Monday, 24 July 2017

On Trial For The Olympics

No, the title isn’t about crime. Believe it or not there’s only 200 days to go before the opening ceremony of the Olympic Winter games in Pyeong Chang, South Korea. My world-renowned list of lgbt Olympians is very close to 300 names. I wonder if I will reach that number before the games begin.

But I already have a list of reserve or alternate team members whose only reason for not being on the Olympian list is because no other Olympic team member fell ill or injured. A few of these alternate athletes took part in the parade at the opening ceremony with the rest of their team. And then there are the lgbt athletes who competed in Olympic trials and qualifying tournaments. If I add them to my list I get a total of 379. If I add the Paralympians and their alternates to the list we increase that number by 20. Which means that there is an accumulative list of lgbt Olympians, Paralympians, reserves and alternates of
399.

This far ahead of the Pyeong Chang games it isn’t possible to know how many lgbt athletes will appear in 2018. However, we can get a good idea if we look at the qualification tournaments and Olympic selection trials, which all sports go through these days before the final selection of the national teams, for the previous three Winter Olympics. For the Sochi 2014 there were 5 lgbt athletes who competed in trials but didn’t make the team (there were 18 lgbt Olympians who did go to Sochi). For Vancouver 2010 there were 10 who went no further than the trials (19 Olympians and 2 alternates). For Turin 2006 there were 14 (19 Olympians and 1 alternate). I hope the downward trend in lgbt athletes taking part in trials is not an indication that there are fewer wanting to compete.

There are many athletes who are openly lgbt but do not shout about it. They are not national celebrities and often disappear into a regular life after they finish their competitive career without making the news. They are by no means “in the closet”, nor were they when they competed.

Competing in an Olympic trial does not necessarily imply an athlete is hoping for a place on the team. He/she may just be trying to achieve their best performance in national ranking. Or they may be competing to gain qualification for their nation; nations often have to compete for qualification as well as individual athletes, e.g. in football/soccer, ice hockey or beach volleyball. Another example is in equestrian eventing. Former Olympian Blyth Tait competed in the qualifying tournament which was to select which nations would for Rio 2016. He helped to secure a place for New Zealand but did not compete in any further qualification events for individual team members. That is why I have chosen to list all lgbt athletes who competed in trials and qualifying tournaments.

There seems to be a trend which reinforces sporting stereotypes, a fact which may seem undesirable in a perfect world. For instance, the stereotype of many male figure skaters being gay men and many female football/soccer players being lesbian has been around for decades. But we cannot escape the fact that it is true, and it is further reinforced by the number of athletes competing in the trials.

Here are some of the figures. In the table I have listed the top ten sports. I have counted all athletes who have competed in trials and qualifying tournaments, including those who were later banned or deselected. Transgender athletes have been counted in the gender category in which they first competed. All of the Olympians and alternate/reserves also competed in trials or selections. I have not included any Paralympians in this table. 

 
SPORT
TOTAL
OLYMPIANS
ALTERNATE/
RESERVE
TRIALS
COMPETITOR
1
Figure skating
63
26
5
32
2
Football/soccer
48
42
3
2
3
Track and field
44
35
 
9
4
Swimming
29
21
 
8
5
Equestrian
22
15
1
6
6=
Tennis
13
13
 
 
6=
Diving
13
12
 
1
8
Basketball
13
12
1
 
9
Field hockey
12
12
 
 
10=
Rowing
11
11
 
 
10=
Handball
11
10
1
 

One statistic may stick out more than any other. The number of lgbt figure skaters who competed in Olympic trials who have never been selected as an Olympic team member or alternate actually outnumbers those who have.

My research never stops. There are about a dozen athletes, past and present, I am still researching. The further back in time we go the less information there is about which events were official qualifying events.

For the time being I am following the progress of known lgbt athletes who hope to appear in the next Winter Games in South Korea in 200 days time. Good luck to them all.

Friday, 21 July 2017

A Flower Power Legacy

There have been many homophobic murders through the years. Too many to list. One which received a lot of media attention at the time, and in the years since, is the double murder of partners Gary Matson (1949-1999) and Winfield Mowder (1959-1999) in July 1999.

The murders were featured in the true crime television series “Forensic Files” in 2004. If you want to know more about the actual crime and how it was solved (with a fleck of paint and a chicken feather) you can watch the episode below on Youtube, or go to the Wikipedia entry.

