Nigeria home of the witchfinders?

Libel tourist and Nigerian ‘witch hunter’ (the self styled) ‘Lady Apostle’ Helen Ukpabio attempts to stifle critics by suing BHA for half a billion pounds

The British Humanist Association (BHA) and Witchcraft and Human Rights Information Network (WHRIN), are being sued by the wealthy evangelical preacher and ‘witch hunter’ Helen Ukpabio who has dubbed herself a ‘Lady Apostle’. Mrs Ukpabio claims to have expertise in identifying children and adults who are possessed with witchcraft spirits and in how they can be ‘delivered’ from those spirits. Her lawyers have informed the BHA and WHRIN that she is launching a legal case against them due to their criticism of her teachings and methods.

Claiming to be a former witch herself, the founder of the Liberty Foundation Gospel Ministries has been accused of exploiting superstitious beliefs around demonic possession, which can and often does result in the endangering of vulnerable children. The BHA have called for Ukpabio and others like her to be banned from coming to the UK on the grounds that they are a threat to child welfare and their practices are not conducive to the public good.

Her legal case against the BHA is based on Mrs Ukpabio’s stating that she wrote that a child “under the age of two” who is “possessed with black, red and vampire witchcraft spirits” can be identified by features such as s/he “screams at night, cries, is always feverish, suddenly deteriorates in health, puts up an attitude of fear, and may not feed very well.” Her teachings are to the effect that babies under the age of two who exhibit signs of illness or standard, entirely normal childhood behaviour (such as crying, not feeding well, screaming at night, having a fever) may be possessed by vampire witchcraft spirits. She also teaches that children who stamp their feet may be “trying to make signs… to communicate with gnomes, the witchcraft spirit in charge of the earth.” Ukpabio claims that the BHA misrepresented her by saying that she ascribed these symptoms to Satanic possession and hence has damaged her reputation and livelihood to the sum of half a billion pounds.

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Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association commented: ‘Given her baseless identification of features of “possessed children” and her dangerous and irresponsible teachings we feel a strong moral duty to point this out and will not be deflected by libel suits from wealthy “witch-finders”.

‘The fact that she is threatening to launch a legal claim for half a billion pounds over an alleged distinction between being accused of exorcising “Satan” or “Vampires” tells you all you need to know about Mrs Ukpabio. Threats of legal action like this are blatant attempts to silence critics of the harms done by these religious and superstitious beliefs and rituals. Rather than entertaining her vexatious claims in the courts, we believe the UK should be ensuring that Mrs Ukpabio and her ilk are denied entry to our country to protect children from their degrading practices.’

Gary Foxcroft, Executive Director of WHRIN commented ‘This latest court case is the latest in a long line of unsuccessful legal actions that Helen Ukpabio has pursued against me and other human rights activists. Previous cases were thrown out of court in Nigeria but this time she is looking to take action in a UK court. I have no doubt that a judge in the UK will reach the same conclusion as those in Nigeria. Of course, the real question here is whether our government should allow hate preachers such as Helen Ukpabio to enter the UK. Since her teachings have been linked to widespread child abuse in reports by the UN and various other bodies it would appear that this may not be in the public interest. This case also therefore provides the Home Secretary and the National Working Group to Tackle Child Abuse linked to Faith and Belief with a great opportunity to condemn the practices of such pastors, take concrete action and ensure that justice is served.’

The eminent media lawyer Mark Stephens CBE of HowardKennedyFSI, representing the defendants, said, ‘We thought witch-finding had been left behind in all civilized societies since the death of the last Witch-finder general, Matthew Hopkins in 1644. Hopkins had pursued innocent people – often elderly women living alone – persecuted and executed them on the basis of a primitive and superstitious belief that they were witches. The horrific consequences of such beliefs are demonstrated in Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible’

He added, ‘Whilst the medieval methods of Matthew Hopkins are no longer used to “identify witches”, of course, we must remain ever vigilant of the danger of persecution of innocent children – babies, even – being branded as witches by latter-day self styled witch-finders with perverse and pernicious views. These people must not be allowed to identify the vulnerable as witches. Freedom of speech is at its most precious when it permits voices to be raised against such evil. British libel laws must never be abused to censor matters of such public importance.’

