Tuesday, October 18, 2016

A Riff on Three Books

Last August, when Marina Endicott, Madeleine Thien, and Alissa York were at the Sunshine Coast Festival of the Written Arts, they not only read from their own novels, but also attended most of the readings given by other writers. Often, as they took their seats in the audience, I couldn't help but notice their shared playfulness and vitality. I hope they will forgive me, but it made me think of a song: 

Filled to the brim with girlish glee …
Three little maids who, all unwary
Come from a ladies' seminary
Freed from its genius tutelary
Three little maids from school

               The Mikado. First performed in 1885

A book review is a bit like a selfie of the reader and writer, two heads tilted towards each other, touching but separate. Every reader, including myself, transforms the book by the way they read it. These days, my reading is shaped by my obsessive curiosity about inter-generational echoes. How much of each of us is mutable, and how much is not? And going in a different direction, how much of us is universal? After all, Joseph Campbell’s and Carl Jung’s notions of the collective unconscious are getting a second look thanks to the latest research in epigenetics.

In Do Not Say We Have Nothing, one of Madeleine Thien's characters, a mathematician, notes how much our experiences of time, and space and heredity are shaped both by our language and our culture:

In English, consciousness and unconsciousness are part of a vertical plane, so that we wake up ↑ and we fall ↓ asleep and we sink ↓ into a coma. Chinese uses the horizontal line, so that to wake is to cross a border towards consciousness → and to faint is to go back ←. Meanwhile, time itself is vertical, so that last year is “the year above” ↑ and next year is “the year below” ↓. The day before yesterday [前天] is the day “in front” ↑ and the day after tomorrow [後天] is the day behind ↓. This means that future generations are not the generations ahead, but the ones behind [*]. Therefore, to look into the future, one must turn around, a mirroring echo of Walter Benjamin’s famous evocation of the angel of history, “The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward”. How we map time how it becomes lived and three-dimensional to us, how time is bent and elastic and repeated, has informed all my research, proofs and equations.
      * I could not find a digital equivalent of the symbol Thien used here.

Her novel includes a story-within-a-story, in this case, a book called The Book of Records. It is a manuscript which has been copied by several generations, over and over again, and then left by the copyists in places where it can be found by those people who need to inherit it. Like DNA, the slight mutations in the copying live on. The lineage of each previous version is contained in the next, and these changes give us clues about who the previous copyists were, and where they might be found.

My reading of Thien, York and Endicott was also influenced by my recent reading of: The Gene: An Intimate History. Books tend to seep into one another when I read several of them at the same time..
In the book above, Siddhartha Mukherjee posits that there were three very different, but profoundly destabilizing scientific ideas which shaped the 20th century. They included: the atom, the byte and the gene. As he notes:

Each is foreshadowed by an earlier century, but dazzles into full prominence in the 20th. Each begins its life as a rather abstract scientific concept, but grows to invade multiple human discourses thereby transforming culture, society, politics, and language. But the most crucial parallel between the three ideas, by far, is conceptual: each represents the irreducible unit – the building block, the basic organizational unit – of a larger whole: the atom, of matter; the byte (or bit) of digitized information; the gene, of heredity and biological information.

An example of this 19th century foreshadowing is played out in The Naturalist. The two trips that Alissa York’s characters took down the Amazon’s Rio Negro bracketed, both intellectually and chronologically, the 1859 publication of Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species. This was a time when naturalists were still mucking about in the inter-tidal zone at the intersection of theology and biology. As they sailed down the Rio Negro, encountering all sorts of turtles, snakes, birds, and insects, several of them wondered – each in their own way - how much shape-shifting between species was possible. What about evolution? Why was the anaconda so big? Was it the same kind of snake that had tempted us in Paradise? Are we the anaconda?

