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Thursday, August 27, 2009


Saturday, August 22, 2009


Heddle Nash was born in London June 14th 1894. This was very memorable to me, of course , and my parents because they were married on June 14, 1941, also known as flag day. Nash was 20 when World War one broke out and he enlisted in the British forces, interrupting his musical studies. He was a combat soldier and saw action in Palestine, Gallipoli and France. He was severely wounded; he recovered and later married his nurse. They had two sons. My father was also seriously hurt in a car crash and was nurse by my mother whom he later married. After World War I Nash studied with Marie Brema at the Blackheath Conservatory. Nash made his operatic debut in 1924 at the Teatro Carcano in Milan playing the role of Almaviva in Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville). Nash sang many song recitals and was well known as singer of oratorios, art songs, and opera (often in English) on the radio and on recordings. He is considered by many to be one of the greatest tenors of the 20th century and certainly one of the greatest English tenors of his era (floruit 1924-1950). He died of lung cancer in 1961 at the age of 67.


SNOWY BREASTED PEARL (translation of Irish Gaelic song) WEBSTER BOOTH

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Love and Loyalty (fidelty) are prime virtues

Love and loyalty (fidelity) are prime virtues. Loyalty must come down if it is to come up, of course.

1)“Love is space and time measured by the heart.”

~ Marcel Proust ~

(1871-1922, French author)

2) “The heart that has truly loved never forgets….”
Thomas Moore, Irish poet.

3) “Tis a good thing, a happy thing when all men are leal and true; happy for them and happy for all. Loyal hearts are loving hearts.”

Traditional saying

4)”…keeping ever before you, aye, the images of darling children fondly listening as they are told about their absent father by your lealhearted loving wife.”

….biographical sketch of Sir Henry Havelock, 1858 By William Brock)

(AMajor-General Sir Henry Havelock, (5 April 1795 – 29 November 1857) was a British general who is particularly associated with India and Afghanistan. He was noted for his recapture of Cawnpore from rebels during Sepoy Muntiny of 1857. He was the commanding officer of Sir Colin Campbell of the 93rd Sutherland Highlanders, the original THIN RED LINE OF HEROES.)

5) Every society rests ,in the last resort,

on the recognition of common principles and common ideals,

and if it makes no moral or spiritual appeal to the loyalty of its

members, it must inevitably fall to pieces.”

Christopher Dawson, English historian


Tuesday, August 18, 2009


The girl is reasonably pretty and slim as most young girls are but really is not anythng special, physically, just above average. They say at 50 you have the face you deserve. Compare this young miss to Maureen O'Hara who just turned 89 or 90. Miss O'Hara was a complete knock out from age 17-55, kept her figure and still was attractive and quite handsome into her 60's and 70's.
And part of the appeal of Maureen O' Hara was she had a great sense of modesty. She was a very talented woman who also sang on broadway and recorded a LP of Irish songs (very nice really she had a sweet but small voice; her mother was an opera star).
Remember Brittany Spears? The same thing an above average girl in looks wth a nice figure and some talent for singing (not much really). She struck it rich but does not seem to have a happy life. I wish Miley better fortune but it is not a good sign when her parents allow her to be displayed and exploited like a prostitute. All this wealth and fame are like some feverish disease . A healthy person has just enough and develops good relationships with loving and trustworthy stable people. But all this is, in my humble opinion very unhealthy for Miley when lewdness, money and fame are all combined with a longing for those things to the detriment of all else there is an increase of jealousy, fear of loss (of fame, of looks, of figure), foul talk (each word like wound eventually it will damage the soul), foul thoughts (dominated by Eros; true love of friendship becomes difficult if not impossible). In the end an ugly life will end in ugly actions. And of course Miley will not be 15 or 25 forever. The great actresses singers and artists have more than looks alone and so make the transition from the eternal 25 year old (until age 40). Those actresses who don't and who can't make the transition often go mad. Marilyn Monroe died at age 36 and she was overweight -have you seen photos of her 1960-1962?- and rapidly aging. If she had not killed herself her career would have been over. That was too much for her to take so she went out before total bankruptcy set in. Very tragic but hers was a life -despite all her talents- of endless eros and hedonistic parties ending all alone drinking and taking pills and afraid to leave the house. I hope Miley can avoid a tragic path to self destruciton that Brittany Spears and Marilyn Monroe followed. That is the real tragedy. What are the parent's thinking? Maybe all they care about is their cut in the action. But money is not everything , not by a long shot. And true beauty is found only with modesty and true happiness is found only with true love which goes far beyond and far deeper than mere eros (sex).


Monday, August 17, 2009


We miss Truman. We miss the country he was president of a whole lot more.

Harry Truman

Harry Truman was a different kind of President. He probably made as many important decisions regarding our nation's history as any of the other 42 Presidents. However, a measure of his greatness may rest on what he did after he left the White House.

The only asset he had when he died was the house he lived in, which was in Independence,Missouri . His wife had inherited the house from her mother and other than their years in the White House, they lived their entire lives there.

When he retired from office in 1952, his income was a U.S. Army pension reported to have been $13,507.72 a year. Congress, noting that he was paying for his stamps and personally licking them, granted him an 'allowance' and, later, a retroactive pension of $25,000 per year..

After President Eisenhower was inaugurated, Harry and Bess drove home to Missouri by themselves. There were no Secret Service following them.

When offered corporate positions at large salaries, he declined, stating, "You don't want me. You want the office of the President, and that doesn't belong to me. It belongs to the American people and it's not for sale."

Even later, on May 6, 1971, when Congress was preparing to award him the Medal of Honor on his 87th birthday, he refused to accept it, writing, "I don't consider that I have done anything which should be the reason for any award, Congressional or otherwise."

As president he paid for all of his own travel expenses and food.

Modern politicians have found a new level of success in cashing in on the Presidency, resulting in untold wealth. Today, many in Congress also have found a way to become quite wealthy while enjoying the fruits of their offices. Political offices are now for sale. (sic. Illinois )

Good old Harry Truman was correct when he observed, "My choices in life were either to be a piano player in a whore house or a politician. And to tell the truth, there's hardly any difference!

I say dig him up and clone him!!


RE: Harry Truman: Virtute non astutia (character not craftiness).

Dear Steven and friends:

Very Amusing and as far as I know completely true. {SEE ABOVE}

Truman also spoke very unfavorably of Lyndon Johnson’s integrity which is interesting since they came from the same party. Truman did not hesitate to call Richard Nixon a ‘”no good lying bastard” and seemed to predict that Nixon’s duplicity would be his greatest Nemesis. And Truman was the least formally educated of all our modern presidents –never getting past high school.

But we know from the David McCullough biography that Truman was a great reader and an autodidact. Truman learned from what he read and from what he experienced. Truman said: “In reading the lives of great men, I found that the first victory they won was over themselves... self-discipline with all of them came first. “

Truman was , in all aspects , of his life, from his business partnership and its bankruptcy, his austere lifestyle in Washington, his lack of interest in money, his great integrity and civic virtue a man of integrity. His ability to change and grow wiser were remarkable. WWIII changed his attitudes on race –and he admitted this- and Truman, if he had ever been anti-Semitic or anti-Catholic –and there is no evidence of this- did all that he could not to display bigotry. He was encouraged and invited to join the Klan in the 1920’s to further his political appeal but he found their bigotry unacceptable. Integrity defined his personal and public life. Samuel Johnson wrote “Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful”.

Truman was a Lincoln in his devotion to the truth, public service in the true sense of the word –sacrifice not self-aggrandizement. He said, famously, “I never did give anybody hell. I just told the truth and they thought it was hell.”

Truman was brave –he had great physical and moral courage- and he was humble yet wise.

I admire Truman and his legacy because like Lincoln he had great faith in America and the proposition that “all men are created equal” and endowed with natural rights which certainly are “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” (the Declaration) and within reason embrace with great seriousness not only life and liberty but also “property” rights (The Constitution).

Truman, like Lincoln, believed in Right and Wrong and the immutability of truth. Truman had confidence in the rightness of his opinions and acted accordingly and when he made a mistake he owned up to it. Never apologizing and never admitting that one does not know all the facts is evidence of a very dangerous attitude of hubris or vainglory.

Truman knew that people change their minds –he did on race- and that mankind in the course of history had passed up and down from knowledge to incomplete knowledge to error and prejudice and then overcoming error, prejudice and attempting as far as humanly possible to gain true knowledge and wisdom. In his wisdom he knew not all could be known but when he made a decision he stuck with it and moved on. He did the best he could where he was with what he had and who could ask for anything more of a U.S. president?

Yes, Truman excelled in the American virtues.

Truman celebrated the importance of Duty to the Republic, under God, but also to individuals whose natural rights demanded they be treated with dignity, freedom and respect. Truman’s life was one of simplicity, self-control and moderation yet he was not excessively Puritanical –he drank whiskey, played cards and used, at times, a taste for manly, soldierly, direct and profane language, a habit he no doubt did not learn in school but as an officer of men in the field. For let us not forget, Truman was one of the Doughboys who helped secure the freedom and security of Britain and Europe against the Kaiser and his legions. Truman was, in fact, a hero of two great wars and a true soldier of freedom and justice.

