Dinner with the President

Not much to say, really. There were about a dozen of us; as we were moving in to sit down, the President’s chief of staff muttered to me that I was to sit at the right hand of the Head of State. So I did.

The President sat down for thirty seconds, then moved to the podium at the other end of the room and gave a little public speech after which he asked those present if they had any questions. Most people did. I didn’t.

The President then specifically asked me to ask him a question. I actually had three prepared to ask him but hadn’t planned to ask any of them in public. I turned a very bright red and made an ingratiating little speech wishing him and his government well. It was very embarrassing. He came back and sat down beside me, and we got on with dinner.

I did ask him everything I wanted to over dinner, and he gave me entirely satisfactory answers, as well as numerous other bits of interesting international gossip; very much to the glee of the guy from the Economist sitting on his left, who took down several juicy quotes to be used in next week’s issue.

Oof. This kind of thing is great fun, but also exhausting. Home on Saturday. Thank God.

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September Books 12) Emerald Eye

12) Emerald Eye: The Best Irish Imaginative Fiction, ed. Frank Ludlow & Roelof Goudriaan

Alas, few of these were to my taste, tending as they did towards horror with themes of sordid seduction or bodily dismemberment. The one story that I really did enjoy was a James White piece, “Custom Fitting”, about a bespoke tailor kitting out an alien ambassador. Honourable mentions also to Dermot Ryan for his riff on Milton in “The Burnished Egg”, and to Nigel Quinlan for “The Invisible Man Game” which seemed a cut above the other dark stories in the collection. And Bob Shaw’s “The Gioconda Caper” also raised a smile.

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Job news

Well, the guy who’s founding his own NGO has been in touch off and on, but not really appearing to get much further in the way of funding.

But someone has just made to me a much more interesting suggestion, of keeping most of the bits I like about my current job, regaining some of the stuff I used to do and liked and don’t do so much any more, and not doing the bits I like least (ie editing reports).

It would come at a price – I’d have to do a lot of fundraising which is not an area I have much experience of. But I think I know a bit more about it now than I did five years ago.

So I’ll have to consider it further. But it’s a very interesting option.

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September Books 11) The Truth About The Armed Conflict In Slovenia

11) The Truth About The Armed Conflict In Slovenia by the propaganda wing of the Yugoslav People’s Army

Tedious and unconvincing propaganda issued in July 1991, accusing the Slovenians of not particularly terrible activities during their brief war of independence. Particularly nauseating given what the Yugoslav People’s Army and its proxies / successors did over the next eight years in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo. At least I managed to pick it up for free and didn’t waste any of my own money on it.

44 JNA soldiers are listed as having been killed by the “treacherous” Slovenes during the conflict. Interestingly, I count four with Albanian names, and five with Bosniak names.

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September Books 10) The Man Who Fell To Earth

10) The Man Who Fell To Earth, by Walter Tevis

I have seen a few seconds of the film of this book starring David Bowie; the novel was published in 1963. It’s a bleak picture of an almost-human alien from an undiscovered planet in our solar system, sent to Earth to try and save his people. He becomes an alcoholic, goes blind and gives up. Depressing.

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September Books 9) The Banovina

9) The Banovina, by Donka Stančić and Miško Lazović

I spent yesterday exploring the autonomous province of Vojvodina, north of Belgrade, finishing with meetings in its capital, Novi Sad – the only one of the eight capitals of the former Yugoslav federal units I had not previously visited. The people of Vojvodina are justly proud of their government building, and the officials we met with gave me a copy of this book about it – in English, though I found this image of the Serbian original on-line:

The building, shaped like a huge Danube river barge, was built to the design of Dragiša Brašovan after Novi Sad became the administrative centre of the Danube banovina under the 1929 royal dictatorship. This was an area including all of what has been the Vojvodina since the second world war, but going south of the Danube as far as Kragujevac and also including the wee corner between Osijek and Hungary now part of Croatia (and briefly part of Eastern Slavonia in the 1990s). Apparently three buildings were commissioned to be the government centres of newly created Banovina capitals in 1931; the one in Novi Sad, the Banski Dvor in Banja Luka which I know well, and another in Skopje which may not have been built (or more likely did not survive the 1963 earthquake). Edited to add: Silly me, of course it is the Sobranie Palace, the Macedonian parliament building.

The book describes the political and architectural process of the Banovina building’s construction in loving detail, and notes briefly that it was bombed by NATO in 1999. It seems in good order again now. Thank heavens that the rapidly rotating succesion of Bans under the royal dictatorship (eleven of them in twelve years) decided to face the building in white marble rather than Brašovan’s original plan of red brick, which would have looked terrible. The text does gloss over one or two points, such as the rather Serbocentric character of the Bans’ regime and the precise reason why the Germans left in 1945, but I found it pretty interesting.

