Dunkirk Manx Omission

If you’ve seen the movie Dunkirk, you know that it was not a British victory, but snatching disaster from the jaws of defeat (click here).  Amazingly, an armada of civilian small craft were able to assist the Royal Navy in evacuating 338,000 men from the beaches.  The movie gives the nitty-gritty view of this action, the view of the soldier, sailor or aviator who is just trying to survive.  No noble speeches by soldiers dying on the beach or British civilians braving German planes to save the remnants of their army.  Churchill, the eloquent statesman who provided the impetus for the operation, doesn’t even have a cameo.  Dialogue is minimal and terse, but that is often more realistic.  However, there was one glaring omission in Dunkirk: the Isle of Man.

What, you may ask, does an island in the Irish Sea have to do with a rescue of the British Expeditionary Force from the coast of France?  I mean, Great Britain is between them.  The answer is the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company, or IoMSPCo, is the longest continuously running passenger shipping ompany in the world (click here).  Yes, little Isle of Man’s ferry line is the oldest in the world.  What was its role at Dunkirk?  Eight of the steam packet ships answered the call to serve the nation and sailed to Dunkirk, crewed mainly by Manxmen.  These ships were unarmed, at the mercy of German aircraft.  Three of them were lost to enemy fire.  That’s a pretty high loss ratio, but these were unarmed vessels.

RMS Fenella under attack at Dunkirk

Twin Screw Steamship (TSS) Fenella (the name is derived from Fionualla, a daugher of the Celtic sea god Lir who was changed into a swan for 900 years) was commissioned a Royal Mail Ship (RMS) at the outbreak of the war.  She sailed to Dunkirk.  While embarking troops, she was hit by enemy fire. They and the crew evacuated and she sank in the harbor.  The Germans later raised her and rechristened her the Reval, but the RAF sunk her again and finally in 1944.

TSS Mona’s Queen during peacetime

The RMS Mona’s Queen (Mona is an early name for the Isle of Man) was a veteran of evacuating refugees from French and Belgian ports by the time of Dunkirk.  Mona’s Queen’s first trip to Dunkirk brought 1,200 men back to England.  On her second trip, she struck a mine as she approached the harbor and sank in two minutes.  Twenty-four of her crew of fifty-six were lost, seventeen of them Manx.  Fourteen manned the engine room, trapped as the ship sank.  The ship was never raised, designated a “water grave” for the men.

The veteran ABV King Orry

The last ship lost at Dunkirk was the RMS King Orry, named after a legendary king of the Isle of Man.  King Orry was already a veteran by Dunkirk.  In the First World Way, she was an Armed Boarding Vessel (ABV) and had boarded suspicious ships.  She seized a German freighter and an oil tanker.  She was the only representative of the British mercantile marine (same as the American merchant marine) at Scapa Flow, Scotland, when the German High Seas Fleet surrendered on November 21, 1918.  Called back to service for Dunkirk, she carried 1,131 men back to England on her first trip.  On her second, she was badly damaged by German aircraft as she entered the harbor.  In order to prevent blocking the harbor, her valiant crew sailed out after midnight.  She sank and other ships picked up the survivors.

Although hard data is difficult to find, the Manx population was less than 55,000 in 1940.  The United Kingdom number about 47,500,000.  The Manx ships rescued 25,000 men from the beaches of Dunkirk out of 338,000 saved.  That means an island just over one percent of the population saved over seven percent of the men at Dunkirk.  One out of every fourteen men rescued came home on a Manx ship.  Good show, Isle of Man.  Although the BBC gave a nod to the Manx (click here), the movie did not.  Shame on you, Christopher Nolan.

 

 

 

George MacDonald Fraser Interview , Father of Flashman- Part 2

 

George MacDonald Fraser at the Sefton Hotel, Isle of Man, 1995

This is the second part of my 1995 interview with George MacDonald Fraser on the Isle of Man.  His knowledge of history shown in his books, gained without a formal degree, was impressive.  I went to my first writers seminar, on the Isle of Man, a few years later.  One wanna-be writer criticized Mr. Fraser for being too accurate in his historical fiction!  I met with Mr. Fraser one more time, in 1999.  He was doing a book signing of Flashman and the Tiger at a local bookstore.  After chatting for a while, where I told him of my own writing efforts, he kindly offered to allow me to use his name when I contacted his agent.  This was before many revisions of my book and it was not print-ready.  Of course she declined to represent me, but did send a nice personal note.  I wonder what she thought of him recommending a hack-writer like I was then to contact her.  George MacDonald Fraser passed away in 2008.  He was a polite and gracious man.

RLC: Moving along to your books on the Gordon Highlanders that you based on your own
experiences.                                                                                                                              GMF: They’re sort of half truth. Some of them are truer than others.                                  RLC: Right.  Are most of the people in them real characters and you changed the names to protect the guilty, as it were?
GMF: That’s right.  Most of them recognized themselves.  They couldn’t help that, you know.  Well, they don’t mind, so that’s okay.
RLC: That’s good.
GMF: I think they’re rather pleased.  The final amalgamation took place last year.  The Gordons ceased to be and went in with the previously amalgamated Camerons and Seaforths.  They have become one regiment, simply called the Highlanders.  I was greatly delighted that the new design for The General Danced at Dawn they’ve adopted as their Christmas card.   Mind that was some time back.
RLC: I’ve noticed, to return to Flashman, most of the wiser are the non-commissioned, whereas the officers many times seem to be either pompous or foolish, or both.

21 year-old Lt. George MacDonald Fraser of the Gordon Highlanders

GMF: Of course, a great many of them were.  I think it’s fair to say that you get a fair number of mutton heads among the professional military.  Certainly the NCO’s, the non-coms, those who rose at all were pretty good.  Yes, but on the other hand there were some soldiers who were absolute geniuses, there’s no doubt about it, around at that time.  They come in all shapes and sizes.  Generally, in wartime, the best men get to the top, thank God.  That happens in every country, I suppose.
RLC: Would you consider your military experience a positive, good one?
GMF: I loved it.  Yes. I liked soldiering, but I wouldn’t want to be a peacetime soldier.  There doesn’t seem to be much point. And, of course, the huge change that came over Britain after the war.  From having had this enormous empire, suddenly it had gone, pretty well.  There wouldn’t have been the opportunities for getting on as a soldier that there had been.
RLC: Is there any little anecdote that you could share that’s not in your books?
GMF: Nothing really particularly.  I’ve milked pretty dry by now.  I think they’re all in there.  I’ve covered my times with the Gordons in those three books of short stories and my time in Burma in a sort of an autobiography that I wrote a couple of years ago, called Quartered Safe Out Here.  Outside of that, not a great deal.  You know, military life tends to be, on the whole, fairly humdrum.                                                                                                     RLC: You’re more noted among some people for your history writing. The Steel Bonnets is very important to the Scots.

Steel Bonnets- the story of the Border reivers

GMF: That was a labor of love . I’d been born in the Border country and no one had ever done it. There had been lots of little romantic histories and so on, but no one had ever done a real history, a factual history of it, so I decided to do that.  The only thing is that it could have been ten times as long.  I had to be selective because there was so much that there just wasn’t room for.  It was an enormous book as it was.
RLC: Do you find that you are drawn to certain historical eras in your studies?
GMF: Yes, the Victorian era and the sixteenth century, particularly.  Those are the ones I write about because by now, they’re the ones I know most about.
RLC: You have also done some fine work on American history, The Buffalo Soldiers.
GMF: Well, thank you.  As in the Flashmans, American history in the last century is terrific.  It’s a fantastic story.
RLC: Basically, though, you confined yourself to British and American.  That’s your primary focus.
GMF: Oh yes.  For one thing, the language.  I would love to have written, or be able to write the history of the buccaneers.  But I don’t speak French, I don’t speak Spanish, and I don’t speak Dutch.  If you’re going to do it, you ought to be able to research in all those languages.  Also, it would call for two or three years travel around the Caribbean and, tempting though it might be, I think I might probably get fed up with it.
RLC: I note that you basically do historical novels or history.  It shows your primary interest.  You don’t do a lot of fiction like Archer or someone like that where you can sit down and reel it off.  Yours are more difficult by far.
GMF: Yes, you have to do the research and, as I say, that is the bit that I enjoy most.  No, I have no desire to write about my own time at all.  Everybody else is doing it, so why should I.  My daughter writes.  She has published three novels and are all contemporary, because she was a barrister.  Although, she’s now got four children, so she is retired.  They’re about the law, but that’s her particular area. No, I’ve no great interest in the twentieth century.
RLC: Well, we’re very appreciative of your works.  That’s what drew me is the historical aspect.  That’s my great love.  Are you working on any particular writing now?
GMF: Not at the moment, no.  I should.  I’ve been lazy.  Of late I wrote a little book about Border history, a little piece of fiction called The Candlemas Road.  The BBC asked me to dramatize it.  I then dramatized it.  It went out a couple of weeks ago.  That is the last work that I’ve done.
RLC: So that should be appearing fairly soon, then?                                                        GMF: No, it’s been broadcasted.
RLC: Oh, when?
GMF: About three weeks ago.  Middle of July.
RLC: I think that’s one the saddest things is that we don’t know about things like this because BBC doesn’t publicize much.
GMF: No, it doesn’t.
RLC: American TV tells you what’s coming.  They put it in TV Guide for weeks.  Here you have to dig for it on the BBC.
GMF: Lots of things pass by.  There was a program I wish I’d seen called “Highlanders,” which Sean Connery narrated, just a week ago.  It was about an hour long documentary about Culloden and the ’45 Rebellion.  I missed it.  Again, they didn’t publicize it.
RLC: I didn’t even hear about it.  I guess if you are what we call a “couch potato” in the States you have a better chance.
GMF: You just have to study the programs in advance, which I never do.
RLC: One enjoyable story of yours is about your grandmother who ran the Highland inn and the still operation.
GMF: That’s almost entirely true, that story.  That’s the trouble.  I just don’t have any connection with the Highlands now at all, because all the older members of my family, of course, are dead and I sort of lost touch.  In fact, I haven’t been back in the Highlands for ten years or more, although it is just across the way.
RLC: Have you ever gone to any of the games there?  Of course, the games are different there than in the States.  In the States, they’re more like a Highland fair, with games only as a part of the event.
GMF: No, the only Highland gathering I’ve been to since I was a child was the one in North Carolina, and that went on for two or three days.  Obviously, they’re a big thing and they take place in all parts of the USA and Canada.

