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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Eric Lubbock - my family hero


I got into blogging through following the career of my very distant relative Eric Lubbock, whose Blog is at: http://ericavebury.blogspot.com

Quite apart from a fascinating family history link, I have always been an enormous admirer of Eric’s ethics and politics. And we have common interests in humanism, social democracy and Buddhism.

So I was chuffed to see a photo on his Blog of Maori doing the haka at a recent UKLGIG celebration at Sissinghurst, Kent. Let me introduce you then to this lovely, hard-working and self-less man.

Eric Reginald Lubbock, 4th Baron Avebury (born 29 September 1928) is an English politician. A Liberal Member of Parliament from 1962 to 1970, he joined the House of Lords as Baron Avebury in 1971. In 1999, when the House of Lords was reformed, he was elected as a Liberal Democrat representative peer.

Having joined the Liberal Party in 1960 and become a councillor the following year, Eric won a sensational by-election victory at Orpington, Kent on 15 March 1962, with a majority of 7,855. This was a swing of nearly 22% from the Conservatives and brought the number of Liberal MPs to seven.

Many commentators speculated that the Liberals would make a substantial breakthrough at the following general election and this by-election was taken as the start of a Liberal revival. However, the party was hampered by organisational difficulties and progress was slow, with a loss of votes and seats under Harold Wilson’s Labour government.

As the MP for Orpington, he was appointed Chief Whip by Jo Grimond in 1963, a post he held until 1970.

When the party leader Jo Grimond resigned in 1967 Eric Lubbock was one of the three Liberal MPs who stood for the position. Jeremy Thorpe, however, won with six votes to Emlyn Hooson’s and Lubbock’s three apiece.

In the Commons he was on the Speaker’s Commission on Electoral Law in 1964-1966, and proposed STV in multi-member constituencies, only to be voted down by 18-1. He also proposed reducing the voting age to 18, on which two Labour Members supported him.

In 1970, Orpington reverted to its Tory origins. On losing the seat Lubbock said

"In 1962 the wise, far-seeing people of Orpington elected me as their Member; in 1970 the fools threw me out".

He sat on the Royal Commission on Standards of Conduct in Public Life and in 1976 founded the Parliamentary Human Rights Group, which he chaired for the next 21 years.

He is currently a member of the Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs Team, speaking frequently on conflict resolution and human rights. He was elected to an Honorary Fellowship at Balliol College in 2004.

Lord Avebury is a Distinguished Supporter of the British Humanist Association. He frequently raises matters related to British nationality law in Parliament. He has been a strong supporter of the citizenship rights of the solely British ethnic minorities in Hong Kong, and has fought for their rights.

He is also President of the Peru Support Group, and advocates on human rights issues in Peru.

In 2009, Lord Avebury was awarded (with Dr Evan Harris MP) the National Secular Society's Secularist of the Year Award in recognition of his role in the abolition of the common law offense of Blasphemous Libel.

So I’ll make reference to a couple of his recent posts to give you an idea of his wide interests and boundless commitment to social justice across the globe.


Eric writes:

Warmest congratulations to Opposition leader Ahmad Muhammad Mahmoud "Silanyo", leader of the Peace, Unity and Development Party (Kulmiye), who has been elected president in the Somalilland Presidential elections.

The National Electoral Commission invited all the political leaders, election observers, officials, media representatives, Guurti, Sultans, elders etc to the announcement of the results, which were as follows:

Kulmiye 2,66906 - 49.59%
Udub 17,8881 - 33.23%
Ucid 92,459 - 17.18%

This is a great achievement for the people of Somaliland, and an example to the region, including particularly to the people of neighbouring Somalia.

How can the UK, the European Union, and of course the African Union, best demonstrate their friendship for Somalilanders and their admiration for the free, peaceful and democratic elections they have staged?

Many people would like to see Somaliland's independence re-recognised, and if the newly elected President raises the matter, let’s hope the African Union will give him a sympathetic hearing.

And again about the UKLGIG.


UKLGIG Group Manager Erin Power read the following citation for Eric’s work at the celebration in Sissinghurst:

"The work of UKLGIG has always had an important political component and we could not have achieved our successes without strong political backing.

Lord Avebury has done much outstanding work in tackling social injustice in relation to immigration. His energy is equally, and strongly, spread across many significant issues - however politically appealing or isolating they may be. It is impossible to do justice to his contribution and achievements in a few words.

On wider immigration issues, he led a great deal of the scrutiny of the UK Borders Bill – for example, the automatic deportation provisions would have received little scrutiny without him.

On the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill, he was one of the few, if not the only one, to raise concerns about 'Special Immigration Status', which places asylum seekers who are not protected by the Refugee Convention but can't be returned to their countries of origin, in permanent limbo and destitution.

He was instrumental in retaining discretion with regards to the HC321 (automatic bans); and played a major role in achieving concessions with regards to: the Immigration and Nationality (Fees) (Amendment) Regulations 2008; the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 (Duty to Share Information and Disclosure of Information for Security Purposes) Order 2008; and Immigration (Biometric Registration) Regulations 2008.

He has been consistently vocal on welfare of children and detainees.

On behalf of lesbian and gay asylum seekers, he has been tireless in raising awareness of the perverse situation whereby countries in which gay men and lesbians are known to be persecuted, are nonetheless deemed ‘safe’ by the Home Office.

He continues to fight for the ‘safe’ designation to be lifted and we know will continue to do so under the new government.

Only yesterday he was raising in the House of Lords the very real concern that Refugee and Migrant Justice (formerly the refugee legal centre) may close, leaving many more asylum seekers unrepresented.

