June 2017
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Wheat – Will Ye No Come Back Again

Posted By on June 17, 2017

A Scottish soldier passes through a field of wheat.

A Great War reenactor from the Flanders Jocks moves through the allegory of wheat. (Image from Flanders Jocks via Pipes of War Facebook site).

A Powerful Allegory

This all started with a reminder of wheat blowing across the fields to the beat of the wind, anchored to this good earth.

This earth, this place that keeps us despite all that we have attempted to carve from it. A recent post by the Flanders Jocks of a Scottish soldier standing within the sway sent me upon the trail to a film delivered to my stage at an appropriate time. That film was Gladiator, the story of Maximus, a story of strength, honour, family and home. Scene upon scene there are details that have remained; not least the passing of Maximus’ hand through the reminders of his other life, his farm, his harvest…his home.

We feel this wheat as the soft tassels pass through “our” hands, we feel the emotion, we feel the connection, we become part of these moving images. Wheat, known to many as a symbol of resurrection, reminds us we are connected to this good earth, to the sun and to the heavens. Though we may not know what tomorrow will bring, it is our universal desire to find our home that keeps us.

Help the Scottish Women’s Hospitals

Posted By on June 11, 2017

Scottish Women's Hospitals donation box, Imperial War Museum,, London. (P. Ferguson image, March 2017)

Scottish Women’s Hospitals donation box, Note the NUWSS initials. Imperial War Museum, London. (P. Ferguson image, March 2017)

The National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies [NUWSS]

Elsie Inglis who initially studied medicine at the Edinburgh School of Medicine in 1887, completed her studies in 1892 at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary. Inglis was especially cognizant of the required specialized knowledge and treatments for female patients and was appalled by the lack of standards turning to the suffrage movement with whom she became politically active. In the 1890s, Inglis became the Secretary of the Edinburgh National Society for Women’s suffrage and worked closely with the NUWSS.

The NUWSS was a suffragist organization, distinct from the suffragette movement which was a splinter group of former NUWSS women who chose a more fervent political path choosing direct action that included acts of violence. The NUWSS organization favoured peaceful protests, petitions, organized meetings, leaflet campaigns and debating their positions through interactions with Members of Parliaments. Suffragists also worked with men to achieve their aims, whereas Suffragettes preferred a “Women Only” policy.

Dr. Elsie Inglis. Wellcome Library Collection, London via Wikipedia.

Dr. Elsie Inglis. Wellcome Library Collection, London via Wikipedia.

With the support of the NUWSS, Inglis founded the Scottish Women’s Hospitals Committee  that established the first Scottish Women’s Hospital in France in November 1914. The work of Inglis, and the NUWSS provided for fourteen medical units during the Great War including field hospitals, specialized facilities for the treatment of fever, dressing stations and clinics. Located in France, Serbia, Corsica, Salonika, Romania, Russia and Malta these units were created through the dedication of women such as Inglis and other associates of the NUWSS.

In all the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Society raised more than £500,000 during the Great War.

Like Things – Dissimilar Things – Creating Connection

Posted By on June 4, 2017

Chance – Observation – Imagery – Voice and even a little Research

A recent opportunity allowed me to think a bit more about what I do to create content – to find relationships between like things, dissimilar things and to create or perhaps reconnect connections. I suggested to my audience there were five keys that I use – research – imagery – voice – chance and observation. It’s about storytelling finding the why of events, people and places that can create a lasting memory of a day, of a time – something that might harness our own past with our own present – a chance to reconnect, a chance to find the me in this day of others.

And so this day I reflect upon a seemingly regular day walking across the park grass, hand in hand with my girl Rosemary passing by the idle amusement park rides which will soon propel excitable youth this way and that with cries and shrieks emitted amidst the tumult.  The rides remind me of one of my life’s soundtracks…

Hey little girl take me by the hand,
Walk me down this boardwalk
Once last time again
See those pretty pier lights
Hear those carnival sounds
Stop right at the top tonight
When the ferris wheel goes round

We wander over to the pancake breakfast alongside the waterfront, as young and old willfully and wistfully wander about the grounds in anticipation. As one happy youngster proudly exclaims “I’ve got the pancakes!” I turn my head towards their table to see family together, mom, dad, kids, siblings and a grandmother who tells the table “It will be fun!”

Family together…and for the day I am reminded of my own time spent with parents at similar events and what this year has meant to the family Ferguson. These reminiscences will take me back for a Take 2 of a museum exhibit whose panels about Away and Apart and A Death in the Family need no further explanation. Caught in these emotions of yesterday this day becomes the perfect day when the final connect is delivered. Is it chance, is it observation? Yes and so too imagery, voice and a little bit of research.

The perfect day with the perfect soundtrack, singer and guitarist Peter Bourne.

The perfect day with the perfect soundtrack, singer and guitarist Peter Bourne, Victoria, B.C.

Peter Bourne, Lion and Elder delivers his songs to his audience from a chair, with the Salish Sea as a backdrop, guitar across his legs, caught within the melody of his tunes, dark glasses and ball cap, a jacket covered with lapel pins, Peter bars the chords and sings the tunes of today’s soundtrack capturing all of today and all of yesterday, What About Me and Hey Good Lookin’.

It’s a fine day, a beautiful day as the rides swing into motion and families walk together.

There are Places that Captivate Us

Posted By on May 13, 2017

General William Earle commander of troops Nile Campaign.

