could be filmed walking along as they told her they were making a film about a pregnant woman! However, she didn’t make the final cut but she will be at the screening.

Hanna Sheehy Skeffington an Irish heroine and wonderful role model for Irish women.

The two women I have chosen as heroines who have inspired and fascinated me are called Anna and Hanna. Anna Parnell and Hanna Sheehy Skeffington both played their parts in Irish history, in the history of women speaking up within a colonised country in its struggle for independence but fighting for autonomy and equality for women within that – always a struggle between nationalism and women’s rights.

Anna Parenll bigraphy petticoatrebellion

Anna, born in 1852 had set up the Ladies Land League so when her brother Charles Parnell MP and other leaders were imprisoned in 1881, as predicted, the Ladies’ Land League took over their work. Offices were given to the women but little help. The women held public meetings and encouraged country women to be active in withholding rent, in boycotting and in resisting evictions. They raised funds for the League and for the support of prisoners and their families. They distributed Land League wooden huts to shelter evicted tenant families and by the beginning of 1882 they had 500 branches, thousands of women members and considerable publicity. Anna, whose nationalist fervor exceeded that of her brother, parted on bad terms with him over politics, and lived the rest of her life in the south of England under an assumed name. She never married.. She wrote an angry account of her Land League experiences in Tale of a Great Sham, which was not published until 1986.   She drowned at Ilfracombe, Devon in 1911. Anna’s is a sad story from an earlier time compared to Hanna’s.


Hanna’s life is more documented as she played a pivotal role in Irish history at the time of the struggle for independence and for women’s right to vote and for equality and the name Sheehy-Skeffington is embedded in Irish history as she and her husband Francis were a couple who both fought for women’s equality and he was killed by the British in 1916.


Hanna’s House – History

Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington was born Johanna Sheehy on May 27, 1877 in Kanturk, Co. Cork, the first of six surviving children born to David Sheehy and Elizabeth (nee McCoy). The Sheehy’s owned and operated a successful milling business.
Hanna’s father was a staunch Irish Republican who was active in both the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) and the Irish Land League, militant organizations opposed to oppressive British rule in Ireland. As a consequence of his activism and outspokenness he was imprisoned on a number of occasions for incitement and sedition. After the abortive IRB Rising in the late 1860′ he fled to the United States to avoid arrest and imprisonment. When things quietened down in the early 1870’s he returned to Ireland. After the “New Departure”(1) of 1879 he became an Irish Parliamentary Party Member of Parliament, first representing south Galway and after that Meath.
In 1887 when Hanna was ten years old the family moved to Dublin where she attended the Dominican Convent in Eccles Street. She was an excellent pupil who demonstrated an innate talent for languages.
When Hanna was 18 she developed symptoms associated with incipient tuberculosis. As German physicians were in the forefront of diagnosing and treating tuberculosis at that time, Hanna was sent to the Rhineland for what was generally a prolonged period of treatment in a sanatorium setting.
After she returned home in 1896 she enrolled at St Mary’s University College in St. Stephens Green to study modern languages, specifically, French and German. St. Mary’s College was established by the Dominicans in 1893 to promote higher education for middle-class Catholic women. As a private Catholic College, St. Mary’s was not granted a royal charter, therefore could not award recognized degrees. In order to graduate she took her final exams at the Royal University of Ireland from whence she received a BA degree in 1899. The Royal University charter enabled Irish students to sit the universities examinations and receive degrees.
After receiving her BA degree Hanna attended University College Dublin (UCD) in pursuit of an MA in modern languages. Part of her studies were conducted in Paris and Bonn. On her return to Dublin in 1902 she was awarded a first class honors MA degree in modern languages.
As a qualified teacher she was employed as on a part time basis at the Dominican Convent school in Eccles Street, the school where she received her secondary education. She soon discovered that as a female lay teacher her career options were limited as the Catholic Church controlled all aspects of Catholic education. All that was available to her and other qualified lay teachers were temporary assignments that ended when a qualified nun appeared to fill the position on a permanent basis. After completing her assignment at the Dominican Convent she continued her career as a teacher of French and German at the Rathmines College of Commerce.
This institutionalized discriminatory situation that she was confronted with while at the Dominican Convent caused her to question the political system that, not alone, tolerated but condoned such blatant gender inequalities. That experience was an awakening of sorts that led her, over the next 8 years, to abandon constitutional nationalism and its institutions in favor of a more radical approach to bring about a more equitable society.
Up until 1912 the focus of the Irish Party and most Irish politicians was in achieving Home Rule without regard to its inequities. The Home Rule charter acceptable to John Redmond and the Irish Party did not include gender equality — women were barred from voting in general elections. By 1912 the “New Departure” initiative of 1879 was coming apart. The IRB, after a period of dormancy, was again re-emerging as a ‘physical force” alternative to the ineffective and flawed constitutional approach.

Hanna and Frank sheehyskeffington

In 1903 Hanna married Frank Skeffington, a university register. As an expression of equality in all aspects of their relationship they symbolically joined their names to ‘Sheehy Skeffington’ .
Both Hanna and Frank joined Ireland’s only suffrage organization, the Irish Women’s Suffrage and Local Government Association. The aim of the organization was to campaign for women’s suffrage and to advance women’s position in local government.
In 1908 Hanna and Frank together with Margaret and James Cousins, set up the Irish Women’s Franchise League (IWFL) as an independent, militant suffrage organization modeled on the British-based Women’s Social and Political Union. It addition to its suffrage underpinning it embraced the labor movement, Irish nationalism and the revival of the Irish culture.
In 1912, the British House of Commons passed a Home Rule Bill for Ireland excluded equal rights for women. Women were denied the right to vote thus denying them the rights of Irish citizenship. On June 12 , 1912, in an act of defiance, members of the IWFL took to the streets smashing windows in Dublin Castle, the United Irish League and other citadel’s of male power. Hanna was adamant that Dublin Castle, the bastion of British power in Ireland , was to be her target. As a result of her actions she was imprisoned for two months in Mountjoy Jail and also lost her teaching job. At a suffrage meeting in Phoenix Park before her imprisonment she stated her actions were in line with the Irish struggle for national freedom. The defiant actions of the women of the IWFL on that day in June of 1912 was the beginning of the decline of John Redmond Irish Parliamentary Party who unequivocally opposed equal rights women.
Hanna was imprisoned for a second time in November of 1913 for an altercation with a member of the British security forces. She went on hunger strike and was released after six days.
Both Hanna and her husband Frank opposed the War in 1914. Frank was imprisoned for protesting the recruitment of the Irish Volunteers that Redmond encouraged, notwithstanding the fact that Home Rule for Ireland, Redmond’s hoped for crowning glory, was set aside by the British at the onset of the 1914 war.
As a committed feminist Hanna was critical of the subservient role of Cumann na mBan to the Irish Volunteers, but, nonetheless, supported their aims. Although she and her husband did not take a direct part in the fighting during Easter Rising of 1916, neither did they stand idly by. She took it upon herself to bring food and messages to the various outposts while her husband Frank tried to stop looting. A declared pacifist Frank was arrested while trying to stop looting, and the following day, Wednesday, was summarily executed by a firing squad on the orders of a British officer. After the Rising Hanna shed any reservations she had regarding the use of physical force to achieve the stated purpose of the Rising — a sovereign Irish Republic that embraced gender equality in a pluralistic society.

hanna and margaret
Towards the end of 1916 Hanna undertook a tour of the Unites States in response to an invitation from the Friends of Irish Freedom. From January 6, 1917 to June 27, she spoke at over 250 meetings. Her tour started in New York and continued through New England, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri, the Pacific Northwest, California and back to again to New York. The theme of her narrative, which, remained consistent throughout her tour, dealt with the evils of British Militarism, the British governments sanction of her husbands murder and Ireland’s just struggle freedom and sovereignty. She raised $40,000 during the tour that she handed over to Michael Collins, who, at that time was the Secretary to the National Aid and Volunteers Dependents Fund.