Lord Avebury, UKLGIG would like to acknowledge your work on our behalf. Please accept your award for selfless long-term commitment to the pursuit of justice"


Eric is a descendant of William Lubbock (1701–54). He is the son of the Honourable Maurice Fox Pitt Lubbock (the sixth son of John Lubbock, 1st Baron Avebury) and the Honourable Mary Katherine Adelaide Stanley, daughter of Arthur Lyulph Stanley, 5th Baron Sheffield and Stanley of Alderley. His cousin John Lubbock, 3rd Baron Avebury died without a male heir in 1971, and Eric succeeded him.

Eric's eldest son Lyulph is a family history buff and has attempted a fairly comprehensive ‘bang-tail’ muster of all living Lubbocks.

As my father’s mother was born Constance Maud Mary Lubbock, I emailed Lyulph and to my considerable astonishment he was able to furnish me with a Family Tree that included Constance and her marriage to Harry ‘Johnson’ (we now know of course that Harry’s original surname was Shorrocks).

Lyulph was able to tell me that the earliest references to the Lubbock name centre around the parish of Erpingham in Norfolk – and that there is a strong likelihood that we are all related to a single founder – a Hansa Merchant from Lubeck who must have settled in Norfolk, after representing the Hanseatic League in the English wool – Baltic herring trade.

He also pointed out that there are 3 known historic connections between my branch of the family and his own (the North Walsham branch):

1) Barbara Lubbock in my chart married Richard Lubbock in his
2) Webster Lubbock was the son of William Lubbock and Alice Webster. Alice was the sister of his 6 x great grandmother Elizabeth Lubbock (nee Webster)
3) Mary Lubbock, Webster’s wife was he believes from his chart.

He notes that his branch of the family resided in North Walsham for at least two and a half centuries, and that for most of that time they were simply yeoman farmers, if somewhat more well off than many. In the eighteenth century, this branch achieved sufficient prosperity to acquire a large house called Scarborough Hill House in the town.

This house still exists, as a hotel. It was cousins of this branch who had moved slightly south, to the parish of Lammas, who became much wealthier by establishing a family banking house, gaining distinction in the sciences and eventually being awarded the title.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Jimmy Reid - the Affirmation of Common Humanity


Jimmy Reid, the Clydeside trade union activist and prominent Scottish Communist who died this week, was an inspiring orator. His speech, delivered on his inauguration as rector of Glasgow University in 1972 is reproduced below.

At the time, it was compared to the Gettysburg Address. It has lost little of its relevance.

But, as a social democrat, while I can accept the analysis, I can’t accept the proposed solution. The fallibility and corruptibility of human beings makes it essential that regular opportunities are provided for reality checks.

As Churchill commented:

“Many forms of Government have been tried and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time”.

Again from Churchill:

“The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings. The inherent virtue of Socialism is the equal sharing of miseries”.

Well, that's a typical view from the head and not the heart.

My fellow NZ Labour Party candidate Chris Lipscombe (Wellington Regional Council) has a somewhat different insight:

'There are really only two kinds of people in the world: those that think everbody else is trying to take something off them - and those who think that they have something to give'.

So when all has gang agley, people like Chris and I give greater credence to the heart and less to the head.


[UK Independent, Friday, 13 August 2010]

Alienation is the precise and correctly applied word for describing the major social problem in Britain today. People feel alienated by society. In some intellectual circles it is treated almost as a new phenomenon. It has, however, been with us for years. What I believe is true is that today it is more widespread, more pervasive than ever before.

Let me right at the outset define what I mean by alienation. It is the cry of men who feel themselves the victims of blind economic forces beyond their control. It's the frustration of ordinary people excluded from the processes of decision-making.

The feeling of despair and hopelessness that pervades people who feel with justification that they have no real say in shaping or determining their own destinies.

Many may not have rationalised it. May not even understand, may not be able to articulate it. But they feel it. It therefore conditions and colours their social attitudes. Alienation expresses itself in different ways in different people.

It is to be found in what our courts often describe as the criminal antisocial behaviour of a section of the community. It is expressed by those young people who want to opt out of society, by drop-outs, the so-called maladjusted, those who seek to escape permanently from the reality of society through intoxicants and narcotics.

Of course, it would be wrong to say it was the sole reason for these things. But it is a much greater factor in all of them than is generally recognised.

Society and its prevailing sense of values leads to another form of alienation. It alienates some from humanity. It partially de-humanises some people, makes them insensitive, ruthless in their handling of fellow human beings, self-centred and grasping. The irony is, they are often considered normal and well-adjusted.

It is my sincere contention that anyone who can be totally adjusted to our society is in greater need of psychiatric analysis and treatment than anyone else.

They remind me of the character in the novel, Catch 22, the father of Major Major. He was a farmer in the American Mid-West. He hated suggestions for things like medi-care, social services, unemployment benefits or civil rights. He was, however, an enthusiast for the agricultural policies that paid farmers for not bringing their fields under cultivation.

From the money he got for not growing alfalfa he bought more land in order not to grow alfalfa. He became rich. Pilgrims came from all over the state to sit at his feet and learn how to be a successful non-grower of alfalfa. His philosophy was simple. The poor didn't work hard enough and so they were poor.

He believed that the good Lord gave him two strong hands to grab as much as he could for himself. He is a comic figure. But think – have you not met his like here in Britain? Here in Scotland? I have.

It is easy and tempting to hate such people. However, it is wrong. They are as much products of society, and of a consequence of that society, human alienation, as the poor drop-out. They are losers. They have lost the essential elements of our common humanity.

Man is a social being. Real fulfilment for any person lies in service to his fellow men and women. The big challenge to our civilisation is not Oz, a magazine I haven't seen, let alone read. Nor is it permissiveness, although I agree our society is too permissive.

