All posts by Richard K. Munro (Auld Munro)

Like Russell Kirk, I am a great admirer of the late Gilbert Highet. I am the president and founder of the Gilbert Highet Society (on Facebook) which includes many scholars and authors. I was intensely homeschooled as a boy learning English phonics, drama, and oratory as well as the history of the Raj and British Empire where my people prominently served as Empire builders in the Merchant Marine, Indian Civil Service or Highland Regiments. My people specialized in building ships, trains, bridges and were interpreters or scouts for the British Army or Navy for generations. For many generations, it was the desire of each son of Munro, Fraser, MacFarlane or MacKenzie to go a-soldiering far "frae the hame" and to return to marry a woman of his faith "and race and line" and by that was meant to marry a woman of the Gaeltacht (Gaidhealteachd). Two things changed this pattern forever. 1) the depopulation of the Highlands from 1790-1890 meaning there was no place to go home to and 2) the Catastrophe of what we called An Cogadh Mor (the Big War) and An Cogadh Hitler (the Hitler War) 1914-1945. This led to the biggest catastrophe of all -the British Empire went smash and so we became "Orphans of Empire." But the old Highland prophecy sang "Is gearr gach reachd ach riaghailt Dhe" (Each realm is short but the Kingdom of God. " We have seen many Empires rise and fall. I am a teacher of English, Spanish.& history. Author of Spying for the Other Side, KIM PHILBY &The Historic El CID. I have authored one-act plays such as "Euripides' Trojan Women (Calliope),"Romans on the Rhine", "Clad in Gold Our Young Mary" "Beneath Alexandria's Sapphire Sky" among others. I am a California Certified teacher in history, Spanish and English. MA Spanish Literature. BA with Honors (NYU '78) winner of Helen M. Jones Prize for History. ISI Fellow UVA 2004-2005. Board of Advisors PRO-ENGLISH I have edited galleys of several books but especially CHURCHILL WALKING WITH DESTINY for my dear friend Andrew Roberts with whom it was my honor to serve. I consider this biography to be the greatest biography of our time both for history and as literature. I Have taught Spanish for Native Speakers, AP US HISTORY, AP Spanish as well as English for Learners in the USA and Spain. My specialty is English literacy for newcomers (emphasizing phonics, diction, and grammar) and sheltered English immersion Social Studies (history) for English learners. I believe in sheltered English immersion for newcomers (English language books, notes, tests and quizzes with some translation and bilingual glossaries available. I have a New Wine Credential. I am married with three children. Two of our children are teachers and one is an engineer. I am proud to have served as a peacetime "Ice Cream" Marine (reserves) and to hold an honorable discharge from USMCR. My parents emigrated to the USA when young in 1923 and 1927. The war destroyed the fragile economic communities from which they came and essentially no one ever returned. They became US citizens and were Americans by choice. Both graduated from public high school and were the first and only members of their families to graduate from high school and go on to college. My mother was an RN and came from a strict Free Church Calvinist family. My father had a BA in English and French Comparative Literature and was a Roman Catholic. They were married in two separate Catholic and Anglican ceremonies. No one in my mother's family came to either wedding and during the entire war period, my mother had no contact with her mother and family. Needless to say, from a young age I was exposed to great sectarian hatreds and prejudices and this almost destroyed my Christian faith altogether. What saved me? The love of good Christians; the forgiveness of good Christians. College in Valladolid (Spain) and spoke fluent Italian and Spanish. In the 20th Century, my family emigrated to the Americas (Chile, Canada, and the USA) My uncle worked in Chile and Argentina circa 1914-1936 and my father was an American officer in Texas, Louisiana and the Pacific Theater during WWII. My father was a notable amateur linguist ( reading ancient Greek, Latin, speaking Tagalog, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Russian). I grew up in a multilingual cosmopolitan household and cannot remember a time when I spoke, sang or heard only English. My mother played the piano and sang in five languages. I lived and studied in Spain and got my MA in Spanish Literature there via the University of Northern Iowa under the legendary Adolfo Franco Pino. I first visited Spain and Italy in 1964. My primary interest is in classical literature (chiefly English and Spanish), history, music, and poetry particularly the music and literature of the Scottish Highlands and Lowlands. Cuimhnich air na daoine bhon tainig mise (I remember the people I came from...the Gaels of Cioch Mhor in Ferindonald). Most of my family today is Spanish-speaking (Spain, Mexico, Chile and the USA). Most of us follow the faith of St. Maelrubha, St. Columba, St. Patrick and St. Mungo. Of course, no Highlander ever recognized St. Andrew as a patron per se as he was later accretion of lowlanders as worthy as St. Andrew is. I was married in Spain and my son was married in Mexico. It is a cognate fact that every marriage in our family for centuries has a direct or indirect connection to Spain either through marriage in Spain or marriage by priests educated in the Scots College in Spain or Rome. La fuerza del sino? (The Force of Destiny?) I believe in the policy of the Buen Vecino (the Good Neighbor) and in la conviviencia (peaceful coexistence) of different cultures, languages and religions. I realize I am the very last of my race but am glad to be the father of a new race of Americans whose blood comes from the peoples and races of four continents. Hyphenations can be good descriptors but they are usually a temporary condition like bilingualism. Monolingualism, cultural diffusion and assimilation are the natural tendencies of the human race.

