Sheela-na-Gig aka Jeanne Rathbone

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.”

Non Muslim pupils donning a hijab.

Non Muslim pupils donning a hijab.

From Jihad Watch website.

Here are some victims whom these public school students would be better off studying: Aqsa Parvez, whose Muslim father choked her to death with her hijab after she refused to wear it; and Amina Muse Ali, a Christian woman in Somalia whom Muslims murdered because she wasn’t wearing a hijab; and the 40 women who were murdered in Iraq in 2007 for not wearing the hijab; and Alya Al-Safar, whose Muslim cousin threatened to kill her and harm her family because she stopped wearing the hijab in Britain; and Amira Osman Hamid, who faces whipping in Sudan for refusing to wear the hijab; and the Egyptian girl, also named Amira, who committed suicide after being brutalized for her family for refusing to wear the hijab; and the Muslim and non-Muslim teachers at the Islamic College of South Australia who were told that they had to wear the hijab or be fired; and the women in Chechnya whom police shot with paintballs because they weren’t wearing hijab; and the women also in Chechnya who were threatened by men with automatic rifles for not wearing hijab; and the elementary school teachers in Tunisia who were threatened with death for not wearing hijab; and the Syrian schoolgirls who were forbidden to go to school unless they wore hijab; and the women in Gaza whom Hamas has forced to wear hijab; and the women in Iran who protested against the regime by daring to take off their legally-required hijab; and the women in London whom Muslim thugs threatened to murder if they didn’t wear hijab; and the anonymous young Muslim woman who doffed her hijab outside her home and started living a double life in fear of her parents, and all the other women and girls who have been killed or threatened, or who live in fear for daring not to wear the hijab

hijabbed girlsj

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.

Hijab Hijab beauties

This is the dilemma for women, like me who feel discombobulated by the hijab. I know that many women who wear the hijab in 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. I have been sexually harassed in Egypt by a boy who groped my breasts while men and women looked on and laughed. Obviously, I was seen as fair game because I was on my own waking the promenade in Luxor as Dave was confined to bed with the tummy bug.

hijab young

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.

Sexualised girls Bathing belles

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.


Dora Russell wrote to me.

Posted in Dora Russell wrote to me by sheelanagigcomedienne on September 2, 2014

Dora russell 2I heard the interview about the radio play entitled “A meeting with Dora” BBC Radio 4 – Afternoon Drama, A Meeting with Dora    which was written by Don Shaw and was inspired by his visit to Dora Russell, in her home Cornwall in 1979 where she lived with her son John.Dora 3

Don Shaw is a scriptwriter and was researching for a film that he had been commissioned to write for the BBC  about the failed marriage between Bertrand Russell and Dora.  The film was not produced but this radio play revisits that encounter.???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

Eleanor Bron and David Schofield starred in the play and Don Shaw played the brief part of John Russell.Eleanor Bron and David Schofield


There was an interview on Woman’s Hour with Eleanor Bron and Don Shaw.

It immediately reminded me that she had corresponded with me in the mid eighties because I had mentioned her in a letter I had published in The Guardian in response to a series of articles written by journalist Martin Walker about Philosophy. I had written that ‘philosophy along with other disciplines suffer from a great disadvantage. I quote a great philosopher, whose ideas may well outlive those of her deceased husband’s. Dora Russell wrote in The New Humanist 1974 ” the astonishing fact is that religion, philosophy, political, social and economic thought have been reserved as the prerogative of men. Our cultural world is the product of male consciousness” . I also added that the “The powerful, devastating critiques of male scholarship by Mary Daly, Kate Miller, Dale Spender, De Beouvoir etc  will will be more influential  in shaping the 21st century than the arid quibblings of Ayer, Popper, etc”

Dora wrote: I have noticed your letter in The Guardian paying me a compliment as a ‘philosopher’ which I doubt I deserve!

Whatever I wrote in my return letter  elicited “You are a woman after my own heart! What a surprise and pleasure to find philosophy extolled and expanded by a non-academic housewife!

