Archive | August, 2014

A Tale of Two Thomases

30 Aug

In the south aisle of the parish church of Harrow-on-the-Hill, there is a monument which bears the arms of Graham of Gartmore on its base. It is the tomb of Thomas Graham, Apothecary-General to the Army and Apothecary to Kings George I & II, who was born ca 1666 and who died in Pall Mall on 14th May 1733. He had a son Daniel (to whom we shall return later), who was also an apothecary to kings (George II & III) at the Chelsea Hospital.

File:Thomas Graham (1666-1733) memorial, St Mary's, Harrow on the Hill, 2015 01.jpg

Memorial to Thomas Graham (1666-1733), St Mary’s, Harrow-on-the-Hill  (Photo by Edwardx, Wikipedia Commons )

In about 1699, hundreds of miles away in Scotland, another Thomas Graham was born. He was the third son of Robert Graham MD of Gallingad (later of Gartmore) and his wife Isabel, daughter of Nicol Bontine of Ardoch.

Like his father and older brother Walter, this Thomas too became an apothecary. While Robert had practised medicine in Edinburgh up until he inherited the Gartmore estates from his cousin Mary Hodge, his two sons were destined for greater things. Walter was to become Apothecary-General to the Army in America (but died unmarried in Kingston, Jamaica in May 1742) while Thomas was an Apothecary to George II, making him a contemporary of Daniel Graham at the Chelsea Hospital. In 1756, the wealthy Thomas bought the lands of Buchlyvie-Graham from James Graham of Buchlyvie, but he did not enjoy them for long as he died unmarried in March 1764.

While the ancestry of Thomas Graham of Buchlyvie is certain, that of the other Thomas Graham is far from clear. All that is known is that he was the son of Alexander Graham, who may or may not have been the son of one Robert Graham, an apothecary, who is believed to have come to London at about the same time as the Stuart king. However, there are no Roberts or Alexanders (neither being common names at that period) among the Gartmore Grahams. As there is no evidence that either Thomas ever matriculated arms, the Gartmore Arms (matriculated by Sir William Graham, 1st Baronet of Gartmore in 1673) are therefore used illegally as noted by Lord Lyon Thomas Innes of Learney, who none-the-less confounded the two Thomases in a case in 1957, in which a supposed descendant of the Harrow Thomas tried to block a descendant of Robert Graham of Gartmore from matriculating the Gartmore arms in his own name.

But there is a twist in this tale.

In the Farrington Diary, the artist relates that he and his fellow artist Sir George Beaumont visited the house of William Cunninghame Graham (a great-nephew of Thomas Graham of Buchlyvie, known to his family by the epithet, Bad Willie) in May 1805. There they admired a portrait of four children which was painted by Hogarth in 1742. Farrington was led to believe that it portrayed his host and sisters when Bad Willie was about 8 or 9 years old.

Full title: The Graham Children Artist: William Hogarth Date made: 1742 Source: http://www.nationalgalleryimages.co.uk/ Contact: picture.library@nationalgallery.co.uk Copyright © The National Gallery, London

Full title: The Graham Children
Artist: William Hogarth
Date made: 1742
Source: http://www.nationalgalleryimages.co.uk/
Contact: picture.library@nationalgallery.co.uk
Copyright © The National Gallery, London

As Don Roberto rightly points out in his biography of Bad Willie’s father (Robert Graham of Gartmore, known in the family as Doughty Deeds), this could not be Bad Willie as he wasn’t born until 1775 (11 years after Hogarth’s death). Don Roberto then makes one of his false assumptions. He assumes that as it was in his great-grandfather’s possession it must be of the Gartmore family and that Farrington must have misunderstood (I think it more likely, given Bad Willie’s proclivity for embellishment, that Farrington understood perfectly, but I am less generous than Don Roberto) and it was in fact a portrait of Bad Willie’s father. But had Don Roberto paused to think, he would have realised that this claim is equally dubious.

