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Saturday, September 3, 2016

Francis Cosby (1510-80) and the Tudor conquest of Leinster

Laois and Offaly c. 1562, viewed facing west, the physical view afforded to Cosby and his fellow English adventurers from the Pale side of the Barrow. The atmosphere created is one of a topography as untamed and inaccessible as its inhabitants. (Trinity College, Dublin)

Following Henry VIII’s break with Rome—leaving England diplomatically weakened and strategically vulnerable to her largest European rivals, France and Spain—an increasing number of royal officials regarded the need to consolidate and expand the English lordship of Ireland beyond the confines of the Pale as an urgent matter of self-defence. Henry VIII was the first English king to proclaim himself ‘king of Ireland’ (as distinct from ‘lord of Ireland’), thereby triggering a more proactive, centralising, expanding Crown policy towards Ireland.
In the early sixteenth century the Pale consisted of Dublin and its surrounding counties, from Drogheda to Dalkey, and west through Kildare as far as the Barrow. Immediately to the west lay the Gaelic midlands, which became the target of an initial campaign of Tudor reform—a reform that soon degenerated into conquest and resettlement, a process that began in 1534 and was considered complete by 1603.

Mid-sixteenth-century O’More and O’Connor country
This Tudor conquest was preceded by the collapse of ‘Silken’ Thomas Fitzgerald’s revolt (1534–6) in Kildare against Henry VIII, which exposed the midland Gaelic lordships of the O’Mores of Laois and the O’Connors of Offaly to direct contact with English government at Dublin. Heretofore the Geraldines at Maynooth had acted as a buffer, straddling the Pale with a foot in both camps. By January 1538 the O’Mores had submitted to the new order under the ‘surrender and regrant’ arrangement, which obliged them to accept the rule of English law in return for their recognition by Dublin Castle as lords of Laois. It also provided for a government presence at the fort at Stradbally. This agreement was facilitated by the policy of Tudor reform (as opposed to Tudor conquest) associated with Lord Deputy Anthony St Leger, who held office at various times between 1540 and 1556. The aim was to assimilate the Gaelic and Anglo-Irish lordships into the Tudor state, and its legal basis was the 1541 ‘act for the kingly title’, which provided for equality for all Irish subjects before the law and under the king of England. This reform was most favoured by the ‘doves’ among the Pale officials, principally the Old English, and their hope was that it would lead to a peaceful assimilation and the gradual adoption by the Irish of English laws, habits and customs. Especially important was the acceptance of primogeniture, whereby lands must be passed on to the eldest son rather than by the Gaelic method of selection from a wider kin-group.
In 1547 St Leger was replaced by a succession of lord deputies—William Brabazon, Edward Bellyngham and James Croft—whose policies and actions diluted or abandoned surrender and regrant. In its stead they prosecuted campaigns of conquest and colonisation, marking a dramatic and aggressive volte-face in government behaviour towards the midland Gaelic powers. Government forces captured and garrisoned the O’Connors’ stronghold at Daingean and the O’More castle at Ballyadams (an adjoining townland to Stradbally). Daingean was fortified and renamed Fort Governor, and a new fort in the middle of Laois was established and named Fort Protector (after the duke of Somerset, protector of the boy king Edward VI, and called ‘Campa’ by the Irish). This sustained military action had the desired effect: the O’Mores and O’Connors were cowed into submission and their leaders, Giolla-Pádraig O’More and Brian O’Connor, were taken to and confined in London, where Giolla-Pádraig was to die in 1548 and from where O’Connor was eventually released in 1553.

The Cosby coat of arms.
In 1556 the earl of Sussex was appointed; his goals included the overhaul of government finances, the suppression of the midland Gaelic Irish and the resettlement of the area. His plan for the O’Mores and O’Connors was specific: if they cooperated they were to be allocated inferior lands in the west of modern Laois and Offaly, a mere third of the region, and their former lands and strongholds were to be systematically allotted to English planter captains. Accordingly, in June 1557, Sussex’s parliament at Dublin confiscated Laois and Offaly and shired the counties, to be called Queen’s and King’s in honour of Queen Mary of England and her Spanish husband, Philip II, with Fort Protector to be renamed Maryborough. From these acts can be traced the foundations of modern Laois and the undermining of the Gaelic lordship of the O’Mores.

Francis Cosby, newly arrived adventurer
One of the foremost ‘good subjects’ to be settled was Francis Cosby(e). Born in 1510, he was the second son of John Cosby of Great Leak, Nottingham, and was married to Lady Mary Seymour, daughter of the duke of Somerset. Having first soldiered in the armies of Henry VIII in the Low Countries, he arrived in Ireland in 1546. One of the earliest official records of Cosby comes from a July 1548 letter sent by him and others residing along the Pale border with Laois to Lord Deputy Bellyngham in Dublin, at a time when government incursions into Laois/Offaly were under way.