That you are Irish should not surprise me since fellowship and love with Irishmen have played quite a part in my life. My second husband, after Bertrand Russell left me, was an excitable young left wing Irishman, who always said that he belonged to the IRA. I wish to goodness that the humdrum English would learn to understad  the Irish- and also in many ways the Scots – for I have scots blood on both sides of my family. Shall we boast that  and say that we have our ‘visions’  that the humdrum lack or that – as I do often say ‘what is wrong with the left is that it always turns out to be Right!”

Her last letter from Carn Voel, Porthcurno in Penzance in January 1986, a few months before she died,  she mentioned that she had met Charlotte Despard and that she was wonderful and how great that generation of women were. She urged me to read Most Dangerous Women about the start of the women’s peace movement in trying to stop the war in 1915 and also Mary Midgeley’s Evolution and Religion.

She signed off with I did get to Greenham now that I can walk.

At that time I was convenor of the Women’s Section of Battersea Labour Party. Although I have no copies of the letters that I sent to her I am sure that I told her about the topics and meetings that we held and other women’s activities, including Irish women’s conferences that I was involved with and the events and courses I attended at Battersea Arts Centre under the tutelage of Sheila Jeffreys who is now a Professor in Political Science in Melbourne.

Dale Spender Australian author of  Man Made Language –  a feminist classic that I loved and which made me question all male scholarship- also wrote There’s Always Been a Women’s Movement This Century.Man made language was another feminist writer I went to hear and I loved her purple aesthetic which she still celebrates. Dale Spender

There has always been a women's movemntDora Russell was one of the five feminist writers featured. Dora, in a letter to me said: Dale Spender has done a lot in publicising me, I am very grateful to her- the more so as she is a much more of a Women’s Lib feminist, inclined to think me out of date because I don’t believe in ‘role playing’ of our sex, but stick to its biological values and aims’.

There is an erudite and thoughtful appraisal of Dora and her thoughts by Judith Levine in The Boston Review    Women and Children First | Boston Review

Last night 1st September 2014 I attended a packed meeting in Battersea Lower Town Hall to hear Laura Bates speak eloquently and passionately about the Everyday Sexism Project the everyday sexism project  which was part of the Battersea Literary Festival and opened by the Mayor of Wandsworth who introduced her as Laura Bush! The predominantly female audience were young which is heartening to this old feminist as we watch and applaud as they take up the baton in the continuing struggle for women’s equality. Thank you to Charlotte Despard  born in 1845,  Dora born in 1894 to Dale to Laura and all the young feminists fighting back now. Oldie feminists, like me, wish you all success in your campaigning for all women everywhere.Laura-BatesYoung feminists

Albert Mansbridge founded The Workers Education Association in Battersea

Posted in Albert Mansbridge founder of The Workers Education Association by sheelanagigcomedienne on July 3, 2014

Albert Mansbridge founder of The Workers Education Association is my nomination for the Great One Hundred at Battersea Arts Centre and for the Good Neighbour.
Battersea arts centre

He is a very important example of another great and influential person associated with radical and progressive Battersea in the early 1900s.

Albert and  Frances, his wife, lived at 52 Winsham Grove, Battersea, London SW11.

52 Winsham Grove SW11

52 Winsham Grove SW11

Winsham Grove SWII

Winsham Grove SWII










ALBERT MANSBRIDGE who was so instrumental in the pursuit of education for working class people nationally and internationally with the Workers Education Association which he founded and all the other developments in access to training, education and resources for people, like himself, who had to leave school as soon as possible as his family couldn’t afford to let him continue his education  as they needed his earnings. He was fourteen when he left.

Albert Mansbridge founder of the Workers Education Association WEA when living in Battersea

Albert Mansbridge founder of the Workers Education Association WEA when living in Battersea

Albert Mansbridge born 0n the 10 January 1876 in Gloucester. His father was a carpenter and the family moved to Battersea when Albert was a child. He was an extraordinary educator who organised the Adult Education movement in Britain. He is best known for his part in founding the  Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) in England in 1903, serving as its first secretary until 1915.

