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The Home Guard (a.k.a.Dad’s Army)


The Home Guard in training /

The Home Guard in training /

Thanks to a BBC-made TV series stretching from the early Sixties to the late Seventies, a phenomenon from the Second War has become memorable. The series was written about a force of elderly men and teenage boys raised in Britain as a home defence organisation, in case of invasion by Nazi hordes. (more…)

Dr. Beeching & the British railways (1960s)

Dr. Beeching: not even Hitler could have done so much to change the face of Britain /

Dr. Beeching: not even Hitler could have done so much to change the face of Britain /

One of the greatest achievements of the Victorians took place in the home country, not abroad somewhere in the over-large Empire. A railway network second to none, not even the massive transcontinental railroads of the United States, sprang up linking every part of the United Kingdom. Just before the First War there were over 20,000 miles of railway in Britain.

As part of the great nationalization craze after the Second War under Clement Atlee, great names of railway companies vanished: GWR, LNER, LMS and other acronyms for rail companies were not to be heard again, though with the de-nationalisation at the end of the 20th century, old companies were revived under new names. (more…)

The twelve basic tenses in English (British or American)


I work  =  I work hard all day



I worked  =  I worked hard all last year.



I will work  =  I will work hard after I have finished my exams.


Present Continuous or Present Progressive: (made with the verb TO BE)

I am working  =  I am working at the moment on a nuclear project.


Present Perfect: (made by using the vern TO HAVE; this tense indicates a mixture of the past and the present)

I have worked  =  I have worked hard all my life.


Past Perfect: (a sense of something that is now in the past, but no longer exists)

I had worked  =  I had worked hard all my life until I retired.


Future Perfect: (a sense of something that lies in the future, but that also has roots in the past and present, always used with the main verb in the past participle – worked)

I will have worked  = I will have worked hard all my life even when I am too old to work . . . because I love work!


Present Perfect Continuous (use of the verbs To HAVE and TO BE plus the main verb. A sense of the present, past and future in a continuous manner):

I have been working  =  I have been working for a considerable time on this project.


Past Perfect Continuous (something that was continuous, but which had to stop)

I had been working for months on the project, but last year I was forced to retire from it!


Future Perfect Continuous (the same as the Future Perfect, but with a continuous sense):

I will have been working on this project for twenty years by this time next year.

(a sense of someone looking back over the last 19 years, while still working, and looking forward to another year’s work, after which the 20 years will be completed)

SPECIAL NOTE:  The Conditional tense is made by adding the word would:-

I would work all the time if I had a job.

I would be working if only I could find a job

I would have been working hard all day if I had not been so lazy!

I would have worked very well as a public relations officer.


Another special note:-  The –ing suffix indicates the Present Participle of the verb: working. The –ed suffix indicates the Past Participle of the verb: worked.


Transitive: Transitive verbs are those which require to be followed by a direct object: example:- These verbs are bloody difficult.  You could not say ‘these verbs are’

The direct object is ‘bloody difficult’.

Normandy, Normans and the Norman Conquest

Normandy was once the home of Celtic tribes in north-western France. It was the kingdom of Clovis, founder of the Frankish empire (466 – 511). It came under Meringovian rule and was invaded and occupied by the Vikings (q.v.) in the 9th century. Rollo was the Viking leader who accepted Normandy as a fief from the King of France, which was gentlemanly of him as the French King was quite powerless to do anything else but accept the norsemen’s occupation. (more…)

Two proud Dukes of Buckingham (too proud perhaps?)

George Villiers (pronounced 'Villers') Duke of Buckingham /

George Villiers (pronounced ‘Villers’) Duke of Buckingham /

Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham was born around 1454 in Salisbury, Wiltshire. He was a member of the House of Lancaster, being a descendent of Edward III, and most of his forebears had lost their lives fighting the House of York in the interminable wars over royal succession (1455 – 85).

In 1460, only six years old, he succeeded his grandfather as Duke of Buckingham. At twelve he was dynastically married to Catherine Woodville, a sister-in-law of the Yorkist King Edward IV. Edward had married Elizabeth Woodville, a strong-minded woman of mean temper, probably as his second wife, though the first marriage was supposed to be a secret. (more…)

Switzerland: where Italians, Frenchmen & Germans don’t bother with nationalism


  A half-dozen of the planet’s most important countries are now infected by the nationalist mosquito. Europe (after the Second War) invented a large country called Yugoslavia which has again been divided into different nations in order to provide more jobs for high-earning politicians as well as to keep Balkan nations from reaching for each other’s throat. Spain has its autonomous community Cataluña itching for total independence, and threatening the country’s elected government in everything from school curriculuae to the language to be spoken in the courtroom. Scotland already has its own Parliament in Edinburgh, where no seats are held by anyone English. The British Parliament in Westminster has a multitude of seats occupied by Scotsmen. (more…)

Tory, Conservative; Whig, Liberal

The term ‘party’ for a political group has been around in Britain for centuries. The Tory Party was a political group that was spoken of in the 1680s. The term ‘Tory’ is itself pejorative, derived from the Irish Gaelic-speaking Catholic toraidhe – ‘outlaw’ or ‘brigand’. In the last quarter of the sevententh century the outlaws were those against the attempt being made to put the Duke of York, who was Catholic, on the throne after the death of his older brother Charles II (q.v.). (more…)

These sports: where do they come from?

Spectator sports they are called, presumably because they are designed for watching by spectators. Soccer, cricket, boxing, tennis, rugby and athletics were nursed, improved and nurtured in hundreds of independent (public) schools in Victorian Britain. Some, like boxing and athletics, had existed in the time of the original Greek Olympics, but they would have become forgotten relics of the past if it had not been for ‘sportin’ instincts’ of young people from the British Isles. (more…)

Important American Moneybags: Andrew Carnegie & Henry Ford

Carnegie /

Carnegie /

Carnegie was born in 1835, the son of a Scots weaving hand-loom operator. The family left Scotland and emigrated to the United States of America in 1848. Young Andrew worked first at a cotton mill, then as a telephone operator, and then on the Pennsylvania Railroad. Quite soon he was Superintendent. As only seems to happen in America, he got himself into the iron manufacturing business, moved to steel, and became a millionaire. (more…)

By | 2012-08-04T09:21:32+00:00 August 4th, 2012|Scottish history, US History|0 Comments


Pioneering pilgrim Puritans /

Pioneering pilgrim Puritans /

These Godless days, the word ‘Puritan’ has come to be more of an adjective than a collective term. ‘Mr Brown had rather a Puritan nature’ said the newspapers of the dignified but unelected English Prime Minister. Given his childhood in a Scottish manse, his nature should come as no surprise.

Puritans, however, were English Protestants of an extreme nature, by no means satisfied with settlements made by the recently established Anglican Church. Deep hatred of anything smelling of incense, incensed your typical Puritan. He or she desired absolute ‘purity’ within the Church of England – no Popery, no Jargon. Catholic elements needed expulsion. There is some irony to be found here, because as we know the Anglican Church was founded for political reasons encouraged by an impure, lusty and cruel monarch. (more…)

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