Any society which, for example, permits over one million people to be unemployed is far too permissive for my liking. Nor is it moral laxity in the narrow sense that this word is generally employed – although in a sense here we come nearer to the problem. It does involve morality, ethics, and our concept of human values. The challenge we face is that of rooting out anything and everything that distorts and devalues human relations.

Let me give two examples from contemporary experience to illustrate the point.

Recently on television I saw an advert. The scene is a banquet. A gentleman is on his feet proposing a toast. His speech is full of phrases like "this full-bodied specimen". Sitting beside him is a young, buxom woman. The image she projects is not pompous but foolish. She is visibly preening herself, believing that she is the object of the bloke's eulogy.

Then he concludes – "and now I give...", then a brand name of what used to be described as Empire sherry. Then the laughter. Derisive and cruel laughter. The real point, of course, is this. In this charade, the viewers were obviously expected to identify not with the victim but with her tormentors.

The other illustration is the widespread, implicit acceptance of the concept and term "the rat race". The picture it conjures up is one where we are scurrying around scrambling for position, trampling on others, back-stabbing, all in pursuit of personal success.

Even genuinely intended, friendly advice can sometimes take the form of someone saying to you, "Listen, you look after number one." Or as they say in London, "Bang the bell, Jack, I'm on the bus."

To the students [of Glasgow University] I address this appeal. Reject these attitudes. Reject the values and false morality that underlie these attitudes. A rat race is for rats. We're not rats. We're human beings. Reject the insidious pressures in society that would blunt your critical faculties to all that is happening around you, that would caution silence in the face of injustice lest you jeopardise your chances of promotion and self-advancement.

This is how it starts, and before you know where you are, you're a fully paid-up member of the rat-pack. The price is too high. It entails the loss of your dignity and human spirit. Or as Christ put it, "What doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his soul?"

Profit is the sole criterion used by the establishment to evaluate economic activity. From the rat race to lame ducks. The vocabulary in vogue is a give-away. It's more reminiscent of a human menagerie than human society. The power structures that have inevitably emerged from this approach threaten and undermine our hard-won democratic rights.

The whole process is towards the centralisation and concentration of power in fewer and fewer hands. The facts are there for all who want to see. Giant monopoly companies and consortia dominate almost every branch of our economy. The men who wield effective control within these giants exercise a power over their fellow men which is frightening and is a negation of democracy.

Government by the people for the people becomes meaningless unless it includes major economic decision-making by the people for the people. This is not simply an economic matter. In essence it is an ethical and moral question, for whoever takes the important economic decisions in society ipso facto determines the social priorities of that society.

From the Olympian heights of an executive suite, in an atmosphere where your success is judged by the extent to which you can maximise profits, the overwhelming tendency must be to see people as units of production, as indices in your accountants' books.

To appreciate fully the inhumanity of this situation, you have to see the hurt and despair in the eyes of a man suddenly told he is redundant, without provision made for suitable alternative employment, with the prospect in the West of Scotland, if he is in his late forties or fifties, of spending the rest of his life in the Labour Exchange.

Someone, somewhere has decided he is unwanted, unneeded, and is to be thrown on the industrial scrap heap. From the very depth of my being, I challenge the right of any man or any group of men, in business or in government, to tell a fellow human being that he or she is expendable.

The concentration of power in the economic field is matched by the centralisation of decision-making in the political institutions of society. The power of Parliament has undoubtedly been eroded over past decades, with more and more authority being invested in the Executive. The power of local authorities has been and is being systematically undermined.

The only justification I can see for local government is as a counter- balance to the centralised character of national government.

Local government is to be restructured. What an opportunity, one would think, for de-centralising as much power as possible back to the local communities. Instead, the proposals are for centralising local government.

It's once again a blue-print for bureaucracy, not democracy. If these proposals are implemented, in a few years when asked "Where do you come from?" I can reply: "The Western Region." It even sounds like a hospital board.

It stretches from Oban to Girvan and eastwards to include most of the Glasgow conurbation. As in other matters, I must ask the politicians who favour these proposals – where and how in your calculations did you quantify the value of a community? Of community life? Of a sense of belonging? Of the feeling of identification? These are rhetorical questions.

I know the answer. Such human considerations do not feature in their thought processes.

Everything that is proposed from the establishment seems almost calculated to minimise the role of the people, to miniaturise man. I can understand how attractive this prospect must be to those at the top.

Those of us who refuse to be pawns in their power game can be picked up by their bureaucratic tweezers and dropped in a filing cabinet under "M" for malcontent or maladjusted. When you think of some of the high flats around us, it can hardly be an accident that they are as near as one could get to an architectural representation of a filing cabinet.

If modern technology requires greater and larger productive units, let's make our wealth-producing resources and potential subject to public control and to social accountability. Let's gear our society to social need, not personal greed. Given such creative re-orientation of society, there is no doubt in my mind that in a few years we could eradicate in our country the scourge of poverty, the underprivileged, slums, and insecurity.

Even this is not enough. To measure social progress purely by material advance is not enough. Our aim must be the enrichment of the whole quality of life. It requires a social and cultural, or if you wish, a spiritual transformation of our country.

A necessary part of this must be the restructuring of the institutions of government and, where necessary, the evolution of additional structures so as to involve the people in the decision-making processes of our society. The so-called experts will tell you that this would be cumbersome or marginally inefficient.

I am prepared to sacrifice a margin of efficiency for the value of the people's participation.

Anyway, in the longer term, I reject this argument.To unleash the latent potential of our people requires that we give them responsibility. The untapped resources of the North Sea are as nothing compared to the untapped resources of our people.

I am convinced that the great mass of our people go through life without even a glimmer of what they could have contributed to their fellow human beings. This is a personal tragedy. It's a social crime. The flowering of each individual's personality and talents is the pre-condition for everyone's development.