Rather than go over the crime again let’s take time to pay tribute to the victims Gary and Winfield, a couple who devoted their lives to plants and horticulture. Specifically they advocated environmental horticulture, a branch of the science that deals with the way plants and environment exist together.

Gary Matson in particular was horticulturally gifted and used his “flower power” to establish or contribute to many projects over the years, many of which would never have got off the ground (or should that be “in the ground”) if it hadn’t been for his contribution.

Winfield Mowder was 10 years younger than Gary and was his partner since 1985. He also had an extensive horticultural knowledge though his talents were concentrated on the businesses he and Gary formed, starting with the Matson Horticulture and Florabundance Nursery in Redding, North California. They embraced the growing internet sales business by starting plantstogo.com, an online ordering services for plants, in 1997, for which Winfield also designed the packaging.

Gary Matson, the oldest of the four sons of Oscar and Stella Matson, was born in 1949. When Gary was in high school his father bought some land on which he planned to turn into a vineyard. Gary was already interested in horticulture and the soil and went to study at the University of California Santa Cruz. It was there that he met Marcia Howe (1949-2003), a fellow student, and they started dating. They were a couple for around 15 years and they had one daughter who was born in 1979.

Together Gary and Marcia founded the Carter House National Science Museum in Redding on the site of a previous vacated museum. Carter House was an educational resource, mainly for schools, which provided natural walks and talks in the Redding countryside. It was staffed by volunteers originally and in 1992 Redding city council provided operating funds and two full-time paid staff. In 1997 Carter House merged with the Alliance of Redding Museums, which is now the Turtle Bay Exploration Park. Marcia remained as Senior Vice-President of Carter House until the merger.

During this time Gary also led in the establishing of community gardens in Happy Valley just south of Redding and the Redding Farmer’s market.

In the 1980s Gary came to realise his homosexuality and he and Marcia separated. They remained close, and Gary continued to help raise their young daughter. At around this time Gary and Marcia created the Redding Arboretum which, like Carter House, was absorbed into Turtle Bay Exploration Park. It formed part of the McConnell Arboretum and Botanical Garden, though little of the original layout remains.

In 1985 Gary Matson and Winfield Mowder became a couple. Winfield’s experience in horticulture were gained at the Orchard Supply Hardware Garden Department while he was studying at Chico State University. Unfortunately, it was through local horticulture that Gary and Winfield first encountered the young brothers who were to murder them in 1999. Winfield had worked briefly with one of the brothers at Redding Farmer’s Market which was founded by his partner just a few years earlier.

Gary and Winfield were a well-known, highly-respected and well-liked couple. They didn’t hide their sexuality and Winfield often spoke to local schools. The murdering brothers would have been well aware of it too.

In reaction to the murder of Gary and Winfield in July 1999 the Redding community banded together to form the Matson Mowder Pride Alliance, an annual celebration of their lives that took place on the anniversary of their deaths. It was a celebration of unity and diversity and was held for about ten years.

Another memorial was an online garden, the Gary Matson Memorial Garden. This was created by Cyndi Kirkpatrick, a member of the same Google newsgroup to which Gary belonged and contributed regularly. The idea behind the memorial was to create a visual garden of images and photographs of flower and plants on the website to create a colourful commemoration of the lives of both Gary and Winfield. Unfortunately, this memorial garden seems to have disappeared from the internet.

It’s a shame this no longer exists. But at least we can still enjoy the legacy and creativity of Gary Matson and Winfield Mowder in the Turtle Bay Exploration Park which continues the educational work of the original Carter House and Redding Arboretum.

You can also enjoy that legacy from the comfort of your own garden with a glass of wine. Remember that vineyard Gary’s father had planned? In 1981 Gary planted grape vines on the property and the wine business flourished and is still going strong. The Matson Vineyard is currently run by Gary’s youngest brother Roger, and if you’re ever in the Redding area you can pop along and buy a bottle of their wine.

So I raise a glass in tribute to a couple whose Flower Power has survived the hateful events surrounding their untimely passing.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Extraordinary Lives : Swashbuckling Across France

A French print from around 1700 by an anonymous artist entitled
“Mademoiselle Maupin d’Opera” depicting Julie d’Aubigny as an opera singer.
There was quite a remarkable group of women who lived in the17th and 18th centuries who lived extraordinary lives for their times – the pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read, and the soldier-adventurer Catalina de Erauso to name a few. At the moment I’m quite taken with the life of Julie d’Aubigny (1673-1707), whose action-packed, swash-buckling, body-snatching, opera-singing life was extraordinary for enough for her to feature as a companion to Doctor Who in a comic book adventure. In fact, there can be very few men of her time had more extraordinary lives than hers.

