21st Century Scots Heraldry with Gordon Casely

Left: Casely finishes his speech. Right: Lyon models his hoodie.

Today I attended another Zoom lecture, this time arranged by the Heraldry Society of Scotland. This one went rather more smoothly than the one six months ago, though I still think that putting it on YouTube or similar would be more practical in the long run.

Our main speaker today was Gordon Casely, described as “a freelance journalist, heraldist and piper” by the host Edward Mallinson (the Society’s Social Secretary). His presentation was on what he perceived as a rise in grants of arms and interest in heraldry more generally. His anecdotal evidence for this was that he had attached a new hard drive to his overloaded computer for all of his hi-resolution heraldic images – a problem I too have encountered since last summer. More objective information was provided in the form of grant and matriculation records from the Lyon court in certain years: fourteen for the year 1720, four each for 1820 and 1821, then thirty in 1920. He described these as appalling output figures, which would shock any work study manager or time & motion engineer. Later in the session Dr Joseph Morrow – on the seventh anniversary of his appointment as Lord Lyon King of Arms – confirmed that in modern times the norm is between fifty and sixty-five new grants per year as well as matriculations, and that about 10% of the court’s business is from the commercial sector. He also said that in the last year, due to people having more time on their hands for such things, the court had seen a 50% increase in new petitions, though all of them had to be managed by electronic correspondence rather than meeting in person.

Casely told us of the records for time taken to complete an application, the longest being Banchory Community Council (thirty-seven years) and the shortest the Aberdeen Association of Civil Engineers (twelve minutes). He complimented the latter’s multilayered symbolism – simultaneously it represented a bridge over water, a stream, a cross section of a pipe half-filled with water, the sweep of a bend in a road, a ditch and a mound, as well as the letters ACE.  He was less happy with the arms of Gordon District Council, describing them as “how not to design a coat of arms, unless you’re in the Clydesdale Bank school of heraldry”.

He sang the praises of the late Anthony Maxwell, his longtime colleague. He drew attention to a commission Maxwell had done of the arms of Dr Tom Tait on the side of a carriage at a railway heritage centre in Derbyshire. He confirmed to “those anoraks who are watching” that it was the only British Rail Class 119 Diesel Multiple Unit in preservation. I did a little searching and can now say more specifically that it is DMCB 51073 on the Ecclesbourne Valley Railway.

After the main talk had ended there was an opportunity to ask questions, though on this occasion I couldn’t think of one – and indeed I wasn’t sure that my microphone was working. When the structured questions and answers concluded the session moved to informal chatter among the veteran members with occasional interjections by outsiders. This included showing some rather garish heraldic tattoos that they had seen, and then Lyon putting on a heraldic hoodie that he had received as a novelty gift.

A few more heraldic zoom lectures are scheduled for later this year, including a Canadian one that, for Brits, begins at midnight. That could prove an interesting experience!

Christ Is My Shield

The tomb of Alfred Ollivant in Llandaff Cathedral, his arms impaled with those of the see.

Having composed armorial pages for speakers, Lord Chancellors, universities and schools, this month I turned my attention to the church. The Anglican Communion has sixty-seven bishops in the British Isles. Forty-two of these belong to the still-established Church of England*, twelve to the Church of Ireland, seven to the Scottish Episcopal Church and six to the Church in Wales.

Each bishopric is considered a corporation sole, and for each an official coat of arms is recorded. The incumbent bishop may impale his personal arms with those of the see – symbolically marrying him to the job.

In contrast to the tiresome searching that has often been required to track down the blazons for the aforementioned politicians and educational institutions, ecclesiastical heraldry has proven exceedingly easy. The arms of most of the sees in Britain have been extensively recorded by Burke, Debrett, Fox-Davies, Hartemink and Woodward. Furthermore the vast majority of those arms had already been illustrated for Wikimedia Commons, so I had merely to compile them and type up their respective blazons.

