Monday, 30 March 2020

Bute House was once the family home of a Unionist MP

Bute House in Edinburgh is the official residence of the First Minister of Scotland and currently occupied by Nicola Sturgeon of the SNP.

However it was once the childhood home of a Scot who was the Unionist MP for North Down from 1910 to 1918.  

Lord Selsdon.jpg
William Mitchell-Thomson MP
His name was Sir William Mitchell-Thomson (1877-1938) and he was the son of Sir Mitchell Mitchell-Thomson FRSE FSA (1846-1918), a Scottish merchant and businessman who served as Lord Provost of Edinburgh from 1897 to 1900.

He was born at 7 Carlton Terrace in Edinburgh on 15 April 1877 but his father bought Bute House after the death of the previous owner in 1887 and lived there for thirty years until his death in 1918,

William Mitchell-Thomson was married in 1907 and presumably thereafter he had his own residence but during the time that he was MP for North Down, a period that covered the home rule crisis and the Great War, he would have been a regular visitor to his father's home at Bute House.

The grandeur of the house reflected the wealth and influence of the family and such influence played an important part in the Ulster Unionist campaign against home rule.

Sunday, 22 March 2020

'I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day'

We hear a lot today about 'self-isolation' and 'social distancing' and those words remind me of a man in the Bible who also experienced isolation and social distancing.

John had been a disciple of Jesus, one of the twelve, and is described as 'the disciple whom Jesus loved'.  He had served the Lord faithfully and had already written four books of the New Testament.

However there was a time when Christians were experiencing persecution by the Roman authorities and John was banished into exile, to Patmos, a small, rocky island in the Aegean Sea.  By then he was well on in years and the last remaining of the twelve disciples.

In Revelation 1:9 he wrote: 'I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation ... was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.'

He was far away from his friends and his fellow believers and he was unable to meet with them on the Lord's Day as he would normally have done (Hebrews 10:25).  There on Patmos he experienced isolation and tribulation but he was able to say that he was 'in the Spirit' on the Lord's Day.

Image result for patmos mapHe was isolated from his fellow-believers and he was far distant from them but there on Patmos he met with God and God met with him.  Indeed God spoke to him, giving him a wonderful revelation, which is now the last book in the Bible.

Even though we may not be able to meet today, at least physically, with other believers, other than those in our immediate household we can meet with God.  We too can be 'in the Spirit on the Lord's Day.

The phrase that is translated 'the Lord's Day' is different from 'the day of the Lord' and appears only once in the New Testament.

Moreover the same word that is translated 'the Lord's' appears in only one other place in the New Testament and that is in the phrase the Lord's Supper.  I believe that links the two together - the Lord's Supper and the Lord's Day.

The Lord's Supper is a reminder of the Lord Jesus Christ dying as our substitute, for our sin, at Calvary..

The Lord's Day is a reminder of the Lord Jesus Christ rising from the dead on the first day of the week (John 20:1).

Living He loved me, dying He saved me;
Buried He carried my sins far away;
Rising He justified, freely forever;
One day He's coming, O glorious day.
John Wilbur Chapman (1859-1918)

If we know Him as our Saviour and Lord, the one who died for us, the one who rose for us, and the one who is coming again for us, then we too can be 'in the Spirit on the Lord's Day', wherever we may be.

Tuesday, 28 January 2020

UK economy is bigger than 18 smallest EU countries combined

Image result for united kingdom and european unionYesterday the Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar told the BBC: '"The European Union is a union of 27 member states. The UK is only one country. And we have a population and a market of 450 million people.'  He was arguing that the UK is 

Yes it is true that the European Union is a union of 27 countries.

However as Alexander Von Schoenburg recently pointed out in a British newspaper: 'Your economy is bigger than the 18 smallest EU countries combined. This means in economic terms that the EU will lose not just one member state — but shrink from 28 members to ten.'

Leo Varadkar should remember that arrogance is never attractive and that a little more modesty would go a long way.

The United Kingdom may be a country of modest size but it has the fifth largest economy in the world.

Sunday, 26 January 2020

Hugh McCalmont Cairns - a great Ulster-Scot (1)

Last month was the centenary of the birth of Hugh McCalmont Cairns (1819-1885), who was Lord Chancellor of England 

Born in Belfast and named Hugh McCalmont Cairns, it is not difficult to recognise him as an Ulsterman with Scottish roots and heritage.