This was founded in January 1903 by Albert and his wife Frances in their home 52 Winsham Grove, off Clapham Common. In this symbolic meeting at their terraced house, Frances famously contributed 2s.6d. from her housekeeping money as a working fund and voted Albert `hon. sec. pro tem’.

Albert and Frances Mansbridge

Albert and Frances Mansbridge










Mansbridge attended Bolingbroke Road and Surrey Lane schools before winning a scholarship in 1885 to Sir Walter St John’s and hence onward to Battersea Grammar School on St John’s Hill.

Battersea Grammar School

Battersea Grammar School

In 1890, aged fourteen, he went to work as a City clerk, while pursuing his studies via a university extension course at Munt’s Hall Clapham Junction which became The Imperial cinema later renamed The Ruby. This  closed in 1981. and that was the end for this 91 year old building as the Theatre was then demolished to make way for a branch of Barclays Bank.

The Imperial Cinema formerly Munts Hall and laterly The Ruby before demolition for the ugly Barclays Bank branch

The Imperial Cinema formerly Munts Hall and later  The Ruby before demolition for the ugly Barclays Bank branch

(In 1900 a consortium, led by the well loved Music Hall artiste Dan Leno, took over the former Munt’s Hall to see if their idea of a larger hall in the area was viable. Satisfied that it was they set about commissioning AE Woodrow to build a new Theatre in Clapham called The Grand.)

Mansbridge was an activist in the Battersea Co-operative Society and wrote Brick upon Brick a history of the first 50 years of the Coop Permanent Building Society.albert brick upon brick The Cooperative Movement and Communities in Britain, …







Founded in 1903, the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) is a charity and the UK’s largest voluntary sector provider of adult education. In 2012/13 we delivered 9,700 part-time courses for over 70,000 students in England and Scotland with classes in almost every local authority area and our work in England was assessed in 2014 as ‘Good’ by Ofsted.

With the support of over 400 local branches, 3,000 volunteers, 2,000 part-time tutors and our active membership, the WEA provides high quality, student-centred and tutor-led education for adults from all walks of life. We bring education into the heart of communities, helping people learn whatever they want – from maths and English to local history.

Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) – Adult Learning

This is from the WEA website.




The founder of the WEA was a man who had left school at the age of fourteen and started life as an office boy. Albert Mansbridge, while still in his fourteenth year, enrolled in a University Extension Course on “The Chemistry of Everyday Life” and won a certificate with distinction at the end of it. As a young man he continued to make considerable use of University Extension lectures and became very involved in the educational work of the Co-operative movement. His interest in these two spheres involved a realization that the University Extension movement was failing to attract working people despite their need for higher education and he felt that, though the Co-operative Movement was doing much good educational work and had itself made considerable use of Extension education, providing ready-made audiences for university lecturers, it was not enough to confine the initiative on the workers’ side to the Co-operative Movement.

He began to talk of an alliance between labour and learning, in which University authorities could be brought in touch with the workers through their various organisations. He believed that such an association would help to show that working people had the determination and ability to undertake serious, systematic study of a university standard and would represent their educational needs on a national scale. The “partnership between labour and learning” was not to be merely a convenient administrative arrangement; it would be a true partnership in which the workers would be helped in an objective search, in all branches of learning, to acquire knowledge which would enable them to decide for themselves what to think about the society in which they lived and worked.
Being a man of some action as well as of some dreams, Mansbridge took the first step towards founding such an association: though it was Mrs Mansbridge who provided the apple so that the fruits of the Tree of Knowledge might be savoured – she handed him 2s. 6d. from her housekeeping money as the first member’s fee and together they elected themselves honorary secretary and founder member of the “Association to Promote the Higher Education of Working Men”. The new Association was formally created at a conference in 1903 of representatives of the trade unions, the Co-operative movement and University Extension authorities. The sex discrimination expressed in its title was corrected two years later when the name Workers’ Educational Association was adopted.