Woodcut depicting triumphant English soldiers in the aftermath of an engagement with the O’Mores. The severed head held by the hair is reputedly that of Margaret Maol O’Byrne, Rory í“g O’More’s wife, sister of Feagh MacHugh O’Byrne of Glenmalure, with whom Francis Cosby was to have a fateful encounter. (John Derricke’s Image of Ireland, 1581)
In 1549 Francis Cosby petitioned for permission to plant in Queen’s County, and was a member of the commission that shired it in 1556. At the time he was living at Monastereven in a residence controlled by the lord deputy. Now aged 46 and with a growing family, it seems certain that he intended to settle permanently, a decision perhaps based upon his success as a military man and the lucrative rewards of lands in Laois, now within reach. That he was well placed in the forefront of a battle-hardened clique of enforcers of the Tudor conquest of the midlands, willing and able to be true conquistadors and frontiersmen in pursuit of lands and power, seems clear. What is also clear is support from the very top, and this is highlighted when he was rewarded with the post of general of the kern in 1558 by Queen Mary in a communication from St James’s Court to Dublin castle: ‘Thanks for his services. Francis Cosby to be general of the kerne’.
Many of Cosby’s kerns were local men of the bogs of the midlands who threw in their lot with him rather than with their Gaelic lords. Perhaps the terms and conditions offered by the new master proved attractive, and some details of these are included in another letter from the queen to Lord Deputy Sussex concerning Cosby’s appointment as general of the kern in 1558: ‘Appointment of Francis Cosby to the office of General of all the kern retained, or to be retained, in “the solde” of Ireland, with a fee of 3s. 8d. a day; the leading of 32 kern, and a 3d. a day each for their entertainment’.

Seneschal of Leix and constable of the fort of Maryborough
One of the first official records of Cosby’s presence at the fort of Maryborough also appears in 1558, when the O’Mores and O’Connors ‘came to the fort of Leix, with such a power as they never had before, intending to take the castle’. They sacked the fort but failed to take the castle. A combination of 60 English soldiers of the garrison and Cosby’s 30 kerns thwarted the attack. Later Cosby gave chase, and a letter from Lord Deputy Sussex to Secretary Boxoll records:
‘Francis Cosby seeking some of the rebels where they were making merry, met with Donough O’Conor himself, accompanied Cormack O’Conor’s son that is yn Scotland, and Richard Oge the basse Garentyne, and after long fight killed Richard Oge, Cormack’s sonne, and XXX or XL of the beste of them. Cosby himself kylled Rychard Oge (“a bastard Geraldine and a man of enormous stature and strength”) with his awne hands, whyche wold not have bene don by no man els.’
It appears that Cosby was now resident in Maryborough and was actively engaged in further pursuit of the O’More and O’Connor rebels. A mark of his success and the negative response from Dublin Castle may be gauged from an official entry from Sir T. Wrothe: ‘the Mores have desired peace by Francis Cosbie. The Lord Justice and Council have rejected their request’. But the next record from the earl of Sussex to the queen brought positive news for Cosby—his appointment as seneschal (state officer with powers of martial law) of Leix and constable of the fort of Maryborough. At this time he also built a large house out of materials from the friary at Stradbally.

Massacre at Mullaghmast
In 1577 Cosby was issued with a commission of martial law in a government response to a rising led by Rory Óg O’More (whose father had once resided at Stradbally). Rory Óg, as a chief of the O’Mores, had earlier submitted to and was an ally of Cosby’s in the hope of being granted inferior lands to the west of Stradbally at Galin. When Rory became convinced that that was not going to happen, he made a daring raid into the heart of the Pale; he burned a large part of Naas on 3 March 1577 and later Carlow town in a misguided attempt to be treated more favourably. Furthermore, his kidnapping and mutilation of Captain Harrington, the nephew of Lord Deputy Sidney, personalised the increasingly vicious campaign.
From this point on it was war to the death. Cosby’s discretion was sweeping, and under pretext of safe passage to a parley at Mullaghmast (a townland in the parish of Narraghmore, Co. Kildare) in March 1578 an O’More band of 74 men, led by Muircheartach Mac Laoighseach O’Mordha, a member of the O’More élite, were surrounded and slain by forces commanded by Cosby and Robert Hartpole (whose daughter, Helen, was to marry Cosby’s grandson) and supported by the O’Dempseys.
This massacre in the midlands was not unique in Ireland during the Tudor conquest. Similar massacres occurred at Rathlin, Belfast and Smerwick. Not surprisingly, Rory Óg’s own days were numbered, but it was his wife and extended family who were first killed. This was graphically captured by John Derrick, Lord Deputy Sydney’s propagandist, in a contemporary woodcut. The practice of displaying the decapitated heads of slain adversaries seems to have been quite commonplace and, indeed, Francis Cosby himself is recorded in government papers as being involved: ‘Cosbie has sent the head of Piers O’More’.

To the victors go the spoils—reaping a harvest of lands
Francis Cosby was granted his first lands in 1550 at Moyanna, Ballynavicare (Vicarstown) and Garrymaddock when he was still living in Kildare, and in addition he appears to have received, thirteen years later, when he was operating as seneschal of Leix and constable of the fort of Maryborough, even more extensive lands in the barony of Stradbally. This is supported by Robert Dunlop’s 1563 map of the plantation of Leix and Offaly, with ‘F. Cosby’ marked on lands at Stradbally eight miles to the east of Fort Protector. The superior quality of the land of Stradbally barony in 1563, in country previously regarded as dominated by woods and bogs, is described as ‘cultivated, apart from not very steep grassy hills’. We get a better picture when the grant is confirmed to Francis’s son, Alexander, in the Calendars of Patent and Close Rolls of Chancery records of 1594:
‘to Alexander Cosbye, of the ambient, site, and precinct of the late religious house of Stradbally, in the Queen’s county; a water mill and all messages, cottages, gardens, with one thousand three hundred and eighty-five acres of land arable and pasture, in Stradbally’.
With all this land and privilege came responsibilities, however, and these are laid down in the same record, including that
‘he shall attend with the greater part of his domestics and tenants, armed in a warlike manner, with victuals for three days to serve against the neighbouring Irish . . . and keep upon the site of the monastery nine horsemen of the English nation’.
Decline and demise of Francis Cosby
As the 1570s progressed, for Francis Cosby, now in his sixties, the going seemed to be getting tougher. The O’Mores were in revolt again and a July 1573 record seemed ominous: ‘Great stirs imminent . . . English governors of countries, for evil respects winkers at rebellion. Francis Cosbie to be called to a severe account for the loss of Leix’. The writing was on the wall, and in 1577 Elizabeth confirmed his successor at Maryborough: ‘George Harvie, who had been appointed Constable of Maryborough fort, should hold that office with the commodities thereto belonging, and not be removed without her Majesty’s commands’.