Nationalism and patriotism.

George Orwell, in his influential essay Notes on Nationalism distinguished patriotism from the related concept of nationalism:

“By ‘patriotism’ I mean devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force upon other people. Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally. Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality.’ Of course, patriotism is Greek in origin and nationalism is Latin in origin.

Orwell makes good points but I nationalism does NOT have to mean ethnic particularism or chauvinism or even jingoism.

Surely nationalism has been associated with a strong desire for NATIONAL INDEPENDENCE which can be a very good thing. Karl Marx famously stated that “The working men have no country”and that “the supremacy of the proletariat will cause them [national differences] to vanish still faster.” It is totalitarian to believe that regional and national differences should be stamped out.

We are all nationalists or nativists to some degree of course. Almost everyone prefers his own language, his own food, his favorite sports, his favorite music, his own religion. I would not say men and women are separated into “nations” or “conflictive classes”. I cannot distinguish between my mother and my father and the entire COMMUNITY when I think of my native land.

Of course, I have a sentimental tie to the wee homeland of my heart which is Scotland and particularly to the Highlands -the Gaidhealtachd. But unlike some, I have never felt separatism was a wise path. Small groups need the protection and security of a national union.

The decline and fall of Celtic peoples, in my view, was directly related to their divisions into clans and tribes and their inability to unite. Their inability to gain unity undermined their culture and essentially doomed their languages.

On the other hand, excessive nationalism exalting one nation, one race, one religion and one language over all others can fall off into true Fascism.

I am an American by choice but I love other nations also and other cuisines and other languages. My religious faith is universalist; it is not bounded by one race or one nation.

But you can’t win a championship without a team. And you can’t win a war without a Regiment, without a team, without an Army.

The only security for the family is the community and the only security for the community is the alliance of communities known as the nation.

To me, patriotism and nationalism are nearly synonymous. The Spanish have a word “patriotero” which means excessively patriotic in a chauvinistic or flag-waving way. We can be excessively nationalistic or excessively patriotic.

But surely love for our OUR TEAM and OUR COLORS is not bad unless it makes us HATE all rivals even neighbors. I love the Dodgers but would never beat up a Red Sox fan (some yobs do). I admire other nations and other people who have skills and traits I lack. I doff my hat to the best team. The Nationals were the best team in 2019.

But we make a fatal mistake if we think our freedom is due to the UN or chance. We are free because soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines were willing to die for the Colors, the colors that represented their homeland, their nation, their security, their freedom. I consider myself a patriot and a cosmopolitan nationalist. I admire our Gallant Allies and know we need friends and allies.

Without national pride and national units, NATO and the UN would not protect me from evildoers, criminals and fanatics. To say “nationalism” is treason as Macron said, is wrongheaded even dangerous. Treason to whom? The EU superstate?

Our freedom is tied to our national independence. So let me say it on Veteran’s Day. I am a proud patriot and American nationalist. We SHOULD DELIGHT in the triumph of the Good but the costs should never be forgotten. We should have gratitude to our nation but also to our “gallant allies” the other nations who had taught us and helped us win wars and protect freedom. To me, true freedom will never mean uniformity but pluralism.

Common sense philosophy of Auld pop

THOMAS MUNRO, SR WITH HIS NEPHEW JIMMY QUIGLEY CIRCA JAN 1919 CONSTANTINOPLE WHILE SERVING WITH THE 1ST BATTALION ARGYLL AND SUTHERLAND HIGHLANDERS AND THE ALLIED ARMY OF OCCUPATION. Both men served from 1914-1919 without a serious wound after having seen much action including 36 days of continuous combat at 2nd Ypres.

Auld Pop had a philosophic attitude towards life. “Save your luck for when it counts. A man has only so much luck. Sooner or later you will roll snake eyes.” “This is the only life you have this side of paradise: be a leal n’ true mon (a man of honour)”. “A soldier will die for the Colours but no’ an extra two bob a day.” Pop, we used to say you have to stop smoking! He answered “Tha moral dhaoine anns a cladh a mhianniacheadh casad a bhith aca mar seo.” (“There’s mony a man in the cemetery that wad like to hae a cough like that!”
“Cuimhnich air na daoine bhon tainig tusa” REMEMBER THE PEOPLE YOU CAME FROM. Ne obliviscaris he said many times -his Regimental motto- DO NOT FORGET. Of people who were “feckless slackers” he would say, “Such a mon has nae poosh (no push; no ambition). He is good for naething at a’! except to be a parasite hanging aroond the kitchen.” If we complained he would say, “If THAT’S A’ ye hae to worry aboot, ye hae nae worries! Hiding in a dry cave in Gallipoli , low on ammunition and water wi’ Turks scream to cut off your heid…THAT’s WORRY!!” Auld Pop had a soft spot , naturally for the Red, White and Blue of Britain, but he was a naturalized American citizen (at age 50). During WWII he built Naval vessels and liberty ships (before WWI he built Naval ships on the Clyde.