The first of the family to settle in Ulster came from Kirkcudbright in Scotland.  They were a distinguished family and a baronetcy, which soon became extinct, was conferred on an Alexander Cairns for military service under the Duke of Marlborough. 

Hugh McCalmont Cairns was the second son of William Cairns, who had been born at Parkmount in north Belfast and had served as a captain in the 47th regiment of foot.  His mother was Rose Anna Johnston, daughter of Hugh Johnston, a Belfast merchant.

He was born on 27 December 1819 and was educated at Belfast Academy, now Belfast Royal Academy, and Trinity College Dublin.  The name is remembered in the Belfast Royal Academy, where one of the four still named Cairns.

Hugh McCalmont Cairns studied law and was called to the Bar in 1844 but in 1852 he entered parliament as MP for Belfast, a position he held until 1866.

He was Lord Chancellor of Great Britain in 1868 and then in 1869 became leader of the Conservative opposition in the House of Lords.  Cairns was Lord Chancellor for a second time from 1874 to 1880.

Cairns was a devout Christian, with a firm faith in Jesus Christ, and he was a thoroughly evangelical Protestant.  He never allowed the demands of his legal and political work to impinge on the Lord's Day and for many years he was a Sunday school teacher.  Here was one of the great statesmen of the day, a man who deliberated on weighty matters of law, taking the time to teach boys and girls.  He was also a keen supporter of the philanthropic work of Dr Barnardo and Cairns House, one the Barnardo homes, was named after him.

He loved to hear the gospel preached and once said that to hear D L Moody preach the gospel and Ira D Sankey sing the gospel was the richest feast he could enjoy.

His half-brother Sir William Wellington Cairns KCMG (1828-1888) was Governor of Queensland and later Administrator of South Australia.

The centenary of the birth of this great Ulster-Scot passed, as far as I can see, unnoticed and that is regrettable.  A Conservative statesman, an evangelical Christian and a convinced unionist, he is someone who deserves to be remembered.

The current Lord Cairns is Simon Dallas Cairns, 6th Earl Cairns, who was born in 1939.

Saturday, 25 January 2020

'Iceland hasn't eliminated Down's syndrome - they are just killing everyone who has it'

Photograph from CBC - USA

Yesterday Mary and I met up in Belfast city centre and went into a shopping centre to get something to eat. 

At the tables beside us were a group of young people with learning disabilities, who were chatting away to each other..  

The person nearest to us was a teenage girl with Down's syndrome and we were both struck by her laughter, her intense conversation with her friend and especially her ability with her iphone.

Indeed Mary and I both remarked that we would love to have some of the technical facility with the iphone that she had displayed.

Here was a young woman who was enjoying life, experiencing joy and bringing joy to others, and yet if she had been conceived in a country such as Iceland her life would almost certainly have been ended before she was born.  

In Iceland almost all unborn children who are believed to have Down's syndrome are aborted.

Pro-abortionists in Iceland claim that they have virtually eliminated Down's syndrome through abortion and indeed only two or three children are born each year with Down's syndrome.

However as American actress Patricia Heaton tweeted: 'Iceland isn't eliminating Down syndrome - they are just killing everyone who has it.'

Saturday, 31 August 2019

Belfast's 'Stop the Coup' debacle

Across the United Kingdom there have been thousands of people out protesting against Brexit.  They may argue that it is about the length of the prorogation of Parliament, that few extra days, but it is  really about Brexit.

There have been sizable crowds in London and some of the cities in England today though other protests have been rather poorly attended.

So how did Belfast fare?  I was waiting for the BBC and Sky to provide coverage of the Belfast demonstration, which started at 10.00 am at the City Hall.  However Belfast didn't seem to feature.  Instead I had to rely on the Press Association and newspaper websites and they did provide helpful reports with a few photographs and several interviews.  

The first thing that struck me was the dismal turnout which was described as 'dozens'!  The highest estimate appeared to be the one quoted by the Irish Times reporter, which was 'around 100'.

'Dozens!' I said to myself, 'dozens!'  After a Liberal Democrat MEP telling us ,a few days ago that Brexit would lead to 'unprecedented violence' and after all the outrage from the Alliance Party, the SDLP and Sinn Fein, I was expecting thousands on the streets.  But all they got was a few dozen and here's the photograph from the Press Association to prove it.

