Sunday, 25 September 2011

The Long Life and Terrible Death of My Ancestor Judith Harrison

For years I've had in my possession a copy of the diary of a relative of mine who lived in Victorian England. He was the first cousin of my mum's great-grandmother. Whilst his story is fascinating and detailed, his grandmother - our common ancestor - has her own tale. More than ten years before he began recording daily life on the farm, she had made headlines for her own reasons.

Farmer John records her very matter-of-factly: "Judeth Whalley of Rainford. Grandmother Whalley's maiden name was Harrison [from] near Liverpool. Had four children: Joseph, William, Anne and Thomas."  That was how she was remembered by him in 1878, so here is my 2011 attempt to evoke her era in more detail, and tell of her terrible fate.

Judith Harrison was born in the tiny rural village of Lidiate in Lancashire on 28th June 1780. It was a period of great unrest for Britain, and in the month she was born, our troops were in the midst of fighting rebellious American colonies abroad, whilst domestic affairs had included a week of violent riots culminated in the storming of Newgate Prison.

The modern world was just beginning to take shape when Judith was a little girl. A little before her 7th birthday, the first convict ship set sail for Botany Bay where they would land the following year and begin new lives in Australia.

Big social changes were taking place in England and new political and technological ideas were altering the way people worked. In 1793 a new government body was formed called The Board of Agriculture in response to Britain's booming farming industry. They believed there was money to be made through drainage and crop rotation. This would have been extremely relevant to the small community in which she lived as her family tried to make their living off the land.

Judith would have been brought up a God-fearing girl, attending chapel every Sunday and learning the Bible. She was growing up at a time when certain theological concepts were just starting to be challenged by scientific thinking and during her early teenage years two controversial publications caused religious outrage.

The first came when physician Dr Erasmus Darwin argued that all life forms evolved from one single source, and that developments in nature stemmed from competition. There would remain a lack of evidence for his "Laws of Organic Life" until his more famous grandson Charles Darwin set out to prove it decades later. Then in 1795, Tom Paine's book "The Age of Reason" also rejected the Biblical account of the creation as well as the story of the Virgin Birth. His book was banned and publicly burnt, and perhaps Judith's own parish was party to this religious condemnation.

A couple of days after her 16th birthday a 47-year-old doctor in Gloucestershire called Edward Jenner succeeded in inoculating an eight-year-old boy against smallpox. For the first time, the country had hopes of combating one of the worst diseases to threaten children.

In 1799, as war raged on with France and the financial burden on Britain increased, Prime Minister William Pitt (right) proposed a new "income tax" on anyone who eared more than £60 a year.

Moves were made to boost the struggling economy and it was hoped that growth would come via effective farming of enclosed lands which had formerly been open fields and wastelands. After the turn of the century, the General Enclosures Act sped up the process as governmental enthusiasm for the plan grew however in practise poverty sharply increased. There was a great surge in the number of labourers forced to work for very low wages and farming communities would have been seen significant shake-ups. The young men in Judith's village would have been hard pressed to feed themselves.

Not long after Richard Trevithick made history with his first viable his steam locomotive, Britain finally passed a bill to make the slave trade illegal in 1807. In international affairs, on 7th July in Russia, a victory for Napoleon further reduced Britain's available supply of goods.

Meanwhile, in her small village in Lancashire, Judith had met and fallen in love with a young man called Richard Whalley and on the 26th July they married. A few months later, Judith became pregnant and on 21st August 1808 she gave birth to a baby boy who they named Joseph. Two years later he was joined by a little brother, who they named William.

In 1811 as King George III's insanity grew worse, the flamboyant womaniser Price of Wales was appointed regent. His time in power began as Britain saw continued industrial development and a push towards education of the masses. Churches were making efforts to bring learning to the poor and promote literature.

Judith's husband was a farmer and his life would have seen the benefits of the road system which was being developed at the time. The country's old horse tracks were making way for new highways improved by John Macadam, the inventor of a better road surface (pictured left).

