Thursday, March 14, 2019

The Healing Voice

I was 'put on hold' on the phone today. What passes for modern music played, or rather assaulted my ears, whilst I waited. Thankfully it was just a few moments but the damage to my sensibilities was done. Our civilisation's decline is screetched at us by teenybopper 'Divas' who have never taken a singing lesson in their lives and rely almost entirely on strutting their pudendas across the stage as they warble. My ears needed healing. Thank goodness my eyes were spared.

The singing voice is a marvel. Can be. My phone call was to my pharmacist and later in the day after picking up my meds  (I am an old and knackered Knight, remember) I sought some healing salves for my aural sense .... I sought visual too. 

Older era music can lift my soul and heart, and coupled with modern technology (which does not improve the aforesaid teen divas' efforts) can provide a gentleman's pleasure.

So, a short post, of just three short songs with beauty, sensuality and delight. Let me start with Elīna Garanča recording Dopo l'oscuro nembo (from Adelson e Salvini) - by Bellini. 

Dressed for work, not 'Performance'. To me, she is the epitome of the Opera Diva.

You could put her in a muddy field in the rain, wearing just a work-worn smock, and the Angels would gather to listen to her sing. The orchestra fits, but for some pieces the voice itself is all you need. Several, harmoniously, can render an orchestra redundant. So...

Miserere mei, Deus - by Allegri - sung by the Tenebrae Choir.

OK, one more. A 'proper' performance. Renée Fleming performing Casta Diva (by Bellini, again) in the Palaces of the Czars in Saint Petersburg in 2009.

This is an astonishing rendition of this aria. Such a wonderful interpretation of this difficult piece of music. Everything that is required is in place: the support is solid, the resonance full, the registers blended, the dynamics carefully controlled, the timbre is beautiful and finely textured, the central coloratura section is sung in one breath; the line remains seamless, and the text is gently inflected with colour and real sentiment. People have to remember that here, in 2009, Fleming was 50, and so of course not a match for the singing of her absolute prime (nor perhaps for the up-and coming Elina). Neither Caballe nor Sutherland maintained their voices in this immaculate condition at this age. 

OK, your taste may not be mine but we can all do with extending into areas (and arias) where we have not previously ventured, and leave modern trash .... er... tracks, behind us. 

My ears are back in working order again.


And have a drink.


Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Hero Porn

Some 'drives' can carry even an old man away. Heroes too. We may be 'past it' in performance but even the smells and sounds can be captivating and get the blood and other juices flowing. Voyeurism has a poor reputation but only in some instances. Others are OK. And so it was that my recent holiday saw me at an Air Show where Power, air-sheering noise and avgas brought back memories of times past.

It got me thinking of the dedication, effort, skills, the captivating intensity that dominated my earlier years, and brought memories of others who took it to the further reaches of 'actualisation'. There were men who went beyond. Men who made Thunder City.

Principal amongst them was Mike Beachy Head, who had a love of the same aircraft that I hold dear, and, frankly, turn this old Tavern Keeper on!  The story of Thunder City's aircraft acquisitions and effots is told below.

ENTREPENEUR and aviator, Mike Beachy Head, who gained an international reputation as the custodian of the world’s largest private collection of fighter jets, based at Thunder City at Cape Town International Airport, died of a heart attack 2 years ago in May 2017. He was 59.

Beachy Head accumulated immense wealth through his ambition to reach beyond the ordinary and a willingness to grasp sometimes unlikely opportunities.

It is a measure of his drive that, after qualifying as a pilot of small airplanes two-and-a-half decades ago, he went on to master – and then buy – one of the fastest fighter jets ever produced, the English Electric Lightning.

With laconic understatement, Beachy Head once reflected on his affection for the plane by saying: “I’m a bit of a performance junky.” He eventually owned four of these planes – and no fewer than 10 other combat aircraft.

Beachy Head possessed an enthusiasm for the thrill of speed and danger, the power – even the noise – of immense engines; he went at life full-tilt, flamboyant in spirit, and generous in sharing his delight with others.

So, the customers of the Tavern, and I, 
raised a glass or three today, in memoriam.

Thunder City is an aircraft operating and maintenance company based at the Cape Town International Airport in Cape Town, South Africa. It was well known for owning the largest civilian collection of former military jet aircraft in the world These aircraft were used to perform in airshows and could also be chartered by the general public for recreational flights, including going supersonic and climbing to altitudes around 50,000 feet. 

Part one of a splendid programme is here. Pt 2 later.

Following a fatal accident in 2009 in which an English Electric Lightning crashed at an airshow, the company ceased flying operations.

Three English Electric Lightning. One T5 was lost in an accident on 14 November 2009.
Three Blackburn Buccaneers. 
Seven Hawker Hunters. 
One BAC Strikemaster. 
One Aerospatiale Puma, a demonstrator of the company's upgrade and refurbishment services 
One Gloster Javelin FAW Mk.1 (RAF No. XA553). Mounted as a "Gate Guard" on display at the entrance to the company premises.

In October 2012, three Lightnings, three Buccaneers and four Hawker Hunters were put up for sale. It was the End of Thunder City.