Looked upon as a whole, the quality of Anglican heraldry is rather disappointing. Very little imagination is shown with the choice of charges and many sees have coats so similar as to be barely distinguishable: ten separate sees have the symbol of two keys in saltire and five use a trio of episcopal mitres. Within the province of Canterbury alone the sees of Coventry, Derby and Lichfield all centre on a cross potent quadrate while Guildford, Portsmouth, Truro and Winchester all have keys in saltire with swords. Fox-Davies complained in his writings of grants of personal arms in which the shield merely repeated as charges what should have been reserved for use as external ornaments – helmets, coronets and occasionally staves of various offices. It seems that the use of the mitre on so many diocesean shields is the ecclesiastical counterpart.

Another problem with the arms here covered is that a great many of them specify pictorial representations of humanoid figures. These include a handful of named saints, especially the Virgin Mary holding her baby and in Chichester’s case even the adult Jesus enthroned. Anyone with a working knowledge of heraldry (as well as vexillology and indeed most forms of graphic design) will know that such things are generally best avoided.

Thus far I have talked about the corporate arms of the bishoprics, but earlier this month I attempted to find the personal arms of the bishops themselves, hoping to make personal armorials for the Archbishops of Canterbury and York. Alas these arms were a lot harder to come by, for Burke and Debrett tend not to list personal arms of bishops and only in recent decades has it become the norm for the primates to transition to the Lords Temporal after retirement**. The only ones which I could find were those of the Bishops of Chester, already researched by the now-defunct Cheshire Heraldry Society. Those escutcheons were much more varied as well as much easier to construct in comparison to many of those which I have done before, so illustrating and uploading the whole lot took only three days.

EXTERNAL LINKS

*This includes the Diocese of Sodor and Man, after which Wilbert Awdry named his island, as well as the Gibraltar-based Diocese in Europe.

**At present John Sentamu is awaiting the life peerage that was announced in December, having left office in July.

More Podcasts

For the whole of January I wondered when the third episode of the House of Lords podcast was going to arrive. On 10th February it finally did so. The Lord Patel, Chair of the Science & Technology Committee, was interviewed about healthy ageing. The Lord Cashman, former MEP and actor, recalled his role in founding Stonewall. I hope that new episodes will be produced more frequently in future so that momentum is not lost among potential listeners.

The Heraldry Society recently started a podcast of its own, the first episode being an interview of Quentin Peacock about Digital Heraldry. Peacock spoke about the time and difficulty of creating high-quality vector graphics. Notice was also taken of the growth of online heraldist communities in recent years.

Back on Wikipedia, I have spent the last week constructing another armorial page – that for Anglican Bishops of the Diocese of Chester. The bulk of the necessary information was found on the website of the now-defunct Cheshire Heraldry Society. The vast majority of the escutcheons (no crests or mottoes listed) were simple enough to recreate in a short time, so that it only took a few days to illustrate and upload the whole lot. Creating the list page itself was also quite easy, given that I am well used to the template by now. It is too early to say if the page will survive. At present no other editor appears to have noticed it at all. If it is accepted then I may go on to produce armorials for the more senior bishoprics of Canterbury and York, though so far I have not found the relevant information so conveniently assembled.

UPDATE (15th February)

Searching around I uncovered this presentation by Dr Adrian Ailes for the National Archives, recorded a decade ago.

Pauline on Pooches

Pauline (88) grooms Monty (8), 26th April 2015

Great sadness can be experienced from quite an early age when small things are so important to us. The loss of a toy, the death of an animal in our lives. Most of us have buried our pets in the garden, I certainly remember burying a canary in a cocoa tin and putting flowers on its grave, soon to be not forgotten, but put to the back of our minds as a new pet takes its place.

Heartbreak (circa 2002)

Little old ladies are often stereotyped as surrounded by cats, and indeed my grandmother had many. She loved dogs too, however, and made many references to them in her writings. I present a compilation of them now, to commemorate those who could not write for themselves.

The passages are ordered by date of writing rather than by date of events described. Contextual notes are inserted where appropriate to avoid reproducing excessive prose unrelated to the topic. Occasionally I have corrected typos.

The dog was sitting all of a quiver, tail swishing slowly and tongue hanging from one side of his mouth. His eyes never left the two cats he had chased up the tree as he willed them to come down for another chase. But the cats stayed on their wide branches with eyes half closed and a smirk on their faces. They were content to stay up there all day if necessary, and would enjoy doing it.

The dog came dashing back having had great sport chasing the cat under the caravan and he took up his place under the tree. He was to have a long wait, the other cat was older and wiser and loved sitting up in the tree. He wasn’t coming down to be chased by a silly old dog – not for a long time anyway.

