Thomas a Beckett and Henry II

I have a friend who does not like my fascination with history. On the local television show, he constantly asks me if I am in which century, the 19th. being the furthest-back he wants to travel. Most reportable history occurred prior to that. Most history was played out before that time, and for today’s story I travel back to the 1100’s, the time of Henry II, one of the most notable kings in English history, and Cardinal Thomas a Beckett. Both were notable, partially for their lifestyles, and partially for their deaths. After Henry II was successful with his murder of Saint Thomas, he subjected his body to multiple tortures at his own command. In addition to his tortures, he spent a long time having himself whipped by a real whip designed by the Roman Catholic church for use on monks who were somewhat errant. They were whipped on command, and Henry II had himself whipped on his own command in retribution for his crime of having his favorite Cardinal murdered by three somewhat misguided nobles.

Thomas a Beckett was a nobleman himself before he was named a Cardinal. In their famous dispute, Thomas was elevated from the King’s favorite nobleman and the Chancellor of England to being a deacon, which is not a place for the ordained of the church, to a Cardinal, whose position was bought by the King. The King, who had high hopes for a good relationship with the new head of the English church, instead found that the person he had elevated to the head position of the English church, was going to be difficult to manuever around. Thomas took his church duties with the same intensity he had given to his secular ones.

First, my interest in this struggle was augmented by the movie of the 1950’s, “Beckett,” starring Richard Chamberlain and Richard Burton. The two acted out the famous dispute incredibly well. Pieces did not review the chaos totally evenly, but the essence of the problem was there. Beckett was a powerful man who took into his charge his love of the clergy. He spent six years in abeyance, trying to avoid the end that seemed to be made especially for him. Henry II showed that he was indeed the King of England and he took it upon himself to rid himself of the pesky Cardinal. In a moment of drunken stupor, he gave his nobles the necessary permission to end Beckett’s life. Beckett was the most popular of all the clergy in England at the time, and the net result of the end of the famous feud was that Henry had to subject himself to severe punishments. The reported result of the feud was that Henry had to give himself up to the church for his crimes. It was not common for the monarch to submit his body and soul to the church for his crimes. But Henry, misguided about the severity of the role he had assumed would play over himself, subjected himself to incredible punishments. In some ways his body would never get over the punishments.

An interesting story, which can be treated as an aside, was the fact that people who worshipped at the Canterbury Cathedral, the church where Beckett was stabbed to death, cited a story that the church had a rivulet of blood that changed into water when the bloody mess went under the front entrance. People took the water and used it for bathing aching parts of their bodies, and many had old aches disappeared. A secular group of people formed a congregate, listening to these remarkable stories. The most inexplainable one was about a man without eyes. His eyes had been removed years before on the order of the King. There was documentation which cited his punishment of blindness for his previous crime and, looking at his eyes, it was determined that he did not have any. But he stated that he could see the men formed by the King. He looked around the church and started to describe anything that was new to the church, including those people who were washing in the stream started as a response to Beckett’s bloody death.

The civil authorities had to admit that the man could see, without eyes. This miracle was attested to by the men sent by the King. Another miracle was formed one hundred years to the day that Beckett was killed. A very human nightman saw a spirit in robes of a man with the rank of a Cardinal, approach the front door of the prison of the Tower of London. According to the nightman, the spirit rapped three times on the gates of the Tower, spoke something in Latin, and the entire Tower fell in the Thames River. He swore that his testimony was true. Exactly one hundred years later, another nightman looked up while he was standing next to the Tower, and heard a similiar spirit approach the gates of the new Tower of London, speak in Latin, rap three times on the gate, and the new Tower fell into the Thames. People thought it was the late Cardinal a Beckett and they prayed to him.

e King Henry was to have a relatively miserable life. His three sons, Lionel, the Prince; Richard the Lionheart; and John, who became one of the worst kings in English history; fought their father. He was against them in his own army, when his bastard son forged forward to their father and said that he would join him. In one of the most quoted sayings in English history, Henry looked at him and said, “You are the real son, the others, they are the bastards.”

So that is my lesson on Henry II. He died eighteen years later, very unhappily. Sorry to go back to another century, but this one was interesting.

A Few Good Words About a Good Man

I have spent years joking about my father, Dr. Wayne R. Peters which is not fair. George Anthes once pointed out that I poke fun at Dad and tell stellar stories about him on “City Life” television. George had a point, and much of that is true. Dad and I used to talk about his father, my grandfather, Albert Frederick Peters, and he was a very successful blacksmith with a second grade education. And that was true. But Dad always pointed out that his father was a better man than he was, and Dad relished the chances he had to talk about his father. There is a picture of my grandfather on my mantle with the inscription on the back, which says “He was a great blacksmith.” Despite his second grade education, his family was very proud of him, And I am very proud of my late father.

In the past few months I have written about my father, but not often enough. When he left Harvey, Illinois, which is next to South Chicago, to be in Lowell, he had an incredible career. Lowell diminished his record a bit. What mattered is that he came to Lowell with specifics that made his three year time period in Lowell important but Lowell tarnished his record. Dr. Joel Boyd, EdD. wants to serve more than the three years my father was given. He seems, to me, to admire Superintendent Vinnie McCartin more for his thirty years than he does for his record. When my father took over he had some huge problems to make the system credible. Close to one-third of the faculty consisted of Permanent Substitutes, including some wives of School Committeemen. Strangely, my father later became good friends with some of them. It was not uncommon to see these people at my house on Pine Street.

Dad had to rid the system of those Substitute Teachers who refused to return to colleges. It took him two years and cost him the Superintendency, But he did it, knowing he was never going to be a lifetime Superintendent like Vinnie McCartin. The Lowell “SUN” backed him for tenure but he never got tenure. The School Board uniformly dismissed it. He got some modicum of revenge, He was elected to the School Committee. I want to spend a little time talking, not poking fun at, Dr. Wayne R. Peters. Everybody called him Doctor.