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Manston, a pragmatic view.

The following from the Thanet Gazette.

Well written and thoughtful…….for a change.

Why has Manston closed?

Because not enough airlines, either passenger or cargo, want to use it.

Over the last 15 years, Wiggins, PlaneStation and Infratil have all lost millions every year.

All of them were doing their best to make money.

The airport was then on the open market for 18 months, but nobody wanted to buy a money pit – that’s why Ann Gloag could buy it for just £1, only to then lose £10,000 a day trying to make a go of it.

Were the previous owners competent?

Infratil run a successful international airport in New Zealand. They gave the job of running Manston to Charles Buchanan, who had overseen London City Airport’s strategy during a time of successful expansion.

Ann Gloag bought, built, and sold an airline (ScotAir), and bought, ran and sold an airport (Prestwick).

At Manston she brought in Alistair Welch, fresh from his role leading Southend Airport to success.

The companies and the people who have managed Manston have a track record of success but even they couldn’t make Manston succeed.

Can RiverOak succeed?

There is no sign that RiverOak has any experience of managing or running an airport.

The closest they’ve come is some behind-the-scenes bean-counting for an airport in Texas.

RiverOak says it will organise a back-to-back finance deal to cover the cost of the suggested compulsory purchase order (CPO). However, nobody has valued this 720-acre brownfield site, and therefore nobody knows what the CPO might cost.

Surely no credible company would offer to write a blank cheque like this?

Can Manston succeed as an airport?

Independent industry experts Falcon Consulting concluded that if a fifth attempt at making a go of Manston is to succeed, it would need more than £100million of investment, full political backing and new transport infrastructure.

It would also be very helpful to have something like a car assembly plant nearby to create local demand for freight. They calculate that Manston would need at least 20 years to have a chance of success.

Even with that “perfect storm” of good fortune, the consultants are clear that there would still be no guarantee of success. This is hardly an overwhelming endorsement of the airport’s prospects.

Is an airport good for jobs?

Manston has always made big promises on jobs, and has always failed to deliver.

Over the past 15 years, this 720-acre brownfield site has had tens of millions of pounds of investment. The net result was “144 mostly part-time jobs” according to the BBC.

This is a pitiful return by any standards, but particularly so when compared with other repurposed brownfield sites.

S&A Foods was a company started by one woman making takeaway curries in her kitchen. It now employs thousands of staff in its factories, which began on a brownfield site left by a colliery.

In Essex, Earls Colne Business Park is located on the site of a former USAAF airfield. More than 1,000 people are now employed there.

Maybe the answer lies in not coming up with one big idea, but in creating the conditions where lots of small ideas can flourish.

Do we all want jobs in Thanet?

Apparently not. It’s clear from the previous examples that alternative uses for airports can be more effective as job creators.

However, SMA supporters have started a petition aiming to block any alternative use of the site, regardless of the employment benefits that a new use of that land might bring.

They think that an airport matters more than jobs in Thanet. We disagree.

What about the CPO?

Manston has already cost hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money, and is costing us even more with the CPO-related work.

All the time there’s doubt over the site’s future ownership, no entrepreneur will approach the owner with an investment idea.

If Thanet District Council (TDC) insists on grimly hanging on to the idea that Manston can only be an airport, and tries to use a CPO to take it from its legal owner, it will be betting on the “perfect storm” of good fortune coming true.

It’s a very long shot. In the meantime, we’re losing new job creation opportunities, as we have been for the last 15 years.

At Thurleigh Airfield Business Park near Bedford, more than 400 jobs have been created on the site of a former airfield acquired from the MoD in 2006.

Where councils make it clear that they are interested in innovative and exciting proposals, those job generation ideas have a habit of appearing. In Swanscombe, on a 870-acre brownfield site (just 20 per cent bigger than Manston), Paramount has committed to generating 27,000 jobs from 2017.

That’s 27,000 possible jobs against the 144 created over 15 unsuccessful years at Manston. Which would you rather investigate for Thanet?