Hanna and Margaret Pearse mother of Padraic Pearse who was executed by the British

Hanna and Margaret Pearse mother of Padraic Pearse who was executed by the British

During her tour the British tried to everything to stop her from speaking. They also tried to prevent her from informing the American public of Britain’s brutality towards their Irish opponents and their blatant disregard for human rights and democratic principles. On her return they tried, but failed, to prevent her from entering Ireland. Shortly after arriving back in Ireland she was arrested and imprisoned with Countess Markievicz, Kathleen Clarke, Maude Gonne in Holloway Jail in London. After starting a hunger strike she was released.
In September 1918 she joined Sinn Fein and shortly afterwards was appointed to its executive In May of the 1919 she was appointed Organizing Secretary primarily responsible for the organization’s propaganda campaign. Her anti-British speeches during the War of Independence caused her to go on the run to avoid arrest and internment.
In 1920 Hanna was elected to the Dublin Corporation serving on the Technical Education Committee and the Public Libraries Committee. She also acted as judge in the Republican courts in south Dublin and was hired as a French teacher at the Technical Institute in Dun Laoghaire.
After the Anglo-Irish truce was signed to stop the fighting in July of 1921, Hanna played a prominent role, as an intermediary, in the peace negotiations between de Valera, President of Dail Eireann and Lloyd George the British prime minister. Despite her involvement in the negotiations she and the women of Cumann na mBan opposed the subsequent Anglo-Irish Treaty, the establishment of the Free State, the partition of Ireland and the Oath of Allegiance to the English King.

Hanna, Frank and Fr Eugene on her release from prison 1912
At the onset of the Civil War in April 1922, Hanna and other Republican women tried, unsuccessfully, to stop the fighting. Despite her aversion to war she supported the Republicans who continued to struggle for the Republic proclaimed in 1916. At the request of De Valera she undertook a second tour of the United States which lasted from October of 1922 to May of 1923. During that tour she, together with Linda Kearns and Kathleen Boland, visited 23 states raising funds on behalf of the American Committee of Irish Republican Soldiers and Prisoner’s Dependant Fund. The women who crisscrossed the country raised $123,000.
After the Civil War she was barred from teaching because she sided with the Republicans and refused to swear allegiance to the English king.
The British buttressed Free State government that took over in 1923 was misogynistic, anti-republican and opportunistic. The brutality directed at women opponents during the Civil War far exceeded that meted out by the British during the War of Independence. There was no place in the dominion state for those who supported or fought for the Republic proclaimed in 1916.
In 1925 Hanna was elected to the Dublin County Council where she served alongside other republicans women including Constance Markievicz and Dr Kathleen Lynn. She also worked with the Women’s Prisoners Defense League founded by Maude Gonne to help Republican prisoners and their families.

hanna pamphlet
In 1926, her desire to better challenge Cumann na nGaedheal, the Free State party in power, overcame her trepidation to join the executive the newly formed Fianna Fail party headed by de Valera whose apathy towards women was no secret. Uncomfortable from the onset for having joined she took the opportunity to resign when De Valera proposed that newly elected TD take the Oath of Allegiance to the English king in order to enter the Dail. After that she threw her support to the republican cause helping to edit An Phoblacht. When An Phoblacht was suppressed by the Free State she single-handedly published the Republican File.
Hanna considered the Fianna Fail led government that took over 1932 to be more theocratic than democratic, provincial in its outlook and buoyed by censorship fear. She was a leading opponent of De Valera and Bishop John McQuad’s constitution of 1937 that essentially relegated the role of women to kitchen duties. In 1933 she was imprisoned for a month by the Unionist government for crossing the border to speak on behalf of republican women prisoners.

Hanna continued to deliver speeches in Ireland, Canada and the United States and made her living as a journalist, writing about independence, suffrage and feminism. She visited the USSR in 1930 with another women I greatly admire Charlotte Despard who is much associated with Battersea and was the Labour candidate here in 1918.

Charlotte at a rally against fascism in Trafalgar Square

Charlotte at a rally against fascism in Trafalgar Square


Hanna and Frank's gravestone

Hanna and Frank’s gravestone

Hanna died in 1946 on Easter Saturday 20 April leaving a legacy of sacrifice, bravery and a list of achievements befitting of a true Irish hero.

In a lecture at UCD Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington remembered – History Ireland  in 1996 her daughter-in-law Andrée recalled Hanna with great affection: ‘She was very helpful, but she could also be quietly critical. When I told her that I and some friends were forming the Irish Housewives Associations she said, “You’re not wedded to the house, you know!”’.

Andrée remembered, ‘It was startling to see on her mantelpiece a photo of a British officer in uniform. This was Major Sir Francis Vane, who had ordered an enquiry into the murder of her husband. He did all he could to see that justice was done, and it cost him his position in the British Army’.

Incidentially, her grand daughter Michelene, who is a botanist at NUI Galway, has said she has “struck a blow for all female academics” after the Equality Tribunal found she was discriminated against on gender grounds when she was overlooked for a senior lectureship. 4 NUI Galway ordered to promote lecturer overlooked over …   and so the fight continues and her grandmother would, I have no doubt, approved of her actions. She now has a petition Petition · Micheline’s Three Conditions ·  DO PLEASE SIGN.

Three leading feminist historians contributed to the event: Margaret MacCurtain, Rosemary Cullen Owens and Margaret Ward, who is writing a biography of Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington. Margaret Ward said her view of Hanna had changed during her research. ‘I think there is an assumption that if you are a feminist, a socialist, an anti-vivisectionist, and you are married to a man who is a strong pacifist, that you too must be a pacifist and not be a nationalist except possibly after 1916. In fact Hanna always had nationalist sympathies, but her starting point in evaluating any situation was, “How would it affect women?”. We need an annual Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington summer school. It would cover so many important things in Irish life: Hanna as an educationalist, Hanna as an inspiration to feminists, Hanna as someone who intervened in nationalist affairs, Hanna and the labour movement. That would be a fitting memorial to her.’

These three have written much about Hanna and admired her and the role she has played in the history of Ireland and Irish women.

Like many republican women, she remained true to her beliefs. She was immune to the lure of power, money or other inducement so enticing to so many her male contemporaries. That is why she is such an inspiration for Irish women who still are fighting the causes for women’s equality and under representation in political life and against the ethos of the patriarchal Catholic church and its terrible legacy of child sexual abuse, of the incarceration of women, forced adoptions,  maltreatment in the Magdalen Laundries with the connivance of the government, with the refusal to allow abortion rights etc. We need the inspiration of women like Anna and Hanna to remind us of the long struggle but also the achievements of our fore sisters.