Auld Pop used to say. ” You are lucky to be alive. Every new day is a gift. Lucky to have fresh water to drink and to wash. Lucky to have a roof over your head and tea at the boil. Lucky to have someone to love and to be loved by someone. Lucky to have hot soup for dinner. Lucky to have a job to do and lucky to have legs to walk to it. Lucky to have ears for music. Lucky to have a voice for talking. Lucky to have eyes to see. Lucky to have two arms and two hands and all ten fingers. Lucky to have a dollar or two in your pocket. Lucky to see a new generation growing. Lucky to see Old Glory flying. Lucky to have had a good ride. When the evening comes. and there is peace on every hill glad to have lived. And , yes when the evening comes how peaceful will be our sleep for we saw not the sacred flame extinguished. We saw not the Colours lowered in our time.”

RULES FOR SURVIVING THE GREAT WAR 1914-1919

A wonderful message that my friend Richard Munro shared about his grandfather, Thomas Munro: RULES FOR SURVIVING THE GREAT WAR (1914-1919).

He wore a kilt (with a canvass cover) every day for almost five years. He used to kill bugs that crawled up his legs with his cigarettes; he said it took practice to burn the bugs off with out burning yourself. He also said tobacco smoke helped keep the bugs away. Auld Pop was a quiet man but touch not that cat but with a glove. He had killed his first man at age 10 with a Martini-Henry rifle (a Sumatran Pirate); He and his mates killed so many Germans they literally lost count. Once they killed about 50 Germans in less than 10 minutes wiped out a whole platoon before they got off a single shot. It was not for nothing the Germans called them the “Ladies from Hell”.

Auld Pop: When goin’ over the top, furrst, stan’ behind the tallest man or the broadest tree. Aye (always), a guid thing tae do!

2nd Shoot true; dae untae others before they dae untae you! 30 rounds a minute wi’ yer Enfield for the Jairmans an’ 20 for the Turk -15 for the Buggers (Bulgarians). Aye.

[Continued on Page 2. . .]

The Tree that never was; the Baseball game never played

Death should not be the most difficult thing to accept about life because death comes to us all. Victor Hugo wrote “It is nothing to die. It is frightful not to live.” Shakespeare said in Julius Caesar (Act II, Scene 2): “Of all the wonders that I have heard,
It seems to me most strange that men should fear;
Seeing death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come.” And the Greek poet said: “Dear son of Aegeus, to the immortal gods alone belong immunity to eld and death, all else doth all-consuming time devour….”

The most difficult part of life is gaining wisdom and a sense of gratitude for all we do have and for the time of good health we do have. The most difficult thing about life is that we have to, sooner or later, say goodbye to those whom we love. Either they will leave us or we will leave them.

Parting is truly a sweet sorrow. C.S.Lewis said “The death of a beloved is an amputation.” The lesson learned is that life and love are just brief moments in time.

We should love each other and appreciate each other NOW, this hour, this day, this week, this month this year. My mother and father died at the beginning of the 20th century now long ago:

My fayther and my mither

Sleep i’ the mools this day;

I sit my lane amang the rigs

Aboon sweet Rothesay Bay.

“Mools” means dust or the earth of a grave. I grew up hearing Scottish songs and poems that my parents and their friends and relatives listened to and both my parents loved poetry, music and song.

“Oh! there arose my Father’s pray’r,

In holy evening’s calm,

How sweet was then my Mither’s voice, In the Martyr’s psalm;

Noo a’ are gane! we meet nae mair Aneath the Rowan Tree;

But hallowed thoughts aroond thee twine O’ hame and infancy.

O, ROWAN TREE!”

The Rowan Tree is a nostalgic Scottish song filled with what the Gaels call “Cianalas.” It makes a special appeal to all Gaels who are exiled. It tells the story of a man who whenever he sees a Rowan Tree -a species of mountain ash-thinks back to the happy, never to be recaptured days of his carefree childhood when such a tree grew near his Highland Black House. The man has survived to visit the scenes of his childhood but the clachan (Highland village) is probably depopulated and the old home in ruin -perhaps only the outline of the foundations remain. The song captures completely the love a Gael has for the past and the places associated with it.

My father’s mother -born in Oban, Argyll circa 1890- sang it as well as did her sister Anna Sweeney (Auntie Annie to my father). I never met Auntie Annie but she had a big part in our family history. It was she who gave my father’s mother the money to sail to America in September 1927 (on the Transylvania -I have a copy of the ship’s manifest) She meant to come to join us eventually but stayed on in Scotland to take care some elders in her family on my father’s mother’s side. She died suddenly in 1935 and I know this because my father kept the telegram in his book of Burns poems. I remember when he took it out to show it to me one day when we were in his library discussing Burns -this would have been in the late 60’s or early 70’s and while speaking of her -his mother’s sister-his godmother- his voice broke and he cried. He often spoke of his mother and aunt and his cousin Molly Dorian and “Uncle” Johnny Dorian (his fourth grade teacher and later headmaster of St. Anthony’s RC school his many boyhood friends from his parish and his football team -a legendary team- the St. Anthony Ants. So even though I never met these people it was as if I had known them. My father would quote them and tell stories about them and share their favorite music and his favorite memories of them.

I have always loved THE ROWAN TREE. My mother and I used to sing it together and we heard Kenneth McKellar and Anne Lorne Gillies sing this song as well not only on LP’s but live in concerts. We all knew THE ROWAN TREE by heart -like many other Irish and Scottish songs -and sang it around my mother’s Hamilton upright piano or on the way home from trips to the mountains or on long car trips after seeing the Mets or Phillies.