Memorial in Glenmalure, Co. Wicklow, commemorating the battle of 1580, where Feagh MacHugh O’Byrne defeated an English army and Francis Cosby was killed. (Michael Quinn)
Cosby finally met his death at the battle of Glenmalure, Co. Wicklow, on 25 August 1580. This battle followed the attempt of the newly arrived and inexperienced Lord Deputy Grey to quash a revolt led by Viscount Baltinglass and Feagh MacHugh O’Byrne, whose army retreated into the heart of the Wicklow Mountains. There Grey’s soldiers, under the leadership of George Moore, in bright coats and with officers in armour made easy targets for O’Byrne’s men equipped with ‘shot’, and at least 30 Englishmen were killed. Presumably the veteran Francis Cosby, now aged 70, was present for his extensive knowledge in the art of pursuing rebels. It seems remarkable that such a wily and successful campaigner, with 34 years’ experience in outwitting the native Irish in their own territories, could have been snared in such a trap. Perhaps he allowed his better judgement to be over-ruled by the brash new English arrivals? Or perhaps, more likely, he was unaware that the O’Byrnes had acquired the then latest in military hardware—hand-held muskets—which afforded additional deadly effect to traditional Irish guerrilla tactics? Whatever the reason, the following extract from the contemporary government state papers gives an insight into the difficulty of the terrain and the incompetence of leadership:
‘When we entered the foresaid glen we were forced to slide some tymes 3 or 4 fedoms or we colde staide our feete: it was in depth, where we entered, at the least a myle, full of stones, rocks, bogs, and wood, in the bottome thereof a river full of lose stones, which we were driven to crosse diverse tymes. So long as our leaders kept the bottome, the oddes of the sermych (skirmish) was on our side. But our coroneld (Colonel George Moore) being a corpulent man not hable to endure travaile, before we were hallf through the glen, which was foure myles in length, ledd us up the hill. The slain were Sir Peter Carewe, Captain Audley and his lieutenant; old Captain Francis Cosbie, Mr George More, George Staffarde and others, about 30.’

Painting of Stradbally c. 1740. By the early eighteenth century the Cosbys had developed an impressive demesne and a model estate village, with superior-quality two-storey houses, an arcaded market house, a market square and waterways. (Private collection)

Furthermore, a fateful connection existed between the old adversaries Rory Óg O’More and Francis Cosby: Rory Óg had been in fosterage with the O’Byrnes of Wicklow, had married Feagh’s sister and indeed had made a name for himself here as a swordsman before his return to Laois. So, it seems, fate conspired to cast Rory O’More’s fosterers and in-laws as the slayers of one of his greatest adversaries, Francis Cosby.

The Cosby heirs and legacy at Stradbally
The Cosby family crest includes the motto Sub libertate quietem (‘Peace under liberty’), while Burke’s Irish Family Records gives the alternative Audaces fortuna juvat (‘Fortune favours the brave’). And, indeed, Francis’s heirs did inherit a fortune in extensive lands at Stradbally. By the early eighteenth century the family had developed an impressive demesne. With the assistance of an energetic middleman and Dublin clothier, Israel Mitchell, a model estate village was developed alongside. Superior-quality two-storey houses flanked Main Street, and an arcaded market house, market square and waterways were established; these features survive to this day. Stradbally’s distinctive eighteenth-century inheritance has been admired in recent years by many visitors to the demesne lawns and village streetscape at the annual Stradbally Steam Rally and Electric Picnic.
For over four centuries the Cosby family has had a continuous tradition of military and civil service in the British imperial and colonial establishment. The notables in the family include:
Dudley Alexander Sydney Cosby, first and last Baron Sydney, ambassador to the Court of Denmark, died 1774;
General William Cosby, governor of New York and Jersey, died 1743;
Admiral Phillips Cosby, admiralty of the White, died 1792;
brothers Major Errold, Eric and Ivan Cosby all served in World War II. Major Errold also served in the First World War, and went straight from Eton to the trenches; he died in 1984.
So continued a tradition begun by Francis Cosby, whose skills and ambitions matched the promises of land and power in the Tudor conquest of Leinster.
Michael Quinn is a student of Local Studies at NUI, Maynooth.
Further reading:
Burke’s Irish Family Records.
Calendar of Patent Rolls and State Papers.
P.G. Lane and W. Nolan (eds), Laois: history and society (Dublin, 1999).