Julie was perhaps fortunate in having the father she had, for Gaston d’Aubigny was secretary to Prince Louis de Lorraine-Guise, Count of Armagnac. Gaston was also responsible for the education and training of the pages of the royal court of King Louis XIV of France. Julius was accepted into the classes, which included horse-riding and fencing, and she got used to wearing male clothes like the young male trainees. Sensing the restrictions of female clothes at an early age Julie chose to wear men’s clothes for the majority of the rest of her life.

So far, so dull, except for learning how to fight with a sword, which other young women didn’t. Then, at the age of 14 she became the Count of Armagnac’s mistress. That would have caused as bit of a scandal, even if there were other royal mistresses around the court. But Julie was a teenager and unmarried. So the Count married her off to an aristocrat called the Sire de Maupin de Sainte-Germain-en-Laye. From then on Julie became known as the Madame de Maupin, or just La Maupin when a later career choice took off.

Now that Julie was married Armagnac packed her husband off to the south of France to be a tax collector while he had his way with her.

Then things really started to hot up. Julie spent her time in the fencing schools of Paris, challenging the tutors to matches. One of these tutors, Monsieur Sérannes, became her lover after Armagnac dropped her. But her cushy life as a privileged aristocrat ended when Sérannes killed a man in a duel. Duels were illegal at the time, so the couple fled Paris. Deprived of income they headed south earning money in the fairs and inns as a fencing-singing (not at the same time) double-act.

Julie dressed as a man the whole time but always made it clear that she was a woman (a female singing fencer was a big attraction). But one young man in one audience challenged her. He didn’t believe she was a woman. So, what did she do? She did what any other 16-year-old would do. She flashed her boobs at the crowd.

Julie also had quite a talent for singing as well. When they got to Marseille she trained as a singer under Pierre Gaultier, a friend of the composer who invented the military marching band, ballet and the conductor’s baton, Jean-Baptiste Lully.

It wasn’t long before Julie tired of Sérannes. She had found another love, a merchant’s daughter who was even younger than she was. The girl’s parents were horrified, so they packed her daughter off to a convent. Undaunted, Julie followed, and abandoned her male attire to join the same convent. The two teenagers could be together, but life in a convent was not the best environment for a relationship so they decided to run away together.

Knowing Julie, just running away from a convent was no ordinary task. She waited until an elderly nun had died. Then, Julie dug up the body. Yes, grave-robbing was another of her skills, and put the corpse in her girlfriend’s bed. To cover up the switch Julie set fire to the convent and she and her girlfriend escaped amid the chaos.

The plan backfired, sort of. In her absence Julie was accused of kidnapping, grave-robbing and arson. She was condemned to death – as a man, because they couldn’t believe a woman could do such a thing.

On the run again Julie enjoyed three months with her young lover (whose name is not known). But boredom set in again and the girl was sent back to her parents while Julie returned to her singing-fencing career in the inns and fairs of rural France. She was talent-spotted by an alcoholic former singing star who offered to train her properly. Perhaps now, at the age of 18, Julie though about finding a more normal life.

But no. She enjoyed singing, but she enjoyed fencing just as much. On her way to Paris to start her professional singing career she encountered a young man who insulted her (in one version of the tale). Julie challenged him to a duel and succeeded in thrusting her sword straight through his shoulder. The next day the man’s servant came to apologise for his master’s insult and took Julie up to see him in his room. It was only then that Julie revealed her true gender and identity and, guess what? She and the injured man, who turned out to be Count Louis-Joseph d’Albret, became lovers. This was perhaps the only true love relationship Julie had with a man. They were only lovers for a short time but they remained close friends for the rest of their lives.

Julie continued on to Paris, picking up yet another lover, a fellow singer also heading for Paris called Gabriel-Vincent Thévenard. Don’t forget that Julie had a death sentence hanging over her in Paris, and once there her identity would be revealed and she risked arrest. Calling on her former lover, the Count of Armagnac, for help he persuaded the king to drop all charges against her.