R.L. Cherry in Fraser tartan kilt before marching in the 2105 4th of July parade

RLC: Yes, I was involved in Southern California.  They have large ones in Santa Rosa in Northern California and Costa Mesa in the South.  So then I take it you don’t have a kilt?
GMF: Oh, yes.  Yes.                                             RLC: You do?  Great!
GMF: I got it, actually, before I went to Grandfather Mountain and have worn it several times since for weddings and that sort of thing. The peculiar thing that came out of The General Danced at Dawn is that about five or six years ago Simon Fraser University in British Columbia wrote to me and said we have read all about this, your story about people dancing 32, 64, 128ths in reels. We intend to dance a 256-some reel.  And they did.  They sent me a video of it.  And they actually did it.  As a result of that, the year before last, the Toronto Country Dance Society decided they would dance a 512-some reel.  They got dancers from all over the United States and Canada, New Zealand, oh God knows where.  Again, I saw a video of it and it’s in the Guiness Book of Records now.  But, in fact, I think it wasn’t as genuine as the 256-some they did in British Columbia, because that was one bloody, great reel.  The Toronto looked more to me like a lot of groups of reels.  But, still, it was accepted by the experts, so I guess it was all right.  It was an impressive sight, I’ll tell you.  512 maniacs weaving in and out, you know.  They announced they were going to have a shot at the 1024-some.  They’re not getting me, I know that.
RLC: You’ve met the Frasers at Grandfather Mountain.  Have you had much contact with other Frasers in Scotland?
GMF: No, not really.
RLC: Did you ever meet Lord Lovat or Lady Saltoun.
GMF: No, I never did.  That was a piece of one-ups-manship by Charlton Heston.  He had met Lord Lovat.  No, I never met him, old MacShimi.  He had a gathering of Frasers in the 1950’s, and I think one of my uncles went to it.  They figured they would get a few hundred and they got 70,000.  They must have eaten him out of house and home.
I haven’t had much contact with other Frasers.  There was Lord Fraser, who bought the paper on which I worked, the Glasgow Herald.  He was a financier and businessman, died about thirty years ago.  He was a distant cousin of mine.  I mean, okay, if you are a Lovat Fraser, you’re probably all related some way, anyway.  But he was a traceable sort of second cousin.  He was the man who bought Harrod’s.  There was a huge take-over battle in the ’50’s and he succeeded in buying Harrod’s.  He was a tough little bandit.  I knew him and his son.  But no, one notes the Frasers turning up in various positions, but I’ve not had any particular comings and goings with them.
RLC: There have been a few other Fraser authors.  David Fraser, a cousin of Lady Saltoun, has written And We Shall Shock Them, The Killing Times, and others.            GMF: The reason my name on my books is George MacDonald Fraser is because it is my middle name, anyway, but also there was a Scottish poet called George S. Fraser.  My publisher said that just so there is no confusion, let’s have your middle name.  And so there it went.  Oh, yes.  And then, of course, there’s Antonia Fraser…
RLC: That’s by marriage.                                                                                                  GMF: Yes, that’s by marriage.
RLC: Now she’s married to Harold Pinter.
GMF: That’s right.  I’ve never met her.  Then, I haven’t met many authors.  I tend to steer clear of other authors.
RLC: You don’t go to “author clubs?”
GMF: No. I’m trying to think how many authors I know.  Kingsley Ames, I think he’s about the only one.  Yes, just about.  There are one or two on the Island.  Then again, we don’t get together.  There is an Isle of Man Authors’ Society, but, then again, I don’t attend it.  I suppose I feel that an author’s job is writing, not meeting other authors.
RLC: Just because you write doesn’t mean you have the same interests as someone else who writes.
GMF: Quite.  I mean you’d just end up talking about royalties, agents, and publishers anyway.

Lord Lovat’s memoirs with great recounting of his time with the Commandos

RLC: Did you ever read Lord Lovat’s book?  He wrote March Past.
GMF: No, I didn’t know he’d written one.
RLC: I thought that since you were both military men, it might be of interest.
GMF: The only military Fraser I knew was, again, a cousin, Bill Fraser, who was in the Gordons with me.  God knows what happened to him.  You lose touch very easily.  There are Fraser relatives scattered around the States and Canada.  My parents were in touch with them, but him, I’m not.  I’ve got a cousin actually living in…What’s the name of the place…not Santa Monica.  He was at Venice Beach.  He ran a restaurant at Venice Beach.  But he’s talking of, and I don’t know whether he’s done it, moving to Houston.  Whether he will or not, Lord knows.  A lot of Frasers are in the Los Angeles phone book.
RLC: Oh, yes. It’s not quite like British Columbia, but…                                                       GMF: British Columbia, oh!  And Saskatchewan.  My wife and I worked in a newspaper in Regina back in, oh, what 1950, and there were Frasers everywhere.  You couldn’t move for the brutes.
RLC: You worked for the Glasgow Herald.  What other papers did you work for?
GMF: I worked for a local one in Carlisle, the Carlisle Journal, then went to Canada where I worked for the Regina Leader Post, back to Carlisle, worked the Cumberland News, and then to Glasgow and worked for the Glasgow Herald.  That’s my journalistic story.  Did over twenty years.  It’s a lovely job, newspaper work.  I wouldn’t like it now.  The new technology.  Forget it.  It means nothing to me.  I don’t really like newspapers nowadays, anyway.  For one thing, they’re too damn big.  The strain of filling the space is obviously showing in a lot of them.
RLC: Do you find them more sensational now?
GMF: Yes. Oh, standards have slipped.  I mean, I sound like a dinosaur, but they have.  Not only journalistic ethics, what is permissible and what isn’t.  I mean, there’s no holds barred nowadays.  But also literacy.  I mean, they don’t know the difference between who and whom, may and might, and like and as.  I’m appalled at some of the garbage that I see.  In fact, I skim the headlines now and rely on television.  I don’t want to know what is happening anyway, very much.  Forget Bosnia, as far as I’m concerned.  That’s just a hell of a mess.
RLC: I don’t think I would want to be one of the soldiers there.  Not being able to shoot back and watching people killed in front of your eyes.
GMF: Quite.  I don’t think we should have been near it in the first place, or anyone else for that matter, and I think it would have got over a lot quicker without UN interference.  Okay, humanitarian efforts, by all means, but to send in observers, the way they have, they’re useless and just hostages.  But, that’s the way.
RLC: It’s almost as though now we don’t have clear-cut enemies.  We’ve lost the Russian hegemony.
GMF: No.  I don’t blame the United States for not wanting to get involved in Yugoslavia.  I don’t think any of us should’ve.  But that’s not the popular, moralistic view. If any of the back-bench heroes who are always demanding that we should get further involved…okay, let THEM go, if they want to.
RLC: Just out of curiosity, how did you end up on the Isle of Man.  You’ve lived in Canada, the U.S., and Scotland.
GMF: Well, there’s nowhere in particular that we belong to, and we knew the Island.  When I wrote Flashman, I thought, “I don’t know, but this could be the start of something.  And I have no desire to pay ninety percent tax to the British government.  So we came over here, thank God.  If they altered the tax rate in Britain now, I wouldn’t go back.  It’s nice here.  We like it and it’s old fashioned and fairly quiet.  Not as old fashioned and quiet as it was when we first arrived, but still I prefer it to that mess over yonder.
RLC: How long have you lived here?
GMF: Twenty…twenty-six years.
RLC: You’ve-seen a lot of changes.                                                                                 GMF: And yet, not all that many.  It’s still pretty much the same.  The number of cars has increased frantically.
RLC: Have you ever been to the TT’s?
GMF: Yes, when we first came.  But we haven’t been back since.  Okay, you stand and you watch the show going by, you know.  It struck me then that it’s the nearest thing to the Roman arena extant.  There were six killed in the actual races the year that we watched.  It doesn’t seem to be quite so bad now.  It’s sooner them than me, you know.
RLC: It’s not even safe to be a bystander at times.

Making a tight turn on the TT race

GMF: Quite.  I mean the guy who’s our electrician, the guy we call on if anything goes wrong, he rode seventh in the Senior about twenty years ago. That’s mad!  I mean, he really is mad.  You can tell by the way he goes about his electrical work.  But he’s a good electrician.  It seems to me he takes appalling chances.  When I consider that course, which, incidentally, Steve McQueen knew intimately.  He’d never been here himself.  He knew all about the Isle of Man, the TT and the different names and places on the course.  I said to him, “the next time you’re in Europe, you’ll have to come over and go ’round it.”  He said, “You can drive me.  In a leisurely way.”  He said, no, he wasn’t into actually racing any more.  Our favorite trick with visitors was to take them to the grandstands, then around the course, and then say, “Right, you do that in twenty minutes.”  It is a horrifying thought, when you consider it.  You know Gray Hill in Douglas?  That’s the big hill, down from the grandstands before you come to Quarterbridge.  The police used to put their guns, their speed guns, on that.  They found one of the riders coming down at 197 mph.  When you consider that through the streets of the town…I mean, they’re nuts!
RLC: I always find it interesting that they’re putting pads on the stone walls.  If you hit that at 165 mph it’ll give you a soft death.
GMF: That’s about it.  That’s about it.  Still, they seem to like doing it.  And God knows, I don’t know what would happen to the Island’s economy in the summer without it.  I’m always glad to see them come, but I’m personally always glad to see them go.                     RLC: I agree.
GMF: Of course they’ll be back here in a few weeks time for the Grand-Prix: Note: Grand Prix is the amateur’s TT.                                                                                                    RLC: I always find it interesting to see the signs along the road “Fahrens.”
GMF: “Fahren links.”  Yes, that’s it.  For the Germans.  Used to be a lot of Italians came. Not so many now, I don’t think.  That was when Agostini won it six years on the run, on the trot.  Then he retired, said he wasn’t coming back.  Because, he said, it was getting too dangerous.  Oh, no one could call him “chicken,” you know.  He won the damn thing for six years running.  And the Italians haven’t been as prominent as they used to be.
(Note: The signs advising “Stay left” in German are put up during TT and Grand Prix to remind German motorcyclists visiting the Isle to stay to the left.)
RLC: Remember I said, about the President, if I don’t think about it…                               GMF: Yes…
RLC: It was Rutherford B. Hayes.
GMF: Yes, okay.
RLC: His wife was known as “Lemonade Lucy” because she would never serve any alcohol in the White House.
GMF: Hayes.  He’s one of these that you never hear of, you know.
RLC: He didn’t accomplish much because of the deal that had been made and everyone knew it.  It (the Presidency) should have gone to the Democrats.  But the Democrats would have had the White House with a Congress that was Republican.
GMF: Mind you, I’m not sure that these undistinguished persons aren’t the best Presidents. I mean nothing happens, so, ah, there is a case for saying the best Prime Minister there has been in Britain for a long time was Alec Douglas Hume.  Because, as he said himself, in the eighteen months in which he was Prime Minister, nothing happened!
RLC: Are there any current British politicians that you have found interesting, that you like or dislike intensely?
GMF: None that I found interesting.  I mean, we are not part of the British political scene, thank God.  No, I’m quite content with the fact that the Island has its own little government and, on the whole, it’s pretty non-political, you know, non-party.  There’s something comforting about when you’ve got to vote, you’re not voting for someone picked out by a machine and who you don’t know and suspect.  We’ve got a chemist in Laxey who’s now our MHK (Member of the House of Keys). Well, there is something comforting about that, because at least you can get at him…if you want to.  The last MHK we had before was our doctor, Dr. Mann.  I must say, I think it’s…I just hope the Island can stay the way it is.  It’s our little bastion of sanity.  How long it will last, God alone knows.                                   RLC: Would you be termed a conservative?                                                                            GMF: Yes.  I don’t mean conservative with a capital “C.”  I don’t like the present government in England one bit.  I think that the Labour government would be even worse.  It generally is.  But this lot have been in too long.  That is the trouble with British politics. There is no one you would willingly vote for.
RLC: It’s true in America, too.                                                                                          GMF: We were in Hollywood at the time of the Bush-Dukakis election, and I remember the gloom that settled over Universal Studios when the result came through.  Oh, God!  I was a neutral bystander.  I didn’t really mind.  I was slightly in Bush’s favor because his Vice President was Manx, or at least of Manx descent.  Although, I don’t know that he was the greatest, either.   I remember poor John Landis the day after the election.  It was as though the sky had fallen in.  I think…the impression I got the day or two before was that they thought Dukakis was going to win.                                                                                      RLC: They hoped.  Hollywood is traditionally liberal.  Charlton Heston and a couple like him are conservatives.                                                                                                                   GMF: An impressive person.  He’s a big picture man.
RLC: My wife rewatches Ben Hur every so often.
GMF: On The Prince and the Pauper, he took me aback.  He said, “What other English kings can I play?”  I tried to think, and I said, “Well, why not go to Edward I?”
RLC: That’s what I was going to say, “Longshanks.”
GMF: Yes.  “Because,” I said, “you’re exactly right, physically.”
RLC: Of course, I don’t think he would want to play the “Hammer of Scotland.”
GMF: That’s right.  I said, “Get Sean Connery to play Robert the Bruce and you’re well away.  He pondered this a long time.  I think he would rather play Robert the Bruce.
RLC: Did you ever meet Sean Connery?
GMF: No, never have.
RLC: I thought when you did…Octopussy.   But that was Roger Moore.                        GMF: That was Roger.  Yes.  No, we’ve sort of almost coincided several times, but never, in fact.  Moore’s a nice, laid back man.  Didn’t take himself for Bond terribly seriously, unlike Cubby Broccoli, who took it very seriously.  When I proposed putting Bond in a gorilla suit in one scene, he reacted with horror.  However, Bond did end up in a gorilla suit. In Octopussy, very briefly.                                                                                                                                                                                    RLC: How many Bond pictures did you write?         GMF: Just the one.  The only person who wrote more than one is…oh, he’s died now…oh God, I’ve forgotten his name.  He contributed to every Bond picture, from the beginning. Old Hollywood script writer…gentleman from West Point.  He’d retired, pretty well, by the time I came along.  Although he and Michael Wilson put in a couple of scenes in my screenplay.  I don’t know why.  I watched them and wondered what the hell they were all about.  Professional charity, probably.  They tend to get a different writer for each.   Or they did.  Now, I think, Michael Wilson does them.                                                                         RLC: Now that they’re out of the books.
GMF: Yes. Quite. Well, we were pretty well out of the books with Octopussy. It was a short story, a novelette.
RLC: About a marine biologist, really, who loved octopi, not about a woman with a tattoo. GMF: That’s right.
RLC: They were fun. They always were fun.
GMF: They were good fun and they were very professionally made. That was their saving grace.                                                                                                                                RLC: It was always interesting to see what new gadget could be brought out for Bond to use. And normally the gadgets didn’t work. They would work at first, but there would be something that made it fail. Like the car in Goldfinger that he ended up crashing. It was like they wanted him to have to use something besides the gadgets.
GMF: That’s right. They’re still making one, I think, at the moment. Although I think Cubby Broccoli is not a part of it. I think it’s his daughter and Michael Wilson who are the producers. And it’s a new Bond. It’ll do alright. I think the magic name will still get them.
RLC: Not the mega-hits they were before, but…
GMF:  No. Connery and Moore were at their peak. Oh, at MGM, I discovered, when you were working on Octopussy, you could do no wrong. They practically carried you into the building.  How are we on this for length?
RLC: Great.  Thanks for meeting me.  I’ve really enjoyed this.                                        GMF: Well, I’ve enjoyed it, too. Thank you very much.