Let me remind you of these superb machines.

The Lightning.

Not since the Spitfire has one aircraft captured the hearts and imaginations of a generation of fighter pilots in the way that the Lightning has.

Unequivocally Britain's most loved jet fighter, the Lightning earned itself legitimately a place among the greats of celebrated aviation legends. 

In continuous front line service for almost thirty years with the Royal Air Force the passing of the Lightning represented the end of a unique era. It was the last of a rare breed: Single seat, entirely British, magnificently over powered and possessing delightful handling qualities. It was radically different in design with its vertical twin engine design, slab sided fuselage and highly swept wings making it stand apart from others. Built by craftsmen, it was a privilege to fly. You don't fly the Lightning like a conventional airplane - you strap it on your back and experience the ultimate thrill. Words can do little justice to the sensation of climbing vertically on a column of raw power, breaking the bond between earth and sky.

There never has been an aircraft as charismatic as the Lightning and it's unlikely in this modern age that there ever will be again." ( from The Last of the Lightnings, A nostalgic farewell to the RAF's favorite supersonic Fighter, Ian Black, © 1996 Patrick Stephens Limited).

The Buccaneer

Twin engine tandem seat low level strike attack aircraft powered by two Rolls Royce Spey non-afterburning bypass turbofans developing 12600 lb. static thrust each.

Equipped with terrain hugging radar, this attack aircraft is at its peak prowess low and fast. "Most air forces do have fast jets which were specially designed for the ground-attack mission. Almost certainly the best have been subsonic, examples being the Grumman A-6 Intruder and the BAE Buccaneer. They are superior because, compared with supersonic aircraft, they carry more, fly further, and can make their attack with at least equal precision and probably at lower altitude. 

As for speed, none of the supersonic types can actually attack at supersonic speed, and with its internal bombload of 4000 lb. the Buccaneer was faster than (for example) a Jaguar, Phantom, F-111, Mirage, F-15E, Tornado or Su-24 with the same load !" (The Encyclopedia of Modern Warplanes; The Development and Specifications of all Active Military Aircraft; Bill Gunston; ©1995 Aerospace Publishing Limited)

The Hunter.

Possibly the best transonic fighter and ground-support aircraft of its kind, the classic Hawker Hunter, with clean lines, excellent handling characteristics and a good load carrying capacity, the Hunter was built in greater numbers than any other postwar British aircraft.

Single engine two seat (side by side) transonic advanced combat training aircraft, powered by the non-afterburning Rolls Royce Avon axial flow turbojet developing 7600 lbs. static thrust. First prototypes flying in 1951, it was Britain's first indigenous swept wing fighter to enter service and briefly held the world speed record in 1953. It formed the backbone of the Royal Air Force fighter force from 1954-1961 and remained in front line service until the early seventies, the last examples only being withdrawn in 1995. Nearly two thousand Hunters of all types were built for a number of different air forces, including the Belgian, Chilean, Danish, Dutch, Indian, Swedish and Swiss air forces. The Swiss ultimately purchased 160 Hunters, operating the type from 1958 until December 1994.

Have a 3-day pass.....

As was announced in 2010, Thunder City, which has the world's largest civilian-owned fleet of ex-combat jets including three English Electric Lightnings, three BAe Buccaneers, seven Hawker Hunters and a retrofitted Puma helicopter, is to cease flying operations with immediate effect.

Making the announcement founder and CEO of Thunder City, Mike Beachy Head says, "After a decade of indelible memories and enormous thrills in flying international and local visitors in our distinctive jets, we have decided to cease the flying activities at the base.

"Established under the name Thunder City in 2000, the brand has gone on to become one of the most globally recognised as a home-grown South African one. Seen by millions of TV viewers in countries across the planet, the iconic Thunder City jets have inspired many to travel to Cape Town to experience the thrill and adrenaline-rush of flying in a supersonic ex-military jet. We have had a lot of worldwide media exposure, especially in Europe and the USA. TV networks from all over the world have filmed documentaries on the Thunder City operation. These include household names such as Sky TV, CNN and the Discovery Channel, as well as Turkish, Austrian, Chinese, Dutch, French, Spanish and several German TV channels and also our own Top Billing and MNet's Carte Blanche."

Beachy Head says that it was not an easy decision to make, but that a number of factors such as the current slow economy, high cost of maintenance and short to medium term prospects, had influenced the closure. He says that the 13 jets will be moth-balled until a final decision is made as to the future of this valuable and historic collection.

During the past decade the Thunder City jets have flown more than 2000 sorties and generated revenue of R100million. Many celebrities such as Mark Shuttleworth, Sir Richard Branson, as well as many Middle Eastern sheiks and princes, and European royalty have flown in the super-powerful English Electric Lightning, the pride of the fleet, as well as their other jets. Some flying enthusiasts have saved up to come to Cape Town for the thrill of a lifetime.