One of the characters, Paul Ashe, was born to an American naturalist and his first wife, a member of one of the native families whose houses were scattered along the shores of the Rio Negro. This meant that he was genetically both a white American and an Amazonian native. After his mother died, as a result of giving birth to him, he lived with her extended family until he and his father left. Culturally, he was then raised as an American. And yet? Like the characters in Thien's book seeking out The Book of Records, Paul constantly rereads the diaries that his father had written during the 1844 trip. In doing so, something that he had resisted knowing finally dawns on him. He is as much connected to his mother’s family as to his father’s. When he comes to a passage, written by his father twenty-three years earlier, he reflects on what it might mean: In light of her condition, all but Zuleica herself had judged it wise that she remain at home.

Her condition – which is to say, Paul. He lifts his gaze from the small circle of lamplight. That’s him in there, breathing his mother’s blood, helplessly holding her back. You can see her standing on the dark, watching the Santa Carolina round the headland out of sight. Her sister is already climbing the bank, but Zuleica lingers, hands on her belly, eyes on the last grey billow of the galliota’s sail.

As Paul has to rest while he heals from an injury to his foot, even more questions begin to surface, questions that only his mother’s sister can answer. How did he survive the death of his mother? How was he fed as an infant? The answers to these questions reveal that he also belongs to her more than he could have imagined, and could not have survived without her.

And like Paul, Hugh, the central character in Endicott’s novel, Close to Hugh, was also a grown man who had an absent mother. Unlike Paul's, Hugh's mother had not died in childbirth, but she had been away for long periods of time thanks to frequent bouts of mental illness. Ruth, a neighbour who took in foster children, some of whom remained his life-long friends, became Hugh's second mother.

The first time he was sent to live with her, four years old, confused, he thought they said to call her Aunt Truth. Newell, waiting with him, waiting for their mothers to come back: two boys side by side at the long white table, watching Ruth laugh as she stood stirring at the stove, laughing at something Jasper said. Jasper flirting in his peacock shirt, gesturing with his glass – he didn’t even drink too much, back then. When was that? 1969. Warm and safe in Ruth’s foster-kitchen, those boys, backs against fake ivy-covered bricks on washed clean vinyl wallpaper. Ivy in pots too, growing, growing, shining green, kind and clean.

The generational tribes in Endicott’s fictionalized southern Ontario town are just as much shaped by the impact of the byte, as they are by the reality of the gene. Endicott explores the ways in which social media, email, and twitter messages can fray our shared social fabric, but also knit it back together. Her book's structure echoes the fragmentation and discontinuity of our digital world. As Karl Marx says: History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce. In this farce-like life, her characters are caught up in a perverse game of snakes and ladders. Up and Down. Forward and Back. Of course, word-play being what it is in this novel, Hugh is saved by Ivy – the woman not the wallpaper. But it couldn’t have happened had Hugh not first fallen down a ladder, and then scaled a ladder, and then finally risked love long after he had long thought – not without reason -  that it had passed him by.

We are living in an age when the question of how individual heredity shapes cultures, politics, science and art, as well as individual lives, are being explored at new depths by scientists. There will be consequences to what they find. Our beliefs about ourselves, which we now know are inherited through a mix of both nature and nurture, do have the power to change how we view our own lives and the lives of others, and also how we judge ourselves and others and how we interpret our personal and national stories. And because our personal experiences and beliefs can leave epigenetic markers on our individual DNA, the effects of them, like the effects of these three books, have the potential to influence the futures of generations to come.

What else to say? Not much. After all, I am no expert when it comes to all of this. Maybe this post is simply my way of saying thank you for three novels, thank you for three exceptional women, and thank you for the ways that each one of them have changed me.
On the beach at Roberts Creek, a selfie. Three brilliant writers.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Thanksgiving 2016

For some people, eating the Thanksgiving dinner is the best part of their Thanksgiving Day. For me, my greatest pleasure is cooking it. I often stop to inhale the changing scent of how our home smells. Today I was struck by the bracing scent of fresh, green cardamom pods, as I ground them with a mortar and pestle.

… cardamom spice and the pungent
zest of once 'neath a midnight legend
            From Chambord Recollections.

This year, as we usually do, Andreas, Vanessa & I will be celebrating Thanksgiving with our friends at Roberts Creek Cohousing. Everyone contributes to this dinner: food, table set-ups, decorating, and cleanup – whatever is needed. It all works. This year, I have signed up for cranberry sauce, and as I often do, I have made two versions.