The long war with France finally drew to an end and three months before Napoleon's French army was  famously smashed by Wellington, Judith had given birth to baby Ann on 1st April 1815. She would one day grow up to have children of her own including the diarist, Farmer John.

The effects of the distant war reached home when property prices collapsed and by 1816 there were reports from many rural areas that poverty was rife. Judith and her family would have lived through extremely tough times bringing up three young children whilst they saw their farming friends go bankrupt and employment opportunities disappear. The population of the country had risen sharply and thousands were starving. Wages were so low and bread prices so high that many couldn't afford to eat, leaving hundreds of thousands hovering at near-starvation levels. High taxes had been imposed on everyday items such as soap, candles, paper, beer and tobacco, which hit the working classes very hard.

January 1817 saw the culmination of a long period of nationwide discontent. There had been protests and riots for months in almost every English county due to the high price of bread and the economy was in recession. When a demonstrator threw a stone at the Price Regent in London the cabinet held an emergency session to work out methods of stamping out unrest.

At the beginning of March 1817, parliament's fear over violent uprising lead to them suspending the right of habeas corpus, meaning that prisoners could be detained indefinitely. On 10th March 1817 a delegation of spinners and weavers set off from Manchester to present their grievances to the crown. Twenty five miles away and eleven days later on 21st March, Judith gave birth to her fourth surviving baby - my ancestor - who they named Thomas.

The following years saw Mary Shelly write Frankenstein and Elizabeth Fry campaign to reform prisons. During the 1820s the trade unions were created and the first passenger steam railway was started. A huge financial crisis resulted in 60 banks collapsing and the hot blast furnace was patented. By the time Judith's youngest Thomas had reached his teens, she was 50 years old, the Duke of Wellington had become Prime Ministers and Robert Peel had established the first police force.

In 1829 the town of Rainhill was the location of a series of steam trials to determine whether locomotives could deal with the gradients on a line between Liverpool and Manchester. An engine called Rocket passed the test and won the £500 prize (right). Seven miles north was the town of Rainford, which became home to Judith, her husband and her grown-up son Thomas.

The census image below shows the three of them in Rainford in 1841 whilst the other children were elsewhere in the town. Living in the same building is a pipe-maker called David Heyes and in the house next door is Thomas Heyes and his large family.

On 21st April 1848, Judith's husband Richard Whalley died aged 77 in Rainford. Three years later, the census showed her aged 69 as a "proprietor of houses", presumably meaning she was able to live off the rent of at least two buildings.

One of Judith's neighbours on this 1851 census (below) was her son Joseph, on whom she must have become increasingly dependent as she got older. This little cluster (which notably included a farm servant bearing Judith's maiden name) lived in the south west corner of the town, in a collection of farm buildings called Parson's Brow. Over in the north east part of Rainford lived her other two sons not far from each other: William and my ancestor Thomas Whalley.

In the centre of town, living next to another member of the Whalley family is a two-year-old boy called Edward Taylor and his father Samuel, a weaver. Edward is another important little person in the long run.

Moving on ten years and the 1861 census reveals that little Edward Taylor as a teenage apprentice shoe-maker, whilst his father Samuel Taylor was employed as a night watchman at the brewery. Also employed at the brewery as a carter was yet another Whalley.

Judith was aged 80 and described in the census only as a "farmer's widow". Her son Joseph remained in the house next door to her at Parson's Brow, and his large family included one of Judith's many grandchildren; John W. S. Whalley. A few months after this, the diarist Farmer John would see this cousin John W. S. Whalley for the last time in many years. When they eventually meet again, Farmer John would record that occasion as follows: "Feb 1st 1878 – I saw John Whalley first time for 16 years. He came to Legs of Man, Wigan."

In 1861 my ancestor Thomas Whalley was living with his family a little up town. He was a pipe manufacturer employing three men and one boy. His daughter Catherine Whalley had married Thomas Hayes who was the publican at the Nags Head in the south of Rainford (see map). But only a few months after the census forms had been collected in, Thomas Hayes died, leaving Catherine a widow. The following year she married again to William Lewis, a miner from the Wirral. Years later, their son would marry the daughter of Edward Taylor, the aforementioned shoe-maker, and that was the union of my great-grandparents.