What can be more enjoyable than flying over Cape Town with some of the world's most spectacular scenery, with panoramic views of Table Mountain and the Cape Peninsula, dotted with white beaches along the surrounding coastline and vineyards on the lower reaches of the nearby majestic mountain ranges. Being at the foot of Africa, it is also one of the most uncluttered air spaces on the planet, making it the ideal place to fly in supersonic jets. No more will the thunderous jets enthral visitors to airshows, where the raw power, iconic shapes, manoeuvrability and consummate flying skills of the pilots will be missed.

Beachy Head concluded, 
"Although this is the end of an era for flights in Thunder City's fast jets,
... we will continue working on the Puma SA 330 helicopter retrofit and upgrade programme which was begun 3 years ago. Thunder City, which is a certified Aircraft Maintenance Organisation (AMO), has completed both the rigorous P4 inspection process and a full avionics upgrade on their first retrofitted Puma helicopter, through the installation of the "glass cockpit" concept, which incorporates the digital era. There are currently another four Pumas in various stages of rebuild.

"One of the clear trends is the development of digital avionics technology, and being able to upgrade mechanically sound aircraft with "glass cockpits", cost-effectively. There is currently a global shortage of medium-lift helicopter capacity to satisfy the needs for Search & Rescue, transport for military personnel and oil exploration crews.

"Finally, we wish to thank all the many visitors who have flown with us for their support. We are also grateful to the print and electronic media for the generous coverage they have provided over the past 10 years. It will be very quiet at the base without the distinctive sounds of the various Rolls Royce jet engines starting up and also over the skies of Cape Town. It's been an more exhilarating ride and we greatly appreciate all the efforts that our dedicated maintenance team at the base have put in over the years. Who knows, if circumstances change the mighty roar of the jets may be heard again at some time in the future."

It is doubtful that anyone soon will follow his example. The dedication and devotion is rare and the capital required is too often frittered on yachts! I know. Astonishing, isn't it?

Mike has gone. He is amongst the Tavern Heroes.

As is Dave Stock who flew so much with Thunder City, but whose untimely death in the crash of Lightning ZU-BEX tolled the bell for the enterprise.

Raise your glasses.

Toast heroic men.


Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Before Alcatraz

America often follows Britain, and indeed, Oz, in dealing with the dregs of society.  Long before Alcatraz there was Sarah Island, described in the day as HELL.  I went there on holiday. It pre-dates the largest and almost as notorious prison, Port Arthur,  which is much closer to the Tavern. Sarah Island is remote in the extreme; cold, wet, surrounded by water and dense forest, it was considered 'escape-proof'. It wasn't for the want of attempts though.

Alcatraz, for our non-American customers, is also notorious, and was established as a military prison in1828, and a federal prison from 1934 until 1963. Because of its isolation from the outside by the cold, strong, hazardous currents of the waters of San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz was used to house soldiers who were guilty of crimes as early as 1859. By 1861, the fort was the military prison for the Department of the Pacific and housed Civil War prisoners of war (POWs) as early as that year. Starting in 1863, the military also held private citizens accused of treason, after the writ of habeas corpus in the United States was suspended.
America's Sarah - Alcatraz
Sarah was for just civilian riff-raff of the very worst sort. Before the American Revolution Britain sent upward of 50,000 such riff-raff to the American Colonies, which perhaps explains some aspects of the wild west. But the theft of the New World brought about the development of the World Down Under, and a new place to send convicts. Hey, don't knock it. Back in the day it was considered a great and humane solution !! 

When you see the natural beauty of Macquarie Harbour, on the West Coast of Tasmania, it’s hard to imagine that back in the 1820s, this was the scene of incredible misery. However, the fact that the entrance to the harbour is known as Hell’s Gates should give you a clue. 

Entering the harbour through Hell’s Gates meant navigating waters so treacherous that many lost their lives here. For them it may have been their salvation because what awaited those who did make it was much, much worse than death. Almost all the vegetation of the island was cut down, such that huge wodden fences some 15 metres tall had to be erected along the length of the island to give some shelter from the high winds.

The trees and dense foliage there today is all regrowth.

Conditions at the penal settlement on Sarah Island in the southern part of the harbour were so harsh that one convict, only known as Trenham, went as far as stabbing a fellow inmate, reasoning that ..

this would get him executed and he wouldn’t have to
 spend more time in this hell. 

Originally, the Macquarie Harbour area was the territory of the Mimegin and the Lowreenne, two bands of the Toogee tribe. The Peternidic, a band of the North-west tribe, and the Ninene, a band of the South-west tribe, sometimes visited the area too. The Aboriginal people reffered to Sarah Island as Langerrareroune and it’s possible that the women used the island as a meeting place. 

In about 1815, when James Kelly sailed through Hell’s Gates to be the first European to visit Macquarie Harbour, he named Sarah Island after Sarah Birch, the wife of the merchant who had paid for the voyage. Within only a few years the island was selected as the site for a penal colony because it was so isolated and difficult to escape from.

