Posts Tagged France

Majorca Daily Bulletin

WHENEVER I’m away from home I always try to pick up a local paper. It doesn’t matter where the paper is from – anywhere in the English speaking world does me just fine. I really enjoy reading them right the way through from front to back (and from back to front if the sports news is really interesting!)

As well as reading what the paper has to say for itself I also love to see how the paper looks. I’ve always had an interest in layout and design so this aspect

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of the media really fascinates me. My view is that there’s no point in having a brilliant article if no one reads it because of a bad layout. (This latter aspect would be particularly important for any commercial paper, where making a profit is the bottom line for the owners. If no one’s buying the paper – because of its bad layout – then their profits go out of the window.)
Whilst on a recent (and all-too-brief) family holiday in Majorca I came across the Majorca Daily Bulletin (1). Written to an excellent standard – and at 1 Euro for 32 pages – I thought it represented excellent value.

This English language daily is on sale throughout the Balearic Islands – Majorca, Minorca, Ibiza and Formentera. It appears to be part of a much larger Spanish-based media group, Grupo Serra. Other publications in its stable include Ultima Hora (2) and Mallorca Magazin (3).

One thing that immediately struck me about the Majorca Daily Bulletin was its editorial independence. One would think that the safe and logical thing to do for this paper – especially as it’s wholly pitched at the (foreign) English-speaking community – would be to toe the government line. But the Bulletin doesn’t.

The independence of the Bulletin was demonstrated by Editor (Jason Moore) in his Viewpoint article of September 24. This noted that:
“The Madrid government was busy toasting a record August for tourism yesterday with foreign tourists spending billions in Spain last month. But not everybody was celebrating yesterday. Infact, in bars and restaurants across Majorca the champagne was very much on ice. The official figures tell a story; a rise in the number of tourists who spent more money. The big winners were naturally the hoteliers and the losers were the small army of bar and restaurant owners across the country who saw their takings fall because of an increase in all inclusive holidays and the recession.”

I thought that this was a good – and balanced – view. I presume that tourism is the lifeblood of the Balearics and no one would want to ‘rock the boat’ when it came to this subject. However, the Majorca Daily Bulletin saw right through government waffle and pr spin. The paper got to the heart of the matter – the survival of the local economy via small independent shopkeepers and traders. There’s a worrying trend whereby small indigenous shops are squeezed out existence by big business. If it continues, then all we’ll be left with is an ‘identikit’ world. I don’t know about you but when I go away I like to see and experience a bit of local culture – and this includes the shops!

Away from taking the government to task, the paper has a great mixture of home (Majorca) news as well as several pages covering Britain and the World. I’ve a sneaking feeling that Gerry Mulligan’s Crimewatch page is a ‘must read’ for lots of folks. The Balearics appear to attract drug dealers by the score but as Gerry notes, the Guardia Civil are successfully “weeding” out these criminals!
The Bulletin also features several interesting sports pages. I particularly liked its football coverage. With so many people enjoying their holiday in Majorca, it carried reports from England, Spain, Germany, Italy, France and the Netherlands.

However, one of the best sports articles was written by Monro Bryce – Squeaky Bum Time At Son Moix! It reported on Real Mallorca’s game against Mirandes in the Spanish Premier League. This was a great example of a fans point of view. His report was full of passion. There was constructive criticism of the club – a “Jekyll and Hyde outfit” – but a deep love as well.

I loved his acknowledgement of Real Mallorca’s Ultras: “A special mention must go to our Ultras at the North end curve, they sang all game – it would have brought a tear to a glass eye.”