What about housing proposals?

To date, the only person to have suggested housing on the Manston site is Tony Freudmann who is offering consultancy advice to Riveroak – a company whose business, let’s not forget, is real estate.

We don’t know what Ann Gloag’s proposals are or what the possibilities might be – which is why it makes sense to talk to her and to be genuinely open to listening to her ideas for creating jobs for Thanet.

So what next?

TDC appears to be involved in a commercial dispute between the owner of the site and Riveroak.

The council is spending increasingly large sums of public money doing things it shouldn’t be doing, eg, commissioning a commercial viability study and preparing a high-level business plan for an airport that it doesn’t own. It certainly feels to many local residents as if the council is being rushed into making a CPO for the site.

The CPO route is fraught with legal difficulties and has a very small chance of success.

The interview with Ms Gloag suggests that she has already had credible proposals from others about the site and that new opportunities – ones that could bring sustainable jobs – are presenting themselves.

The council needs to abandon the idea of a CPO now and make it clear to the world that it is prepared to do business with the owner of the site in the interests of securing a brighter future in terms of jobs.

Are these the views of local people?

Yes. Of course, there are a variety of views held by residents but there is a growing body of local people, including many elected representatives, who have very grave reservations about the current course of action.

The whole pro-airport campaign has been hijacked by individuals who don’t live in the area and who appear to have an agenda other than jobs.

If the Save Manston Airport group are not prepared to listen to Ann Gloag’s proposals, and are actively opposing the creation of new jobs on the site, then it would appear that they do not have the regeneration and prosperity of the area truly at heart.

In contrast, most local people want a bright future for Thanet, and are ready to talk about different ways of using the former airport site to create employment for us and our kids for years to come.

Read more: http://www.thanetgazette.co.uk/Manston-airport-View-Manston-Pickle-group/story-22847053-detail/story.html#ixzz3BwxJ09MJ

 

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Ahoy shipmates

Being cut off, so to speak, from the bosom of the home fires, moggies and memsahib, is not always that easy to deal with. Especially if that ‘cut’ off becomes a tadge extended. Being on the good ship ‘Bigmutha#ucker’ for over 4 weeks can be a bit of challenge, albeit in a very mild sense of the word.

We’ve got the internet (a bit on the slow side but otherwise OK), our own cabin complete with bathroom, free to use international direct dial phones, a laundry service to die for, good & plentiful food (four main meals a day plus tabnabs in between), comradeship, multichannel TV (sadly lacking, it has to be said, Brit programme content other than the BBC world news), movies on demand, a fully tweeked gymnasium, swimming pool (heated), four elevators to avoid overstressing a chap’s legs with too much stair climbing and plenty of space to move about in.

But……………………… it’s still sort of shite when compared to home. However, all things, good and bad, come to end, eventually. If the great God of marinewarrantywallahs is kind, and the patron saint of offshorecockups stays away, then come next Monday allatsea will clamber aboard a S92 (don’t like that Eurocopter or Puma shite) and fly back to norvven blighty. Aaaah, the joy the joy.

Back darn sarf to ‘Westbrook upon Beach’ and all the wonders there. The clogged roads, twattish parking, aimless yoof on street corners, Tesco, the Aqua Club, sand, mogmogs, ‘No cycling’ rules imposed on national cycle routes (yes, really, thank you Thanet council for that one), wealthy granny farm owners, the dis-possessed, half the population of Bulgaria, the Bowls Club (???) and the proximity to the railway station. Certainly an eclectic mix of positives :o)

Odd it may be but allatsea loves the place. Fannit is a bit of a weird area, stuck out into the Channel as it is with a distinctly polarised demographic, it is essentially forgotten by the rest of the nation. It’s an anachronism to the nearby (ish) capital and continental Europe. That said, if you don’t depend on the place for a decent job then it’s a good place to live. At the towers we are fortunate to be in a position to be able to choose, within reason, where we live. We choose Fannit.

Blimey, never thought of it like that before.

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Collective nouns

 

Collective nouns.