Albert Mansbridge portrait is in  the National Portrait Gallery and was painted by his  John

Albert Mansbridge portrait is in the National Portrait Gallery and was painted by his son John

The portrait was painted by his son John Mansbridge who became an official war artist and taught at Goldsmith’s College  ISSUU – Artist Biography M by Goldmark Gallery

Albert attended university extension courses at Kings College London. He eventually taught evening classes himself in economics, industrial history, and typing, all while taking up clerical work.

Albert had growing concerns over the fact that the extension courses, started in 1873, were aimed at the upper and middle classes. Originally called An Association to Promote the Higher Education of Working Men, realising that women should equally be included, the name change took place in 1905. The association and its aims was quick to be recognized by universities, and Mansbridge left clerical work in 1905 to become its full-time general secretary.

Albert founded international branches of the WEA in Australia 1913, and later Canada and New Zealand. Mansbridge suffered from spinal meningitis but after recovering he would go on to form several other adult-education groups. These included the World Association for Adult Education in 1918, the Seafarers’ Educational Service in 1919 The Marine College of the SEA and the British Institute of Adult Education in 1921. In 1922 he delivered the Lowell Lectures in Boston, and for the Pacific School of Religion with the University of California. He also founded the National Central Library, a tutorial system and a scholarly library for working people who were not connected to an academic institution.

He was a member of numerous government committees of education, including the Consultative Committee of the Board of Education from 1906 to 1912, and from 1924 to 1939. From 1915 to 1918 Mansbridge was on the Prime Minister’s Committee on the Teaching of Modern Languages. He was a member of the Royal Commission on the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge from 1919 to 1922. He was also on the Statutory Commission on Oxford in 1923. He was a member of numerous church committees, including the Selborne Committee on Church and State from 1914 to 1916.

Albert Mansbridge : the life and work of the founder – Trove

Those who are only familiar with Mansbridge’s name as the founder of the WEA may be surprised to learn of the role he played in the setting up of many other organisations connected with the education of adults: the British Institute of Adult Education, for example, which still exists today as NIACE. Even more surprising is that today’s British Library Lending Division can trace its origins back to Mansbridge’s Central Library for Tutorial Classes. Proof, indeed, that he was a man of vision.

He was a fairly prolific author.

albert 7albert 8

albert 3










albert 5albert 1 albert 2








Battersea needs to commemorate him and his wife Frances as people we owe some debt to. I attended some WEA classes for women on Feminism in the 80s at Battersea Arts Centre with my youngest child in the crèche.

I believe Albert Mansbridge is deserving of a blue plaque on his home at 52 Winsham Grove SW11 for his role in the development of Adult education in Britain and beyond.

52 Winsham Grove SW11

52 Winsham Grove SW11




Humanist Association of Ireland, Humani, Northern Ireland and Atheist Ireland

Posted in Atheist Ireland, Humanist Association Ireland, Northern Ireland by sheelanagigcomedienne on June 22, 2014

Here is a piece for the London Irish Feminist Network about the Humanist/Atheist scene in Ireland now and the challenge to the power and influence of the Catholic church on Irish life.


I have been a member and celebrant of the British Humanist Association for 18 years. I have been keenly observing what is happening in Ireland about the challenge to the power and influence of the Catholic Church both in the reduction of mass attendances, in those declaring themselves of no religion or atheist and in the rise of organisations campaigning for change.


In 2011 I was invited to speak at two student organisations in Ireland as a Humanist and atheist. In Cork I addressed UCC Atheist Society. (Out of this was born Cork Humanists) but in Dublin it was the UCD Humanist Society and I noted that in Galway they have a NUIGalway Sceptics Society. There is, no doubt, that things are changing. There are city and regional groups of Humanists and Atheists as well as social occasions like Secular Sunday brunches in Galway, Sligo, Tralee, Kilkenny, Monaghan etc.
There are two main organizations in Ireland challenging the power and influence of the Catholic Church and its privileged position within the state. The Humanist Association of Ireland Humanist Association of Ireland HAI and Atheist Ireland .