In this context education has a vital role to play. If automation and technology is accompanied as it must be with a full employment, then the leisure time available to man will be enormously increased. If that is so, then our whole concept of education must change.

The whole object must be to equip and educate people for life, not solely for work or a profession. The creative use of leisure, in communion with and in service to our fellow human beings, can and must become an important element in self-fulfilment.

Universities must be in the forefront of development, must meet social needs and not lag behind them. It is my earnest desire that this great University of Glasgow should be in the vanguard, initiating changes and setting the example for others to follow.

Part of our educational process must be the involvement of all sections of the university on the governing bodies. The case for student representation is unanswerable. It is inevitable.

My conclusion is to re-affirm what I hope and certainly intend to be the spirit permeating this address. It's an affirmation of faith in humanity. All that is good in man's heritage involves recognition of our common humanity, an unashamed acknowledgement that man is good by nature.

Burns expressed it in a poem that technically was not his best, yet captured the spirit. In "Why should we idly waste our prime...":

"The golden age, we'll then revive, each man shall be a brother,
In harmony we all shall live and till the earth together,
In virtue trained, enlightened youth shall move each fellow creature,
And time shall surely prove the truth that man is good by nature."

It's my belief that all the factors to make a practical reality of such a world are maturing now. I would like to think that our generation took mankind some way along the road towards this goal. It's a goal worth fighting for.

[Reproduced with permission from the archive of the University of Glasgow]

Beauty in the Ashes


Island Bay resident Donna Muir says the songs that make up her first album are message driven.

‘I guess that I have something that I want to communicate. On the surface, ‘Beauty in the Ashes’ is about suffering and grief.

I tried to write about suffering and loss. I think a lot of the songs will have a high degree of resonance with people who have struggled with this in their lives.

Hopefully though there is a degree of redemption and hope – out of the ashes.

Singing is a way to communicate about people’s difficulties, to make a difference in people’s lives – and possibly encourage some kind of change.

It has been really good to have a creative project”.

‘Beauty in the Ashes’ was released by Jayrem Records on 2 August 2010. It had been recorded over a five year period.

Donna wrote the lyrics and melodies, and her singing tutor Jonny Spence wrote the music and arranged and produced the album.

“I started off with five of my own songs and five covers but ended up with 13 of just my own”.

Donna’s husband Peter, who plays the drums on the album has always encouraged her – sometimes with a critique and sometimes with constructive advice.

Donna, Peter and her group recently performed her album songs for the local community at St Hilda’s Church, Island Bay.

“It was very much a local thing with friends, family and neighbours. It was a wonderful evening. It was a lovely warm environment”.


Donna Muir is of Scottish and Maori (Aitanga a Hauiti / Ngati Porou) descent has a background that includes shearing gangs, missionary work, studying drama (and acting), vocalist for Wellington band Salt Licks - and working as a dedicated mid-wife.

She is also a competitive and winning Lyall Bay surfboarder.

Donna's husband Peter is a great builder - he built our new barbecue deck!

Details of her album and how to purchase it online can be found at the Black Seeds Website at:


[Interview notes courtesy of Agnes Ginestet, CityLife News, 30 June 2010]

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Who Do You Think You Are - and what were they worth?


Ancestry.com has just made available online a searchable database of UK Wills. I thought then that I would have a try at finding some from my family. And I did indeed find the Will declared in 1906 for my great, great, grandfather Walter.

Walter Shorrocks of The Crescent, Salford (Lancashire) is recorded as dying 8 January 1906, leaving £327 16s 6d to his widow Ann Shorrocks.

Being only human and seeing money at least as one anthropocentric measure of personal value, I immediately consulted the online site Measuring Worth to find out how much that is in today’s money.

Five alternative values were given (indexing from 1906 to 2009)

£26,100.00 using the retail price index
£32,500.00 using the GDP deflator
£137,000.00 using the average earnings
£158,000.00 using the per capita GDP
£225,000.00 using the share of GDP

As an economist, I am afraid I have to be pedantic here and tell you the difference between the measures:

• The retail price index (RPI) shows the cost of goods and services purchased by a typical household in one period relative to a base period. It is best used when the monetary amount is the cost or price of a simple product, such as a loaf of bread or a pair of shoes.
• The GDP deflator is an index of all prices in the economy. It is a good measure for complex products, such as personal computers, or commodities purchased by businesses, such as machinery.
• Average earnings are a logical measure for computing relative value of wages, salaries, or other income or wealth.
• Per-capita GDP, the average share of a person in the total income of the economy, is also indicated in this context.
• GDP, the economy's total output of goods and services in money terms, is the best measure for large-scale projects or expenditures, such as the construction of a bridge or government expenditure on health care.

So, one of the higher figures is appropriate in the case of the money passed on to my great, great grandmother Ann Shorrocks. But the exercise does illustrate the difficulties that crop up in trying to compare statistics on wealth and well-being over long periods of time.

New readers of the Blog will ponder no doubt on how my paternal great, great grandfather had the family name Shorrocks, while mine is Johnson.

More longstanding readers will of course recognize that this is how the Blog started – as a record of my family history research and of the tracking down of a lad who went bad and did a runner, my grandfather Harry.


In the early part of my life, I was brought up in an entirely female household, as my father had been killed in the RAF in WWII seven months before I was born.

It was not until I was five years old that men really came into my life – in the form of my step-father Horace Darlington and the workers on the farm in Cheshire that Horace managed.

When, over the years I found myself the father of four boys, I decided that it would be nice to be able to pass on something to them about my own father’s family. But information was almost non-existent as my paternal grandfather Harry had died in London a year after my birth and links with the families of my father’s two brothers had frayed.