As a Christian he refused the accolades of Glory per se and though like any other man Truman had pride but he always moderated his pride as a man and as an American with humility. It is this combination of meekness and courage combined with a gentle, humble and merciful heart, purged of most conceit and selfishness that really were the mark of this truly admirable and very American character.

Truman did not encourage the USA and the UN to recognize Israel as an independent state because it was popular or an easy thing to do but because it was right. Truman said “I had faith in Israel before it was established, I have in it now. I believe it has a glorious future before it - not just another sovereign nation, but as an embodiment of the great ideals of our civilization.” I believe no man has ever said it better. Truman recognized we, the gentiles, should never forget the great gifts of the Jews to all humanity.

I of course never met Truman nor his contemporaries but I did have the opportunity some years ago (the early 1970’s) to meet Earl Miller, FDR’s personal bodyguard –formerly of the New York State Police- and speak to him as regards to his opinion of the great statesmen with whom he had contact. He was personal friends with Gus Gennerich and all of the inner circle of FDR’s personal bodyguards who were all composed of New York City Police officers and New York State Policemen who first came into service when FDR became governor of New York.

Naturally, Miller loved FDR and had the highest regard for Mrs. Roosevelt. He told me interesting and amusing stories about FDR driving with him at high speeds in his specially designed convertible. Miller said to me of FDR “either he was the greatest actor in the world or he was a man who deeply cared about people. And that’s what I believe. He was like everyone’s favorite uncle. I loved him. I would have laid down my life for him.” Of Churchill he said “bodyguards and servants did not even exist for him; he seemed to have aristocratic contempt for them.”

And what of Truman?

Miller said quite truthfully he did not really get to know Truman well because FDR so rarely called upon his services.

But Miller said something that was very interesting. Truman had the reputation of being a very simple, unassuming man who was very considerate with his drivers, with the White House servants and cooks. Miller said he might have been the most beloved and respected man ever to live in the White House among the workers there with the possible exception of FDR himself. That of course was just one man’s opinion but it seemed to me to be a very worthy and informed opinion though of course not without prejudice. But I am not likely ever to come closer to the truth than this.

Harry S. Truman was an American Cincinnatus in the tradition of Lincoln and Washington.

Truman was not the most influential and greatest of the 20th century presidents but he was a very competent and honest president with a strong and successful foreign policy and a man who was an extremely important precursor for the Civil Rights achievements of the 1950’s and 1960’s

Truman was and remains a great example for what a democratic statesman can be at his best.

We shall never see his like again in this age of voluptuous, profligate politicians who live drink, party like Lords of some Imperial Empire while they write laws for confiscating other people’s earnings to use as their free spending money.

Truman inspired patriotism and civic responsibility; the pols of today mostly without term limits in their safe gerrymandered districts do just the opposite. No wonder many citizens are so demoralized they never vote and no wonder taxes are so high and our government is a web of corruption, secret insider deals, lavish living, immorality, sexual scandals, special favors, incompetence, parasitism, nepotism and waste.

Harry Truman was an exemplar of civic virtue and he knew our free society was based up a limited government as well as a positive passion for the public or common good.

Truman knew that the survival of the American Republic is not based on arms, though arms we need, nor on material prosperity, though we should seek some measure of material security as a basis of civilized life but upon the education and character of our citizens and their elected leaders.

Harry Truman: virtute non astutia (character not craftiness).

Harry Truman was a great man, a leal and true man who makes one proud to be an American and have lived during his lifetime.

He needs no monument.

The whole Free World is his monument.

Ne obliviscaris (do not forget): Harry Truman. Never was a man more truly named than Harry Truman.

Yours mostly sincerely and with deepest respect,


Saturday, August 15, 2009


Thug thu dhioms' a' ghrian 'san speur You blotted the sun from the sky
Faill ill o hug o ro é Faill ill o hug o ro é
Spiòn thu asam mùirn mo chléibh You wrenched the joy from within my body
Faill ill o hug o ro éile Faill ill o hug o ro éile

Gheall mo gràdh dhomh siòda 's sròl My lover promised me silk and finery
Còmhdach riòmhach's seudan óir Flowing robes and golden jewelry
Gheall e mire 's blasdachd beòil He promised merryness and fine fare
'S cáithream chlàr a dhuisgeas òrain And the symphony of harps to inspire poetry

Có o'm faigh mi biadh air bòrd Who will provide me with meat for my table?
Thréig mo shòlas 's m'àilleachd neòil My happiness and my fair complexion have gone
Thréig mo stiùir, mo ràmh, 's mo sheòl My rudder, my oar and my sail have gone
Dh'rimich saoidh nan dualan òrbhuidh My flaxan-haired warrior has departed

Dìobradh damh a mhang 'sa fhrìth As a deer abandoning its fawn in the forest
Dìobradh eala 'h-ealag fhìn As a swan deserting its young
Dìobradh màthair rùn a cridh' As a mother forsaking her beloved child
'S mi gun dàimh, gun ghaol, gun dìonadh So I am left friendless, unloved and unprotected




(I KNOW THIS SONG BY DAVID SOLLEY; it is one of my favorite Gaelic songs)

O 's truagh nach robh mis' ann an gleannan mo ghaoil
Oir tha beannachadh Dhe\ agus sith ann
Tha na h-aibhnean 's na coilltean as bo\idhch' air an t-saoghal
Ann an gleannan mo ghaoil taobh Loch Li\obhainn.

Fa\ile cu\bhraidh an fhraoich tigh'nn thar mullach nam beann
Agus chi\ thu'n damh ruadh air an fhri\th ann
'S ged shiu\bhladh tu Alba chan fhaic thu aon ghleann
Tha cho boidheach rim' ghleann taobh Loch Li\obhainn.

Air an achadh bheag uain' chaidh lomadh le fa\l
Bidh na gillean le'n camain a' stri\ ann
'S chan 'eil buidheann an siorramachd mho/r EarraGha\idheal
Tha cho clis ris na suinn taobh Loch Li\obhainn.

Tha daoine cho coibhneil 's cho ca\irdeil 'sa ghleann
'S chan eil aobhar bhith dubhach no sgi\th ann,
Ach cho fhad's a bhios Ga\idhlig 'ga sgri\obhadh le peann
Bidh mi moladh mo ghleann taobh Loch Li\ohainn.

(Here's another little song with vocabulary list and translation.
There is one interesting point of writing style here: the
relative pronoun is omitted everywhere it would occur in more
formal writing - that's a reasonable omission to make, as it
would be elided away in speech in every case.) CC


My little valley by Loch Leven

It's a pity I'm not in the little valley I love,
for God's blessings and peace are there.
The rivers and woods are the most beautiful in the world
in the little glen I love by Loch Leven.

The fragrant scent of the heather coming over the tops of the hills,
and you'll see the red deer in the forest there
and even should you travel throughout Scotland you wouldn't see a single valley
that is as beautiful as my valley be Loch Leven.

On the little green field that was mown with a scythe
the lads will be competing there with their shinty sticks
and there isn't a team in the great county of Argyll
that is as agile as the men by Loch Leven.

The people are so kind and so friendly in the valley
that there's no reason to be sad or weary there;
and as long as Gaelic is being written with pens
I shall praise my valley by Loch Leven.