Still only 18 years old Julie found herself performing at the Paris Opera. It wasn’t long before she realised her best singing voice was as a contralto, and this turned her into a star. There weren’t many starring roles for a contralto at that time, but Julie found composers were writing leading roles especially for her. This was the time she became known as La Maupin. She stayed at the Paris Opera for 15 years.

And if you think the first 18 years of her life were packed with enough packed and that she has decided to settle down and become a singing celebrity you’d be wrong.

The next 18 years of her life were just as extraordinary, and included a duel with three men one after the other, an affair with the ruler of Bavaria, and a disagreement with the Grand Duchess of Luxembourg all made sure her teenage reputation stayed with her. Unfortunately, we can’t. Julie d’Aubigny’s life is so extraordinary that I’ve split it into two parts. Part 2 will appear at the end of the month. And you’ll never guess what she did with a handful of radishes.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Out Of His Tree : Police, Painters and Protestants

There are two cousins who, in their own way, helped to establish more acceptance of gay men in the UK. They are both called Paddick.

The first, Hugh Paddick (1915-2000), was a comedy actor and starred in a BBC radio comedy series in the 1960s called “Round the Horne”. His most memorable character was Julian of Julian and Sandy, an overtly camp couple. In 2015 I gave a brief look at how this character helped, however unconsciously, to establish some form of acceptance of gay men in society.

The second, Brian Paddick (b.1958), was one of the first openly gay police officers in the UK and rose to become the highest ranking out gay police officer with the rank of Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. On his retirement he entered politics and was appointed a Life Peer in 2013, taking the title Baron Paddick. For the uncertain among you, a Life Peer is appointed by the political parties to represent them in the House of Lords. The title is not hereditary and dies with the owner. “Lord” is the general title for all ranks of the peerage (except Duke), the lowest rank being Baron.

This is how the two men are related. Technically they are second cousins once removed.
I’m going to concentrate on the ancestry of Lord Paddick to tie in with my “Law and Citizenship : Police and Law Enforcement” series. His ancestry shows the influence of the Essex countryside, the aristocratic homes of Victorian London, and the persecution of French Protestants.

It’ll be most appropriate to begin with Lord Paddick’s grandfather, his most obvious influence.

Police Constable Peter Perkin (1880-1940) joined the Metropolitan Police in 1901. He served for 26 years before resigning in 1927. During that time he met and married his wife Eleanor and had several children, one of whom was Evelyn, Lord Paddick’s mother. Peter Perkin died before Lord Paddick was born, but no doubt stories about his grandfather’s career as a policeman is probably what inspired Brian to enter the Metropolitan Police force himself.

But Peter Perkin was not a London boy born and bred. He was a country boy. He was born in the village of Great Bardfield in Essex some 51 miles north-east of London. The Perkin family had lived there for several generations and were closely linked to the land. Peter’s father was a hurdle-maker, someone who made fence panels and windbreaks from willow and wattle. Peter’s grandfather was a sheep-dresser, someone who killed and prepared sheep for sale in a butcher’s shop (there’s butchering of a different animal later).

Lord Paddick’s male-line ancestry had lived in London for a little longer than the Perkins. The Paddicks originate in rural Hertfordshire. Lord Paddick’s branch of the family, starting with his great-grandfather James Joseph (see family tree above), moved to London in the early 1870s. James used his experiences working on the land with horses (as a boy he helped to deliver milk around the villages by horse and cart) by becoming a groom and coachman to the wealthy families of London. I haven’t discovered the names of any of his employers, but I found that in 1881 he and his family were living at 14 Marylebone Mews which backs directly onto the home of Maj. Herbert Gye and his wife the Hon. Adelaide Gye (great-great-niece of Lord Nelson). Was James Joseph Paddick their coachman?

Lord Paddick’s grandfather Horace, one of the 11 children of James Joseph, married Ethel Guerrier in 1915. Without trying to denigrate Lord Paddick’s other ancestors his Guerrier family line is a bit more interesting.

Guerrier is a French name. The Guerriers were one of the many Huguenot families, French Protestants, who were persecuted in France and who fled to other countries from the 1680s. The earliest member of the family I have uncovered in London is one Mathieu Guerrier in 1697. How he is related to Lord Paddick’s ancestor Edward Guerrier is not known. Edward is recorded in the archives of the Worshipful Company of Painter-Stainers, a London guild, as a fan painter (a stainer was an artist who stained cloth for decorative coloured wall hangings). The Huguenots were renowned as the premier fan painters in Europe. The influx of these skilled artists into London led to the formation of the Worshipful Company of Fan-Makers in 1709. However, In 1733 Edward enrolled his son George Guerrier (1718-1753) as an apprentice to a member of the Painter-Stainers guild. By then there were thousands of cheap printed fans being imported from Asia and the market was flooded. Fans became cheaper and fan painters like Edward Guerrier found their work in less demand. Perhaps this is why he enrolled his son with the Painter-Stainers guild and not the Fan-makers.