At the beginning of 1822, the Macquarie Harbour Penal Station was established, with Sarah Island as its base. The convicts sent here were mostly male and were usually people who had committed further crimes while serving their original sentences in Van Diemen’s Land. Others were convicts who had escaped and were recaptured, while some of the most dangerous criminals were sent here directly once they got off the transport ships in Hobart Town. 
Gordon River
Lieutenant-Governor William Sorell wanted a penal settlement that would be economically viable enough to cover the costs of having established it in the first place. Sarah Island, like the land surrounding Macquarie Harbour, had a valuable natural resource: huge Huon pines that were perfect for shipbuilding and growing all down the Gordon River. 

In those first years of settlement, the convicts spent their days cutting timber, usually in chains. This didn’t require much skill but it was hard work made even harder by the cold and rain. Things didn’t get any better at night, with barracks so crowded that the inmates couldn’t sleep on their backs. 

Floggings were par for the course and the food was so inadequate that scurvy and dysentery were rampant. Prisoners could also be sent to nearby Grummet Island, alternatively known as Condemned Island, for solitary confinement. It is little wonder that the first escape attempt happened two months after the settlement was established and that during the first six years, 156 escape attempts were recorded. 

Not many would-be escapees actually made it and around half died during their attempts. Among those who did make it was James Goodwin. Goodwin and a fellow inmate, Thomas Connell, secretly carved themselves a canoe and slipped away from their timber-cutting party. The pair rowed up the Gordon and then the Franklin Rivers until a waterfall forced them to continue on foot. They then continued on, across rugged mountains and through dense forests, heading east to the settled areas. Eventually they parted ways and that was the last that anybody had heard of Connell. 

Goodwin, however, reached Ouse, where he was captured. Luckily for him, because he knew so much about the uncharted Western Wilderness, he was pardoned and given a job with the Surveyor General.

An inmate who escaped not once, but twice, was the notorious Alexander Pearce. Pearce, an Irishman, had been transported to Van Diemen’s Land for stealing several pairs of shoes. He first escaped in September 1822, along with seven others. Pearce had been at Sarah Island for only six weeks. The group had originally planned to steal a whaleboat and sail north but after they overpowered their overseer, things went awry and they ran into the wilderness instead. 

A little over a week later they were starving, so they drew lots and killed the loser, who then became their meal. 

Two of the men left the next day, trying to get back to Macquarie Harbour rather than becoming the next items on the menu. The rest of the group continued on their journey and also continued picking off and eating the weakest one 
until only Pearce was left. 

He made it to civilisation but was captured and sent to Hobart Town, where neither the magistrate nor the parson would believe his story. So, he was sent back to Macquarie Harbour, where he soon escaped again, this time with one other inmate as company. He was captured within 11 days and found carrying human flesh in his pocket. Of his companion there was no trace. 

In June 1824, at around the same time that Pearce was being tried for murder in Hobart Town, another convict who would become infamous, escaped from Sarah Island. 

Matthew Brady was one of fifteen men who stole a boat and sailed along the coast to the estuary of the Derwent River. Brady became a bushranger and somewhat of a folk hero with the nickname ‘Gentleman Brady’ because he always displayed impeccable manners while he was robbing his victims.

To solve the problem of transporting the timber from Macquarie Harbour, Sarah Island became a shipbuilding centre. For a while it was the largest operation of its kind in Australia, with more than 100 vessels built during the existence of the penal settlement. (actually 131, with near 100 being built under the direction of one Mr Hoy, who learned his craft in Dundee and became a master shipwright in Boston, USA). Interesting fellow. Civilian. Not a Prisoner.  He joined the 6 other civilians, all women, on the Island who were not prisoners or soldiers, but wives and daughters of soldiers. 
Remains of ship slipway
Well-behaved convicts could now get transferred to ‘softer’ duties like gardening, smithing or boat-building and skilled tradesmen were encouraged to come and work on the island, which became an industrial village.  

The Island's Cook, a lady called Sarah (the island not named for her) was the spider in a web of graft, corruption, blackmail, contraband smuggling and extortion that reached back to Hobart Town and even Sydney. She cooked the books as well as the rotting meat.

The shipbuilding operation on Sarah Island led to 
one of the most daring escapes from the penal settlement. 

In 1834, ten convicts who had helped build a brig named the Frederick stole the incomplete ship as it was preparing to sail for Hobart Town. They sailed west and made it all the way to Chile, (yes, that Chile, in South America), where they had to abandon ship because of a leak. They rowed the ship’s whaleboat to shore and pretended to be shipwrecked sailors. Four of the men were captured and brought back to stand trial on charges of piracy. 

However, these charges couldn’t stick because the ship had not been completed and had not been seized in open waters, so they were only found guilty of robbery. ("It was just sticks and some rope and a bit of canvas, yer 'onner. Honest"). It helped their case, too, that the ships logs were never found, nor its Commissioning papers. ("So, yer see, yer 'onner, it weren't really a ship, innit?")

The Round Earth Theatre Company in Strahan, the nearest town to Sarah Island, tells the story of the Frederick in the very popular play The Ship That Never Was, the longest-running play in Australia.

The Macquarie Harbour Penal Station was closed down in 1833 but in 1847, Sarah Island was used as a probation station. At various times during the next three decades and again in the 1930s and 1940s, timber cutters used Sarah Island as their base camp. Today only ruins remain on the island, among them the ‘new’ penitentiary completed in 1828. 