This year, before starting cooking, I decided that I should do a bit of research. I had two different vintages on hand: one that I would choose for cooking, and one for drinking later. The next picture reveals my choice.

My friend Stacia taught me the importance of mis en place – essentially it means that I lay everything out before I start cooking.
THE RECIPE: Cranberry Sauce with Dried Apricots, Port Wine and Cardamom.
This makes about 4 ½ cups, and can be made 1 week ahead, if refrigerated.
To do
8 whole green cardamom pods
Coarsely crush cardamom in mortar with pestle or place in re-seal-able plastic bag and crush with rolling pin; discard skins.
3 cups Port Wine*
Bring next 5 ingredients and cardamom to boil in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves.
1 cup sugar
1 cup apricot preserves
1 cup fresh lemon juice
½ cup honey
2 6-ounce package dried apricots, chopped
Add apricots; cook 2 minutes.
3 - 12-ounce bag cranberries or 2 600g bags
Add cranberries and cook until berries pop, stirring occasionally, about 9 minutes.
1 grated lemon peel from one lemon
Mix in lemon peel. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

My second version of cranberry sauce is often preferred by children (and my husband). Also, since it does not use honey, it is vegan-friendly. It is a dead-simple sauce to prepare.

3 bags fresh cranberries
NOTE: This year they are 340g aka 12 oz each.
3 oranges
First, zest the oranges, then juice them. I use this juice instead of water.
1 ½ c sugar
NOTE: The recipe used by many people doubles the amount of sugar. I like mine tart so that the flavour of the cranberries is not masked by the sweetness. To each, their own.
Combine all three ingredients in a heavy pot, and bring to a boil. Stir often enough that it does not stick to the bottom. Then reduce to a gentle boil and cook for about ten minutes. Keep stirring occasionally.

A few years ago, I developed a novel use for cranberry sauce. Some of my friends decided to call it:  The Full Oddie. Later today, I am planning to see if it is as good a Martini as we all remembered it to be. After all, it is Thanksgiving. Or, almost.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Plum Balls

Plum balls are a fave rave in our household every August when plums are in abundance. Our family practice is to cut out the main course, and go straight to dessert. We do it this way at least once a year.

This is one of those recipes that I do pretty much by rote. It is like art - I know it when I see it, but I cannot tell you exactly when there is enough flour in the dough to make it perfect. More flour? Less flour? Use your judgement. It should not be sticky or too dry. My suggestion is to use this recipe as a start and then just play with it.

To do
bread crumbs
Melt the butter, and sauté the bread crumbs until they are golden brown. Keep stirring for a bit after you turn off the heat as they may continue to brown. Then set aside.
¼ c
1 lb
Cottage cheese
Blend these ingredients together – I use a Cuisinart with the sharp blade
1/3 c
1 tsp
2 c
Dump in 1c, and then slowly add the rest
extra flour
For rolling out – The amount of extra flour needed depends on how wet the cottage cheese was. Roll out the dough until it is quite thin.
Slit the plums enough so you can take out the pit and replace it with a sugar cube. Then wrap each plum in dough, and set aside on a floured cookie sheet until they are all done.
sugar cubes
lg pot
boiling water
Drop the plums in one by one, and boil them until the dough is tender and looks a little puffy. Maybe 5 minutes or so after the water returns to the boil
Then – remove from the water with a slotted something (spoon – sieve?), drain a bit, then roll in the browned breadcrumbs.
Serve with generous ladles of hot custard, smiles and love.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Quaigh of Rev Daniel Gunn Brown

The quaighs were deep, the liquor strong. Sir Walter Scott: Marmion

I recently noticed – once again - a photo in my collection of a quaigh (aka quaich - sounds like quake). It was amongst the first scans of documents and photos that I did in 2005 at Gilford Castle. The image is indistinct, but seeing it anew made me think of a more recent conversation with Aislin Hunter.
History is shifty, Aislin wrote, it looks out for itself, moves when you least expect it. In her acclaimed novel, The World Before Us, she takes us into a place where the past and the present collide. It is the story of an archivist, in her thirties, obsessed with how the circumstances of a missing child echo the known facts of a similar event a century earlier.