H. Morgan in S.J. Connolly (ed.), The Oxford companion to Irish history (Oxford, 1998).

Irish Protestant mother and baby homes saw neglect

A child's teddy bear marks the spot where the unmarked graves of 40 children from a Protestant residential institution, Bethany House, were discovered in Mount Jerome Cemetery in Dublin.
Photo by: Photocall Ireland
We now we have a Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes, established in February 2015, to find out exactly what happened to the thousands of vulnerable women and children who lived and died in 14 homes between 1922 and 1998.
We need an investigation because we don't know what happened to so many of them, of course. Irish society fell silent and looked the other way over the seven decades when these mothers and children were disappeared without a word of protest from most of us.

1998 is only 18 years ago, so all of this unfolded within the lifetimes of most people reading these words right now. It's staggering too think the last Magdalene Laundry  only closed its doors in 1996.
News of what happened to the inmates – that's what they were called – of the Catholic Mother and Baby homes has rightly made international headlines since the Tuam scandal, but the fate of Protestant mothers and babies has garnered fewer column inches, although the statistics are no less alarming.

It's estimated that more than 200 infants born at just one Protestant mother and baby home in Dublin were buried in unmarked graves. The children, born between 1922 and 1949, were born at Bethany Home, an evangelical institution for unmarried women and their children that fulfilled the same social role as its Catholic counterparts: stem the contamination, keep the women and their unwanted offspring away from prying eyes and public comment.

In 2010 at least 40 infants from the home were discovered to have been buried in unmarked graves in the nearby Mount Jerome cemetery. Researchers believe the actual figure is more than five times that because on average, one child died every three weeks at the Bethany Home.

It is hard to imagine another circumstance where that number of infant deaths would not have set off alarm bells and government enquiries, unless that child was born to a poor, vulnerable, unmarried woman – Ireland's unholy trinity, Catholic and Protestant alike.
The Bethany Home was located in the well-to-do suburb of Rathgar in South Dublin. It’s a leafy suburb filled, then and now, with tea shops and fine groceries. It's the last place you'd expect to hear alarming tales of neglect and cruelty.

The Bethany Home.
Former residents of Bethany told researchers that they were victims of physical abuse and neglect while child residents of the home, and this atmosphere accounted for the high infant mortality rate in the institution.
Archived government reports into the condition of the place show us the most pressing concerns of the men who compiled them. After one visit in August 1939 the Irish government's deputy chief medical adviser, Winslow Sterling Berry, concluded, “It is well recognized that a large number of illegitimate children are delicate and marasmic from their birth.”

Berry was more concerned with the admittance of Roman Catholics into a proselytizing Protestant institution than with the numbers of children dying there, the report shows, and by refusing to continue government funding, he forced this unwelcome practice to end. There was no concern for the dangerous condition of the children.
Believing that illegitimate children are inherently more delicate than those with the good fortune to be born under wedlock was a clever rationalization. If illegitimate children died in surprisingly high numbers it was their weak constitutions that were at fault, he concluded, not the society into which they were born. Case closed.

To this day there are thousands who would rather not pick over these old coals. They'd prefer to do what their parents did and just look the other way.
What good, they ask, will come of holding these sad days and ways up to the light again?
For years the Irish government agreed with them. It wasn't until 2014 that the government finally agreed to investigate the Bethany home.

Damning headline printed after discovery of 40 bodies.
Records show that most of the children were days, weeks or months old when they died. Others show clear evidence of neglect – one child reportedly died after crawling into a scalding pot of gruel. Many would later endure physical and sexual abuse after being illegally adopted.

Meanwhile, activist and former Bethany survivor Derek Leinster, now 74, has just won the right to take his case to the European Court at Strasbourg. “It is the biggest thing that we have ever done,” Leinster, a founder of the Bethany Survivors Group, told the press. Currently the group is battling for compensation from the Irish state, but Leinster wants the world to know that he has a bigger target.
“I want the few who are left to know they have justice,” he said.

It has taken him a lifetime and he still hasn't found it.

Chair O' Doherty

How chimps are dedicated followers of fashion

How chimps are dedicated followers of fashion: They love looking in the mirror and copying the latest trends - just like us
Chimpanzees love fashion and also looking at themselves in the mirror 
But the animals don't just use the mirrors to check their appearance
They use them to examine areas they can't see, such as inside their mouths

Chimpanzees love the latest fad or craze every bit as much as humans do — even when it makes them look ridiculous.
At a sanctuary in Zambia, one female invented a fashion statement by sticking a long stalk of grass into her ear and leaving it there as she made her way around the family group, grooming each of the others in turn. It was a distinctive look, and soon other apes were adopting it.

The stalk serves no purpose. It doesn't do anything, but years later this group of chimps are still, uniquely, wearing grass in their ears.
And a female orangutan called Suma, at Osnabruck Zoo, Germany, during the Seventies, went even further: she would collect cabbage leaves, sift through them and choose one to press onto her head.

Chimpanzees love looking at themselves in the mirror and are 'dedicated followers of fashion'
Then she'd inspect herself in the mirror, trying the leaf at different jaunty angles.
During a career of studying animal behaviour stretching back more than 40 years, I've often seen chimps riding a new trend. At the world's largest chimpanzee colony, in Royal Burgers' Zoo in Arnhem, Holland, a group I was studying came up with a game we called 'cooking'.
They'd dig a hole in the dirt, collect water by holding a bucket under a tap and pour the water into the hole. Then they'd sit around the hole poking the mud with a stick, as if stirring soup.
Sometimes there would be three or four holes on the go at the same time, keeping half the group busy.
And Wolfgang Kohler, who studied primate behaviour before World War II, witnessed chimps devising a new dance. They'd march in single file, stamping one foot down hard and stepping lightly with the other as they trotted around and around a post, while wagging their heads in time to the rhythm.
Like all fashion victims, chimps love mirrors. They use them not just to check their appearance, but to examine areas that they can't see, such as the inside of their mouths. Females always turn around to look at their own bottoms — something that males don't care about.