A Summer’s Day in the Jungle (Fiction) (17/04/2002)

I tried making the area smaller by laying the odd paving slab between the bushes but eventually had to admit defeat, and but for a small circle with a weeping willow where our first dog is buried, I gave the rest over to the couch grass.

The Garden (??/??/2003)

There’s the man who brings his very large fluffy white dog and grooms it in one of the lay-byes. There is white wool everywhere and once it blows into the trees it stays there for days. Couldn’t he bring a plastic bag with him?

The Dumpers (03/05/2003)

On Saturday once everyone had eaten, off they went well booted, scarved, hooded and gloved. Looking out of the window at the comings and goings you could well imagine you were in Eskimo land. Wherever they went they were followed by a sad looking dog with a football in its mouth longing for someone to kick it for him.

I went [shopping] via Clough Road and saw a flag flying saying Courts closing down sale. Well I couldn’t resist that and duly crossed the road and drove ‘round the back to Courts parking lot. Oh! Thinks Pauline, they must be going to have a caravan sale as there were about 20 lovely caravans set out around the car park. To my dismay there were 2 shaggy little dogs/pups with short logs shagging away in the middle of the park. Poor little strays I thought, must call into the dogs’ home as I am in Clough Road. Driving towards the main doors I parked my car, got out with a lot of difficulty only to find myself surrounded by a pack of yapping Jack Russells which should have been white but were actually a dark grey. They followed me to the main door still barking and there was a notice saying Store closed, nearest store Grimsby. To say the least I was miffed, Courts could have taken their flags down. I turned and made my way back to my car accompanied by the yapping dogs and noticed that each caravan had a kennel at the side of it and children and men were appearing on their doorsteps. That was when it dawned that I was in the middle of a gypsy camp.

Home – I was so pleased to see it as I always am. I was greeted by the dog with his football and pleading eyes, but my buckling legs hadn’t a kick left in them. Sank into my armchair, coat and all and as usual it wasn’t long before Simon arrived with a cup of tea. “Had a good day?” says he and when I told him of my day, his eyes rolled up and he remakred “Mother, only you could end up in the middle of the diddy camp surrounded by a pack of dogs. I bet you patted them all.”.

Half Term (16/02/2005)

From the docks we would drive home and dad would open his kit bag and spread the contents on the floor. Huge blocks of Cadbury’s chocolate, boxes of chocolates, boxes of lovely perfumes, and always from his cook a sweet bottle full of King prawns, and who got the first choice, why Twister of course – our dog. On his second night home, Dad was allowed to go ‘round the corner to the Fountain Villa Club, where lots of elderly ex-seamen gathered. He would take Twister with him, buy a box of chocolates and give it to the dog to bring home for us, and one again he got the first chocolate.

I am six years younger than my next sister and therefore was almost like an only child until I was 5 and started school at St. Mary’s, and spent my time with Twister our wire-haired terrier, and Billy our large black Persian cat. I must have been a pain in the neck to them as they were my only companions most of the time and I spent my time dressing them in baby clothes, sitting them on chairs to play schools and taking them for walks in my large dolls pram. That bit they quite enjoyed.

Early Childhood (29/09/2005)

I had Patch in my car who thought it was great but the heat was unbearable. There was plenty of shade for him under the trees and everyone took him for walks.

A young boy on the next stall decided to play with his football and Patch was there in a flash. Then the lad realised that if he threw the ball at Patch instead of past him, he would throw it back, they played for ages and gathered quite an audience. All I could think of was either patch would end up without his front teeth or with a flat nose like a peke.

Vintage Weekend (??/06/2006)

[Seals] still appear quite regularly and at the moment are regular visitors. There’s usually just the one who loves to tease the dog*. Patch swims out to him and when they are face to face the seal dives under him and comes up again behind his back. Patch gets tired long before the seal and has to give up and I really don’t think he has any ill intentions, he just wants to play with it as he does with all the dogs who come for their walkies. Most of the dogs’ owners soon get to know Patch and quite happily take him for a walk with them. Young Paull came in at the weekend and said “Grandma, you should have been up the end. There are two seals in the Creek and they are sitting playing on a piece of wood which looks like a tree trunk. They keep pushing each other off and as the log floats towards the mouth of the creek they push it back in again and start all over again.” Patch has been sitting on the edge all of a quiver but didn’t go in further than his knees. Probably thought two were too much for him.