George MacDonald Fraser, Father of Flashman

George MacDonald Fraser

Back in 1995, when I was living on the Isle of Man, I was able to interview George MacDonald Fraser (click for more info).  I was the vice-chairman of Clan Fraser Society of North America (even though I had moved to the Isle of Man) at the time and did so for the newsletter.  One afternoon, my wife and I met with him at the Sefton Hotel on The Strand in Douglas, across the street from the harbor.  We had tea and I interviewed the author of the Flashman novels (click for more on Flashman), several semi-autobiographical books about his experiences in Southeast Asia during World War II (click for a synopsis of one) and histories (click for a review of one).  The chairman of CFSNA was a big fan and, although I was not that familiar with his works, I read some of his books and studied up on him before the interview.  I was impressed with his writing and, as I interviewed him, the man.  He was most gracious and interesting.  Here is the first part of my interview with the late George MacDonald Fraser.

RLC: You have written fictional books and short stories, history, reviews, magazines articles and even worked for Hollywood. Do you have any favorite type of writing?
GMF: I would say the short stories are less trouble than anything else because I don’t have to do any research. And the same holds good for the film scripts. Again, very little research is necessary, and you can just sit down and do it, you know?  The Flashmans take an awful lot of reading and research in advance.  Naturally, any historical novel does.  But I wouldn’t say that I have any particular favorite.  No.
RLC: You worked as a newspaperman in Scotland as one of your notable jobs.  What was your most memorable story or event of this time of your life?
GMF: I think interviewing Oliver Hardy, because he was such a nice man, and exactly as I had imagined and exactly as he was on screen, sitting there in his bowler hat, looking rather weary, which he probably was.  Oh, I can think of things in Scotland when I was deputy editor of the Glasgow Herald, we effectively dealt a blow to Scottish nationalism,which I don’t approve of, although I’m getting more and more sympathetic to it as time goes by, and that was a great satisfaction at the time.  No, no particular stories.  How long have you been here?
RLC: We moved here in November.
GMF: Oh, I see.  Then the name Bill Shankly won’t mean anything to you.  He was a famous football manager with Liverpool.  I mean, he had this sort of reputation in Britain that Casey Stengal and people like that used to have in the United States.  When he managed a very small club I happened to be covering it for my local paper and I got to know him extremely well.  I discovered that of all the people that I have met, he is the one whose name, when dropped, excites the most offense.  Particularly in the north of England.                                                                                                                                   RLC: I think that is one of the things I had to get used to. The household names in America might not be the household names here, and vice versa. We always think that because of our common language, that everything is the same.
GMF: Oddly enough, I think it’s probably most marked in TV entertainment.  I mean, there are all sorts of household names in the States, Johnny Carson for example, that are almost unknown here.  And David Letterman and people like that.  Similarly, the same sort of thing in Britain.  There are those no one in the States ever heard of.  In fact, no one in the States heard anything about British entertainment at all until the Beatles arrived.  That changed everything.
RLC: Having spent some time in America, do you prefer the type of screenwriting on British TV to American, especially in regards to humor and that sort of thing?
GMF: I’ve never subscribed to the belief, which has always been proclaimed over here, that British television is the best in the world.  I don’t think it is.  In fact, I think it has deteriorated very badly.  No, I must say, when I go to the States (and I haven’t been for a few years now) I find myself slipping into it very, very easily and watching TV in hotel rooms and so on.  In no time at all I find myself on the wavelength, you know.
RLC: Did you find any particular shows you liked?
GMF: I’m trying to think.  Mind you, a lot of them are now seen in this country.  Um … well, of course, it was shown over here, I liked Soap.  It was shown a few years ago.  I suppose that it has died now.
RLC: Yes, it was actually fairly short-lived.
GMF: Recently I was asked by a producer in Hollywood (he’s trying to get a television series started and he wanted me to do it) and he sent me tapes of a show called Hercules. Have you ever seen it?
RLC: No.
GMF: It’s abysmal!  But anyway, he said this is the type of thing that is peak viewing in the United States and well up the charts.  I said, “I don’t believe it.”
And he said, “Oh, but it is.  You have no idea how things have changed.'”
It is pretty basic, I mean the Hercules myth, but you wouldn’t recognize it.  It’s just an excuse for slam, bang karate and that sort of thing.  No, I’m not a great television viewer in this country.  I don’t watch an awful lot, aside from news bulletins and old movies.  I generally watch an old movie before I go to bed, or a bit of one, you know.
RLC: I know you did some screenwriting. What was your impression of Hollywood? The type of “feel” you get there, the whole genre?
GMF: You know, I found it very quiet, a rather relaxing place.  I mean the longest stint I had there was at MGM, Culver City, when I was doing a James Bond, Octopussy, for Cubby Broccoli, and that was very civilized living.  I used to turn up and park in the car park every day and watch Walter Mathau striding across looking very lugubrious.  I used to work in the building and that consisted not of writing but entirely of discussing.  That went on for weeks.  Then I think no one wrote it, you know.  But for the rest, most of the time I thoroughly enjoyed it.  My wife and I sort of lived in the “golden triangle” in Beverly Hills and very pleasant it was.  I must say they’ve got it licked for peaceful, quiet living, or so it seemed to me at the time.  I don’t know what it’s like now.  We had good friends there. Dick Fleischer, the director and others, Martin Ritt, who, alas, is now dead.  Most of my time there was actually spent in talking.  I didn’t do any writing there.  As I say, the usual procedure of a movie was to go and talk for long periods.  Then I would go home and write it and then go back and have more discussions and then come back and rewrite, you know.  I must say I liked it.  Last time I was there was to do The Lone Ranger, which never came off, for John Landis.  John and his wife are good friends, although I haven’t seen them now for a couple of years. I doubt if I’ll be going back.  I see no particular reason why I should.  The film industry is changing.  It was incredibly international when I was doing it. Movies would draw their people, their talent and so on, from all corners of the globe and filming would take place all over the world.  Now it seems to be getting more back to the old “studio” system.  More stuff is made in the States and, well, the tax advantage for working in Britain, I gather, is gone. It is a less international feel about it. And I think, too, my generation is getting a bit long in the tooth.  I mean, the people I worked with, an awful lot of them are now dead or my age.  People like Charlton Heston and George C. Scott must now be in their seventies and not as active as they were.  I don’t know the names of all the young producers and directors nowadays.
RLC: Did you have any producers, directors, actors and actresses that made an impression, either positive or negative, that is very memorable?
GMF: Steve McQueen.  We were to do a movie upon which six million dollars had already been spent, called Tai-Pan.  It was eventually made by Dino De Laurentiis with a different script, not mine.  But they sold my script to McQueen and we were all set to do it when the money ran out, or something.  I never discovered what.  Also, the poor guy was physically unwell at that time and died a few months later.  It would have been his last picture, if it had been made.  A funny thing about him was we met in his home which, at that time, was a penthouse in the Beverly Wilshire.  The director and I went up to meet him and talk over the script.  Within thirty seconds he said to me, “You’re from Scotland.”
I said, “Yes.”
He said, “I’m Scotch.”
And out it came. For about ten minutes I got the history of the McQueens.  He was very nationalistic. Very proud of his Scottishness was McQueen.  We got on very well.  Nice chap.  Reserved, in a quiet way.  Burt Lancaster. I spent a week with him.  Again, discussing a movie that never got anywhere.  That was a very civilized man.  Again, with whom it was very easy to talk.  Much better educated than the average movie person.
If I had to write again for someone, I couldn’t pick anyone better to write for than George C. Scott, because whatever you write he will make it sound a hell of a sight better than it is. And Oliver Reed.  I made five pictures with him and he’s never let me down yet.  Again, he can make it sound better than it is. Some people just have the gift.
RLC: Did you work with Charlton Heston?  Because, you know, he is a Fraser as well.
GMF: That’s right.  Oh boy, I heard about that.  Yes, his son, of course, is christened Fraser.  Fraser, who is now, I think, a director.  Yes, I made three pictures with him in two of which he was Cardinal Richelieu (click for more info on the Musketeer pictures) and the other one he was Henry the Eighth (click for more on Crossed Swords).  He was a very good Henry the Eighth, too.  Worked terribly hard and immersed himself in it.  Going through the script again before hand, I’d had Henry saying something about being king for five and thirty years.  He said, “Actually he’d been king for thirty-seven years.”  And I said, “Yeah.  Poetic license.”  He knew his business.  And we’ve corresponded now and then ever since.  He must be, I should think, thinking about retiring, you know.  Although, actors never retire.
RLC: They become more character actors, as time goes along, I suppose.  Do you have anything waiting in the wings, as far as screen plays?
GMF: At the moment, no.  There is always a sort of permanent thing of people saying they want to do Flashman for the movies or for television.  One of these days it might happen. I’m not particularly worried whether it does or not.  I’m quite happy with them in book form.