 

Whales, a group of whales is a ‘Pod’. Wolves (?), a ‘pack’. Zebras, a ‘herd’. Sheep, a ‘flock’. All quite familiar to us.

 

Less familiar stuff perhaps. Swans (on the ground), a ’bank’, snakes are known as ‘bed’ and magpies as a ‘charm’.

 

But what about the more obtuse and specialist nouns? The following hot off the press.

 

Marine warranty surveyors = an ‘angst’

 

Tax inspectors = a ‘cynic’

 

Liberals  =  a ‘worry’

 

Swimming instructors = a ‘paddle’

 

Football fans = a ‘turd’

 

Politicians (national level) = a ‘drivel’

 

Politicians (local level) = a ‘nonsense’

 

Trade unionists = a ‘gang’

 

Pub regulars = a ’shuffle’

 

Consultants (of any kind) = a ‘grab’

 

Salad dodgers = a ‘flab’

 

Eco warriors = a ‘toss’

 

Mumsnet members = a ‘stain’

 

 

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Argentina, a letter to

Our old sparring partners in the Argentine have defaulted on their huge debt to WONGA.WORLD and are in a bit of bother, BIG time. To take the population’s mind off the imminent financial meltdown  the lady Guvnor of said  football crazy, corned beef making nation has been  banging the imperial drum. ‘Get out of the Malvinas’ they’ve been shouting at us Blighty folks. Hmmm.

Read on madam.

 

Dear Argentina…

NOW look. You’ve been whining about this since 1767 and it’s starting
to get on my wick.

I’ve ignored you until now, because you’re very silly and your greatest cheerleader is Sean Penn, a man who pretends to be things he is not and once hit his then-wife Madonna with a baseball bat, tied her up for nine hours and abused her.

If he is on your side, it’s not a good side to be on.

But today you’ve written to Prime Minister Dishface demanding he enter negotiations to ‘return’ the islands we call the Falklands and you call Malvinas, 180 years after we cruelly stole them from you with our jackbooted naval officers of totalitarianism.

You were ‘forcibly stripped’ of these jewels in the South Atlantic and your people were ‘expelled’.

Only, that’s not quite what happened, is it Argentina? Someone obviously needs to remind you, and probably Mr Penn too, of the facts.

Allow me to start by saying there are probably things we can all agree on. War is bad, for example, and colonialism – aside from the roads, aqueducts, education, health reforms, economic development, culture, food, integration and innovation – tends to be a bad thing too.

We could probably avoid an argument over the fact that the Falkland Islands, in and of themselves, aren’t exactly pretty. There are no hanging gardens, no waterfalls, no exotic wildlife. They’re a windy bunch of rocks a long way from anywhere, although I grant they’re
nearer to you than they are to us.

Which begs the question about why, exactly, you never bothered to settle them.

When they were first discovered by a Dutchman in 1600 there was nothing there but seabirds. No people, no cultural heritage for anyone to trample over. Just a windy bunch of rocks.

Ninety years later a British sailor was blown off course and sailed through a bit of water he named Falkland Sound, and 74 years after that the French turned up to form a colony.

WAIT! I hear you cry. The French colonised the Falklands?

Why yes, and 18th century email being what it was the British turned up two years later and built a settlement on another one of the islands and claimed the whole lot for the Crown, unaware the Frenchies were already in residence.

The French sold out to the Spaniards a year after that, who put the colony – containing French people – under control of a governor in Buenos Aires.

Three years later the Spanish picked a fight with the Brits, kicked them out and after a peace treaty let us back in. In 1774 the Brits, overstretched by the Americans kicking off, withdrew and left a plaque behind asserting their claim. Thirty two years later the Spaniards departed too, leaving another plaque, and in 1811 the last settlers
threw in the towel.

We were back to empty, windy rocks known only to whalers and sealing ships, and two memorial plaques.

In 1820 an American pirate called David Jewett took shelter there, and finding the place deserted promptly claimed the islands for a union of South American provinces which later became Argentina.

You lot didn’t realise this for a year, but still didn’t settle the islands. Instead a German who pretended to be French called Luis Vernet came along, asked the Argentines and the Brits politely if they minded, and founded a little colony of his own.