ach [ax] but. (but in the 3rd line of the last verse
here it just means "and")
achadh [axu%] field
agus [a%us] and
aibhnean [ain'un] rivers, streams. Nominative plural of abhuinn
air [er'] on
Alba [alapu] Scotland
ann [a:N],[auN] in it (prepositional pronoun)
in the second line of the third verse, the "it" in "in it"
is the valley, so "in it" will be rendered "there" in
aobhar [u:var] reason, cause
aon [u:n] one
beag [buk],[bek] small
beann [bjauN] hill; of hills (nom sing & gen plural)
beannachadh [bjaNuxu%] blessing
bidh [pi:j] will be (future independent of bi)
bhios [vis] will be, is; future relative of bi
bhith [vi] being, to be. (verbal noun of bi)
bo\idhch' [bo:(j)x'] more beautiful, most beautiful
(comparative form of bo\idheach)
bo\idheach [bo:jox] beautiful
buidheann [bujeN] class, team, group
chaidh [xai%'] went (past independent of rach)
ca\irdeil [kar's't'el] friendly
camain [camaN'] shinty sticks (plural of caman)
(I think "shinty" is the english for camanachd;
it's a bit like hockey, but more fun)
chan [xan] not
clis [klis'] agile, nimble
coibhneil [kui(v)N'el'] kind, friendly. usually pronounced without a
v sound. dialect spelling of caoimhneil, but
this spelling is quite common.
coilltean [ku:L't'@n] woods (nom plural of coille)
cu\bhraidh [ku:ri] fragrant, pleasantly scented
damh [da:v] deer
daoine [duN'e] people, men; nom. plural of duine
dubhach [du:ox] unhappy, clouded
EarraGha\idheal [jaRa%a:jul] Argyll
'eil [el] be; dependent present of bi (short for bheil)
eil - - modern spelling of 'eil
fad' [at] far, long (short for fada)
fhaic [ax'k'], [ex'k'] see; future dependent of faic
fa\ile [fa:L'u] scent, perfume. (also written faileadh,
and the f is optional in both spelling and
fa\l [fa:l] scythe
fhraoich [rujx'] of heather (gen sing of fraoch)
fhri\th [ri:] forest (not trees! deer-forest)
(dative case of fri\th)
gaoil [gu:il] of love (gen of gaol)
ged [g'et] although
gillean [kiL'un] boys [plural of gille]
gleann [gl'aun] valley
gleannan [gl'aNan] small valley (diminutive of gleann)
lomadh [Loumu%] shearing, shaving, making bare, mowing, husking
moladh [molu%] praising, commending (verbal noun from mol, praise)
mo/r [mo:ur] big
mullach [mu:ox] top, summit
nach [nax] that not
nam [num] of the (genetive plural definite article)
oir [o(i)r'] for, because
peann [pjauN] pen. Note that
rim' [rim] to my, as my (prepositional possessive
pronoun, ri + mo)
ris [ris'] to, as (form of ri used with definitive
robh [ro] was (past dependent active tense of bi)
ruadh [rua%] red, russet
'sa [su] in the (anns a')
saoghal [su:ul], [su%ul] world. (if you go far enough south, you
may even here a glottal stop separating the
syllables rather than hiatus or a spirant)
sgi\th [sk'i:] weary, tired
sgri\obhadh [sgR'ivu%] writing (verbal noun from sgri\obh)
siorramachd [s'uRumaxk] county, shire (siorram = sherif)
sith [s'i] peace
shiu\bhladh [hjulu%] should travel (incomplete independent active
tense of siubhal)
stri\ [stri:] contest, strife, rivalry, contention
suinn [sujN'] heroes, champions, stout fellows (plural of sonn)
taobh [tu:v] beside
thar [har] across, over
tigh'nn [ti:N'] coming (for tighinn [t'i:iN'] (verbal noun)
truagh [trua%] sad, a pity; pronounced [truai] in some dialects
uain' [uaN'] green (uaine, [uaN'@])
(pronounced uaN' rather than uan' because scots
gaelic has dropped lenited palatalised n from its
set of phonemes, in most - maybe all - dialects;
there several more examples of this delenition
in the above list; some dialects depalatalise
instead of deliniting, eg duine is [dun@] in some,
[duN'@] in others, but the general rule at the end of
word is to delenite - even dialects which have [dun@]
will often have [duN'] for the form with the final
vowel elided (duin')).

Thursday, August 13, 2009

MO mother

Lovely Highland melody

THE STAR SPANGLED BANNER..thrilling version



Ó slán is céad on taobh so uaim
(A hundred farewells from this place I'm in )
Cois Maighe na gcaor na gcraobh na gcruach
(Beside Maigue of the berries, the branches, the stacks)
Na stát, na séad, na soar, na slua
(The estates, the jewels, the craftsmen, the crowds)
Na ndán, na ndréacht, na dtréan gan ghruaim
(The arts, the stories, the good-humored warriors )

Curfá: Chorus (after each verse):
Och, ochón is breoite mise
(Oh it is broken hearted I am)
Gan chuid, gan chóir, gan chóip, gan chiste
(Without a share, or right, or company, or money)
Gan sult, gan seoid, gan spórt, gan spionnadh
(Without happiness, or jewels, or sport, or vitality )
Ó seoladh mé chun uaignis
(Since I was sent into loneliness )

Slán go héag dá, soar-fhir suairc
(Farewell forever to her happy freeman )
Dá daimh, dá heigs', dá chléir, dá suag
(To her love of kin, her gatherings, her clergy, her scholars (
Dom chaired cléibh, gan chlaon, gan chluain
(To the friends of my heart, not perverse or deceitful )
Gan cháim, gan chaon, gan chraos, gan chruas
(Without flaw, without concealment, without gluttony, without stinginess )

Slán dá n-éis, dá beithibh uaim
(Good-bye, one by one, to its beautiful women )
Da gcail, dá gceill, dá scéimh, dá snua
(To their fame, their sense, their loveliness, their complexions )
Dá mná go léir, dá gcéim, dá gcuaird
(To all its women, to their rank, their visitations )
Da bpráisc, dá bplé, dá méin, dá mbua
(Their messing, their discussions, their minds and their talents)

KAREN MATHESON Capercaillie - Mi le m-uilinn TENDER LOVE SONG

Mi le m'uilinn air mo ghluin
(With my elbow on my knee )
'Smuladach mi deanamh dain
(I am overcome by sadness whilst making this poem)

Sèist: Chorus (after each verse):
Shil mo shuil nuair chaidh siuil
(Tears fell from my eyes when he left under sail)
Ri croinn-ura chaol ard As the tall mast grew small
Righ, 'smo run-sa nam barr
God (king) he is my innermost love high upon the mast!

Dearcam fhathast air mo ghaol
(A glimpse of my love )
Coiseachd air slat-chaol fo sheol
(Walking on board the deck beneath the sails )

Seid seimh, socair, o Ghaoth Tuath
(Oh North Wind, blow gently )
Gus an cuir i Cluaidh as fair
(Until he reaches the waters of the Clyde)

Gheall a Pillidh mis, a ghraidh
(A promise that I will not forget my love)
Buidhe nuair ni fas an t-earn
(In rescue it will increase)

Aiseig fallain o Ghaoth
(Tuath Oh North Wind, bring him)
Dhachaidh dhanh mo luaidh slan
(Home in good health )

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Mezzo Soprano Jacquelyn Wagner is absolutely magnificent.

Dear Sir:

I am a great aficionado of song and opera and I have been following great singers all of my life. One of the real greats –I saw her perform many times- was Victoria de Los Angeles another was the great Mezzo Shirley Verrett. I thought I should never hear or see the like again in my lifetime.

But I was wrong. Jacquelyn Wagner is absolutely magnificent.
This is a voice I would drive 500 miles to hear.
This is a name and a voice I will patiently wait for and seek out to hear again and again!
The words to not exist to describe fully the thrill this woman provides not only with her lustrous, glorious voice but with her every gesture and facial expression, her sincerity, her clear diction, her complete involvement with the song and the music. When I heard her performance of De España vengo it was as if I had heard for the first time. Never have I heard an American artist sing this famous Spanish Zarzuela Arias to such perfection!
Miss Wagner seems to have that inner fire that burns only in a handful of great artists and - when it blazes up - makes for the highest and most memorable music experience possible. There can be no question this is a great musical and artistic talent.
I wish her all the luck in the world and with me she has mad a fan for life.
Good health I wish to her, great health, good companions, good luck and much happiness. Those associated with Jacquelyn Wagner can consider themselves very fortunate indeed.


Richard K. Munro, MA
Teacher of English, Spanish and History Jacquelyn Wagner - Der Freischütz Jacquelyn Wagner - De España vengo The only performance by an American that I would rank as worthy of comparison to Victoria de Los Angeles. The timing, expression and diction really rose to the very limits of art.

VICTORIA DE LOS ANGELES is applauding from heaven and nodding in aggrement with me:

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Vietnam War: “Save your luck , your ammo and your blood for when it really counts.”

The Vietnam War: “Save your luck , your ammo and your blood for when it really counts.”

By Richard K. Munro

Who was to blame for the Vietnam debacle? Some blame LBJ –he must bear the most responsibility- but others blame Nixon for ‘lengthening the war.” There is no question that commitments of prior presidents ‘set the trap’ of the Vietnam-Indochina quagmire. The roots of the disaster go back to France’s colonial past and France’s defeat in WWII. But the US involvement was a direct result of US foreign policy from Truman to Ford.
After WWII the French returned to reoccupy Indochina which had been “liberated” by the Japanese during WWII. The French Army was not particularly well equipped and they scraped the bottom of the barrel for recruits. Some of their Legionnaires were former German soldiers and it was no uncommon for French soldiers to be partially disabled (one eyed or one armed) and still be on active service. Nonetheless, the Truman Doctrine gave military aid to France and NATO helped secure the French homeland. This enabled France to attempt to reassert its colonial rule. But this time the French were facing well-equipped and highly motivated Communist insurgents. Things went from bad to worse for the French and in 1954 they were utterly defeated at Dien Bien Phu. Eisenhower refused to send US troops at that time since he had just ended the Korean War and wisely did not want the US to get involved in another land war on the mainland of Asia. At the Geneva Conference of 1954 France gave up Indochina which was slit it three countries: Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam (North and South). The division of Vietnam was ‘temporary ‘ awaiting elections (never held). In the meantime Ho Chi Minh solidified his Communist dictatorship in the North. Though the USA did not send combat troops in the 1950’s Eisenhower gave over 1 billion dollars in aid to South Vietnam. The justification had its roots in Truman’s policy of containment and the ‘domino theory.” The rational was we had to contain Communism in South East Asia or Indonesia, Malaya , Singapore and Australia were at risk. Secretary of State Dulles put together SEATO (now defunct). The US had few allies in Vietnam. Australian and South Korea were the only allied nations to send significant troop support. Britain, France and USA’s NATO allies stood apart; in fact many of them traded food , fuel and war materiel to North Vietnam. North Vietnam would receive massive support from the Soviet Union and Red China (including hundreds of thousands of “volunteer” laborers who freed North Vietnamese from the fields to fight). President Kennedy followed the example of Truman and Eisenhoer and by 1963 he had sent 16,000 US troops to South Vietnam, chiefly advisors and trainers. On November 2, 1963, the president of South Vietnam, Ngo Dinh Diem and his brother were arrested and murdered by ARVN military army officers. It appears this coup had the backing of the CIA. Kennedy had declared in an interview, “In the final analysis, it is their war. They are the ones who have to win it or lose it. We can help them, we can give them equipment, we can send our men out there as advisers, but they have to win it, the people of Vietnam, against the Communists... But I don't agree with those who say we should withdraw. That would be a great mistake.... [The United States] made this effort to defend Europe. Now Europe is quite secure. We also have to participate—we may not like it—in the defense of Asia.” We can never know if Kennedy would have sent combat troops to South Vietnam in 1965 as LBJ later did.. But one can make a case –since Kennedy had refused to send the Marines to Cuba- that Kennedy would not have risked the unpopularity of a major war so far from the centers of power. We do know that Kennedy was a strong anti-Communist and believed in counter insurgency and supported the strengthening of US Army Special Forces (nicknamed the Green Berets).