I personally remember him visiting Lowell High School to find additional classrooms, to take pressure off of the classrooms. He found, as I recall, thirty three total. In two buidings.

Lowell’s educational system was in dire need of reform. One thing I remember clearly. My father was looking for classroom space and he stumbled on an overnight bedroom for the custodians. They were supposed to be cleaning up the building for the daily usage. What he found was a room used for sleeping by the custodians. The room was supposed to be used for an office. He had the beds ripped out that very day and reported what he had found.

He was doing the best he could, which was very good. He found over one hundred thirty uncertified teachers. School Committee members watched him try to get teachers certified by having them take part-time courses at local colleges. Many did not want to go back to college. He offered to help get certification and keep positions open if he could, but some Substitute Teachers just did not want to go back to school and he replaced them with teachers who had certification at the state, not the city level.

Many refused that avenue, and most wanted him to turn the other way when certification was the issue. The current Superintendent does not have to worry about one-third of his teachers being uncertified because of Dr. Wayne R. Peters. It cost my father his job, but he was very proud of his tough stand on this important issue.

I can say, if Dr. Boyd had to clean house to get rid of uncertified teachers. it might have altered his desire to be in Lowell. No Dr. Boyd, no Paul Georges, no UTL, and no state certification. The pressure on the Superintendent was incredible.

In his words, let’s look at what he did. In 1972, Wayne Peters notified this School Committee that his proudest moment was getting every teacher fully certified.

He wrote in his assessment, “…in the Lowell schools of which I am particularly proud,

  1. Complete certification of all Lowell teachers by September of 1972. Beginning in 1936 and until 1969 more than 130 uncertified, ill-prepared, and therefore illegally employed “permanent substitute” teachers worked in the Lowell School system each year,” His state contact was David Fitzpatrick of the Bureau of Certification at the Massachusetts Department in Boston.
  2. He wanted the rehabilitation of thirteen school buildings. The great majority of working school buildings were over one hundred years old. He wanted then demolished and replaced. You may not remember them, but I do. I have pictures of some of them. The person driving this at the state level was Mr. Lawrence Fitzpatrick, no relation to Mr. David Fitzpatrick above.
  3. He wanted to see the lowering of pupil-teachers ratios “throughout the Lowell School Department.”
  4. The adoption of a Ten Year Building Plan calling for the construction of an addition to Lowell High School,

This was a Superintendent who realized that the funding for the ten year building plan was not going to be paid for by the state, It was the responsibility of the school system at that time. He did not want to see the school system ‘break its bones’ on a building plan that was solely the responsibility of the city. He was only in Lowell for three years as Superintendent, but as a School Committee member he saw the state take baby steps in the massive building plan. I can say, as a father and Superintendent, he was very careful about money.

I remember one incident that infuriated the custodians. He enlisted a group of citizens, as volunteers, to rebuild the Library from scratch. I had the opportunity to help build that Library; and we did such a good job that it lasted through the superintendency of Dr. Karla Brookes Baer. The state gave the money to move the library to the basement of the 1893 building. Later, it moved to the current location. That is in the 1983 building, where one room is named after Dr. Wayne R. Peters.

So that is a somewhat small microcosm of the system. Dr. Wayne Peters was denied tenure despite the fact that the Lowell “SUN” endorsed him. He moved his superintendency to Holbrook, MA. He stayed there for seventeen years. It was Lowell’s loss. He commuted to Holbrook and lived in Lowell. He ran for School Committee, garnering a tremendous 5,000 vote total in front of the second-place finisher, Mrs. Kay Stoklosa. Kay and my father met frequently at our Pine Street house, as I recall.

I think Dr. Joel Boyd, EdD should not be inclined for Vincent McCartin’s thirty year legacy. McCartin was basically a politician, not an educator. Dr. Boyd should shoot to be like Wayne Peters, not surprisingly, but I believe that Peters did more in three years than McCartin did in thirty. I lived through those days and answered the phone when Mr. McCartin called my father to tell him he got the job in Lowell. It was a time of great excitement. I love going through my father’s papers and knowing his legacy. He was very special and he was right for Lowell.

Whaling and Other Observations

I find it is part of my blog’s task to talk about observations made as a child.  I saw a lot of things, including a steam-driven tractor pull of old steam driven farm tractors.  They pulled against each other in a field from which we got to see the event.  The wheels on the tractors were  made of steel, manufactured by blacksmiths back in the 1920’s.  They had cleats on them too.    There must have been twenty tractors, kept in mint condition by the farmers that had saved a little bit of history for those of us watching the event.  I was about 6 or 7 years of age when I attended the fair in Iowa where it was held.  Now, think of people who maintain old  automobiles.  This was a little different, it was all steel tractors.

Moving on to Massachusetts, my father was a fastidious keeper of the small rowboat.  We always  had  one.  This one was bought at Sears for one hundred twenty nine dollars at Sears, on the spot where Target is now, in Lowell.  We took the rowboat to Gloucester, where we put it in the harbor.  People were very friendly, which puzzled my father as we went up and down the moorings.  Finally, he said, “I know what it is!  They are nice to us because they think we are motoring to our yacht.”  I do not know if that is true but it is certainly a unique observation.

Anyway, I noticed a boat, huge with an opening in the back the size of a garage door.  I could not determine what it might be.  Finally, it struck me.  This was in 1969 and the United States was still a whaling country.   I was looking at a whale ship.  The door was to be opened to pull the dead whale in and slaughter and butcher it.  I just thought it was important to write about.  No one under my age is going to be able to say that they saw a working whale ship docked at the fish factory in Gloucester.  We do not do whaling anymore, thank God.  We get our oil in other places.  Now, granted, Nantucket was the whaling capitol of the world, but that moniker died out with the almost extinct whales.   Except for the children of the President, shooting nearly extinct game in Africa at a high price, we try not to shoot large animals anymore.