Doughty Deeds was only 7 in 1742 and was the second of three sons, so where is his elder brother, William? Furthermore, his two sisters (Elizabeth and Isabella) were the youngest of the five children, so who is the eldest girl in the portrait?

Remember I promised to return to Daniel Graham the apothecary, son of the Harrow Thomas Graham. The portrait, it turns out, is of his four children (left to right), Thomas (1740-42), Henrietta (b 1733), Anna Maria (b 1738) and Richard (b 1735). How the portrait came to be in Bad Willie’s possession (in Don Roberto’s day it was in the possession of Lord Normanton and is currently in the National Gallery in London) or why he tried to pass it off as being of him and his sisters to his artist friends we shall probably never know.

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Poor Jack

14 Aug

The paintings in my grandparents’ drawing room did not hang quite right. This wasn’t because they had been badly hung but because the drawing room was oval (even the doors were curved), which meant they didn’t sit flat against the walls.

Some of the portraits were huge, like the one by Sir Joshua Reynolds of Lady Taylor behind the grand piano; others were much smaller, like the portrait (also by Reynolds) of my 6 x great-grandfather, Robert Graham of Gartmore (known as Doughty Deeds), which hung over the fireplace. His portrait was flanked by two much larger ones (both by Robert Edge Pine). To the left of the fireplace was a portrait of his brother-in-law, Simon Taylor (at the time of his death reputedly the richest man in Jamaica) holding an ornate cane in his right hand and a plumed bonnet in his left. To the right was a portrait of Doughty Deeds’ younger brother, John, wearing a red coat and holding his grey horse. It was the latter that attracted my attention most.

We were told that it was a portrait of Colonel John Graham of Kippen, who had supposedly fought with Wellington at the Battle of Assaye (September, 1803) and had been mentioned in despatches. He certainly looked very martial in his fine red coat with its gold tasselled epaulettes and the button holes all laced in gold thread, worn over a similarly decorated buff waistcoat, his long black hair loosely tied back, left hand resting on a basket hilt sword while he held his horse’s reins his right.

Robert+Edge+Pine-Colonel+John+Graham+Of+Kippen,+Third+Son+Of+Nicol+Graham+Of+GartmoreColonel (sic) John Graham of Kippen by R. E. Pine

This was the family myth and we all accepted it; though on reflection, his “uniform” does seem somewhat theatrical.

Years later I was to discover the truth about “Poor Jack” as his family called him. A wastrel and a gambler, he ran up huge debts wherever he went and his strict father, who despaired of him, finally washed his hands of him, leaving his older brother to bail him out. Perhaps there was a message in laird Nicol granting his third son use of Kippen, which lies on the very edge of the estate, as the old local expression, “beyond Kippen” means “at the end of the world”.

Poor Jack was born in 1741 (making very unlikely that he would have taken part in the Battle of Assaye as he would have been 63 years old) and, like his siblings, he was christened in the parish church at the Port of Menteith. He did see military service but only as a Lieutenant in the Honourable East India Company from which he was dismissed for insubordination in 1771 – hardly an advertisement for a regular army commission!  He died sometime before 26th May 1772, which makes it impossible for him to be the Major (later Colonel) John Graham the family myth hoped him to be.

Don Roberto claims that John had a son Jack, who was also a worry to his family, though, if true, nothing is known of his mother. However, I have been unable to find any reputable source to validate the claim. The most reliable source, The Red Book of Perthshire (Gordon MacGregor, 2008), states that Jack died without issue. I suppose it is possible that he had an illegitimate son that was kept out of the official records but who is mentioned in one of the letters on which Don Roberto based his biography of Doughty Deeds. Some day when I am in Edinburgh and have the time, I shall have to look.

As with so many family myths, two people who just happen to share the same – and in this case, very common – name, have been compounded through a descendant’s wild leap of imagination.

Why, YES!

