Suleman Sardar is the volunteer caretaker of the Gora Kabristan - it translates very crudely as the white guys' graveyard - in the Dharampura district of Lahore. It's hidden away just off Infantry Road and as you can see is haphazardly maintained.
But this place, the British Infantry Graveyard as it is formally known, offers an elegiac take on the colonial era.
The cemetery was established more than 200 years ago as a burial place for British soldiers - there's an article about its history here. There are similar cemeteries across South Asia.
Some decades after independence the graveyard was brought back into use for Lahore's Christian community - in Pakistan, often a marginalised and non-privileged group. When I visited a few days ago, there had clearly been some recent interments.
Suleman Sardar - a Christian - describes himself as fighting an uphill battle, without funds or much in the way of support, to preserve the graves and stop encroachment. That may not be the full story - but at least this burial ground is not a complete wilderness as some others in the region are.
Some of the memorial stones reflect the huge loss of life - more often from illness and diseases than in conflict - sustained by British troops and their families while policing and defending the Empire.
The imperial project was wrong and cruel ... but that doesn't mean that we need show no compassion for those agents of Empire who lie buried in places such as Lahore's Gora Kabristan, close to what was once the Mian Mir cantonment.
The matter-of-fact inscriptions on the memorial stones disclose the human cost of imperialism - to the 'goras' as well as those under their yoke.
SACRED TO THE MEMORY
THE 42 OFFICERS N.C.O.s,
PRIVATES, WOMEN & CHILDREN
OF THE FIFTH FUSILIERS
WHO DIED IN THIS STATION
BETWEEN 1871 & 1893
WHO LIE BURIED IN THIS CEMETERY
ERECTED BY THEIR COMRADES OF
THE 2nd BN FIFTH FUSILIERS 1930
Lahore was once Rudyard Kipling's city, and in Something of Myself he wrote:
I got to know the soldiery of those days in my visits to Fort Lahore and, in a less degree, at Mian Mir Cantonments. My first and best loved Battalion was the 2nd Fifth Fusiliers, with whom I dined in awed silence a few weeks after I came out ...
So this graveyard is where the 'Tommies' who people Kipling's stories are laid to rest.
I made a personal act of pilgrimage in Lahore this week - to the Bradlaugh Hall. This magnificent but sadly dilapidated building is where Freda Bedi - the English woman turned Indian nationalist whose biography I have written - first addressed a political meeting in her adopted home of Punjab.
It was the mid-1930s, and Freda was convinced by her Punjabi communist husband, Baba Pyare Lal Bedi, to address a student rally at Bradlaugh Hall.
'B.P.L. said oh, you know, they want you to talk - it's nothing, you just talk as you talk at a debating society at Oxford. And when I got there I was petrified to find that there were 24,000 people waiting, and this crowd of 24,000 had a very definite opinion about what it should listen to and what it shouldn't. And if it didn't like the speaker it would start beating the ground with sticks and the soles of the feet and making a noise so the speaker would have to go down.
'Anyway, I decided that the reason they didn't like a number of speakers was that they couldn't hear them and the best thing would be to speak pretty loudly. ... So I stood on the platform like a martyr awaiting execution and I suddenly began speaking ... in a very loud voice, and I can still feel the shock that went through the whole 24,000 heads when this slight western-looking person suddenly bellowed into the microphone, must have been out of sheer fright. And that established me as a speaker. I found I could go on speaking and not be drummed out of existence by the sticks and the feet.'
The 24,000 number is not to be taken too literally - but creeping inside the rotting hulk of the building, a rather perilous venture, you get a sense of the scale of the nationalist rallies so often held here. When Freda and other wartime political prisoners were released from jail in Lahore in 1941, Bradlaugh Hall was the venue for the Congress rally to mark their liberation.
It was a stormy and overcast day when I visited the hall - you can get an idea of how it looks when the sun shines from this photo, one of a series, which accompanied an excellent article in the Dawn newspaper a few years ago:
The hall has a fascinating, if somewhat opaque, history. It is very central - just off Rattigan Road and a few minutes' stroll from Government College where B.P.L. Bedi was once a student. And it's named after an English politician, Charles Bradlaugh (I once made a radio documentary about him - you can hear it here). He was a republican and atheist MP on the ultra-radical wing of Victorian liberalism who was famously detained overnight in the Houses of Parliament as part of a tumultuous struggle he staged to be allowed to affirm - rather than take a religious oath - when taking his seat in the Commons.