I also really loved his description of watching his local team – “fans squirming in their seats as one’s team’s fortunes wax and wane” – but all that squirming must have paid off as Real Mallorca won!!
(1) http://majorcadailybulletin.com/
(2) http://ultimahora.es/
(3) http://mallorcamagazin.com/
Reviewed by John Field

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“Revamped Too” – Tim Bragg (2012)

Revamped Too is largely a compilation of various tracks from Tim Bragg’s back catalogue but also features some brand new recordings plus previously unreleased material. Tim Bragg is a talented and engaging multi-instrumentalist who has composed an impressive body of work comprising several albums that range from protest folk to jazz-rock to pop ballads with an obvious Phil Lynott and Thin Lizzy influence. He is also a novelist who has covered such genres as science fiction and political social commentary in works such as “The White Rooms”, “The English Dragon” and “Oak” – themes that have also inspired an earlier album “Fields of England”. Three tracks from this album (which is due for a revamped release in 2013) are featured on Revamped Too: “Rock the Boat” concerns political-correctness; the gutsy “My Family” and my favourite track: “England’s Seal”, a brilliant Marleyish piece of reggae “agitist” reflection.

The album is impressively produced and mixed with a highly attractive cover and features a wonderful assortment of various well-crafted contributions by various musicians – although Bragg at times performs most of the instruments. There is also a rockier cover version of Phil Lynott’s “Kings Call” and a country-rock version of Little Feat’s “Willin’”. Other tracks to look out for are “Sometimes” (which opens and closes the album with different versions) and “These People” (a reference to those folk who wreck other people’s lives!).

An instrumental album “Crossing Over” concerning spiritual themes and exploring the human predicament of death has been recorded and awaits release sometime in 2013, plus the aforementioned revamped version of “Fields Of England” (a work that demands more recognition). Bragg’s move to France has certainly given him a warm objectivity, Buddhist-like detachment and inspiring artistic perspective in the composition of his music – informed as it is by his writing and philosophical insights particularly concerning his former native land. He delivers these songs with heartfelt conviction and integrity. They come from a real place but as someone once said “a prophet is without honour in his own country” (how sadly true of Bragg). Nevertheless this compilation expresses a freshness and positivity rich in soul and genuine creativity, a work that is topical, relevant and delivered with a gritty rustic realism but shot through with warmth and compassion.

Wayne Sturgeon

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Tales from the Castle Gate

Tales from the Castle Gate

“THERE is perhaps no more fruitful form of education than to arouse the interest of a people in their own surroundings”

– Joe Baker, Glenravel Local History Project, North Belfast.

I THOUGHT I knew a bit about local history, but even I was stunned to hear that French forces had invaded Carrickfergus! Indeed, from 21st February to the night of 25th – 26th February 1760, Carrickfergus was an overseas territory of the French realm of King Louis XV!

This event – and much more besides – can be found in an excellent book written by Charles McConnell (and published by Carmac Books, Carrickfergus in 2002). Called Tales from the Castle Gate it attempts to provide as much information as possible about the castle. As McConnell notes: “There are few buildings in Ireland with such a well-chronicled and long history as the town’s most compelling landmark and it was the strategic importance of the Castle as a military fortress that led to the succession of memorable events associated with the town’s history”.

There is so much to read in this remarkable book – chapters include The Castle Builder, Lord Edward Bruce, Roundheads and Cavaliers, The castle and the Williamite War – but the day Carrickfergus became part of France really captured our imagination! This is dealt in reasonable depth with a chapter entitled Under a Foreign Flag. It really is a fascinating account of the French invasion – and subsequent capture – of Carrickfergus.

On 21st February 1760 around 600 French troops – under the command of Commodore Francois Thurot – landed at Kilroot and advanced towards Carrickfergus. The castle and town were put on alert as soon as the French were spotted. Around 300 French Prisoners of war, captured from previous land and sea battles, were being held in the castle. (They had originally been held in Cork for two years. However, because of rumours of a French invasion of the southern coast of Ireland, they had been moved. These prisoners were first moved to the Irish midlands and then on to Belfast. Three Hundred were held in Barrack Street in Belfast and the remaining 300 held in Carrickfergus). When Thurot’s fleet was spotted these prisoners were mustered and marched off to Belfast!