In fact one of my best memories of my mother was the baseball game we never saw. We lived a long way from Shea Stadium and it was a 3 or 4 hour round trip to get there. My father was on a business trip so he couldn’t go to the night game in the middle of the week so my mother said, that she, of course, would drive me, she said, “she loved baseball!” Of course, my mother loved anything I loved. She always wanted to make people happy. That was the way she was. Well in any case it was raining heavily as we came to “Auld Shea” but we could see the lights were brightly shining through the dark and rain. When we got there they took our tickets and we went to our seats. The usher had to wipe off the seats with a town and a mitten! There must have been only about 8000 fans that night. The game actually began and they got in part of an inning in until a torrential downpour made it impossible to continue play. As a small boy I was disconsolate that I would miss a chance to see and big league game and all my baseball heroes. But my mother was very positive. We withdrew under the overhang of the Mezzanine and I drank hot chocolate and she drank hot coffee. We chatted about baseball to begin with. She never once complained or said anything negative in fact all her remarks were very hopeful. But in the end the game was a rainout and we had to get our paper tickets “rain checks” -they were all paper tickets back to exchange them for another day.

So one might think this would be the worst baseball memory ever. But instead the night was golden. The rainout was not a curse but a blessing. My mother and I spent the entire afternoon and evening talking, singing and laughing together sharing our friendship and love. On the way to the ballpark my mother had talked about my father’s mother and Aunt Annie and “Uncle” Johnny Robertson (killed in the Clyde Blitz in May 1941) and memories of my grandfather (Auld Pop) and his nephew Jimmy Quigley and Father Collins (of St. Anthony’s in Glasgow) and Father Garvey of Sacred Heart parish in New York.

My mother was Free Church (a Protestant) not Catholic so my father’s parish priest an Irishman actively discouraged the union and called her a “Proddy Dog” to my father’s face. My father had to be restrained from hitting “the Irish bastard.” But he hit hard nonetheless and said, “Father -you are no Christian. Just an old, ignorant bigoted Irishman and when my mother -a good Catholic- hears what you have said she will never darken the door of your parish again. God is a just judge and he will judge you harshly I am sure.”

My mother was in tears because she said, “now we can never marry!” But my godmother Katherine (Kay) Brennan -we have a large portrait of her in our living room had an idea. She said, the best thing do do was get married right away. She made a few calls and they made an appointment for the Little Church Around the Corner in Manhattan.

It was really called the Church of the Transfiguration and it had a very interesting history. It was built around 1850. During the Civil War it was place of refuge for African-Americans during the brutal 1863 Draft Riots in New York. The church got its famous nickname from an incident just before Christmas 1870. There was an actor, a certain Joseph Jefferson who had gone to a church to request a funeral for a close friend and fellow thespian, George Holland. But upon hearing the deceased friend had been an actor and was not a member of the church, the rector refused to even consider allowing funeral services. Joseph Jefferson had loved his friend and wanted to have a memorial service for him someplace and so asked around the neighborhood. An acquaintance said, it is reported, “I believe there is a little church around the corner where it might be done.” To which Jefferson replied, “Then I say to you, sir, God bless the little Church around the corner.”

And so my mother and father were married on flag day June 14, 1941 in an Episcopal Church (neither was Episcopalian. Later that evening they returned to my grandparent’s apartment in Brooklyn on old Dahlgren Place (no longer existing.) My father’s mother famously said, “How did the meeting with Father “so-and so” go?” And before she could say any more she saw my mother wearing a gold wedding ring and they told her the story. But she said, “But Tommie and Ruthie you are no’ married in the eyes of the church…..” and it was her turn to cry copiously.

My mother told my father it was best she go home with Kay Brennan and my father said he would work things out.

My father loved his mother and did not want her to suffer so he did not spend his wedding night with his bride!

The way the problem was solved was via the Scottish immigrant community. Now Scots are, generally speaking of numerous religious persuasions. A substantial minority are Roman Catholic, others are Presbyterian, some are Scottish Episcopalian (Anglican Communion), some are Jews, others are “Free Church” (evangelicals) , and many were free thinkers who never ever went to any church and so mixed marriages were very common even in those days. After a few days the solution to their problem was found in the person of Father Garvey of Sacred Heart Parish. He was a Scottish Roman Catholic priest with ties to Govan -he had studied in the Scots College at Valladolid with Father Dean Collins the man who married almost everyone on our family and who baptized my father on March 17,1915 while Auld Pop was in the trenches of the Ypres Salient with the Argylls. But the best part about Father Garvey besides being Scottish was that his mother had been a Scottish Episcopalian so he had many relatives who were of that persuasion and he had no prejudices whatsoever against mixed marriages. He said to my grandmother, “Ruthie is a Christian and a fine, wee lassie. Ye shall know them by their fruits. She loves you and your son enough to get married a second time in the Catholic Church. That’s good enough for me and God. And so let’s plan to do that immediately if not sooner.” So my parents had only one witness to their first wedding (Kay Brennan) and only four to their second wedding the following week (Kay, my father’s mother, his sister and his father-his brother couldn’t be bothered). They had a very simple dinner at home and then went to see MAJOR BARBARA with Wendy Hiller my mother’s favorite actress. By the way my mother was an only child but her mother -she was Free Church (Evangelical) and her aunt did not come to either wedding. In fact my mother had no contact with her mother until after WWII. So deep were the religious prejudices back then. That’s one of the reasons I am strong ecumenical myself. The more pluralism in religion the better as far as I am concerned.

