December 29, 2016


John Ray

Because they seem to live in an eternal present, I would be surprised if many Leftists were proud of their ancestors.  I am proud of mine -- mainly because I know a fair bit about them.

Most people start taking an interest in their genealogy in their '60s.  I started in my early '40s.  And because a lot of Australians survive into their '90s, a lot of my older relatives were still there, plugging on.  And the people they remembered lived long lives too.  So living memory was able to take me back a long way -- to my great-great grandmother, who arrived in Australia in the hold of a wooden convict ship in the 1840s and who lived into her '90s.

And from what I heard, my father and his father  were typical of the breed: Quiet, hard-working, uncomplaining men who never made a splash but did hard things for the benefit of their families.

My father was a timber contractor ("lumberjack") and his father and grandfather were bullockies. ("teamsters"). As a kid, I watched my father cut down big forest trees with just an axe and a crosscut saw.  There were no chainsaws then.

And if you want to know what bullockies were like, Henry Lawson's poem "The Teams" is both graphic and accurate.  It is my favourite poem.  My grandfather, "Jack", never went to school as he was working a bullock team by the time he was 10. He was however taught at home how to read and write.

My grandfather's team

Jack Ray's father was Frank Ray.  His obit in The Cairns Post of 28 February 1910 describes him as the first carrier (bullocky) on the Palmer [river goldfield] up Cooktown way. The was no road to the Palmer in those days so it is an abiding mystery how he got his bullocks up there.

A couple of small, illustrative details: I remember my grandfather, "Jack", well.  He got a small splinter of steel in his eye in an accident.  He didn't trust doctors so he just squinted for the rest of his life.  In his time, distrusting doctors was probably wise.

And my father's cousin, old Alex Fletcher, tended to get skin cancers, as I do.  But he was a farmer living a long way from town so he just put his hot soldering iron onto the cancers to cure them.  I blanch when I think about it.  But he had it all thought out and explained to me how he did it.  If you admire hardiness, how could you not be proud of such men?  Once upon a time men were men and were in no doubt about how to do it.

The Australian pioneers worked hard to wrench a modern and highly civilized society out of a harsh natural environment -- and I am proud that my ancestors were among them.  My only sadness is that  I am not worthy of them.  I am a degenerate compared to them.

An amusing coda:  My father was far from dumb but the only way he knew to put bread on the table was by hard manual work.  He was  born in 1915 and that was how it was for most people in that era.  So because I spent so much time reading books and not doing outdoor things, my father thought I would never amount to much. He had a vivid way of putting that which I won't relate.  But when he heard how much money I was making from teaching at a major Australian university, he sat bolt upright with surprise and immediately reversed his opinion of his eldest son!

Some more reflections about my forebears

Taking an interest in one's forebears is a very conservative thing to do. Leftists usually act as if the world started yesterday. They are certainly slow to learn from history. Despite all the horrors that Communism has unleashed on the world, you still have a neo-Communist, Bernie Sanders, running for President of the United States at the moment. His rhetoric is over two centuries old and there is no doubt about where it has previously led.

I am rather bemused by what the more addled Leftists in American universities call "whiteness" studies. Whites are an evil lot who should be ashamed of themselves and give all their goods to minorities -- is the general message.

But I am not at all ashamed of my whiteness. I am very pleased by it. And I am impressed by my white forebears. Two of my ancestors came out to Australia from the other side of the world in frail little wooden ships. When men went to sea in such ships there was always a high likelihood (a third?) that they would never come back Yet they repeatedly did it Why?

It was partly because of the way that men are fascinated by machines. And their ships were quite complex wooden machines, probably the most complex machines of their day. Sail was perhaps an even older technology than the wheel. It enabled people to move things through time and space without being totally reliant on human or animal muscle

Bodies of water were the highways of the ancient world. People had little in the way of roads so you could not go far or easily on land. But you could by water. So your technology was focused on movement across water. And thus you could move things long distances and bring back things from far places. Sailing ships were a very USEFUL technology. They expanded greatly what humans could do. They could even remove humanely problem people from their society.

And two of my ancestors were such problem people. But by dint of the great skills of white people they arrived safe and sound after long and wearying transport across a vast distance. Another society -- e.g. a Muslim one -- might simply have killed off or mutilated those two of my petty-criminal forebears but the humane white people of England simply sent them far away. I am proud to be of that ilk.

But what do we know of my more remote forebears? There is always disputation about these things but it seems that they were originally Celts, ancestors of most of the people who now living in Cornwall, Brittany, Scotland and Wales. And the people now living in Cornwall, Brittany, Scotland and Wales are very similar to the rest of the current British population. So it seems likely that the Celts were much like we are today.

Most of what we know about the early Celts we get from Roman writers, particularly Caesar. In Commentarii de Bello Gallico he tells us about his conquests of the Celts in Gaul (now France). We learn that they were big and fierce fighters who would rush into battle with great enthusiasm. They were too disorganized, however. They were regularly defeated by the discipline of the little Roman troops. Roman soldiers from Italy were mostly only about 5' tall but the taller Celts were regularly defeated by the better organization and discipline of Caesar's troops.

When it came to the Germans however, the Romans had REAL trouble. Those guys were even bigger and even more ferocious. They wiped out whole Roman legions at times. They stopped Roman conquest at the Rhine.

Caesar invaded Britain in 55BC but did not occupy it permanently. That took place nearly 100 years later, leading to Britain being under Roman control for around 400 years. And around 500 AD later the Germans arrived, conquered and settled.

So you would think that modern-day British people would have a blend of Celt, Roman and German genes. And it is partly like that. And I have no doubt both Celtic and German genes in me. But what about the Romans? The DNA studies of the current British population find little or no trace of them. We know that the first thing conquering armies did in the old days was to rape the women of the conquered population so what happened to all the Roman genes that should have entered the British gene-pool at that time? Unlike the Greeks, the Romans weren't baby-killers so there does seem to be a mystery there.

But there is in fact no great mystery. Rome was very multicultural. You did not have to be of Italian origin to have all the advantages of Roman citizenship. Even St. Paul, a Hellenized Jew, was a Roman citizen. And so it was with Roman armies. It was very unlikely that many Italian troops ever went to Britain. The legions that did go were probably raised from somewhere more conveniently located, most probably Celtic Gaul (modern France). So Celts trained in Roman military discipline went to Britain and defeated Celts using Celtic customs. The Roman conquest and occupation probably did very little to alter the Celtic nature of the British population.

So I have in me the genes of two very capable white populations, the Celts and the Germans -- plus a bit of Norman and Scandinavian probably. And I know enough about both groups to be rather pleased about all that. I am privileged to be descended from such capable people.

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