But what of the enduring matriarch of this story; Judith - grandmother to my twice-married ancestor Catherine, and grandmother also to the diarist Farmer John? It is here we come to her sad final moments.

On Monday 12th September 1864, she was at home as usual amidst the farm buildings of Parson's Brow where her son Joseph lived next door (pictured right). Being 85 years old, she was frequently tended to by those around her including the numerous grandchildren.

That day, she was left alone in her house for a few minutes when she fell and pitched forward into the fire. Her clothes caught light and her cries of anguish brought folk running. She was found engulfed in flames on the hearth, in a state of terrible distress.

After putting out the fire, those that came to her aid did what they could and a doctor was soon called. She was dreadfully burned about the head and body and she barely clung to life in the hours thereafter. The extended Whalley family must have been extremely traumatised and no doubt Parson's Brow would have been a hub of activity as word spread. The poor old lady's trauma must have been harrowing for all involved.

Over the course of the next day she worsened in mind and body, and less than 24 hours later, she succumbed to her injuries. Death at least put an end to her sufferings.

Friday, 23 September 2011

I Love Your British Accent!

I am excited to say that I'll be crossing the water to visit Washington and New York in just a few weeks now. It's always interested me that our transatlantic cousins refer to their country more often as "The United States", whereas we British generally call it "America".

There is a difference, of course. The United States is a political entity which occupies the land of America. Thus, at the time of the revolution, you could visit visit America without actually being in the United States. Only later did the States multiply to fill all the land.

The distinction is most obvious if you visit Hawaii when of course you're not in America at all, but Polynesia - however you are in the United States. We are short of an adjective in this respect, however the Spanish have cracked this problem. They have one word "americano" for someone from the New World, and the alternative "estadounidense" meaning "United States Person."

The point is that there is a relevant difference - and we should probably be more thoughtful in our choice of noun, especially given the delight that some denizens of the United Kingdom take in berrating a " United States Person" who is careless enough to use the word "British" instead of "English", "Scottish" or "Welsh".

"Ohh I love the British accent!" says an American, trying to be complimentary.
"A British accent!" comes the derisory exclamation. "There's no such thing as a British accent! I'm English!"

Such an argument is patently nonsense, since there's no such thing as an "English accent" either. You might be Scouse, Geordie, Brummie or Cockney, for example. Conversely, a Briton might identify a transatlantic tourist's "American accent" when the New York accent is as distinctive as the South Carolinan. And typically the tourist will turn out to be Canadian anyway.

But is it any wonder that folks from abroad struggle to understand the mess of geographical terminology which is used in our neck of the woods when most Britons don't use it correctly? Most people here avoid the full term "Great Britain" but it is painfully present during the Olympics where it wrongly applies to a team which can include competitors from outside Great Britain - e.g. Northern Ireland!
The shortened version "Britain" is the most common parlance when discussing our country - despite it too being wrongly used on almost every occasion. Not only does the term "Britain" exclude over a thousand islands which make up our nation, but it is politically meaningless. "Britain" only refers to the main landmass, and it doesn't describe either the entire country of the United Kingdom, nor even all the constituent parts which make up the United Kingdom - each of which are also called countries!

It is the "United Kingdom" which is recognised by Europe as a country, and yet folks from their respective corners will fiercely state that England, Scotland and Wales are all countries in their own right. It gets even more confusing when you try to explain to someone that the "British Isles" includes the Republic of Ireland, which is not part of the United Kingdom.