To visit Sarah Island, you can charter a yacht but the most popular way to get here is as part of a cruise from Strahan. Members of the Round Earth Theatre Company present excellent guided tours of the island, bringing its infamous history to life.

So, there you are or there you might go.

But first, have a long, cool drink.

And be good.


Monday, March 11, 2019

Holiday to Hell's Gate.

When a chap lives in Paradise, where should he go for a complete change?  I took m'self off to Hell's Gate: but that was after visiting the sinful city, the teeming metropolis of Melbourne. One has to 'prepare', you see. More of Hell  later.

I was away, as you may have noticed, for a short while, on the Big Island to the North to see m'beloved son in whom I am well pleased, and to enjoy a sea journey. I drove up-State to Devonport to load my car on the Spirit of Tasmania for an overnight sailing, calling in at Westbury to speak with a new Priest there (whom I did not get to see, as it turned out). But the drive and the sailing were pleasant and without hassle.
The Knight and the Heir.

I enjoy the occasional travelling to the mainland, making the trip at least every two years to see the Airshow and Avalon. 

This year m'lad had organised fine grandstand seats from which we had an unimpeded view. Not that we stayed there all day. There was much to see on the ground with a superb array of civil and military aircraft to look at, sit in and join the long lines of people to walk through.

Would that I could share it all with you, but here are a few minutes that give the sounds, even if the smell of the avgas is missing.
Most of the explosions were simulated, of course, but there was one, unplanned. A member of the local flying wild-life took too close a look at a C17 and got sucked in. Aborted that take-off.
I admit some envy of the rich for their facilities, especially the private jets they fly around in. I would make a very fine filthy-rich man, I think. But fate has taken m'wealth from me and cast me as a poor Knight. With a Pub !!

Time was taken to travel through the Dandenong Ranges where I had spent some previous life. If you ever get the chance to visit, you must take that delight too. We had a fine dining at m'lad's, with his Lady being one of the best chefs in the State. Heck, she even had 'awards'. 
On the Spirit, Enjoying the comforts.

Then it was time to leave the comforts of m'son's modest Palace and go back across the sea to my Island. That feeling of 'coming home' is always pleasant and the ferry trip is very comfortable with a variety of things to do aboard. I now faced more travel. 

As I spend most of my time in the Tavern, busy, I do not get to see the north-west of the island very often, so this was the opportunity. I drove to the National Rowing Centre at Lake Barrington: a beautiful and very quiet spot where, that day, the only sounds were of birds in the forests that line the lake. There were no others there to be seen and I had the place to m'self for a while. Well, almost. Just as I was adding a little of my own 'home brew' to the pristine waters, a chap came jogging by !! Bugger ! 
Mt Roland

The North-West country is mountainous, stunningly beautiful with an almost rugged 'european' feel to it, especially where it has been tamed, with the first section dominated by Mt Roland. It was the first thing I saw of Tasmania the very first time I came here, deep in the winter, many years ago. Everywhere was covered in snow and Roland could be seen from 40 miles at sea. Now it was just stark and majestic in the early morning. And so I drove, through the hills, past lakes and cliffs and green country.

And so to Strahan; and the great Macquarie Harbour. 

It is the second largest in the southern hemisphere and has no great ports or industry: it has this small, tidy, well preserved fishing village that delights everyone who finds it. (Oh, and some fish-farms.) 

And it is near the dreaded entrance: Hell's Gate.

Hells Gates is the name of the mouth of Macquarie Harbour on the West Coast of Tasmania. It is a notoriously shallow and dangerous channel entrance to the harbour. The actual channel is between Macquarie Heads on the west and Entrance Island on the east (the main length of the harbour runs southeast of Hells Gates). There is a wider area of water between Entrance Island and Macquarie Head, but it is too shallow to get a boat over. A sand bar. Even a small boat has trouble. 

The name of the channel relates to the original convicts' claim that it was their point of 'entrance to Hell', their Hell being the Macquarie Harbour Penal Station on Sarah Island and the outlying surrounds of the harbour.

I took a boat to it and through it. And later to Hell itself. Sarah Island.

On the tide, the waters rush through the narrow channel, far too fast for navigation. The Southern Ocean is merciless most of the time, aided and driven by the Roaring Forties. This day it was quite mild. 

Sarah Island was rarely mild. The prisoners there - in the days past - were recalitrants, given to escape and further crime. Escape was deemed impossible although there were attempts. 

It was the Oz Alcatraz. 

Getting across the water was hard enough only for the escapees to be faced with impenetrable forest.

Perhaps I shall say more about Sarah Island another time.

Meanwhile....I did have a guided tour of the penal area. Here is someone else's rendition. The boat I mentioned in shown early on. This was taken/made just a few weeks and a year ago. The weather was very much the same.

I stayed a few days in a comfortable place run by a gentleman with whom I had a shared history. He was in the Far East at the same time as I, although several hundred miles to the North in Malaya. He now operates a hostelry, and I a pub !! We never met at the time, but had much to share in anecdotes and memories. 