Flashman
1st American Edition
Signed by the author

RLC: Mentioning Flashman brings me back to the book. It was my first introduction to your writing.  It was a very interesting book. The first time you pick it up and you start reading about this fellow…very unique.  Probably the most famous anti-hero in literature, I would say.  Aside from the fleeting description in Tom Brown’s School Days that you attribute this character to, how did you become inspired to create this fellow, who is the ultimate in self-interest?
GMF: I don’t know.  I know I wanted to write a Victorian novel and I ‘d had the thought, I don’t know when, probably when I read it when I was about twelve years old, “What happened to this character.”  In a sense the work was done for me because it’s clear from Tom Brown’s School Days when he was expelled from Rugby, in the late 1830’s.  Right.   What would he do? He’d go into the army.  What was happening in the military world at that time, and so on.  So it was just a question of fitting him into history, which is what I’ve been doing ever since.
RLC: Having read them, I’ve found them to be full of detailed descriptions not only of points in history, but also locations, such as Afghanistan during that period and the Civil War period in America with Custer and the gang.  The incredible amount of research in there, obviously.
GMF: That’s the best bit of it.  That’s the best part.
RLC: What I noticed in that is there are certain times the characters become very alive, and sometimes in a negative way.  Custer and Elphey Bey and such.  You see them as pompous fools and idiots?
GMF: Well, an awful lot of them were, you know.  Or so it appears now. Yes, I suppose all the great names of history have their weaknesses and their follies.  An awful lot of history is as incredible as fiction.  You wouldn’t get away with it as fiction.  That, as I say, is the fun in finding out, and finding out, where possible, the real truth behind the legend.  You know, just the small facts and the small details.
RLC: Yours, of course, are considerably more fleshed out than you can find in history because that is the nature of fiction.  If you just had a dry recitation of facts it would be quite boring.                                                                                                                            GMF: That’s right. You have to have Flashman in the middle of it, you know.
RLC: How much freedom do you feel to make someone like Elphey Bey or Custer more fallible than they were or do you try keep-
GMF: I try to keep exactly as it was.  There is only one person I am conscious of perhaps having made out to be a bit more of a villain than he was, and that is Bismarck.  And yet, he was a thorough swine.  There was a Russian called Ignatiev (Count Nicholas Pavlovich Ignatiev, statesman and diplomat) who I may have been a little unfair to, but that’s all.  I will not, in any circumstances, take liberties, particularly with female characters. Unless they were promiscuous I won’t say they were.  I won’t attribute misbehavior to any historical female who wasn’t guilty of it.
RLC: Now, I have noticed in your Flashman books quite a few characters who sound very historical.  Do you bring in what I would call minor historical characters that people might not even have heard of that you encountered in your research?

Alexander Haughton Campbell Gardner a.ka. Gordana Khan (1785–1877)

GMF: Oh, yes.  When I did the one before the last one, Flashman and the Mountain of Light, I discovered, about the Sikh War in the 1840’s, these two American adventurers of whom I had never heard.  Incredible men upon whom I am convinced Kipling based The Man Who Would Be King, because their careers are so parallel and the timing is right.  One of them published his memoirs in 1891 (extracts from Gardner’s journal were published in 1853 and Harlan published his in 1842.  Both men died in the 1870’s.) and Kipling produced The Man Who Would Be King five years later.  I’m quite sure he was inspired by them . That kind of character, this man Gardner (Alexander Gardner-click for more on this adventurer) who came from Wisconsin and went about Afghanistan dressed in a full suit of tartan including a tartan turban.  I mean, there he is, and there’s a photograph of him, God help us.  And another, a fellow from Philadelphia (Josiah Harlan-click for more info on his incredible story), who made himself, very briefly, king of a tiny Afghan kingdom.  That is where, I’m sure, Kipling got the idea.  He didn’t last long, and ended up as a dentist in San Francisco, as far as I remember.  But an astonishing career.  There were some very hard fellows about in the last century.  (Some sources consider Sir James Brooke to be one of the inspirations rather than Gardner- click for more)
RLC: One of the things that is very obvious is that Flashy always comes out ahead, in spite of what you would think were some very grave errors of judgement where you think he would be branded a coward.  You always make sure he has an “out.”  How does this inevitable survival of such a person reflect your attitude toward this sort of real life individual?

President Custer?

GMF: I think they do.  I often wonder how many great reputations are genuinely earned.  The more you look into historical characters the more faults and the more virtues you find.  You generally find, this is my experience, anyway, that where there is a myth, so-called, there is a genuine basis for it.  I mean, everybody knows about Custer.  They may not know all the facts and all the details about Custer, but he wasn’t a bad sort.  He made a terrible mistake.  And it was a mistake he could have attempted to justify, because he had done the same thing before and it had worked.  But at Little Big Horn it didn’t.  What is not generally known about Custer is his political ambitions, that he genuinely had his eye on the Democratic nomination.  And he hoped in the far West, in the Little Big Horn campaign, hoped he would win such a glorious reputation that it might see him not only into the nomination, but into the White House.  And God knows, why not?  It happened to Eisenhower, you know. I suppose it happened to Andrew Jackson.
RLC: And even Washington.
GMF: And Washington, quite.  What Custer would have been like as president, God alone knows.  Because he was a pretty hysterical character, or very emotional, anyway.  I don’t think he would have been a great success.  Mind you, I’m not sure who became president that date, after Grant.  Johnson?  No, Johnson was before that.
RLC: After Grant was, ah….                                                                                              GMF: What was the one that was assassinated?
RLC: That was McKinley.
GMF: Wasn’t there one who was assassinated around about 1881?                             RLC: Garfield. After Garfield was Arthur.
GMF: Was it Arthur?
RLC: Chester A. Arthur was later. Then you went to Cleveland, then Harrison, then Cleveland again, and come to McKinley.
GMF: Early 70’s.
RLC: Tilden ran against him, ah….
GMF: Tilden.  That’s a name that rings a bell.
RLC: They made a deal.  Actually the Democrats had the majority in the election and they made a deal with Republicans that they would get the White House in exchange for pulling out the occupation troops in the South…Lemonade Lucy was his wife…I’m into history and it’s like all of a sudden I can’t remember anything.  I hate that.
GMF: I know that Grant was still President.  Grant did two terms, if I remember.  And I think he was just about going in ’76.  That was just about the end.
RLC: Lincoln won in ’64.  After him, up to ’68, was Johnson.
GMF: That’s right.  Through ’72 and ’76 was Grant.  I don’t know who it was from ’76 to ’80.
RLC: If I don’t think about it, I may come up with him.  That would have been interesting, Custer as President.

End Part 1

Royally Banned

You question be being king?

R L Cherry, do you question me being king now?

It’s true.  I’ve been royally banned from seeing the tweets by His Pomposity, “King” Drew Howe, the the self-proclaimed King of Mann.   I was going through old emails, dumping many, when I saw this one that told me  @JodyPaulson had tweeted, “@RL_Cherry You know what? @HoweRoyal and his lovely family have done more for tourism for the Isle of Man than you’ll ever do. #Jealous.”  Obviously, I’d offended Ms. Paulson by giving the facts on KD’s bogus claim to kingship of the Isle of Man.  I agree that he has done more for tourism.  The best thing about the dog-and-pony show that TLC presented was that it showed some of the beauty of the Isle.  I’m sure that KD getting his show helped tourism.  That begs the question about legitimacy of his claim.  However, before deleting the above mentioned email, I decided to check out what good ol’ KD was up to and went to his twitter account.  There, I was greeted with “You are blocked from following @HoweRoyal and viewing @HoweRoyal’s Tweets.”   I have officially been declared persona non grata by the pretender to the Manx throne!  If KD actually did become king, likely I would be beheaded if I ventured back to the island that was legally my home for five years.  I can’t tell you how much that pleases me.  I must have become such a threat to him that he didn’t want me to see what he tweets.  KD is still free to view my tweets, but I’m not ashamed of what I write.  In honor of my new standing, I will fire my final salvo at the Faux King of Mann.  Or Man.  TLC can’t seem to decide which spelling to use.

Sir Terry Pratchett, author of fantasies

The late Sir Terry Pratchett, author of fantasies

After finding that I was royally banned from KD’s twitter, I checked out his “official” website (click here).  I suppose KD has not figured out how to ban me from seeing it.  Yet.  The site has been cleaned up since I last saw it.  No longer are there opportunities to purchase Manx titles of nobility for tens of thousands of dollars.  No longer are there ties to the rather dubious  The Sovereign Magistral Order of the Temple of Solomon.  Now it has a brief outline of KD’s claim, info on “Suddenly Royal,” and contact info, plus a number of touching family photos.  It still states that the “UK Barrister firm Pratchetts issued an official Barrister’s Opinion further affirming the legal use and possession of the hereditary royal titles of his ancestors in relation to the Isle of Man.”  I did a little poking around.  The only listing by Solicitors and Barristers for the UK is Pratchetts, 555 Lincoln Road, Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, PE1 2PB.  It also states “Please note: Please be aware that we are currently updating all our solicitor listings, and Pratchetts my(sic) no longer exist, may have merged with another law firm, or may have different contact details to those shown below.”  Further searching reveals that it has a staff of one, Ian Pratchett, and specializes in “Injury Lawyers or solicitors, Divorce Lawyers or Solicitors, accident claim solicitors, accident lawyers, Criminal Lawyers, Conveyancing Solicitors, Immigration lawyers or wills and probate experts amongst others.”  There does not seem to be a company website for Pratchetts.  Obviously, this is not an old and prestigious law firm in London that one would normally contact about establishing a claim to a British throne.  Yet this is the rusty hinge upon which KD’s claim swings.  It would have been more appropriate if KD had sought the opinion of the late Sir Terry Pratchett, the author of the “Discworld” series of fantasy novels instead of Ian Pratchett, the solicitor.