Humanist Association of Ireland


About Us

Untitled-3The Humanist Association of Ireland (HAI) is a national organisation that promotes the ideals and values of Humanism, working for people who choose to live an ethical life without religion. The HAI grew from and replaced the Association of Irish Humanists (AIH), which was founded in 1993 and renamed in 2004.


If you live in Ireland and are an atheist, agnostic, freethinker, rationalist, secularist, sceptic; do not believe in a god, are non-religious and/or have no belief in the supernatural – Humanism may just interest you!

– See more at:

About Us

Untitled-3The Humanist Association of Ireland (HAI) is a national organisation that promotes the ideals and values of Humanism, working for people who choose to live an ethical life without religion. The HAI grew from and replaced the Association of Irish Humanists (AIH), which was founded in 1993 and renamed in 2004.


If you live in Ireland and are an atheist, agnostic, freethinker, rationalist, secularist, sceptic; do not believe in a god, are non-religious and/or have no belief in the supernatural – Humanism may just interest you!

– See more at:

The Humanist Association of Ireland (HAI) is a national organisation that promotes the ideals and values of Humanism, working for people who choose to live an ethical life without religion. The HAI grew from and replaced the Association of Irish Humanists (AIH), which was founded in 1993 and renamed in 2004.


If you live in Ireland and are an atheist, agnostic, freethinker, rationalist, secularist, sceptic; do not believe in a god, are non-religious and/or have no belief in the supernatural – Humanism may just interest you!

– See more at:

The Humanist Association of Ireland (HAI) is a national organisation that promotes the ideals and values of Humanism, working for people who choose to live an ethical life without religion. The HAI grew from and replaced the Association of Irish Humanists (AIH), which was founded in 1993 and renamed in 2004.


If you live in Ireland and are an atheist, agnostic, freethinker, rationalist, secularist, sceptic; do not believe in a god, are non-religious and/or have no belief in the supernatural – Humanism may just interest you!

– See more at:

The Humanist Association of Ireland (HAI) is a national organisation that promotes the ideals and values of Humanism, working for people who choose to live an ethical life without religion. The HAI grew from and replaced the Association of Irish Humanists (AIH), which was founded in 1993 and renamed in 2004.


If you live in Ireland and are an atheist, agnostic, freethinker, rationalist, secularist, sceptic; do not believe in a god, are non-religious and/or have no belief in the supernatural – Humanism may just interest you!

– See more at:

The Humanist Association of Ireland (HAI) was founded in 1993 to promote Humanism which they describe as: an ethical philosophy of life, based on a concern for humanity in general, and for human individuals in particular. This view of life combines reason with compassion. It is for those people who base their interpretation of existence on the evidence of the natural world and its evolution, and not on belief in a supernatural power.

Irish Census 2011 ¦ A Humanist perspective YouTube



The HAI is working towards a secular state and the equal treatment of people of no religion in the Constitution, in legislation and other practices of the State and its agencies by campaigning on behalf of the non-religious in Ireland in a number of areas. On an ongoing basis, the HAI seeks to have a secular Constitution and has identified the need for change in the following areas:
The Constitution itself by deleting:
the religious preamble
the requirement for religious oaths/declarations for judges and holders of high office
its concept of blasphemy
Changes in State practices relating to:
Oireachtas prayers
religious oaths for jurors and witnesses
the use of State property for religious purposes
primary and secondary education (including primary teacher training, school chaplains and the religious curriculum)
medical care
religious symbols in public places
the national Census
the use of State employees for religious purposes
These and other topics are more fully described in the HAI publication Equality for the Non-Religious.

It produces a monthly magazine.Hum 2



The humanist association of Northern Ireland: Humani

secular schoolsjpg

Humani coverAtheist Ireland


Atheist Ireland | Building a rational, ethical and secular

The group was initially founded by members of, an online community which had been set up by Seamus Murnane in June 2006.