Everyday Humanism book launch with Prof Anthony Pinn

Posted in Professor Anthony Pinn and Everyday Humanism book launch by sheelanagigcomedienne on December 7, 2014

I attended the book launch of Everyday Humanism with Professor Anthony Pinn being interviewed by Andrew Copson CEO of the British Humanist Association. It was a stimulating discussion and, inevitably, there were comparisons  made between the British and the American situation, and more specifically the experience of black Americans atheists and Humanists. Everyday Humanism bookThe launch was in the Clerkenwell Centre near the BHA office. (I was intrigued to find that from Old Street station I had to cross a Galway Street –  Galway is my home town.)

prof anthony pinn       Andrew Copson

Equinox Publishers

Everyday Humanism seeks to move the discussion of humanism’s positive contributions to life away from the macro-level to focus on the everyday, or micro-dimensions of our individual and collective existence. How might humanist principles impact parenting? How might these principles inform our take on aging, on health, on friendship? These are just a few of the issues around everyday life that needed interpretation from a humanist perspective. Through attention to key issues, the volume seeks to promote the value of humanism at the level of the ordinary, typical occurrences and conditions of our existence.

Anthony Pinn is an American professor, prolific author, and public intellectual working at the intersections of African-American religion, constructive theology, and humanist thought. Pinn is the Agnes Cullen Arnold Professor of Humanities and Professor of Religious Studies at Rice University..Director of Research for the Institute for Humanist Studies in Washington, D.C  Anthony B. Pinn – Wikipedia,


Throughout his work, Pinn refers to his approach to humanism as a “religion.” In so doing, Pinn cites humanist Gordon Kaufman’s  definition of religion as “that which helps humans find orientation ‘for life in the world, together with motivation for living and acting in accordance with this orientation.’” In other words, for Pinn, religion need not be theistic.


I understand where Anthony is coming from but I disagree that we can’t blithely redefine religion to suit our own purposes. I think we have to stick with the definition of religion as ‘an understanding of the world through the supernatural – usually a belief in god/gods and a life after death’

I have just responded to a consultation on the need to include what is termed as an annex on Humanism alongside the options of seven other annexes on religions in the GCSE syllabus. The new Secretary of State Nicky Morgan a ‘devout Christian’ has excluded the Humanist annex which is recommended and supported by almost all RE councils/specialists.


So, if we can be demanding to be included in Religious Education why can’t others be claiming Humanism as a non theistic religion? This is the bizarre position that we are forced into by religion. I see parallels with feminism and women’s complaint that we are always being asked to be squeezed into a patriarchal, male defined world and that it we are never starting from a ‘level playing field’ – that’s another story- Sin scéal eile. Indeed, I made the point that  Humanism as a label can be a shorthand to include other identities like feminism, socialism etc. Then I found this blog by Jarune  Uwujaren a Nigerian -American writing a piece for Everyday Feminism Magazine Comments on: Why Not Say Everyday Humanism


Anthony Pinn is an African American. Patheos Atheist website writer Hemant Mehta wrote in When Dr. Anthony Pinn Came Out as an Atheist. “He has long been an advocate of the need for more racial diversity in our movement and I’m thrilled that his memoir is finally available. It’s called Writing God’s Obituary: How a Good Methodist Became a Better Atheist (Prometheus Books, 2014).”

Anthon Pinn bookPinn differentiates Black humanism from other non-theistic worldviews such as atheism. Thus, oppressed African Americans need not waste their time disproving God’s existence, but are simply better off seeking their liberation with the human tools of “desire for transformation, human creativity, physical strength, and untapped collective potential.”

Anthony Pinn in the atheism v humanism discourse wrote: ‘So many humanists held to a separation of church and state agenda, although they were also worried that commitment to science could easily turn into scientism. I believed rejection of superstition and supernatural claims wasn’t the end of the conversation but was only the beginning, a starting point that had to be followed quickly with attention to what humanists and atheists believe, and what those human values do in the world’


Pinn made his initial mark with Why Lord? Suffering and Evil in Black Theology (1995), and establishes himself as a black liberation theologian and Black humanist. In Why Lord?, Pinn seeks to critique various responses found within Black religion to the question of theodicy, or God’s role in the suffering of humanity. As black theologians have no evidence that God is working on behalf of the oppressed and any such claims are that are redemptive suffering theodicy only perpetuate African American suffering. his is from his own website Anthony Pinn Welcome

Anthony Pinn in an interview with Chris Stedman On race and atheism: An interview with Anthony Pinn said

I understand the type of security, place, and expression of love that my religious commitments and religious family provided me. As James Baldwin said regarding his own religious youth, you have to belong to something—and for him it was the church. For me, it was the church. It smoothed over the rough patches of life.
Andrew and Anthony taking  questions

Andrew and Anthony taking questions

Anthony Pinn is concerned about the need for a ‘soft landing’ for Black American atheists/Humanists and this reflects his own experience and background being brought up as a Baptist and becoming  a preacher starting out as a youth pastor for a church in Brooklyn. Dr. Anthony B. Pinn speaking at Atheists United – YouTube


Professor Pinn’s perspective is derived from his experience and, without a doubt, a belonging to a community a mainly black religious community, will be a rather different experience to someone brought in Catholic Ireland in the 50s and 60s or being brought up in England in a Church of England dominated ethos. For someone, like me, brought up in that all pervasive Catholicism I didn’t feel I belonged to a particular community because everyone went to mass on Sunday and there was nothing else to be involved with to give the social sense of belonging to a minority distinctive, supportive, ethnic or racial community.  Indeed, I said this privately when I was chatting with Professor Pinn before the interview with Andrew and pointing out, as I often do, that the membership of the BHA consists mainly of white C of E atheists, with a few ex Catholics and a sprinkling of people brought up in other religions and sects  and none, all of whom are surrounded by the culture of the state religion which is headed by the monarch as its supreme Governor.


As a gathering of Humanists – a hum of Humanists- we were people involved in everyday humanism – a motley of celebrants, pastoral care volunteers, SACRE members, school speaker volunteers, Humanists group chairpersons and some of our distinguished supporters, colleagues from Scotland etc. Compared to black Americans I don’t think many of us would feel the need for the ‘soft landing’ that our speaker spoke of. Of course, we know that people leaving Islam, Judaism Jehovah’s Witnesses  etc could experience a greater wrench because of their racial or cultural identity. Indeed, one audience member who was Moroccan and attending his first ever atheist/humanist meeting, spoke movingly about being an apostate from Islam and the inherent dangers and loss of family and community that goes with it.

