Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Wandering Jew and Ipstones

Before Rowan Williams the last bearded Archbishop of Canterbury was the Staffordshire Moorlands born Gilbert Sheldon who was the See of Canterbury from 1663 to !677.

Sheldon recounted a curious story to the writer and gossip John Aubrey about an exotic visitor to Ipstones in the 1650s. A poor crippled man of the village was disturbed one Sunday by a knock at the door. The stranger desired a glass of beer, which was given him. The stranger asked the old man how long he had been ill and told him that he could cure him by an herbal preparation. The old man was told that he must also constantly and fervently serve God. The cure seemed to work although no one else saw the stranger who was curiously dressed in a purple shag gown wandering the streets of Ipstones. Sheldon intimated that the visitor was the Wandering Jew.

The story of the Wandering Jew commonly called Ahasuerus or sometimes Cartaphilus is an ancient one. The legend began to spread in Europe in the 13th century. The original account concerns a Jew who taunted Jesus the way to the Crucifixion was then cursed to walk the earth until Christ returns.
After his fate is declared he became a penitent Christian who did good deeds and issued pious warnings to the people he encountered

There were claims of sightings throughout Europe, since at least 1542 in Germany up to 1868 in New York. Joseph Jacobs, writing in the 1911 commented 'It is difficult to tell in any one of these cases how far the story is an entire fiction and how far some ingenious impostor took advantage of the existence of the myth'.
As a representation the character became symbolic of the fate of a benighted people oppressed over the ages. The figure of the doomed sinner, forced to wander without the hope of rest in death till the millennium, impressed itself upon the popular imagination, and passed thence into literary forms .The Wandering Jew features in work from Chaucer’s Pardoners Tale onwards. Works by Hans Christian Andersen, the German poet Schiller, Shelley and Alexander Dumas all feature him.

Ernie Bevin and the workless of Leek

On 4th June 1944 Churchill asked the Minister of Labour Ernie Bevin to say farewell to the troops who were setting of to take part in the Normandy landings. One of the soldiers called out " When we do this job for you Ernie are we going back on the dole". Both Churchill and Bevin replied " No you are not"

Unemployment in the country reached a high of 2.5 million in the 1930s. In 1932 20% of the work force in Leek was without work. Townspeople pulled together to fund a unemployed centre in Shoobridge St for the unemployed many veterans of the First War

Unemployment dogged North Staffordshire right up to the outbreak of the Second World War. The soldiers who embarked for Europe, my father amongst them, had reason to fear the poverty of the 1930s and wanted to ensure that there families never had to endure this again.

September 2011 and unemployment hits over 2.5 million. This figure masks those who want to work pushes the figure up to 4.5 million.. There are about 450,000 vacancies. In other words 10 jobless people chasing every job. The number of young people without work is around 1 million. We see evidence of the desperate search for work in Leek when 200 people apply for 2 vacancies in Argos or over 700 for work at Pointon’s.

In short the world that the Normandy veterans fought to escape from has returned.

I have been following the argument that have raged in the Post and Times about the roundabout. I was struck by one comment that the removal of this piece of traffic management would be an insult to the war dead. In my opinion this is wrong. The greater insult is to see a return to the world of poverty and unemployment they expended their blood and sweat to escape one