Bradlaugh took on the informal title when a Parliamentarian in the 1880s of the 'Member for India'. And he was one of the very few British MPs of his day to make the trip out to the biggest and most valued part of the Empire.
In December 1889, Bradlaugh sailed to Bombay to give the opening address at the annual gathering of the Indian National Congress. Yes, that's the same Congress - in institutional terms at least - as the political party which dominated politics once India gained independence, until the recent rise of the Hindu nationalist BJP that is.
Bradlaugh was by then very unwell, in part because of his ceaseless campaigning. Part of the purpose of the trip to India was the supposedly restorative sea passage. He spent not more than two weeks in India and health concerns meant that he wasn't able to fulfil his ambition to travel around the country. And it's clear - in spite of what some local historical sources say - that Bradlaugh never made it to Lahore.
Four years later, in 1893, the annual session of Congress was held in Lahore - and was presided over by Dadabhai Naoroji, who was also a member of the House of Commons (the Liberal MP for Finsbury Central). That seems to be when fundraising started to construct a hall in Lahore not under the direct control of the colonial authorities and so able to be used for nationalist gatherings.
The inaugural stone was laid in 1900 - nine years after Bradlaugh's death - by a prominent nationalist Surendranath Banerjee. Once completed, it became associated with Lala Lajpat Rai, who established the National College in the hall buildings. Bhagat Singh, the revolutionary regarded as perhaps India's foremost martyr of the struggle for independence, attended this college and almost certainly spoke here.
Jawaharlal Nehru and Muhammad Ali Jinnah are among many prominent political figures said to have addressed their followers at the Bradlaugh Hall. It was perhaps the foremost venue in Lahore for nationalist meetings during the first half of the twentieth century.
The hall is slightly hidden away and not fully visible from the main road. That perhaps explains its survival more-or-less in tact - though some extensions were added when the building was, apparently, used as a steel mill after independence.
Although it's supposed to be sealed off, with the help of local historian Faizan Naqvi, I was able to get inside the cavernous hall, which was both awe-inspiring and, given the poor upkeep, deeply depressing.
A detailed study of Bradlaugh Hall - posted below - describes it as 'a gem among all the colonial period building of Lahore' and points to the window design in particular as a remarkable amalgamation of western and local styles. The architecture is certainly, well, non-standard - but its importance lies in the use to which it was put rather than the integrity of its design.
The building is certainly imposing, and given its centrality to the nationalist movement in what was then the capital of undivided Punjab, I do hope it has a secure future.
At the moment, the structure seems broadly sound, but many of the remarkable wooden window fittings are crumbling and the roof is peppered with holes. It was a rainy day when I visited, and floor of the hall - happily constructed of brick - was an array of puddles.
The building is under the control of a curious hangover from the Partition era, the Evacuee Trust Properties Board. After the steel mill closed, the building was apparently used as a school - and although it is said to have been empty for the past fifteen years, my ramble round the interior revealed educational posters of a fairly recent vintage and even a blackboard with some maths sums still clearly legible.
There is now a Save Bradlaugh Hall campaign which deserves support - though there's work to be done to develop clear plans for any future use of the hall and the source of funds to repair and adapt the structure.
But such a magnificent and historic meeting place - a location so redolent of the nationalist movement in Lahore - surely deserves a generous measure of tender loving care ... and cash.
An A in a circle - and it's all in red and black. The symbol of anarchism ... the colours of anarchism ... so is this the flag of anarchism?
Well, it's the most unlikely of settings. These flags on such ceremonial display flank the entrance of a glorious old haveli - a traditional mansion - in the walled city of Lahore, the heart of what's often described as Pakistan's cultural capital.
And you can see the distinct echo of anarchist iconography - take these examples of anarchist emblems and flags:
Surely the similarity between the traditional anarchist emblem and the flag on display in old Lahore can't be a coincidence.
The haveli in question is often used for swish dinners and events promoting luxury brands. The flag is actually the emblem of a hugely expensive - really, really, expensive - brand of Swiss engineered and assembled watches which are being marketed to Pakistan's ultra-rich. And by a curious twist of fate, I ended up at this very dinner - but no, I didn't fork out the small fortune necessary to make a purchase.
So, it seems that this standard which bears all the trademarks of an anarchist emblem is simply a corporate brand identifier. How disappointing!
But hang on a moment. In the 1860s and 70s, one of the strongholds of anarchism in the First International was among the watchmakers of the Swiss Jura. I cling to the belief that somehow or other there is a lineage between Bakunin's artisan supporters in the Swiss mountains and this striking red-and-black flag in old Lahore.