Statue of Major General William Earle, commander of Her Majesty’s Troops, Nile Campaign. Killed at Kirbekan, 1885. (P. Ferguson image, St. George’s Hall, Liverpool, March 2017)

The Nile Campaign 1884 – 1885

As we walk from Liverpool train station the blue-green figure of an officer on a stone plinth attracts us. Together we walk across the roadway and stand before Major General George Earle CB, CSI. Upon the plaque KIRBEKAN stands out from the text and my mind, for I have not been, drifts to this place…Kirbekan…the Nile…the Sudan….Khartoum…Abu Klea…Egypt – to Tommy Atkins, camels, pyramids and boatmen.

The Nile Campaign 1884-85 was one of Queen Victoria’s “little wars” when a force was assembled to relieve General Gordon at Khartoum. Learning of these place and times I turn, through my mind, the many pages read and images I have seen. In the foraging of my past, a semester at University returns to me….time well spent learning of Ancient Egypt, images of this land, its people photographed by our family’s Sergeant, visits to the British Museum to see this collected “ancientania”, and of Victoria’s soldiers who saw these places in the lit heat of day, the dark cool of night. A previous visit to the National Army Museum (Chelsea) whose exhibition “soldier as collector” featured the assembled bric-a-brac of Tommy Atkins on campaign for Queen, King and Country. I speak of these memories (and I return to thoughts about echoes) as one thing leads to another, connections (mortar) the ties that bind, the togetherness of things. Liverpool – Egypt and elsewhere will all connect over the next little while.

Ramses II at the British Museum.

Ramses II at the British Museum, ca. 1270 BCE. (P. Ferguson image, March 2017)

Egypt was a constant on this trip…

On the Victoria Embankment – Cleopatra’s Needle, in the Victoria Embankment Gardens – the Great War Imperial Camel Corps Memorial. So too I return to the British Museum to find images of Egypt that will allow me to present the visit of Chilliwack soldier Malcolm MacLeod who stood in this same spot and wrote “they have everything imaginable, ancient Egyptian mummies, pottery statues, jewelery [sic], etc.” (Chilliwack Progress, December 17, 1914, page 1).

And days after Liverpool, Rosemary and I, return to Brighton to visit another fascination, the Brighton Pavilion, and on our walk towards the pier, in Old Steine Gardens, we encounter the 1888 obelisk – the Egyptian War Memorial (1882-1885) dedicated to the Royal Sussex Regiment…EGYPT…ABU KLEA. Our encounters with Egypt lead to discussions on the train to London Victoria. Two chance encounters with the echoes of the past – the togetherness of things. Yet the words do not come – to place these contexts (these bricks) until a new journey where the mortar is found…at home in British Columbia.

Egypt War Memorial to the Royal Sussex Regiment.

Egypt War Memorial  (1882 – 1885) to the Royal Sussex Regiment. Old Steine Gardens, Brighton, (P. Ferguson image, March 2017)

The warmth of the day is lovely, and our fellow wanderers this day have included a marmot, magpies and the ever curious crows. In search of stories of the Great War it is while walking the markers of Pleasant Cemetery, Kamloops that I find a story of the Sudan (Soudan). “Lest We Forget” William Southern a boatman of Canada’s first expeditionary force – an 1884-85 Nile voyageur, one of nearly 400 Canadians assembled, and whose boat skills were to take the British Expeditionary force to relieve Gordon at Khartoum. It is extraordinary and in seconds I see again Liverpool’s General Earle, Brighton’s Royal Sussex Regiment Memorial, images of camels and pyramids, museums and Tommy Atkins.

The trilogy is complete and the words soon follow…

Boatman William Southern

Boatman William Southern, Canadian Nile Voyageur. (P. Ferguson image, March 2017)

Did you know? 

Major General William Earle CB CSI was born in Liverpool. Earle was created a Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) and a Companion of the Order of the Star of India (CSI)

Major General Charles George Gordon CB was killed at Khartoum, 26 January 1885.

The Echoes of History

Posted By on May 7, 2017

Echo 1

Finding Tales within the Mortar

The days turn warm and the flowers come out sharing their colours for all of us who walk by, as steadfast pollinators dance between petals. Their steady hum another song to this ear. I watch as a robin on duty, fleet of foot, tilts its head towards the ground sound-positioning its quarry. And as I pass by the familiar pond the turtles, in alignment, warm themselves on their floating log dock, while others casually slip into the water to return to their mud.

Echo 2

I have been walking a great deal, back and forth from abode to town, alongside gardens and parks, wandering past the old and new, the brick buildings standing out amidst the modern with old block names reflective of former glories. This town has been someone’s town for many years, with favorite places and memories – so many stories I have walked by, once familiar and recalled by previous generations now faded to that pantheon of ancestors whose wisdom we can now only recall if we are willing to listen or search amongst the echoes of these places.

Echo 3

…its all part of observation…no great philosophy…just an imagination for wanting to create meaning from time before…finding tales within the mortar…finding the lives amidst the layers of history. My treks these days have taken me to see other’s visions of time before to Frantz and Their Finest, to The Lost City of Z. As I watch these stories wind upon their creative path I wonder about their creators, whose visions of the past have brought a spark forward, a new light for us to witness. It is good to pause, a time out from our own packed ideas, to let go and find peace in the process.  Once again, I have stayed amongst the credits and then wander into the night, wondering what words and images these sparks might bring, what echoes might be heard on the journey home…and who might answer.

Echo 4

Thank you to film directors David Lean, François Ozon, Lone Scherfig and James Gray whose sparks and search amongst the echoes and mortar of history found voice for others to watch, listen and enjoy.