Looking through the city afterwards we wandered into the Catholic cathedral, very reminiscent of my own local church in Belgium – not surprisingly, as they were both built under the Hapsburgs in the 18th century – except that all the writing was in Hungarian. The people of Novi Sad (Újvidék in Hungarian) have been through a number of regime changes in the last few centuries. Vojvodina now has six official languages, including Ruthenian which was a new one for me. I sort of felt reminded of that exchange from Casablanca:

Major Strasser: You say Third Reich as though you expected there to be others!
Captain Renault: Well, personally, Major, I will take what comes.

The people of Novi Sad have been taking what comes for centuries, and on the whole it hasn’t done them too much harm.

September Books 8) Uncle Petros and Goldbach’s Conjecture

8) Uncle Petros and Goldbach’s Conjecture, by Apostolos Doxiadis

Nice little story, of the eccentric uncle who has wasted his life on proving Goldbach’s conjecture; but the plot, such as it is, is pretty cliched and the author misses numerous chances to illuminate the background of Greece through the twentieth century (not to mention the other places where the novel is set – Cambridge, Berlin, Princeton). No doubt it has done well among the maths students types.

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Another hard one

Had several goes at this in the plane and couldn’t manage it. (From Saturday’s Irish Times – answer is in today’s. Today’s “Hard” one seems much more easy.)

Edited to add: Whoops – wrong one. I meant this one:

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Duvet morning

My flight to Belgrade is not until 1325, and I can’t quite face going into the office yet. Suddenly a whole lot of work appears to have backed up, and this trip seems a bit pointless – I deliberately am going two days early to try and have some high-level meetings in Serbia but it seems this is not really happening, as many of the senior officials were in New York for the UN last week and so were impossible to track down (and now will return to mountains of paperwork). So I’m demotivated about going on the trip, and also demotivated about the tedious editing work I would be able to do if I stayed. But next week it will be even more urgent, and the boss will be back in the office for most of October.

Well, I have to go into the office eventually because my plane ticket is there (and the laptop, if I choose to bring it along). But if I go back to bed until 1000 (or even 1100) nobody much will notice. I hope.

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September Books 7) The Family Trade

7) The Family Trade, by

I had been looking forward to reading this for some time. Reviews that I had skimmed (and indeed hints dropped by the author) led me to understand that it borrows the feudal and feuding families who can walk between the worlds of Roger Zelazny’s Amber series, a firm favourite of mine from an early age. But my anticipation was mixed with a little trepidation: even Zelazny was unable to really pull it off in the end – while the Amber books contain some of his most lyrical prose, the plot has holes you can drive an army of dark, clawed, fanged, furry man-like creatures through, and his own interest and energy had very obviously faded by the middle of the second series. And as for the Betancourt prequels – critical reaction has been pretty unanimous, so I don’t think I’ll bother.

Well, I think Charlie has pulled it off. He’s taken Zelazny’s idea and wondered what people with that ability would actually do with it in today’s world; applied an economic model to it, if you like. Amber was always supposedly a great trading nexus (Corwin had written its anthem, the Ballad of the Water Crossers), but the evidence of this was pretty minimal – rather than wealth, its children seemed to be more attracted to power, and went off to find kingdoms and wars of their own. In the Stross version, there is a convincing business model using the fact that those with the gift can shift between our world and one where the Vikings settled North America and Europe never developed (and, we suspect, at least one other such parallel universe). Also in the Stross version, we have a plot that makes sense and is compelling reading; and some very interesting and complex characters. The Family Trade doesn’t have the vivid imagery of some of his other work, but I sat up much later than I should have last night to finish it, and now can’t wait for the sequel, The Hidden Family.

ObLivejournal: dedicated to and .

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September Books 6) The Third Policeman

6) The Third Policeman, by Flann O’Brien

One of many benefits of going through the bookshelves for the sake of Library Thing is the rediscovery of old friends. This is such an enjoyable work of genius. I don’t think I’d picked it up for ten years, but at one point in my life I was able to quote wholesale from the atomic theory:

What is a sheep only millions of little bits of sheepness whirling around and doing intricate convolutions inside the sheep? What else is it but that?

This seemed to me hilarious when I was seventeen, and then the follow-on, that you gradually turn into a bicycle if you ride over poorly kept roads for too long, turned out to have wider application.

