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John James Hackett: more than a passing acquaintance

It was early 1975. I remember warm summer nights and nude swimming in the backyard pool of the house on Nottage Terrace. There were a…

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Brexit: The Morecambe-Bridlington Line

The American singer-songwriter Cass McCombs said in a recent interview, ‘Write about what you care about. Write about what you love. That’s what the world…

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1966 and all that

It started in the shires of the English midlands and finished in the arid saltbush of Whyalla, South Australia. It was the year my life…

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Articles and posts

A selection of published and previously unpublished works

John James Hackett: more than a passing acquaintance

It was early 1975. I remember warm summer nights and nude swimming in the backyard pool of the house on Nottage Terrace. There were a few Adelaide locals but mainly twenty-somethings evacuated from Darwin after Cyclone Tracy struck on Christmas Day. A mix of English, Americans and Australians, more than a few fresh from India and the Asian hippie trail. They had been part of a little Darwin scene that

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A hundred years ago: great John Maclean comes home to the Clyde—part 1

On the morning of Thursday 28 November 1918, the Imperial War Cabinet met at 10 Downing Street in London.  Outside the weather was wet and windy and the temperature struggled to reach seven degrees Centigrade. It was the American holiday of Thanksgiving; but Americans were definitely not alone in feeling thankful. The armistices signed by the Allies on 30 October (with Turkey), 3 November (Austria-Hungary) and 11 November (Germany) had

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A hundred years ago: great John Maclean comes home to the Clyde—part 2

Two days before the Imperial War Cabinet meeting of 28 November, George Barnes drafted a memo suggesting the Cabinet (imagined above in a painting by Scottish artist Sir James Guthrie) authorise John Maclean’s release, ‘along with any others who might be in like plight for similar offences.’ ‘The continued agitation about John Maclean constitutes a serious danger for the government,’ Barnes wrote. ‘Mass meetings have been held in many places,

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A hundred years ago: great John Maclean comes home to the Clyde—part 3

John Maclean was released from Peterhead Prison on Monday 2 December. That evening he addressed a meeting of supporters at the Meatmarket Street Hall in Aberdeen. The following day, accompanied by his wife Agnes, he travelled by train to Glasgow. Despite Maclean’s desire to ‘get right home’, word had quickly spread of his release and a large crowd had gathered at the station, many of whom had taken the afternoon

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Peterloo

‘Rise like lions after slumber In unvanquishable number— Shake your chains to earth like dew Which in sleep had fallen on you— Ye are many—they are few.’ —The Masque of Anarchy, Percy Bysshe Shelley On 16 August 1819 a large crowd—variously estimated at between sixty and eighty thousand—assembled in an open area in the centre of Manchester known as St Peters Field. It was a warm, summery day and many

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Seven books that had an impact

  It was one of those Facebook memes. My good friend Greg Taylor invited me to nominate ‘seven books that had an impact’.  Seven books in seven days. I accepted and after some thought, (and somewhat predictably) decided to go in chronological order. I enjoyed the exercise and thought it was worth collecting the results here. 1. The Children’s Encyclopedia by Arthur Mee. My parents bought me The Children’s Encyclopedia

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Brexit: The Morecambe-Bridlington Line

The American singer-songwriter Cass McCombs said in a recent interview, ‘Write about what you care about. Write about what you love. That’s what the world needs right now.’ I care about Scotland. I love Scotland. So whither Scotland in this time of phoney Brexit? My ideal Scotland is an independent state. My Scotland is a republic, free of the monarchy and the aristocracy it supports. My Scotland is a parliamentary

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Whisky: ‘Whether or not it is Scotland’s oil, it is mostly not Scotland’s whisky’.

  No account of the Highland county of Moray would be complete without a mention of whisky. There are 49 operating malt whisky distilleries in the Speyside region, the greatest concentration in Scotland. The clean air, the plentiful and pristine water of the Spey coming off the Cairngorm mountains to the south (plus natural springs) and proximity to the main barley growing areas of the country provide ideal conditions for

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A Kangaroo Cousin Looks At The Saltire

In June 2017 Di and I left Sydney and spent two weeks in Amsterdam and then ten days touring around the Scottish Highlands. As much for myself as anything else, I decided to set out my impressions and thoughts of Scotland in this period of great uncertainty about the future of the place I was born. In the canal house flat where Di and I spent most of our time

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