Posts Tagged ‘2008’

Iona – the Abbey

Friday, August 14th, 2020

Every time I peel an onion, something I do several times most weeks, it reminds me of our stay at Iona. As paying guests of the Iona Community at the Abbey we took our part in the daily chores which kept the place running, and each morning after breakfast I went with the other ‘Otters’ – the work group to which I had been assigned to the kitchen to prepare vegetables. My part in this job seemed always to be one of two or three of us peeling onions – and you need a lot of onions to cook vegetarian meals for around 50 or 60 people.

There are a lot of dodges that people advise to avoid tears when peeling onions, and I think I tried them all. They may help if you are only peeling one or two, but none help if you have a mountain of them to get through. You cry, and crying only makes it worse. Still, I think I preferred it to cleaning the lavatories and washrooms that my partner was assigned to.

The Abbey is essentially a twentieth-century reconstruction carried out by teams of volunteers from the Iona Community after the site with its ruins was gifted to the Church of Scotland by the 8th Duke of Argyll in 1899, with more modern living accommodation built alongside it in a matching external style.

The Duke is still present – in marble, lying beside his wife.

As well as the abbey, alongside it is a small church, the oldest building on Iona (c 1150) with an ancient graveyard where 48 Kings of Scotland were buried. They were joined more recently by Labour leader John Smith; a boulder marks his grave with the message “An Honest Man’s The Noblest Work of God”.

There are ruins of another chapel in the grounds, as well as those of a former Bishop’s House, and splendid views across the sound to Mull, enough to drag me out of bed for a short walk before breakfast (and onions.) And of course there were a number of short religious services, optional but an important part of the experience, though with too much unaccompanied singing for my taste.

More pictures in and around the Abbey from our visit 12 years ago on My London Diary.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr


More from May Days: 2008

Monday, May 4th, 2020

Continuing my short series of posts about previous May Day celebrations in London that I photographed.

I photographed them after they had photographed me

As usual the London May Day committee had organised a march from Clerkenwell Square and my day started with police photographing me as I arrived to photograph the event. As I commented:

It’s hard to see any real point in this other than a kind of mild intimidation of journalists and difficult not to regard it as an attack on free speech and the freedom of the press. Definitely a distortion of the role of the police in a free society, it is also one that distracts them from the vital tasks they have at the present time.

TUC May Day March

Numbers on the march were lower than in previous years, perhaps because it was also a day when elections were taking place in London, and the weather probably didn’t help. But there were those with trade union banners, including the sacked Gate Gourmet workers. As usual there were large groups of marchers from the Turkish and Kurdish communities, and I particularly liked the picture at the top of this post, but there are many more of them on My London Diary.

Many accounts of May Day write about its origins with the The Second International calling for a commemoration of the Haymarket Martyrs as an international workers day, but seldom mention its special significance for the Turkish groups:

For Turkish groups, the day also commemorates the 1977 Taksim Square massacre, when around 40 people in a crowd of around half a million celebrating May Day were killed and around 200 injured by firing from the Hotel International. None of those responsible has been brought to justice but both Turkish secret police and CIA have been implicated. At least at the moment our own police are only using cameras.

As the marchers left Clerkenwell on their way to Trafalgar Square I made my way to one of my least favourite areas of London, Mayfair, where the Space Hijackers had announced a celebration, a recreation of the Mayfayres which gave the area its name and were banned in  1708 because of their boisterous disorder.

Camilla and Boris took turns in the stocks

They had made their plans after Police Commander Bob Broadhurst had attempted to justify the very different policing of pro-Tibet and pro-Chinese protesters during the Olympic Torch debacle in London by claiming the pro-China group were not restricted because they were celebrating rather than protesting. As I commented in 2008 on My London Diary:

As their various events over the years have shown, the Space Hijackers do a rather ace job of celebrating, although they haven’t always had the same cooperation from the police as those upholding human rights abuse by China – or even football supporters. For this year’s May Fayre, police even supplied a comprehensive photographic service, although the price (I believe £10) of obtaining your pictures from them by a Freedom of Information request seems rather high, especially considering the poor quality of results I’ve seen. As I think my pictures demonstrate, it’s often better to use a wide-angle rather than the extreme telephoto “peeping toms” favoured by police photographers.

They were also seen searching a few people, possibly to enforce the fancy dress code, but otherwise just seemed to be standing around the area – particularly across the access roads – and carrying out a useful role in preventing traffic from disrupting the festivities while letting those on foot walk in and out as they wished.


It was a fun event, and even some of the police appeared to enjoy it (and the overtime they were getting for watching what was an entirely peaceful and well-organised event – even if they maypole dancing could have done with more practice) though as in the morning we were all getting extensively and obtrusively photographed. I’ve often wondered what they do with all these images, but they are rather secretive and embarrassed about them. Despite having photographed me many times on numerous occasions, on the only time I bothered to make a Freedom of Information request and paid my £10 they were unable to find a single picture.

Mayfair Mayfayre – Space Hijackers
TUC May Day March


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.