But I’m realising that there is more to it than that. Most of the chapters begin with reflections on the works of de Selby and his commentators – the footnote at the start of the penultimate chapter rambles on across the bottom half of six pages, starting from de Selby’s inability to tell women from men and ending with the disappearance of Hatchjaw (including the troubling speculation that Hatchjaw was not Hatchjaw at all, but someone else of the same name). O’Nolan/O’Brien was of course a partial fugitive from the lore of ancient Irish literature, which may be where he drew some of his material on de Selby. He also famously took the piss out of Erwin Schrödinger, complaining that de Valera’s Institute for Advanced Studies had discovered two St Patricks and no God.

But I felt particularly on this reading that the shadow of Joyce, and of Joycean scholarship, looms over The Third Policeman; I know it was published long after, but the commentators’ hunt for meaning in de Selby reminds me a lot of Declan Kiberd’s annotations completely missing the point in a recent edition of Ulysses. I went hunting on-line for a bit more evidence, and found to my delight that O’Nolan/O’Brien’s article about Joyce, “A Bash in the Tunnel”, is on-line. One passage that seems to me particularly important is this:

A friend of mine found himself next door at dinner to a well-known savant who appears in Ulysses. (He shall be nameless, for he still lives.) My friend, making dutiful conversation, made mention of Joyce. The savant said that Ireland was under a deep obligation to the author of Joyce’s Irish Names of Places. My friend lengthily explained that his reference had been to a different Joyce. The savant did not quite understand, but ultimately confessed that he had heard certain rumours about the other man. It seemed that he had written some dirty books, published in Paris.

‘But you are a character in one of them,’ my friend incautiously remarked.

The next two hours, to the neglect of wine and cigars, were occupied with a heated statement by the savant that he was by no means a character in fiction, he was a man, furthermore he was alive and he had published books of his own.

‘How can I be a character in fiction,’ he demanded, ‘if I am here talking to you?’

That incident may be funny, too, but its curiosity is this: Joyce spent a lifetime establishing himself as a character in fiction.

I won’t go on about this at length, as I’ve discovered as a result of further googling that (perhaps unsurprisingly) I’m not the first person to have this thought; when I have a moment I’ll read through David M. Haugen’s essay on the subject from 1994. But it seems to me closely linked with the fact that the narrator of The Third Policeman has completely forgotten his own name.

One other small point that clicked with me more on this reading than before was the paint of no known colour, which Policeman MacCruiskeen puts on his bicycle to defeat the one-legged men who will be driven insane when they see it. Surely, surely, this must have been inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Color Out Of Space”? And it must also be an ancestor of the “Blit” stories by David Langford, collected I see in Different Kinds of Darkness. But in The Third Policeman it is only one surreal idea among many.

Some day I’ll write something deep and meaningful about the descriptions of landscape in this book; or the use of mathematical concepts of topology; or the possible links with the Dunsink Observatory. But it’s a nice Sunday, and there are other things to do.

Donnie Darko

Well, recommended itso did so did was less enthusiastic. Well, I got the DVD some time last year, and finally got around to watching it; and I liked it, for some of the same reasons I like Buffy – teen angst reflected in a supernatural way. Also I loved Noah Wylie and Drew Barrymore. I thought the scene of the kids cycling up to the old lady’s house might even be a reflection of the similar scene in E.T. (which was also on local TV tonight), a suspicion fuelled when I realised that Drew Barrymore was also the executive producer. And Maggie Gyllenhall playing the older sister did a lot with very little given her by the scriptwriters. So I will watch it again, and then I might even, as keeps telling me, visit the website. Great stuff.

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Library Thing

Am within shouting distance of being one of the top 25 users. But I am not going to strive hard over the rest of the weekend to make sure I pass the mark, since I’m pretty confident I will do so eventually. I reckon I’m around half way through, so my total book tally is around 2000 or maybe a little short of that.

Odd things: Sometimes quite difficult to persuade it to find books on, for instance, the Amazon.co.uk catalogue, even when you can find said books yourself on said catalogue (most recent such example: my 1954 Regent Classics edition of Moby-Dick). For some of my other books it’s understandable that the search robots couldn’t locate them, either on grounds of geographical origin or age.

I’m interested that apart from genre literature the next most popular categopry appears to be theology, with top non-fiction author being John Piper. The only other author of the current top 25 who I simply haven’t heard of is Tamora Pierce. I have at least read all the others apart from Mercedes Lackey. Of the top 25 books I’ve read everything except The Catcher in the Rye, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and Life of Pi. But my list of unread books that I already own is quite long enough.

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Shakespeare meme

Despite ‘s scorn, I’ll do this.

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

Having written this, I realise that got there first. What the heck, it just proves that great minds think alike!