Anyway, my environmental beliefs notwithstanding, I root for the whale.  It is a marvelous animal and the largest in  this history of animals.  The dinosaur was tiny compared to the whale.  So let’s keep Greenpeace funded so they can protect the whales of this world.  I pay them every year.

I remember, when the fishing industry observed a three mile limit, the Russian fleet fishing on Georges’ Bank.  I was angry, how could they get that close to United  States’ property.  They could because they did not expand the fishing limit.  There was no reason to get the Soviets upset.  Finally, we put in a twelve mile limit and that helped a little.  Not much because twelve miles on Georges’ Bank is not very much protection.  But it was better than three miles.

I wrote my Bachelor’s Thesis on Hugo Grotius and the Law of the Sea.  Peru has a two hundred mile limit, and a lot of smaller countries wanted to have a two hundred mile limit.  The United States had to look askance at that one.   We fish a twelve mile limit off the coast of the Soviet Union near Alaska.  We could not comfortably be hypocrites.


I like English History.  Wyman Trull, truly the best teacher I ever had, fostered that love in me.Thanks to him, I became an expert on the long strange line of monarchial succession.  I know, because of Mr. Trull, that there is a person in London who is truly the direct descendant of King William the Conquerer.   The  Plantagenet line exists.  The Windsor line is without legitimacy.  The Queen should not be the Queen.  I do not want to tell that to Prince Harry, since he has been defrocked of his offices.  This Queen is good at protecting herself.

I can prove the lineage but I am not going to do it today.  This paper is about Plantagenet King Henry II, one of the strongest kings in English history.  He had a bit of a scrape with Saint Thomas a Beckett.   His story became a major motion picture.  It starred Richard Harris as King Henry II and Richard Burton as Thomas a Beckett.   It was a huge hit when it came out in the 1950’s and 1960’s.  That is what I want to write about today.




Home and Rural Schooling – Is It the Answer?

The current Pandemic is incredibly brutal and deadly.   We are all scared, and someone who says they are not scared is lying.  I long for the earlier days, when I had simple deadly diseases, like cancer, heart disease, and Pulmonary Embolisms.  Stuff you can fight.  We have not learned how to fight Coronavirus or COVID 19 yet.  I think we are making remarkable strides, however.

One of the things that is going to change is our relationship with school.  I think it is fair to say that parents will never look at a simple cold the same as they did a few weeks ago.  I have a friend who is convinced that Moms will be the main source of educational excellence in the future.  He is advocating the implementation of Home Schooling.  Is it possible to have a two parent structure after Coronavirus?  I believe that most people will do what I did, which was a mutual agreement by my wife and I to open a homebound business.  We did, and do, drapes and window hangings,  My wife is extremely talented on the sewing machine and she used that talent to pay our excessive bills.

She also worked at a bank part-time.  Like many banks of the 1980’s,  it went under so it was back to draperies and window hangings.  My brother-in-law said that she was Lowell’s Laura Ashley.  It was a high compliment.  She can turn anything into  a drape.  I can install any wall-hanging.

We dabbled in education, until she got her Bachelor’s, her Master’s, and her Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study.  She is more educated then I was.   Then she finally became a teacher.  We still do some window hangings but they are farther and farther in-between.  It is a good business and we do not want to let it go.

My point is that everyone is going to have to change how they approach family-life and business.  Right now, millions of people are productively working at home.  No big office buildings, no huge inline computer systems.  Things have changed.

Education is going to change.  I see a great many people keeping their children at home.  People who espouse home schooling are going to be a major part of the educational system.  Curriculum will have to be written for them.  They may have to pay for some of it out of their own pocket, but that is a small  price to pay.

There are two areas to look at in this massive change.  The first is the successful implementation of home learning.  The second is looking over stresses besetting the rural school movement.  We look at rural schools as being built for the farmer.  We forget that these “hicks” participate very strongly in their children’s education.  We will still have a school system that has parents going to work, but we might have fewer students.

So, I had a mother next door to me who educated her children at home.  She was incredible, she had five children and  she  educated all  of them at home.  They were heads and shoulders above what my wife and I saw in our public school.  She took my daughter, and incorporated her in her lessons.  My daughter recently graduated from college with a Bachelor’s.  She excelled in all of the areas that this next-door-neighbor taught her.  We saw home-schooling first-hand and it was incredible.

Home schooling is safe.  Run by a caring parent, it excels.  I remember being a child, and my father was the local Superintendent,  one of his best parents did not send her children to him, but rather had a small classroom built in her home.  Her students were her children, and like my neighbor, she excelled in teaching the curriculum to her students.  They all did very well in standard testing.


Rural schools are a lot like standard Home Schooling.  The tallest child is commonly heads  taller than the teacher, so discipline is a consideration.  It is a major consideration according to those teachers who are eclipsed by his height.    The information is the result of an appraisal of the rural school problems in “The Rural School From Within” by M.G. Kirkpatrick, B.S. Ph.D.  It is an older text and contains a chapter on “Managing Boys.”   The author says that, “the teacher is (often) a non-resident.”  The rural school teacher can live in the classroom but he or she is probably not the most aggressive in the room.  The large son of a large father dictates some of the practices of the room.  The teacher knows that he or she has to win their efforts by persuasion.

The teacher is often discouraged in a rural school.  His or her efforts are not rewarded.  I lived in a rural town of 27 people, including one priest and eight nuns.  My father was the Superintendent, the youngest Superintendent in the state.  The state was Iowa.