Its current chairperson is writer and activist Michael Nugent. Atheist Ireland is a member of the Atheist Alliance International.

Atheist Ireland is an Irish advocacy group. We promote atheism and reason over superstition and supernaturalism, and we promote an ethical, secular society where the State does not support or finance or give special treatment to any religion.

Atheist Ireland is a member of Atheist Alliance International, an umbrella organisation of groups and individuals in the United States and around the world committed to promoting and defending reason and the atheist worldview.



It has a network of groups around the country.   Secular Education in Ireland 3, CorkHumanists YouTube
Atheist Ireland promotes an ethical secular Ireland, where your child can attend school without religious discrimination and indoctrination, and can grow up to aspire to be Taoiseach or President or a Judge without having to swear a religious oath. You can also take part in informal social events where you can meet likeminded people.
As a member your subscription will be used to:
Further our campaign to have an ethical secular State in Ireland, that favours neither religion nor atheism.
Persuade the Irish government to not educate non-religious children in schools run by the Catholic church
Stop the Catholic church from excluding non-religious children from primary schools
Keep the pressure on the government to urgently remove our blasphemy law, which has an impact internationally.
Promote freedom of conscience and equality before the law for all citizens, regardless of religious or non-religious beliefs.
Enable us to work with organisations worldwide to help us with all these campaigns and human rights.
The origins and emphasis of the two organisations are different but complementary, mostly. Humanism is a philosophy of life and ethics based on human nature and the natural world. Most Humanist organisations have a network of trained ceremony celebrants to respond to the demand for non-religious celebrants to conduct the hatchings, matchings and dispatching ceremonies of funerals, weddings, civil partnerships and baby namings. Increasingly, representatives of Humanist organisations serve as chaplains and on bodies that used to only represent the religious.
HAI celebrants in June 2013, following years of campaigning, have achieved legal status for Humanist marriage ceremonies. Following the passing of the Civil Registration Amendment Act last December by the Dáil and Seanad, the General Register Office added all current HAI-accredited celebrants to the list of solemnisers. Scotland had already recognised Humanist celebrants as registrars but in the rest of the UK the negotiations for such recognition are still ongoing. It is envisaged that this will happen in 2015/16.
However, the legislation was discriminatory and flawed in the way it was framed.
“45A (1) For the purposes of this Part, a body shall, subject to subsection (2), be a secular body if it is an organised group of people and –
(2) None of the following is a secular body for the purposes of this Part:
(b) a body that promotes a political cause;”
It is this clause stating that it precludes any secular body that promotes a political cause that has created the contradiction and which was challenged by Atheist Ireland as unworkable as HAI is, without a doubt, promoting and advocating changes in policies, laws and the constitution in Ireland.



Atheist Ireland are, undoubtedly more militant than HAI. The emphasis of the two organisations are similar in that both are adamantly secularist and have many of the same aims. However,  Humanism is a philosophy of life and ethics based on human nature and the natural world whereas Atheist Ireland is more of a campaigning group although it has developed a social side with Secular Sunday Brunches which are posted in SECULAR SUNDAY the weekly newletter of AI edited by Derek Walsh. Links to it are found on the Atheist Ireland website and interested folk can sign up. It has a media watch section of relevant items from Ireland and worldwide as well as interesting links to guest blogs. AI has has a forum and a section on the various submissions it has made to the UN, Europe and the Irish Government.


It has plenty of interesting videos. Atheist IrelandYouTube

Atheist Ireland responds to abortion law YouTube  Senator Ivana Bacik greets Sanal Edamaruku at Atheist

Michael Nugent debates the right to assisted YouTube  Teaching about atheism in Irish schools YouTube

Ireland’s government trying to produce Irish solutions to Irish problems will continue to cock up especially while men are predominantly in charge, with exceptions like Labour’s Ivana Bacik who is backing Joan Burton’s bid for the leadership of the Labour Party.
I guess we need to keep an eye on what’s happening in Ireland around all this and we have a right to influence changes on this as, far many of us, it was the Catholic ethos and restricted role for women that caused us to emigrate.