 A lively audience enjoys the launch of Everyday Humanism

A lively audience enjoys the launch of Everyday Humanism

As a black man, Pinn is very well aware that the gurus on atheism/humanism are white males and often determined to disprove the existence of God and to promote science and rationalism. His thesis is that we don’t need to be obsessed by that. I agree with him. I don’t feel any need to disprove the existence of God, challenge the man made books of religions or an afterlife. I only have to say I can’t and don’t believe in any of it and that informs how I live. Of course, like other atheist/humanists I am a committed secularist and will challenge religious privilege and discrimination against non-believers. I recently attended the All Party Parliamentary Irish in Britain Group and complained that as an atheist I could not , if I  so aspired, be President of Ireland and that therefore the Irish Constitution has to be changed. (Of course, I also,  called for the repeal of the 8th Amendment of the same Constitution that was so influenced by the arch Catholic De Valera Petition: Repeal the 8th | Abortion Rights Campaign Ireland) . Sin scéal eile


I also agree with his distinction between atheists and humanists. Besides the obvious distinction of atheism being defined by a negative the other is that atheist groups are more predominantly patriarchal than humanist ones. Sin scéal eile

I did, of course, buy the book and got the very eloquent, charming, humorous and stylish Anthony Pinn to sign it. And I will report and review it.

From the twittering classes……..

Anthony Pinn tweeted:  Great conversation on “Everyday Humanism” arranged by the British Humanist Association. Looking forward to continuing it.

Listening to Anthony Pinn talking about – about humanism, community and social activism

Listening to Prof Anthony Pinn at launch of Everyday Humanism. He’s talking about how a Methodist minister in Texas became a humanist.

Thank you & for a fascinating discussion at book launch tonight


It was an inspiring discussion and it was great to chat to to some colleagues – old and new.

Hijab to burka – a sign of misogyny and oppression of all women

Posted in Hijab is a threat to all women by sheelanagigcomedienne on November 23, 2014

Whenever I see a women wearing a hijab/veil/scarf covering her hair I feel very uncomfortable. I feel that the very concept of the hijab as a sign/symbol of modesty in a woman affects all women. The way women dress and definitions of femininity is very much a feminist issue. hijab 3

Hijab” or “ḥijāb” (/hɪˈdʒɑːb/, /hɪˈdʒæb/, /ˈhɪ.dʒæb/ or /hɛˈdʒɑːb/; Arabic: حجاب‎, pronounced [ħiˈdʒæːb] ~ [ħiˈɡæːb]) is a veil that covers the head and chest, which is particularly worn by a Muslim woman beyond the age of puberty in the presence of adult males and non-Muslim females outside of their immediate family. Wikipedia says of the hijab Most often, it is worn by Muslim women as a symbol of modesty, privacy and morality….Some claim that the mandate of the Quran to wear hijab applies to the wives of the Prophet, not women generally.

hijab policewoman  hijab torture

The Islamic veil is the most symbolically loaded item of clothing in the world. These various forms of Islamic female head-covering – hijab, niqab and full-body burqa – have been condemned as oppressive, celebrated or shunned as representations of cultural difference, denounced by those who claim to defend women’s rights and defended by those who advocate religious tolerance.

On the one hand there is the view that Wearing conservative clothing protects them from sexual harassment and objectification. This came from Women in World History section on Historical Perspectives on Islamic Dress


Wearing conservative clothing protects them from sexual harassment and objectification An Iranian school girl states, “We want to stop men from treating us like sex objects, as they have always done. We want them to ignore our appearance and to be attentive to our personalities and mind. We want them to take us seriously and treat us as equals and not just chase us around for our bodies and physical looks.”

These are very deluded school girls if they think that wearing the hijab will protect them, but not the rest of us, from sexual harassment and worse.  The same piece states:  In the same way, students who take up hijab are able to move into areas that were once closed to them, such as attending classes, discussion groups and religious activities. How ironic.

Poppy hijab

Poppy hijab

Thinly veiled misogyny | openDemocracy

Laurie Penny describes how the Islamic veil has become yet another item of women’s clothing for men to fight over for their own ends.

She cites President Bush using the premise of liberating the “women of cover” from their men in the days leading up to the bombing of Afghanistan. Lord Cromer, who was British consul general in Egypt from 1883 to 1907, declared that the veiling and seclusion of Islamic women was the “fatal obstacle” to the Egyptians’ “attainment of…Western civilisation.” but saw no contradiction in founding the Men’s League Opposing Women’s Suffrage. Sarkozy, with his macho gesture of the ban on the full veil,  being concerned with “sending a message” to “extremists”  instead of tackling inequality, misogyny or violence against woman. Then there are the racists and imperialists claiming cultural superiority in western/European/British modes of female attire who want women to dress for them.

beauty pageants girls beauty pageants beauty evening weer

In this very interesting piece she quoted academic Dr Nina Power’s hypothesis, in her book One Dimensional Woman, that the veil, for Western men, represents an attack on the internalised ideology of misogynist capitalism. 

I agree that women under rampant, global, market capitalism and our perceived role as wives, mothers, for male sexual gratification, as inferior beings to be excluded from public  life except as consumers, is the ideology of misogynist capitalism. But misogyny also underpins all religious ideology which is about social control by men including Christianity, Islam Judaism, Hinduism etc. It is manifested in male only priests and  Imams, only men achieving Nirvana, concepts like virgin birth springing from womb envy,  the burning of witches, unclean women,  female genital mutilation, suttee etc.

For ex-Muslim Mariam Namazie, who used to work at the British Humanist Association the veil is more than just a piece of clothing – it has become a symbol of women’s oppression under Islam, and deserves to be treated as such: “The veil, more than anything else, symbolises the bleak reality [of life for women in strictly Islamic countries]: hidden from view, bound, gagged, mutilated, murdered, without rights, and threatened and intimidated day in and day out for transgressing Islamic mores. And this is why the veil is the first thing that Islamists impose when they have any access to power.”

For Yasmin Alibhai-Brown;  This is a cloth that comes soaked in blood.” and the veil in the West has come to represent “a slur on decent Muslim men, portrayed as sexual predators who cannot look upon a woman without wanting her.”

Penny Laurie is the author of Meat Market: Female Flesh Under Capitalism. For her the the veil is both a symbol of religious choice and cultural pride and an emblem of the second-class status of women in Islamist cultures but the liberation of women across the world will not begin with veil-burning any more than the long march to freedom in the West really began with bra-burning.

girls Miss perfectgirls in short skirts

This is the dilemma for women, like me who feel discombobulated by the hijab. I know that many women who wear the hijab on Britain do see it as a way of escaping from the sexualisation of girls and women as sexual objects. They feel that it does, in some way, protect them from the pressures faced by non-Muslim girls and women. I resent being caught between these two projections of women. It is a dilemma faced by all women.

I have a choice about visiting Muslim countries. I have felt intimidated and very uncomfortable being in places where women are not very visible and kept away from tourists in some areas. I have seen the freedom that Muslim boys have compared to their mothers and sisters and it sickens and angers me and I have been sexually harassed.

I am discombobulated by women wearing the hijab because it reminds us of women’s inferior status and all that is entailed in it as a symbol.  I feel this because the hijab 1)  is a an Islamic symbol because 2) Muslim men apparently are so sexually aroused at the sight of a women’s hair that they can not control themselves and must be protected from their own lust and as a potential rapists and 3) it is a sign/statement that the wearer is a modest Muslim unlike non-Muslim women and 4) if she is single that she is a potential virginal bride and if she is married she is off limits to all men. I think that forcing prepubescent girls to wear the hijab is contrary to any notions we have of equality for girls and women in education and in society.