Upon the assassination of Kennedy himself, November 22, 1963 Lyndon Johnson became president. In retrospect, it is ironic that LBJ becamse so closely identified with the Vietnam war because he ran as the “peace candidate” against Barry Goldwater who was depicted as an extreme hardliner. It appears that LBJ was ready, willing and able to intervene in South Vietnam militarily as soon as he had a causus belli.. There was a naval incident with the USS Maddox in the Gulf of Tonkin August 2, 1964. The Maddox had been scouting North Vietnamese waters and the North Vietnamese apparently responded with an attack on the US vessel. Within hours LBJ launched retaliatory air strikes on North Vietnam. this sparked the passage of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution August 7 1964. It passed 416-0 in the House and 88-2 in the Senate. The only two Senators to vote against the resolution were Sen. Wayne Morris (D-Oregon) and Ernest Gruening (D-Alaska.). Gruening prophetically said the resolution was a “predated declaration of war”. The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution empowered president Johnson to “repel attacks” on US forces to “prevent further aggression.” Later critics of the wr would call the full-scale use of military forces ‘illegal” because war was never declared by Congress.
LBJ’s policy was to strengthen ARVN by first increasing its air cover. This led to the need of larger US airbases on Vietnamese soil and of course to provide security for these bases the US began to expand its ground forces (called ‘escalation”) in South Vietnam 1964-1965. The US began Operation Rolling Thunder to begin carpet bombing of North Vietnam with B-52’s. But bombings were limited for political reasons; Haiphone Harbor was never mined or blockades and many critical dikes were also not bombed. LBJ’s policy seemed to be “show the flag , spill blood and hang tough.” LBJ may have made a critical mistake by not declaring a State of Emergency or war. One result was that US Forces were filled with many short term draftees; as much as 1/3 of US combat forces in the Army would be lost each year. By 1965 there were 184,000 US troops in Vietnam. As the ARVN forces seemed incapable of stopping Vietcong attacks of US Air bases and South Vietnamese cities, president Johnson sent US Marines and US Army combat units.. The first major battle between US Forces and the People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN plus Vietcong units) was in November 14-18, 1965 in the Ia Drang Vallley.. The US forces came within an inch of being wiped out but were saved by heavily artillery and air support. It is significant that the ARVN (South Vietnamese) forces scarcely played any role in the battle. By 1967 there were 485,000 troops in Vietnam and by March 1969 (the Nixon presidency) there were 540,000. President Nixon soon withdrew the US Marines and began a policy of “Vietnamization”.
The American people supported containment from the 1940’s until 1960’s but from the very star there was a “credibility gap” because LBJ was not completely honest with the American people about the economic cost (over $100 billion dollars and the effectiveness of the US campaign. The can be no question television played a part in demoralizing the American people into believing the war was unwinnable. The economic cost caused high interest rates, inflation and higher taxes. It could be argued serious long-term economic damage to the USA., The draft was unfair because ‘college deferments’ meant middle and upper class American males could avoid military service. The abolition of the college deferment led to widespread unrest on US campus in 1968-1969. The American people began to become divided into ‘Hawks” (who were anti-Communist and supported the war) and Doves (peaceniks who favored ending the war immediately) . The turning point was the TET OFFENSIVE of January 31, 1968. Though the attack was thrown back –with great difficulty- Tet resulted as a political victory for the Vietcong.. There is no question LBJ rapidly lost popularity because of the war especially within the Democratic party. LBJ had won in a landslide in 1964 but my 1968 his popularity was rated at 16% by some polls. Senator Eugene McCarthy (D-Minn) opposed LBJ, and though LBJ won the New Hampshire primary in March 1965 McCarthy won 42% of the vote. Soon after Robert Kennedy entered the race. On March 31, 1968, LBJ went on live television to announce that he would not run for reelection. In May 1968 Johnson announced that peace falks would begin in Paris. Meanwhile, Kennedy won a series of primaries culminating in his June 1968 primary win but tragically was assassinated shortly there after. The split in the Democratic party led to chaos in the 1968 Democratic Convention and Hubert Humphrey was picked as a ‘compromise candidate”. Richard Nixon running as a peace candidate “with a secret plan to end the war” won in a very close election primarily because George Wallace siphoned off millions of votes in the South that had voted form LBJ previously. Nixon’s election changed US policy in Vietnam and gradually the US began withdrawing combat forces though briefly the USA surpassed 500,000 troops in March 1968. Nixon won re-election in 1972 over a dovish candidate named George McGovern. Nixon continued Johnson’s policy of peace talks but they dragged on successfully for over three years. Secretary of State Kissinger warned the North Vietnamese that there would be ‘grave consequences” if they failed to conclude the peace talks. The Vietnamese communists remained intransigent and Nixon responded with the “Christmas Bombings” (Operation Linebacker) 18th of December to the 29th 1972. Over 30 US bombers were lost, chiefly to Soviet built SAM-2 missiles. Talks resumed in January 1973 and President Nixon ordered all US offense operations to cease. The US gradually and peacefully withdrew its forces. Henry Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts, though in retrospect it was somewhat of a booby prize, in my opionion. But Nixon would not be at the helm as his presidency ended in disgrace due to the Watergate scandal; on August 9, 1974 Nixon resigned. and President Ford became president. After the elections of November 1974 the Democrats once again held a big majority in the House and Senate. In January 1975 North Vietname under its gifted General Giap launched an all out offensive in South Vietnam. Without US ground forces the ARVN forces, despite some desperate stands by ARVN Marines, South Vietnam collapsed. It was 1965 all over again except this time there were no US Army or US Marine combat brigades to stop the offensive. Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh city) fell on April 30, 1973. The photographs of the US evacuating the US embassy by helicopter are iconic More than 58,000 American servicemen and women lost their lives from 1959-1973 and in addition more than 300,000 Americans were wounded many critically. I visited Walter Reed hospital in 1976 and there were still war casualties in the hospital still in comas or in serious condition. When the war ended the official death count was 55,000 but over the years that number has inched up as hospitalized soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines succumb to their wounds. Over three million Vietnamese were killed in the war. Over 125,000 South Vietnamese fled Vietnam in April 1975. to settle in the USA. In the following years over 500,000 Vietnamese would flee from Vietnam to the USA.
The history of the Vietnam War is very instructive. There is no question it was a lesson as to the limits of US power. Many presidents both Republican and Democrat contributed to the debacle. It was a big mistake to impose an weak and unsatisfactory regime in South Vietnam without much popular support. It was a big mistake to fight the war as a police action with limited international support. It was a big mistake not to declare a state of emergency or war and to try to fight a difficult war with marginally motivated short-term draftees. It was a big mistake to fight such a limited war without and clear objectives or goals. In subsequent wars the USA has been more successful because they rely on a smaller but highly trained all volunteer professional force. It was a mistake to wage war in Vietnam because Vietnam was far from the centers of power. One could argue that US Naval and Air Power could have contained the Communist movement to the mainland without a land intervention.. The social and economic costs of the Vietnam War were very great. Never again will there be a near unanimous vote for military intervention as there was in 1964; the unanimity on foreign policy caused by WWII and the Cold War was smashed by the tensions of the war. It can be argued that the bitter divisions caused by the war are still festering in the early 21st century. Both parties are to blame but I remain firmly convinced that the true architect of the defeat was President Johnson. For this reason and for the economic and social damage caused by the war, I rate LBJ as one of the worst presidents of the 20th century. Kennedy and the presidents prior to him had only sent limited forces and no combat troops. President Nixon gradually withdrew US combat forces in a war as to avoid a massacre or defeat of US forces on the ground. President Ford was helpless in face of Congressional opposition to do anything to stop the final Communist offensive. If the Vietnam War teaches us anything it teaches us that war is a tricky, dangerous and expensive proposition. Do not shed your blood and your treasure until the issue at hand is truly critical and threatens the national security of your nation. Save your luck , your ammo and your blood for when it really counts.