So, as I journey to America to enjoy the United States, I will keep in mind the difference, and be good-humoured towards anyone who manages to at least correctly identify that I'm from Britain. Bonus points for identifying me as English. Although I am a bit Scottish too.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Immortal Buildings and Distant Cries of the Civil War

When watching archaeology programmes, it is fascinating to see someone carefully extract an artefact from the ground which has been locked away in the soil for hundreds or thousands of years. When a Roman brooch is teased into the 21st century air, is it amazing to think that the last person whose fingers touched that artefact breathed their last breath at least 1700 years ago.

What is sometimes tricky to appreciate is that the same isn't true of extant structures. Period buildings have not been hidden from sight since their own time, but they have remained an every day landmark for scores of generations. I find it slightly bemusing to see the Colosseum in paintings from the 18th century (for example the one below by Antonio Joli) because the people in Georgian costumes look strangely anachronistic next to it. Part of my brain struggles to believe it survived second-by-second for two millennia.

It's amusing to think that anyone you can name from history could have stood within the famous Roman amphitheatre - William the Conqueror, Geoffrey Chaucer, Dick Turpin or Florence Nightingale. They could all have stood and pondered how strange life was in the olden days.

I keep this in mind when I tour towns and villages looking for my ancestors. I love to find Tudor buildings because I know that even if I can't find my ancestors' own homes, at least I've gazed upon a building that was a regular sight to them in their daily lives. A recent expedition to Stonehouse near Stroud in search of the Grimes family turned up the tastefully preserved "Tudor Tandori" - although it seems unlikely to have been a Tandori since Tudor times.

The oldest building in my village is probably one of the sandstone cottages of uncertain architectural origin, possibly late 16th century. I find these buildings fantastic keystones for the daydreamer and it's astonishing to think that the foundations of that building were laid by the hands of workmen when Elizabeth I was the popular icon of the day. It is pleasing to contemplate the long-ago sunsets that were watched through those windows, and touch the walls which have been washed by a hundred-thousand rain storms.

I find it a very sobering prospect to stand next to any structure which pre-dates the civil war in particular. There can be few events that gripped the country in a manner so tumultuous that it could have divided any street, house or family. The war was a crisis from which it would have been impossible to hide, and our peninsula was still held by the King in 1643, but 1644 saw Prince Rupert lead a Royalist army to recapture Liverpool, just ten miles from here. When Parliamentarian troops left Liverpool to its own devices, many of the 500 citizens were killed when the Royalists sacked the town.

Although the English Civil War officially ended in 1651, there were still outbreaks of violence. The oldest dated building here is the Manor House (shown above), with a stone showing 1655 and it was in that year that Royalist insurgents in the south-west attempted to rise up against Cromwell's parliament. They were defeated and the matter came to a savage end with the beheading of the ring-leaders.

When the Manor House was four years old our peninsula had another brush with the troubles of the age when Chester became home to rebellion, just 17 miles down the road. On 2nd August 1659 Sir John Booth marched on Chester with a force of insurgents, where sympathisers opened the gates for him. But after three weeks, Chester surrendered back to Parliamentarian forces without resistance and Booth himself was arrested dressed as a woman after he tried to disguise himself and flee to the continent.

That unassuming white building stood impassive as the monarchy was restored, plague struck, America declared independence, the steam engine was invented, the railway came to the town, two world wars passed by, the television era began, and then the internet was invented. And now you're reading about that house which pre-dated the first newspaper, via a device which would seem like witchcraft to those who built it.

If that house lives to be double its present age, it will stand until the year 2367. If the Colosseum lives to double its present age, then historians will still be admiring it in the year 3942. The turn of the 40th century is as unimaginable to us now as the 21st century would be to a Roman, and yet their immortal structures live on.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Call That Rioting? An 18th Century Lesson in Chaos

It seemed like society was collapsing last month. When trouble started in London, then spread to other cities and seeped into smaller towns, it felt like an advancing infection of insanity. It appeared that the centres of unrest might become ever more parochial until gangs would be roaming every street, taking anything they wanted. What if it had simply never ended?

Thankfully, after a few days it passed and we breathed a collective sigh of relief. But looking to the past we see the truth of the matter - it has never ended. The gaps between moments of violent unrest from the populous may shrink or grow depending on the political and economic climate, but our leaders should never be shocked at bouts of frustrated destruction.