It took him a few goes, but eventually he established a settlement, you named him governor and gave him the right to kill all the seals. This quite hacked off the Brits, who wanted some seals for themselves, but Vernet placated us by asking for our military protection.

It all got a bit hairy in 1831, when Vernet found some American seal ships, arrested their crews and sparked an international incident. The Americans sent a warship, blew up the settlement, and hot-headedly sent the most senior settlers to the mainland for trial for piracy.

The Argentines sent a new governor to establish a penal settlement, but he was killed in a mutiny the day he arrived. The Brits, quite reasonably, decided the whole thing was a dog’s breakfast.

And now we get to the bit you’re unhappy about Argentina, the invasion and forced expulsion.

The Brits arrived two months after this mutiny, and wrote to the chap in charge of the small Argentine garrison. The letter said: “I have to direct you that I have received directions from His Excellency and Commander-in-Chief of His Britannic Majesty’s ships and
vessels of war, South America station, in the name of His Britannic Majesty, to exercise the rights of sovereignty over these Islands.

It is my intention to hoist to-morrow the national flag of Great Britain on shore when I request you will be pleased to haul down your flag on shore and withdraw your force, taking all stores belonging to your Government.”

Now, there are many ways people can be oppressed, forced, compelled and abused – just ask Sean Penn – but a polite note is not one of them. The Argentine in charge thought briefly about resisting, but he didn’t have many soldiers and besides, most of them were British
mercenaries who refused to fight. So on January 3, 1833 you left, Argentina, with wounded pride and your nose in the air.

You had never settled the islands. Never established a colony of your own. Never guarded it with a garrison of your own soldiers. They had never, ever, been yours.

And now to the matter of that expulsion. The log of an Argentine ship present at the time records the settlers were encouraged to stay, and those that left did so of their own free will and generally because they were fed up with living on some boring, windy rocks.

Eleven people left – four Argentines, three ‘foreigners’, one prisoner, a Brit and two Americans.

Twenty-two people remained – 12 Argentinians, four Uruguay Indians, two Brits, two Germans, a Frenchman and a Jamaican.

As the imposition of colonial power on an indigenous population goes,
that takes some beating. And for the sake of clarity I should point
out that a human melting pot like that makes the place about as
British as you can be.

A few months later HMS Beagle, taking Charles Darwin to the Galapagos for a long think, popped in and found the settlement half-ruined and the residents lawless. There were several murders, some looting, and in 1834 the exasperated British sent Lieutenant Henry Smith to run the place.

The islands have been ours ever since, and is now home to almost 3,000 people descended from settlers who came from Britain, France, Scandinavia, Gibraltar, St Helena and Chile.

At the same time, you went on to fight wars with most of South America and colonise provinces with indigenous populations by killing or pushing them out.

When your government was broke and facing strong opposition in the 1980s, you invaded them to divert attention of the voters with the cost of 907 lives, and it cannot be unrelated to your letter that in a few weeks you face being ejected by the International Monetary Fund
for lying over your economic figures.

At around the same time, the people who now live on these boring, windy rocks in the middle of nowhere are having a referendum about who they would like to govern them. You will ignore this, because you believe they do not have a right to make up their own minds and have repeatedly refused to talk to the islanders about your claims.

So allow me to make a couple of things clear. Firstly, the history of these windy rocks is an utter mess but someone had to take charge, and you weren’t up to the job. We did it pretty nicely, considering our record in other places.

Secondly, only jackbooted colonial scumbags refuse to listen to the democratic voice of the people who live somewhere, so you really ought to wind your hypocritical warmongering necks in.

And thirdly – well done with the wine, and the beef’s pretty good, but if you want to negotiate let’s start with you taking back your Total Wipeout, because as cultural imperialism goes it’s pretty offensive, and you might want to think about handing Patagonia back to its people
as well.

After that we are quite prepared to let you come and holiday on these windy rocks, where you will be invited to pitch a tent anywhere you like within the 13 square kilometres where you left 19,000 landmines last time you visited.

We know they’re a long way away. We know there’s not much to the rocks, and there might be oil and it might give someone a claim to Antarctica.