Arthur Lynch Australian Irish MP for Galway and West Clare and Labour candidate in Battersea South in 1918.

Arthur Alfred Lynch (16 October 1861 – 25 March 1934) was an Irish Australian civil engineer, physician , journalist, author, soldier, anti-imperialist and polymath. He was a hefty man, strikingly handsome, of charm, courtesy and even temper, Lynch was one of the most picturesque figures of his time. He was erratic in his grasp of public affairs but was generally respected for his integrity and extraordinary range of knowledge, and was on friendly terms with many great contemporaries. He had no doubt that his was one of the outstanding minds of the age

Biography – Arthur Alfred Lynch – Australian Dictionary of

As an Irish nationalist he fought against the British  with the Boers and was tried for treason and sentenced to be hanged. He sounds like he was quite a character and had a fascinating career. He represented Labour in Battersea South in 1918 when Charlotte Despard stood in Battersea North.

Arthur Lynch in 1915

Arthur Lynch in 1915

He served as MP in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and represented Galway Borough from 1901 to 1902, subsequently West Clare, his father’s birthplace, from 1909 to 1918. Unlike most of his compatriots, Lynch fought on the Boer side during the Boer War in South Africa and raised his own Irish battalion towards the end of World War 1.
Lynch was born at Smythesdale near Ballarat Victoria the fourth of 14 children. His father, John Lynch, was an Irish Catholic surveyor and civil engineer and his mother Isabella (née MacGregor) was Scottish. John Lynch was a founder and first president of the Ballarat School of Mines and a captain of Peter Lalor at the Eureka Stockade rebellion (1854) and he wrote a book, Austral Light (1893–94), about it – later republished as The Story of the Eureka Stockade. The Eureka Stockade rebellion at Ballarat, Victoria, in 1854, became one of Australia’s great legends. Gold miners from all over the world among other things demanded parliamentary democracy–and nothing less. They were defeated at dawn on 3 December 1854 by British troops and Victoria Police. John Lynch, was a prominent Galway Irishman. Both father and son were champions of liberty against tyranny.

Arthur Lynch was educated at Grenville College, Ballarat, (where he was “entranced” by differential calculus) and the University of Melbourne, where he took the degrees of BA in 1885 and in 1887. Lynch qualified as a civil engineer and practised this profession for a short period in Melbourne.

Lynch left Australia and went to Berlin, where he studied physics, physiology and. Moving to London Lynch took up journalism. In 1892, he contested Galway as a Parnellite candidate, but was defeated. Lynch was a life-long republican. He was active in the English Republican League. He met Annie Powell a student,  daughter of the Rev. John D. Powell, in Berlin and they were married in 1895. They were to have no children. In Lynch’s words, the marriage “never lost its happiness” (My Life Story, p. 85).

The Lynch family are an ancient Norman family arrived with Strongbow and became one of the ‘Tribes of Galway’.  They were very influential in the local politics, no less than 84 Mayors of Galway were from the family Lynch, as were many of the Wardens of Galway.  Gradually the religion changed from Protestant to Catholic and they became staunchly Irish patriots.  Lynch Castle was built in 1320 and they formed many branches of the same name.”

Lynch's Castle Galway home to one of the 14 tribes of the city

Lynch’s Castle Galway home to one of the 14 tribes of the city

In 1898, he was Paris correspondent for the London Daily Mail and when the second Boer War broke out, Lynch was sympathetic to the Boers and decided to go to South Africa as a war correspondent. In Pretoria he met General Botha and decided to join the Boer side. Lynch raised the Second Irish Brigade which consisted of Irishmen, Cape colonists and others opposed to the British. He was given the rank of Colonel and saw limited active service. O’Brien’s fictional Bye-Bye Dolly Gray, is kinder to Lynch’s showy South African exploits and his uitlanders. Michael Davitt who travelled to South Africa has photos of Lynch with his brigade on the veldt, in, The Boer Fight for Freedom. A Gentleman and a War Criminal: A Measure of Integrity


Lynch is the man in a white shirt centre back

Lynch is the man in a white shirt centre back

From South Africa, Lynch went to the US as he was commissioned to attempt to reconcile two Irish factions. He and then returned to Paris. He became a powerful journalist for the National Reformer, then the Daily Mail for which by 1898 he was Paris correspondent. Having travelled widely, Lynch was now fluent in several languages and wrote well in French and German.