Sunday, August 2, 2009

Highlights of the 2000 Edinburgh Military Tattoo

Highlights of the 2000 Edinburgh Military Tattoo: "PARTICIPATING UK REGIMENTS TYPE OF EVENT

The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards (Carabiniers & Greys) Pipes & Drums
1st Battalion The Scots Guards Pipes & Drums
1st Battalion The Royal Scots (The Royal Regiment) Pipes & Drums
1st Battalion The Royal Highland Fusiliers (Princess Margaret’s Own Glasgow & Ayrshire Regiment) Pipes & Drums
1st Battalion The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) Pipes & Drums
1st Battalion The Highlanders (Seaforth, Gordons & Camerons) Pipes & Drums
1st Battalion The Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders (Princess Louise’s) Pipes & Drums
The Tattoo Highland Dancers Dancers
The Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines, Scotland Military Band
The Band of the Scots Guards Military Band
The Highland Band of The Scottish Division Military Band
The Lowland Band of the Scottish Division Military Band
The Kevock Choir Choir
Mairi MacInnes Singer
1st Battalion The Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders Guard of Honour
Scotland’s Army Cadet Force Flag Bearers"



Presented at the Kern County Scottish Association January 25, 2003

Robert Burns, the Bard of Auld Ayr, has been compared to Theocritus, , Dante , Mark Twain, Finley Peter Dunne, , José Hernandez -author of Martin Fierro-Shaw and Shakespeare. Burns was a voluminous reader in English, Scots, and French on the scale of a Jefferson though he had little Latin and less Gaelic. The Principal of Edinburgh University, at the peak of the Scottish Enlightenment, said "Burns was "one of the most extraordinary men I ever met with, his poetry surprised me very much , his prose surprised me still more and his conversation surprised me more than both his poetry and his prose." As a peerless songwriter Burns has been compared to Stephen Foster, the Beatles, Lerner and Loewe, all of whom he influenced. But what importance can Burns, a romantic poet of the 18th century Scottish Enlightenment have to us in this modern unromantic technical commercial world that seems to love not honor, nor romance, nor poetry, nor courage nor art? Why is love for Burns reborn every generation from the Victoria falls, Scotland to Victoria, Canada? From Tobermory on the isle of Mull to Moscow, Shanghai and Taipei ? From Perth, gateway to the Highlands, to Perth, Australia ? From Edinburgh to Dunedin, New Zealand? From London to New York from Atlanta, to Dallas, Texas and San Francisco? What then is the peculiar prophetic flavor of the poetic wine of Robert Burns ? What is the secret of his enduring popularity?

When Burns appeared the spirit of Scotland was divided and at a low ebb. King Edward I, (Long Shank)s had long before ,in 1296, removed her symbols of royalty and nationality the famous Stone of Scone or Lia Fail. In his rage against the independent minded Scots Long Shanks removed a prophecy in Latin and Gaelic from the Lia Fail or stone of destiny. But the text was preserved in secret and it was rhymed in the Saxon tongue by Sir Walter Scott:

Unless the prophets faithless be
and the Seer’s words be vain
Where’re is found this sacred stone
The Scottish race shall reign!.

From Cromwell’s invasion to the Glen Coe Massacre and the bloody aftermath of Culloden, Scotland experienced on disaster after another including internecine religious strife. Scotland suffered great hunger, poverty and humiliation. The Highland Clearances, had begun. "I remember the day I left my home, I had no choice I had to go , o Fuadach na Gaidheal-scattering of the Gael am goirt agus searbh –the pain and the bitterness -but the blood is strong and the heart is Highland. The brig Caledonia lies stormbound on the Lawrence awaiting God’s hand to see her free. Slowly gliding river widening her final journey homeward {to Scotland} without me. Slan leibh Alba gu brath! Fare ye well forever my Scotland! The heart of the Scottish Highlands bled deep flowing out into to sea like a river never to return, and it was Lochaber No more for many a heart! .
Smollet has written:

...immediately after the decisive action at Culloden the Duke of Cumberland took possession of Inverness; where six and thirty six deserters...were ordered to be executed...he set off detachments on all hands to hunt down the fugitives and lay waste the country with first and sword. The castles of Glengary and Lochiel were plundered and burned; every house, hut or habitation met with the same fate without distinction and all the cattle and provisions were carried off; the men were either shot upon the mountains like wild beasts or put to death in cold blood without form of trial; the women after having seen their husbands and their fathers murdered were subjected to brutal violation and then turned out naked with their children to starve on the barren heaths. One whole family was enclosed in a barn and consumed in ashes. Those ministers of vengeance were so alert in the execution of their office that in a few days there was neither house cottage man nor beast to be seen within the compass of fifty miles. All was ruin, silence and desolation.

Prince Charlie was gone and he would not come back again. "Burned are our homes exile and death, scattered the loyal men."

Was there one free heart who remembered the Declaration of Arbroath?

For so long as one hundred men remain alive, we shall never under any conditions submit to the domination of the English. It is not for glory or riches or honours that we fight but only for liberty, which no good man will consent to lose but with his life!

Was there one true Scottish heart who remembered Barbour’s Bruce?
Ah Freedom is a noble thing.
..freedom all solace to man
gives...may nocht knaw ...
the anger, na the wrechit doom that is
couplit to foul thirldom...
{O we} should think freedom more to
praise tha all the gold in world that is.!

Yes, there was a lad born in Ayr: Robert Burns. To go to that rude cottage of Ayr the birthplace of Burns so near the Brig o’ Doon, is to experience a secular epiphany as to the essential equality of all humanity. It is to experience awe at the true mystery of talent and genius. It is an affirmation at what secret treasures can be found hidden anywhere among any class, gender or race IF individuals are given a a proper upbringing and decent education and chance to develop, discover and explore their God-given gifts. As Burns’ father knew it is hard to be poor . At the age of 19 Burns’ father was a homeless migrant farm laborer but he was proud he could read, write and cipher and always carried the Old Book with him. But Agnes Brown (Mrs. Burns) and her husband kept their entire family of seven under one roof and surrounded the children’s lives with care and tender love. Both mother and father displayed a piety that was neither excessive nor harsh unlike the extreme Calvinism that was the mode of the established clergy of his time. In Burn’s house physical labor was incessant, food and fuel were scarce. But education and religion were not neglected; they were held rather by the Burns family as an essential, sacred duty. And Mrs Burns "sang so sweet" Rab oft "couldna" sleep as she crooned "the Auld Scots sangs" to him. Burns had no shame of his very humble origin:

From scenes like these old Scotia’s grandeur springs
That makes her loved at home, revered abroad
Princes and lords are but the breath of kings
An honest man’s the noblest work of God.

As John Masefield has written

I have seen flowers in stony places
and kindness done by men with ugly faces
and the gold cup won by the worst horse at the races;
So I trust too.

Emerson came close to the truth about the attraction of a character like Burns when he wrote of the belief in the extraordinary abilities to be found among ordinary people to be the essence and glory of democracy. Wordsworth recognized that Burn’s leading characteristic was his utter sincerity and almost absolute truthfulness. Wordsworth acknowledged few masters but of Burns he said:

Whose light I hailed when it first shone
and showed my youth
How verse may build a princely throne
On humble truth.

Indeed this is the basis of Burn’s power. Burns saw through the hollowness and pretence of the men and women he met, especially the established clergy and propertied upper classes whose rank Burns said was just , after all, " the gunieas’s stamp".

Sir Walter Scott, who met Burns as a boy at Adam Fergusson’s home in Edinburgh said meeting Burns was like meeting Vergil in person. He described Burns as a man of "dignified plainness and simplicity...his person was strong and robust...there was a strong expression of sense and shrewdness ..his eye was large and of a dark cast, which glowed (I say literally glowed)...when he spoke with feeling or interest. I never saw such another eye in a human head, though I have seen the most distinguished men of my time."

Oh, yes, journey to Burn’s humble birthplace near the Auld Kirk of Alloway, where Burn’s father is buried next to his Agnes Brown his beloved bride. Burns said of his father "even his faults leaned toward’’s virtue’s side." Walk the scenes of Tam O’ Shanter’s fancies and Cutty Sark. Cross the Brig O’Doon like Tam before it is too late! Go to Poosie Nancy’s in - Mauchline to have a dram in Burn’s corner as I have done. Souther Johnnie’s convivial spirit dwells there and bids Rob to toast one more time and share a funny story! Go to the graves -side by side- of Holy Willy and Mary Morrison -the toast o’ the town- to come close to the truth which fascinated, inspired and instructed Lincoln.

It is not well-known today but Lincoln "could quote ...large portions of Burn’s Poems from memory." Lincoln, had many immigrant Scottish friends, such as his partner Judge Stuart and it is said that Lincoln had a great talent for mimicry. He could render Burns perfectly with an authentic "Scotch accent." Lincoln delighted in Tam O’Shanter and the story of Brig O’Doon. He loved the patriotic poetry of Burns and he was surely moved by the anti-slavery sympathy of Burns.

This is from Burns’ Slave’s Lament:

It was in sweet Senegal
that my foes did me enthral
For the lands of Virginia -ginia O!
Torn from that lovely shore
and Must never see it more
and alas I am weary, weary, O!
the Burden I must bear
while the cruel scourge I fear
In the lands of Virginia -inia O!
and to think of friends dear
with the bitter, bitter tear
and alas ! I am weary, weary O!

