This is a Difficult Business

I recently joined the Labour Party. I got my official Party card yesterday. I suppose that makes me a card carrying Party member, if I actually carry the card. Why did I do this? Am I a political animal with my sights set on taking power in some local council or even reaching the heights of political power? Well, no I’m not and I’ve avoided joining a political party all my life. I have always voted Labour and I’ve never made any secret of that. I have been put off the Nationalist cause all my life for some strange reasons, the Tories are, in my opinion, an abomination and the Libs (Dem or otherwise) I find mediocre and not to be trusted.

Some might expect me to have Nationalist sympathies and in some contexts I have. My grandfather smuggled guns for Michael Collins and faught in the Irish Civil War. He put me off Nationalism. He was willing to die for Ireland’s freedom but told me he didn’t go there to kill Irishmen. The Irish Troubles which resulted in the Ireland we have today were necessary and, perhaps, inevitable. What happened after the handover still hangs over Ireland like an enormous skeleton in the cupboard. There are beautiful places in Ireland which have an uneasy feel about them. Bad things happened there; things that had nothing to do with Ireland’s freedom.

I find myself more of an internationalist. I think that people all over the world are basically the same. We all need the same basic things to survive. Some people are terribly disadvantaged. Africa is an extreme example of this . It has wonderful natural resources but has been plagued by a history of colonialism. Europe is now plagued by people flooding in from Africa, looking for a better life. Who can blame them? People from Scotland have moved to all parts of the world with the same aim in mind. Surely what we need is a world where all people have the basic necessities of life.

I’ve visited people who live in mud huts and send beautifully dressed children to school, clean and tidy. I’ve visited people who spend most of their day finding clean water or firewood to prepare food for their children. We are all linked together. We can not ignore the plight of others either out of love for our fellow man or fear of how they will affect us. Nationalism runs contrary to this. It is all about what we can have for ourselves. It is dressed up in the clothes of Scottish history, heroes and battles but that is all smoke and mirrors. It’s all about greed.

My difficulty now is having a vote in the contest for Leader and depute of the Scottish Labour Party. I’m new to all this and I don’t really know the people involved. They all seem to be good people and I would find myself on their side. So who do I vote for? In the end I voted for Neil Findlay and Kety Clark. Why?

Well, it all came down to their history. Both candidated have worked in other fields befor entering politics. Personally, I think that we have too many politicians who have never been outside the world of politics and I thought it was time we had people who knew something of the outside world actually running it. It was difficult because I like all the candidates but that’s how my votes have been cast. I wish all the candidates well and hope for nothing les than a Labour government in Westminster and the SNP having to face up to the truth about their administration in Holyrood. I also have a Euromillions ticket running on Friday.


Carfin Grotto

I’m just back from Carfin Grotto. I’m over there regularly and I wondered if people knew just how beautiful it is. That’s why I’ve published this post.

Canon Taylor

The History of the Grotto

Canon Taylor was the parish Priest of St Francis Xavier parish in Carfin, near Motherwell, Scotland. He led a visit of some parishioners to Lourdes early in 1920 and was inspired to build a replica of that shrine in Lanarkshire to give access to the many who could not go to Lourdes. With the help of many workers, out of work in the depression, he built a magnificent grotto which has become the National Shrine of Scotland.

Saint Bernadette at the grotto.

Saint Bernadette at the grotto.

The little grotto with statues of Saint Bernadette and Our Lady was the original part of tthe shrine which opened in late 1922. It has expanded greatly since then. There is the Saint Theresa Chapel which overlooks the site and has been a focus for pilgrimage masses and rallies for decades.

St. Theresa Chapel

Another glass chapel was added in more recent times. The Glasgow Garden Festival was held on the banks of the Clyde in 1988 as a spur to regeneration of the old industrial areas of Glasgow. The site had a small glass chapel where visitors could go for a few moments of quiet reflection. After the Festival the site was being dismantled. The glass chapel had influenced many visitors and there was a demand for the chapel to be retained somewhere. In the end it was moved to Carfin and it now stands in the grounds of the grotto.

The chapel

The chapel

There is exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in this chapel every weekday.

The Blessed Sacrament in the glass chapel

The Blessed Sacrament in the glass chapel

The one o’clock mass is always well attended by people from Lanarkshire and beyond. The chapel has become a favourite with many who feel a special quality in the tiny chapel.

Memorial to Irish immigrants.

Memorial to Irish immigrants.


One area of the grotto has a memorial to the victims of the Irish Famines of the 1840s and the immigrants who came to Scotland to find work.

The memorial was opened by the then Taoiseach  Bertie Ahern on behalf of the government and people of Ireland.

The Irish immigrants and their descendants have formed a large part of the Catholic population of Scotland.

Other immigrants from Europe who came to Scotland to work in the iron and steel industry as well as the Lanarkshire coal mines have made their mark on the catholic population. They have also made their mark in the grotto.










The shrine is a popular stopping place for visitors and has a new visitor centre and cafe where you can rest and enjoy a lunch or just a cup of tea.



Pope John Paul II


The memorial to John Paul II marks the great love Scotland’s Catholics had for him.

John Paul Plaque

John Paul Plaque











A hidden gem in the grotto is the Chapel of the Angels. This is a tiny, underground chapel, unknown to many of the visitors. When you go there (and you must) you should find this little chapel and spend a few minutes there. A prayer would go down well too.