If you are in Strahan, I recomment his place to you. Kitty's Place. It was excellent.

The trip back to the Tavern was an all-day bizzo across the island. More mountains. More miles. More stops along the way. More beautiful Tassie countryside.

But tiredness and eagerness to be back in the Tavern is upon me and I have pints to pull and tables to wipe.

I hope I have given a taste of my trip to Hell and back.

Have a drink.


Sunday, March 10, 2019

For Whom does the Pell Toll?

I doubt many Saints could get through a week without committing some sin: those that could are a better man than me, Gunga Din. Not quite Kipling but it will do. These days the sins are not so much theological as Politically Incorrect and we can all find ourselves in the Frame. Barely was I back from my travels than I found the news full of R.Kelly and Cardinal Pell. It was a toss up as to which was getting the most headlines. I have no idea who the Kelly nonebrity is: Pell, though, has been mentioned in the Tavern many a time, being as he is rather more powerful and saintly .... and reviled.
""Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?"".....
(sometimes expressed as troublesome or meddlesome) an utterance attributed to Henry II of England, which led to the death of Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in 1170. While it was not expressed as an order, it caused four knights to travel from Normandy to Canterbury, where they killed Becket. 

Who sought the destruction of Cardinal Pell, one wonders, and were the 12 Jury members parachuted in from outside Melbourne to cut him down with their legal swords, under Judicial Direction?

Felix Lechat summed up the issue.
Trial by leftard media of a man who for years was pilloried and demonized for being very vocally opposed to all the fad leftard causes: abortion on demand, ssm, transgenderism foisted on kids, the global-warming hoax, and so on. I doubt that anywhere in Australia could have been assembled a jury that would not have felt the impact of this, at least subconsciously. 
Found guilty, then, not on any evidence but on mere unsubstantiated allegations from a single complainant, that presented a totally implausible scenario that in any unbiased court would have been dismissed immediately. 
If Pell's conviction is not reversed on appeal the whole of Australia should mourn, not only for Pell, but for the total breakdown of our justice system.

Barely has the fish and chips stained the pages of the National newspapers than the wholly parochial Catholic newspaper in Tasmania was withdrawn because a local worthy had dared to question the veracity and stainlessness of the souls of Pell's various accusers, most of who had no dog in the fight. Think of the media frenzy condemning the Covington Boys recently.  

To the good Dr Daintree I say, stand, sir. The Taverners stand with you. To the Church hierarchy, boo, hiss. To the stables with you.

Never Apologise.

Enough with the Suppression of Free Speech.


For those not in the Oz Bar who came in to see what the hub-bub was about, we had a couple of fine folk explain.