Simon and Paull can’t resist buying ancient machinery… [the truck] was navy blue with a large RN and Royal Navy on its side, only does about 10 miles (or they are just telling ME that) an hour and the dog is delighted as he now has a vehicle he can ride on instead of being scrunched between Paull’s legs on the grass cutter.

Wildlife at Stone Creek (24/10/2006)

The fire brigade were here for 5 days slowly pumping water from the drains into the Creek. Simon, Paull and Monty joined them, taking cups of tea etc. and Monty left home completely, after all he lived on Battenburg cake with the firemen and not dog-biscuits.

Summer 2007 (27/09/2007)

I remember last year’s winter… there are bags of compost all over the place unused, one sack and loads of packets of seeds and bulbs lying around that never did get planted. Monty had a wonderful time as the plants in pots got dryer and he could just pull and the whole plant and bag of soil came out of its pot, and if they didn’t it didn’t matter, he just ate the pot as well.

Looking back at 2007 (17/01/2008)

A few days before Betty and Stan’s wedding, I was cuddled up in a big bed with Betty and another sister Dolly. Stan crept up the stairs and threw a little bundle on our bed and shot off before Mum caught him. That little bundle was Twister, a tiny wire haired terrier pup for Betty. He never did leave us as by the time the wedding and honeymoon had taken place when they tried to take him to their flat he cried so much that they had to bring him back.

I decided it was time to let [a beaver lamb] go as it was getting a bit rough down the front edges. My new neighbour begged it and was seen later that day parading down the street with her fur coat in hot sun and her pet Peke on a lead. It was obvious she felt the bees’ knees.

Last but not least is the beauty of the lot. My sister Ethel’s brown mink which was given to me when she died… The family came home for our first Christmas together in the UK and whilst we were busy getting the house we rented in Hornsea dried out, Peter, my eldest arrived with Sandra, his girlfriend, to give us a hand. Out of the blue Ethel arrived wearing the said mink coat and sitting on her knee was her beloved little brow spaniel. Sandra in all her innocence asked me who is that lady with the dog that matches her coat, you can’t see where the dog ends and the coat starts. Forever more to Sandra Aunty Ethel was the lady with the dog that matches her coat.

Coats in the Attic (24/01/2008)

*This particular seal is presumably the inspiration for Sammy.

Lament for Monty

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His temperament was steady, manner mild,
A marvel to all strangers who came by,
He warmly welcomed each approaching child,
Befriended anyone who caught his eye.

A dozen and two years he saw go past,
Entrenched he was in the roll of our kin.
So many of the clan did he outlast,
And many new offspring he welcomed in.

Towards the end of his long life we saw
His limbs were withered, his black fur turned grey.
It pains to grasp that one you so adore
Will in mere months decline and fade away.

Now snow falls thick above his once-warm head.
Here not forgotten, though forever dead.

UPDATE (21st February)

I have updated Homework Direct for the first time in well over four years to include the process by which Monty on the Green came about.

It’s Just Not Cricket

Armorial achievements of the Lord Cowdrey of Tonbridge (left) and Sir John Major (right)

Having exhausted what I could glean from the available editions of Burke’s and Debrett’s, I am ever on the lookout for new material on heraldry. Last week the College of Arms published its latest newsletter (which now regrettably appears only to print in October and January), but as usual the actual exemplifications of new armorial bearings were few.

I was delighted yesterday to discover this lecture on the development of English heraldry, given by the Somerset Herald David White in 2014. It is far from the only heraldry-related lecture video I have encountered online. Unfortunately I commonly find that the piece rarely goes beyond the basics of armorial composition and a brief overview of medieval chivalry, thus not telling me much beyond what I knew already – indeed it’s probable that the people making them are reliant on the same online and/or public domain resources that I am. This was not one of those, for it went beyond the Middle Ages to cover modern heraldry and much in between.