That Lincoln would have been acquainted with the life of one of his favorite poets is beyond doubt and there was much in Burn’s biography with which the young Lincoln could strongly identify except perhaps Burn’s predilection to strong drink which Lincoln left to his partner Billy Herndon.

Burns inspired the small and helped them remember the people from which they came: ; women reformers and teachers, naturalists like John Muir and Rachel Carson, pioneer farmers in the outback, Manitoba, Canada and the Ohio Valley. Burns cheered the hearts of Master plasterer Jos Munro working in Montreal, New York and London, shipmasters at sea and a young cabin boy sent to sea for truancy: Thomas Munro, Sr. Burns was carried in the heart and on the lips of Scottish Rabbi’s in the temples of the Gorbels, the ancient Jewish quarter of Glasgow and by ministers, soldiers, doctors in India and Egypt, through the Kalahari Desert and on the Zambezi River by David Livingstone, and by missionary priests in China. The Chinese scholar Yuan Kejia has said -for Burns is much loved in China in translation- "Burns is great because he is just like all of us. He loves what we love and hates what we all hate. He stands for the democratic spirit ."

Burns inspired railway engineers and football players of the River Plate at Munro, Argentina, Churchill and the common Jock and Donald fighting the foe at Ypres, Dunkirk or El Alamein. He inspired the great connecting them to the small: Walter Scott, Byron, Queen Victoria, Gladstone, and in own our time, a great statesman and true friend to America in our mutual cause of enduring freedom, the courageous Scot Tony Blair.

Thomas Jefferson admired the poetry and literature of Scotland greatly even to the point of reading Gaelic poetry in translation:" the words a’told and the writing bold: the tale the tells of the love twixt Diarmad and Grainne." Jefferson was so moved by MacPherson’s Fingal he wrote "I am not ashamed to own that I think this rude bard of the North -the greatest Poet that has ever existed." Ironically, Jefferson was referring referring to MacPherson’s Ossian- not Burns-. Jefferson came to admire Burns far more and gave Washington a book of Burns’ verses that is still on display at Mt. Vernon.

Burns was a lover who could match fellow Scot James Bond kiss for kiss and conquest for conquest. Young Robert dearly loved the lasses but he praised as well their minds, their characters and respected their opinions. He was a loving husband and father. His close friend Maria Riddel said
others, perhaps, may have ascended to prouder heights in the regions of Parnassus but none certainly ever outshone Burns in the charms...of fascinating conversation, the spontaneous eloquence of social argument or the unstudied poignancy of brilliant repartee...his form manly; his action energy itself...such was the irresistible power of attraction that encircled him though his appearance and manner were always peculiar he never failed to delight and excel… his features were stamped with the hardy character of independence….his voice...sonorous … captivated the ear with the melody of poetic numbers, perspicacity of ...reasoning or ardent sallies of enthusiastic patriotism....he as seldom, indeed never, implacable in his resentments...he was candid and manly in the avowal of his errors and HIS AVOWAL was a reparation..."

Others Englished their names and manners , kept silent or kow-towed to snobbish landed gentry in fear but Burns spoke out for justice, for humanity, for memory. He elevated the views of the common man:

What though on hamely fare we dine
Wear hoddin grey an a’ that
Gie fools their silks and knaves their wine
A man’s a man for a’ that.

Burns spoke of for Scotland’s law and about days of infamy:

The lovely lass of Inverness
nae joy nor pleasure can she see
For e’en to morn cries Alas!
And ay the saut tear blin’s her e’e:
Drumossie moor, Drumossie day
A waefu’ day it was to me!
For there I lost my father dear
My father dear and brethren three
Their winding sheet the bluidy clay
Their graves are growin green to see
and by them lies teh dearest lad
That ever blest a woman’s e’e
Now wae to thee , thou cruel lord
A bluidy man I trow thou be
For monie a heart thou has mad sair
That ne’er did wrang to thine or thee!
What force or guile could not subdue, through many warlike ages
Is wrought now by a coward few
For hireling traitor wages,
The English steel we could disdain,
Secure in Valor’s station
But English Gold has been our band
Such a parcel of rogues in a nation.
Why should we idly waste our prime
repeating our oppressions?
Come rouse to arms! ‘Tis now the time
To punish past transgressions
‘Tis said the Kings can do no wrong
Och, their murderous deeds deny it
and since from us their power is sprung
We have a right to try it.
Now each true patriot’s song shall be
Welcome Death or Libertie....
Those despots long have trode us down
and Judges are their engines
such wretched minions of a Crown...
{Hoot mon!}
The Golden Age we’ll then revive
each man will be a brother
in harmony we all shall live
and share the earth together,
In virtue trained, enlightened Youth
Will love each fellow creature
and future years shall prove the truth
That man is good by nature
{Given half a chance!}

Burns questioned the legitimacy of the 1707 Union with England. How could it be legitimate when most Scots had been disenfranchised or non-jurors ? Burns, like his contemporary Irishman William Paterson, signer of the Constitution, recognized the Union as an unequal and often corrupt partnership ; a crooked political deal between German Princes and Tory lords more akin to a rape than a marriage of mutual consent. Nonetheless, London was where the money and patronage were. The elite of the Scottish Enlightenment tried to out-English the English and had become for all intents and purposes North Britons and inhabitants of northern province of the English Empire.

Among these learned ultra anglicized cosmopolitians appeared four men from the North forever proud to be Scotsmen . If strangers look on Scotland as nation -with its own flag, garb, unique musical tradition, legal system, currency, history, culture and today proudly its own parliament, we owe this primarily to four men (and the good women behind them): James MacPherson , Adam Ferguson, Robert Burns and Walter Scott. The greatest and most unexpected of these four and the causeway between Highlands and Lowlands, Old World and New, was Robert Burns.
Burns poetry and prose is infused with the enlightened democratic influences of Locke, Ferguson, and Jefferson. MacPherson and Ferguson represented the link to Scotland’s Gaelic heritage and predated Burns. All of the Scottish Enlightenment was an influence on him as was the Scottish poet Allan Ramsay but Burns always remained a man of independent mind. Burns reflected the thought and philosophy the Scottish School of Common Sense led by Thomas Reid and the Rev. Adam Fergusson, the greatest Highland teacher and thinker of his day, the former chaplain to the Black Watch, whom Burns knew at Edinburgh. Ferguson’s History of Civil Society is a remarkable book, the first Englsih language book ever use the word civilization. It is a defense of the inestimable value of traditional cultures everywhere, and by implication Scottish and Highland culture. " The boasted refinements", wrote Ferguson , "of the polished age, are not divested of danger… They open a door, perhaps ,to disaster...they enervate the minds of those who are placed to defend them...they reduce the military spirit of entire nations....{preparing.}..mankind for a government of force."

Ferguson influenced Burns deeply with the Gaelic concept of the dualchas araid -a splendid ancient heritage -a priceless pearl- which should be preserved and passed on . In his tour of the Highlands Burns came to realize the Highlander was not a savage but an ancient Christian people embued concept of siobhaltachd, Highland hospitality, civility and courtesy which owed as much to Celtic heritage as to the church and Greco-Roman ideas of civilitas . Ferguson believed in capital and progress but was concerned that "in every commercial state, notwithstanding any pretension to equal rights, the exhalation of the few must depress the many."
Without the right to bear arms said Fergusson in 1767 the end result would not be liberty but tyranny. If liberty were threatened what could expected of pleasuring loving youth raised in the city without manly sport or military training? Would they have the strength and courage to face danger and the suicidal ferocity of more warlike peoples? Ferguson and Burns believed in teaching the tales of the sword and gun, and breathtaking courage glory of the steadfast Highland Regiments at Ticonderoga and Fontenoy where Ferguson himself led the Black Watch under fire. The "bairns an’ young’ anes" , needed to be taught of the guid-anes (Goodjins) of history like Wallace, Hancock, Washington and the Bruce as well as the "bad anes" (badjins) like Long Shanks and The Butcher Cumberland.
Wrote Burns:

At Wallace’s name, what Scottish blood
But boils up in a spring-tide flood
Oft have our fearless fathers strode
By Wallace’s side
Still pressing onward, red-wat shod
or glorious dy’d!

Burn expresses the sentiment again perfectly in a letter to George Thompson dated by Adam Ferguson August 30 1793: in my yesternight’s evening walk, warmed…to a pitch of enthusiasm on the theme of liberty and independence which I threw into a kind of Scots Ode…that one might suppose to be the gallant Royal Scot’s address to his heroic followers on that eventful morning {of the Battle of Bannockburn)…..So may God ever defend the cause of Truth and Liberty as he did on that day! Amen! …. P.S. the recollection of that glorious struggle for Freedom, associated with the glowing ideas of other struggles of the same nature,not quite so ancient, roused by rhyming mania." Burns ,naturally, was referring to the American and French Revolutions.
I have seen the original manuscript in Burns own clean hand :

"By oppressions woes and pains,
by your sons in servile chains,
we will drain our dearest veins
but they shall be free!
Lay the proud usurper low,
tyrants fall in every foe,
liberty’s in every blow,
let us do or die."