As secularist I am completely opposed to any sectarian schooling  because children are not born with religious beliefs and we should never define children by their parents supernatural beliefs. I think I have good reasons for the way I feel about this and that I have the right to express this without accusations of racism.  I believe that religious beliefs and many practices have a detrimental influence on all of us especially as they impact on women. Of course, I think that people have a right to believe whatever they want including me and have the right to express it.

I feel threatened and upset by  the impact of religion, child sexual abuse, misogyny, pornification,  everyday sexism,  women’s inequality, the  symbolism of the hijab, male violence, capitalism, the frightening growth in inequality of wealth,   TTIP,  privatisation of the NHS and all our public services and utilities,  the Tories, the government, by UKIP,  the housing crisis,  the continuing conflicts between Israel and Palestine, Islamic State, the ebola crisis, climate change and all other the issues and causes whose petitions I have signed. I had better stop now and have a 125 ml glass of wine before I go to bed.

Anne Damer at Strawberry Hill House

Posted in Anne Damer and Strawberry Hill House by sheelanagigcomedienne on November 10, 2014

I visited Strawberry Hill House which was Horace Walpole’s ornate Gothic home. I got free entry with my Art Fund pass. It was a wet day. I was reminded that the house was renovated and refurbished by Andrew Graham Dixon’s Gothic series.  I was delighted that there was also an exhibition about Anne Damer and her work. strawb house

Horace Walpole son Of Prime Minster Robert

Horace Walpole son Of Prime Minster Robert

The house and land had been purchased for St Mary’s College in 1923 which then comprised about 250 students. St Mary’s University College has a long and distinguished history as a Catholic college for the education of teachers. The College at Strawberry Hill was officially opened in 1925. The Vincentian Fathers lived in the house until the early 1990s and at one point the Gallery was used as a lecture hall. Over time living accommodation and classrooms have been built and the College buildings enlarged to meet the present day needs of over 3,500 students.

The Gallery all red and gold

The Gallery all red and gold

Created by Horace Walpole in the 18th century, Strawberry Hill is internationally famous as Britain’s finest example of Georgian Gothic revival architecture. It also inspired the first gothic novel The Castle of Otranto. Inside he created elaborate decorations to house his collection of antiquarian objects.  Strawberry Hill was filled with art, antiquities and curiosities of every period from the ancient to the modern.  Walpole wrote and printed his own catalogue of his collection, A Description of the Villa of Horace Walpole in 1774, which he revised and enlarged in 1784. A copy of this was given to us.

Lovely light in the hallway

Lovely light in the hallway



The castle (or villa) became a tourist attraction in Walpole’s life-time.  He allowed four visitors a day and published rules for their guidance (no children allowed). His house-keeper frequently showed them round while Walpole retired to his cottage in the grounds.  It was also a place for parties and Walpole delighted in entertaining foreign ambassadors and royalty as well as the English aristocracy, several of whom were near neighbours.  ‘Dowagers like flounders inhabit all around,’ he wrote.

In 1811 it passed to his great niece, Elizabeth Waldegrave. In 1839, her grandson, John, married the 18 year old Frances Braham, the daughter of a famous Irish opera singer, but he died within a year of the marriage.She then married his brother, the Seventh Earl Waldegrave, but within seven months of this marriage, he was sent to prison for ‘riotous behaviour’. When he was released he felt bitterly that, as it was the Twickenham Bench which had committed him, he would sell Walpole’s precious collection and let Strawberry Hill rot, as a reproach to the ingratitude of Twickenham. He arranged the Great Sale of 1842 which dispersed Walpole’s Collection. Much of the collection was bought by an American Wilmarth Lewis who gathered together as much Walpoliana as he could find and later bequeathed his collection to Yale University to form the Lewis Walpole Library.lady_waldegrave

Lady Waldegrave went on to marry 4 times and expanded the house and certainly left influence on the house and seemed very suitable person to continue Walpole’s extravagant house and lifestyle continuing the Whig /Liberal connections. Strawberry Hill | About the House | History | LadyWaldegrave  She had an interesting and colourful life. She  was an extraordinary figure in Victorian society. With her origins in the theatre, she was herself an intensely theatrical, larger-than-life individual.Frances, Countess Waldegrave, was an extraordinary figure in Victorian society. With her origins in the theatre, she was herself an intensely theatrical, larger-than-life individual.


But it is Anne Seymour Damer that has fascinated me.  She was the only daughter of Henry Seymour Conway (later Field-Marshall) and Lady Caroline Campbell daughter of the 4th Duke of Argyll, Anne Conway spent much of her childhood at Park Place, near Henley-on-Thames. Her parents being abroad for much of the time and Horace her cousin assumed some responsibility for her care as guardian. Anne Damer family


Anne Damer and her dog

Anne Damer and her dog










Thie above family portrait is in the blue bedchamber.

Blue room fireplace

Blue room fireplace







Although attracted to the stage early on, she embarked on a career as a sculptor, encouraged by David Hume, her father’s under-secretary during 1767, and with some instruction from the sculptors Giuseppe Cerracchi and John Bacon.

-Anne_Seymour_Damer by Giuseppe Ceracchi

Anne as Sculptor by Robert Cosway

Anne Conway married, on 14 June 1767, the Hon John Damer, eldest son of Lord Milton. He, in the expectation of inheriting an income of £30,000 a year managed to spend the money in advance, much going on gambling and clothes: he was reputed to pester his wife by appearing in three different new outfits each day. The marriage foundered after seven years and, having squandered his patrimony he terminated his life with a pistol in the Bedford Arms, Covent Gardenin 1776, leaving his widow childless and the proprietor of a wardrobe which fetched no more than £15,000 at auction!

NPG 4469; Elizabeth (nÈe Farren), Countess of Derby by Anne Seymour Damer (nÈe Conway) Mrs Freeman as Isis  Kittens

After the death of her husband she resumed her career in sculpture, encouraged now by Walpole who, in 1780, wrote of her:  “Mrs Damer, daughter of General Conway, has chosen a walk more difficult and far more uncommon than painting. The annals of statuary record few artists of the fair sex, and not one that I recollect of any celebrity. Mrs Damer’s busts from the life are not inferior to the antique; and theirs, we are sure, were not more like. Her shock-dog, large as life, and only not alive, has a looseness and softness in the curls that seemed impossible to terra cotta; it rivals the marble one of Bernini in the royal collection. As the ancients have left us but five animals of equal merit with their human figures, namely, the Barberini goat – the Mattei eagle – the eagle at Strawberry Hill- and Mr Jennings’s, now Mr Duncombe’s dog – the talent of Mrs Damer must appear in the most distinguished light.”

He greatly championed her work. During the period 1784–1818, Damer exhibited 32 works as an honorary exhibitor at the Royal Academy. Her work, primarily busts Neoclassical in style , developed from early wax sculptures to technically complex ones in works in terracotta, bronze and marble. These were largely drawn from friends and colleagues in Whig circles, included Lady Melbourne, Nelson, George111, Mary Berry aithor, Charles James Fox and herself. She executed several actors’ portraits including her friend Sarah Siddon. Another major architectural work was her 10-foot statue of Apollo now destroyed, for the frontage of Drury Lane theatre.