Queen Elizabeth II, the Lord of Mann

Queen Elizabeth II, the real Lord of Mann

One interesting observation is that none of those who he admits have a better claim to the throne of Mann (if there were one to claim) have stepped forward to take their place in front of him.  Obviously, they realize that it is not valid.  In fact, Robert Currey (apologies again for my previous error in your family tree) is one of those who appeared on “Suddenly Royal” when KD met with him and his family regarding a claim senior to KD’s.  Mr. Currey commented on this site that, “At no stage has anyone in our family including my grandfather claimed Lordship or Kingship of Man. As my mother, Heather Currey stated on camera the Queen is the Lord of Man. Like many other comments, this was edited out.”  Such honesty did not mesh with KD’s claim, so actual reality lost to the fantasy “reality” of TV.  Damn the truth, full fantasy ahead.

Me in my fantasy role as a Scottish soldier of fortune

Me, as my fantasy Renaissance  Faire character.  I knew it wasn’t real.

I have seen online comments about “Suddenly Royal” that say how KD is such a great family man and how delightful his wife and daughter are and I agree it seems that way.  What’s my beef?  Although KD does come across as rather crude and rude, that’s not the issue.  And if this were just a little, private fantasy of his, that would be fine since I have nothing against fantasy.  I used to enjoy going to Renaissance Faires in character as a soldier of fortune.  But I never thought my Renaissance Faire character was a real person.  I never tried to make money from it and never forced it upon other people.  Fantasy is not reality.  Except for on reality TV, like “Suddenly Royal.”  KD has made himself a public figure by being on the show with his pretension to the kingship of Mann and thus opened his fantasy claim to investigation.

I watched all the episodes of “Suddenly Royal.”  If I hadn’t been writing about it for this blog, I wouldn’t have made it.  I won’t go over old ground except to mention that he never did address the fact that, while talking about moving to the Isle of Man, KD never addressed the fact that he needed to obtain permission to do so and never did so.  Big problem.  He never covered the history of how the Stanleys were given the kingship of the Isle by the king of England and did not inherit it, then changed it to Lord of Mann and finally the Murrays, who inherited it, sold it to the Crown.  Even if he were the heir (more than doubtful), he had nothing to inherit.  Big omission.  With that quick summary of my past blogs, let’s visit the last episode of the Howe saga, “Suddenly Royal.”

Thash a niesh red.

Thaaash a niiish red.

The family discussed moving to the Isle and what kind of job KD would find without talking about the difficulty of obtaining permission from the Manx government.  Since I’ve covered so much of that already, I’m only going to talk about the “Royal Garden Party,”  the swan song for KD before he flew off into the sunset.  In other words, took a westbound plane back to America.  In the planning, Lady C and Ms. KD do a wine tasting.  Now, I’ve never known of a wine tasting with just one red, one white and one sparkling, and a full glass of each, but that’s what they did.  I guess the choices were limited and they wanted a buzz.  Lady C said that all the invitations had to be hand written.  Not true.  Even for a very formal dinner, they may be engraved.  Not only that, handwritten ones should be on proper stationery with either the sender’s address or crest engraved or printed at the top.  This party was neither formal (black tie) nor was it a meal, so Lady C displayed her lack of true understanding of proper etiquette.  Then Lord K gave a lesson in receiving one’s guests, saying a lady offers her hand to be kissed.  Rubbish!  Having met titled ladies in Scotland and on the Isle of Man, I can say that this is pure balderdash.  I’ve never seen the Queen do this in any movies or photos either.  More unreal “reality.”  But, then, neither Lady C nor Lord K are actually from Britain, nor did they inherit their titles.

The location chosen for the party was stunning, with TLC no doubt footing the bill.  Unfortunately, I never caught the name of the place or where it was on the Isle of Man, didn’t see it in the credits and couldn’t find it online.  Nigel Sperring, who was the gracious host/butler for the event, owns the well-rated Albany House B&B in Peel, but that was not the location.  Too bad, I’d like to have known where it was.  The actual “Royal Garden Party” itself was not so stunning.  I counted about 25 attendees, other than the “royal family,” and, of course, none of those were in formal attire.  Considering all the publicity the show has had and that there was free food and drink provided, it was not a very impressive number out of an island of eighty-five thousand people.  Lady C was there, but Lord K wisely bowed out.  The Manx Radio personality, Stu Peters, was the most notable of those who attended and the only member of the Fourth Estate, if you consider radio to be a part of that.  The Curreys were also there, which I found a little surprising.  A few ladies from the Women’s Institute came, but not their Federation Chairman for the Isle of Man.  No Lieutenant Governor, no Members of the House of Keys, no Deemsters, no mayors, no bishop or rectors, no finance-sector notables no movers and shakers of any sort.  And KD considered it a success.  When people or events didn’t turn out the way I’d hoped, I remember my mother-in-law used to tell me, “Lower your expectations.”   If this were a success for his run at kingship, KD’s expectations must have been low, indeed.

King George VI: the stuff real kings are made of

King George VI: the stuff real kings are made of.

Then came the king’s speech.  Too bad KD didn’t learn from the movie of that name.  He takes the stage, as it were, overdressed in black-tie, formal attire.   After a few awkward sentences, he stands there like a deer in the headlights, much like during his Manx Radio interview.  Finally, Ms. KD feeds him his lines and he stumbles through them.  At one point in the series, KD had whined, “The people were mean to me. They didn’t take me seriously.”  How could they?  I know little of “reality” TV is real, but why let himself look like such a bumbling buffoon if there were not some truth in it?  After a few seconds of silence, the crowd starts to clap.  I’m not sure if it were because of Manx politeness or some TLC tech was standing in the wings with an “APPLAUD” sign.  After the party was over, KD commented that he thought it went well.  I suppose being delusional helps when you’re claiming something that isn’t yours.  At a true Royal Garden Party, the Queen (the Lord of Mann) enters after the guests have arrived and the national anthem is played.  It is a class affair.  (click here)  The Isle of Man anthem, Arrane Ashoonagh dy Vannin or Land of Our Birth, was not played at this affair.  Odd for a Royal Garden Party.  But, then, while KD has shown a lot of class during the “Suddenly Royal” series, it was all low.

King William's College on the Isle of Man, where my daughter attended.

King William’s College on the Isle of Man, where my daughter attended.

I don’t deny TLC’s “Suddenly Royal” probably helped Isle of Man tourism by showing the beautiful scenery and that, by being the instigator, KD had a part in that.  But that was not why he did it.  He got a free vacation to the Isle for him and his family, was able to publicly air his bogus claim and, I am sure, was paid as well.  It was not to help the Isle.  So what, Ms. Paulson, is there to be jealous of?  While my contribution to tourism has only been this blog, a few lectures and personal contacts, while I lived there, I was an active part of Manx society.  I was a member of the Isle of Man Natural History and Antiquarian Society, joined the Manx Classic Car Club, served on the Parochial Church Council at Kirk Bradden, and held the position of Chieftain of the Saint Andrews Society of Ramsey.  My wife and I were also members of the Friend’s of King William’s College, where we helped raise funds for my daughter’s school by organizing events like The American Dream 50’s party and a Western line-dancing hoedown with fellow committee members.  I also taught third-form history (8th grade) there for a couple of months while the teacher recovered from a mild stroke.  We were invited twice to the Christmas reception at Governor House by the Lieutenant Governor, His Excellency Sir Timothy Daunt.  Finally, my Master’s thesis, “The English Civil War and the Manx Rebellion: A Comparison of Seventeenth-century British Revolutions,” is in the Centre for Manx Studies.  So, while I agree that I have not done a great deal for tourism on the Isle of Man, when I went there it was to live and be a part of life on the Isle.  It was not to claim to rule over the Manx and exploit the Isle for my personal gain.  But, if hell froze over and KD did become king, I would be sure to wear a steel collar if I visited again.  However, I advise KD not to quit his day job as an “auto repair adviser,” whatever that is.  The Manx are not fools.

The Seal of the Kingdoms of Elgaland-Vargaland.

The Seal of the Kingdoms of Elgaland-Vargaland.

However, I am not heartless.  Poor KD is desperate to be a king, so I have a suggestion that requires no public support.  Set up a kingdom like the Royal Kingdoms of Elgaland-Vargaland [KREV] (click here).  Swedish artists Leif Elggren (now undisputed King Leif) and Carl Michael von Hausswolff established the kingdoms in 1992.  They are “all Border Territories: Geographical, Mental & Digital.”  According to its website, the Kingdoms have a flag, constitution, citizenship, ministries, embassies and, most importantly, a gift shop.  There, anyone can buy T-shirts, stamps, recordings of the national anthem, etc.  Since their prices are far less than KD was asking for noble titles, he could actually sell some and make a profit.  His kingdom could be where one enters when having a fantasy, an area in which he has some expertise.  I would suggest Fantasia, but it’s already taken.  Perhaps the Land of Drewablank?  Or the Kingdom of Howeboutit?  Give it a thought, KD.

Suddenly Royal, or Suddenly Stupid

Well, here we go again.  In the latest episode, “King” David, or Drew, talked many times about wanting to move to the Isle of Man permanently and getting a job driving taxi and/or being on the radio.  It is pure bunk.  I moved there with my family in 1994.  At the time, I had the personal recommendation of the British Consul and still had to write what was, in effect, an essay explaining why it would be good for the Isle to let me in.  I had heard that it was even more difficult to be admitted now, so I checked it out.

Isle of Man 1994 Yearbook, which KD obviously never read.

Isle of Man 1994 Yearbook, which KD obviously never read.

The only chance KD has is General Migrant, since his claim of kinship is not a grandparent, which is the most distant relative allowed for claiming kinship.  According to the official Isle of Man government site (not KD’s “official” site), requirements for “indefinite leave to remain” on the Isle under General Migrant are (click here):

The applicant must have spent a continuous period of 5 years lawfully in the Isle of Man, of which the most recent period must have been spent with leave as a Tier 1 (General) Migrant, in any combination of the following categories:
(i) as a Tier 1 (General) Migrant,
(ii) as a Highly skilled Migrant,
(iii) as a Work Permit Holder,
(iv) [Not used],
(v) [Not used],
(vi) as a Writer, Composer or Artist,
(vii) as a Tier 2 (General) Migrant, a Tier 2 (Minister of Religion) Migrant or a Tier 2 (Sportsperson) Migrant, or
(viii) as a Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) Migrant

Work permit holders don’t include taxi drivers or “radio personalities,” obviously, so what are his chances of getting a temporary “right to remain” under that category and hanging in for 5 years to make it permanent?  Since the changes to the law in 2010, they are nil.  Here’s what it says:                                                                                                            Tier 1 (General) Migrants                                                                                                   This route is now closed except for indefinite leave to remain applications.
That means that unless he was already there as a General Migrant in 2010 when the law was changed, that road onto the Isle is closed to him.  Thank God.

Perhaps KD might be able to hold a job for 30-48 days, but that’s it.  So it’s all a joke, just like KD.  No immigration, no job.  It looks like he didn’t check it out, TLC didn’t check it out or they both ignored the laws.  Most likely, there was no intention of KD and family moving to the IOM, just making a little “Reality TV” drama.A real knighting by a king.

Then came KD”s plan for an “investiture” of “knights,” an incredible farce.  Lord K thought it was a good idea.  Since he bought his title and KD has previously tried to sell “knighthoods” as “King of Mann” for 40,000 pounds, perhaps he thought he would get a kick-back for titles sold.  But KD had a hard time giving them away.  Stu Peters, a personality on Manx Radio accepted, possibly taking the mick out (pulling the leg) of KD, because it would make an interesting radio program.  Mol Holmes, the kind fellow who loaned KD a bathtub for the Castletown Tin Bath Race, refused.  Typically a Manxman who says much with few words, he merely stated, “That’s pushing it a bit.”  But “Push” is KD’s middle name.  Or one of them.  I have a few more I could add.