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September Books 5) The Alphabet

5) The Alphabet, by David Sacks

I put this on my Amazon wish list ages ago, and can’t remember why; but anyway I decided I might as well buy it and read it a couple of weeks ago. Unfortunately, I was disappointed. The book can’t quite decide whether it’s a serious investigation of the history of orthography or a collection of fun trivia snippets. I did learn a lot about the first Semitic alphabet, from which most others are descended, and its descent to us through the Phoenicians, Greeks, Etruscans, Romans and French. But I was disappointed not to learn more about other alphabets than ours – especially the Georgian script which as most of you will know fascinates me. (Does the Georgian თ have any relation to our “t”? Does their ო have a common lineage with our “o”? Or უ with “u”?)

Also the fact that the book is essentially an assemblage of 26 newspaper columns, one for each letter, meant that several topics came up again and again without ever being fully explored. One topic that I already know a bit about, but where I’d hoped to learn more, was the Great Vowel Shift. One topic that I know almost nothing about and where I found the information provided infuriatingly minimal and repetitive was the evolution of minuscule letters, and indeed why we have upper and lower case now – Georgian doesn’t, for instance, and Arabic takes a whole different approach to letter shapes.

I particularly hated the practice of inserting explanatory boxes for sub-topics within the main text. Apart from the fact that it makes the main argument (such as it is) difficult to follow, I found (ironically) the fonts used for some of the boxes difficult to read. And the structure became confusing rather than ordered. The only person who has really done these vignettes well is Norman Davies in his Europe: A History, and others shouldn’t try to copy him unless they really know what they are doing.

So, in summary, an unsatisfying book on a fascinating subject.

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September Books 4) Creatures of Light and Darkness

4) Creatures of Light and Darkness, by Roger Zelazny

Returning to an early favourite for me here; it must be over twenty years since I first read this, and I think maybe as many as ten years since I picked up this copy in an English seaside resort. The plot, to be honest, doesn’t hold much water: far in the future, the Egyptian deities have returned (or some godlike beings have set themselves up as such) and are in charge of the universe. Various other mythical and cyborg beings drop in on proceedings. But really the book is a delight for the language and the impassioned present tense narrative, which sweeps you along so effectively that you don’t notice how little sense it makes. Notable also for the Possibly Proper Death Litany, an agnostic’s prayer:

Insofar as I may be heard by anything, which may or may not care what I say, I ask, if it matters, that you be forgiven for anything you may have done or failed to do which requires forgiveness. Conversely, if not forgiveness but something else may be required to insure any possible benefit for which you may be eligible after the destruction of your body, I ask that this, whatever it may be, be granted or withheld, as the case may be, in such a manner as to insure your receiving said benefit. I ask this in my capacity as your elected intermediary between yourself and that which may not be yourself, but which may have an interest in the matter of your receiving as much as it is possible for you to receive of this thing, and which may in some way be influenced by this ceremony. Amen.

and for the great line, “They are my innards! I will not have them read by a poseur!”

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A back-handed compliment

From the latest issue of Deutschland: Forum on politics, culture and business:

…the Germans are generally very, very friendly, they have not invaded a neighbouring country for 60 years, and they can even make you laugh! They are very similar to the Dutch.

Of course the writer of the article is Dutch, so that last bit is mean to be a real compliment. Really.

But if I was one of the German taxpayers who had funded this magazine I think I would be tempted to ask for my money back!

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Sir Nicholas Whyte, DNB

White, Sir Nicholas (c.1532-1592), lawyer and administrator, was descended from a notable family of the English pale. His father, James White, steward of James Butler, earl of Ormond, had been poisoned while in London with the earl in 1546. Nicholas owed his early advancement to Ormond’s influence: in recognition of James’s loyalty, the earl left £10 for the boy’s education at the inns of court. A cadet branch of the family was led by another James White, recorder of Waterford, who joined Walter Cowley in a survey of religious houses in 1541 and was granted monastic property in Kilkenny. Nicholas White married twice. Nothing is known of his first wife except her surname, Sherlocke. His second wife was the daughter of Arthur Brereton of Killyon, Meath.

Education and early career

In 1552 White entered Lincoln’s Inn, and he was called to the bar in 1558. His contemporaries at the inn were James Dowdall, later chief justice of queen’s bench, the rivals Nicholas Nugent and Robert Dillon, who became in succession chief justices of common pleas, and his younger ally and protégé from Waterford, Nicholas Walsh, the last native-born chief justice of common pleas. Nicholas White returned to Ireland and was elected knight of the shire for co. Kilkenny in 1559. On 17 August 1559 he was sent as commissioner by the Irish privy council, along with Francis Cosby, Nicholas Heron, Luke Neterville, and others, to hear a controversy between the lord of upper Ossory and Edward Butler in Kilkenny. He was justice of the peace for co. Kilkenny in 1563 and in the following year was named recorder of Waterford. The original instructions in 1566 for the inchoate lord president and council in Munster named White as one of the resident members of the first council. Along with other leading lawyers, he was named in the lease of Dominican property in 1567 which became King’s Inns in Dublin. On 13 June 1569 he became constable of Wexford Castle, a position which had formerly been occupied by a kinsman of his second wife. White established his estate at White’s Hall, near Knocktopher, co. Kilkenny.