A few years ago, when Aislin and I were both at a party playing bocce, she did her best to explain thing theory to me. Between quaffing wine and tossing bocce balls, what I gathered was that Heidigger had claimed that an object becomes a thing when it can no longer serve its common function. That’s just part of it, but I have decided for the purposes of this post that the quaigh in the photo is now a thing not an object. After all, for the past 150 years, it probably hasn’t been used for imbibing strong liquor at a social occasion, but it has opened the door to hearing new stories.

Included with the photo of this quaigh was a description, written on September 24th, 1920, by James Francis Wright (1874-1954). A couple of decades earlier, the quaigh had been given to Sir Thomas Jackson. It was Jackson’s sister, Mary Griffin - mother-in-law to James Wright - who had kept it at the old family home at Urker, near Crossmaglen in South Armagh. Perhaps her belongings were being catalogued, to be put into some sort of order, sinceshe died a year later, August 9th, 1921, aged 77.

James Wright notes that this quaigh was made of Laburnum Wood, and was 2 ¼” high, 4 ½” in diameter, and 7” over the handles. There were 12 staves, tapered from 1” to 0” curved in & fastened at bottom by a large embossed silver rivet – the staves are held in place by a silver hoop 1” from the top.  In the last paragraph, we have a clue as to the thingness of it:

It was given by Rev. Daniel Gunn Browne of Newtownhamilton to Sir Thomas Jackson brother of Mrs. Griffin, in 1900. Mr Brown claims kinship with the Boyd’s of Kilmarnock & the Kirkpatricks Scottish [a word I can’t make out].
These two branches of Rev. Daniel Gunn Brown’s family both originated from Scotland, but they also had previous ancestral connections to Antrim. The name Kirkpatrick aka Kilpatrick translates as: church of Patrick. This has more resonance than one might think

It is easy to see on a map how close the early settlements on the west coast of Scotland are to similar settlements in Northern Ireland. It would have taken less than a day’s sail or paddle to get there. Dumfries, the ancestral home of the Kirkpatricks, is only 60 miles south of Kilmarnock, home of the Boyds. It is also one of the many alleged birthplaces of St. Patrick. Given that the Kirkpatricks supposedly descended from one of the many tribes of Scots who had emigrated to Scotland from Northern Ireland around 280 AD, or maybe a bit later, it would seem that St. Patrick was heading to Ireland close to when the Kilpatricks were heading in the other direction.

A Gaelic kingdom, which roughly covered the territory of modern day Antrim in Northern Ireland as well as Argyll in Scotland, was known as Dál Riata. People crossed the Northern Channel of the Irish Sea all the time. It was easier than travelling by land. Whether Hugh Kirkpatrick knew it or not, his move to Antrim to minister at Ballymoney, was actually a kind of home-coming, albeit more than 1,000 years after the first move of his family in the other direction. Probably, as St. Patrick did, at least according to legend, the back and forthing happened repeatedly.

Taking a big leap forward in time, Rev. Daniel Gunn Browne (1808-1892) was not only an uncle to Thomas Jackson (1841-1915), but he was also Jackson’s most significant mentor. Browne had been born in Ireland more or less by accident. When his father, Rev. William Browne, had set sail for Persia in the early 1800s, planning to do missionary work there with his friend Daniel Gunn, he was shipwrecked just off the Skerries. He decided that God was sending him a message: Start your mission closer to home. So he settled in Tyrone, and named his only son after his friend and fellow missionary, Daniel Gunn.

After Browne’s death, Jackson paid for a large grave marker to be erected at the Creggan Parish Church. Even though Jackson had become a wealthy banker decades before Browne’s death, the gift of this quaigh can be seen as some kind of passing of the ethical torch. As a child, Jackson would have heard many of the stories of the Boyds and Kirkpatricks. He couldn’t have avoided it. These men were still legends in the tight-knit Presbyterian community, even more than a century after their deaths. When Browne lay on his death bed, Jackson had dropped all his business in London and hurried to his side. The two men were soul-mates.