My mother had no memories of her father Eric Anderson because he had been killed when she was a small child but she did know he loved music too -he had played the guitar and sang-and had many records of Caruso and John McCormack. She never knew her father but she knew his favorite hymns were “The Holy City” (Jerusalem), “The Rugged Cross”, and “All Creatures of our God and King”. She knew he had been a sailor, an immigrant to America, a lumberjack, a carpenter and he had worked in the ship-building trade. During WWI he built subchasers. I also know he hated the Kaiser (like everyone in our family) and was intensely pro-Ally even before the USA entered the war.

Thou rushing wind that art so strong,
Ye clouds that sail in heav’n along,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou rising moon, in praise rejoice,
Ye lights of evening, find a voice!

I also know Eric was very patriotic. He died before his 25th birthday. He was a naturalized American citizen and greatly admired Theodore Roosevelt and voted for him in 1912. My mother had a book of Roosevelt’s travels in the Amazon that had belonged to her father. Viktor Frankl, in The Doctor and the Soul wrote: “We cannot, after all, judge a biography by its length, by the number of pages in it; we must judge by the richness of the contents…Sometimes the ‘unfinisheds’ are among the most beautiful symphonies.” We would like to believe this. I don’t know if Eric Anderson was an Anti-Catholic as my mother’s mother but he might have been because he and all his relatives were break away from the Established Church and as they tell me very devout. He belonged to the same church as my mother’s mother and her aunt they were -as far as I could tell-ultra-Calvinists but I don’t really know because we had very little do do with them when I was growing up. I know they called us the “Irish Munros” (even though my family was Scottish) and it was not meant as a compliment. Some of the spinning wheels and furniture Eric Anderson made still exists (some are in folk museums). I am sure (almost sure) all the ships he built are long gone. He is dead, his splinter church is dead (died out) and his wife is dead as well as his daughter. He lives on only in the name of his great-granddaugher Erica. So I never knew him but I know he had good qualities. He was brave. He was hardworking. He was a patriotic naturalized American. He was God-fearing. He loved music and singing. I would like to believe that if he had opposed my mother’s wedding he might have mellowed and accepted it after a time.

My mother used to say, “We are born in one day. We can learn and change in one day because of one intense experience. And we can fall in love in one day as your father and I did. We can marry in one day as we did. And marry again the next week as we did. We can get sick and die in one day. Anything can happen in just one day. Our bodies are fragile vessels for our immortal souls.”

My father used to quote Socrates “The hour of departure has arrived, and we go our separate ways, I to die, and you to live. Which of these two is better only the God knows.” My father loved the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (the Fitzgerald translation) and so tended toward skepticism:

“Oh threats of Hell and Hopes of Paradise!
One thing at least is certain – This Life flies;
One thing is certain and the rest is Lies –
The Flower that once has blown forever dies.”

My father was raised a Catholic but by age 21 his faith had withered away and I can only describe him as lapsed Catholic tending towards agnosticism. As an adult he never attended church except to go to wedding or funeral. His favorite line, was, when speaking of heaven, “Personally, I vote yes. But it is too good to be true. I think death is a sleep. They say” ” Death is nothing strange, nor Hell as has been said, Good will not perish, nor evil be unpunished for God is the great Judge.” “Ah, yes! Isn’t it pretty to think so. I wish it were true! I would want to see my mother again. But laddie, it is too good to be true!”

Nonetheless, though my father was not untouched by tragedy in his life -he lost most of his friends at young age due to his immigration at age 12 and the fact that most were killed at Dunkirk in 1940. Those tragedies taught him not to inflict pain and suffering on others if we can help it. He often said, “This is the only life you have this side of paradise. Don’t be an SOB.”

Yes, the most difficult thing about life is saying goodbye to the people you live and the things you love. Arthur Schopenhauer, a favorite author of my father’s, said” “If children were brought into the world by an act of pure reason alone, would the human race continue to exist? Would not a man rather have so much sympathy with the coming generation as to spare it the burden of existence, or at any rate not take it upon himself to impose that burden upon it in cold blood?” My father did not agree with Schopenhauer because my father believed if there was any immortality it was through on e’s children. One of his favorite Shakespearean Sonnets was Sonnet 2

When forty winters shall besiege thy brow,
And dig deep trenches in thy beauty’s field,
Thy youth’s proud livery so gazed on now,
Will be a totter’d weed of small worth held:
Then being asked, where all thy beauty lies,
Where all the treasure of thy lusty days;
To say, within thine own deep sunken eyes,
Were an all-eating shame, and thriftless praise.
How much more praise deserv’d thy beauty’s use,
If thou couldst answer ‘This fair child of mine
Shall sum my count, and make my old excuse,’
Proving his beauty by succession thine!
This were to be new made when thou art old,
And see thy blood warm when thou feel’st it cold.

So my father believed marriage meant openness to children and though he was not an orthodox Catholic by any means he dislike Planned Parenthood and overuse of artificial contraception what he and Auld Pop called “Dud in the Mud sex” for no purpose. He also believe a man and woman had only so many “good shots” and “good eggs” and it was foolish to waste them. Don’t have children until you are married my father said but don’t put it off too long when you do. He said, “you never know how many years of health your and your spouse will have.” My parents didn’t have any children until my mother was 32 but of course he was in the Army 1942-1946.