White’s lecture studied the artistic phases of heraldry, from the very simple designs of the medieval period to the more crowded ones of the early Tudors – when the nouveau riche were acquiring arms to display where they could be studied up close instead of glimpsed in motion – followed by a deliberate return to simplicity in the later Tudor and Stuart eras. There was a section on the infamous “landscape” and “seascape” heraldry of the Georgian years, with particular emphasis on Horatio Nelson, whose absurdly augmented escutcheon is often considered the nadir of the art. The Victorian era is not discussed in as much detail, save for a vague assertion that they went back to earlier styles as a result of the blossoming Gothic revival. Along the way he gave examples of families assuming arms and then later trying to get similar ones granted, or appropriating those of namesakes who were not actually related. The relative popularity of certain charges was also shown, with an ordinary or arms from the mid-1500s showing that already by then there were dozens of pages of lions (indeed a double-page spread shows thirty-two separate shields just with white lions on a red backdrop). White said that in modern times “one’s heart sinks” if a new applicant for arms requests a lion be included due to the difficulty of inventing an original design. He also speculated that the utility of heraldry as a system of identification might have been undermined by the preponderance of so many near-identical blazons.

Near the end of the lecture he showed some examples of reasonably recent grants of arms. Of particular interest was that of the cricket-player Colin Cowdrey, who was ennobled by John Major in 1997. His shield has a paly of four defaced by a bend dexter, representing the tallying of points. His crest had a set of wickets nosed by the white horse of Kent. Just to quash any remaining uncertainty, he also had crickets as supporters. Major himself became entitled to supporters upon his appointment as a Knight of the Garter in 2005. He too wished to have crickets, but was required to distinguish them from Cowdrey’s and so had them stand upon despatch boxes. Heraldry, of course, has no sense of scale. White called it a “slightly depressing thing” that the portcullis symbol was increasingly used on the shields of retired politicians to represent their profession.

The lecture I found was part of a collection of public lectures archived online by Newcastle University. The range of topics is as wide as you would find at Gresham, so well worth checking out.

The Chris Whitty Collection

Since about 2015 I have been an avid consumer of the public lectures put out by Gresham College. Initially the main draw for me was Vernon Bogdanor’s lectures on politics, followed by Simon Thurley’s series on the history of British architecture. The college has a sizeable online back-catalogue in addition to a high rate of new updates, so I was rarely stuck for something to watch.

By 2019 (or maybe it was 2018) I was branching out into lectures about medicine. I do not recall exactly which such video it was that I chose first and nor, until last year, did I remember much about the speaker. When the coronavirus crisis began and the government began doing daily press conferences, I did not think of Professor Whitty as a familiar name or face. Occasionally I think this of a public figure only to discover that I have edited their Wikipedia page years prior, but even that was not the case here. It was only upon searching for him on YouTube and finding familiar thumbnails that I realised I had seen him before.

Sure enough, Whitty spent some years as Visiting Professor of Public Health, and is currently Professor of Physic. He has produced seven series of lectures for the college since 2013, and continues to do so even during the pandemic.

In addition to these he has been the star – or at least a participant – of quite a few other videos over the years.

As far back as July 2012 he gave the Walker Institute Annual Lecture for the University of Reading, talking about Climate Change & Development in Africa.

In February 2013 he gave a speech at the STEPS Centre Symposium about the importance of evidence in health policy. In contrast to his eventual catchphrase, he makes a point here of deliberately including no slides at all. There was also a Q&A session.

In September 2014 he told the Science & Development Network why synthesis is key to science influence.

In late January 2015 he lectured the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene on forty years of fighting Malaria. That October he returned to talk about the pitfalls of eradication attempts.

In March he was a team of speakers lecturing the Royal Society of London about the inside story of the ongoing Ebola epidemic.

In June 2015 he chaired a panel discussion on the control of Malaria, presented by the Faculty of 1000.

In this one from five years ago he is interviewed alongside Professor Dame Sally Davies (his predecessor as Chief Medical Officer for England) about the experience of giving medical advice to the government.

In 2016 he gave a speech to launch the Centre for Global Health Research for Brighton & Sussex Medical School, in which he talks about global demography and its implications for the prevalence of various diseases.

The next week he appeared alongside Nicola Blackwood MP (then Chair of the Science & Technology Select Committee) and others in a panel discussion on Ebola vaccination.