2 Aug

As an emigrant I have no vote – and I think that is correct, as I no longer live in Scotland and this must be decided by those who do live and work there – but I do have a voice.  If I could have, I would have returned to Scotland this year to play whatever part I could in the campaign and to cast my vote in September.  These are my reflections as I have followed the campaigns, the news, the blogs, social media and conversations with friends.

I know that some people think that I am in the wrong camp. My demographics – middle-aged, risk-averse, white male, professional, who was privately educated (for the most part) and has completed post-graduate studies – fit perfectly the profile of a NO supporter. How could I possibly be YES?  How could I betray my very British establishment grandfather, who I adored?

All the NO voters I know personally fit the profile as they come from the same privately educated, white, well-to-do background as I did. Such education in Scotland, in my day, had a very Anglo-centric focus with our being taught English history (not Scottish), English news and opinion, English politics, and geography with maps on which large parts of the globe were still marked in pink. This was an education that still sought to inspire a sense of pride in being British and turn out good servants for God, Queen and Empire (just as they did in my grandfather’s school days), despite that Empire patently being in its death throes. It was already an anachronism.

The Scots Leid was disparaged as just a vulgar dialect of the much superior English, less worthy even than Geordie, Scouse or Brummie (which were bad enough examples of how the lower classes communicated); Gaelic was dismissed as a dying language from a less civilised age whose adherents were just a few old folk in the remotest areas. We were taught the Queen’s English replete with the requisite RP accent. We were implicitly taught that this is the way things were and always would be.

But it was, in part, this very education which led me to YES. Between the ages of 6 and 12, I was fortunate to be educated for education’s sake rather than the current trend to educate for exams. This developed in us an intellectual curiosity, which was openly fostered, and the ability to garner facts to generate a breadth of general knowledge.

This early training meant that the unexamined emotional response, which I encounter in my NO supporting acquaintances, was not enough for me. Scotland’s future is far too important to be left to some vague sentiment instilled in childhood.  But what did it mean to me to be Scottish and /or British? Given that one cannot serve two masters, which was more important to my self-identity?

Having lived most of my life outside Scotland (the land of my birth and the most formative years of my young life), along with the effects of having an American mother, I had to find my identity, be it Scottish, British, Scottish American or European, in the world early on.

When I was uprooted from my homeland, I experienced a casual English arrogance that showed itself in unwitting prejudice. The first example of this was my being put back a year in school for no other reason than I had come from Scotland; then, at the end of the year I was awarded the “Progress prize” for work I had covered 2 years earlier in Scotland.

I very soon discovered that people around me were confused (and sometimes irritated) when my world-view differed from theirs, as not having any accent, they assumed I must be English and so must espouse the same values as them. When I did try to claim my Scots heritage, I had an ever-growing sense that I was somehow being difficult and letting the side down. This feeling was reinforced by patronising or jokey comments that usually had a barb in the tail.

Through this I came to see that, for many (if not most) of the people I lived, studied and worked alongside – without malice or thought – British was merely English writ large, and folk like me were perceived to be no different from them, so we should just stop pretending otherwise and shut up about it (an attitude I see reflected in some of the comments of the “Proud Scots” in the NO camp); and that is what I tried to do.  Yet, instead of making me “British” it slowly reinforced my identity as Scottish.  I was always excited and relieved to cross the border into Scotland, feeling I had come back home (which is still the case whenever I return), and sad in equal measure when returning to England where I lived.  So imagine my ire when the claim was made that my country had been extinguished in 1707 while England had somehow continued.

The whole Unionist case struck me as backward looking, appealing to a sentiment I do not feel, and without hope of change. It claims a certainty for the future – the status quo, which it proclaims acceptable through the adoption of the slogan “UK OK” (with its dual implications that the current situation is acceptable and as good as it is going to get) – while claiming unnecessary risk for the other side, even though it is clear that following a NO vote things will get worse before they ever get better as the bulk of austerity cuts come into force, increased privatisation and Westminster’s lurch ever more to the political right.  “Better Together” for whom? Certainly not the majority of Scots!