My grandfather (Auld Pop) has been dead over 50 years but my cousin Helen Munro and I speak about him often as if he were just with us a little while ago. My mother and father and godmother Kay Brennan and my godparents Andrew Muir Tracey and Kitty (Scally) Tracy are all dead but their portraits are in my house and their voices are in my memory. I still stay in close contact with Kitty’s children Paul Tracey and her daughter Ada (Tracey) Stankard.

And of course if you love someone you never really say goodbye to them nor forget them and it has to feel good to know you will never be forgotten by those who loved you either.

Jorge Luis Borges wrote: “When writers die they become books, which is, after all, not too bad an incarnation.” Not all of us will become well-known authors or artists and let us remember indeed most author’s produce ephemeral works of art that will totally forgotten in 20, 50 or 100 years. Herman Hesse wrote: “We fear death, we shudder at life’s instability, we grieve to see the flowers wilt again and again, and the leaves fall, and in our hearts we know that we, too, are transitory and will soon disappear. When artists create pictures and thinkers search for laws and formulate thoughts, it is in order to salvage something from the great dance of death, to make something last longer than we do.” If they are lucky one quote or one character or one joke might be quoted and remembered. Some might say then the death of an individual person has no more meaning than the death of a dog or cat or of armies or of nations.

But this can’t be true. Individuals can live and communities can live on even if the Empire or nation is destroyed. This especially true of the Jews who have, remarkably, had a continuous history for 6,000 years and against all the odds the Jews kept alive the memory of their nation and faith in God and have resurrected Israel as an independent nation Similarly, when Carthage fell, or when Numantia fell or Alesia surely some individuals escaped and lived on perhaps escaping individually or in small bands to Britain or Ireland.

I always remember something my father said to me one time when I was musing over my maps of the Roman Empire and setting out my Roman soldiers. Unlike Churchill, I was very lucky to have many memories not only of my father but also Auld Pop, my Scottish grandfather. They read to me, took me on walks, played with me and spent time with me. My father said:”You know, of course, that the Romans were the arch enemies of our forebears. Within the Roman Empire we would be the barbarians to be destroyed or enslaved: for when the beat of the kettle-drum of the steely hard Roman come, taken our own hilltops, one by one. You ancestors were the Celts and the Gaels. Not the Romans! ”

But I replied, yes, “but St. Patrick brought us into the Roman world. And also we come from the Lochlanoch -the Vikings! Not only Niall of the Nine Hostages but the Dane Clan Ranald and Olaf the Tree-Hewer! That’s what you and Auld Pop said!.”

And thinking some more I retorted: “Our ancestors did not have to be enslaved they could have served the yoke and become mercenaries like the Varangian Guard!”

“True”, said my father, “but Vikings and Saxons and Gaels who served the Eastern Roman Emperor were lost to their families and to their nations. As small racial and linguistic minorities in the Eastern Empire they died out or were assimilated over time to the Greek-speaking or later Turkish speaking population. So the exiles survived as individuals but their language and culture was destined to fade away.”

But something of us remains in our nation, our family, “our race and line” as they used to say in the Highlands -our family line within the human race. I believe those who have families and pass on family traditions, values and beliefs never die.

My father smiled and his small eyes glowed when he said these things. My father had the bright face of a jolly soul with long deep laugh lines underneath his black glasses. My father was very private and had suffered losses and disappointments in his life but generally speaking had a sweet and sunny disposition. On the faces of the aged there are wrinkles made by laughter and sympathy. When my father was in his forties he gave up smoking and he could have passed for 35 and when he was in his sixties he could have passed for 45 and when he was in his vigorous seventies he could have passed for 50. He had all his hair till the day he died and he was just a few months from his 90th birthday. The chief evidence of his age were his dentures. By his 70th birthday he had lost all his teeth not having any dental care at all the first 20 or 30 years of his life.

By contrast, I knew someone close to our family who was exceeding beautiful from her late teens to early thirties when her figure began to go. It is not an exaggeration to say she was as beautiful as a Hollywood starlet and a knockout in a bikini in her late teens and early twenties. She was about 5′ 6″ and I would guess 115-120 pounds. She liked the ski, swim and sail and so was reasonably athletic as a young woman. As a young boy I greatly admired her and was happy to spend time with her and meet her older friends. I suppose I was a little bit in love with her although she was 12 or 15 years older than I. She had many gentleman and squandered her youth with wild Spring breaks on this coast or that island. She was still attractive in her thirties but by that time ridiculous in a bikini and not favored by tight blue jeans. By the time she was in middle-age her face was drawn and lined into severe, inharmonious contours. She was not a happy woman. She did not have a successful marriage mostly -from what I gleaned from her sister- a series of worthless lovers who took what they could from her and dumped her when she lost her figure and most of her looks. She also let her mind go and I don’t think she read a single serious book after age 35. She gambled, she smoked, ate and drank with abandon and by the time she was 50 weighed over 300 pounds. But it wasn’t just her looks she lost. By neglect she lost the love of my father, my mother -and they were very loving people and also those of most of her immediate family members. I realize and I am sure others did also that we were drawn to her, in part,in the beginning because of her synthetic charm and physical attractiveness. But she was one of those persons that if she could not get something out of you -free chores or money- she had zero interest. Some people are like that. This person, I came to realize, was a shallow, selfish-hedonist but proved the old statement by Orwell that at 50 you have the face you deserve. Nature gives everyone some youthful charm and beauty in the late teens and early 20s but by 30 or 40 your beauty is shaped by your life choices, life habits and life experiences. I have noticed smokers and sun worshippers seem to age the fastest.