So what started as a simple challenge became a serious hobby that in turn yielded a significant set of engaging problems – one of which - identifying the origins of my grandfather Harry Johnson became a longstanding challenge (2002-2009) to both my research abilities and patience.

It turned out to be a real ‘Who do you think you are?’ puzzle.

For starters, Johnson is a very common name – it is the second most common name in the USA (with 2.2 million holders) and the tenth most common name in England. It also has alternative spellings (principally Johnston and Johnstone but also rarer name variants like the specifically Cheshire version Joynson). And Harry is not a highly distinctive name as it can stand by itself - and act as a nickname form of Henry, Harold and even Hereward.

The scraps of oral information that I could remember were meagre. My mother had told me that the Johnsons originated in Salford, Lancashire and that there was a tradition of giving the eldest sons the name of Robert. Subsequent contact with my three Johnson cousins (Janice, Robert’s daughter) and Judy and Gillian (the daughters of Eric Johnson) added nothing substantial that could be used in pinning down the family’s origins.

Surprisingly, Robert (or Uncle Bob as he was always known to me) referred to his father as ‘Harold’ Johnson when he submitted details to the War office for the commemoration of my father’s death. In contrast, my father recorded his father as ‘Henry’ Johnson when provided details for his own marriage certificate.

However, when I was able to obtain Harry’s own marriage certificates (recording his marriage to my grandmother Constance Maud Mary Lubbock in 1907 and his re-marriage as a widower to Florence Wood in 1944) he clearly recorded himself as ‘Harry’ Johnson.

It started to seem that some of the facts about ‘Harry Johnson’ were not entirely straightforward – not the least of which was the conundrum that two of his sons differed markedly in their interpretations of his name.

Of course, people who wish to gain anonymity may be cautious in their disclosure of facts - and indeed adopt more common names that allow them to dissolve into the general populace.

One ‘fact’ did emerge from the early rounds of research. In both of Harry’s marriage certificates he refers to his father (my great grandfather) as ‘Robert Edwin Johnson’ and cites his occupation as ‘Brush Manufacturer’.

This then became the focus of the research – to identify a brush manufacturer / brushmaker with the name of Robert or Robert Edwin Johnson, who had a son with a name that could be related to ‘Harry’ and who was born in or around 1879 (the various certificates supported a birthday in the early part of 1879).

As the research evolved, the internet information sources became steadily more diverse and complete between 2002 and 2009. Initially, the search began with the 1881 Census which was the first to be computerized (FamilySearch.com) and which has a useful search engine that allows search links between an individual (e.g. Harry Johnson) and the head of household containing the individual (e.g. Robert Edwin Johnson).

The obvious starting point was Salford, Lancashire. The search did not yield any plausible results. Subsequently, it has become possible to access all of the decennial censuses for England from 1841 to 1911. Combing them became a very long-term and necessarily tedious task. None of them provides any link to a brush manufacturer named Robert / Robert Edwin Johnson who had a son who could reasonably have been called ‘Harry’.

At some point in 2004, I decided to take a complementary approach and commission a male line ydna test to identify relatives through their internal genetic ‘signature’. I joined the FamilyTreeDNA company’s Johnson – Johnston – Johnstone ‘One-Name’ ydna study which records and collates the results of tests on males who bear the name Johnson and its variants.

While the study focuses on US families (with special reference to the colonial settlements in Virginia), it is reasonable to assume that links could be established with originating families like mine that remained in the United Kingdom. Currently, there are well over 500 test results on the site. There are no results that are at all close to mine (and this also holds true for the results posted on a much smaller UK-only website).

As an after-thought in the light of my growing interest in genetic signatures and pre-history, I posted my ydna results on the general research site ‘Ysearch’. For at least 18 months, there were no matches closer than 10:12. Then, a single 12:12 match appeared with a Canadian with the family name Shorrock (whose family originated in the Blackburn-Darwen area of Lancashire).

Some weeks later, in an idle moment, I punched the name Harry Shorrock into the 1891 Census search engine. The hair of the back of my neck stood straight when I read the results – there was a Harry Shorrocks born 1879 of Salford, Lancashire, whose father had the name Robert Edwin Shorrocks and whose occupation was that of a Foreman Brushmaker!

It subsequently transpired that Robert, his father Walter and his grandfather James were the successive heads of a long-standing brush manufacturing business in Salford.

I then began to seriously consider the possibility that Harry Johnson and Harry Shorrocks were indeed one and the same. To test this proposition, I commissioned a UK-based professional genealogist Antony Adolph (a contributor to the current BBC series ‘Who Do You Think You Are’) to review the evidence. He concluded that it was likely that Harry did in fact change his name prior to marrying my grandmother in London.

Insofar as there was a problem that remained, it revolved around the fact that we had no established birthplace for ‘Harry Johnson’. However, the release of the results of the 1911 census in January 2009 provided the final linchpin for the case when Harry stated that he had been indeed been born in 1879 in Salford, Lancashire.

Searching the 1901 and 1911 censuses we therefore find:

Harry Shorrocks aged 22 born Salford, Lancashire
Harry Johnson No result born Salford, Lancashire?

Harry Shorrocks No result born Salford, Lancashire?
Harry Johnson aged 32 born Salford, Lancashire

So the upshot is simply that Harry Johnson was born Harry Shorrocks and that my family history on the male side beyond 1901 is of Shorrocks ancestors and not Johnsons.

The entries for the 1881 Census show my grandfather Harry Shorrocks (i.e. Johnson) aged 2, living with his father, mother and baby sister Louisa at 309 Eccles New Road, Salford. Harry’s grandfather Walter Shorrocks (Brush Manufacturer) is shown living at 23 Islington Street, Salford with his wife Ann.

It seems then that the family ran a small business in which my great grandfather Robert worked as a warehouseman and his brother William worked as a brush maker.


