Monday, 26 October 2015

Altan Urag - Davalgaa, Ijii Mongol (Official video)

Still working on my Mongolian Book Bandit story - this is inspiring!

Women Warriors - Nancy Wake, the White Mouse

Here's Nancy Wake, one of the most decorated service women of the Second World War - and one who had a five million franc price on her head at one point!
She was born in New Zealand, and grew up in Australia, and in 1937 she married a Frenchman, so at the outbreak of war she was living in Marseilles. She became a courier for the Resistance, and it was the Gestapo who nicknamed her White Mouse.
When she reached England in 1943, after escaping France over the Pyrenees, she joined the SOE, who parachuted her back into France in 1944. Once there, she co-ordinated groups of maquis - over 7,000 of them - and led raids herself. Once she killed a German sentry with a judo chop to the throat so that he wouldn't raise the alarm.
I saw a film about her a few years ago, (this would have been the 1987 film called Nancy Wake) in which she rode a bicycle for something like 300 miles, through several German checkpoints, to another group of resistance fighters, to use their radio, and then had to carry the answer back to her own group.
It was only when the war had ended that she learned that her husband had been tortured to death by the Gestapo for refusing to tell them where she was.

After the war, she was awarded the George Cross, the American Medal of Freedom, and the French Medal of Resistance and Croix de Guerre, among other honours.

She returned to Australia, where she married again, and she lived to be 98 years old, dying in 2011.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Maureen O'Hara

I just heard that Maureen O'Hara has died, at the age of 95.
Here she is in one of my favourite pirate films, The Black Swan, with Tyrone Power.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Black Victorians - Arthur Wharton, footballer

What a magnificent moustache! Here's Arthur Wharton, the first black professional footballer in England. He played for Darlington, was spotted by Preston North End, left them to concentrate on running, and returned to football with Rotherham. Then he moved to Sheffield United as a goalkeeper, followed by Ashton North End, Stalybridge Rovers, and Stockport.
He died in poverty in 1930, having become a collier after he retired from football.
He was born in Jamestown, on the Gold Coast, the son of a Grenadian, Henry Wharton, and Annie Florence Egyriba, a member of the Ghanaian royal family. He came to England at the age of nineteen to study to become a Methodist missionary, but turned to athletics instead. A year after he married Emma Lister, in 1890, he was the landlord of the Albert Tavern in Rotherham, but went back into football in 1894.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Women Warriors - Catharina Margaretha Linck

Poor Catharina - remembered more for the manner of her death than her years of military service in various armies.
Her mistake, after years of living as a man, was to marry a young woman, also called Catharina Margaretha, but whose maiden name was Muhlhahn. For this offence, she was sentenced to death by beheading in 1721, by the Prussian King, Frederick William. The court document of the case is the only documentary evidence of her life, but it includes information about her former life. From 1705 to 1708 (when she deserted) she served in the armed forces of Hanover, escaping hanging for desertion by revealing her sex. Later she joined the Prussian army, being dismissed when her superiors got a letter from the doctor who had examined her - and proved her to be female - for the Hanover army. She went on to join a Polish garrison and then the army of Hesse, deserting both times, and with spells of working in the cloth trade in between.
The court involved King Frederick because they were having difficulty in determining a suitable punishment for Linck, partly because there was nothing to cover the situation of two women having sex in the Bible.
Catherina Muhlhahn was sentenced to imprisonment, as she had originally believed that her husband was male.
In Catharina Linck's testimony, while preparing herself for death, she says: "Even were I to be done away with, those like me would remain."