I never dated a smoker for very long nor any dame who who drank more than I did. I cried when I was young, when the young woman said, “I like you but there is no chemistry.” I came home and was unconsolable. How could I not be loved if I loved? How can I not be loved if I were kind and thoughtful took a girl out to dinner and gave expensive presents?

My grandmother was very practical. she said, “Dinna fash yersel’ Ricky (that’s what she called me). “There are lots of fish in the sea! And now you think she is so beautiful so perfect so slim! But remember in another 30 years she will just be another fat old woman like me! ” And she made me laugh. And it is true. Most of the beautiful young women I knew 40 and 50 years ago are dead and, if they are lucky, old and fat grandmothers.

My father loved Proust whom he read in the original French (my own French is small) : “Now there is one thing I can tell you: you will enjoy certain pleasures you would not fathom now. When you still had your mother you often thought of the days when you would have her no longer. Now you will often think of days past when you had her. When you are used to this horrible thing that they will forever be cast into the past, then you will gently feel her revive, returning to take her place, her entire place, beside you. At the present time, this is not yet possible. Let yourself be inert, wait till the incomprehensible power … that has broken you restores you a little, I say a little, for henceforth you will always keep something broken about you. Tell yourself this, too, for it is a kind of pleasure to know that you will never love less, that you will never be consoled, that you will constantly remember more and more.”

I feel like this. But of course, Man proposes and God disposes.The sun in the sky today will set; each day it sets and each day it takes some with it. I remember the day my father died, many thousands of miles away. As I drove home the sun was setting. I stopped the car to watch. I hadn’t heard the news yet but somehow I knew my father was gone. And he was. And I knew all the tears in the world could not restore to you those who have gone from you.

Not this side of paradise, anyway.

REVIEW: SAND and STEEL a new d-day history by Peter Caddick-Adams

I am finishing the second of PETER CADDICK-ADAMS STEEL books (AND and STEEL). I have read hundreds of WWII books and have enjoyed these immensely.  I have learned a lot that I did not know (African-American experience in England pre D-Day for example). not to mention interviews I had never read before. I think this book, so well written, will be a cornerstone of D-Day literature.Congratulations. A great companion to all the fine D-Day books I have read from THE LONGEST DAY to Six Armies in Normandy etc.

 I know good history having read almost all of David Howarth, Alan Moorehead, Cornelius Ryan, John Keegan, Andrew Roberts, Alex Kershaw,, Stephen Ambrose, Michael Grant plus of course the classic historians including Churchill I am impressed by a work that 1) is compelling and well-written 2) fair to all sides 3) accurate ( I haven’t found one typo or historical error 4) full of new information and new insights. If anyone would ask me why read STEEL and SAND and I would say it is like reading a whole new book about D-Day, ITS ORIGINS, and its aftermath. Of course, I recognize some of the same source material in other books but PETER CADDICK-ADAMS always bring a fresh approach. This book is highly recommended. Now I want to read all of his WWII books!

Are the jews the chosen people?

I am not Roman but I was raised to believe the Roman missionaries and their school raised us to a better life. We entered Western Civilization with St. Patrick, St. Columba, St Mungo and St. Maelrubha. I am not a Greek but I have the deepest admiration for Greco-Roman civilization. I am not a Jew but I have had many Jewish friends and teachers my entire life -and my parents too. One of my father’s best friends (our neighbor for over 50 years was Manny Sussman, an RAF veteran radar not pilot and his wife Doris.) I last had dinner with him in the fall of 2004 and was glad to spend some time with him then. He had been widowed by then. He lost most of his family during WWII due to the Holocaust and the Blitz. I listen to Jews constantly (Dennis Prager; Ben Shapiro) and others and learn from them. These are men of culture who mention fine music and good books constantly (unlike the philistine Russ Limbaugh who is funny but shallow). I am not English either but I have the greatest respect for English culture. My father used to joke that Manny represented the best of both worlds as an Englishman and as a Jew. We are not English but have alway been Anglophiles and strongly Unionist. We appreciate the gifts of the English, the Jews, the Greeks the Romans. We (and I am speaking as a Gael or Celt) know we lacked what it took to be a successful nation and empire. We only succeed as part of greater more stable and united cultural entities because basically we are emotional, brooding and barbaric seeking tit-for-tat revenge and almost incapable of unity. Believe me I have to fight my darker impulses to kill, to steal, to seek revenge over past wrongs. I cannot say the Duke of Cumberland without holding back some anger and some tears. One of the glories and one of the curses of Gaels is that we never forget. But , Thank God, my faith teaches me to be a Good Neighbor. I try to remember the gifts of the English not the bad moments. I try to remember Pitt, Disraeli, Churchill. I try to think on Shakespeare and the King James Bible not the Glen Coe Massacre or the Great Hunger.