After a ludicrous rehearsal at the ruins of Peel Castle (not named in the show), he decides to ask his “royal etiquette expert,” Lady Cruella, I mean Lady C, if he should go through with it.  For once, I agreed with her.  “That is the official act of an acknowledged monarchy,” she told him.  “You are not an acknowledged monarch.  You are a claimant.  No phony investitures.”  The whale started to blubber.  “I don’t want to be an embarrassment,” he said.  WHAT!  That’s all he is.  Without embarrassment, he wouldn’t exist.  Lady C notes that European men don’t break into tears so easily.  It should be noted that neither to American men with cajones.

You're live on Manx Radio!

You’re live on Manx Radio!

I did love when Stu Peters interviewed him on Manx Radio.  Promised knighthood or not, the velvet glove was off the mailed fist.  As KD sat, doing some spastic boogie with his hands before the interview, he bragged about not preparing.  It was soon obvious.  Stu stated that the House of Keys had categorically rejected KD’s claim, then asked KD three things he would do as king, if they suddenly did an about-face.  KD was like a deer in the headlights, sitting there with a typically stupid look on his face and saying nothing.  Finally, Stu threw him a bone, asking if he would reduce income taxes.  KD took the bait and said he would reduce them.  Guess what?  the Isle of Man is a tax haven, having taxes far lower than the UK or Ireland, and the USA.  With a maximum rate or 20% and no capital gains or inheritance taxes, many rich seek to live there for that reason.  But KD was too stupid to even check out such basics about his “kingdom.”  His closing statements were well-considered to win friends and influence people, especially the Manx.  “I am the king.  That’s a fact,” he pronounced on air.  “You’d better get used to it.  I’m the king and I’m here to stay.”  Afterwards, when talking with his wife, he said he thought the interview went okay.  Another case of a grand delusion.

KD continued to display lack of class, and poor taste to the end of the episode.  When it came to taking his wife out for a special night on the town, what did KD and his wife wear?  Jeans.  While America is more casual in attire than the Isle of Man, we are not all slobs.  When we lived on the Isle and went to a quality restaurant, I wore a coat and tie.  And not with jeans.  Maybe he was taking Pam to that Scottish restaurant in Douglas: McDonald’s.  Probably splurged and bought her a Big Mac.  And three for himself, to maintain his impressive physique.  Or should that be Himself?

In closing, let me quote from other sources on the Net and comment.

According to Fox News:  Howe filed a claim with Her Majesty’s Stationary Office on Dec. 20, 2006, they published the claim in Queen Elizabeth II’s paper of record, the London Gazette, and after no one objected, they sent him a crown, robe and anointing spoon for the ceremony, he said. “It kind of blew up into something big,” Howe said. “I’m certainly not challenging the Queen’s authority or sovereignty over the island. I haven’t amassed an army or anything like that to invade, so I’m certainly not a threat at all.”

I'm your king.  Resistance is futile.

I’m your king. Resistance is futile.

Although I’ve already discussed why no one responded, who the heck sent him “a crown, a robe and an anointing spoon?”  I will go out on a limb here and definitely state it wasn’t the Queen.  As to KD not “amassing an army,” I’d love to see him and any idiots he might garner to invade the Isle go up against the United Kingdom Special Forces.   Really.  I’d love to see it.  Actually, the Manx wouldn’t need any help from the UK to kick his “royal” butt.

According to TLC, KD got an invitation to the Duke and Duchess’s royal wedding.  Why hasn’t he shown it anywhere, including on his official website (Click here)?  Smoke and mirrors, smoke and mirrors.

Next time I’m going to address KD’s ties to The Sovereign Magistral Order of the Temple of Solomon.  One good joke deserves another.  Or, to paraphrase the quote attributed to Admiral Farragut, “History and facts be damned, full speed ahead.”

King of Mann

Since my last entry, I watched the latest Suddenly Royal episode and had to fire another salvo.  His Royal Buffooness has kept up the pace, I’ll say that.  First he smokes the clutch on a motorhome he rents in what looks like the first few miles.  The motorhome looked fairly new, so the clutch would have been, too.  He should have let his wife drive if he’s so incompetent with a manual transmission.  I wonder who has to pay for repairs.  That, however, was not what really irritated me.  The two things that got to me were the TT Races and King Orry.

“King” Dave’s “royal secretary” Lord Kiss-up, I mean Kevin, tells KD (my new designation for “King” Dave) that he will have entry to the VIP hospitality suite for the hoi polloi because of his status.  Upon arrival, Lord K tells KD that it fell through at the last minute, hinting that it was a plot against his kingship.  KD notes a security person that would keep him out.  Bull.  Anyone can get into the VIP suite who buys the VIP Club package.  (Click here for the one for the race KD went to)  Either Lord K was too cheap to buy the ticket, they were sold out or TLC thought it would be dramatic.  Perhaps all three.  As a consolation, KD gets to ride in a car with a professional stunt driver at high speed around the TT course.  Anyone can do that when the races aren’t being run for the day and, with no speed limits unless posted, it’s legal to go as fast as you want in sections.  I drove it in my ’63 Vette at some pretty high speeds when I lived there, so I know.  Since the Manx have a rigorous driver’s test (17% pass rate, including retests, when I took mine and passed on the first go) and traffic laws (there will always be a ticket for an accident, since someone was driving unsafely), they have surprisingly few accidents.  Notice that KD didn’t drive.  I guess TLC learned his competency with the motorhome incident.  Also notice he did not go with a TT racer.  They have sidecar racers, but they didn’t have KD ride on one of those bikes, probably for the same reason.

King Orry

King Orry

Then came KD’s trip to King Orry’s grave to honor his ancestor.  His ancestor?  I thought he was related to an English Earl, not a Celtic-Norse king.  And a semi-legendary one at that.  I wonder how he did that genealogy.  Then KD identifies King Orry as Godred Haroldson (as is speculated by a few historians), but A.W. Moore, in his authoritative A History of the Isle of Man, does not.  I suppose a king doesn’t need to read the history of his kingdom any more than he needs to prove his lineage.  Since KD can claim to be descended from a legendary king without proof, I can now reveal that I am descended from King Arthur and want my kingdom, too.  Prove I’m wrong.

Queen Elizabeth II, "nobility within the Royal House of Mann" according to "King" David

Queen Elizabeth II is “nobility within the Royal House of Mann” according to “King” David

However, what really frosted my corn flakes was when I stumbled upon his website, http://www.kingdomofmann.org/   It deserves a full broadside.  Here’s a direct quote: The dynastic Royal House of Mann has legalized status and recognition as an autonomous part of the United Kingdom constitutional monarchy system, by royal assent and proclamation of Queen Elizabeth II in 2007, having binding effect by force of law. It was legalized as the “Independent Kingdom of Mann”, establishing and confirming it as a separate historical institution with its own sovereignty, that predates the UK system.   Let’s study this claim.  First, when did the Queen give royal assent and proclamation about KD’s claim?  He posted it in the London Gazette (not owned by the Queen, as stated in the show) and no one responded.  That doesn’t make it a legitimate claim.  The Queen doesn’t create monarchies and if she responded to every wack job that made claims of royalty, nobility, etc., it would lend them a legitimacy that they don’t have.  Better to ignore the little pests and let them fade away, as so many do.  There is no “binding force of law” here.  Where did KD come up with that?  It surely wasn’t from the Manx people.  The House of Keys (Manx elected parliament) has confirmed that the Queen is the Lord of Man and that there is no king!  For him to claim to be king is to go against the will of the very people he claims kingship over.  Perhaps the Manx need to handle this unwanted king the way the French handled Louis XVI.  He also mentions that the Kingdom of Mann predates the UK (United Kingdom).  So what?  The kingdoms of Scotland, Ireland and Wales also did.  That has nothing to do with anything.  The Isle of Man is not and never was a part of the UK, but is a Crown Dependency.  It has no more ever been a part of the UK than the USA was.  This paragraph shows that KD doesn’t even know the governmental status of the Isle of which he claims to be king.  I could go on about this joke of a website, but suffice it to say it is all as ignorant as that example paragraph.

One parting shot at the website is an official-looking UN logo and text on the right side that says, “The Dynastic Royal House of HRH Prince David, King of Mann, is recognized and supported by United Nations (UN) Non Governmental Organizations (NGO)”  The NGO listings include organizations like Baha’i International Community, The Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute and World Young Women’s Christian Association, to name just a few, but has nothing to do with governments (as noted in its name).  So what that has to do with KD’s claim, I have no idea.  However, I went to the list and The Dynastic Royal House of HRH Prince David, King of Mann was not on it!  Click here to see for yourself.  Making false claims is not nice.  But then, that seems the modus operandi of KD.  I suppose he never expected to have anyone actually check him out.

 

 

Suddenly Royal

Coat of arms of the Isle of Man

Coat of arms of the Isle of Man                    “However you throw me, I will stand”

When my wife told me she’d recorded a new program on the grossly misnamed The Learning Channel (TLC) entitled Suddenly Royal about an American who is trying to claim his title as the King of Man, I was appalled.  We had lived there for five years and I did my Masters’ thesis about the Isle of Man during the 17th century and read a lot of Manx history.  I knew his claim was rubbish, at best.  However, we decided to watch it for the scenery of a place that was near and dear to our hearts.  Sadly, so far we’ve seen too much of “King” David “Drew” Howe and far too little scenery.

Bonnie Prince Charlie A Pretender With A Real Claim

Bonnie Prince Charlie
A Pretender With A Real Claim

So, you may have seen King Ralph and think it’s a similar case, a long-lost relative inherits the throne when everyone else suddenly kicks the bucket.  Not so.  Drew had his ancestry done and found out that he is the direct line descendant of Lord Thomas Stanley, the last man to hold the title of King of Man.  I’m assuming that’s what he found, but no proof of this has ever been provided.  I’m reminded of “Prince” Michael Stewart, who I met in 1990.  He was a pretender (unproven claimant) to the throne of Scotland, saying that he was descended from an unrecorded, yet legitimate, son of Bonnie Prince Charlie.  He refused to show me his proof, saying the Queen didn’t have to prove her claim.  Ever hear of him?  I thought not.  Last I knew, he was still living in a one-room apartment in Edinburgh.  Maybe I’ll tell more of his story another time.

Drew was an “auto-service manager” living in Frederick, MD, when he found out about his “royalty.”  He posted an official claim to be the King of Man in the London Gazette in 2007 and, because no one protested, it’s official now.  Or so he says.  “Prince” Michael Stewart did the same thing decades ago.  Since he is now universally recognized the King of Scotland, that must work.  Right.  I’m thinking of posting a notice there that I’m the King of Sky.  I mean Skye.  Medialife MagazineOne definition of the word “pretender” is “a person who pretends.”  Another is “a claimant to a throne.”   On the show, he’s a pretender in the first sense.  He pretends to believe that his claim isn’t silly and that he’s going to the island not because he’s being paid to by the TV show but because he’s trying to press his claim.  He and his wife, Pam, and their 12-year-old daughter, Grace, pretend that the things they do and the things that happen to them aren’t set up for the cameras.  Drew says, “A couple days ago, the local paper on the Isle of Man came out attacking me.”