The Three Witches of Macbeth Viscountess Melbourne, Georgina Duchess of Devonshire and Anne Damer by Daniel Gardner

The Three Witches of Macbeth Viscountess Melbourne, Georgina Duchess of Devonshire and Anne Damer by Daniel Gardner


Dog     Poodle in terracotta

Her biogrpher Richard Webb: subjected to an arranged marriage, in 1767, to a husband she neither knew nor liked. Without him, she enjoyed the high life and with Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire became one of the It girls of swinging London 1775. 1776 brought abrupt change. As the age of revolution gathered pace, Anne’s husband John Damer went bankrupt, and committed suicide. Anne turned to sculpting. She modelled friends and family, their animals, and public heroes including Admiral Nelson. Living through a further half century of revolution, she mixed sculpture, with acting, writing, and travel. Her friends included leading members of the political, arts and theatre world. Her descriptions of people, travel and life in differing countries of revolutionary Europe are fascinating. Nelson gave her his coat, Napoleon, a diamond encrusted portrait of himself.


Mrs Damer biography by Richard Webb

She produced keystone sculptures of Isis and Tamesis for each side of the central arch on the Henley bridge.


Her mother Lady Aylesbury

Her mother Lady Aylesbury


The Life of Anne Damer: Portrait of a Regency Artist by Jonathan Gross

So, after this exhibition and two biographies the name Anne Damer, sculptor, should become more familiar to a wider audience.

Giles Fraser fancies himself as a loose canon

Posted in Rev Fraser weird superstitious one by sheelanagigcomedienne on November 2, 2014
I think Giles Fraser is arrogant, smug and hypocritical and unashamed of the privileges he has as a reverend/vicar/canon/priest of the state  Church of  England. He is one of the god squads spokesmen persons  on behalf of the CofE and has a weekly column in The Guardian with his self-styled soubriquet of The Loose Canon.
 giles fraser
When he resigned from St Paul’s in October 2011 Stephen Bates from the  Guardian wrote Giles Fraser: the jeans and T-shirt wearing cleric of St Paul’s

On the face of it, Giles Fraser is an unlikely looking cleric. Bald, jovial, worldly, ferociously bright but genial towards those within the fractious Church of England who disagree with him, his favourite form of garb is jeans and T-shirt.

It is a uniform in keeping with the 47-year-old’s support for Chelsea football club and his determinedly demotic persona, though he had to change into a more conventional dog-collar and black suit when translated from his parish in Putney to St Paul’s two years ago.

Looks are deceptive though: Fraser is the son of an RAF officer, educated at Uppingham private school and Newcastle University and latterly a lecturer at Wadham College, Oxford. He has been a regular lecturer at military staff colleges and at one stage considered becoming an army chaplain.

His family background is Jewish, and he was a teenage Trotskyite before converting to Anglicism at university. His doctorate comes from a thesis on the 19th-century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche who famously declared that God – at least in the old-fashioned sense – was dead.

Giles in fancy dress but not goth porn

Giles in fancy dress but not goth porn

I was riled when I read his admission in his column 23rd June 2012 that he used his dog collar as a pass ‘access all areas’ in hospitals. Obviously, I was riled by his gloating about his CofE privilege and shocked that he could turn up unannounced at someone’s hospital beside AND in his own words ‘not unlike a visit from the grim reaper’.giles and dawkins

Then there was the one about how Bishop’s should lie about being sexually active gay men – it’s the Cof E way!

He is not cute looking like the TV trendy young vicar Rev played by Tom Hollander.tom rev

Here is my letter to the Guardian about his accusation that  ‘The irreligious are often the most superstitious about death’ with references to goth porn , funerals for complete, utter bastards and a dozen or so congregation for his evening service on Halloween.girls-goth-prom-queen-costume
goth bride

Girlie goths

Girlie goths

bastardempty church

 Dear Editor,

It is rum that the C of E spokesman Rev Fraser claims ‘the irreligious are often the most superstitious about death’.(Saturday 1st November). He tells us that he takes non-religious funerals for friends, presumably leaving out Jesus,God, Holy Ghost and a heavenly afterlife and devoid of his dog collar and priestly smock, but that he is glad for Christian liturgy when he has to take one for complete and utter bastards. Of course, it helps to fill up the time to justify his fee.

I have taken hundreds of funerals as a Humanist celebrant (including Dave Allen’s) I can assure him that those attending tell me that they are very different from a typical CofE one without any hymns, sermons and prayers but focused on the person’s life and allowing for tributes from kith and kin which is why people are attending the funeral.
He sneers at recent widows who describe themselves as non-religious who talk about their husbands whom they feel are still with them and because his daughters are dressed in ‘gothic porn’ for Halloween that he comes up with his conclusion that it is not he that is ‘the weird, superstitious one with funny attitudes to death’ but us.

I think it is only fair that the irreligious be given a column for their ‘thought for the day’, especially giving a voice to heathen women as the god and anti-god squad are so very male.

 Yours sincerely,
 Jeanne Rathbone
I do feel better for my little rant, especially on a Sunday. How I hated Sunday’s in Ireland in the fifties. There was nothing to do, except be dragged to mass in Salthill church when us girls used to have to cover our heads – the Catholic version of the hijab- and weara little black mantilla. Mantilla

Why Women Wear Mantillas In Church | Catholicism Pure …

This act of partially concealing a woman’s physical beauty (especially her lovely hair) is so that the beauty of God may be glorified instead. A veil is both a symbol and a mystical sacrifice that invites the woman wearing it to ascend the ladder of sanctity. It is also a way of emulating the Blessed Virgin Mary, in her humility, purity and submissiveness.



Remembering Stephen Gordon aka Spaceape

Posted in Stephen Gordon aka The Spaceape Humanist Memorial at the Horniman Museum by sheelanagigcomedienne on November 1, 2014

There was a memorial service at the Horniman Museum Pavilion for Stephen Gordon aka The Spaceape.  I was privileged to be asked to preside over it. Stephen died on 2nd October 2014 after a five year battle with a rare form of cancer. He was best known as vocalist-poet-MC The Spaceape.



Stephen’s output was very varied and inventive – very powerful and affecting. I am writing this as he so deserves to have his talent celebrated and more widely known.  He was a handsome, elegant, eloquent, talented and charming man who died too young and is isn’t fair.

Jerry Dammers founder of the Specials paid tribute to Stephen in the Guardian. Jerry Dammers pays tribute to late Hyperdub MC

Stephen recorded a version of the Specials’ Ghost Town with Kode 9, a cover Dammers says is “by far and away the best version from the very very many I have been sent over the years”.

Jerry Dammers Allstars ft Hypnotic Brass & Space Ape …

He also performed with Dammers’ band, the Spatial AKA Orchestra, on many occasions, one of which was the finale of the LoveMusic Hate Racism festival in 2008. Dammer adds: “To me it was fitting that Stephen was the very last artist to voice at that show, carrying to some extent as he did, the Jamaican ‘dub poetry’ tradition, championed in the RAR era by Linton Kwesi Johnson, forward into the ‘dub step’ era of recent years.

“Today I feel a mixture of sadness and anger at the unfairness that someone so talented has died so very young, when he still really wanted, and was very able, to give so much more, and before he received the full recognition he deserved. My condolences go out to his wife and young daughter, and to all his friends.”