A lifetime of studying these astonishing animals has taught me that they are far more intelligent than most scientists realise.
They follow complex social rules, caring for each other, and understanding each other's viewpoints, even their emotions.
One ageing female at Arnhem was having trouble walking — so the younger females would go to the tap, collect a mouthful of water and then come back to dribble it into the old ape's open mouth.

Similar behaviour has been observed in the wild, by British primatologist Jane Goodall.
She described how one elderly animal, dubbed Madame Bee, had become too weak to climb trees. Bee would patiently wait at the bottom for her daughter to carry down armfuls of fruit, which the pair would then contentedly eat together.
What is most impressive here is not just how the young apes solved problems, but the fact that they perceived other apes had problems. The chimps were able to appreciate life from a different viewpoint — an ability scientists once believed was particular to humans.
Many researchers still refuse to let go of that belief.

I was at a symposium recently to discuss altruism, where a prominent child psychologist loudly told an audience: 'No ape will ever jump into a lake to save another!'
I had to point out that there are several reports of apes doing exactly this — even though they are not naturally able to swim.
Another psychologist, America's Michael Tomasella, has proclaimed that humans are the only creatures capable of working together to achieve their goals. His dictum is: 'It is inconceivable that you would ever see two chimpanzees carrying a log together.'
That's a striking statement, and one that just isn't true.
At Royal Burgers' Zoo there were beech tree saplings in the chimp enclosure, protected by a circle of electrified wire. I have watched two chimps using long sticks as ladders, to get over the wire: one holds the stick, and the other scales it to reach the tender leaves without getting a shock.

At my office in Yerkes National Primate Research Centre, in Atlanta, Georgia, two adolescent females often try to spy on me by peering through my first-floor window.
Together, they roll an oil drum up to the building's wall, and one stands on the drum while the other climbs onto her shoulders. Then, in a synchronised movement, they bounce up and down, so that a cheeky chimpanzee face keeps popping up outside the window.
But the most extraordinary instance was the so-called Great Escape of Arnhem.
One night, after all the people had gone home, the chimps dragged a gigantic tree trunk, far too heavy for a single animal to move, to the perimeter wall and propped it up. Then 25 of them scrambled out of the enclosure — and raided the zoo restaurant.
Co-operation doesn't have to be so dramatic to be impressive. One day I was watching a female called Krom, who was trying to scoop water from a tyre hanging on a log.
Unfortunately, a row of other tyres were hanging beside it, and she couldn't lever up the one she wanted, to get her drink. For about ten minutes she wrestled with this, watched by her nephew Jakie, a smart seven-year-old.

He waited till Krom had given up, and then set patiently to work, dragging all the tyres off the log one by one. When he reached the last one, he carefully removed it so that no water was spilled, and carried it to Auntie Krom. She started to drink immediately.
You might think apes don't use social communication, that they have no way to say 'please' and 'thank you', 'hello' and 'goodbye'. But you'd be wrong.
I once trained a female chimp named Kuif to bottle-feed a baby she had adopted every few hours throughout the day and night. She was a natural nurse, and would remove the teat from the baby's mouth now and then to burp him.
When we called her inside for a feeding, Kuif would make a long detour, doing the rounds on the island to visit first the alpha male, then the alpha female and then her friends.
She'd give each one a kiss, before coming into the building — and if any of them were asleep, she'd wake them up for her goodbyes. Chimps also kiss as a greeting after separation, placing their lips gently on each other's mouth or shoulder. This resembles the human kiss of greeting.

Bonobos (once known as pygmy chimpanzees) go even further. When a zookeeper familiar with chimps once naively accepted a bonobo kiss, not knowing this species, he was taken aback by the amount of tongue that went into it!
If you're going to work with any ape, it is essential to know their behavioural codes — not just the rules of kissing, but their moods and emotions . . . and especially their tricks. One of my students came to his first encounter with chimps, against our advice, wearing a suit and tie. He insisted he was capable of dealing with these two juveniles, aged about four, because he had a lifetime's experience with dogs.
Chimpanzees, even though they look very cute when young, are ten times more cunning than dogs — and much stronger than humans.
When the student came staggering out of the test room, the two mischievous apes were still clinging to his legs. His jacket was in tatters, with both sleeves torn off. Luckily, the chimps didn't have time to discover that a tie can also be used as a noose.
One of the problems in studying chimps is that, because they are so clever, they get bored very easily. This means that in tests against monkeys, they often come off worse: their superior intelligence is actually a disadvantage.

Rhesus monkeys can perform the same simple experiment, such as identifying an object by its shape without seeing it, hundreds of times. Chimps lose interest after a dozen trials.
Their attention wanders. They pull at your clothes or try to grab you, they make faces, they bang on the windows, they jump up and down. Sometimes this behaviour proves irresistible and, rather unprofessionally, I have abandoned an experiment and joined in a game instead.
Chimpanzees enjoy laughing. I am well aware that it is crucial to avoid equating animal behaviour with human traits just because they look similar, but in this instance there is no better explanation.