Ferguson and Burns both bitterly opposed the disarmament of Highlanders , the prohibition of the war pipes, Highland Garb, tartan, and the depreciation of the Gaelic and traditional Scottish culture. Fergusson himself was convinced that by owning weapons and learning to use them a commercial people can keep alive a collective sense of honor, valor, and physical courage, traditions that no society, no matter how rich, sophisticated and advanced can afford to be without. The world is a dangerous place.

Burns , Ferguson and his mates of the Black Watch would have agreed: Am fear nach gleidh h-airm san sith cha bhi iad aige am a’chogadh." the man who keeps not arms in peace will find none on him when war comes." I remember the ironic, defiant sign posted in a Quonset hut long ago by my Marine D.I. at Quantico, Virginia :"Gun control means hitting your target." I am sure the jocks of today’s Black Watch who stand poised to root out terror side by side with our American forces would be in full agreement.

Friend and foe alike respect and sometimes fear dauntless courage and the vitality it represents. But as Burns and Ferguson recognized It is this very reservoir of courage and manliness which guarantees our liberty and the long term peace of our society. Burns himself belonged to a local Scottish militia unit and extolled their virtues of ancient masculine pursuits as climbing, hunting, fishing, shooting and soldiering. Were not the Highlands "the birthplace of valor and country of worth? Was not the Garb of Auld Gaul a manly attire of a soldierly but gentlemanly race?

A Highland lad my love was born,
the lowland laws he held in scorn
but he still was faithfu’ to his clan
My gallant, braw John Highland man!
With hi philibeg an’ tartan plaid
An guid claymore down by his side
The ladies hearts he did trepan
My gallant braw John Highland man
But Och, the catch’d him at the last
And bound him in a dungeon fast
My curse upon them every one
They’ve hanged my braw John Highlandman…
…There is not a lad in a’ the lan’
Was match for my John Highlandman!

Ferguson , wrote, perhaps thinking of Highland Bards like, Ian Lom or the MacLain poets:
"the most admired of all poets lived beyond the reach of history, almost of tradition. The artless song of the savage the heroic legend of the bard, have sometimes a magnificent beauty, which no change of language can improve...under the supposed disadvantage of a limited knowledge and a rude apprehension, the simple poet has impressions that more than compensate the defects of his skill. The best subjects of poetry, the characters of the violent and brave, the generous and intrepid, great dangers, trials of fortitude and fidelity....are delivered in traditions that animate like truth because they are equally believed...he delivers the emotions of the heart, in words suggested by the heart for he knows no other..."
Ferguson could have been writing a prophecy of Burns’s own achievement.
To Ferguson and Burns one must fight the good fight in peace as well as war for freedom, justice and a civilized, decent way of life where the weak are secure and the strong and rich serve the common good. For their character the young needed not just material security but must to be taught civic virtue and religion. A well-rounded person contributes to human well-being in general and the good of society and is not consumed merely by selfish individual or material interests. Ferguson and Burns thought there was a great societal and educational danger in the unbridled self-interest of the satanic mills of Glasgow and Manchester whose managers sought to maximize productivity and profits with no regard to the human cost. Both staunchly opposed all forms of slavery and forced labor. Division of labor and industrialization created wealth but is also the cause of ignorance, alienation, the destruction of family ties, the exploitation of child labor, misery and additional vices like madness, drunkenness, class envy and urban violence. Laborer’s "art requires no exertion of genius" said Ferguson and so "are degraded by the object they peruse." Young people and workers needed not just material things but also cultural and spiritual help to give their souls balance, compassion and composure. Ferguson and Burns thought it strange that the English would study avidly the languages of India or praise the ancient Greeks and Romans while ignoring the culture, language, steady virtues and courage of the Highlanders who lived just beyond the hills!

Burns’ sympathies were with enlightened Whig opinion and the American variety of that opinion as represented by Jefferson, Hancock, Henry and Washington who swore with Burns that taxation with representation was tyranny!
Och, the Highlandmen hate tolls’ an taxes...
While Terra firma on her axis
Diurnal turns
Count on a friend in faith an’ practice
in Robert Burns!
Burns had no Gaelic but he read McPherson’s translations and adaptations . In addition to writing his own lyrics, Burns was a preserver, without pay, of ancient airs and songs of Scotland. Burns heard Gaelic song in the Highlands and no doubt at Ferguson’s Edinburgh home These ancient rhapsodies were interpreted for him and brought him into contact with centuries of verses praising the country, the mist-covered mountains, the flowers the birds...
Beneath the milk-white thorn that scents the evening gale...
.....flow gently sweet Afton, among they green braes, flow gently, I’ll sing a song in thy praise...
{Och} But pleasures are like poppies spread, you seize the flower, its bloom is shed
or like the snow-fall in the river a moment white then melts forever.."
In a sense Burns is a Scottish Hemingway literary but appealing to men. Unlike Hemingway however, Burns is equally appealing to women whom Burns did not recognize as inferior to men or merely sex objects but something complementary. If not as physically strong they were if anything, worthier in some ways than men and worthy of love, protection and sacrifice:

For you sae douce ye sneer at this
ye’re nought but senseless asses, O
the wisest man the warl’ e’er saw
he dearly lov’d the lasses, O
Auld Nature swear, the lovely dears
Her noblest works she classes, O
Her prentice han’ she try’d on man
and THEN she made the lasses, O.!
Green grow the rashes, O
Green grow the rashes O
The sweetest hours that e’er I spend
Are spent among the lasses, O!
But truce with kings, and truce with constitutions,
With bloody armaments and revolutions;
Let Majesty your first attention summon:
Ah! ça ira ! The Majesty of Woman!
The Regiment and male bonding was great but family life, led by a good woman was the center of all that was good and clean:
To make a happy fireside clime
To weans and wife
That is the true pathos sublime
Of human life.
. Of Burns it has been said that "there is nothing in his letters or poems which goes beyond a sincere deism -nothing that is any way Christian." Burns, like Fergusson, represents the Scottish Common Sense School of the Enlightment. An important part of Lincoln’s affinty was Burn’s free thinking and honest religious doubt for religious dogma as opposed to faith in God. Both men read Paine’s Age of Reason whose defiant anti-clerical deism was widely regarded as a little more than atheism. But was Burns an atheist? The areligious skepticism of Hume was shunted aside by Burns, Ferguson and many Scots as faith and reason were seen as compatible: one only needed to balance the heart and the head. Burns has been claimed as merely a pale Deist but Burns himself wrote " I will deeply imbue the mind of every child of mine with religion." and "I am so convinced that an unshaken faith in the doctrines of religion is not only necessary by making us better men but also making us happier me, that I shall take care that every little creature that shall call me father shall be taught them." Although Burns did not agree with rigid Calvinists he none the less attended church regularly with his wife and family and studied the Bible and quoted Jesus whom he referred to as "our Saviour:"
What Burns despised was intolerance and a perverted "Holy Willie Hypocrisy". Burns praised the Rev. John MacMath as part of a "candid liberal band...of public Christians too renowned an’ manly preachers." When in Edinburgh he met the Roman Catholic Bishop John Geddes and struck up a friendship with him. Burns praised the "Popish Bishop" as he called Geddes, as a man completely free from social snobbishness. Burns lack of prejudice is remarkable in those bleak years before the Catholic Emancipation.

Perhaps you remember the poem "To a Mouse" which seems at first glance a simple poem about nature. With Burn’s eyes as the "lord" of the farm he realizes that the mouse is like the lowest born joat-flitter (migrant worker). The picture is winter and it is very cold. It is remarkable that the poet of that brutal and often barbaric time is showing a kind heart to a small wild animal as if nature herself were sacred. He parallels our world and the world of the lowly mouse. You might recall that he said "The best laid schemes o’ mice and men gang aft agley (go oft ary). The Gaels of old were of the opinion that the work of the poets was important to health of language and the health of people’s mind. I believe that. J.S. Blackie a well-known classical and Gaelic scholar of the 19th century said the function of the poet was to be calling back to Nature and truth the spoiled children of convention and affectation -a’ gairm air ais gu Nadur agus Firinn a’ chlann truaillte tionalais agus faioncholtais." Of course in Gaelic faoincholtas (convention) means fashionable or vain {faoin)-foolish -imitation. Burns had that genius to wake us up to reality and away from our self-indulgent complaining about petty things.

Perhaps you remember the poem about the "wee, sleekit, cow’rin tim’rous beastie...wi’ a panic is {his} breastie...
Still thou art blest, compared wi’ me!
the present only toucheth thee
But och! I backward cast my e’e
On prospects drear
an’ foward tho’ I canna see
I guess an ‘ fear!

{Ratoncillo) estás dichoso y bienaventurado comparado a mí
El presente sólo te toca
Pero ¡Ay! echo un vistazo atrás
a panoramas deprimientes
Y hacia adelante aunque no puedo ver nada
Con nada calculo y me temo lo peor.

Looking back to depressing panoramas what a state! And forward I can see nothing; I count on "nothing " and what fear is upon me!.

Compared to Burns my life is a about yours? But just like the mouse we will not be alive forever nor young forever (my hair though still thick is turning white). All living creatures are alike in this respect. We should remember this and it’s I am thinking we should all be reading Burns from time to time or at the very least singing his Auld Lang Syne!.