But we also know something you don’t – which is that a well-run, law-abiding and happy bunch of rocks is the best bunch of rocks you can hope to have. You’re no more up to that job now than you have ever been.

In case our position is still not clear, the above could be summed up as: No.

Yours sincerely,

Blighty

 

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Tuesday and it’s quite chilly

Being stuck out west of the Shetlands for ever and a day with a dodgy intertweb connection and no more grub for the carrier pigeons is causing a bit of a kerfuffle on the ‘comms wiv Fannit’ front. Thanks to the unseasonal near continuous Northerly winds and other irritating factors conspiring to hold things up, the rumour and gossip highway from his beloved Westbrook to allatsea’s hungry  ears has been near gridlocked for weeks.

That said, the odd snippet does get through and some are even worth repeating here (honestly guvnor).

1/ Mummy allatsea has given up drinking, she says. Pause while we all fall about laughing at that nonsense.

2/ Drunkynunky allatsea, for the first time in his 76 years seems happy, content and finally at ease with what it’s all about. This is very good news. Near miraculous in fact. Thanks to Carolyn for her efforts over so many thankless years. Have been on the phone to Rome and beatification is on the way.

3/ Allatsea’s left wing and effete liberal muckers, for years scornful of defence budgets and the armed forces, seem to have been stirred, en masse, into ‘death dealing bomb the phuckers’ wallahs. Hand wringing, tear jerking appeals on public media for the PM to take warlike action. And what’s brought about this rather shocking and fundamental alteration of moral course? Our ISIS (IS) friends in Iraq and Syria, that’s what. No surprise there then.

4/ Meanwhile on the goodship ‘Bigmutha’ allatsea is finding himself caught firmly between a rock and hard place. It’s not a nice place to be. There seems to be no escape route available so there’s only one thing to do. Man up MAN up.

And that’s it for now. Please send gin………………soonest.

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Ode to Old Erith

The following poem, ‘an Ode to Old Erith’, Robert the Devil’s stomping ground, written by Pat Watson in 1982, mentions ‘Bob the Devil’.

ODE TO OLD ERITH

It was always a shabby, funny town, when I was small:
It’s only claim to fame, I suppose, was the River,
which ebbed and flowed in muddy brown and grey regularity,
providing an ever changing picture of dreams for the eyes of the young and old,
or the idle, to dwell upon.

It was always a strange, little, sprawling town,
with nothing at all of importance to merit a place in the shape of things to come.
Here it nestled, like a favourite, comfortable, patchwork shawl, the fringes of which tapered towards the creeks of Slades Green and Crayford;
dwelling a moment at Bexley and Welling;
crossing to Bedonwell and Bostal.
Beneath the folds haphazardly tumbled Northumberland Heath, with upper and lower Belvedere here, and Barnehurst there;
in between glowing a patch or two of changing green, as the woods and parks filtered through the embroidery of stitches
that held it together with fields and ditches;
eventually sweeping around and down
past abbey wood marshes
and back to the river.

It was always a friendly, squat, little town,
with industry forming a warming collar
around it’s neck; the ribbon of water wandering by firmly held in it’s place,
loosely tie-ing a flexible knot of strength
against the fogs and mists
of all that threatened the pattern of sleeping security.

Quickly, quickly, write it down
before those that remember have long been forgotten,
with nothing to show
and no-one to know how reshaping
and raping could possibly happen,
and why such a garment lies in tatters,
threadbare and worn, and all that matters
is sadly forlorn and desolate now,
abandoned, exhausted-
and those that permitted such devastation
have gone, long gone …
moved on.

Just for a moment indulge in nostalgia,
name a few names for memory to conjure
the magic that hustled and bustled under
the harlequin cloak, before the plunder
of planning and banning and closing
tore the patches asunder.

The Causeway of old, with convenient railings
on which you could lean to gossip, and yarn,
and gaze on a scene of rocks, and mud,
and pools of water in which you could paddle,
when the tide was out, with wagers to swim
to the other side of the river –
there was even sand
for children to dabble.
Piers and jetties, chains and things,
wet warm timbers, ropes and rings
which held the dinghies and yachts and boats
buoys and floats bobbing
when the tide was in.