White earned the favour of successive chief governors, and in 1568 he was given the right to travel to England, where he met the queen and her principal secretary, Sir William Cecil, later Lord Burghley. From that time forward he became a key confidant of Cecil and an important commentator on Irish affairs. He had a notable interview with Mary, queen of Scots, at Tutbury in February 1569, details of which he sent to Cecil on his return to Ireland. On 4 November 1568 Elizabeth appointed him seneschal of Wexford and constable of Leighlin and Ferns, replacing the disgraced adventurer Thomas Stukeley. He retained the office until 1572, concluding his tenure with the pursuit of the rebels who murdered his son-in-law Robert Browne. On 18 January 1569 White was granted reversion of the lands of Dunbrody Abbey, co. Wexford, and other leases, to which he added a grant of St Catherine’s Priory at Leixlip, which became his Dublin residence, on 28 May. Although he suffered losses to his property during the wars of the Butlers in 1569, he strengthened his estate by acquisitions in Wexford and he successfully controlled the restless Kavanaghs in that county.

Master of the rolls in Ireland

In September 1571 White once again returned to England, with licence to be absent for six months. On the recommendation of the lord deputy, Fitzwilliam, White succeeded Sir Henry Draycott as master of the rolls in Ireland on 14 July 1572, and the lord chancellor was directed to accept a surrender of his lands in exchange for a regrant of them in fee simple. Despite these marks of royal favour, White was viewed by fellow privy councillors in Ireland as suspiciously partisan. Unlike his pliant contemporary Sir Lucas Dillon, White took independent positions in opposition to the dominant English-born faction on the council. The ambitious lord keeper and archbishop of Dublin, Adam Loftus, demanded custody of the great seal upon the death of Lord Chancellor Robert Weston in 1572 and vied with White on several occasions. When Lord Deputy Fitzwilliam chided Sir Edward Fitton for his arbitrary conduct as councillor in 1573, White was Fitton’s lone defender. When the dispute over cess arose in 1577 between Lord Deputy Sidney and the gentlemen of the pale, White was almost alone among Irish councillors who took the part of the Old English élite. He wrote to Burghley on 13 June 1577 that he had no intention to impugn the queen’s prerogative, and later warned the queen’s principal adviser that Sidney had forfeited the support of the pale over their legitimate constitutional claims. Sidney distrusted him as a client of Ormond, and the new lord chancellor, Sir William Gerard, accused White of excessive partiality as a judge in 1578, saying he was ‘greatly allyed in the pale by his mariages … a depe dissembler, greatly corrupt and wilfully affected with oute regard of troth or equitye’ (LPL, Carew MS 628, fol. 311v).

At the height of the cess controversy in April 1578 White was charged by the attorney-general, Thomas Snagge, with misfeasance in office, and suspended as master of the rolls for failing to certify the writs, patents, and licences from the court of chancery to the exchequer. He forfeited the fees of his office, and the locks to his desk were broken open so the rolls could be inventoried in May 1578. The danger passed when Lord Deputy Sidney was himself recalled, Gerard was forced to explain his manoeuvring in relation to the pale gentry, and White was allowed to plead his case in England before Burghley himself in September, after which he was restored to office.

Desmond rebellion

The crisis of the cess was unresolved when the perilous rebellion in Munster commenced in 1579 and White worked closely with the successive lords justices Sir William Drury and Sir William Pelham as a veteran official with long experience in the province. None the less, he was now under suspicion as one who consistently favoured the interests of the Old English, and Sir Henry Wallop, the new vice-treasurer in Ireland, blamed him for supporting the cause of the disgraced chief justice Nicholas Nugent, who was precipitately tried and hanged for treason in 1582. Wallop protested against a concordatum sent to Ireland awarding White 1000 marks for his work in chancery after his 1580 trip to England, and he blamed White for failing to apprehend the rebels in Wicklow during the rebellion.