Almost a million Israelis - that's about one-in-seven - are of Moroccan Jewish descent. Israel has the second largest Moroccan diaspora (regardless of religion) after France.
Once Morocco had the largest Jewish population in the Islamic world - a community pre-dating the coming of Islam and indeed Christianity.
And today? There are about 2,000 Jews still living in Morocco - mainly in the commercial capital, Casablanca.
But this synagogue I visited recently is in Marrakesh - with a history dating back several centuries to the expulsion of Jews from Spain. It's just by the royal palace in a district known as the 'mellah', the name for a walled Jewish enclave ... to be found not just here but also in Casablanca, Fez and Tangiers.
This is one of the very few synagogues in Morocco which is still in use. I asked how many people attend sabbath services. 'Beaucoup', I was told. 'Plenty'. But on enquiring further, I was told maybe 20, or 15 or 10. So it's just keeping going.
The Laazama synagogue itself is small and dignified, with a pleasant courtyard. There's a small display about the history of the community and an array of religious items.
The area round the synagogue is a maze of narrow alleyways. The synagogue itself gets a steady stream of visitors - but otherwise this is not a tourist district at all, even though it's so central, but a working class residential area.
If you ever get to Marrakesh, do pop by!
What a joy to come across, quite by chance, a pub called 'The Temperance'. It's a bit like finding a vegan restaurant called The Steak House - or an old fashioned tea shoppe called The Slug and Lettuce - or a football team called Rugby - or a prime minister called Boris ... OK, I'm getting carried away here.
This once was the Temperance Billiard Hall - at the southern end of Fulham High Street on the junction with New King's Road. It is I assume a distant cousin to the similar institution I once chanced upon on Battersea Rise - but here in Fulham, they have made a virtue of the building's temperance pedigree rather than ignoring it. Class!
The building dates from 1910 - and the company behind these temperance (in other words, determinedly alcohol-free) billiard halls constructed a total of seventeen such premises up and down the country, all within a short burst of activity between 1906 and 1911.
It is now, I'm very pleased to say, Grade 2 listed.
The new usage is, of course, a total subversion of the original intent of the place. But one saving grace, you can still play pool here!
Gay's the Word - the pioneering LGBTQ+ bookshop on Marchmont Street in Bloomsbury - has on display a fantastic array of political badges. They once belonged to Paud Hegarty, the bookshop's manager for twelve years in the '80s and '90s who died in 2000. The story is told here - and in the panel which accompanies the display in the shop..
The badges (pins is the American take) were discovered in an attic eighteen years later - and rather wonderfully, the story of the badges, the causes and movements they celebrated and the man who collected them has a new lease of life.
I didn't know anything about Paud's pins until I chanced across them in Gay's the Word. With the shop's permission, I photographed the five displays and I'm posting them here without further comment. Enjoy!
What a rare delight! A small piece of stained glass, dating back a little more than a century, that nestles in the Shaw Library (more about that later) at the London School of Economics.
This is the Fabian Window - for many years missing, but now back where it belongs.
It was commissioned in 1910 by that archetypal Fabian, George Bernard Shaw - who features in it, top right, dressed in green; the man in red helping GBS hammer the world into shape is Sidney Webb, perhaps the most influential of the Fabians and - alongside his wife Beatrice Webb - a founder of the LSE; on the left working the bellows is Edward Pease, the secretary of the Fabian Society. There's a really good piece about the history of the window here.
The artist, Caroline Townshend, was herself a Fabian as well as a designer of stained glass of some distinction. And this is so charming, mischievous, self-mocking ... and so very English.
An array of prominent Fabians are shown kneeling at the foot of the window as if in prayer - though the books they appear to be revering are not holy scriptures but Shaw's plays and other similarly improving works. Sue Donnelly, the LSE archivist, has identified most of these 'worshippers':
The women are led by Maud Pember Reeves (1865-1953), founder of the Fabian Women’s Group and author of Round about a Pound a Week, who was married to the School’s third Director, William Pember Reeves. The figure at the far right is said to be Caroline herself. In between is Mary Hankinson (1868-1952), a gymnastics teacher claimed as the model for St Joan; Mabel Atkinson (1876-1958), who was involved in organising Fabian summer schools and later moved to South Africa; and Mrs Boyd Dawson author of a Fabian Tract on co-operative education.
