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Billy King


Nonviolence News


Billy King

Issue 162: September 2008

[Return to related issue of Nonviolent News]

Billy King gives us his monthly thoughts:

Well hello again, fancy seeing you here, I hope you kept afloat this summer and a wet wet wet wet wet wet wet one it was too. As usual I didn’t get a quarter of the things done I intended to, and as for painting the outside windows, well, this task remains to be done in its entirety. The cold winds of late October will be biting – they seem to be doing that already and it’s only early September - and I will be up a ladder [without a paddle? – Ed]. It wasn’t a very good growing season in the garden either – no heatwaves, however short, to turn courgettes into instant marrows, even the flower/seed heads on the fennel seem quite underdeveloped for the time of year, and the runner beans are running late (they haven’t bean and gone….).

Anyways, I hope you had a good break and are fit and ready for the busyness that lies ahead. But it is a bit scary that after 25 years in the one house, the two years where we risked flooding (thankfully only the garden and garden shed, and house foundations through a grille, as our steps are quite high) were this year and last year. The drains simply could not carry away the rain. This summer the water stopped a few millimetres from the lip of the door to the garden shed which is a continuation of our house.

Scam 547

I’m not involved in youth work but somehow managed to get onto an international youth work mailing list – this kind of thing happens for a variety of reasons not least being that some people like to have a massive e-mail list and, even if you didn’t sign up for it, they’re determined you’re going to get it anyway. This is the background to an e-mail I received purporting to come from the Tony Blair Faith Foundation (TBFF) about an HIV/AIDS conference in the US of A in November for young people. I made the presumption, based on the difference between the e-mail address given in the e-mail and that on the TBFF website that it was actually a scam. And open invitations are not the way to run a conference like the one detailed. TBFF confirmed to me, when I enquired, that it was indeed a scam – presumably, once you had ‘booked’ for this ‘free’ event the scammers would then look for an ‘administration fee’, or some such.

But I couldn’t help thinking, while I don’t condone any such scamming, that they picked the right man to use in a scam. When you consider what the British government got up to in the lead into the current Iraq war, Tony Blair puts the e-mail scammers in the halfpenny place (if you’re still allowed use that expression given that this item of small change is long gone). Maybe the Tony Blair Fate Foundation would have been a better name for his current organisation. Or the Tony Blair Faith Without Foundation (That There Were Weapons of Mass Distraction in Iraq].

Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Russian roulette*

Good piece in ‘Peace News’ July-August 2008 edition by its co-editor, Milan Rai on “Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Five myths”, largely based on the book “The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb” (London, Fontana, 1995). Those five myths are:

  1. Hiroshima was a legitimate military target
  2. The bombing of Nagasaki was also necessary
  3. There was no alternative for securing Japan’s surrender in August 1945.
  4. The atomic bombings hastened the end of the war.
  5. The atomic bombings saved the lives of one million US soldiers who would have died in a full-scale invasion of Japan.”

I don’t want to repeat what is printed there (I don’t see it in the online edition of Peace News at but you can get in touch with ‘PN’ that way anyhow if you’re looking for it). However the piece quite succinctly demolishes the five myths listed above. The bombs were dropped for a variety of reasons, including the USA wanting to exert its power and establish its superiority. The imminent declaration of war by the Soviet Union on Japan, along with a guarantee that the Japanese Emperor could stay on his throne, might have brought the war to an even faster end. US military estimates for US deaths in a Japanese invasion ranged from 8,000 – 46,000 (the highest estimate). And Hiroshima was not a significant military base (it was never bombed conventionally) while the second attack was partly for the US to try a more sophisticated bomb than that used on Hiroshima.

In war, atrocities come from all sides.

*Note: “Hiroshima Nagasaki Russian Roulette”, which I used above, is the title of a great song by Jim Page which was sung by Christy Moore in the 1970s for the Irish anti-nuclear power movement. It features in Christy Moore’s autobiography-through-song, “One voice – My life in song”.

Disabled by others

I happened to be in the company of someone with disabilities this summer when we were at a concert by a well known band in a well known location of a well known town in one of the 26 of the 32 counties of Ireland. My companion needed to sit down and we were directed to talk to the manager of the band by a member of the staff at the venue. The band manager refused to provide a seat even though it was clear the person with me needed to sit down. We were told it was a standing only concert (nothing was said about this when purchasing pickets or in the publicity, though even if it had it would not have negated legal obligations). Furthermore, adding insult to injury the manager stated that it was for ‘young people and they would be dancing” (we would not exactly qualify as young). In fact there were already a few people sitting in the back, apart from others sitting in the bar areas. A verbal altercation followed and it was clear the only choice we had was to get our money back, but bystanders and staff at the venue must have been wondering why these people were being thrown out. We left with what was meant to have been a good evening’s craic in ruins, with flabbergasted and negative astonishment at what had happened – we could hardly believe it. Said manager subsequently removed the seats from those who were sitting in the auditorium, including from someone on dialysis.