When young apes are tickled, they make breathy sounds with a rhythm of inhaling and exhaling that sounds like the laughter of children. And just like children, they love being tickled even when, at the same time, they can't stand it.
I have often seen how they push away my tickling fingers and then come back begging for more, holding their breath while awaiting the next poke in the belly.
In the past our general attitude has been that we like chimpanzees to be quite like humans, but not too much. The anthropologist Desmond Morris told me that, when he was working at London Zoo in the Sixties, tea parties were still held regularly in the ape house.
Gathered on chairs around a table, the chimps had been trained to use cups, saucers and a teapot — no problem for these sophisticated, tool-using animals.
But over time, the apes' performance became too polished, which made the public feel uncomfortable. The chimps looked a little too like us. With the human ego under threat, something had to be done, and the apes were retrained to throw food around and drink from the teapot spout as soon as the keeper's back was turned.

It's not only chimpanzees and bonobos that display amazing intelligence. Many creatures exhibit intellectual abilities that must be seen to be believed.
An octopus at one aquarium was fond of raw chicken eggs, breaking them open and sucking out the contents. One day, a keeper accidentally gave it a rotten egg. The octopus shot the smelly remains over the side of its tank — straight at the human who had supplied the egg. This was no accident.
Octopuses can certainly tell people apart. In a recognition test, one keeper gave an octopus scraps of food, while another poked it gently with a bristly stick. The octopus soon learned to recognise which human was its friend, even though both keepers were wearing identical blue overalls.
When it spotted its enemy, the octopus would recoil, squirting jets of ink into the water — a typical defence mechanism. But when the other keeper arrived, it would approach, without any display of fear or hostility.

This naughty behaviour was much more popular.
In fact, chimpanzees prefer a civilised life. At Burgers', I watched two infant apes rolling and scrapping on the ground, enjoying a game that soon got out of hand.
There was screaming and hair-pulling, and the two mothers, watching their little ones fight, didn't know what to do. Of course, either of them could have waded in and broken up the fight, but that would have made matters worse.
Mothers are never impartial, and it's not unusual to see a juvenile quarrel escalate into an adult fight. Instead of intervening, one of them went across to the old matriarch, Mama, to wake her from a snooze.

Swinging an arm in the direction of the fight, the younger female pointed out the problem. Mama needed only one glance to assess the situation, and took a step forward with a threatening grunt. That shut up the squabbling youngsters in an instant. Chimps are so clever that they can assess a new situation by spotting the things that are missing. This takes imagination and a powerful sense of reasoning.
For example, one morning at Burgers', while the chimps were still in their night quarters, we showed them a crate full of grapefruits. Then we carried it, under their watchful eyes, through the door to their outside enclosure.
When we brought the crate back, it was empty — and pandemonium broke out. As soon as they saw the grapefruits were gone, 25 apes burst out hooting and hollering and slapping each other on the back.

I have never seen animals so excited about absent food. They inferred that, since grapefruits can't just vanish, we'd left these treats outside for them in the enclosure.
That was the first and only time we carried out the experiment, so it's certain that the chimps weren't responding to experience or learning by trial and error. They had taken one look and seen exactly what was going on.
Another experiment, by Charlie Menzel at the Language Research Center in Atlanta, tested a similar type of intelligence.
Late one evening, he let a female chimp called Panzee watch while he hid a bag of her favourite M&M sweets in a bush, just outside her enclosure. The bag was tantalisingly out of reach, and Panzee could do nothing about it all night.
Next morning, when the caretakers arrived, she was waiting. Charlie guessed what would happen, knowing the caretakers were very sympathetic to the chimps and would take Panzee's behaviour seriously.

Using gestures and noises, such as panting, calling, beckoning and pointing, she directed the caretakers straight to where the sweets were hidden. As the humans got closer, Panzee vigorously bobbed her head up and down, as if saying: 'Yes! Yes!'
Charlie tried the experiment again, letting Panzee see him hide sweets in all kinds of places. The chimp never got muddled, and never directed the caretakers to an old stash. As the hiding places were moved further away, Panzee would point higher, to indicate a greater distance — just as humans would.
But for sheer brainpower, there's no beating a chimp called Ayumu at the Primate Research Institute, in Kyoto University, Japan. A young male, he has a memory capable of absorbing information at lightning speed and recalling it perfectly.
Sitting at a touchscreen computer, he watches numbers one to nine flash up and then vanish. Ayumu can reproduce the sequence every time — even if the numbers appear for just one-fifth of a second.

I tried, and the best I could do was five correct digits. Ayumu gets a perfect score 80 per cent of the time. No human can match that, even memory wizards capable of memorising the order of a shuffled pack of cards.
In contests, Ayumu always emerges as the 'chimpion', and now that he is being tested on an even larger sequence of numbers, flashed up even more rapidly, the limits of what he can do are still unknown.

I have my own reason to be grateful for chimpanzees' memories. It's many years since I left Arnhem and moved to America, but I still return every year to see my ape friends.
Some of the colony were there as youngsters 30 years ago, and when I arrive they quickly pick out my face amid the crowds and greet me with an excited hooting. It seems my face is special to them. And they are all very special to me.
By Frans De Waal

Adapted from Are We Smart Enough To Know How Smart Animals Are?, by Frans de Waal, (Granta Books, £14.99). © Frans De Waal 2016. To buy a copy for £11.25 (Offer valid until September 10), call 0844 571 0640 or visit P&P is free on orders over £15.