My father fired a teacher who could not maintain discipline.  He moved onto a bigger district and rehired the woman because discipline was not a major problem in his larger school district.  The district was more controlled.

The author talks a great deal about how religion is part of the rural landscape.  He learned that there were two books to be lent to skittish teachers, and one was the Bible.  Now, the Bible was the reason that the Puritans taught their children to read.  But a good rural high school needs reading material and he took it upon himself to order it.  Home-schoolers have, usually, access to some books.  The woman living next to us introduced anti-abortion books to her children.  But it was a book.

Rural schools are largely a thing of the past.  But the lessons are good.  Holidays are part of the rural education experience.  The school Christmas tree is described as “Nearly all Christmas trees are wonderful and this (one) differed in being very wonderful.” (Page 143)  To teach money handling and business acument, they set up a lemonade stand.  It worked.  The students got something out of it.

So that is basically it.  I think that how we handle our children who have been scared out of their skins recently, will determine whether there is a strong movement to diminish our teaching staff.  Rural school patterns, and Home Schooling will grow as a result of our inability to handle the Pandemic.

A Few Notes on Education Including the High School History

Lowell High School has an interesting and erroneous history.  It was not formed in 1831 and it did not locate itself first on Middlesex Street.  Take out the School Committee Minutes from 1834 to 1838.  It is available in the Memorial Library Research Room.  It is my opinion, bound by fact, that the High School did not exist until 1834.   That is when the State Department of Education recognized it.  The school would come to be known as being something special.  Of the first eleven graduates, one would be a special surgeon, there would be one Governor of Massachusetts in it, and one Governor of New Hampshire.

There was a three year high school educational program in 1834 that might help to explain the mistaken date of inception as 1831.  In 1834 there was a graduation.  Where those students, which included Benjamin Butler, came from is a mystery.  It does help to explain the 1831 date though.  There was a three year program that existed and that Butler and his 10 fellow students might have been following.  However, the State Certficate for the high school did not exist until 1834.

At the time, a high school education  was “frosting on the cake.”  A college education was very attractive, but not really  heard of at the time.  Even lawyers, like Abraham Lincoln, were not required to go to college.  Lincoln had no degree.  Neither did many other lawyers.  They studied as apprentices to or under other lawyers.  It might be said that we have come a long way.

The high school would become a major educational magnet in certain circles.  It was noted by the Board that Lowell had seventeen schools requiring twenty-eight instructors.  In comparison Charlestown  had 9,400 inhabitants, whereas Lowell had 14,000 inhabitants.  Charlestown had 1,581 students to Lowell’s 2,300 students.

Lowell petitioned in early 1834 with the state to certify that their new high school would be located in the Concert Hall on Merrimack Street.  Massive work was done to the Concert Hall at the incredible price of ninety-five dollars, to make it a high school.  At one point, the School Committee was forced to admit that the “High School has been has been closed since January last for lack of funds.”  It was their goal “…to open the High School as soon as they should be able to save money enough to carry it through the year.”  The High School was closed intermittently during bad weather.  Often the closings were for a year or  so.  (John W. Graves – Secretary of the Lowell School Committee, July 23, 1834).

At the time, all you needed to become a teacher was a seventh grade education.  High school teachers had tougher requirements, but could become teachers with a less than stellar education.   They were not to require a college education.

A long, long time ago, as Don McClean says in his iconic “American Pie,” I was born to a teacher who made sure that his family was adhered to education.  My father, at the time,  was getting himself in educational trouble for writing against Joseph McCarthy’s views on Commies in the government.  It did not endear my father to his professors.  This was at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.  It was a very brave stand to take at the time.

After obtaining his Master’s Degree in Administrative Education, he became the youngest Superintendent in Iowa.  He was twenty-six years of age.  He took over the rural school in Cosgrove, Iowa.   Cosgrove was mostly a town which catered to the surrounding farms.  There were twenty-six people populating the town.  Television was a brand new invention so it did not cover a small Iowan school district.  We had a television which was basically useless, and because we were so far away from the station, I grew up without television.  It has never been my favorite thing to watch.

I learned a lot from my father.  He made special wooden toys for us, and we greatly admired him.  He even taught me how to properly clap my hands to make the loudest  noise.  He used to cup his hands to make a louder clap.  His was louder than the other men’s claps in Cosgrove.  I was a young boy there in Cosgrove, and enjoyed the idea that among the population were eight nuns and one priest.  They were part of the twenty-eight.  I was very proud of my father when he brought home a rowboat that he had built himself.  I thought it was beautiful, and it was.

Growing up was kind of difficult with the Superintendent of Schools as my father.  Every new idea that he learned at the University of Iowa doctoral program was practiced on me.  When he got his Ph.D. we had the best party I have ever been to; it was monumental.  During the party one of my friends stole a cigarette from his father.  I learned how not to smoke that  night.  One neighbor, a psychiatrist, burst into laughter as we burned ourselves trying to light up.  Fortunately I never did learn how to inhale, or smoke cigarettes.  It was one of the lessons of my young life.   It happened on the day my father became Dr. Wayne R. Peters.  It was quite an accomplishment for a man whose father had always been a blacksmith.  And, one of his sons wrote, “a damned fine one.”

I was very proud of my father.  He was neat.  He gained a reputation as a reformer.   He instituted many changes in his school district(s).  They were exciting.  Years after Cosgrove, he made a big difference near Chicago, in Harvey, Illinois.  That was a diverse community and I learned there that there were people I had nothing in common with but I had to adapt.  I still do adapt.  When Lowell got its Cambodian influx, a local hardware owner posted in his door “No Cambodians here.”  I was excited to see the Cambodians and even today they are many of my best friends.

The high school became a major winner of the downtown area.  It carried heavily in the vote on its location.  The fact is, that Lowell High School will always be at the core of education in the city.  And, its location is at the core.  That should come as no surprise to anyone.  It is the same mindset that first located the high school on Merrimack Street in the downtown.