The photo of this quaigh made me curious to learn even more, so I asked some cousins in England if they had heard of it. They went one better. It stood on their mantel piece. I must have seen it there when I visited, as I often did, although I had missed its significance.

Photo Credit: Venetia Bowman-Vaughan.
This quaigh had been handed down to the Browne family because Rev. Daniel Gunn Browne’s mother was a Beatrice Boyd (?-1850). We know little about her, other than the fact that she married Rev. William Brown (1770-1844). The Browne and Boyde families were thick with ministers, generation after generation. Sometimes they kept the letter e at the end of their names – as in Browne and Boyde – sometimes they dropped it. Also, sometimes the Kirkpatricks were referred to as Kilpatricks. This shape-shifting of names can be challenging.

Beatrice Boyd’s father, Hugh Kirkpatrick Boyde had been baptized at 1st Armagh Presbyterian on October 8, 1726, and was a son of Dr. Joseph Boyde, a medical doctor of Armagh and his wife Christine Kirkpatrick. His grandparents were Rev. William Boyd (d.1701) and Rev Hugh Kirkpatrick (d. 1712). There is one more family connection to this quaigh that often flies under the radar, even amongst those who know these histories: Dr. Joseph Boyde’s sister, Elizabeth, married a Richard Jackson (1673-1730), son of William Jackson and Susan Beresford. Elizabeth Boyde then became the mother of the Richard Jackson (1722-1787) of Forkhill, who set up the Forkhill Trust. When Sir Thomas Jackson contributed to this Trust in 1912, he referred to these Forkhill Jacksons as kin. I wish that I knew what he meant by this, but more detective work is still needed. All I know is that those Jacksons had come from Coleraine.

Nonetheless, these two great-great-grandfathers – Boyde & Kirkpatrick - would have given Rev. Daniel Gunn Browne bragging rights to two families who had long fought for justice in Northern Ireland. One thing that has always struck me about Browne’s written and recorded statements, as he championed the rights of both Catholic and Presbyterian tenant farmers, is how much his language echoed the language of Karl Marx. Or perhaps it worked the other way round. As children, both men’s family’s traditions had included regular Bible readings. Browne’s family focused on the New Testament; Marx’s on the Old. Since there is a connection in Browne’s statements to stances taken by his earlier relations, it is worth comparing a few quotes:

Rev. Daniel Gunn Browne being questioned at the Crime and Outrage Committee. 1852.
            Q: Did you, upon that occasion speak, as you felt, severely of the conduct of landlords?
A: I do not think I ever spoke severely, either then or at any other time.
Q: There are degrees of severity?
A: Yes, as you are well aware…
Q: Did you on that occasion speak of landlords as exterminators?
A: I do not remember that I used the term; but if I had used the term, I do not think it would be contrary to the fact.’

Karl Marx in NYT June 28, 1853
The agrarian murders in Ireland cannot be suppressed because and as long as they are the only effective remedy against the extermination of the people by the landlords. ...
The needy Irish tenant belongs to the soil, while the soil belongs to the English lord. As well you might call the relation between the robber who presents his pistol, and the traveller who presents his purse, a relation between two traders.

Rev. Daniel Gunn Browne.
I mean by a social wrong this kind of case: that if I take a farm and improve it, the improved value would be absorbed by an increase in rent, without giving me compensation for what I consider to be my property, because I made it, and that at any time, upon seven days' notice, I am liable to be ejected through the caprice or arbitrary conduct of the landlord".....
I think if you give a constitutional remedy for these social wrongs, you would cut up crime by the root and establish order on the basis of justice. [NOTE how contemporary this approach sounds.]  …Justice is the only firm basis of public order. The oppression of rack rents and of extra police taxation, punishing the innocent for the guilty, exasperates and disturbs the community and drives multitudes away to a land where labour finds its reward.[He is referring here to America.]

