Getting kicked for Cromwell

Last year the blog decided it would take off to the UK to attend the Cromwell Association Annual General Meeting – a trip which it had been hoping to make for many years.

The fact that the meeting was being held in Shrewsbury – within striking distance of Liverpool, Wales, Bath, Bristol, Stonehenge and Avebury – was another attraction but having been a member for 40 odd years the blog thought it was about time. Indeed, it followed on from the blog’s decision in the same year to participate in an Anzac Day service for the first time in the 48 years since it got back from Vietnam. For those interested in that address it can be found here.

One of the interesting things about that Anzac Day was that the blog was a bit apprehensive about how some of the audience might react. Early in its brief comments the blog spotted a shaven headed man in a sharp suit with a row of medals which made the blog think he had been in both Iraq and Afghanistan. After the address the man started purposely for the lectern and the blog was a bit concerned that it’s slightly subversive (in the eyes of the Murdoch media, various politicians and soldiers who spent their wars in Australia) – but historically accurate comments – may have enraged him. Instead he shook the blog’s hand and said he had come from the Shrine that morning where he had put up with all that f***ng bullshit and was grateful that someone had told the truth. The blog thinks the comment which inspired this was the one about soldiers not fighting for their country and the flag but for their unit, their mates and to stay alive.

The blog would have liked to ask the veteran whether the word f***ng had replaced the universal mother***ing term that American soldiers used constantly in Vietnam. But there wasn’t time to ask or to swap notes. Although afterwards the blog remembered a long ago Times Literary Supplement series of letters in their correspondence pages as to how often the mother etc etc term could be strung together in one sentence. From memory the longest citation was six variations without conjunctions or other linking words. Norman Mailer writing the Naked and the Dead would have envied such literary talent as a replacement for the weaselling versions – for example ‘fug’ – his editors imposed on him.

The blog thought of Anzac Day, violent language and violence when the Cromwell Association Chairman, John Goldsmith, asked it to contribute an article about Cromwell and Australia to the next issue of the Association journal, the Protector’s Pen. The blog is still researching it and will share it with readers when it is published.

But one of the critical things about Cromwell and Australia is the strong Irish presence in our history and the fact that most of them have absorbed the legends about the Protector at the teat.

The blog felt this – literally and not metaphorically – in its days as a sub-editor when knowing the difference between the two was still important. The blog went off to a party at the home of a colleague from the subs’ desk. At the party was one of the reporters and his wife. The reporter’s wife, unbeknownst to the blog, was Irish and when for some reason lost in history it came up that the blog was a member of the Cromwell Association she kicked the blog in the leg. There are not many comebacks to that particularly when you need to sit on the desk and sub the woman’s husband’s copy come Monday.

Recounting this to John Goldsmith the Chairman responded by citing the experience of the distinguished UK historian, Professor John Morrill, who has devoted a life of study to the period from 1500 to 1750 in Britain, and the Civil Wars in particular, as well as writing a biography of Cromwell which the blog can warmly recommend.

Morrill was attacked by a woman with an umbrella in New York who shouted that Cromwell had murdered all her ancestors, to which John drily replied that he thought that was very unlikely.

By the way: Oliver Cromwell was born on April 25 1599 which may make it a more significant date in British and Australian history than the Gallipoli landing – just as 1588 and 1688 were more important dates in settler Australian history than 1788.