In February 1581 White demonstrated his independence in council, refusing to sign a letter to the queen regarding Malby’s actions in the Munster rebellion since he was away in England during the deliberations of the meeting. Again, on 28 August 1582 White was accused of withholding his signature to conciliar deliberations on the actions of the deputy during the pale rebellion. However, he continued to demonstrate his valuable insights to Burghley in regular correspondence throughout the period, including letters of December 1581 on the miseries of war, the need for temperate government, and his fear that the wild Irish were glad to see the weakness of English blood in Ireland. In a missive of 13 September 1582 White complained of the unfriendly dealings of Lucas Dillon, his erstwhile companion and fellow Irish-born councillor, stating they had been for a long time of ‘contrary minds’ (PRO, SP 63/95/95). In spite of his sympathies for the native Irish he was apparently the author of an extraordinary trial by combat in September 1583 in which Teig MacGilpatrick O’Connor and Conor MacCormac O’Connor lost their lives. His usefulness as an Irish speaker and a nominal protestant made White an essential privy councillor for two decades.

Later career

On the arrival of the ambitious new lord deputy, Sir John Perrot, White was granted a knighthood in Christ Church, Dublin, on 21 June 1584. White worked with Perrot to establish the effectiveness of common law rule, though forty-eight of the 181 prisoners in the Leinster circuit were executed in autumn of 1584 in an example of rough justice. In December he went into Connaught to investigate charges of corruption against the former lord president, Sir Nicholas Malby, and on 15 July 1585 he was named a commissioner for the cess in that province. White and Dillon attended the lord deputy in September 1586 to Connaught, a sojourn which the combative new lord president, Sir Richard Bingham, much resented. On 29 November 1586 White wrote to Burghley describing the continual bickering in council between the chief governor and the lord chancellor, Loftus, adding that the newly revived court of castle chamber was busy with accusations against the tyrannical government of Bingham and his lieutenants in Connaught. Chief Justice Robert Gardener complained to Burghley in December that Perrot governed with the aid of a minority of Irish councillors such as White, trampling the rights of council and ignoring the need for consensus, hearing many private causes without recourse to law. In May 1587 the temperamental chief governor quarrelled with the aged marshal Sir Nicholas Bagnal at the council board and struck him. White, who reported the incident thoroughly to Burghley, had recommended a full council hearing for Bagnal’s agent from which the beleaguered chief governor would be excluded. By the end of Perrot’s regime White was viewed as a minion of the lord deputy who was primarily responsible for a policy of favouritism toward Irish-born servitors. The return of his former adversary Sir William Fitzwilliam as lord deputy in 1588 allowed White’s enemies on the council to triumph over him.

Arrest and death

In 1589 White was included on a commission for pacification of the Burkes, who had rebelled against the arbitrary conduct of the lord president, Bingham. The latter suspected the intentions of the commission, but White reported to Burghley that Bingham was not wholly to blame. Within a few months the career of Sir John Perrot was placed in jeopardy by the allegations of treason levied against him in England by an Irish priest, Denis O’Roughan. White was implicated in these charges and Lord Deputy Fitzwilliam moved swiftly to place him under arrest in June 1590, sending him to England two months later despite his illness. He was examined on the charges and committed to the Marshalsea prison prior to his testimony before the court of Star Chamber, at a time when his health was in grave danger. Placed in the Tower of London in March 1591, White appealed to the privy council for a servant to attend him, owing to his age and infirmity. White’s inquisition before the high court in 1592 affirmed that Perrot had complained of the queen’s reluctance to support his government. His earlier support of the deputy compromised his position and he died in the Tower in the same year as his patron.

Both Nicholas White and Lucas Dillon died in 1592, and both Irish-born councillors were replaced by English officials, Sir Anthony St Leger becoming master of the rolls. White’s views on government were systematically and forcefully pressed on the queen’s advisers and may be summed up in his letter of 1574 to Burghley: ‘I wish the country were more governed by law than by discretion’ (Brady, 280). In a controversy with John Long, archbishop of Armagh, White counselled tolerance in the matter of oaths and religion during the July 1586 session of parliament, noting the preference of the lord deputy for moderation toward the gentlemen of the pale.

White and his second wife had two sons. Thomas, the elder, was educated at Cambridge University and died in November 1586, while the younger son, Andrew, succeeded to White’s estates after completing his education at Cambridge. White also had two daughters, one of whom married Robert Browne of Mulcranan, co. Wexford, leading to White’s strong efforts in 1572 to prosecute the rebels who had assassinated his son-in-law. Despite his role as councillor, the Irish privy council in 1573 refused to allow White’s writ of appeal for the pardon of Fiagh McHugh O’Byrne and others accused of murdering Browne, declaring ‘the graunting of that writ wold renue a blooddie rebellion which withe great travell we have appaysed’ (Bodl. Oxf., MS Carte 56, fol. 65v). His ongoing attentions to the Dunbrody property led to the intervention of the privy council in England in October 1587 when White was accused of dispossessing William Browne of the profits of the barony. White’s other daughter married into the Old English family of Christopher D’Arcy (or Darcy) of Platten, near Duleek, Meath.