ArE MEXICANS SPANISH? WHo are they?

Of course, Mexican and Spanish are not synonymous any more than Englishman and Irishman (Gael) are synonymous though most people don’t seem to know much about the cultural, linguistic, ethnic and religious pluralism of the Isles (the British Isles but some people prefer to call them the Isles especially if it includes the Isle of Man and Ireland). However, I think it fair to say just as most native English are really Anglo-Celtic-Norman-Roman most Mexicans are Spanish Mexican in culture and language. And of course, their history as a separate people from their (mostly) Spanish overlords has created a separate identity. Are most Mexicans indigenous? Certainly, most Mexicans have some indigenous roots. However, since the Mexican race or line (or raza) has its origins in the Spanish missions, presidios, and pueblos and not in Indian Reservations most Mexicans are very far removed from indigenous peoples culturally and linguistically. In other words, most Irish and Highlanders are closer to their ethnic and linguistic origins as Gaels (Celts) than most Mexicans are to their indigenous roots. The Iron Age in Europe only ended in Scotland in 1745 and in Ireland circa 1692 and well into the 18th and 19th century, the Gaels were considered racially and linguistically distinct from the English. Of course, Mexican and Spanish are not synonymous any more than Englishman and Irishman (Gael) are synonymous though most people don’t seem to know much about the cultural, linguistic, ethnic and religious pluralism of the Isles (the British Isles but some people prefer to call them the Isles especially if it includes the Isle of Man and Ireland). However, I think it fair to say just as most native English are really Anglo-Celtic-Norman-Roman most Mexicans are Spanish Mexican in culture and language. Are most Mexicans indigenous? Certainly, most Mexicans have some indigenous roots. However, since the Mexican race or line (or raza) has its origins in the Spanish missions, presidios, and pueblos and not in Indian Reservations most Mexicans are very far removed from indigenous peoples culturally and linguistically. In other words, most Irish and Highlanders are closer to their ethnic and linguistic origins as Gaels (Celts) than most Mexicans are to their indigenous roots. The Iron Age in Europe only ended in Scotland in 1745 and in Ireland circa 1692 and well into the 18th and 19th century, the Gaels were considered racially and linguistically distinct from the English. By contrast, and this can be proved by numerous documents, the vast majority of Hispanic Mexicans were heavily or almost totally Hispanicized into a virtual melting pot of the Spanish Empire. Hence, both the Philippines and Mexico share the Virgen de Guadalupe an old Catholic culture (now increasingly Evangelical protestant) and Spanish blood. Many “Spanish” sailors or soldiers of the 16th, 17th and 18th century were of Latin American, Filipino or even Guamanian origin not to mention Moroccan and African origin. I have taught immigrant students from Mexico and Central America for over 30 years (teaching easily and meeting thousands of students and their parents and relatives) and I have traveled numerous times to Spanish-speaking countries of the Americas. What has always impressed me was the great racial diversity of these people from people clearly African in origin (Black slavery existed in New Spain for over 300 years), Indian, Mestizo, and blue-eyed red-haired criollos. Racial categories no longer legally exist in Mexico but the old class/race system is still evident. And many Hispanic Mexicans, until very recent times intermarried with “White” populations (there was no law against it) and considered themselves “White” or “Spanish” because it was advantageous for them to do so. I have seen the birth certificates and census information prior to 1970 and even some prior to 1900 from New Mexico and California. Families of Mexican origin clearly identified as “Spanish” and many (if not most) identified as “White”. Many years ago Spanish-speaking far workers -impoverished former ranch owners of North Mexico used to routinely come up to me when I was coaching their kids and say things like (they didn’t speak English) and say knowingly, “nosotros los blancos (we the Whites ) were the first to play football and baseball and connect Mexico to American and European ways.”Those immigrants, probably born circa the 1930’s or early 1940’s clearly wanted to be accepted as Whites and identified as Spanish, I have personally observed 9th grader identified as “White” only to change by the 11th grade (time to apply to college)to “Hispanic/Latino.” (Good for them; you play whatever card life deals you.)

Latino is the word that is probably most universal for Spanish-speaking immigrants from the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America and depending on the national origin Hispano is also very common (Not “Hispanic” not among Spanish speakers in Spanish) But by far the most common way to identify oneself is by national origin, Mexican, Cuban, Dominican, Salvadoran, Panamanian, Puerto Rican etc. My own family is Spanish-speaking (it is the predominant home language of every household with children) and when we get together we have roots from Spain, Chile, Peru and Mexico. I wonder what my grandchildren will think of themselves in years hence. I think it highly likely they will be two things 1) Roman Catholic 2) consider themselves Mexican-Americans because that is the predominant ethnic group with which they associate They will be part of what Mexican author Carlos Fuentes called La Tercera Hispanidad. That is if they have an identity at all.

Who knows? But somehow I am sure that the dual identity of the Mexican that of having indigenous roots and Spanish roots will endure even as they will be (almost certainly) Americans. There is no question the Mexican-Americans feel ill at ease and uncertain about their status, acceptance and safety in the USA. For my part, I believe it very important for us to return to the policy of the Good Neighbor. We have to live to together as we will love together and have families together. That is the future and that is the road to peace and acceptance. When everyone is related by blood or marriage it will be hard to hate “the other.”