The fat black barges gliding by
with ochre brown sails riding high in the water
like graceful swans;
the diligent tugs, tooting and fussy,
pushing and shoving, eternally busy.
Tramps and Cruisers and Men-O-War;
Coasters and Colliers and Steamers galore;
port and starboard, for and aft,
every conceivable waterway craft,
casting off and heaving to –
the Pilot’s Hut with the tide times on view.
Regattas and pennants and flags a –blowing,
never-endingly coming and going watermen,
merchantmen, rowing and rowing-
straining backs and muscles aquiver,
Doggett Men too-
the pride of the River.

The coal, the grain, and the flown mill;
Fraser’s Pond and Bunker’s Hill-
the Cinder Path, the Rec’. the Terries,
the Seamen’s Home; picking blackberries.
The Ritz, the Rialto, the Oxford, the Rex;
the Locomotive- Sunday School texts.
The Cobbler, the Smithie; the disinfect can;
the Sea Scouts, the Saw Mills; the School Board Man.
Frank’s Park fireworks, Callender’s Band
tightly packed in the small bandstand.
The betting slips; the Registrar;
the Library Museum; the four-ale-bar;
little boys fishing with tiddlers
in jar.

The ‘Rose and Crown’ and the ‘Wheatley Arms’ ;
gipsy weddings, the crossing of palms.
St. Fidelis; ‘Bob-the-Devil’ ;
running round tombstones in the
Old Church yard to ward off evil;
the wicket gates at the level crossings.

Swiftly, swiftly, paper and pen,
put down the words and
remember them ……..

Gone are the Cobbles, the alleys,
the paths, the trams, the prams,
the open air baths.
Bye-Brothers; Linwood’s the Salvation Army
on Burton’s corner every Sunday.
The gutters, the shutters, the Home-and-Colonial;
the World Stores, the Maypole, the neatly professional
patting of butter with spatulas wooden;
kippers for tea, faggots, pease pudding.
the Fibro; Selfe’s; Penton-and-Deans;
shrimps and cockles and coffee beans.
Starkey’s, and Randal’s printing presses;
the local paper done on the spot;
gammon from Davis; the wet-fish shop.

The hub of it all was Mitchell’s Store,
the very core of the town, with personal
assistants, yards of material measured
with care, the buttons, the cottons,
the crimping of hair; second hand furniture
round the corner; three brass balls if you
wanted to pawn a thing on two;
the Knackers’ Yard; the Late Night Final;
the Laundry; the Dairy; the Men’s Urinal.
checks of tin from the Co-op Stores;
Mence Smith’s; Dales; and pails
of manure yours for the taking;
barber’s poles; Groom’s and the smell
of baking.

It was always an honourable, vulnerable town ….
that could be the reason for knocking it down!
Tear out its character, flatten its face-
we’ll soon think of something to put in its place.
Never mind what, and never mind where …..
move it around a bit- up in the air!
Let’s have some changes- let’s have some ‘go’-
What were we putting here? Someone must know!

And so it went on, and on, and on …….
until all that we knew of Old Erith had gone
It took them some time to take it apart;
dying by stages, a work of ‘art’ you might say,
in a way –
All that was good was whittled away, and all
that was bad was left to decay
of its own accord.

………………….

I could write more but I’ve gone on too long,
progress, we know, has got to go on- but
why did it happen and where did it start?
We’re left with a town without a heart,
not better but worse than we had before!

There’s very few left who remember it now,
the new generation could not really care
about something they never would know or share.

Sadly, sadly, read it through,
the ones who recall it all-
you, and you …….
the ones who grew up with me
when I was small – born here,
and taught here, and worked here-
you know what I’m writing of-
you understand and,
if you’ve a moment or two in hand,
go down by the River …….
yes, it’s still there- and stand
and share with me dog-eared regrets
for the ‘used to be’-
of the rough little, gruff little
Erith we knew, and read to yourself
this Obituary.

…………………………………………

Written by Pat Watson
March, 1982.

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