This is an invigorating school and it will always direct the city.  It is possible for a pre-K student to start school and go on to his or her doctorate while just being in Lowell for life.  There are, of course, other reasons for living your life in Lowell.  Some people do it.  Some of us will always be blow-ins.

Lowell’s population is always fluid.  We are basically conservative, but Democratic.  There are some Republicans, but we try not to let them bother us too much.  Our major political fights are for  City Council or the School Committee.  Both are difficult to ascend to.  State Representative, State Senate, and Congressional seats are won by those who Paul Tsongas categorized as “the luckiest.”  I used to ask him how he did so well and his response was always, “I was lucky.”  That assessment is what I take from Lowell.  I will be buried here.

Update on the Magna Carta

I am a student of history, and I love English history.  I recently spent time reading about Thomas a Beckett and Henry II.  It was fascinating and possibly a new blog at some point.  But today’s blog is about the Magna Carta (Latin for Magnificient Charter).  It was called that because it  was such a long document.   What you may not know is that there existed major parts of the document which we will discuss as four parts.  Historians broke it down into the four sections.  I am going to list those four sections here.  They were very succinct.

As some of you may remember from your History books, the meeting at Runnymede Field was not just attended by the nobles, but also by the wealthy merchants who were paying for King John’s incompetence through high taxes.   They were as taxed as the nobles.  Runnymede was fifteen miles from the main castle of the King.  Just as a way of showing how incompetent he was, I have to mention that he was running from his brother, and he took the original Crown Jewels. This included the crown itself, which had been in the family since William the Conquerer, and the jewels fell  into the Thames River at its deepest part.  They were never recovered and have been covered by silt for centuries.  The current crown of Queen Elizabeth is not the original.

Runnymede is preserved as it was at the time, to allow the field to be as it is currently and show how desperate the King had become.  It is important to history and to the average person for four major reasons.

  1.     The way in which the document was gathered and signed was significant.  The major points were not given willingly or freely.  They were coerced from the incompetent king, King John.  He was probably the least effective king in English history.  King Richard the Third was, albeit not for Shakespeare,  incredibly good comparitively.   These proposals were forced by the most active people, acting in a united fashion.  They were not going to dismiss their weighted concerns.  The document was signed and it showed, incredibly, that if the King did not rule as the people wished, he could be made to do so.  That term in the contract made John decide to ignore this part of the Magna Carta  in the future.   He was not allowed to ignore it by the people who forced him to accept the giveaway.
  2.      It kept feudal “principles of government” from being superseded by the principles of an absolute monarch.  John had been an absolute monarch in his early reign.  He could give them good government if he in turn gave them good service.  It was believed, rightly, that the King had no right to break this contract.  It showed that the tenants had the right and power to limit the King and his account.
  3. The Magna Carta was bound to be a disappointment.  It did not form a new government, but, instead, was nothing as much as it was a return to old customs.  Many of the provisions were insignificant and temporary.  It protected the right of the prisoner, in much the same way as the least important of us are now protected from tyranny.  It literally said, “To no one will we sell, and to no one will we deny or delay right of justice.” (Magna Carta)  In the future, in our time, these obstructions would form the rights in our own Constitution.  Prisoners of the time, and currently, are still protected by the law.
  4. It was a definitive statement of the “rights to refer.”  (Edward Cheyney; the History of England).  King John scoffed at the rules and declared that he did not intend to keep these rights.  However, the people and the Pope convinced him that the days of Henry I, II, and  King Richard had passed.  It sufficed as a clear promise of good government.  King John would have to live with it, as would each successive monarch, including those sitting on the throne of Britain today.  Students of English history, and those of us who are relatively uneducated  in the ways of the Magna Carta live with it tenets everyday.  Pope Innocent III had excommunicated the King and left England outside of the protections of the Catholic Church.  That was a major reason why the King had burned through his power.  An interesting and logical surmise.  And it is today’s blog.









The Beauty of Human Effort

I am a student of history.  In order to tell the stories that result in the telling of this history, sometimes I have to tell you something that is historically accurate but not always well-known.  This story is about someone (me) who saw history being made by some of the most unhistorical men or women in our lives.  This story is true.  I have pictures of the original moment in history and the use of the heavy-duty crane.

This is the story.  In the 1980’s or so, the City Fathers, of which my father was one, planted the coal train that is across from the diner near the Old Worthen.  Now we have plenty of information on the Old Worthen.  It was a favorite stop for the famous Edgar Allen Poe of Baltimore.  What you may not know is that the coal train was given to us by a quarry in Westford.  Lowell was glad to get it.  It did not fit, but it was appreciated.

What do  I mean by “it did not fit?” Well, the wheels could not be lowered onto the railroad track that the coal train was supposed to rest on, accurately, according to the historians in the crowd.  The wheels were approximately one quarter of an inch to wide for the track.  The track had not been accurately measured.  For the entire morning, afternoon, and evening, the engine was lifted, relifted, and refit onto the recalcitrant track.   The track could not be moved.  The engine simply had to fit.  It didn’t.

The college-trained engineers could not make that locomotive fit onto that track.  It was the summer, so it was getting dark later, and the group next to the train under the canopy tried every angle they could think of and some solutions that they probably had never thought of before.  I watched with great interest, stopped for supper, and returned to my spot near the locomotive.   Almost everyone except the workers had left.  The few workers left continued everything and anything that might work.  I had, and have, to give them credit.  They did not seem to miss a trick.  The crane had even gone home.  I have a picture of the crane and it was a tough little tool.