At University, I was fortunate enough to have lecturers who encouraged us to think for ourselves and question everything, including them.  This meant that I questioned both sides of the debate, analysed what I was being presented and tried to go back to original sources (much harder to do with NO than YES).  I found that what NO were claiming to be facts were often either spin, misrepresentations or outright lies – from the hypocrisy of a Government who could settle the EU question by simply asking the EU for a ruling all the while accusing the Scottish Government of not giving an answer, to the blatant lies of Vote No Borders and Gordon Brown over the NHS (the former over specialist hospital treatment – countered by Great Ormond Street; the latter over organ donations – dispelled by a letter to an MSP from the NHSBT) – which could only make an already discontented electorate more disaffected. To add insult to injury, the blatant threat of denying an independent Scotland a share of assets (like the pound), which are supposedly held in common by this so-called “family of nations”, along with dire warnings of what would happen were the Scots to vote YES were wielded with all the intimidation of a public school headmaster’s cane.

Surely if the Union – that political union which, like a shot-gun wedding, was forced upon Scotland in 1707 as a short-term solution but which has outlived any purpose and effectiveness it once might have had – if that Union of Parliaments and countries as co-equal partners were worth saving, there would be a positive case to be made for its continuance that the NO camp would want to present in debate, without resorting to false information, which would far outweigh any possible benefit to be gained from “Project Fear”.

Yet, Better Together and the political parties in Westminster (with their Scottish branches) have, aided and abetted by a docile pro-Union press, bombarded the people of Scotland with a relentless stream of negativity and fear-mongering. Even on those occasions when something positive appears to be claimed (eg saving the NHS or pensions being safer), it is loaded to suggest that in an independent Scotland there would be a greater risk, even though, with minimal investigation, such claims can be shown to be demonstrably false (if only one can be bothered to check further than the mainstream media). The message of the NO camp, who harp back to two world wars, is at its best sentimentally backward looking and doom laden at its worst.  And then to crown it all, not content to evade debate (secret venues and vetted guest lists), they try to stifle it (trying to have YES events shut down if there is no corresponding NO event or by withdrawing speakers at the last moment).

Contrast that with enthusiastic positive message of hope emanating from the YES campaign. It is a future focused message filled with possibilities for things to be different. And while that is no guarantee that they will be, it is as welcome, in these dark days of austerity and political corruption, as a sunny day in the middle of a Scottish winter. And the Scottish people, who are hungry for information and are engaging with the debate in a way they have not engaged with politics before, are cramming the halls of the open meetings run by YES to have their questions answered.

When it comes to published information again the contrast is striking. The Scottish Government published (before the Electoral Commission deadline of 30 Nov 2013) a detailed 670 page book “Scotland’s Future“, in which it sets out what an Independent Scotland could look like, how it could prosper and how it could be more egalitarian, on the basis of known facts. The information is presented with references to a variety of sources, some governmental (generally statistics which the Scottish Government is mandated to produce) but the majority to independent (and frequently internationally respected) sources.

Set that against the UK government, which only published a 19 page analysis paper in April (some 5 months after the Electoral Commission deadline), in which there are no references for the information presented. The analysis is based on a key undeclared assumption that the neo-liberal policies of the current government are the only ones possible. This blind belief in official policy is crowned by dubious claims, presented as facts, which are misleading and even contradictory (eg Scotland would have to adopt the Euro but won’t be allowed to join the EU).  A simplified 9 page version (in which the only sources referenced are the OBR, whose track record on prediction is frankly embarrassing, and papers generated solely for the purpose of the referendum by the UK government) was published in June 2014 and distributed to every household in Scotland by Better Together.  Its misrepresentations were taken apart amusingly in a tirade by an Englishman called Bill on YouTube and more calmly and surgically by James Maxwell in the New Statesman.