The Indian Question – Irish Tenant Right. Karl Marx. London, June 28, 1853.
A tenant having incorporated his capital, in one form or another, in the land, and having thus effected, an improvement of the soil, either directly by irrigation, drainage, manure, or indirectly by construction of buildings for agricultural purposes, in steps the landlord, with demand for increased rent. If the tenant concede, he has to pay the interest for his own money to the landlord. If he resist, he will be very unceremoniously ejected, and supplanted by a new tenant, the latter being enabled to pay a higher rent by the very expenses incurred by his predecessor, until he also, in his turn, has become an improver of the land, and is replaced in the same way or put on worse terms. In this easy way a class of absentee landlords has been enabled to pocket, not merely the labour, but also the capital of all generations, each generation of Irish peasants sinking a grade lower in the social scale, exactly in proportion to the exertions of sacrifices made for the raising of their condition and that of their families. If the tenant was industrious and enterprising, he became taxed in consequence of his very industry and enterprise. If on the contrary, he grew inert and negligent, he was reproached with the “aboriginal faults of the Celtic race”. He had, accordingly, no other alternative left but to become a pauper – to pauperise himself by industry, or to pauperise by negligence. In order to oppose this state of things, “Tenant Right” was proclaimed in Ireland – a right of the tenant, not in the soil, but in the improvements of the soil effected at his costs and charges.

The fight for tenant rights in Ireland is all part and parcel of where this quaigh, as a thing has taken me. I have since found out that Browne’s great-grand-uncle Rev. James Kirkpatrick (1676-1743), was another one of Browne’s many opinionated Presbyterian ministerial relations. Like Browne, he was not a supporter of violent or unlawful methods, but he was devastating when he aimed his rhetorical guns - essays and sermons - at the powers that be. He was a brother of Browne’s great-grandmother Christian Boyd née Kirkpatrick, and he was not only a Presbyterian minister, but also – like his brother-in-law Dr. Joseph Boyde –a practicing physician. In 1739, he wrote: An Account of the Success of Mrs. Stephens's Medicines for the Stone. It was, however, his “anonymous” publication, An Historical Essay Upon the Loyalty of Presbyterians, that created the biggest waves:

Note that the authorship of James Kirkpatrick was inked-in sometime post-publication. In the 600 pages that follow, Kirkpatrick sets out the history of Presbyterians in Ireland, as well as his extensive rationale for opposing their persecution by the Established Church.
The complexities of the various theological wars that played out in England, Scotland and Ireland from the mid-1600s to the mid-1700s can be as hard to grasp as the philosophical writings of Heidegger, so I will leave that part of the conversation to those who are better qualified. My focus in this post, as in other such posts, continues to be: follow the money – a less lofty focus, but no less revealing. After all, the pursuit of financial power usually goes hand-in-glove with the persecution of religious minorities (one example would be to follow where the land went after the Salem witch trials). The persecution of others also piggybacks on the tendency of many of us to feel more united and strong when we have a common enemy.

When it came to money, one of the burrs under the saddles of the Established Church bishops at this time was the Regium Donum, or the King’s Gift. This was an annual donation of £1,200 per congregation which was initiated and funded by King William. It galled the bishops that he had done an end run around Parliament by funding it from the royal purse – not as a result of a vote in Parliament. Unlike the Established Church parishes, Presbyterian parishes had no authority to levy tithes as a source of income. This grant also conferred legitimacy upon them.

As is so often the case in such matters, the bishops acted as if their main grievance was theological and was also fueled by concern for the safety of their communities. What they really feared was legitimizing Dissidents and risking the possible future erosion of their right to income from tithes. Their chosen weapon was the Test or Act of Conformity. This rule was applied to all appointees to public office. They all had to take Communion, within three months, in an Episcopal Church – a visible community act – or else they would lose their positions. It meant that all devout Presbyterians could forget about being a school-teacher, magistrate, post-master or local councilor. Not only that, but the lease to their farm might not be renewed, and their land could be seized without recompense.