The men include the actor manager, Charles Charrington (1854-1926); Aylmer Maude (1858-1938), translator of Tolstoy; George Stirling Taylor (died 1939) a lawyer and member of the Executive Committee; and Frederick Lawson Dodd (1868-?) who was the instigator of the Fabian summer schools. At the far left is the writer H G Wells. He is shown cocking a snook at his former colleagues in the Society following his failure to oust the old guard, including Shaw and Webb, from their leadership of the Fabian Society.
The window was unveiled at its new home at the LSE in 20o6 by ... Tony Blair. (My thoughts exactly!)
I discovered the Shaw library this week when visiting the LSE to hear Sachin Pilot, an up-and-coming Indian politician and the deputy chief minister of his home state of Rajasthan. He is a rising star in a sinking party (he's a member of the Indian National Congress) - and among the most impressive, articulate and sincere of Indian political figures.
I knew Sachin's father, the late Rajesh Pilot - indeed I travelled with him around Kashmir when he was India's internal security minister in the mid-1990s. And I first met Sachin when (I guess) he was still in his teens and did a brief internship in the BBC bureau in Delhi. He described me the other day as his first boss!
And peering down on Sachin Pilot in the Shaw library - yes, that's Sidney Webb. There's a portrait of him and his wife which takes pride of place in the room - which also boasts a stylish glass cupola and (perhaps uniquely for a library!) two Steinway grand pianos.
You may have assumed that the LSE's Shaw library, bearing the Fabian Window which George Bernard Shaw commissioned, was named after the great GBS. Wrong! It takes its name from his wife, Charlotte Shaw, an important benefactor to the LSE in its early years. Her maiden name was Charlotte Payne Townshend - but as far as I can make out she's no relation to the Townshend who designed and made the window.
Talking of which, let's have another look at it - along with an adjusted close-up which reveals the titles of the books so reverently placed among between the two lines of kneeling Fabians -
An eye-catching piece of street-art has come up on Highgate Road ... but if you want to see it, don't hang around.
It's on a new hoarding on the site of a long-disused garage and petrol station close to the junction with Chetwynd Road. An up-market apartment block is to be built here.
NW5's street artists must hardly have been able to believe their luck when the hoarding went up. But word is it's about to be replaced by bespoke hoarding extolling the virtues of the development it's screening from public view.
That's a pity - because this more-classy-than-average street art is a lot more colourful and worthy of attention than an outsize sales pitch.
This striking design depicts a mural painted in 1911 or thereabouts for the main hall of Mildmay Radical Club in North London. It seems to have been one of several murals commissioned for arched recesses in the main hall. The club is still going strong, the hall is very much there, but the murals (and indeed the arches) are no longer visible - though it is at least possible that they are concealed under subsequent layers of paint, paper and renovation.
A representation of the mural survives only because it was proudly placed on the cover of the club's half-yearly report and balance sheet (and library catalogue!) for the latter part of 1911. This is on display in a cabinet on the first-floor of the club. Whether the artist, W. White, was a club member or someone commissioned to undertake the murals is not clear.
The design is intriguing - a flat capped working man surrounded by men all with different headgear and working dress who seem to represent international labour: one looks Indian, another perhaps Turkish or North African and the others, well, perhaps Australian and American.
Some of the imagery is puzzling - a curious shaped container, with a dragon's tail, is spilling out jewels and other items of value ... perhaps the wealth that comes from fraternity and cooperation. There's clearly an Imperial angle here, but it's difficult to read the artist's message (if he had one). It is of course very masculine - apart from a rather aethereal likeness of a woman representing, of all things, 'fraternity'. In the foreground there's a beehive, a common representation of useful toil, along with a cornucopia of fruits and flowers.
There are some points of comparison - check out the headgear! - with the socialist Walter Crane's design from some years earlier on the same theme - fraternity.
There's an even more striking analogy with a couple of the plasterwork figures - attributed to Walter Crane - in the grounds of the King's College Library off Chancery Lane, a remarkable series of plaster panels about which I have blogged before:
I am not suggesting that Crane's work provided the model for the Mildmay mural ... but they do have something in common, especially the hats, caps and turbans!
LATER: Prompted by the comment from Felix Driver, an historical geographer who has written about Walter Crane and his depictions of Empire, I am also posting Crane's imperial map - which posits 'fraternity' as well as 'freedom' and 'federation' as the virtues of Empire:
It's not what you expect on a winter's day on Primrose Hill. Bursts of bright plumage - and darting between branches, birds with a wingspan as big as a buzzard's.
These are two pet macaws being given a bit of exercise by their owners.
Look at the length of those tail feathers!
Primrose Hill is no stranger to the colourful and exotic - the place is bursting with ageing music stars and actors. But this was just something else ...
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