Well, the short answer is that I don’t know and may never be able to find out why Harry Shorrocks left Salford around 1905 and melted into the population of South London as Harry Johnson.

However, I have re-established links with my Shorrocks relatives after a rift of over 100 years and they have a vague family memory of him being a ‘bit of a bad lot’.

My own guess is that he was a spoilt young man (he was the first son of an only-child mother) who may have got involved in the local Salford ‘scuttling’ gangs, which in turn led on to drinking, gambling ad womanizing.

Social historian Andrew Davies quotes a social commentator from the 1890s on ‘scuttling’ (Harry would have been 16 years old in 1895):

A "scuttler" is a lad, usually between the ages of 14 and 18, or even 19, and "scuttling" consists of the fighting of two opposed bands of youths, who are armed with various weapons.

Davies himself goes on to comment:

‘In the working-class neighbourhoods of late Victorian Manchester and Salford, there co-existed a range of very different conceptions of what "being a man" entailed. As the principal wage-earners in most families, men claimed the status of breadwinner, stressing their capacity to provide for their wives and children, and thus deriving their standing as men in part from their role within the household.

However, another pervasive conception of manliness centred upon a very different set of virtues, including toughness--expressed both in a man's physical labour and in his everyday public conduct--and the capacity to drink heavily, which earned a man peer recognition, as a "hard" man, or "man's" man.

Of course, the categories of breadwinner and "hard" man were not mutually exclusive. Many men managed to subscribe to elements of both notions of what it meant to be a man, adopting different personas in different contexts. Others, however, were more clearly distinguished either as "family" men or as heavy-drinking, "hard" men, and boys growing up in such districts were therefore faced with quite diverse role models.

For young men in their mid- to late-teens, the status of breadwinner was usually unattainable. Within the family, most were restricted to the role of supplementary wage-earner and were subject to the authority of their fathers. The role of the "hard" man, which was available to them, thus appears to have been especially attractive’.

So Harry may well have been a member of a gang as a youth who later as a young man got himself into more trouble as ‘a stranger to the truth’ with money, and a cad with women.

He was though from all accounts a charming and funny man who was brilliant at his job as a Stockbroker’s Clerk in the City and well-liked as a Surrey cricket umpire.

I am sorry that we can’t have a beer or two together to run through the story and fill in a few details.


The Crescent is now a busy dual carriageway on the A6 corridor close to Salford University and less than a mile from Manchester City Centre.

It is best known for its famous pub, 'The Crescent'.

This is a Grade II Listed Building built in the 1860's. Here Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels once drank and discussed revolution and the theory of Communism.

The German-born philosopher and communist thinker, Engels, ran a mill in the town for his father in the second half of the 19th century while researching his classic work, The Condition of the Working Class in England.

At that time the Pub was appropriately known as The Red Dragon.

I have mental pictures of my gg grandfather Walter arguefiying in his cups over politics with the two conspiratorial Germans - and of my grandfather Harry being thrown out a few decades later for being rowdy.

The Crescent has now been in the Camra Good Beer Guide for 23 consecutive years, a record for Manchester, and is highly regarded as an institution. There is a unique charm about the place, with its rustic open fire and friendly atmosphere, those who visit for a first time are certain to return.

Up to 10 Real Ales and 3 Scrumpy Ciders available together with a wide range of Continental beers.

Events include:
- Quarterly Beer festivals
- Monday night Quiz from 9.30pm
- Wednesday night = Curry night from 5 - 8.00pm
- Regular live music in the Vault
- Open mic night Sunday fortnightly 7.30pm

Great atmosphere:
A mix of locals, businessmen, lecturers and students from Salford University .... all more than welcome.

Well worth a visit!













Thursday, August 5, 2010

Balikbayan solastalgia / rekwerdo na Pilipinas


A good friend Ian Gill writes from my old 'Second Home' the Philippines:

"The guide took me aside and talked about the “apparition.” He pointed to the wall of Bohol’s Baclayon, one of the Philippines’ oldest stone churches. There, he said, is the face of Padre Pio (the Italian mystic and priest who is said to have appeared with the stigmata of the crucified Jesus).

I could see nothing except dark weather stains on the gray wall. The guide asked me to take a photograph. When I looked at the digital image, I could make out a picture of a bearded man, said to resemble Padre Pio. Judge for yourself from the attached photo!

Bohol is a laid-back, often overlooked province in the central Visayas. Up till a few years ago, its impoverished people hunted and killed dolphins. They also snared and stuffed tarsiers – the tiny endangered primates – to sell to tourists.

Thanks to the eco movement, that’s largely changed, which made our short holiday more enjoyable. Scores of “spinner” dolphins – which leap into the air and twirl – surrounded our banca during an early morning ride with two ex-fishermen. They jump from nowhere and only for a split second, so photographing them is a challenge!

The tarsier, with its bulging eyes (bigger than its brain or stomach) and human-like fingers is easier to photograph and very photogenic.

The kids enjoyed seeing Bohol’s unique Chocolate hills – turned green by the rainy season – but were disappointed they weren’t edible.

A stay in Bohol is very reasonable. For example, a two-hour river cruise through the “jungle” costs only $10, and includes lunch plus singing and dancing (including the tinikling, where dancers hop between bamboo poles in imitation of the tikling bird).

The better homes in Bohol are built by foreigners, including many Germans, and their Filipino wives. It was a German who reportedly discovered the “apparition” of Padre Pio."

We are 'Only Human'


As anyone who knows this Blog reasonably well will recognize, I am a great believer in trying to understand human behaviour.

And I draw a lot on the concepts of ‘genes’ (the ‘hard-wired responses that come from our genetic adaptations) and ‘memes’ (the accumulated memories of our family and collective unconscious).