White was closely associated with the career of Sir Nicholas Walsh of Waterford, who followed White to Lincoln’s Inn and succeeded him as recorder of Waterford, later becoming chief justice of common pleas (1597). White also kept as wards the sons of leading Munster gentry such as the dispossessed Charles McCarty who sued before the English privy council in April 1590 to regain his property. On 12 February 1593 the privy council authorized White’s son to bring his body back to Ireland for burial. After his death the privy council in England remanded a complaint by John Itchingham against the heirs of White (James and Andrew) regarding title to White’s property of Dunbrody to common law proceedings in Ireland.

Jon G. Crawford


CSP Ire., 1574–85, 285, 304; 1586–8, 101, 206–7, 353; 1588–92, 263, 343; 1592–6, 107 · APC, 1578–80, 119; 1591, 13, 39, 46; 1592–3, 125; 1598–9, 226 · J. L. J. Hughes, ed., Patentee officers in Ireland, 1173–1826, including high sheriffs, 1661–1684 and 1761–1816, IMC (1960) · Bodl. Oxf., MS Carte 56, fol. 65v · PRO, SP 63/95/95; SP 63/80/147 · LPL, Carew MS 628, fol. 311v · D. B. Quinn, ed., ‘Calendar of the Irish council book for 1581–86’, Analecta Hibernica, 24 (1967), 93–180 · C. Brady, The chief governors: the rise and fall of reform government in Tudor Ireland, 1536–1588 (1994) · J. G. Crawford, Anglicizing the government of Ireland: the Irish privy council and the expansion of Tudor rule, 1556–1578 (1993) · A. Vicars, ed., Index to the prerogative wills of Ireland, 1536–1810 (1897), 487 · C. Kenny, King’s Inns and the kingdom of Ireland (1992) · F. E. Ball, The judges in Ireland, 1221–1921, 2 (1926)

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24 hours in Slovenia

Was in Ljubljana on Thursday for a brainstorming session with Balkan NGOs. Three outside speakers: me and two Austrians, one a young guy who does similar work to me, the other a prince who is almost 70 and had a famous diplomatic career. The prince of course got picked up at the airport by the Austrian ambassador, and they offered me and a German participant in the meeting a lift into town. Interesting linguistic observation – the two Austrians happily talked German until it became clear that I was perfectly capable of speaking German to them; then they switched to English. (My German friend was so confused by this that she started speaking French!)

At the hotel it turned out that we were too early and none of our rooms were ready. Except that mysteriously it transpired that they could bend the rules for the prince, whose room suddenly was ready after all, but not for the rest of us. So I went and ate a large slice of chocolate cake – I don’t have a particularly sweet tooth, but Slovenia is very good at pastries – which completely spoiled my appetite for lunch.

The meeting went as such meetings go, and we eventually went for a jolly dinner to what we were told was the best restaurant in Ljubljana. Hmm, I thought, and experimentally ordered snails for my starter and horse for my main course. The snails were overcooked and covered in burnt and greasy cheese, not quite my idea of escargots au gratin. The main course was OK except that the waiters seemed a bit uncertain as to whether they had in fact served us horse or beef; and certainly it tasted pretty much like beef. I have never had horse before, and for all I know I may not have had it yet. Anyway, if not my totally best culinary experience, certainly far from my worst.

I asked the prince about being a prince. He pointed out that in Austria they weren’t allowed to use their titles at all, unlike in Germany where although it was formally abolished they are allowed to heep the “Duke” or whatever as part of their surnames. So as far as he is concerned he is the son of someone who was once a prince. He then told me that the last time someone had referred to his ancestry was a rabid anti-Turkish speaker in a debate on Turkish EU membership (of which the prince is the most visible advocate in Austria) taunting him by asking what the five famous cardinals among his collateral ancestors would think of his pro-Muslim position. I realised this was a sore point, and dropped the subject.

The ambassador turned up again to drive us personally back to the hotel. When I expressed an interest in the Monument To The Unknown French Soldier Of The Napoleonic Wars Who Died For Slovenia’s Freedom he took a small detour so that we could look at it; pretty decent of him, especially since the Unknown French Soldier was killed in battle with the, er, Austrians.

I had to get up at stupid o’clock in the morning and asked the hotel to do me an emergency breakfast bag. They did, at no extra charge; meant I could eat a breakfast sandwich in the airport and then sleep on the flight. They also, of course, gave me some Slovenian pastries for breakfast which I couldn’t quite face; I gave them to Anne for her lunch, and she reported that the Slovenian pastries were, indeed, as good as I had predicted they would be.