Brigitte Anton

Well they were right there, dozens it was!  So what about those interviews?

Brenda Gough from West Belfast, 'one of those who had promoted the event', was interviewed and said, 'We no longer have democracy because elected representatives of the people of the UK have been told they will no longer be able to speak for their electorate.'    Sorry Brenda but is Parliament not sitting next week?

Susie Burlace (46) from England edits a health journal and has been living in Northern Ireland for seven years.  Later she said, 'Good turn out at Belfast City Hall.'

Dr Brigitte 'Gitty' Anton (52) (pictured above) is from Frankfurt in Germany but has lived in Northern Ireland for 31 years.  She was there with her EU flag and a T-shirt with the message 'B....x to Boris'.  A former vice-chair of the Labour Party in Northern Ireland, she stood for the Northern Ireland Assembly in South Belfast in 2016 and polled just 246 first preference votes.  As she has a PhD in modern history and as she is from Germany I would have hoped that she might not go down the road of  comparisons with the Nazis but she did.  She drew parallels between the prorogation of Parliament and Nazi Germany.

Patrick Yu from the Council for Racial Equality was there too as was Londoner Rob Stead, who said he and his wife had'fled' England to move to Northern Ireland because they were so dismayed by the Brexit vote.  In fact his wife is studying at Queen's.

Graham Glendinning (49), a software worker from Holywood, said, 'If they go ahead with no deal, it's war and peace for us.'  I'm not clear as to what he meant by that but that's what he  said.

The media coverage given to such protests is out of all proportion and where they get a dismal turnout it gets glossed over.

Monday, 3 June 2019

The BBC, the Trotskyist and 'toxic politics'

Image result for chris nineham

This morning, as US president Donald Trump arrived in the United Kingdom, the BBC Breakfast programme reported that there would be tens of thousands of people out on the streets of London to oppose his visit.

They also interviewed Chris Nineham who was identified on screen as being from the 'Together Against Trump campaign' and who denounced the 'toxic politics' of Donald Trump.

I must confess that I was unfamiliar with the name Chris Nineham but he came across as an articulate individual, probably in his late 50s, and that is how most viewers would have seen him.

However there is a lot more to Chris Nineham than that.  The son of a professor at Oxford University, he was educated at Westminster School which sits in the shadow of Westminster Abbey in London and is one of the most expensive independent schools in Britain.  

In spite of this rich and privileged background he embraced the politics of the far-left and was a member of the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party until he resigned in 2010.

Since then he has been a leading member and spokesman of several front organisations and he is vice-chair of the Stop The War Coalition, an organisation that was set up by the far-left, including members of the Socialist Workers Party.

In case there is any doubt about his own politics, Chris Nineham is a far-left political activist and author.  He has written several books on Marxist politics as well as contributing articles to the far-left Morning Star newspaper.

One of his books, Capitalism and Class Consciousness, explores the ideas of the Marxist Georg Lukacs and another is titled How the Establishment Lost Control.

As regards the Middle East. Nineham was filmed speaking in Strasbourg in 2009.  On that occasion he told his audience:
The resistance of the Lebanese people, led by Hezbollah, and the heroic resistance of the Palestinians in Gaza has, um, constrained and demoralised the Israeli project.
Hezbollah and Hamas are terrorist organisation and so when it comes to condemning 'toxic politics', Chris Nineham is in no position to criticise anyone.  Most people would regard support for Hezbollah as fairly 'toxic'.

Image result for chris nineham george class consciousnessNineham has also been challenged about the way in which the far-left protests against America while remaining silent about Russia.

So the articulate middle-aged man whom the BBC interviewed today is not merely a spokesman for 'Together' Against Trump'.  

He is a life-long far-left political activist.

The BBC aspires to fairness and transparency so surely it is time for the BBC to consider how it describes such activists and how it interviews them.  

There are two sides to this debate and if there is to be scrutiny of Trump there should also be scrutiny of the protestors.

Viewers have a right to know who is being interviewed and the far-left, whether Marxists, Trostkyists, Stalinists or whatever should not be allowed to hide behind the name of their latest 'front organisation'.