Underground Chapel

The Angel Chapel

The Blockade Runner and the Independence Vote



I was recently watching this BBC Scotland program hosted by David Hayman. The episode I had recorded was ‘The Robert E Lee’. This episode centres on the Clyde built paddle steamer Giraffe which was sold to the Confederacy and renamed the Robert E Lee and became one of the fastest blockade runners of the war.



The Clydebuilt Blockade Runner

I found this particularly interesting because I had just completed a course on the American Civil War at Strathclyde University, delivered by Robert Lynch. In the course I had learned about the importance of cotton to the Confederate states. Cotton provided the link with Scotland and soon some of my fellow students unearthed links between Glasgow and the Confederacy. These included evidence of Jefferson Davis having visited Glasgow to stay with some industrialists and collaborators after his release from prison. This is expanded on in the programme which also shows evidence of a Confederate spy network working from Bridge of Allan.

This program highlighted the role of Glasgow’s Shipbuilders and the blockade runners. It filled in lots of interesting details of the activities of the blockade runners and the Scots who made fortunes from the war.

It gives us a fresh look at the role Scotland played in supporting the slave owning Confederacy and is particularly interesting at this time. Scotland is about to go to the polls to vote on independence. The Yes camp has made much of the UK’s imperial past and their desire to dissociate Scotland from it. Is this moral stance justified?

Taking this closer look at Scotland’s history of support for a slave system and the fortunes made in extending the slaughter of the Civil War should encourage us to examine the myth of our historical innocence.

I believe it is important for the future of Scotland to expose the truth about ourselves and our past. We are not a people who lived under the yoke of imperialism but we were instrumental in promoting it and made fortunes out of our fellow man.

When we walk into the polling booth this autumn let’s make our decision based on facts and not myth.

The Missing – Who Were They?

I was working today. I had a class at Glasgow University in the morning and another in the afternoon. It’s a hard life!

I had a two hour break in between and had a wander out to look at the buildings in one of the drier spells (less wet to be more accurate). Looking at the south face of the old buildings I noticed something strange.

Glasgow University

Do you see what I can’t see?









I noticed that there were spaces for statues. You can see the places where they should be on either side of the main window here. There are about two dozen spaces on the south face of the building and more in the quadrangles inside. There are no statues.

I wondered which statues were supposed to be there. If it was a cathedral then I would expect saints, but a university? Glasgow University was founded by a Papal Bull so there are religious connections but these buildings are definitely post reformation so – Saints? – probably not!

Was it intended to have statues of scholars or great Scottish heroes? Who were these missing celebrities? Why were they never put in place? It cretainly looks as though there were never any statues in place.

I was puzzled but I had to move on; another class awaited. However, there must be someone out there who knows something about the ‘missing’. It’s time the truth was told. In the words of the great Ali McCoist, “We want to know the names of these people.”

A Walk in the Park

I had a class to take yesterday (Thursday 4th) and it was such a beautiful morning I decided to take my camcorder and record my stroll through the park. I get the train to Charing Cross (Glasgow) and walk through Kelvingrove park to the university. It is so pleasant I felt I had to share it.

I held the camera in my hand as I strolled through and, of course, the video is bumpy as I walk. I used the YouTube skake corrector which steadies the picture. I didn’t realise the side effect. As I pass near to stationary objects they seem to be alive, bouncing like objects in a Pixar cartoon.

I kept it like that because I think it’s funny and adds something to my walk. Have a look and see what you think. I’d be interested to know.

Glasgow is really a beautiful city. I love the old buildings and the open spaces. It has a sense of history for me and I know many visitors enjoy the same feeling as they walk around.

Enjoy your mornings. Enjoy today.


Loyalty Melts Away – Both Ways?

English: Cadbury Wharf, Knighton, Staffordshir...

English: Cadbury Wharf, Knighton, Staffordshire This building and the wharf were operated by Cadbury’s between 1911 and 1961 to process locally collected milk and produce “chocolate crumb” which was transported to Cadbury’s in Bourneville (Birmingham) along the Shropshire Union Canal. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is an interesting article on the Telegraph Website by Rosa Silverman about Cadbury cutting out a traditional Christmas gift to members of its Pension scheme. For years the pensioners have recieved a Christmas gift of a small parcel of chocolate. The company says it has to stop to plug a hole in the pension fund.

The cost of the gifts is about £210,000 and the gap is thought to be £320,000,000. By my calculation that will take 1524 years to plug. The UK President of the holding company Mondelez, Maurizio Brusadelli says they have to cut costs. Interestingly, Maurizio has had a pay increase from £14,400,000 to £18,900,000 a 31.5% rise.

When the company was simply Cadbury there was a sense of tradition and loyalty between company and workers. The company had built a model town for the workers, Bourneville, and was a fine example of Victorian philanthropy.

The loyalty extended to the customers who tended to stick with Cadbury despite the rising competition. I remember my uncle Matt who, late in life, emigrated to California. He had regular parcells sent out from Scotland containing unobtainables such as ‘Cherry Blossom’ shoe polish and Cadbury’s chocolate.

Loyalty seems to have hit the skids with the takeover by Mondelez. The chocolate bare are changing. As a long time consumer I noticed a change in the taste and constituency of the old brand. I contacted the company who assured me that nothing had changed.

Now I am not one to protest at change. Change can be a good thing. Companies can change their products to cope with changing markets. The danger coes when your customer base is tied to the traditions and history of the company. Customers may see change as a good thing. Ther are other brands of chocolate out there and once customers feel that something new is the order of the day they may just find that new taste somewhere else.

When the company makes it plain that they want shot of the oldies then the oldie customers mught just shuffle off to anothe brand. I’m sure Mondelez would agree that’s a good thing too.