Since news of his death was announced, numerous musicians have paid tribute to the artist, such as Nathan Fake, Rob Da Bank and Machinedrum He also collaborated with The Bug, Martyn, Jerry Dammers, Redshape, Dub Gabriel, the Echologist and more. In 2012 he also self-released the Xorcism EP, The Spaceape’s last release was Killing Season, a new EP with Kode9.

Jerry wrote: ‘Stephen was not only a very pleasant and humble person, but remained incredibly brave and positive in the face of his terrible illness. In my view, he produced, with Kode9, amongst the very best, if not THE best, in so called ‘popular’ music from this country, in the last twenty years,” Dammer writes. “The relative lack of recognition he received in the mainstream, reflects on it, not on him, or his talent. But there were plenty of people who did understand.”

He leaves behind his beloved wife Luciana and adored 6 year old daughter, Cleo his Dad Hubert, sisters Beverley, Pauline and bother Noel his loving extended family and many, dear friends and fellow musicians and artists.


Spaceape and Kode9

Spaceape and Kode9


Kode9 & The Spaceape – The Devil Is A Liar (Hyperdub …

The Spaceape frequently collaborated with Hyperdub founder Steve Goodman aka Kode9. Their collaboration “Sine of the Dub” was the first release on the label. The duo also put out two albums: 2006’s Memories of the Future and 2011’s Black Sun. The duo’s new EP, The Killing Season,  including the video ‘Devil is a Liar’ which was filmed in July 2014 has just been released.

Spaceape and Kode9 cover

Stephen was from south London, was a an avid Man United fan. He attended the London College of Fashion and worked in fashion – Coles Menswear, the Bankrupt Store and Agnes B.  His early stylishness remained. He was also fascinated by film and worked at the BFI to fund his studies at Goldsmith’s University. It was there he met and fell in love with Luciana who was taking a seminar in Philosophy.  Luciana was a friend of Steve Goodman from their student days at Warwick University who became his flatmate.

Spaceape: On The Run (Hyperdub 2012) – YouTube

We heard tributes from his sisters, Beverley and Pauline and his brother Noel and brother in law Kingsley and one sent from his Dad from Jamaica.

The Spaceape and Kode9 – Autumn Is Coming (Visual by …

Stephen made so many friends along the way. His friend Manju, in her tribute told us about their hilarious, first and last effort, at setting up a rave, his friends and flatmates Toby, Roger and Paul spoke about their youthful days and leading on to memories of Stephen and Luciana’s ‘pastafarian’ wedding in Naples in the Maschio Agionino – a 13th century castle. We heard wonderful tributes from Luciana’s family translated by her good friend Tiziana, followed by an account of him as an adoring Dad to Cleo. Finally, we heard about his last five years of illness and his inspirational musical development. spaceape and Kode9 sleeve

Steve Martin aka The Bug  described Stephen as a ‘mesmerising poet, whose passion, invention and increasing mastery of his craft got better year after year and never ceased to hypnotise me’

There will be a memorial bench to Stephen in the Horniman Museum and, of course, contributions to it will be gratefully received.

Steve Goodman, his soul brother, described Stephen’s shy beginnings as a musician singing from under a table to boldly walking amongst his audience to writing about his illness. He wrote: ‘Many of his fans found The Spaceape to be a prophetic voice in difficult times. We are lucky that Stephen will live on for thousands of people through his recorded music’.

space ape 2




Caroline Ganley MP Battersea 1945-1951

Posted in Battersea Municipal Mecca, Caroline Ganley MP Battersea 1945-1951 by sheelanagigcomedienne on October 2, 2014

Caroline Ganley is a Battersea heroine who remained true to herself, her politics and her commitments unlike her predecessor John Burns.


Caroline MP



Political Women – Caroline Selina Ganley

A profile of CAROLINE GANLEY M.P for Battersea 1945-1951.

Battersea Labour Party has had two prominent women members and parliamentary candidates. Charlotte Despard stood in 1918, assisted by Caroline Ganley who was a mainstay of the party machine and acted like Charlotte’s election agent. Caroline became a local councillor and was MP for Battersea from 1945-1951. From Charlotte, born in 1844, through to Caroline, who died in 1966, to local Party stalwart Lily Harrison who was Lady Mayor in 1953 who remembers Caroline, there is a wonderful continuity.

Caroline Selina Blumfield was born 1879 in Devon. She was an only child and her father died before she was born. She went to live with her grandmother. Caroline was 11 when her grandmother died. Her mother, who was in service, put Caroline in an orphanage in Ottershaw Surrey. In 1901 Caroline met and married James Ganley who was a tailor cutter and was a nephew of her mother’s through marriage.

She had a daughter Ada and they lived in lodgings in Meath Street Battersea by 1904 where her two sons Charles and John were born. There was no bathroom which was a considerable problem and so they moved to 5 Thirsk Road in 1910 which did have more accomodation and a bathroom. This was her home for the rest of her life. Her mother had became a midwife and was on hand to help Caroline with babysitting.

James used to attend branch meetings of the Garment Workers Union and Caroline and the children often went along. It was there that she heard people express what she felt, as well as hearing socialist speakers on Clapham Common. Labour politics were in flux at that time. The Labour Representation Committee was formed to get Labour representatives into Parliament and was made up of members from a trade union, the Fabian Society and the Independent Labour Party. The ILP was not then strong in London. Caroline joined the Social Democratic Fedration which was a league off London Working Men’s Clubs with Marxist tendencies. She also became a member of Battersea Women’s Socialist Circle. Later she became convenor of the Battersea Labour Party Women’s section. As convenor of the Women’s section in the eighties I was chuffed to learn this.

In 1909 Caroline was catapulted into speaking publicly for the first time as she was the only member and chair at a meeting where Charlotte Despard was the invited speaker but was unable to stay for questions so that Caroline had to respond. One Sunday a few years later James returned from Trafalgar Square to tell her that he had volunteered her as the only women speaker on the platform at a demonstration there against the visit of the Czar!

She became active in pacifist and suffrage campaigns, campaigning against the endemic poverty she saw in her hometown and arguing in favour of women’s right to take an active part in public life Caroline rarely took the easy route. When war was declared in 1914, the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (the UK’s main suffrage body) announced that campaigns for suffrage would be suspended whilst women supported the war effort. Caroline, a committed pacifist, rejected this stance and became involved with the British Committee of the International Congress for Peace and Freedom, a group of anti-war suffragists. This position was extremely controversial as pacifism was viewed as anti-patriotic. Caroline and other anti-war suffragists were savagely criticised for their stance.

During the war Caroline wrote a strong letter to the Sunday Chronicle proposing that Servicemen’s wives allowance should be paid through the Post Office and thanks to to her this was duly accepted and became the practice.

By 1918 Caroline had become a member of the Labour Party and was secretary of Bolingbroke Ward. John Burns had represented Battersea in the House of Commons since 1892 but had never joined the Labour Party. By then the constituency was divided into north and south. Caroline was requested to approach Burns formally on behalf of the party to ask him to join so that the selection process of candidate in the election could get underway. This was just after the war had ended in Novemeber 1918.  After ignoring two letters she had to call upon him at home. He told her he had vowed thirty years previously never to join another body. So they found another candidate in Charlotte Despard. Caroline admired Burns and when he died in 1943 she wrote to The South Western Star suggesting a memorial to him resulting in a portrait of him being commissioned.