Two months later he recorded a short message for International Nurses day, played by the National Institute for Health Research. Another month after that he gave a presentation commemorating the last ten years of the institute’s work.

In July 2017 he was asked how UKCDS contributes to development.

In April 2018 he launched the King’s Global Health Institute. In May he gave the George Griffin Lecture for the Association of Physicians of Great Britain & Ireland, talking about the direction of health research. That December he gave a short speech at the IDEAL International Conference about the importance of scientific evaluation of innovation.

In September 2019 he was filmed by the Medical Research Council advising on how to influence policy and practice in health prevention.

The most interesting videos are those from the first two months of 2020, just before the pandemic made him famous nationwide. On 23rd January he was interviewed for Public Health England about the importance of physical activity – a theme which has remained prominent in government policy since. On 27th February he appeared at the summit session for the Nuffield Trust to talk about health trends and projections over the next twenty years. At this stage the virus is a looming threat but has not yet taken over. Whitty is asked how he plans to deal with the coming epidemic. His answers are still abstract but already there are references to school closures, banning of mass gatherings and “flattening the peak”.

Leaving YouTube aside for the moment I also found two brief clips of him on DailyMotion: on 31st January he told ODN it was too early to tell if the virus would spread, and outlined the plans the government had in place to stop it. On 6th February he gave advice for those showing symptoms to self-isolate.

On 3rd March the Prime Minister held the first of what would turn out to be a very long series of press conferences on the coronavirus outbreak. Chris Whitty stood to his right and Sir Patrick Vallance (Chief Scientific Adviser) to his left. You might expect me to close here by saying “the rest is history” but, unfortunately, this particular piece of history is far from over yet.

The Next State Opening

There has been a lot of uncertainty over the last few years with respect to the beginnings and endings of parliamentary sessions. It might have been hoped that in 2021 the process would go back to normal, with a speech from the throne each May (typically the third Wednesday, with prorogation the week before). Now, alas, the pandemic could have thrown that out as well. A Cheapo’s Guide to London currently hints that it will take place in October, while Parliament’s own website gives no information at all. It is likely that any planned date could be changed many times depending on how events unfold in the coronavirus saga.

The key difference between this year and last is that now we have a smorgasbord of vaccines to thwart the disease and – in contrast to our poor performance in controlling the outbreak – are distributing them much faster than most other countries. Priority for vaccination is given largely in descending order of age, which could mean that for a few months of this year we have the paradoxical situation in which the elderly are safe to mingle outside while the young have to remain shielded. Overall this bodes well for the House of Lords, the majority of whose members are aged 70 and over. The Lord Speaker went for his first vaccine back in December. The Queen received hers in January. If the government’s target of 2 million vaccinations per week is maintained then the majority of Britain’s population, including nearly all peers, should have received at least one vaccine dose by the start of May.

Still, that doesn’t mean the ceremony will be plain sailing: likely there will still be some social distancing required and face coverings will remain prominent, which could dampen the splendour a little. In particular the crowding of MPs in the cramped space behind the bar of the upper chamber could prove dangerous, and it may be required that only a small delegation from the lower house is allowed to come. Of the frontal foursome it is probable that Mr Speaker (63), Black Rod (55) and the Commons Clerk (62-ish) will have immunity but the Serjeant-at-Arms (44) might not. As with the introduction ceremonies there could be some subtle changes in choreography to allow the key players to stand further apart.

The preceding prorogation would need to have such tweaks as well – although attendance for that is usually quite a lot lower anyway. Lady Evans of Bowes Park is by far the youngest of the five commissioners and thus probably the last to be immunised, unfortunate given that as the Leader of the House she is the one least able to be substituted, as well as the one who sits in the middle and the one doing all the talking. It could be that this year’s prorogation is again done with just three commissioners in attendance rather than five. It is hard to find the dimensions of the chamber online but I think there might just be room to space them out properly, though perhaps it may have to be contrived so that they sit in a triangular instead of linear formation.

To make matters worse, the devolved legislatures in Cardiff and Holyrood are expected to go up for election in the same month. They traditionally welcome the monarch for an opening ceremony in the summer months – though unlike in Wesminster the speech is not a prerequisite for the commencement of parliamentary business. As with so much in this phenomenon, all we can do is wait and see.