I was about to leave myself, but I went to the men under the canopy.  Curses, mostly, sounded in the dark night.  Finally, an old man went up to the men and said he could get that locomotive into its bed.  They all laughed at him.  They asked him how he woud do it.  “Get me some wood,” he said.  “Small pieces, rectangular or square.”  Some disbelievers did exactly as he said.  They brought over some rectangular pieces of 2 by 4’s and 4 by 8’s.  At his own speed, he gently put each new board leaning against the locomotive.  Slowly, the pile of wood reached up onto the space between the track and the culp.  Culpability was the question.   The old man continued in his task, there was no culpability.  He continued in his effort and built a sandbox tower, the type of thing you might see in the making of a child’s toy.  It was almost up to the rim of the locomotive wheel.

No one was really paying attention to him, I noticed.  He asked for a final board, and placed it at an angle under the rim.  Then he asked for  a sledge hammer.   He used the sledgehammer to pound the last piece of wood under the wheel rim.  I was the last person on his side of the locomotive.  With a jolt I heard the locomotive settle onto the track.  He had completed successfully placing the train on the track.  He had done it with the simplest of tools, a hammer and a wedge.  Under pressure,  the wood pile fell onto itself.  He had won.  Age had defied his intelligence.  The men left in the canopy came over to look at the wheel.  It had moved fractions of an inch onto the track and he had done it.  I left there thinking that I would never question an old man’s intelligence.  My grandfather had been a blacksmith and lifted heavy horse feet up to put horseshoes on horses.  I looked up and said to the dark, “Nice work, Grandpa.”  I think he heard me.

That is my true history story for today.  And it happened in Lowell, and it is true.

Markey and Kennedy – Different Approaches

I heard this as a rumor.  From individual people, but, the intent is obvious.  The intent seems to be to force the election before the caucuses.  Whether or not it will happen is up in the air.  Both candidates have to get fifteen percent of the caucus results.  It just appears to me that the fifteen percent rule dates back to another time and is not necessary in the Democratic Party.

When my brother-in-law, Senator Paul Tsongas, was wrestling with his campaigns, there was no fifteen percent law, and he was known to say that, if there had been, he would never have been a United States  Senator.  The fifteen percent include the people who take the time to attend the caucus.  Paul observed that he could never have gotten fifteen percent.   He meant it.  Fifteen percent is a great many votes by the citizenry.  It is  a law that is overdue to be dismissed.  It helps the incumbents, not the challengers.   Challenge is the purpose of politics.  It is up to the people to decide, not the few incumbents who can control, through their masses of supporters who voted for the person who got them their job, the fifteen percent.  I am saying that there is potentially a pattern there.

The rumor, and it is not supported by a large group of people, is that Senator Markey’s strategy  is to commandeer the fifteen percent needed by Congressman Kennedy,   by loading the caucuses with his supporters and denying the Kennedy people the fifteen percent that they need.   I hope that there is no truth to the rumor.  This should be a straight two man Democratic race.   That is what the people want and that is what the people deserve.

Fifteen percent has nothing to do with reality.  It is an arbitrary figure.  It could be twenty-five percent, it could be twenty-three percent.  It is not based on law, it is “discretionary,  capricious, (even) despotic,” according to Webster’s “Oxford Dictionary.”    My contention is that it is based on fictitious rules.

The fifteen percent rule is based on fictitious rules that make it impossible for a person as relevant as Paul Tsongas to successfully run for the Senate.  It just keeps the incumbent in incumbency.  A friend of mine once told me that there were two parties, not Demcratic and Republican, but Incumbent and Non-Incumbent.  With this approach, I have to  wonder whether or not he was right.

If you have an interest in democracy, get to the caucus at 1PM on Saturday and vote for your candidate.  In Lowell, it is happening at 1PM but no later than 1:45PM.   That’s another rule that  makes it more difficult to vote, but we will handle that one later.

I hope to see you at the caucuses.





Your Ultimate Vacation Destination

I have to admit that I am hooked on the film, “Field of Dreams” with Kevin Costner.  The first time I watched it, it just haunted me.  It was about my birth state of Iowa, and it showed Iowa in a very good light.  Towards the end of the movie, one long-deceased person looks at Kevin Costner and asks, “Is this heaven?”

“No,” Coster replies, “it’s Iowa.”  For those of us who were  born there, there is an understanding of what that means.  You can visit Iowa, play John Denver’s song, “Thank God, I’m a Country Boy,”  and lose  yourself to a state that, every four years takes precedence in the effort to elect a President.   My cousins still live there and they know everyone running  by the time the caucuses happen.   And good things happen to Iowa.  It is a wonderful state to live in.

Massachusetts is just as good.  With its views of heaven at the beaches, and its attempt to maintain its small-state philosophy, it is a good alternate to Iowa.  But, in my opinion, heaven is Iowa.  Except in one specific location.  And that involves baseball, Lowell’s answer to the character’s question in the first paragraph.  When I want to go on vacation, I go to somewhere unique to Massachusetts.  I have told many friends, that I am the person who looks and asks David Heller, the owner of the Spinners franchise, if the area a few feet from the mighty Merrimack River is heaven.  In my imaginings, Dave says, in response to the baseball question of the day, “Is this heaven?”

“No,” Dave says, “it’s LeLacheur Park.”  LeLacheur Park certainly looks like heaven, especially when the sun is painting the green darker colors.  It is beautiful to be there, and the patrons, the fans, are great.  I heartily recommend the season ticket so you can enjoy the view and absorb the excitement.  Half of the pull of the park is in the stands and bleachers.   A full-season box office seat is just over three hundred dollars.  For unlimited baseball, it does not get better than that.  That is one day at Fenway Park and the game of baseball played in Lowell,  is often better.  I witnessed more homeruns last year, and they came within one game of winning the prize.  This year, they will do better.