Friday, 16 October 2015

Trowelblazers - Gertrude Caton Thompson and Great Zimbabwe

This is a really cool lady! In 1929, she organised a dig at Great Zimbabwe, with an all woman team, and declared that the site was built by an African civilisation. Which did not go down at all well in South Africa! Her views on the matter are now generally accepted, however. Zimbabwe is thought to mean "great houses of stone" in the Shona language, and the name has been attached to all ruins of this type across the region. There are around 200 of them, though Great Zimbabwe is the biggest and most impressive.
Here's a picture of some of the ruins, which gives an idea of the scale of the place, from the blog Zimtree:

Her work also helped to confirm the medieval dating of the site, which later excavation has shown to have been continuously inhabited from the twelfth to the fifteenth century, with the bulk of the finds coming from the fifteenth century.

Gertrude Caton Thompson got her experience as an archaeologist in Egypt, where she worked with Margaret Murray, Flinders Petrie and Dorothea Bate, and later with the British School of Archaeology, where her digs were characterised by her precision - it's routine now to plot the precise position and depth of artefacts, but it was a new idea in the 1920s.
She was a research fellow at Newnham College Cambridge, and the first female president of the Prehistoric Society as well as a founding member of the British School of History and Archaeology in East Africa.

Monday, 12 October 2015

Black Victorians - Sara Forbes Bonetta

"There weren't any black people in England in Victorian times," was the assertion during a discussion of Facebook I was looking at recently. Several people told the lady who said this that it wasn't true, and that there were lots of black people in England in Victorian times, so I thought I'd find out about some of them.
So here's Sara Forbes Bonetta, about the most high ranking black Victorian there could be - she was god-daughter to Queen Victoria herself!

As a small child, Sara (then called Aina) was orphaned and enslaved by a Dahomean army in West Africa. She ended up at the court of King Ghezo, and was intended to be a human sacrifice. Fortunately, she was rescued by Captain Frederick Forbes of the Royal Navy, who persuaded King Ghezo to give her to Queen Victoria as a gift. He named her Sara Forbes Bonetta (Bonetta was the name of his ship).
Queen Victoria was impressed with the child, and had her educated, and later gave her permission for Sara to marry Captain James Pinson Labulo Davies. He was a Yoruba businessman, and they got married in Brighton. They had three children together - Victoria, Arthur and Stella. Victoria Davies also became a god-daughter of Queen Victoria, and they remained in touch even when the Davies family moved to Lagos. Descendants of the family now live in England, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.
Sara died in 1880, aged only 37 - she had suffered for many years from a cough, which became tuberculosis, probably caused by the climate of England. Her husband erected an eight foot high granite obelisk in her memory at Ijon in Western Lagos, where he started a cocoa firm.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Women Warriors - Lam Thi Dep

This picture of a woman Viet Cong fighter was taken in 1972. Lam Thi Dep was eighteen at the time, and is carrying an American M-16 rifle.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Trowelblazers - Merilyn Phillips Hodgson

Dr Wendell Phillips was an archaeologist who worked in Arabia, particularly the Yemen, and by his premature death in 1976, at the age of only 54, he had become probably the richest archaeologist ever. He owned hundreds of oil leases at his death, thanks to his Arabian contacts, giving him the right to extract and sell the oil.
His archaeological work was important in casting light on the ancient incense routes, bringing frankincense and myrrh across the Arab world for use in Greek and Roman temples - though his main interest was in finding out more about the Biblical Queen of Sheba. He founded the American Foundation for the Study of Man, the AFSM, in 1949, a non-profit organisation to fund his expeditions.

And he had a sister. Merilyn Phillips Hodgson revived the AFSM in 1980, after being asked by the Government of Yemen to continue her brother's work. She is still the president of the organisation, which is investigating the Awam Temple, also known as the Mahram Bilqis, in Yemen. It dates back to the 7thC BC, and was dedicated to the Moon God Almaqah.

Before the work on the Mahram Bilqis began, Merilyn organized, planned and sponsored a series of archaeological expeditions to the Wadi al Jubah in Yemen. Five volumes were published as a result of this work.

Sadly, I can't seem to find any information about the dig at Mahram Bilqis or Merilyn Phillips Hodgson after 2006, when the AFSM appointed Dr Juris Zarins as director of the dig.