Hmmm.  I wonder how’d I’d feel about someone claiming ownership of all of California because of a Spanish land grant?

World Tin Bath Championship in Castletown

World Tin Bath Championship, Castletown            Photo by BBC News

Drew sets off to win the hearts of the Manx people by entering the Isle of Man Tin Bathtub Race in Castletown.  Organizer David Collister described it as, “People just like to have fun and the spectators come because they like to see people get wet and they like to see people sink.  It’s two hours of family fun and slapstick entertainment involving household tin baths that your granny will have used in front of the fire.”  Drew dresses in a clownish king costume and participates.  I guess that, since the Queen did not, that makes him a winner.  Or a wiener.  Definitely a pretender in the first sense.

If “King” Drew wanted to participate in an event that would gain the respect of the Manx people, he should try the long-running, world-famous TT Motorcycle Road Race.  There’s nothing slapstick about it and it takes real cajones to ride in it.  Click here to find out why.

However, he is advised on how to be the new “King of Man” by two upstanding members of the British nobility and long term Manx residents: Lady Colin Campbell and Lord Kevin Couling.  Well, maybe not.  First neither of them live on the Isle of Man.  Secondly, there is a matter of character.  You be the judge.

In spite of her name, Lady Colin Campbell is not Scottish.  Lady Colin Campbell, a.k.a. Lady Poison Pen, was previously Georgia Ziadie.  She was born in Jamaica to a Lebanese father and English, Irish, Portuguese and Spanish mother.  She had a terrible childhood and her marriage to Lord Colin Campbell, younger brother of the Duke of Argyll, was just as bad.  It lasted fourteen months and she divorced him, claiming abuse and that he was a drunken addict.  Yet, she continues using his name forty years later.  Why?  Perhaps because it does give her more credibility as a writer of exposés of the Royals, from whence comes the Lady Poison Pen title.

According to the Daily MailWe are talking in the wake of a vociferous outcry in the media this week at the salacious and utterly unsubstantiated allegations in her new book The Untold Life Of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother.
If she doesn’t draw definitive conclusions in the book, she does hold all manner of gossip up to the light for examination.
For one thing, she suggests that the Queen Mother — as well as her younger brother David — was the natural child of her father and the family cook, Marguerite Rodiere, because her mother was too fragile to have another baby after a nervous breakdown following the death of one of her older children.
The second bombshell is that the present Queen and her late sister Princess Margaret were conceived by artificial insemination, because their mother didn’t like sex . . . .
She points out in her book that the artificial insemination story has been doing the rounds as a rumour in some circles for years (which is certainly true) and that she had it ‘from several sources’.
Which, naturally, doesn’t mean it’s true.  And, happily for her, since all the players are now dead, no one can prove the point one way or the other.
There is no doubt that she loves to shock and can be horribly poisonous. Indeed, much of what Lady Colin says should, I suspect, be taken with a large pinch of salt.

No doubt, she sees “KIng” Drew as a way to get more publicity for her books, as well as a paycheck from TLC.  But surely the soft-spoken Lord Kevin Couling, who Drew said, “works with a lot of royal families,” is far better.  Right?  I’ll let the press describe him and his companion.  Mrs. Victoria Ayling.

According to the Mail on Sunday: Victoria Ayling, a high-profile ‘trusted ally’ of UKIP leader Nigel Farage, joined the openly racist party and attended its rallies as a student, according to her former husband, a friend and even her own mother.
A Mail on Sunday investigation has also discovered Mrs Ayling is being investigated by police after allegedly making abusive comments about her former husband – who is a transvestite.
The Mail on Sunday can also reveal that Mrs Ayling and her new partner, Lord Kevin Couling – who purchased his title, the 64th Lord of Little Neasden (my emphasis)– are also being investigated by police for an alleged hate crime against Mr Ayling.

But does “Lord” Kevin agree with Mrs. Ayling’s politics?  Spiegel online quotes him:
“Nowadays, you almost have to be ashamed to be British,” says her (Mrs Ayling) partner, Kevin Couling.  In school, children learn a great deal about the Holocaust and the women’s suffrage movement, he says, but not much about the country’s history. “They can’t even name the British kings.”  Besides, says Couling, Polish and Latvian immigrants are taking away jobs in the asparagus fields.

I feel sorry for all those native-born British who lost their asparagus-picking jobs to a bunch of Slavs.  But Kevin came to England from New Zealand, bought his title, and is taking a paycheck from TLC that could have gone to a native-born British lord, so maybe he shouldn’t speak.  According to The Armorial Register Limited, “Lord” Kevin is “Kevin Derek Couling, Lord of the Manor of Little Neston,” a title tied to the estate rather than hereditary.  Don’t look for famous lords and ladies in that registry, they’re not there.  Furthermore, Kevin registered his coat of arms in Serbia!  Cheaper, I’m sure, and maybe he got a few Serbs in to help pick his asparagus.

Finally, here is a caveat posted on the Armorial Registry website that should tell you who registers their arms there: The Armorial Register Limited is aware that at the present time proving the validity of the ownership of a manor and its associated right to be known as “Lord of the Manor of” is fraught with difficulty.  There are an ever growing number of businesses on the Internet only too willing to satisfy a seemingly endless consumer demand for “titles” and it seems that Manors and the right of their owners to be known as Lords have become the easiest target for less than scrupulous dealers. Our best advice is Caveat emptor “Let the buyer beware”.

Now that you have the cut of “King” Drew’s advisers, what about any validity of his claim?  Could he be king?  No.  In spite of what was said on the show, the Stanleys were the LAST kings of Mann, not the first.  Haraldr Óláfsson termed himself King of Mann and the Isles in 1237 and at least six other rulers after that held that title before the Stanleys.  Thomas Stanley made the ruler of Man the Lord of Mann instead of the King of Mann in 1504.  That cannot be changed.  The Isle of Man was sold to the Crown by the Duke of Atholl in 1765.  It doesn’t matter who anyone is descended from, the Queen is also the Lord of Man now.  Any Manx schoolchild knows this.  Of course, you have to be bright enough to read a little history.

House of Keys Logo - Green on White

House of Keys Logo

Lastly, notice that “King” Drew pushes his claim with no one who has authority on the Isle.  To date, no MHK (Member of the House of Keys, the Manx parliament) has been on the show.  No Deemster, or judge, has chatted with him.  His Excellency Lieutenant Governor Adam Wood has not received him at Government House (as I was received by His Excellency Sir Timothy Daunt while I lived there).  Instead, he tries to push his claim with a few locals in pubs and with people who do not have any authority.  When the “King” met with the Curreys, grandmother Heather, son Richard and grandson Cosmo, they gave him the go-ahead to pursue his claim.  “King” Drew acted like they were his only possible rivals.  I was puzzled.  Who were they?  The short answer: no one who had any say in the matter.  The long answer is below, but feel free to skip it.  Unless you are really into history.  I’d love it if you read it, since it took a lot to dig all this up.  I will understand if you don’t.

James Stanley- 10th Earl Of Derby

James Stanley-                       10th Earl Of Derby

Under the Stanleys, the title Lord Strange (an English title) was given to the son of the Earl of Derby until he inherited the earldom.  When James Stanley, 10th Earl of Derby, died in 1736 “without issue,” the title of Lord Strange and its barony, along with the Isle of Man, went to John Murray, 2nd Duke of Atholl, through the Stanley female line.  Since the earldom had to go only through the male line, it went to a distant cousin.  At the death of the 9th Duke of Atholl and 14th Baron (or Lord) Strange, James Thomas Stewart-Murray, in 1957, the title of Lord Strange and the Barony of Strange went into abeyance.  Charlotte Murray, the third oldest daughter of the 4th Duke married Admiral Sir Alan Drummond.  They had a son, John.  John had a son, Malcolm.  Malcolm had a son, John, who petitioned to regain and received the title of 15th Lord Strange from the Queen in 1965, but no land came with the title.  The title of 17th Lord Strange is currently held by Adam Drummond, who is one of five children and has two healthy children of his own.  Interestingly enough, he lives in a small cottage next to the castle that his mother, Baroness Strange, left with all her money to his youngest sister.  That’s a story that would be interesting to pursue, but not here.  The 15th Lord Strange’s second daughter is Heather, who married Lt. Andrew Currey.  Her son is Robert.  His son is Cosmo.  The chances of Cosmo becoming Lord Strange are little better than mine of winning the lottery.  And I never buy any tickets.  None of them have any claim on the kingship, lordship or any other title regarding the Isle of Man.

What is the opinion of the Manx about their “King?”  According to The Guardian: On Isle of Man websites, residents’ comments range from bewilderment to genuine concern. Mick, from Douglas, wrote: “What started out as an interesting and amusing story of a seemingly self-delusional American has now turned into something quite serious, as the monetary amounts stated are huge. Surely the authorities must intervene.” Kim wrote: “King David- get over yourself! You are NOT our King – you will never be our King. If you’ve got any respect at all you will give up this silly claim.”

So why has “King” Drew continued on this idiotic quest for seven years?  He claims it’s for his daughter, but the kid seems bright enough not to really believe his delusions.  So, is he deluded, a raving lunatic or something else?  It wasn’t until TLC started pumping money into this that he flew to the Isle.  Shrewd.  He and his family are only there for six weeks.  Wise.  Then, according to Medialife Magazine, “This may all seem harmless, but that same Telegraph story alleges that Drew was involved with a company that was selling supposed noble titles for as much as 90,000 British pounds (my emphasis). This isn’t mentioned in the premiere.”  He’s been doing this since 2007.  According to IOM Today:. . .  Noble Titles company’s website has been altered to include King David’s title and photograph. Among titles available are a dukedom for 90,000 or you can become a marquess for 80,000. The title of count will set you back 70,000 a countess 60,000 and 50,000 to become a viscount. The website states all proceeds will go to the Malawi Missions Project Charity by instruction of the King of Mann, excluding ‘investiture, regalia and administration costs’.  Uh, greedy? As backers of Hollywood movies have often learned, “costs” can eat up every invested dollar.  Or pound.  So what exactly is King Ralph . .. uh, Drew . . . uh, David?  I’ll let you be the judge.  If you can stomach the show enough to watch it for the spectacular scenery.  And if it survives.  Again, according to Medialife Magazine, “The true story behind ‘Suddenly Royal’ might be funny, or dramatic, or tawdry, but the creators of the show seem to have neither the talent nor the intention to tell it.”

In closing, why do I care enough to write this?  Because I love the Isle of Man and had many friends there who thought Americans were decent people.  If any of the Manx watch Suddenly Royal, their opinion of us will be that we are rude, crude and ignorant.  “King” Drew slurping his soup from his spoon and tucking his napkin under his chin?  Sure, I know it was orchestrated, with a slim, attractive wife accepting the behavior of her tub-of-lard husband, but “King” Drew went right along with it.  The Isle of Man can’t hate the publicity they’re getting from the show, but they also can’t have gained any respect for Americans.  We are buffoons of our own making.  Thank you, Drew, and TLC for harming the image of Americans in the eyes of the Manx, the British and the European viewers.  Your show is truly un-American.  As Kim on the Isle of Man said so well, my message to Drew is, “If you’ve got any respect at all you will give up this silly claim.”