He again stood for Galway Borough in November 1901, and was elected in his absence as MP. On going to London, Lynch was arrested because of his pro-Boer activities and remanded for eight months. Lynch was tried for treason before three judges, and on 23 January 1903 was found guilty and sentenced to be hanged. This sentence was immediately commuted to a life sentence, and a year later Lynch was released “on licence by the Balfour government after Theodore Roosevelt interceded with Edward VII. The extraordinary case of Arthur Lynch begs interesting questions about identity and allegiance. In particular, his trial for high treason in January 1903 raises legal, political and cultural issues. His counsel argued that he should be tried in Ireland and that, in any case, as a citizen of the South African republic, he could not be guilty of treason against Britain. Lynch suggested that, as an Australian, he should be tried in Australia.
His case was cited in a House of Commons paper on (Forfeiture Act 1870, amended by the Criminal Law Act 1967)
The provisions of the Forfeiture Act have only once been invoked once. » 1903: Arthur Alfred Lynch condemned

In 1907 he was again elected as MP for West Clare.

World War 1.
During World War 1 Lynch volunteered for the New British Army. Arthur Alfred Lynch: Information He raised a private 10th Battalion, Royal Munster Fusiliers and was given the rank of Colonel, although he and his unit never saw active front service. His intention was to raise a unit in 1918 which did not have the barriers against national identity which had affected the raising of the 16th Division. He campaigned to raise recruits separately from the British recruiting drive in Ireland, which caused much aggravation, putting many obstacles in his way, including having those he recruited diverted elsewhere and the familiar denial of concessions to Irish national sentiments. He only managed to get a special uniform approved for his six pipers, they were to be kilted, their hat badges with the design of an Irish Wolfhound rather than the traditional Munster’s emblem of a Bengal Tiger.

Lynch took his full share in the turbulent sessions that saw Lloyd George introduce his first social-insurance measures. He fought particularly for higher education and a new deal for the common people. Always he continued the fight for Irish independence.

At the end of the war, Lynch chose to stand as a Labour candidate in newly created  Battersea South for the 1918 General election. He finished second to the Unionist. Battersea Borough Council, of course, had taken a stand against the Boer War even naming one of its streets on the Lathmere estate after General Joubert.

Battersea constituency was originally created in 1885. From 1892 to 1918 the seat was held by trade union leader John Burns who served as a Minister (of the Crown) in the Liberal Cabinets of Bannerman and Asquith from 1905 until 1914. The constituency was split in 1918 into Battersea North which only had four years of a Conservative MP from 1931 and Battersea South which had 38 years of a Conservative MP, the most recent spell ended in 1964. William Bennett, Caroline Ganley, Ernie Perry and Alf Dubs represented it for Labour. The two constituencies were rejoined in 1983 with Alf becoming the MP and Martin Linton winning it back in 1997 till 2010.
Arthur Lynch had qualified as a physician many years earlier when he took up medical studies at St Mary’s, Paddington, graduated from the University of London (M.R.C.S., L.R.C.P., 1908) and practised at Haverstock Hill. He later found time to graduate in Paris with a diploma of electrical engineering. He began to practise medicine in London, at Haverstock Hill. He died in London on 25 March 1934.

I found Arthur Lynch MP fascinating as one of the Irish diaspora, representing the Irish Parliamentary Party in my hometown of Galway and then as the Labour candidate in 1918 in the newly formed constituency Battersea South.


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