I was interested then in a recent report (quoted at the bottom of this article) on the Emotional Lives of Animals. I have prefaced this with a brief review of the more conventional concept of ‘Fight or Flight’.

In some ways what is said about animal emotions is almost obvious. And, growing up on a small family farm, I have never been in any doubt that animals of the same species, like pigs and cows, have their own individual characters.

But I think that there is also a point worth picking up about human beings.

Maybe one of our defining emotional characteristics as a species – the intense range and diversity of our emotions – draws a lot from our frightening vulnerability in our pre-weapon, pre-fire existence on the shoreline and the edges of the forest.

Not surprisingly, when we finally managed to relieve our anxieties by banding together, communicating and arming ourselves, our flight instinct easily switched to aggression – particularly for the males.

And the female genes and memes that fostered women (who were predominantly gatherers) led to the development of a different emotional repertoire.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be so hard on ourselves then about the endless problems that we seem to share in getting our act together as social beings.

FIGHT OR FLIGHT (borrowed from Wikipedia)

Animals respond to threats in many complex ways. Rats, for instance, try to escape when threatened, but will fight when cornered. Some animals stand perfectly still so that predators will not see them. Many animals freeze or play dead when touched in the hope that the predator will lose interest.

Others have more exotic self-protection methods. Some species of fish change color swiftly, to camouflage themselves. These responses are triggered by the sympathetic nervous system, but in order to fit the model of fight or flight, the idea of flight must be broadened to include escaping capture in either a physical way or in a sensory way.

Thus, flight can be disappearing to another location or just disappearing in place. And often both fight and flight are combined in a given situation.

The fight or flight actions also have polarity - the individual can fight or flee against or away from something that is threatening, such as a hungry lion, or fight or fly for or towards something that is needed, such as the safety of the shore of a raging river.

A threat from another animal does not always result in immediate fight or flight. There may be a period of heightened awareness, during which each animal interprets behavioral signals from the other. Signs such as paling, piloerection, immobility, sounds, and body language communicate the status and intentions of each animal.

There may be a sort of negotiation, after which fight or flight may ensue, but which might also result in playing, mating, or nothing at all. An example of this is kittens playing: each kitten shows the signs of sympathetic arousal, but they never inflict real damage.

As for human beings:

In prehistoric times when the fight or flight response evolved, fight was manifested in aggressive, combative behavior and flight was manifested by fleeing potentially threatening situations, such as being confronted by a predator. In current times, these responses persist, but fight and flight responses have assumed a wider range of behaviors.

For example, the fight response may be manifested in angry, argumentative behavior, and the flight response may be manifested through social withdrawal, substance abuse, and even television viewing.

Males and females tend to deal with stressful situations differently. Males are more likely to respond to an emergency situation with aggression (fight), while females are more likely to flee (flight), turn to others for help, or attempt to defuse the situation – 'tend and befriend'.

During stressful times, a mother is especially likely to show protective responses toward her offspring and affiliate with others for shared social responses to threat.


[by Lesley Richardson, Press Association, Wednesday, 4 August 2010]

A framework to understand the emotional lives of animals was revealed today.

Animal choices can be assessed objectively as evidence of pessimistic or optimistic decision-making which indicates their long-term mood.

Professor Mike Mendl and Dr Liz Paul, from the University of Bristol, and Dr Oliver Burman, from the University of Lincoln, looked through papers by experts from Charles Darwin to Paul Ekman and Jaak Panksepp to create the framework which can be used in the field of animal welfare and neuroscience.

Professor Mike Mendl, head of the Animal Welfare and Behaviour research group at Bristol University's School of Clinical Veterinary Science, said: "Because we can measure animal choices objectively, we can use optimistic and pessimistic decision-making as an indicator of the animal's emotional state which itself is much more difficult to assess.

"Recent studies by our group and others suggest that this may be a valuable new approach in a variety of animal species.

"Public interest in animal welfare remains high, with widespread implications for the way in which animals are treated, used and included in society.

"We believe our approach could help us to better understand and assess an animal's emotion."

An animal living in a world where it is regularly threatened by predators will develop a negative emotion or mood, such as anxiety.

Conversely, an environment with plenty of opportunities for survival resources creates a more positive mood state.

The researchers argued that these emotional states not only reflect the animal's experiences, they also help it decide how to make choices, especially in ambiguous situations which could have good or bad outcomes.

An animal in a negative state will benefit from adopting a safety-first, pessimistic response to an ambiguous event, according to the review which is published online in the Proceedings of the Royal Society.

An example includes interpreting a rustle in the grass as signalling a predator compared to an animal in a positive state with a more optimistic response which would interpret it as signalling prey.

Monday, August 2, 2010

One for the Family Album


I have gone a bit quiet of late on matters of Family History but am stirred into action this morning by the appearance of a photo of one of my (distant) relatives.

Oetzi and I are related through our mothers, both of whom belong to the ‘Katrine Clan’ in terms of their mitochondrial DNA.

We seem to share some family characteristics but he looks as though he needs a good feed.


Oetzi's genetic code could shed light on hereditary diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and cancer.

[By Michael Day, UK Independent, Monday, 2 August 2010]

Nearly 20 years after the dead man's head was found peeping from a melting Alpine glacier, investigators have finally seen fit to contact his relatives.

This doesn't indicate sloth on the part of the Italian authorities, but instead, advances in DNA technology that may lead scientists to living descendants of the South Tyrol's 5,300-year-old mummified man.

Oetzi the iceman, who today resides in a sterile, glass box at 7C in 100 per cent humidity, is by far the oldest mummified person ever found – those of ancient Egypt are at least 1,000 years younger. He is the permanent star exhibit in a museum in the town of Bolzano.

