A Tour of the International Exhibition of Industry, Science and Art

Friday, 9 November 1888 - Glasgow Scotland

This is the next to the last day of the International Exhibition of Industry, Science and Art here in Glasgow. It's been open since last May. Since the Great Exhibition in London on 1851, Victorians have fallen in love with these sort of affairs. They are part trade show, part culture exchange, part county fair and part shopping mall. So grab a guide book (they are only three pennies) and come along. Thought I would show you some photos of this particular Exhibit. (Click on any of them to enlarge and get a better look.)

This is the entrance to the main building
Interior showing the Main Avenue East
That's Osler's display of cut glass in front

Indian Court

Viennese bric-a-brac from Ernest Wahliss
the entrance of the Machinery Court
 ornamental ironwork by Walter Macfarlane's Saracen Foundry at Possilpark

Sugar machinery from Mirrlees, Watson & Co., Glasgow

Nobel's Explosives Co. Ltd, Glasgow Branch
(no smoking please)

The Bodega Bar in the Main Building

Sporrans from Kirkwood of Edinburgh

Doulton's terracotta "Indian Pavilion"
Fairfield's stand showing 30 ship models
 along with a model of a triple expansion engine

George Cradock of Wakefield
manufacturer of Lang's patent steel wire

Brown and Polson's cornflour and starch
The arches are made of corn cobs.

Robin and Houston, with soapworks at Paisley and candleworks in Glasgow

Andrew and James Stewart's Clyde Tube Works at Coatbridge
exhibit in the Machinery Section

Campbell Achnach & Co., rubber manufacturers

My thanks to the the Univeristy of Glasgow


The Industrial Age and Other Scottish Inventions

tossing the old caber
Monday, 5 November 1888 - Glasgow, Scotland

People nowadays think that while England was creating the British Empire and the Industrial Age, folks up in Scotland were running around in kilts, tossing cabers at each other. Nothing could be further from the truth! There is a reason it was called the British Empire and not the English Empire. So you can truly understand what I’m talking about, I will give a Short History of Scotland.

The glaciers retreated after the last Ice Age, taking most of the soil from the northern part of the British Isles with them. Add to that a cold climate where even wheat won’t grow, and you have a barren place where only the toughest can survive. The Romans called these folk the Picts. The Romans tried conquering them, too, as they had the Britons but gave up. The Romans believed good fences made good neighbors so built a very big one and called it Hadrian’s Wall.

The Dark Ages came and the Romans left. No sooner had the Picts gotten rid of them than the Scots started coming over from Scotia. The Picts and Scots fought each other for supremacy, with one side then the other coming out on top, until they were so intermarried, no one was sure who was what. So Pictland became Scotland and the original home of the Scots went with the name Eire or Ireland. Scotia was just a name Romans had tacked on them and they decided they didn’t really care for it much, anyway.

Meanwhile England kicked out the Danes (Norse) just in time to be invaded by the Normans (also Norse.) The Normans slowly made their way north and took over much of the Celtic clan system and turned everyone into feudal serfs while convincing them nothing had changed. Those who were not convinced were killed because they were after all feudal lords. These Normans, like the ones that invaded Ireland, decided they would pretend to be natives with no allegiance to the English crown. Of course, the English kings weren’t really English either but also Norman, but liked to pretend they were Anglo-Saxon. Before this the Normans liked to pretend they were really French. Not sure what the other Vikings thought of this.

I probably shouldn’t pick on the Normans since Howe is in fact a Norman name, but I consider myself Anglo-Saxon except for a distant Scottish relative from the Graham Clan. (Hmm, come to think of it, Graham is also a Norman name.) I suppose it doesn’t matter. After centuries of intermarriage, the Normans became who they pretended to be anyway.

The English crown kept trying to conquer Scotland, but to no avail. Then one of those bizarre twists of history happened. Queen Elizabeth the First died without issue. Her sister Mary had married the King of Scotland, so now their son was Elizabeth’s nearest living relative, so the King of Scotland now also became the King of England. Did this mean England was now part of Scotland? Hardly. Good King James packed up and moved to London and started the Stewart line of the British crown. Scotland and England were still separate and independent nations, but they both had the same king. Unfortunately this meant anytime Scotland and England had a dispute, which happened often since they were bordering each other, the crown ruled in favor of England.

Scotland was never wealthy, but things just got worse. England locked them out of trading with any of their colonies. (Some Scots did anyway as smugglers.) Scotland decided to start it’s own colony in Panama. No one was down in Panama, right? Known as the Darien Scheme, every patriotic Scot invested in it, sending 1,000 colonists and half the money in Scotland to Panama. They found out why no one bothered with this area when most of them died of malaria. After more ships, more brave (but foolhardy) colonists and money was sent, Darien began to get a foothold. Then Spain reminded the Scots they already had claim to the land and kicked them out.