George’s son William Guerrier (1747-1821) was also a member of the Painter-Stainers guild. But then something happened. Two of his sons joined the same guild in the 1790s, thereby joining their father as Freeman of the City of London. However, neither of these sons were painters. They were butchers!

What seems to have happened is that William Guerrier, a skilled painter and stainer, had fallen on hard times and by the 1770s was working as a porter in the London docks. I’ve tried to discover if this was a different man, but the evidence suggests not.

The Guerrier family fortunes declined, but not for long. They became a dynasty of successful cattle-dealers and butchers until well into the 20th century. Lord Paddick’s branch of the family descend from a younger son of one of these successful butchers who went into labouring work (for a brewer in Bethnal Green, so it probably wasn’t all that bad!).

Let’s end on one final surprising link to law and order in Lord Paddick’s ancestry. Through his grandfather PC Peter Perkin Lord Paddick’s family line can be traced back in the census to Robert Perkin (1793-1875), a farm labourer who was born in Thaxted, Essex. I’ve not found any proof of the Perkin family ancestry before that but various family websites online give unverified information which says that Robert’s grandmother was called Elizabeth Turpin. Does that surname sound familiar? It should, because according to those online sites she was the daughter of the infamous highwayman Dick Turpin. It’s a claim that needs further research (by others, not me), but on the whole I am highly sceptical of the link.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Chain Males : Part 2

We’ve looked at femalemayors. We’ve looked at Lord Mayors. Now let’s have a look at male mayors, and there have been many gay, bisexual or male-identifying mayors. In fact, I’ve had to split them into several groups. I’ll deal with British, European and US male mayors in the coming months. Today we’ll look at the known male mayors from our community from the rest of the world.

Below is a world map with the cities and municipalities in which gay/bisexual men have served as mayor. I have chosen not to include those who were Deputy or Vice Mayor, but have included one Municipal President, which is a mayoral equivalent. On the map I’ve used official logos, flags or coats of arms of the municipalities though I need to say something about the arms of Wanganui, New Zealand. The arms I’ve shown is the one used by the city unofficially from 1905 and were in use when Charles Mackay served as mayor. It is the arms of the Petre family after whom the city was originally named. An official coat of arms for Wanganui city was granted in 1955.

As with the previous mayoral lists there are no lgbt mayors known to have served in Africa.

Here is the list of mayors :

CANADA
Réal Ménard (b.1962), Mayor of Mercier-Hochelaga-Maisonneuve since 2010.
Glen Murray (b.1957), Mayor of Winnipeg 1998-2004.
Ted Nebbeling (1944-2009), Mayor of Whistler 1990-96.
Maurice Richard (b.1946), Mayor of Becancour 1976-85, 1995-2013.

CHILE
Claudio Arriagada (b.1955); Mayor of La Granja 1992-2012.

EL SALVADOR
Hugo Salinas (b.1963), Mayor of Intipucá 2009-12.

MEXICO
Benjamin Medrano Quezada (b.1966), Municipal President of Fresnillo 2013-15.

PHILIPPINES
Arnold James Ysidoro, Mayor of Leyte City 1998-2004, and since 2010.

AUSTRALIA
John Fowler (b.1954), Mayor of South Sydney 2000-4.
Julian Hill (b.1973), Mayor of Port Philip 2000-2.
John Hyde (b.1957), Mayor of Vincent 1999-2001.
Ralph McLean (1957-2010), Mayor of Fitzroy 1984-5.
Bruce Notley-Smith (b.1964), Mayor of Randwick 2007-9.

NEW ZEALAND
Charles Mackay (1878-1929), Mayor of Wanganui 1906-20.

The earliest openly gay mayor on the list is the last-named Charles Mackay, although to be fair he was outed during the legal case that followed his shooting of a blackmailer. The blackmailer was seriously wounded, and Mackay was convicted of attempted murder. He was removed from his mayoral office and spent 18 months in jail.