 

 

 

 

 

Word-Cross or Crossword Puzzles

The Mother of all Addictions -Crossword, that it.  December 13, 1913

The Mother of all Addictions -the Crossword one, that is. December 13, 1913

My name is R.L. Cherry and I am an addict. If I go too many days without my crossword puzzle, I break into a cold sweat and become disoriented. A pun clue for disoriented would be someone who emigrates from China to the USA. Sorry, I couldn’t help it. Too many crossword puzzles. I blame my condition on Arthur Wynne, an Englishman whose first “word-cross” puzzle appeared in the New York World on December 13, 1913. He is generally considered to have created the first form of this addictive pastime, but some dispute this. Yeah, I know I should have written this on the centennial of that date, but I was not aware of this fact until recently. Art’s puzzle was diamond shaped instead of the current standard square and had no blacked-out spaces, but the genie was out of the bottle and, like crack cocaine, soon had unsuspecting puzzlers addicted. Fortunately for people like me, it does not destroy body and mind like cocaine, just takes control of them. Wynne and the World were sole suppliers until the Boston Globe took a piece of the action in 1917. By the Roaring Twenties, the nation was hooked on “cross-word” puzzles. Interestingly enough, The New York Times, which now publishes the acme of American crossword puzzles, wrote in the 1920’s that they were a “sinful waste in the utterly futile finding of words the letters of which will fit into a prearranged pattern, more or less complex. This is not a game at all, and it hardly can be called a sport . . . [solvers] get nothing out of it except a primitive form of mental exercise, and success or failure in any given attempt is equally irrelevant to mental development.” They did not include them in their paper until 1942. English newspapers held firm against the onslaught until 1930, when the Times succumbed. British crossword puzzles are quite different however, from the ones on this side of the Pond. And the rest is history. Well, all of that was history, too.

My personal story began in the 1980’s. I was pretty much puzzle-free for most of my life. Sure, there was the occasional experimentation in my youth. Most people do, right? They just never admit it. Anyway, a woman who was a secretary at our business offered me a puzzle from the local paper, the San Bernardino then-named Sun Telegram. How often does it start that way, a friend saying, “Just try it. You can walk away any time you want to.” It was an entry-level puzzle, not the hard stuff. I remember when I had the clue of “a Malaysian canoe.” The answer, of course, was a proa. I said, “Not fair. Who ever heard of a ‘proa’?” I should have walked away then, seen that this could not end well. Instead, soon the Sun Telegram no longer gave me the thrill I needed. I progressed to the Los Angeles Times and, finally, to the real hard stuff, the New York Times. Sure, I occasionally dabbled in the Boston Globe’s and the San Francisco Examiner’s offerings, but they were just diversions, not completely satisfying. New York Times crossword puzzle editor Will Shortz became my main supplier, giving me the stuff that I needed. I was happy, at least for the time it took to finish my morning puzzle. Then I moved to the Isle of Man in the British Isles.

British Crossword Puzzle

British Crossword Puzzle                            For the solution to this puzzle, click here

Crossword puzzle withdrawal is not a pretty sight. The sufferer often finds him or herself rooting through old newspapers and books for a hidden puzzle. Sleep is difficult, often interrupted with visions of grids and clues. Fortunately, I found the British version. It is much different from the American one. As you can see by the example here, they have fewer crossing of letters and fewer words in the grid, making it necessary to solve each clue without the help of the crossing words for other clues. They make extensive use of puns and word play. The clues normally have two parts, one a more direct hint and the other more obscure. The solver must completely immerse oneself in that thought pattern. If you have read my book, Christmas Cracker, you experienced one when Morg encounters the diabolical British crossword puzzle in the course of solving a mystery. Often I would not solve the puzzle in one day, but would clip it out to finish it the next day. But the next day had a new one, adding to the pile. I became frantic, trying to complete puzzles days old while not finishing the current one. I was in serious danger of O.D.ing on words when we moved back to America.

I now have my habit under control. I can do my crossword in the morning, then have a normal life for the rest of the day. The only problems are Monday and Tuesday. Will Shortz starts the week (Monday) with an easy one, steadily making them more difficult each day until nirvana on Saturday. Sunday’s puzzle is large and difficult enough to give a thrill. But Monday and Tuesday’s are just too easy. There is no high in finishing them. I avoid them, knowing that they will only leave me with a craving for the harder stuff. But I endure it. I’m tough. Wait, is that a crossword puzzle from the Times that I never worked? Give it to me! You value that hand, give it to me now!

Dancing at Lughnasa

Dancing at Lughnasa

Dancing at Lughnasa

If you’re looking for a commentary on the Meryl Streep and Michael Gambon movie, sorry.  This is about the Gaelic fire festival, Lughnasa.  Notice it is Gaelic, not Celtic.  Although the Gaels are Celts, not all Celts are Gaels.  The Gaels are from Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man.  They had four fire festivals, equidistantly spaced though the year.  There was Samhain (the new year), Imbolc, Beltane and Lughnasa, which is July 31-August 1.  Lugnasa is the halfway-point between the summer solstice and the autumn equinox.  So get your firebrands together and light up.  Then dance around the flames.  But what’s it all mean?

Lugh (or Lu) was the Celtic god to end all gods.  When he tried to join the Tuatha Dé Danann (the pantheon of Irish gods), he had no special skill that other gods did not already represent.  However, no other god had the mastery of all the different skills that he had.  On that basis,

Lugh

Lugh

he was admitted and led them to victory in the Battle of Magh Tuireadh.  Lughnasa is the only one of the fire festivals named after a god.  Interesting enough, some consider him the archetype of Christ, master of all skills.

So, what does this have to do with July 31-August 1?  Well, there were the Tailteann Games,supposedly inaugurated by Lugh as funerary games for his foster mother Tailtiu.  If you know anything about Irish wakes (think Finnegan’s wake), they do like to make a grand send-off to the dead.  These games started probably in the 7th century AD (unless you’re a neo-pagan, wiccan or Celtic reconstructionist, who claim a far earlier date) and were squashed by those medieval spoil-sports, the Normans, in the 1100’s.  According to Wikipedia (the ultimate source on everything), they included the long jump, high jump, running, hurling, spear throwing, boxing, sword fighting, archery, wrestling, swimming and chariot and horse racing.  For those less athletically inclined, there were competitions in singing, dancing, story-telling and crafts.  In about the 1300’s these revived as Taillten Fairs.

Handfasting

Handfasting

There is one other interesting tradition called “handfasting.”  This was sort of a trial marriage, where the couple pledged themselves to each other for a year and their hands were symbolically bound together.  If things worked out okay, the agreement could be extended.  Today, many couples observe that tradition without the extension.  It’s called “divorce” and makes many attorneys wealthy.  I’m sure they dance when the modern “handfasting” ends and they collect their payments.

So, if you don’t live in a fire-danger forest region like I do, light your bonfire and dance around as you jump up and down, throw spears, race horses and shoot arrows.  But be careful about handfasting.  It could be very costly in our modern society.

Manx Flower Festival

Annual contribution to the florists

Annual contribution to the florist’s profits.

This July, the Isle of Man held it’s annual Flower Festival.  For an idea of what one is like, click here.  Although it is a nice event, I was never a part of the decorating of the churches for the Festival.  I’m not a “flower guy.”  I have nothing against flowers.  I like flowers.  Some of my best friends are flowers.  Well, maybe that’s pushing it too far, but I do enjoy having flowers growing around the yard, as long as I don’t have to plant and care for them.  Fortunately, my wife feels much the same and the only flowers she wants from me are roses on our anniversaries.  I started by giving her one on our first anniversary, then added one rose each year thereafter.  Now that we are heading toward our forty-second anniversary, it is becoming an expensive tradition.  The local florist makes enough to pay the month’s rent when I call each December.

The rhododendrons are in bloom again,

The rhododendrons are in bloom again,

Although I am a Boomer, I’m not a “flower child.”  That is not to say I do not know a calla lily from a chrysanthemum.  Where we live, the daffodils and rhododendrons herald spring with bright blooms that I love.  I just don’t want any part of bringing them to that glorious state.  Why is it that I enjoy seeing flowers, yet have a strong loathing of digging in the dirt?  Therein lies the tale.

Tract house lot.

Our tract house back yard,                                       not long after moving in.

My mother loved flowers and my dad loved a neatly trimmed lawn.  So almost every Saturday as well as Sunday afternoon the family seemed to spend mowing, edging, weeding, trimming or fertilizing.  Not only that, many an Easter vacation and much of every summer was devoted to making our little plot of Southern California green and blooming.  Not my cup of dandelion tea.  Add to that moving into new, bare-lot tract houses when I was six and again when I was fourteen, my dislike grew stronger.  For those of you who have never had that experience, if you’re lucky, all you have to clear are weeds and do a little grading before you plant your lawn and flowers.  At worst, you start by raking out creek-bed rocks and small boulders before bringing in clean top soil.  The latter was the case for our second house.  Not fun.  To top it off, I earned money during high school by hauling off weeds and rocks for the developer from unsold houses in the tract for a summer, then provided lawn care and gardening for neighbors.  By the time I hit college, my dislike became loathing.

After I married and my wife and I moved into a house, I did keep the grass cut and trimmed.  My rough guide as to when it needed to be done was when small dogs and children got lost in our grass.  As soon as we could afford it, I hired a gardener.  I would rather work overtime on something I didn’t detest than cut another blade of grass.  Oddly enough, I started to suffer from severe hay fever when I mowed the lawn, so I now have a valid excuse.  Can hay fever be psychosomatic?  Then we moved to the Isle of Man in the British Isles, where gardening is second only to having a pint in the local pub.  Even before the pub to some, and that’s saying a lot.

Manx Flower Festival display

Manx Flower Festival display

The Isle of Man is most famous for the TT (Tourist Trophy) Races, when the northern half of the Isle is periodically shut down for a two week-long biker blow-out and motorcycle races.  The ferries are packed with Yamahas, classic Triumphs and Moto Guzzis at the onset and after the races are over.  The Prom (Promenade) along the bay is lined for two weeks with motorcycles, parked handlebar to handlebar.  But this late May to early June big biker bash is but an interlude from the real British passion: their gardens.  The churches even compete in flower arraigning for the Manx Flower Festival in July.  Any time the sun is out in spring and summer (which was spotty, at best), most Brits are out plowing, planting, and pruning.  The humblest cottage greets each spring with a profusion of colors, with annuals, biennials and perennials carefully nurtured to great beauty.  While I can appreciate their glorious display, I am not willing to pay the price.  Well, that’s not exactly true.  I hired a gardener who did a fantastic job of keeping the garden looking spectacular.  He even planted herbs like cilantro, dill and basil, which helped our cooking.  But I never embraced that fine British tradition of putting on the old dungarees and puttering around in the garden.

While I was on the Isle of Man, I was in the Manx Classic Car Club, The St. Andrew’s Society of Ramsey and the Isle of Man Natural History and Antiquarian Society, which were in line with my interests.  If any avid gardener reading this ever moves to the Isle of Man, please join the Manx Plant and Garden Conservation Society so that they don’t think all Americans have black fingers, which is the British term for the opposite of green thumbs.