In this grotesque but timeless state, researchers have been able to extract DNA from a bone in his pelvis. And this week it was announced they had sequenced his entire genome and that the hunt was now on to find Oetzi's descendants – and evidence of genetic changes that have occurred since Neolithic times.

With Oetzi's complete genetic map for their perusal, Dr Albert Zink, the director of the Iceman Institute in Bolzano, and his colleagues said it might also be possible to shed light on hereditary aspects of diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and cancer.

"There are key gene mutations that we know are associated with diseases such as cancer and diabetes and we want to see if Oetzi had them or whether they arose more recently," he said.

Earlier studies had decoded the iceman's mitochondrial DNA, but these tiny gene sequences, which are passed by mothers to their children, provided only limited information, although they did suggest that if Oetzi still had relatives in the Alps, there weren't that many of them.

Dr Zink, is now working with Carsten Pusch from the Institute of Human Genetics at the University of Tübingen and Andreas Keller from Febit, a bio-tech firm in Heidelberg, to share resources and knowledge, and hopefully speed the arrival of research findings in time for next year's 20th annivesary of Oetzi's discovery.

"From comparisons based on the mitochondrial DNA we weren't able to find any relatives in the region. But with the entire genome, there's a good chance we might," said Dr Zink. "We're at the start of a big and very exciting project. I think Oetzi is going to provide us with a lot of information."

Oetzi has proved a goldmine for scientists since he was discovered in the snow on 19 September 1991, over 3,000m up on the Italian-Austrian border. Anthropologists learnt from the degree and positioning of wear and tear in Oetzi's joints that some Neolithic people, contrary to previous theories, spent most if not all their lives high in the mountains.

Oetzi, who was about 5ft 5in tall, weighed about 59 kg and was probably around 45 years old when he died, had also been around the block a few times. He had three broken ribs, a nasty cut on his hand, the intestinal parasite whipworm and fleas.

Scientist were also able to piece together his attire – a goatskin loincloth, leather leggings, a goatskin coat and a cloak of grass stitched together with animal sinews.

He wore a bearskin cap and leather shoes stuffed with grass to keep his feet warm.

But Oetzi might be considered ahead of his time in the style stakes. While today's young Italians race to cover their legs, necks and elbows in ugly spider web tattoos, Oetzi had beaten them to it with, around 57, rather more tasteful, carbon tattoos consisting of dots and lines.

It was the nature of Oetzi's death, though, that has most captured the imagination. Initially, it was thought that he froze to death in a blizzard.

But CT scans have since revealed that his body contained a flint-headed arrow that entered through his shoulder stopping just short of his left lung, but rupturing the key blood vessel carrying blood from his heart to his left arm. Oetzi was murdered.

"Judging by the degree of damage to a major artery, it's almost certain that he bled to death," said Dr Zink, "and quickly, too."

Traces of blood from four different people on the Otzi's dagger suggest an earlier or ongoing skirmish might have been related to the fatal wound, perhaps with the iceman taking an arrow in the back while fleeing his adversaries -- members, possibly of a rival tribe.

The absence of an arrow shaft has led one researcher, Dr Eduard Egarter Vigl, a pathologist in Bolzano, to suggest the killer had removed it to cover his tracks, since arrows can be identified easily.

More prosaic controversies have arisen, too, following the discovery of his corpse in the Schnalstal glacier. At first, it wasn't clear in which country Oetzi had been discovered. But surveys in October 1991 showed that the body had been found 93 meters inside Italian territory, and so the Italian province grabbed Oetzi.

And the tourist board made a killing. So too did the woman who found him.

Although it wasn't until May this year that the acrimonious dispute over the finder's fee was finally decided.

Authorities announced they would meet the €175,000 (£150,000) demand of the German couple, Helmut and Erika Simon, who found the Iceman. Mrs Simon, by now a widow, argued that the mummy had earned the city of Bolzano tens of million of euros – and that she deserved more than the €5,000 she'd originally been offered for discovering the corpse.

Several others have tried to get the paws on the money. One, a Swiss woman, said she spat on the Iceman to stake her claim. Her DNA was not found on the body, however.

Another, a Slovenian actress, claimed she beat the German couple to the scene by about five minutes and had asked them to take photos of the corpse. But she could produce no one to corroborate her account.

The discovery of Oetzi has also spawned a host of exotic theories regarding the circumstances behind his violent death. One space technology professor has suggested that evidence of an asteroid landing in the area in that period might be linked to the Iceman's demise. He wondered whether Oetzi had been a powerful figure and was used as a ritual sacrifice in order to appease the gods who'd sent the terrifying extra-terrestrial object.

Another theory contested by residents of this formerly Austrian region, who see the Iceman as their forefather, claims he was cast out from his community because a low sperm count rendered him childless.

"I'm not sure whether we'll be able to say whether that's true or not with the DNA sequencing," said Dr Zink. "But there are lots of questions that we might be able to answer."

But staring at poor Oetzi's gnarled, brown corpse, you can't help wondering if the most obvious question is ethical rather than scientific: how recently does someone have to have died before they're entitled to a proper burial - instead of being left in a glass cage like a gooey prop from a horror film, for people to gawp at?

"There has been some discussion on this," says Dr Zink, "and it's a fair point. But this man is 5,300 years old. We do treat him with respect; we look after the body very, very carefully, and he provides us with lot of valuable information. And besides, even if we were to bury him we wouldn't be able to do it according to his customs because we don't know what they were."

So the Iceman will remain the star museum exhibit for the thousands of people who come each year to the Alpine town and stare at his sticky, brown corpse.

But even if they can't bury him, today's distant relatives of the Iceman, might conceivably see the medical benefits -- if, as they say, his captors manage to unlock the secret of his genes.