During this period Carrickfergus Castle wasn’t as militarily impressive as it had been. Tales from the Castle Gate states that in “the relatively peaceful times of the first half of the 18th century in Ireland, complacency had developed about the Castle’s military role”. Thus it had fallen into a state of disrepair – indeed; there was fifty foot breach in the outer curtain wall where a section had collapsed six years earlier in 1754.

The only military forces defending Carrick at the time was a detachment of General Strode’s regiment, the 62nd Regiment of Foot. This consisted of about 160 young recruits undergoing training. There was barely only enough ammunition for each soldier’s training and there were no guns mounted! They were under the command of Colonel John Jennings. (According to Tales from the Castle Gate, the commander of Carrickfergus Castle, Colonel Jennings, later described it as “an old fortress little better than a heap of ruins”.)

The majority of those soldiers defending Carrick – the 62nd Regiment of Foot – were deployed at Joymount where the main French attack was expected. Others were deployed at North Gate, West Gate and the castle itself. A lack of ammunition saw the British troops retreat to the castle. And a series of running battles saw some of the French invaders get into castle. The bulk of the French troops had marched into Market Place. Some were then deployed on to West Street then to Cheston Street where they could fire directly at the outer castle gate. Other French forces were concentrated in Castle Street. The web-site of Carrickfergus Borough Council http://www.carrickfergus.org also notes that whilst the French were on route to the castle “the silver in St Nicholas church was stolen”.

Those defending Carrickfergus castle found themselves in an impossible situation. The lack of ammunition (which had prompted their initial retreat) meant that there was more powder than ball. Therefore, half the powder from each cartridge was fired with the bullet – the other half was used to fire a metal button from their tunics!

It wasn’t too long before the French invaders charged. Led by Captain d’Esterees they attacked the castle door, which had not been closed properly. This led to hand to hand fighting in which d’Esterees was the first to fall. Senior British officers – including Colonel Jennings – and about fifty men with fixed bayonets repulsed this initial French attack. They were aided by their comrades who although they didn’t have any ammunition threw stones and bricks at the French!

Given the inadequate state of the British defence, it’s surprising that they were able to hold off the French for several hours. However, it was clear that Colonel Jennings would have to surrender. His men were outnumbered three to one and were completely out of ammunition. Despite fighting against overwhelming odds the British defenders had two killed and five wounded. At the same time, the “French lost a surprising number of, about fifty being killed, including three officers, and about the same number wounded”. (Interestingly, one of those wounded during the fighting was Brigadier General Flobert. He originally wanted the diversionary invasion abandoned but was overruled by Thurot. Flobert was so badly wounded that he had to stay ashore to recover). Additionally, it was only a matter of time before the French discovered the massive breach in the defensive wall. This would have led to the French completely overrunning the castle and possibly killing all of its defenders.

In Tales from the Castle Gate, McConnell notes that the terms of capitulation were generous. “The garrison were allowed to march out with drums beating and flags flying and be on parole till they were exchanged for an equal number of men. The Castle was to be delivered up with the stores in it. The town was neither to be plundered nor burnt, nor the inhabitants misused.”

Once the French had occupied Carrick Castle they demanded provisions and stores from Belfast. They stated that if nothing arrived they would burn Carrick to the ground and kill all of its the inhabitants. The provisions were slow in coming so Commodore Thurot threatened to march on Belfast. The local authorities relented and met his demands – enough food and fresh water was supplied to see them back home. The French invaders also took what they could from Carrick – including any clothing they could find to protect them from the bitter winter. To ensure their safety they took some local dignitaries as hostages.

The brief French occupation of Carrickfergus ended when – on the night of 25th – 26th February – Thurot’s forces left just as the advance guard of the British reinforcements approached. However, Because Carrickfergus lies within Belfast Lough, they had to wait two days for a favourable wind to take them out to the open sea.

However Commodore Thurot never reached home. Three ships of the British fleet having been alerted, intercepted the three French ships off the Isle of Man and in the ensuing battle the French were defeated and Thurot killed.

Reviewed by John Jenkins.

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