Anna Silvas (aka. Anna the Sinner and clearly one of us) was first to her feet. 
Cardinal Pell is innocent, that's why
«I don’t believe that justice was served in this jury trial. It has all the smell of a ritual sacrifice for an ugly agenda». 
«In 1996 Pell refused the communion to a gay crowd that disrupted a mass. The homosexualist agenda in Church and Society has been gunning for him ever since». 
«Also within the Australian Church, there is a large party of hostility to Pell. Many of these will be aging clergy of the Spirit of the Seventies».
To begin with: I don’t believe that justice was served in this jury trial. It has all the smell of a ritual sacrifice for an ugly agenda, to me.
I have often attended Mass in that right transept under the organ loft of the Cathedral in Melbourne (the most beautiful Cathedral in Australia, with the most noble Gothic spire in the world, I would say). I have often been a few metres from that door that leads down a short passage into the area of the sacristies, and often seen the altar servers, choir and priests processing in and out of there.  I just cannot see that there could be a place for the perpetration of the vices of which Pell has now been convicted in a jury trial, least of all in the circumstances of High Mass on Sunday.
I have had the privilege of listening at length, more than once, to Monsignor Charles Portelli, who was Pell’s Master of Ceremonies in the five years Pell was Archbishop of Melbourne. Portelli is a man of fine intelligence, probity and culture. He captained the Archbishop in all that concerned the Sunday Liturgy, and all its preparatory and subsequent circumstances. All Pell’s deeds were witnessed and accompanied by Portelli.
George Pell too is a man of great probity, intelligence and culture, exceptionally so, I would say, among Australian bishops. That already puts him offside, in the Tall Poppy Syndrome, quite a cultural characteristic in Australian society. 
I have no doubt that Cardinal Pell, like me, is a sinner, and in his inner journey of chastity before the Lord, he has had his struggles, for virtue untested is not virtue. But the arena for this was internal, in the privacy of his soul. 
It is unthinkable that after thirty years or more of committed and proven intellectual, moral, priestly and episcopal life, that he, just having been appointed a Metropolitan, should on the first occasion of a Sunday Mass stoop to so crass and crude and sordid an exercise of pedophilia of which he has been legally convicted. No, it requires a certain preparatory moral degradation to resort to such casual stunts.
Now for a little of what I can see of the wider context of the Australian Church and society.
First I mention a news item of 1996 which I clearly remember. Very early on, a ‘gay’ crowd staged a public ‘rainbow’ protest in a Sunday Mass. When they fronted up to received Holy Communion, Pell refused them. 
The homosexualist agenda in Church and Society has been gunning for him ever since. One of the most vicious attacks on him lately has been that of David Marr. 
He is a ‘public intellectual’ of left wing Australia, a long ‘outed’ homosexual and advocate of the ‘gay’ cause, and virulently anti-Catholic. 
The passionate moral indignation of such a figure who would wag his finger against the Catholic Church, tells us that something is going on much deeper than the to and fro of legal and political debate.
For decades Australian politics (including the erstwhile ‘centre-right’ Liberal Party), the mainstream media, and the cultural elites have been drifting steadily Leftward into the totalitarian and conformist world of Political Correctness. Part of that shift involves a less and less disguised hostility to the Western tradition and its Judaeo-Christian underpinnings in general, and to the Catholic Church in particular.
Alas, within the Australian Church herself, there is a large party of hostility to Pell. Many of these will be aging clergy of the Spirit of the Seventies. 
For Pell was always an intentionally orthodox Catholic priest, his stance towards the Second Vatican Council in the spirit of Pope Benedict’s Hermeneutic of Continuity. Never subscribed to the rebellion against Humanae Vitae. Thus you find the strange paradox that Catholic ‘progressives’ who are in favour of changing the Church’s sexual ethic, who are soft on divorce and remarriage, abortion, homosexuality, and are predictable sponsors of the latest faddish political enthusiasms, themselves exploit the incidence of sexual abuse within the Church to perversely promote their cause. 
They have the spirit of David Marr in them.
Alas, as a retired bishop said to me recently, we have given a lot of ammunition to those who would attack us from without—or subvert us from within. 
There has been a disturbing number of priests in the Melbourne Archdiocese implicated in sexual scandals over the last three or four decades, as has emerged in public enquiries in recent years. Without a doubt, the Church, whether in Australia or worldwide is semper purificanda. 
We are long overdue for a severe chastisement, if you ask me, 
.....and I think things are set to become much worse for us. Just consider soberly the state of our higher leadership right now.
In the midst of the exposure of the moral and spiritual weakness of the Church in Australia, we also have another tragic fallout: the accusation of innocent priests and others. 
It is hard to be caught between the victims of clerical sexual predation crying out for vindication against a culture of cover-up, and the clerical victims of predatory false accusation and slander. 
I have heard tell that these days any priest who is accused is likely to be treated as a ‘hot potato’ by his bishop: he is basically dropped. 
They seem a cowardly lot, bishops. 
Or perhaps they will style it ‘prudent’.
I do not know whether the legal appeal against Pell’s conviction will succeed or not. Let us consider the worst-case scenario, that it will not. In that case, my reading of Pell’s situation would go something like this. 
Jesus Christ his Lord loves him too much to leave him at the pinnacle of ecclesiastical advancement. Pell joins the ranks of the innocent sufferers, from Abel even to our Lord. Perhaps he is called to carry a burden of vicarious suffering for fellow-priests and believers who are not so innocent, and for a Church in great need of repentance.
Perhaps in another way Cardinal Pell is winning the greatest ecclesiastical ‘advancement’ of all, to approach something of the original condition of the Apostles in the earliest years of the Church: For it seems to me that God has displayed us apostles at the end of the procession, like prisoners appointed for death. 
We have become a spectacle to the whole world, to angels as well as to men. 
We are fools for Christ, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are honored, but we are dishonored.(1 Cor 4:9-10)
Pray for Cardinal Pell, and pray for …
Anna the Sinner
I shall, m'dear. A cleansing drink for the Lady.

On her feet the moment Anna sat, Lianne Laurence took the attention to give details others might have missed.
Jailed Cdl. Pell would likely win appeal based on ‘unreasonable’ guilty verdict: experts
Legal experts say Australia’s Cardinal George Pell has a strong case to appeal his sexual abuse convictions on the basis of "unreasonableness," the Guardian has reported.
That’s also the opinion of American Catholic writer George Weigel, a longtime friend of the 77-year-old prelate who is now in protective custody at a maximum security prison awaiting his sentence on March 13, after which time the appeal process can start.
Pell was found guilty by jury in December of sexually abusing two 13-year-old choirboys 22 years ago. Each of the five convictions — one of sexual penetrating a child under 16, and four of an indecent act with a child under 16 – carries a maximum jail term of 10 years.
Pell’s first trial on the charges ended in September with a hung jury, with 10 of the 12 supporting Pell’s acquittal. The Crown opted literally to try again.
Just two wanted him convicted. 10 did not find for Guilt.