I have a close affiliation with the Spinners.  My brother-in-law, by wife’s brother, set them up to play in Lowell.  His name was Paul Tsongas.  That Paul Tsongas.  He built LeLacheur Park.  He is not the spirit of LeLacheur Park, that is Eddie LeLacheur, but he had something to do with it.  Just  ask David Heller if you can  corner him.  He will tell you how integral Paul was to the park.  It would not exist without him.  Or without Eddie LeLacheur.  They  both played an integral part in the game.

Drew Webber, the former owner of the park, championed the unknown Spinners into a force to be reckoned with.  He got the equipment, he took  care of the park, and in a moment of personal pride for me, he asked Paul’s namesake, Rory Paul Peters, who is also Paul’s nephew, to pitch the first pitch to the catcher, ever.  Rory was, I believe, eight years old, and he, according to the SUN, pitched the first pitch as a strike.  It was a strike, I watched it.  The catcher did not have to move to  pick up the pitch.  It was a perfect lopping pitch, straight to the catcher’s mitt.  I could not argue with that appraisal.  It looked perfect to me and it was the first pitch ever in the history of the Spinners.


If you were lucky and had season tickets two years ago, you could see Mooky Betts, and other World Series players, playing baseball for the Lowell Spinners.  Actually, we should put that in quotes.  It is the “Lowell Spinners.”  For the sake of brevity, I will continue to just use the name.  But it is worthy of good punctuation.

This year’s coaching staff is the same as last year’s.  Last year they almost took the title.  This year they are going to take it.  Don’t forget to buy your season’s ticket.  It is a cheap guaranteed fun experience  that appeals to the entire family.  There is the Canaligator, a rumpily figure that looks something like an alligator.  He has a wife.  In the twenty-five seasons that the “Proud Affiliate of the Boston Red Sox” played thusfar, the Canaligator provided a lot of the entertainment.  They even have a toothbrushing dentist.  Key Promotions include the “All You Can Eat Mini-Plan,” Bobbleheads, a Patriots player appearance, as well as a Bruins player appearance,  a Revolution player appearance, and, again, many Bobbleheads.

For those of us with cancer, which includes myself, there is a May Cancer Walk.  July 4th. sees Lowell City Fireworks.  There is a baseball clinic on July 16th. my brother Tom’s birthday, and Spinners Baseball camps in July and August.  There will be many amateur baseball competitions and the chance to see your child play baseball in a professional park maintained by the Spinners and the University of Massachusetts at Lowell.

Opening Day is June 18th.  All Star Events happen on August 17th. and 18th.   Information can be reached by calling 978-459-1702.  Call for ticket information.  Ask for Riley Robar.  He is very helpful as are all of the members of the staff.

So what do you want to do this summer.  You want to watch a very good team play very good teams.  You want the leisurely game of baseball.  You want to see heaven.  It’s at Lelacheur Park.  Have a great time, and if you see me give me a big “Hello.”

Mental Health and Guns

The Texas Solution

Recently, a man who was intent on killing in a church was shot and killed by armed men in the congregation.  It was treated as a relief from the incredible slaughter we have witnessed in the schools, churches, and synagogues throughout the country.  I hail the men who sacrificed their safety to bring the shooter down.  They are heroes.  But the more prescient question is why were any guns in a House of God?  The man who did it died, and he deserved to die.   But the question remains.

Mental Health

I have been scared of mental health issues for virtually my entire life.  The story above is told with the caveat that people who are mentally ill are obtaining guns and using them on the public.  That has to stop.   A person who is mentally ill is not in control of his faculties.  I have a history of mental illness in my abbreviated family.  My family, not all but a couple of us, should not be allowed guns.  I live in  Massachusetts which maintains a strong gun law and it is difficult to obtain a gun in that state.  It should be as difficult for any mentally impaired person to obtain guns.  They should have the same registration information as cars do.  That is just my opinion.  The men who took the man down were heroes.  That is a fact.

My Grandmother

My fear of mental health issues emanates from my grandmother, who lived with a horrible husband for years and suffered what was probably PTSD.  She was normal for most of her young life, but became a victim to a bully and could not escape.  It was not pretty.  My grandfather gave the county hospital in their state, permission to give her a procedure, which was so heinous that it is not done anymore.  It altered her life significantly and in a very bad way.  As a result of the operation, which was quite common at the time, she was never the same.

I have letters from her that were written when I was a baby, before the operation, and she was the same as anyone else.  Later, after the operation, it was clear that she was not mentally able to live a full life.  We could not reason with her, and we became concerned.  I should say that her children became concerned.  As it was, our life with her was never the same.

Eventually, she died of Alheimer’s Disease.  She was in her early seventies.  I remember how hard she struggled with her mental health problems.  She was incredible.  Her struggle was not pretty.  Like many, I have sensed her presence on the other side,  since her death, and I believe in that type of thing, and she was a very normal person.  Quite different than the woman I knew as a child.

Mental Health Issues

I have been interested in mental health issues for my entire life.  Part of it is purely selfish.  I do not want to die of Alheimer’s.  For my part I am especially interested in bipolar disease, because I have seen many who have it and it is a vicious mental disease.   I remember being younger, a teenager perhaps, and learning that bipolar symptoms are much like an addiction to cocaine.  There are manic highs and super lows and areas in-between.  I once thought of writing a book about my mental health, or lack thereof, but there was just not that much to write about.  I was denied by the local police department from having a gun and I have blessed them many times, even though it seemed like a violation of Amendment II.

My Relationship With God

I leaned heavily on what I perceived to be God.  I still go to Mass four days a week.  I have a very nice poem which was left on my first teaching desk, that said that in the “Loom of Time” I was a darker thread which was needed in order to face the glitter of the more ostentacious threads that made up the final colors of the cloth in the Loom.  The craftsman was God Himself.