In 1919 Caroline Ganley, Mrs Duval and Mrs Hockley were elected as councillors and with the help of finance from Charlotte Despard the Battersea Labour Party was instituted.

As chair of the Health and Child Welfare Committee she was instrumental in getting the Maternity Home in Bolingbroke Grove estasblished which was her proudest legacy. Battersea Council was at the forefront of welfare provision as well as pioneering direct works housing and had its own electricity supply.caroline ganley

She was among the first 131 women appointed as JPs in 1920.
She was elected to represent north Battersea on the London County Council which Labour came to control in 1934.
Caroline went on to become Chair of Lavender Hill Branch of the Women’s Co-op Guild. In 1942 she was to become the first woman President of The London Cooperative Society. It was through her nomination of the the Co-op Party that she won the Labour Party candidature in 1935 in North Paddington. After 8 years as prospective candidate in Battersea South she won the seat in 1945 aged 65 alongside Douglas Jay in North Battersea. She was one of the 24 women elected, 21 of whom were Labour! She was one of the oldest women elected to parliament and one of the first with only an elementary education.

During her time in Parliament, Caroline was one of the strongest supporters of creating a national healthcare system, and fought to see through the reforms through that led to the creation of the NHS. She maintained a very high level of attendance at the House of Commons and was meticulous in her casework and surgeries.

She and James were the first couple to celebrate their Golden Jubilee in the House of Commons in 1951 not long before she lost the seat by 494 votes mainly due to the boundary changes which were favourable to Douglas. She was elected on to Battersea Council after an absence of 28 years in 53, 56, 59, and 62 and was awarded a CBE. When Battersea was inccorporated with Wandsworth she wrote a poem lamenting the passing of Battersea as a Borough. When Clem Attlee died she paid a moving tribute to him at an election meeting in support of Ernie Perry who became her successor in Battersea South. She was then 85- a formidable woman. When she died in 1966 one tribute to her in the South Western Star remarked ’Her mind was very acute and her ability to draw together the threads of the most rambling discussion was legendary. She was a great pioneer-the most outstanding woman the co-op has produced at a time when few women took part in public life.’

Another in the Clapham Observer wrote that ‘she had a strong claim to the respect and regard of many hundreds whom she had helped quietly and unobtrusively during her long career in politics. Caroline Ganley said: ‘Serve because you want to serve and not because of what you are going to get out of it’ which seems to be a variant of the Battersea motto. ‘Non mihi, non tibi sed nobis’.

She was such a hard-working and dedicated women in her political commitments to working class people and politics. There are very few ex MPs who have gone on to serve on their local council past retirement age with such passion and energy. She died in her beloved Bolingbroke hospital which she had been so instrumental in establishing. It has now become an academy school!

Caroline Ganley was certainly one of Battersea’s indefatigable and long serving politicians and should, at least, be honoured by a plaque in Thirsk Road. I beleive there is some film of her as it got mentioned in the obituary for Mike Marchant who

Caroline’s unpublished typescripted autobiography is held at the Bishopsgate Institute  as well as other papers including her desk diary. Bishopsgate Institute – Ganley, CarolineGanley, Caroline

Here is her poem on the demise of Battersea as a Borough – not great literature but very heartfelt and a sincere paeon to this very radical and progressive Borough – Battersea the Municipal Mecca  The Latchmere Estate, BatterseaMunicipal Dreams

On the Passing of Battersea as a Borough by Cllr Caroline Ganley.

This little portion of the world we have called Battersea
Has had a steadily progressing history:
It could not boast of many stately homes
But had citizens: warm, good-hearted people,
Who cared and shared with those in need.
And when the nation’s parliament did legislate,
Admitting children needed feeding to grow strong,
And mothers needing care to bring their babies to birth,
Sufficient folk were willing to enrol
Upon Committees, Councils and Societies,
To put opportunity to use
And bring results which they were proud to show.

The present century brought Municipal Buildings,
Which, through the years have met their use and need.
The war, South African, revealed a c3 nation,
Compelling feeding children in our schools,
And World War One enlarged perspective thought,
By giving votes to women, with conditions, but
They were encouraged to more public work.

The next election to the Borough Council
Gave power and wide responsibility
For greater care of mothers and their babies
In order to reduce infant mortality
And also save the lives of mother’s giving birth.
This Act well named Child Welfare and Maternity
Gave power, when passed in Nineteen and Eighteen,
To those authorities who did adopt and execute,
Battersea obtained two houses, facing Wandsworth Common,
Converted into use for hospital and service
And occupied within twelve months by mothers
Whose ante-natal care gave greater surety
For safe delivery in all their labour.
The Council’s fame was spread abroad
When special V.D clinic was allowed
And so made safety safer still.
The Borough’s Health was jealously safeguarded
By Officers and Councillors who proudly showed
So great a reduction in statistics vital
That Dr. Addison, Minister of health, when
Opening infant Welfare exhibition expressed his warm surprise.

House to occupy at rents that folks could pay
Made a continuous problem all through the years,
Succeeding Councillors contributed energy and brain
To make best use of Acts passed for this purpose,
But progress was slow, demand not satisfied,
Acts to relieve slum clearance, overcrowding,
Gave power but governments moved slowly in financial sanction.
An artist architect in that department,
Produced a block of flats which are a joy to see;
He also gave us beauty in our reference Library
A service which so many have appreciated
And, like the Coroner’s court, has met the need
Of many who were not of Battersea.

Amenities of life with Lena Ashwell Players
Pictures for children and Sunday Concerts too
Made good use of Halls in Town Hall Road
While Sunday afternoons and summer evenings
Attracted many folk to Park and Common Argument.

War came again and devastation
Laid heavy mark on roads and home and schools
And once again the Town hall call went forth
For Shelter Marshalls, Street patrols, First Aid and Fire Brigade.
That call was answered and for six long years
The common danger found the common friend,
How many leaving home in morning wondered would they return
Or if returning find their home still there.
The shattering thud of bombs, the rattling incendiaries,
The falling masonry, the crunching glass,
The hundreds rendered homeless, yet how amazingly
Was life maintained.

At last the skies were clear again
And then began the task of levelling the roads
And filling the gaps, but everything had changed;
Inventions, new materials, new outlooks, new Parliament
Established new conditions in health, in homes, in lives,
And though the change moved slowly, it still was very sure.
We were living longer; the race was to the young
And sympathy for older folk aroused a welfare care
An Old Folks Welfare group began with meals for lonely folk
Who were unable to get out and get them for themselves.
One man’s kind thought persuaded a great work
And coach rides, Music hall, and holidays
Became the order of the day. A home was planned
Where those who were so fortunate could end their lives days
In comfort and security and not in dreading fear.

And so this little portion we had called Battersea
Caring so well for babies, then their mothers,
Ends by attending to the parents old
And so completes the span of life before absorption,
Just made a slice of history which may not be sung,
But still have made a mark and had its influence,
And carries still its motto NOT MINE, NOT THINE , BUT OURS
Which must resound as such throughout the years
And keep the memory of Battersea alive.
CS Ganley.



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