Spare a thought for the average citizens of Britain in the latter half of the 18th century. Starting with pockets of trouble from the restless poor, protests became intermingled with political agendas until they built into periods which made August 2011 seem relatively safe.

Scattered incidents had occurred starting in 1757 when William Pitt's attempt to strengthen our army prompted a public outcry and rioting. A year later in 1758, the enclosure movement was resulting in poor peasants being denied access to public wasteland and riots broke out in rural areas.

January 1766 saw widespread disorder in London after the government attempted to impose a Stamp Act to raise taxes in the American colonies. Just five months later, as food prices soared, the south saw huge numbers of the poor gathered to wreak havoc and protest in the hope that farmers would lower their prices.

On the 10th May 1768 an MP called John Wilkes who was hugely popular with the public fell foul of the government and King. He had won four elections but was expelled from parliament and after being found guilty of libel, his supporters caused chaos. Troops had to be used to quell disturbances in Southark as mobs roamed the streets with weapons. Road travel was not safe as people were attacked in their vehicles and the windows of houses were smashed. Police were assaulted trying to arrest people and troops fired shots into the crowd, killing six rioters and wounding 15.

At the same time in the north, resentment had built to dangerous levels following the introduction of new machinery in the textiles industry which threatened the jobs of weavers. Fearing for their livelihoods, men started grouping together and mounting large scale assaults on property and equipment. James Hargreaves, inventor of the Spinning Jenny, had rioters break into his home and smash all his machines.

Some peace was restored to the nation, but there was always an undercurrent of unease, and much anger was directed towards the King and Parliament. On 13th Febuary 1772 for example, rioting marred the funeral of the King's mother as her funeral procession was mobbed. Just a year later in Cornwall, local tin-miners were being affected by high grain prices and their frustration at their low income turned into violence. The tinners went on the rampage and seized stocks of grain. Troops had to be sent in once again to deal with it.

At this point in history, anarchy was erupting across the Atlantic too as attacks spread in the American colonies. Demonstrations and confrontations were commonplace but by 1774 this was rapidly descending towards war, and the first shots rang out at Lexington in 1775.

All was not well in Britain either in the years that followed. Exploiting the conflict with the colonies, France chose this time to declare war. In the hope of recruiting more men from all faiths into the army, parliament pushed through legislation called the Catholic Relief Act. This addressed a lot of inequality for Catholics, especially in terms of land-ownership, but the move was so unpopular in Scotland that mobs took to the street in January 1779 and an orgy of destruction followed.

Other domestic problems were still rife as new technology was still seen as a threat to employment. Framework Knitters in the Nottingham area had tried and failed to use political means to address their grievances, but their campaign for better wages was defeated in parliament and the desperate people turned to rioting. Then, on 9th October, a mob smashed Richard Arkwright's revolutionary water-powered spinning factory which had come to be a hated symbol of bad working conditions.

Tensions simmered up and down the country over a number of contentious social changes, until disturbance erupted once again on 2nd June 1780. This time it was over proposed extensions to the aforementioned Catholic Relief Act which prompted outrage across England. When Lord George Gordon travelled to the House of Commons to attempt to get the controversial legislation repealed, he was accompanied by a force of some 60,000 ill-tempered supporters. The atmosphere in the densely-packed crowd was tense and when Gordon berated his own massed followers, the mood turned ugly and the destruction began on an epic scale.

The following day the rioting continued with no sign of abating. There was a third day, then a fourth and a fifth of unrivalled chaos, but worse was to come.

On 6th June Newgate prison was stormed by the mob and all the inmates were released. The level of violence was unparalleled as the liberated criminals joined the carnage. Houses were burnt down and attacked, chapels were indiscriminately sacked, and the distilleries at Holborn were blown up. But city authorities still resisted the use of the military to quell the situation.