The composition of the two campaigns, despite both being multi-party and claiming to be grass-roots, is strikingly different as well.

YES clearly is grass-roots. There are groups springing up all over Scotland with a wider appeal than just political affiliation to the pro-Independence parties (SNP, Scottish Greens and Scottish Socialists). The multiplicity includes: Families for Scottish Independence, Scottish Pensioners for Independence, Generation YES, Women for Scottish Independence, First Time Voters for Independence, Academics for YES, Business for Scotland; Farming for YES, Firefighters for Indendence, Lawyers for YES, Oil Workers for Scottish Independence, Yes – NHS in Scotland, Teachers for Independence, Veterans for an Independent Scotland, Christians for Independence, Scots Asians for Independence, English Scots for Independence, Poles for an Independent Scotland, EU Citizens for an Independent Scotland, Labour Voters for Independence (disowned by the Scottish (sic) Labour Party as a minority fringe group) and Liberal Democrat Voters for Independence (ignored by their party).  None  of these groups is run by YES Scotland.   Many places in Scotland have set up their own YES group and YES events. They have numerous volunteers to canvass, man shops and street stalls, as well as just gossip the message to friends, neighbours and colleagues. More and more people are wearing YES badges or putting YES posters in their windows as they get the alternative view to that peddled by NO and the mainstream media from a range of pro-independence blogs and social media.

NO’s grass-roots have been derided as “Astroturf”. Canvassing is principally carried out by politicians and political activists, with the same small groups reappearing over and over again.  Additionally, there was the embarrassment of the denouement of the supposedly Scottish grass-roots campaign Vote NO Borders, which turned out to be funded by wealthy a couple of Tory millionaires and run from London.  Further embarrassment ensued when it was demonstrated that they were using stock pictures from a Cambridge photo library in their adverts of “ordinary Scots”.  More recently, Labour has been trying to recruit activists from other parts of the UK to come up to Scotland to help with canvassing. This is much needed as there are far fewer NO groups than YES. I’m told that there are a dearth of NAW posters in window and badges in the street (but that could just be that NO voters have been terrified into hiding their voting intentions by tales of “vicious cybernats” or that they are – as one of my NO voting acquaintances openly admits he is – just embarrassed by the whole NO campaign).  Part of that embarrassment arises from the NO camp’s insistence on trying to make the referendum about Alex Salmond and the SNP rather than the issues of democracy, autonomy and social justice that Independence could offer.

Scotland has an epic choice this September between the Empire Model of the NO campaign or the Earth Community model offered by YES. Both have predictable outcomes.

Vote NO and consign Scotland to the status of a mere region of England, whose distinctive voice is disregarded and drowned out by the bellow of the rest of the UK family of nations; accept whatever government England votes for; risk being dragged out of the EU; send vast sums to London to prop up the City and English capital projects that have no benefit to Scotland while seeing the Barnett Formula slashed or abolished; renew the nuclear deterrent; permit the creeping privatisation of the NHS; acquiesce to the continued criminalisation of the poor and vulnerable and ever widening social inequality; leave ourselves unable to blame Westminster as we will have implicitly chosen their agenda as our own.

Vote YES and Scotland resumes full nationhood once more; can make her distinctive voice heard on the World stage through the UN and doubled representation in the EU; have a government that the majority of her people elected; free herself of nuclear weapons and nuclear energy; decide how best to spend her taxes and revenues for the benefit of her citizens; protect the NHS and free healthcare; and try to tackle the issues of social inequality that are crushing so many Scots. We might not be successful, but if we are not, we’ll only have ourselves to blame.

No one knows what the future holds, but we do know that it is never static and so the status quo is not on the cards (even were it morally acceptable) no matter how much the NO side promote it. The inconvenient truth for both sides is whichever way one votes there are risks – to pretend otherwise is mere hubris.