Drinking My Troubles Away

I remember that there was one point where I was suffering.  I took the time to stop drinking, which I did not think was a problem, but it had to go.  I have been without alcohol for twenty plus years.  I was better off for the action.  Stopping was definitely the way to go.  I took responsibility for my actions.  As it turned out it was the thing to do.

Childhood Exposure to Guns

I have recently been spending a lot of time thinking about children who grow up around guns.  There are a great number of younger suicides a day.  I grew up with my two guns, my membership in the NRA, and I was listed on their mailing list.   As a child I was fascinated with the guns our father had.  There were my two guns, a shotgun and a 22 rifle, and my father’s pistol, as well as my brother’s two rifles.   This fascinated me.  I had unlimited access to these weapons.  There was an extreme amount of power in my hands back then.  I do not believe that I ever thought of hurting someone, but that power was in my hands.  Therefore, I cannot understand the lack of empathy for young people who are fascinated with gun.

The Lure of the Brady Bill

I am a proponent of the Brady Bill, and I met Mr. Brady when he visited the school I was teaching at, and I was very impressed by his mission and his experience.  The Brady Bill argues that you wait until you are old enough for guns, I believe I have that right.  It is like a car license but far more protected by the government  and their lobbyists who stand on both sides of the issue while standing on the tenuous footsteps of the Second Amendment.

Legal Excuses

It is like having a legal license to drive a car.  These young people are surrounded by the advertising and news on the use of small arms to settle differences.  The youngsters are inundated with it.


Small Arms and the General Populace

There must be an attempt to see small arms as a threat to the general populace.  I remember that a child brought a loaded pistol into his school.  It is amazing to me that the children need to develop fear of children who do that type of thing.  Normal kids that day saw the gun and were scared.  The fact that a loaded gun was easy to get into a middle school was frightening.  But it happened.

People who kill people may, as many attest to, be captured so that there crime can be understood.  There were not enough bullets to kill the man who killed sixty people in Las Vegas and then took his own life.  But, he took his own life, which is, in my opinion, the coward’s way out.  It just does not add up.  It was too late to get him because he killed himself.  One serial killer, who murdered thirty nine people, was asked in his cell what his wishes were.  They were to die quickly, as time in his cell was too painful.  John Wayne Gacey was his name.  He buried bodies, after they were reported to have been tortured, under his living room and under virtually every room in his house.  My understanding is that the smell alerted the police.  They then, according to stories, dug up what was left of the bodies.  Gacey was executed, but it was done humanely.  In Utah, seven people, one shooting a blank, volunteered to execute a murderer.  Their aim was true.  He died.  But does not the act of killing another for killing someone make the action that of a killer himself?  Just with a legal excuse to do it.  I believe that the act of killing is heinous in its own right.

William Wallace (Braveheart)

In old England, William Wallace, Braveheart if you will, was summarily executed.  He was slowly cut up and thrown to the bystanders.  He was drawn and quartered.  Maybe we should do that to mass murderers.  Any one person who goes to trial should be forced to die in a way he would use himself, I believe.  He needs to be found guilty of a major crime and he needs to be summarily executed.  And I don’t believe in capital punishment.  But I have to say that if I knew a victim of a mass murderer I would want to push the button, despite my misgivings.

Should the General Populace Become Mental Health Experts

A man’s mental health can be studied.  The mental well-being of the person is vitally important.  The mental illness, or lack of it, shows the mental health, or the lack of it, in the individual.  That is very important, I believe.  But so many of these people commit suicide with their guns, it is hard to determine what drove them to kill.  If we are going to fight this we have to determine what we are fighting.

Small arms are not a right of the general populace.  It should be an award  for those who are faultless.  They are too easy to get, and often they seem to easy to use.  A late friend of mine told me that he had nine thousand rounds in his house.  I asked what war he was going to fight in, and he laughed.  It was really a serious question.

Nine Thousand Rounds

My friend died without using his rounds.   Who knows who got them.  Someone is walking around with enough gunpowder to take down a small city.

Are Guns a Terrorist Threat?

I am not saying that guns are the only terrorist threat, but they can be.  They have used trucks to wipe out many people.  Napoleon used water against  groups in his battles.  So, even water can be used as a weapon.  We question people’s mental health.   Those who have no guns can still murder or commit  suicides.  We need to delve into the people who are not well.  We need to have some understanding about why people are dangerous to themselves or others.

I am with the Brady Bill.  I believe in background checks  for the sale of firearms. Restrictions for guns or automobiles should be the same.  Your capability should be tested and retested.  A number of years ago, a man killed seven of his co-workers in Massachusetts.  There are still active shooters in Massachusetts, despite its strong gun controls.  Many of the weapons emanate from border states that do not have the number of restrictions that Massachusetts has on the books.  Many  weapons in Massachusetts are  plainly illegal.

Gun Possession

Supposedly, gun possession in the state, will result in a one year sentence in prison.  The  actual facts seem  to be grossly different.  I have not heard of one person being sent to  prison solely for gun ownership.  There may be some effect, but it is unlikely to be as restrictive as the law demands.

Laws and restrictions are less effective than delving into the mental health of the gun collector.  It is also easier to go after someone’s mental condition.  We need to protect the rights of our populace.  I recently went to a dinner for a fishing club and the conversation quickly  went to how deadly a certain type of rifle is.   This was a talk about killing and that type of talk can be irresponsible and deadly.

So, let’s register gun owners, especially those with handguns.  We do it to an extent now.  In my opinion we need to do it more often.  I was once a member of the National Rifle Association, and I owned rifles.  I owned and took time to polish guns, specifically rifles.  But I concluded that they were antique and cruel and unusual punishment, so I got rid of them.  For our own mental well-being, let’s restrict guns.  We need to restrict them just as we do automobiles.  You may disagree with me but that is where I stand.