The next day the madness continued, and then the day after that. The capital was in turmoil and the destruction was extensive. Finally troops were called in, with large parts of London having been reduced to rubble. Initially 235 people were reported killed with 173 wounded. Only 139 arrests were made, including Lord George Gordon, the man originally responsible for the disorder. 25 men were accused of being ring-leaders in the trouble and all were found guilty and sentenced to be hanged.

When the dust had settled, fatalities were numbered at 500, and over a hundred buildings had been destroyed. The situation was thankfully never to be repeated on such a scale, but it was no small wonder that when the French revolution took hold of Paris in 1789, the British government felt there was a very real possibility that the hunger for change could cross the channel.

Revolutionary groups sprang up around Britain, spurred on by the events in France and, two years later on 15th July 1791, rioting erupted again, this time in Birmingham. When a banquet was held to celebrate the French Revolution, it was stormed by a thirty-strong "church and king" mob who then went on the rampage in Britain's largest industrial centre. Drunken looters roamed the streets, burning buildings and even sacking the home of well-known scientist and political dissenter Joseph Priestly. His library and laboratory were destroyed and in a move reminiscent of the Bastille storming, they opened the town prison, leading to more criminals on the streets.

The following year saw mob riots in Glasgow and Edinburgh as discontent grew with the political system. Dundee saw some of the worst of it, with two whole weeks of sustained destruction, culminating in troops being brought in. Outbreaks of trouble were never far away in England as the unruly public suffered poor harvests and then war with France. In October 1795 King George III's coach was fired at as he rode to the state opening of parliament and an angry crowd later hurled missiles. Even Downing Street came under attack and the windows of the Prime Minister's house was smashed.

The Militia Act which had been introduced to bolster the army remained extremely unpopular and as the war effort continued, riots erupted in Scotland. Incidents worsened until in August 1797 cavalry charged a group of protesters leaving 11 dead, including two local boys.

That same year, the Manchester food riots saw hundreds of people looting. The ring-leader Hannah Smith was given the death sentence - considered at the time an unexpectedly harsh punishment for theft of food, but in the wider context of inciting large-scale disturbance it was deemed right. These were the last major troubles of the 18th century but the following decades weren't without their own share of incidents, most notably of which were the food riots caused by the struggling economy.

The repeated social uprising of the latter half of the 18th century is shocking because it is so obviously the same society we live in today. We might want to believe that rampaging London mobs belong in medieval times but the stories above feature streets, jails and a political system that we would all recognise - and these tales are far more harrowing than what we lived through last month.

We now live in a country with six times more people than there were in 1800, and yet we are more civil, living in less fear and with far greater luxury than ever before. So, despite what we might be lead to believe about our society being broken and filled with barbaric and disrespectful people, it is perhaps comforting to reflect on the fact there has never been a Britain which is more restrained and more peaceful than the one we live in today.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Wales (The Britons) v England (The Foreigners)

In light of the international football game tonight in which England struggled to beat Wales 1-0, I thought it would be appropriate to shine a light into the darkness of the past to reveal the confusing nature of these countries' names.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles (from circa A.D. 890 to the 12th century) say that the Island Britain consists of five nations:
  1. English
  2. Welsh / British
  3. Scottish
  4. Pictish
  5. Latin

The fifth item on the list is the most mysterious - but that's for another day. So, let's begin by travelling back a thousand years before the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles were started to examine the second item: The Welsh, who are also intriguingly listed as "the British".

In a historic sense, "a Briton" can be assumed to be roughly synonymous with what might be better understood as "a Celt". This is the culture generally (but not necessarily correctly) thought of as the first inhabitants of our island - thus they are awarded the badge of "the original Britons". Theirs was the Iron Age civilization who fought bravely against the invading Romans in the 1st century BC and who later counted Boudica amongst their most famous leaders.

Four hundred years later, after the Romans abandoned the conquered Britain, their political infrastructure broke down and military support evaporated. The top echelons in the country had been Romans, but millions of ordinary folk would have retained a lot of their Celtic heritage from before the invasion, despite the revolutionary ideas and technology of their occupiers. So, when the Romans and their language left, the "Celtic" identity re-emerged, and the post-Roman British were able to re-assert themselves.