Friday, September 2, 2016

From poverty to orphanage; he emerged a great man

Allie Gorman got a rough start in early 1900s Brookyln.
Photo by: Charles Hale

My grandfather Allie Gorman often spoke of the Protectory or “the orphanage” where he spent time as a teen. It seems no one thought to ask, “If your father and stepmother were alive at the time, why were you in an orphanage?”

Born in 1902 in lower Manhattan, near Battery Park, Alexander “Allie” Gorman grew up in Brooklyn. The child of an immigrant—his father was from County Monaghan, Ireland—Allie lived in poverty, survived epidemics, fire and an alcoholic, abusive father.
Death was a constant companion. When Allie was three years old his two-year-old sister, Lizzie, died of malnutrition; that same year his eight-year-old brother, George, died of spinal meningitis during a citywide epidemic, and three siblings died before they were a year old. His mother died of tuberculosis when he was four.

When Allie was six, he and his younger brother, Willie, were horribly burned in a fire. I remember watching my grandfather shave when I was a young boy and noticing the huge amorphous slab of skin that extended along the entire side of his body. I asked him what that was. “It’s a scar, Charles,” he said. “My brother Willie and I were playing with matches and Willie caught on fire. I tried to put the fire out. This is what happened.” Allie’s father, George, and his stepmother had left the two young boys alone for the day.

A few years ago I found an article in a 1908 edition of the Brooklyn Eagle, which described the fire and its aftermath. The words “blazing garments” and “little sufferers” summoned up vivid images of my grandfather’s wounds and moments I spent staring at them, imagining, as only a young boy could, the fright and horror of the fire. How had that fire shaped the way he viewed the world and how had it influenced his life? I was reminded of my father’s comment about his father-in-law: “Your grandfather Allie was the most fearless man I ever met.” How much of his fearlessness was borne of this incident; I could only guess.

Article about the fire from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle
But the “Protectory,” and why my grandfather was there remained a mystery. I began researching the events of my grandfather’s life and learned that the Catholic Protectory was an institution organized on April 14, 1863, which worked with impoverished and abandoned children, many of them orphans, who were running wild through the New York slums. The children were taught discipline and structure. Academic and vocational courses, which trained children for various trades and prepared others for college, also helped build each child’s self-esteem.

I learned that the Christian Brothers ministered to the boys. I contacted the organization and they confirmed they had tended to the boys at the Protectory. They suggested I contact the Church of Latter Day Saints in Salt Lake City, which has an extensive Family Research Center, to determine if the Protectory’s records were available. I called the church and they referred me to one of their local genealogical centers not far from my home. They had the records on microfilm; I found the Protectory my grandfather had talked about. The identification card was a revelation.

Allie Gorman's Protectory identification card
One hundred years after my grandfather’s stay at the Protectory, I knew the truth: The Protectory was not only an orphanage, but also a detention center for children who had violated the law. At the age of fourteen, Allie began a thirteen-month stay at the Protectory for stealing wood and assaulting a watchman.

Protectory record description of Allie's crime

My grandfather told stories of playing baseball and soccer at the Protectory; however, he also told stories that suggested cruelty bordering on sadistic. When my grandfather smiled I’d notice that he was missing a tooth. My mother told me why. One morning he was leaning over a sink, washing his face, when a Brother came up from behind him and grabbed his side. My grandfather, still suffering residual pain from the burns he had sustained in the fire, wheeled around and punched the Brother in his mouth. His punishment? According to my grandfather, they took him to the infirmary and pulled out one of his teeth: there was no Novocain, no painkiller.

Jimmy "The Shiv" DeStefano
Soon, I learned of others who were at the Protectory with my grandfather. One was John Henson, age 15, who was convicted of manslaughter. Henson poisoned a man with a pesticide used to kill rats. And then there were the so-called “colorful characters” who spent time at the Protectory with my grandfather: Jimmy “The Shiv” DeStefano, who would become a crony of the notorious gangster Al Capone and a member of The Five Points Gang, eventually landed in Sing Sing and became known as the Death House Barber. He gave men and one woman, Ruth Snyder, their final haircut before they were strapped into the electric chair.

The Catholic Protectory, Bronx, NY
Joe Valachi, who would become a convicted felon and infamous Mafia informant, was sent to the Protectory for hitting a teacher in the eye with a rock. Valachi was quoted in Peter Maas’ book The Valachi Papers. “As far as the brothers at the Protectory were concerned, some of them were okay and some were real bad. You wouldn’t believe what some of them were like with the young boys…I won’t go into that,” Valachi said.

Many of the era’s gangsters came from broken homes and spent a portion of their youth in reform schools similar to the Protectory. Vincent “Mad Dog” Coll, who was raised at times by his sister and at times by anyone who would take him, found trouble at an early age, bouncing from one Catholic reform school to another. A ruthless killer and kidnapper, Coll was gunned down, gangland style, in a phone booth on West 23rd St. in Manhattan.

A lifetime of crime and imprisonment was often the fate of those who passed through the Protectory and other reform schools. As for my grandfather, he left the Protectory and joined the Merchant Marines; he traveled the world, returned and married my grandmother Florence.  They had five daughters, including my mother Dorothy.
He worked hard, first delivering coal, and then in his thirties he became a union representative. He met with Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia in 1940 to help settle a coal strike during a stretch of cold weather. A compassionate man, my grandfather told the mayor that the temporary shutdown of coal delivery was an “outrageous piece of cruelty.”