The earliest mayor to be openly gay when elected to office was another antipodean, Ralph McLean of Fitzroy, Victoria, Australia in 1984. Of all the others on the list only Claudio Arriagada, Mayor of La Granja in Chile, was not openly gay during his term of office. He came out the year afterwards.

As well as Charles Mackay of Wanganui the other mayors have points of interest. Here are a few. While was Réal Ménard was MP for Hochelega he competed at the 1st World Outgames in 2006 winning a silver medal in wrestling; Ted Nebbeling was the Canadian Minister of State for the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games; Glen Murray and his partner were the subjects of a 1992 documentary film about gay parents and adoption; Claudio Arriagada was twice President of the Chilean Association of Municipalities, the mayor’s mayor or super-mayor, you could say; Hugo Salinas had lived in the USA since 1993 and hadn’t set foot in his native El Salvador until he began his successful mayoral campaign, which he began just a stone’s through from the White House. All of our mayors have stories to tell, as do all of those I’ve listed in the past and will list in future articles.

I’ll finish by going back to my previous “Chain Males” article on Lord Mayors. With all the research and activity going on before and after the UK General Election in June one piece of news slipped past me. In May the City of Westminster appointed as openly gay man as its new Lord Mayor, Councillor Ian Adams. That makes him the 6th lgbt Lord Mayor in the UK and the second in Westminster. Westminster had the first known lgbt Lord Mayor in the UK, Robert Davis in 1996, though he wasn’t openly gay at the time.

The next Chain Males article will feature the gay and bisexual mayors in the USA.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Q-dunnit? Who Grabbed St. Patrick's Jewels?

One hundred and ten years ago this week Ireland was rocked by a crime that is still unsolved. It was a crime that sent shockwaves into the British royal family and uncovered a secret world that existed in the heart of the Irish capital.

See if you can answer the question people have been asking for over a century – who stole the Irish Crown Jewels?

Let’s start with the background and story of the crime and then we’ll look at the suspects.

The Irish Crown Jewels were actually the insignia of the Order of St. Patrick, Ireland’s highest order of knighthood, and were part of the British crown jewels. They consisted of a magnificent star badge and an equally magnificent jewelled chain collar and pendant badge. All glittered with hundreds of Brazilian diamonds, rubies and emeralds. They have been estimated to be worth over £4 million today.
A Star of the Order of St. Patrick. This is smaller than the
one stolen from Dublin Castle but no less magnificent
The jewels were kept at Dublin Castle and only brought out on ceremonial and state occasions, and only worn by the sovereign’s representative, the Viceroy and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, as Grand Master of the Order. However, on the afternoon of 6th July 1907 St. Patrick’s Jewels, along with several other jewelled collars belonging to Knights of St. Patrick, were gone.

An alarming prelude to the theft was that in the early morning of 3rd July when the office cleaner arrived the entrance door to the Herald’s Office at Dublin Castle was open. The police guard had checked the door at 7.30 p.m. the night before and it was firmly locked. No-one had been seen entering the castle grounds.

What came to light in the aftermath of the theft was the revelation that there was a secret homosexual ring centred at the castle. This ring included the people responsible for the safety of St. Patrick’s Jewels as well as the future Duke of Argyll who was married to the king’s sister Princess Louise, and Lord Haddo the son of the Viceroy and Lord Lieutenant.

Rumours of a gay clique at Dublin Castle first emerged after an Irish nationalist hinted at such in a newspaper article in 1884. None of our suspects had any link to the castle at that time but the rumours stuck. The homosexuality of several of the suspects, once revealed, only served to perpetuate the rumours of gay orgies in the castle itself.

St. Patrick’s Jewels were locked in a safe in the Dublin Castle library. There were only two keys, both kept by Sir Arthur Vicars. One he wore on a chain on his person all the time and the other was locked in a drawer in his bedroom. The jewels were seen in the safe when Sir Arthur last opened it on 11th June.

Access to the library was only through the main entrance to the Office of Arms. There were seven keys to the entrance door. They were held by Sir Arthur, his secretary, Pierce Gun Mahoney, the office Messenger, the night inspector, the Board of Works overseer, and the office cleaner. We can eliminate the overseer as a suspect because he hadn’t been at the castle since March. Police also eliminated the cleaner and secretary.