One British King was called Vortigern, and he struggled to maintain his grip on his lands in the wake of the Roman military departure. He was a leading ruler among Britons and when the Scottish and Pictish tribes to the north of Hadrian's Wall (nations 3 and 4 on the list) threatened his territory he invited the Saxons from mainland Europe to settle as mercenaries to aid his cause. Unfortunately these continental warriors rebelled, expanded their territory and brought new waves of immigrants in their wake, including the Danish tribe of Angles.

In 400 AD, all of the British mainland had been Romano-British. By 500 AD, the marauding Saxons and Angles had encroached from the eastern and south-eastern coast, with the latter tribe particularly spreading far inland to the midlands. By 600 AD, the Anglo-Saxons had swarmed over two-thirds of the country, pushing the Native Britons back to the far western areas. These Celtic/Romano-British became isolated in the places we now call Devon, Cornwall, Lancashire, Cumbria and Wales. By 700 AD, their last refuges were Cornwall and Wales only.

So, the invading Angles had taken lands from the native Celtic Britons who were forced back into their stronghold of Wales - and that's how the Chronicles arrived at their naming of "the Welsh" as "British", whereas the term "English" came from the incoming "Anglecynn" meaning "the kin of the Angles".

These invading Angles took their name from part of their ancestral home in Jutland, where they originated from a peninsula called Angeln. This peninsula in turn is named after its outline which is hook-shaped. From this same root we have the word "angle" as in the geometric figure, and similarly "angling" as in "to fish with a hook".

Thus, the Welsh are the British and the English are the foreigners.

1300 years later it might seem pedantic to highlight the oddity of a football score based on these ancient names of nations, but it is surprising how much pride and gentle racism there is between the countries which make up Great Britain.

The feelings of the Celts towards the continental invaders are still present in our modern language. For example, we are familiar with the Scottish insult "sasannach" which is used to unkindly refer to an English person. This originates from the Gaelic form of "Saxons"- a direct and derogatory reference to the invasive heritage of the English.

On the opposing side, the Saxon disdain of the natives is evident in the very name of the Celtic nation of Wales. The word "Wealas" is actually a Saxon term meaning "foreigners" and it stuck not only to Wales but also that other enclave into which the Native Britons retreated. Their refuge peninsula became known as "West Wealas" and also at one time "Corn-wealas" after the Celtic Cornovii tribe - but ultimately in the present day we call it "Cornwall", still carrying its -wall suffix branding them "Celtic Foreigners".

This pattern is repeated across the country, wherever Saxons observed and derided the Celtic tribes. Not far from where I live, the town of Wallasey bares the same root from "Wealas". Then there's the town of Walsden, and the old name of the Avebury stone circle was Waledich.

Casting the net wider and the word appears across Europe, wherever Saxons saw Celts or Romans. The Polish call Italy "Włochy", the Hungarians call Romanians "Vlachok" and there is even a wine called "welschriesling" from Slovenia.

The word "Wealas" mutated even further into "Galwalas" which was the Old English name for Gaul - and that bridges the gap to reveal that the word Gaul itself is derived from a corruption of "Walha". This complicated linguistic circle closes beautifully if you then recall that the modern-day French name for Wales is "le pays de Galles". What this means is that the Britons named the French nation "foreigners" and they returned the favour by calling the Britons "foreigners".

It's a reminder from history that we are all outsiders from someone's perspective - but also it's worth remembering that Celtic Britons were prehistoric migrants from mainland Europe too. So all this illustrates that the enduring rivalries can now be quashed by enlightened understanding of our shared heritage, and consequently all international sporting events in future become null and void.

But next time England play Wales, be sure to use this information to construct a pithy anecdote about the Welsh being the true Britons and I'm sure the nearest burly, tattooed English gentleman in the pub will be delighted and amused to hear it.