This year of our Lord, 2003 , a new Scottish Parliament will be inaugurated representing the autonomy and nationhood of Scotland within the Union of the United Kingdom. The Scottish Flag flies proudly alone at the Edinburgh tattoo, and yes the Stone of Destiny, an lia fail, the stone of Scone, was returned to Scotland with great fanfare in 1997- forever snatched from the tomb of Long Shanks. It took seven hunderd years but Braveheart, Burns, Scotland and liberty triumphed over Long Shanks, tyranny and misrule. Burns looks firmly towards the future and democracy but he never forgot his own and his people’s past. Had he lived he might well have emigrated to America as did his direct descendants. Burns speaks to the world, if they would hear, about the true meaning of liberty and the nobility of man -an woman too- who dwell in every land and every walk of life. Burns suffered with the poor and oppressed be they colonials , blacks slaves from Senegal , Scots, Chinese or English or French or American factory workers. Man’s inhumanity to man, he wrote , makes countless thousands mourn. Wrote Burns: "Whatever mitigates the woes or increases the happiness of others, this is my criterion of goodness; and whatever injures society at large, or an individual in it, this is my measure of iniquity." Burns preaches not irreligion but tolerance for skeptics as well as for all faiths and denominations. Burns sings not just of woman’s beauty but of her rights and of her mind and the equality of these tender souls created in the image of God.
All that Scotland had done and suffered, the memory of her heroic but disastrous history, the heads bloodied but unbowed, the strong valiant, manhood of her Highland men, the deep sonsie lyric womanhood and pragmatism of her lassies, the memory of dualchas araid, the splendid ancient Gaelic heritage, the songs of the Hebrides, the beauty of Scotland’s nature and her scenery -of Highlands, lowlands and Islands, may have vanished without trace without the unconquerable spirit of Robert Burns. And the British people and people ‘round the world would have been for the poorer. Yes, all this could have been utterly destroyed by mindless uniformity, the depressing deracination of the urban poor, the manufactured ugliness of slum upon slum and a numb proletarian anomie, had Scotland been left without the Scottish and Celtic renaissance led by Burns. Truly the pen and the heart and the lips are mightier than the sword!

Burns himself was the linchpin, the torch of this new land of light and liberty we celebrate today. Burns was the patriot and literary hero whose truthful art overcame and undermined the heavy hand of the tyrant. Burns turned the tide back for Scotland which afterwards Walter Scott carried to a full flood winning over the heart of Queen Victoria, Jefferson and Lincoln, Highlander and Lowlander alike, young and old, rich and poor, "Let Kings and courtiers rise and fa’ this world has many come but ‘brightly beam aben them a’ the star of Robbie Burns! "


I read a splendid and very moving book by Neil Hanson called the UNKNOWN SOLDIER ISBN: 0307263703

Hanson focuses on three soldiers-an American aviator ( George Seibold), an Englishman (Alec Reader), and a rural schoolmaster’s song a German (Pau Hubb)-and narrates their war experiences through their diaries and letters. Hanson describes how each man endured the nearly unbearable conditions in the trenches and in the air and relates what is known about their deaths: all three died on the battlefields of the Somme, within gunshot sound of one another.
Hanson delves into their familial ties, the ideals they expressed in their letters, and he explains how the death of one, the American pilot George Seibold, was instrumental in the creation of the Gold Star Mothers, an organization caring for bereaved mothers, wives, and families that is still active today.
Hanson animates and brings to life the combatants who perished without a trace, and shows how the Western world arrived at the now time-honored way of mourning and paying tribute to all those who die in war. NE OBLIVISCARIS…DO NOT FORGET.
Here is an excerpt “Like the other Allied nations, the American military authorities took extraordinary precautions to ensure the identity of the Unknown Soldier would remain forever concealed. An unidentified body was to be exhumed from each of the four military cemeteries in the four main battlegrounds in which U.S. forces had been engaged : Belleau Wood, where they suffered the first large-scale tragedies and the Marines had added another exalted chapter to their legend……and Romagne-sous Mountaucon, where thousands of U. S. servicemen lost their lives in the last decisive battle of the war, and where, IN THREE HOURS (emphasis mine), U.S. forces had fired MORE SHELLS THAN HAD BEEN USED IN THE WHOLE OF THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR.” (page 334-335)
An unassuming English chaplain with Alec Reader’s 47th London Division, the Rev David Railton first proposed a symbolic burial of one of those unknown soldiers in memory of all the missing dead. The idea was picked up by almost every country that had an army in the war, and each laid a body to rest amid an outpouring of national grief -- in London's Westminster Abbey, Paris's Arc de Triomphe, Rome's Victor Emmanuelle Monument, and, for the United States, Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
I have been to all of these monuments and let me tell you the SCOTTISH-AMERICAN war memorial is one of the most impressive and moving monuments I have ever seen.
Alanson B Houghton the US ambassador to Britain said on 7 September 1927:
"Today we commemorate the Great War with the figure of a common soldier – one youth separated from the thronging files of recruits pressing on from behind – one youth within sound of the pipes and drums and within sight of the old Castle on the hill – one son of Scotland from a mansion or a manse or a mine, from a farm or a factory, from a Glasgow close or an Edinburgh lane – it matters not. For he came from all of these. He kept lonely company with his own soul in a tank or in a trench, on the sea or in the sky. And he went to his death alone."
THE FULL INSCRIPTION reads as follows in three of Scotland’s living languages….SAORSA GU BRATH…FOREVER FREE…..BYDAN FREE.


If it be life that awaits, Gin it’s decrete at life Mas e beath a tha n’ dan
I shall live, it tae pree, bidh bi beo
Forever unconquered, I’ll joy till’t gu siorraidh neo-cheannsaicte
If death, AYE BYDAN FREE mas e am bas,
I shall die at last, Gin it’s DAITH gheibh mi bas mu dheireadh
Strong in my pride , that weird I’ll maun dree. Laidir ‘nam uaisleachd,
And free! Leal tae masel, AGUS SAOR!
Yes, the Edinburgh memorial is among the most memorable and moving I have ever seen along with Abraham Lincoln’s memorial in Springfield but I must say nothing, for me, surpasses the Arlington Cemetery-Iwo Jima-Lincoln memorial triangle. But if you haven’t visited the Lincoln Tomb at Springfield it is most interesting to see.
Whenever I am in Washington I set aside one morning to walk in and around Arlington to see the Iwo Jima Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial.
In those places, early in the morning one makes interesting acquaintances.
In my lifetime I have spoken there with veterans of the First World War, the Second World War, Korea, Vietnam and the Gulf Wars.
One of the most unexpected a curious meeting was with a old Manxman who had served in the Struma Valley in 1917. There the British Army fought tough mountain campaigns against Bulgarian, Austrian and Germans. That Manxman was in his late eighties but very spry and active.
That Manxman was astonished that someone like me could know as much about that era as I did and he said I reminded him of Scottish soldier with whom he had had a drink in Salonika after the Americans had declared war. He did not remember the Jock’s name.
He said all of his life he thought of his comrades –he missed them every single day. The only thing that assuaged what he says was his shame and his loneliness was to remember them. I asked him why he felt shame and it was because he felt ashamed that he survived and that there was nothing he could do for those that were lost except honor their memory. When he did that he felt closer to them.
So he had felt compelled to visit all the tombs of the UNKNOWN SOLDIERS. That was his last pilgrimage because he was going to meet up with them soon.
That old British soldier invited me to a drink and we toasted the NAMELESS JOCK and ELLAN VANIN (Manx Gaelic for The Isle of Man).
We talked for a while and then he said his farewell, that old Veteran of the Great War.
I remember he told me with great thanks for my time and I told him the honor was all mine.
I told him, as I recall, “we’ll meet again, Sir, at sundown and continue the conversation.” He gave me a hearty handshake and his most sincere thanks. I ordered a cup a coffee and where he made one I turned down and empty glass.
Another day in Arlington, one cold December morning at Arlington I saw Mrs. Robert Kennedy leaving after she left a wreath on her husband’s grave; though I knew who she was I did not want to intrude on her private grief. Instead, I repeated a quiet prayer for her and her husband after she had gone.
I was returning home to my family for Christmas and she was returning to the place of an empty chair and a house that was forever desolate. Truly the paths of glory lead but to the grave.
There is a song I will play this afternoon. A SONG TO MACLEOD OF DUNVEGAN. I first heard DAVID SOLLEY sing it over thirty years ago;
WHERE MUSIC WAS WONT TO SOUND in the place resorted to by bands of bards
AND NOW ‘Tis without mirth, without pleasure, without merriment,
Without stories and entertainment, without feasting
Without the passing round of the drinking-quaichs in close succession,
Without dalliance with the bonnie lassies of the place
Without generosity to men of learning,
Without voice raised in tuneful song.
They made a brave show as they rose with banners unfurled,
And they forsook not
-FROM THE GAELIC of Roderick Morison (AN CLARSAIR DALL; the Blind Harper)
These are some musings this day.

We should all count our blessings on this day and be thankful for the gifts of LIFE, HEALTH, FRIENDS AND FAMILY as well as our SPLENDID ANCIENT HERITAGE –which we all share- OF FREEDOM.
I hope there will be new songs to remember things of AULD LANG SYNE (the Days FOREVER GONE BY) and those who gave their tomorrows for our today.