For my next trip, I am off to Serbia on Monday afternoon; then flying to MAcedonia on Tuesday evening, and back home on Saturday morning. Backdating this entry to yesterday so that it sits in the right place chronologically.

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Car insurance green card

Time to renew the green card for the car; these two clauses of the policy caught my eye.

La couverture d’assurance fournie par les cartes vertes délivreés pour Chypre est limitée aux parties géographiques de Chypre qui sont sous le contrôle du gouvernement de la République de Chypre.

Regrettable, but clear enough.

La couverture d’assurance fournie par les cartes vertes délivreés pour la Serbie-Montenegro est limitée aux parties géographiques de la Serbie-Montenegro qui sont sous le contrôle du gouvernement de Serbie-Montenegro.

A lot trickier. Having observed the government of Serbia and Montenegro since its formation, it seems to me that some parts of the territory are under the control of the Republic of Montenegro, some under the control of the Republic of Serbia, and some under the control of the United Nations pursuant to Security Council Resolution 1244. I think the answer is to try and avoid having to make an insurance claim while you are there.

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New interests meme

I was hoping for someone to write one that would pick ten interests at random; but this will do.

LJ Interests meme results

  1. belfast:

    O the bricks they will bleed and the rain it will weep,
    And the damp Lagan fog lull the city to sleep;
    It’s to hell with the future and live in the past:

    May the Lord in His mercy be kind to Belfast.

    City of my birth, where I still like to return when I can, whos daily doing I follow as closely as I am able from two stretches of water away. Some of my Western European friends complain that I often brandish my Belfast origins during meetings when we are ostensibly discussing the Balkans. I don’t care.

  2. china miéville:
    A fellow graduate of Clare College, Cambridge, though he arrived immediately after I left in 1991. Rather better known as the cutting-edge sf writer of Perdido Street Station and The Scar.I haven’t actually met him, though I suspect we were in the same room once or twice at WorldCon.
  3. dutch:
    When I was 12/13 my family spent a year in the Netherlands and I attended a local school. My knowledge of Dutch stuck with me, and twenty years later I found myself living in Flanders. I admit I mainly use it to talk to my children’s teachers, and to impress Dutch and Flemish diplomats and very occasionally for other work purposes. An interesting language, with many of the quirks of German but a more relaxed attitude to where you put the verbs. The Dutch Dutch accent is fiendishly difficult; the Flemish much milder.
  4. h.g. wells:
    The first great sf writer, of course. Time machines, war with Martians, the invisible man, the sleeper who wakes; I can’t say that Wells was the first to write of any of these but he was the first to hit the popular mind-set ith them. Also of course he was the lover of that other superbly lyrical (if blinkered) writer, Rebecca West.
  5. james white:
    Writer of competent, good natured sf novels, many set on an interstellar hospital; also the first Irish winner of a Hugo Award, as “outstanding Acti[ve ]Fan”. Clearly much loved and influential in Irish and world-side sf fandom. Also ‘s grandfather.
  6. literature:
    I like reading. I particularly like reading science fiction (and fantasy). Occasionally I worry that I’m not reading enough Great Literature. I’m trying to work out exatly what that is; and have set up an incompletely fulfilled reading plan to find out.
  7. monty python:
    Not as consistently great as, say Fawlty Towers, or even Yes Minister, but a continuing source of amusement and fun. I’ve been obsessively re-reading the script of the episode where the bloke on a cycling tour encouters a travelling compaion who transforms into Eartha Kitt, Edward Heath and Stalin. And whensoever two or three or more are gathered together in one place, they shall recite The Parrot Sketch. Amen.
  8. philip pullman:
    Answered this last time round. Will be looking out for more of his work.
  9. scifi:
    I have a demanding day job, OK? I del with horrible conflicts and traumatic situations, at surprisingly high levels of political engagement. So I make no apology for reading escapist literature when I can.
    Except that it’s more than just wanting to get away from my work. SF (preferred abbreviation rather than scifi) is at its best a literature of ideas; it gives me something else to think about, challenges me to keep my mind open, especially when dealing with people whose circumstances require them to keep their minds closed. And of course there’s a whole social aspect to it as well.
  10. transdniestria:
    Not a lot of people are aware that the Soviet Army is still occupying a small corner of Europe. And explaining Transdniestria is not easy, in that first you have to explain Moldova, which they are trying to secede from. A fascinating and yet horrible little conflict, with undertones of international football, where the best that can be said for the protagonists is that they make decent cognac.

Enter your LJ user name, and 10 interests will be selected from your interest list.

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