Looks like the 'authorities' found 10 more to vote 'properly'. 
Pell’s lawyer Robert Richter said at a plea hearing Wednesday the appeal will be based on three grounds: unreasonableness, the ban on video evidence in Richter’s closing summation, and the makeup of the jury.
While the last two grounds seem “flimsy,” Pell’s legal team has a strong case for appeal grounds of unreasonableness, which means the jury’s verdict is not supported by evidence, it reported.
“This is the defence’s best shot,” Professor Jeremy Gans, University of Melbourne law school’s criminal appeals and procedure expert, told the Guardian.
Moreover, winning an appeal on the grounds of unreasonableness means “there can almost certainly be no new trial, Gans said, “Because once a court decides a guilty verdict is unreasonable it means they don’t think guilty should be the verdict in the next trial either. They would almost certainly acquit.”
One judge initially reviews the appeal application, but it’s virtually certain it will be heard.
“No judge would decide not to allow an appeal in such a high-stakes trial,” Gans told the Guardian. 
“Their grounds of appealing on unreasonableness is solid.”
Three judges will hear the appeal and unanimous agreement is not required for a ruling. 
The process can take ten months or more, according to the Guardian, but because of Pell’s age and health — he is recovering from double knee replacement surgery — it’s likely the process will be accelerated.
There are a number of reasons Pell’s appeal will succeed, Gans told the Guardian, most notably that the prosecution had only one key witness, and the second alleged victim, who died five years ago, denied he had been sexually abused.
However, a jury is free to convict if they find one witness “believable,” he said.
A number of observers have joined Weigel in decrying the verdict after Judge Peter Kidd lifted a publication ban on the trial earlier this week.
It’s now revealed the lone complainant alleged he and another choirboy left the procession after Sunday High Mass at Melbourne’s cathedral, went into the sacristy and were drinking sacramental wine when Pell surprised them and proceeded to sexually abuse them.
Weigel listed in the National Review the ten “improbable” things that would have had to have happened within 10 minutes for this story to be true: 
Archbishop Pell abandoned his decades-long practice of greeting congregants outside the cathedral after Mass.
Pell, who was typically accompanied by a master of ceremonies or sacristan when he was vested for Mass, entered the carefully controlled space of the vesting sacristy alone.
The master of ceremonies, charged with helping the archbishop disrobe while removing his own liturgical vestments, had disappeared.
The sacristan, charged with the care of the locked sacristy, had also disappeared.
The sacristan did not go back and forth between the sacristy and the cathedral sanctuary, removing missals and Mass vessels, as was his responsibility and consistent practice.
The altar servers, like the sacristan, simply disappeared, rather than helping the sacristan clear the sanctuary by bringing liturgical vessels and books back to the sacristy.
The priests who concelebrated the Mass with Pell were not in the sacristy disrobing after the ceremony. 
At least 40 people did not notice that two choirboys left the post-Mass procession.
Two choirboys entered the sacristy, started gulping altar wine, and were accosted and abused by Archbishop Pell — while the sacristy door was open and the archbishop was in full liturgical vestments.
The abused choirboys then entered the choir room, through two locked doors, without anyone noticing, and participated in a post-Mass rehearsal; no one asked why they had been missing for ten minutes.
It’s clear to Weigel that Pell has been wrongfully convicted.
“If it is not reversed on appeal, that false verdict will constitute a new indictment: 
the indictment of a legal system that could not bring itself to render justice in the face of public hysteria, political vendetta, and media aggression,” 
he wrote in First Things,
He compared the public mood in Australia to that of “Salem, Massachusetts, during the witchcraft hysteria of the seventeenth century.”
Victoria police began a “fishing expedition against Pell, a year before any complaint had been received from an alleged victim,” wrote Weigel.
Tellingly, the Guardian’s David Marr noted that “sitting quietly up the front” at Pell’s plea hearing Wednesday “was Detective Chris Reed, the Victorian policeman who has pursued Pell for the last four years. 
His work is also on trial here.”
Known for his doctrinal orthodoxy, Pell has been subjected for some 25 years to “calumnies” in “both the hyper-secularist Australian media and in Church circles determined to hang on to their dreams of post–Vatican II revolution,” wrote Weigel.
The Holy See announced Wednesday it is opening an investigation into allegations against Pell. The Cardinal in his former role as Vatican treasurer was tasked with cleaning up corruption and was considered the third most powerful man in the Vatican.
And do I have a view? From behind the bar? 

Yes. I say there is doubt. Considerable doubt.  Reasonable doubt. 

And no man should be convicted unless a jury is Certain, beyond a reasonable doubt. 

A man with so many enemies, at home and abroad, is vulnerable to wickedness.

But wait. Who am I to 'doubt'? Oz Courts of Law are notoriously 'fair' and 'honest'. No-one ever tells a lie in a Court. They swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, innit? And the dictum is that it is better ten guilty people go free rather than one innocent one goes to jail. Innit? Who ever heard of an innocent dingo ever going to jail for taking a baby when there is a mother to do the time.

And what possible reason would someone have for telling a lie about something 22 years ago? Fame? Money? Excuse? "I'm depraved, yer 'onner' cuz of what that man did 22 years ago. Gimme me compo". Hey this wasn't Smollet and Trump.

I pray for Cardinal Pell. I am no-where near convinced of any guilt on his part.

That is not to say that victims of abuse do not have cause for my prayers too. One has to properly establish that they really are victims though, and not liars and embezzlers from the Parish Collection plates.

Drinks for the two ladies and for the gentleman.