Newspaper clip about the coal strike
Grandpa Allie became a loving father and I could not have had a more loving grandfather. But what enabled my grandfather—the victim of a cruel childhood, poverty, an alcoholic father, his mother’s death when he was four, a horrific fire, the deaths of six siblings, thirteen months in reform school, and a variety of physical, verbal and emotional abuse—to lead a life filled with good deeds and healthy relationships, and to become a productive member of society, while others are left broken and isolated? Given a cruel childhood how does anyone function psychologically at a far greater level than his or her experience might predict?
I’m not sure I can answer those questions, but I do know I’ve learned that within my grandfather’s stories there exists a wellspring of knowledge that I can access: From his suffering I’ve learned compassion; from his struggles I’ve developed empathy; from his pain I draw strength. That is my grandfather’s legacy.
By Charles R. Hale who was born, raised and educated in New York. He is a former partner of a NYC based consulting firm Hale, Borenstein Ltd. Charles, along with Niamh Hyland, is a cofounder of  Artists Without Walls, an organization purposed to inspire, uplift and unite people and communities of diverse cultures through the pursuit of artistic achievement. His film “Walls: We Are Not Forgotten,” about the life of singer Judy Collins, was presented at the 2012 Eugene O’Neill Award ceremony honoring Ms. Collins. In 2013 the City University of New York honored Charles for ”Outstanding Service to New York and Irish America.”

*Originally published in March 2015. 

Thursday, September 1, 2016

No moral high ground in Apple mess of our making

Since the EU’s ruling on Apple’s €13bn in back-taxes was announced on Tuesday, the ramparts have been rushed, with all and sundry making definitive statements.
Almost immediately, Finance Minister Michael Noonan said the EU was wrong. How could he know? He might say he disputes the findings, but he made a definitive declaration without approval from cabinet.
On Wednesday, Ryanair boss, Michael O’Leary, said that the Government should tell the EU where to go.

“Frankly, the Irish Government should turn around — they shouldn’t even appeal the decision — they should just write a letter to Europe and tell them politely to fuck off,” said Mr O’Leary.
This is the same EU that facilitated the rise of Ryanair by banning State aid for faltering airlines. Like everybody else, Micko wants it both ways.
The EU itself has been all over the shop. Initially, it said the €13bn was due to the Irish Exchequer, but then claimed other countries could share in the pay-out.
In the US, the treasury department had a pop at the EU.

“We believe that retroactive tax assessments by the commission are unfair, contrary to well-established legal principles, and call into question the rules of individual member states,” it said.
Yet much of the massive global corporate tax-avoidance is engineered by American companies, facilitated by domestic laws, and enacted by American politicians who receive money from those same companies.
The high moral ground is unoccupied on this matter. On RTÉ Radio yesterday, Apple CEO Tim Cook gave an impassioned defence of his company’s tax arrangements. He might well be correct about the legal position, and genuine about Apple’s commitment to this country, and Apple might not have broken any laws, but its position on tax avoidance is morally indefensible. Apple may be getting a raw deal on this issue, but some would see it as natural justice for paying a fraction of the tax that it should.
The EU’s competition commission has adopted the stance of policeman for the citizens, ensuring that big business pays its fair share. But what cared the EU for the citizens of this country a few years ago, when it decided that the debts for much of Europe’s banking crisis be borne by us? Would the EU be as forceful if this matter involved a multinational’s relationship with France or Germany?

The ruling could be interpreted as Brussels again using a small, peripheral country as a handy experiment in forging a new path. During the recession, that path involved beating a way out of a potentially ruinous financial crisis. Today, it signals the new dispensation, under the OECD, that is determined to go after corporate tax-avoidance.
Back home, credibility is also in short supply. Successive Irish governments have bent over backwards to facilitate foreign companies using Ireland as a base for tax-avoidance. Little ruses such as the ‘double Irish’ ensured that money could be funnelled through this State, filtering out the requirements to pay tax anywhere.
In 2004, then finance minister Charlie McCreevy went one further with legislation allowing foreign companies to set up headquarters, or holding companies, here.
Thousands of brass-plate operations were opened up, facilitating major tax-avoidance in other jurisdictions. The only real benefit to this country was fat fees for a platoon of lawyers and accountants to set everything up. In recent years, the facilitation of special-purpose vehicles for vulture funds to hoover up cheap property has continued the trend.
All of this has added to the perception that Ireland is a tax haven. Technically, it might not be, but the righteous indignation from Cabinet voices about potential reputational damage from the Apple ruling rings hollow. The damage has long been done, and any appeal won’t change that. The EU may not be correct in its ruling, but Ireland has lived dangerously for a long time in facilitating tax-avoidance.

Then, the opposition are mounting their high horses. Parties such as Sinn Féin want the State to bend to the EU’s agenda this time, a complete U-turn from the party’s position when the EU was one element of the Troika. Back then, Gerry Adams told the Troika to go home.
Different position this time, same empty populism.
Anybody suggesting we should take the €13bn has another impediment en route to the high moral ground. Even if the ruling is correct, this country has no right to the money.

If it represents tax that should have been paid, then it must go to the countries in which Apple made the profits that generated the tax. If Ireland facilitated Apple in avoiding tax in other jurisdictions, it should not be rewarded for doing so with money that rightly belongs to others.
Michael Clifford