To be fair to the staff at the venue, they were rather shocked themselves and, when we returned the next day to complain, were very fair. At a previous gig by the same band at the same venue, chairs had been provided at the back for those who needed them. The manager of said band did come to realise the error of his ways – apart from anything else he was acting illegally under the Equal Status Acts 2000 - 2004, and we were offered compensation in kind by the venue and the manager of the band. My companion decided to settle things privately and quietly (which is why no names are mentioned above) though we could have created a veritable maelstrom in both radio and print media had we so desired; the main desire and goal was to ensure that the same thing could not happen again.

But it was an amazing education to think that in 2008 anyone could even think of refusing a chair or a stool to someone who needed it. It wasn’t as if it was going to provide a precedent and everyone would want chairs, and there was no cost involved. Before any disability or disability access legislation came in there would surely have been a common sense approach of responding to a human need and request. It certainly made us think that while there may be legislation in place for people with disabilities, things have a long road to travel yet.

Four masters

With an INNATE member, Keli Harrington, preparing to sail slowly around the world with her partner, Stuart, you might think the four masters I am referring to are some variety of sailing boat. But no, I refer to the Four Masters, Annals of, 17th century variety. Important as the Annals of the Four Masters are for Irish history, historical discoveries can be made by anyone, even by chance, and you may already know I’m a bit of a history buff [Don’t you mean ‘history bluff’? – Ed] and it can stem from following up the simplest reference.

There’s a new luxury hotel open in Co Donegal, on the shores of Lough Eske not far from another luxury one at Harvey’s Point, in this case the Solís Lough Eske Hotel. A niece picked up a leaflet on the history of the place (which includes the remains of an O’Donnell castle) when visiting the latter and I read it with interest. And then it struck me; here was a reference to the ‘Annuals of the Four Masters’ not to the ‘Annals of the Four Masters’ – the ‘Annuals’ were obviously a relatively or completely unknown and untapped resource for Irish history so, after much dedicated research (all my research, especially into graveyards, is dedicated) I found the further reference I was looking for. It is clear that the term ‘annuals’ can be understood in different ways, as illustrated below.

What follows is a snippet from Mícheál Ó Cléirigh writing in ‘The Annuals of the Four Masters’ which I am provisionally able to date to 1622, a decade before the ‘Annals’. It is published here, exclusively, for the very first time:

“An Leabhar Beano ~

[Translator’s note: ‘Leabhar’ means book but it was felt appropriate to leave this ‘proper name’ in Irish]

…..In the years of my childhood I often sought solace from the affairs of the world in An Leabhar Beano. Its colourful existence was a breath of fresh air, and good humoured excitement, in what was otherwise an often hard and dull growing up and apprenticeship to the adult world. Awakening the human imagination is a great thing to behold, and this work was exquisitely designed to do just this……..

Young Moore’s Almanac ~

……Young Moore’s Almanac has been a treasure trove of useful and useless information for some years now, and its prognostications [Translator’s note: The word ‘réamhaithris’ was used here] have been a source of much debate and discussion in varied quarters of the land. It is truly a great joy to peruse its pages……

Consider the lilies of the field ~

…..The lilies of the field are real perennials rather than annuals, but sowing annual flowers, or allowing them to seed and grow themselves, is a heavenly way to brighten up any vegetable garden or patch, in fact it is not a patch on just growing vegetables alone, and, truly, marigolds are a useful companion plant. Or, one might say in generality that honesty is the best policy……”

So there you have it. As always, readers of this Colm are privileged with great insights and exciting discoveries and knowledge at no additional cost. [‘Wool’ and ‘eyes’ are a couple of the words that come to mind – Ed]

Well, there we go, and the seasons turn, turn, turn, turning in a rather unpredictable manner, in our neck of the woods anyway. So, stay dry, stay warm, stay insulated (but not from outside events), and stay the course, til we meet again next month, Billy.


Who is Billy King?
A long, long time ago, in a more innocent age (just talking about myself you understand), there were magazines called 'Dawn' and 'Dawn Train' and I had a back page column in these. Now the Headitor has asked me to come out from under the carpet to write a Cyberspace Column 'something people won't be able to put down' (I hope you're not carrying your monitor around with you).

Watch this. Cast a cold eye on life, on death, horseman pass by (because there'll almost certainly be very little about horses even if someone with a similar name is found astride them on gable ends around certain parts of Norn Iron).

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