These kinds of rules held sway because Established Church bishops, all of whom owned land, held the balance of power – about half the seats - in the Irish House of Lords. They whipped up fear amongst others by conveniently equating the refusal to sign the Oath with treason. Some Dissenters were even executed for their refusal to sign. In this focused attack on their faith, Presbyterian ministers were also banned from offering Communion to their parishioners, and if caught were fined £100. In spite of this, a covert underground movement made barns available for religious services, and gave shelter and sustenance to ministers.  Dozens of anonymous essays were published, and passed hand to hand, much like samizdat texts in Soviet Russia.

In Kirkpatrick’s  Loyalty of Presbyterians, you can practically feel the steam coming out of his ears as he defends the right of all Presbyterians to practice their version of Christianity, as well as their innocence of the charge of seeding sedition. He also notes the hypocrisy of his accusers. (The bolding in the text is mine.)

The first Presbyterians never sent any Minister to any place but at the desire and Invitation of People of their Persuasion there. The Principal Occasion of their Preaching in several Places, where there were no Meetings before, is, that many parts of the Country were laid Desolate by the late War; whereupon, several Protestant Landlords (and even some of the Established Church) encouraged those of our Persuasion to settle themselves and their Families on their Estates, formerly occupied by Irish Papists. And to draw 'em to such New Settlements, have assisted them in Entertaining Ministers of their own to Preach amongst them; and they hope it can neither appear reasonable, that such Protestant Dissenters shou’d be derived of the same Liberty of Worshipping God in their own way, which their Brethren everywhere else enjoy nor that it will be thought dangerous to Church or State, that British and Protestant Inhabitants, tho' Dissenters; shou'd be settled in Places that before had feared any but Papists.

In his posthumous essay, A Defence of Christian Liberty, published in 1743, one of Kirkpatrick’s concerns is with the fight against arbitrary power. The fight for this was the same as triggered the American, French and Irish civil wars and uprisings which followed. It was also central in the later ongoing fight, by Browne and others, for the rights of tenant farmers in the mid to late 1800s. As Kirkpatrick put it:

Civil Liberty has been always supported by invincible force of Argument; and, Civilized Nations have never reckoned it too dear a purchase, when they could gain and secure it at a vast expense of Blood and Treasure … and with a just Zeal for the Right: of Mankind never to be Sacrificed to Arbitrary Power in any Shape.

Photo Credit: Venetia Bowman-Vaughan.
The inscription on the handles of a hand raised in blessing represents the blessing of Christ, but it is also a feature of the Boyd family crest. This makes it likely that the B refers to Boyd – but if that is the case, then what do the letters F and E refer to? I don’t yet know. The next step is to find out how old it might be, but we are somewhat stymied in this because there are no silver marks on the base. What we do know, is that not only the quaigh, but also the passion for justice which was indeed passed down from generation to generation, from the Boyds of the late-1600s to the Victorian era Rev Daniel Gunn Browne, and then on to his protégé, Sir Thomas Jackson. It may seem like an oxymoron to some, but Sir Thomas Jackson was an ethical banker.

One last thought. I wonder if the staves have shrunk, or if this quaigh could still hold whiskey without leaking. Just curious. I must ask my cousins, or better yet, try it out on my next visit. In the meantime, there is a bocce party coming up next weekend – the last of its kind since the house of the friends who host it has recently been sold. Maybe in the distant future, one of these bocce balls will become a thing, and oh my goodness, the tales it will tell – depending on who tells them. As Julian Barnes notes, in The Sense of an Ending:

That’s one of the central problems of history, isn’t it, sir? The question of subjective versus objective interpretation, the fact that we need to know the history of the historian in order to understand the version that is being put in front of us.

Note the technique - the wine glass is level.

NOTE: Thanks to the many people on Facebook who gave me useful suggestions about what the symbol of the hand might mean, but especially to Venetia Bowman-Vaughan for finding the connection to the Boyd family crest.
SEE ALSO Kirkpatrick Archives and A Dictionary of National Biography Vol 31. 1892 p220. It mentions that there was (at least in 1892) a copy of Rev. James Kirkpatrick’s portrait in the First Presbyterian Church of Belfast. Maybe someone in Belfast could find it for me.