As for access to the library during working hours any official visitor or member of staff could slip unnoticed into the cellars whenever the office messenger, the only person whose office was on the ground floor next to the library, went upstairs to Sir Arthur’s office. He/she could also easily leave unnoticed the same way. As for the night-time, a skylight that led into all office areas could be easily opened unnoticed from ground level. None of the military or police guards who were there 24 hours a day noticed anything suspicious.

The police questioned everyone at the castle about their whereabouts on the night of 2nd-3rd July when the entrance door was found open, and on 5th-6th July, the night before the theft was discovered.

So, who are the main suspects? From the brief reports I’ve given below can you decide “Q-dunnit?”


SIR ARTHUR VICARS : Ulster King of Arms, Ireland’s chief herald and genealogist and the man ultimately responsible for the safe-keeping of St. Patrick’s Jewels. He was diligent in his duties, but when he was told on 3rd July that the entrance door had been found unlocked he didn’t seem concerned. On 6th July he gave his safe key to the office Messenger who then discovered the safe open and the jewels gone. Sir Arthur never gave his key to anyone. Sir Arthur had an intimate (possibly physical) relationship with Francis Shackleton whom he invited to live with him (in separate bedrooms) in his house some half-hour carriage drive from the castle. He was also known to show off St. Patrick’s Jewels to anyone he thought might be interested, contrary to his required duties. He seemed genuinely shaken when the jewels were found missing. ALIBI : On 2nd July he was having dinner with a friend and wouldn’t have had time to go from his home to the castle and back without being seen by the guard. On 5th July he checked the premises, locked the office and went home. He didn’t return until 11.30 the next morning.

FRANCIS SHACKLETON : Dublin Herald, a mainly honorary and ceremonial title (Sir Arthur’s co-second in command). Younger brother of the explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton. Francis and Sir Arthur had known each other for years and Shackleton lived with Sir Arthur when performing his ceremonial duties in Dublin. Being appointed Dublin Herald helped to regain his reputation which had been tarnished after he resigned from the army after some hushed-up scandal. He could easily have secretly copied one of Sir Arthur’s safe keys when staying with him in Dublin. ALIBI : Francis hadn’t been in Ireland since May.

PIERCE GUN MAHONEY : Cork Herald, again mainly an honorary and ceremonial title (Sir Arthur’s other co-second in command). He was Sir Arthur’s nephew and visited him at home many times. He could also have easily secretly copied any of the keys. ALIBI : Mahoney had left Dublin in April for health reasons and didn’t return until 4th July.

FRANCIS BENNETT-GOLDNEY : Athlone Pursuivant, the lowest rank of herald, and yet again an honorary and ceremonial title. As such he could afford to have a full-time career in England as the Mayor of Canterbury. He first met Sir Arthur through a mutual friend, the gay sculptor Lord Ronald Gower. Without trying to influence your judgement, it was revealed after Bennett-Goldney’s death that he had been pilfering various items from the Canterbury archives. ALIBI : Like Shackleton, Bennett-Goldney had not been in Ireland since May when he stayed with Sir Arthur and Shackleton at their home and worked with them at the castle. Could this have given him any chance to secretly copy one of the keys?

RICHARD GORGES : Musket instructor at the Curragh military barracks near Dublin. He was Francis Shackleton’s lover. He was literally booted (i.e. physically kicked) out of his regiment for being found having sex with a young boy, one of many it later transpired. Sir Arthur refused to accept Gorges onto his staff or into the castle because of it. This may have had some connection with Shackleton’s own hushed-up exit from the army. This meant that Gorges would not have access to any keys – unless Shackleton had secretly made copies and Gorges “acquired” them during one of their regular hook-ups in Dublin. ALIBI : Supposedly he was in Curragh barracks on both of the evenings the police were looking in to. We’ll never know. He was never questioned. Interestingly, when he was arrested for manslaughter a few years later he confessed to the theft of St. Patrick’s Jewels. No-one believed him!

Those are the suspects. A Viceregal Commission of Investigation was conducted. Sir Arthur Vicars refused to take part arguing that only a public enquiry would reveal the truth. He was probably right. Twenty-two witnesses were called to give evidence, and the commission turned into a trial against him. Sir Arthur was found guilt of negligence in his duties and fired as Ulster King of Arms. To his dying day he accused Francis Shackleton on the theft.

Various historians have named one or more of the above suspects at one time or another. The current consensus is that Shackleton and Gorges worked together to steal the jewels. But what do you think? On the very brief evidence I’ve given do you think they are guilty? Or was is Sir Arthur all along?