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The truth about the Christian New Year’s Eve….

From https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/saint/st-sylvester-pope-101

New Year’s Eve now and New Year’s Eve in the mediaeval period actually refer to two different calendar days. Old New Year’s Eve was 24th March. For an easy-to-understand explanation, please go to here, but whichever the day, it was still New Year’s Eve. We now celebrate it with much fun, laughter and hope, but its history is rather different. And so this article of mine has appeared on the day as we know it now.

The name Sylvester is a reference to New Year’s Eve, because St Sylvester’s Day is celebrated then. This saint’s day is still widely celebrated, although not particularly here in the United Kingdom. The Germans, for instance, call New Year’s Eve Silvester. See this site

From https://www.eventbrite.de/e/mega-silvester-berlin-201920-tickets-67021094899?aff=ebdssbdestsearch

St Sylvester was first Pope Sylvester I, and was in office from 314 to 335. (see Brittanica Online) He died on 31st December 335, hence it is his feast day. He is the one who converted the Emperor Constantine to Christianity.

”The Donation of Constantine”, Gian Francesco Penni, Sala di Costantino in the Vatican

There was a second St Sylvester who was also a Pope, 999 to 1003, but apart from having taken the name Sylvester (he was originally Gerbert of Aurillac) I do not think he was connected with New Year’s Eve. He was the one who introduced Europe to the decimal system. Pope Sylvester III took office in 1045, and is believed by many to be an antipope (see explanation of antipopes here) Pope Sylvester IV was another who was considered to be an antipope.

New Year’s Eve was the birthday of Bonnie Prince Charlie. It was also the birthday of the French admiral who was defeated by Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar. Pierre-Charles-Baptiste-Silvestre de Villeneuve was born on 31st December 1763. Hence the name Silvestre being added.

Admiral Pierre-Charles-Jean-Baptiste-Sylvestre de Villeneuve from From https://www.frenchempire.net/biographies/villeneuve/

When it comes to English medieval history, the closest I can come to New Year’s Eve is the Battle of Wakefield, which took place the day before in 1460. To learn more, go to Battlefields of Britain As the 3rd Duke of York and his second son, Edmund, Earl of Rutland, were killed at the battle, I imagine that New Year’s Eve was a time of utter sorrow for their remaining sons/siblings.

The Scots have their New Year’s Eve celebrations too. They call it Hogmanay. If you go to this article you can read all about it. The name is thought to have been used after the return of Mary, Queen of Scots, to Scotland from France in 1561. The origin of the name Hogmanay is not really known, but the above BBC Newsround link offers quite a number of possibilities.

Now, in the present day there is no ignoring the claims that most of our Christian feasts and festivals have a pagan origin. I don’t know whether to give this credence or not. Julius Caesar was said to have used 31st December/1st January to honour the two-faced Roman god Janus, god of changes and beginnings. Janus was said to look back into the past and forward into the future. That sounds logical enough to me.

The Roman God Janus
from https://www.mercatornet.com/features/view/who-was-janus-the-roman-god-of-beginnings-and-endings/20868

So, while you’re all enjoying your parties tonight, seeing in the New Year and singing with gusto—and not a little alcoholic assistance!—perhaps you should raise your glasses to Julius Caesar, St Silvester I, Bonnie Prince Charlie, and poor old defeated Admiral Villeneuve (who, was returned to France by the British, and was quite amazingly supposed to have committed suicide by “six stab wounds in the left lung and one in the heart”. That, ladies and gentlemen, was quite feat, I think you’ll agree. I can’t imagine anyone believed it was self-inflicted!

Villeneuve was interred at the Church of Saint Germain in Rennes, pictured here in 1910
from http://www.wiki-rennes.fr/Fichier:Eglise_saint_germain.jpeg

I will end this now, but but not before reminding you of the very first Sylvester I ever knew – yes, Sylvester the Cat, who so wanted to eat that annoying Tweety-Pie. Personally I always hoped he’d succeed. Was there ever a more irritating, stupid-looking canary? Anyway, here’s a link to make you laugh as you see out 2019! I’ll bet a lot of you remember I Tawt I Taw a Puddy Tat! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MvNfPSXWZqw

 

Let’s Hope 2020 is a Good One!

The contrasting fates of two properties associated with Sir Francis Drake….

 

Crowdale Farm, Tavistock, Devon - birthplace of Sir Francis Drake

Crowndale Farm, Tavistock, Devon, birthplace in 1540 of Sir Francis Drake.

The recent concern https://www.metro.news/sir-francis-drakes-birthplace-at-risk-of-being-lost-forever/1243118/ gradual disintegration of Sir Francis Drake’s birthplace, the Grade II listed Crowndale Farm, in Tavistock, Devon, where he came into the world in 1540. It is unbelievable that such neglect has been allowed to take place. What is the point of listing a property, and then not providing the owner with the funds to restore/protect it? Not all owners are rolling in money. And what is the point of listing something at all, if that’s the end of it? Listing would appear to = slow demise.

Crowndale is not the only building associated with Sir Francis Drake, nor is the Gatcombe associated with the present Prince of Wales the only place of that name in Gloucestershire. There is another Gatcombe, a tiny place on the Forest of Dean side of the River Severn. Most people will have heard of the prince’s Gatcombe, but not this other one.

Here is an extract from Riversprite: A Trow’s Story, by Roger Poole:-

“The ancient town of Lydney is situated a few miles north of ~Chepstow on the Forest of Dean side of the River Severn. It has a history that goes back many centuries. Iron Age tribes lived and worked here, as did the Romans, but as a port it grew maninly during the 18th and 19th centuries.

“One of the main cargoes that went through the harbour was coal from the pits in the Forest of Dean, although large quantities of timber and iron ore also passed through the port and on across the Severn Sea.

“Before that, In Tudor times, ship-building was an important business in the area, Warships for the King’s navy were built here, using oak and other timber from the Forest of Dean. Sir Francie Drake lived for a time at nearby Gatcombe, and Sir Walter Raleigh is said to have done business with local timber merchants while staying in the tiny hamlet of Purton, a couple of miles upstream….”

If you go to https://www.sungreen.co.uk/gatcombe/severn-fishermen.html, you will find a very old photograph of Severn fishermen (see below), and in between them the distant white rectangle of Drake’s house.

Old View of Gatcombe on the River Severn

Severn fishermen on “Waveridge Sands”. The Old Severn Bridge pub is on the left, the Purton ferry staging is on the water’s edge and between the two men with the Lave nets is Drake’s House.

And if you go to https://www.rightmove.co.uk/property-for-sale/property-66396161.html you will see much more about the same house. Doubt is cast upon the connection with Sir Francie, but nevertheless, the legend is very strong, on both sides of the Severn.

Drake's House, Gatcombe, Lydney

Drake’s House, Gatcombe, Lydney, Glos.

I have drawn attention to this house on the Severn as a contrast to the fate that is being allowed to befall Crowndale Farm in Devon. Maybe the present appearance of Drake’s House isn’t to all tastes, not everyone likes pink, or wishes to live right next to a main railway line, but at least the house is still standing and still loved. Still there for future generations to appreciate.

The same should be able to be said of Crowndale Farm!

 

 

 

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