If this wasn’t enough, Scotland had suffered several years of no summer and no crops. (It was freezing in August!) England could smell blood and was poised to invade. Then someone in Parliament got an brilliant idea that wouldn’t cost any lives. Why not unite Scotland and England and call it Great Britain? The Union of Two Nations. They would even combine their two flags to create the Union Jack.

Flag of Scotland + Flag of Englnad = Union Jack

Of course this meant Scotland would lose it’s own Parliament and independent status. At this point Scotland was so destitute and desperate that they buckled under. Could Union be any worse that what they had now? So in 1707 the Scottish Parliament voted itself out of existence and went into hiding least they get lynched. (No one could know then that the Scottish Parliament would come back in 1998.)

An odd thing then happened. Or maybe it’s not that odd, for the Scots are a tough lot. The Scots decided to reinvent themselves and become Britons. One of the last acts of the Scottish Parliament was to create a public school system. The conservative hell-fire Presbyterians wanted everyone to read the Bible, but that can’t happen unless everyone can read--and that included women. Only recently (1880s) has England begun to catch-up with the learning system Scotland has had since the early 1700s. Scotland had Britain’s first lending library. Now even the most common people were reading more than just the Bible.

Scotland had the first college professor to teach classes in the vernacular instead of Latin. Colleges were now open to all. The middle-class were now making up most of the universities student body. That wouldn’t happen until the late 1800s in England. Scotland started the first High Schools.

The Scottish Enlightenment practically invented the social sciences, economics and the modern study of history. Unlike the French Enlightenment whose philosophers entertained the nobility, the Scottish philosophers educated the masses. Is it any wonder the Encyclopedia Britannica was a Scottish invention? Meant to be the last word on everything, it was setup to grow and adapt and so has survived into the 27th century.

The more practical Scots took their new knowledge out of the classroom and into the world. Many became wealthy as merchants, using new and more efficient systems for transacting business. They bought directly from the tobacco growers of Virginia and then sold it to the rest of Europe, controlling most of the market. They did the same with other commodities brought from all over the world.

In 1763 the Scotsman, James Watt, perfected the steam engine laying the foundation for the Industrial Age. Glasgow made good use of it, becoming one of the Victorian Age’s leading manufacturers. She is called the Second Great City of the Empire.

One could argue it was the Scots that built the British Empire, not only as merchants, exporters and soldiers, but also as settlers and explorers. Scottish names pop-up continually in the history of America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, even Singapore and India. Rivers, mountains, cities, even the Antarctic’s Ross Ice Shelf, bear the name of Scottish explorers.

Sir John MacDonald
Canada’s first Prime Minister (Sir John MacDonald) was born in Scotland. Her first female Prime Minister (Kim Campbell) is also Scottish. New Zealand and Australia have also had Scottish Prime Ministers (not to mention the UK itself.). At least twenty-three of the American president’s are of Scottish descent--and even an Cherokee Indian Chief (John Ross)!

Francis Hutcheson
One could argue the Scots invented America! In 1740 Francis Hutcheson argued for a right of colonial resistance to tyranny. He wasn’t the only Scottish philosopher stating that people had the right to govern themselves. A large portion of Americans at that time were Scottish and more than willing to fight the House of Hanover that had replaced the Scottish House of Stewart.

Even Uncle Sam is of Scottish descent! Samuel Wilson, the son of Scottish immigrants, supplied meat to the American troops in the War of 1812. He stamped his barrels “U.S.” and the soldiers joked that U.S. stood for Uncle Sam. The joke stuck to anything marked U.S. and Uncle Sam evolved into an icon for America.

I could go on and on as to the inventors, writers, thinkers, leaders, etc. that are Scottish born or of Scottish descent. How could so many brilliant people come from this gloomy corner of the world? So forget the stereo-types of tight-fisted dour haggis eaters. Some could argue it was the Scots who invented the Victorian Age. They certainly had a strong hand in it.

List of Famous Scots

Scottish Americans
Scottish Canadians
Scottish Australians
Scottish New Zealanders

1890 map of Scotland, showing the railways
(click to enlarge)


The Men Who Really Built Singapore

Friday, 8 July 1887 - Singapore

Rickshaws only came to Singapore recently, but they are everywhere. There are hundreds of them. Soon there will be thousands. All the tourists want to ride in them for they are so exotic. Locals use them because they are so cheap. For three cents per half mile, a rickshaw will take you anywhere in town at five miles an hour. That’s about a fifth of what a hackney cab costs.

Ricjkshaws seem very quaint until you take a closer look at the poor chap who is pulling you. Not only are they dragging a small carriage with one or two passengers, they are obliged to do this at a fast trot in sweltering heat.. Most rickshaw runners cover 20 to 30 miles a day. That’s the average endurance for a horse!

At night the runners go to a dark crowded tenements, eat a bowl of rice and try to get some sleep. Some just sleep in their rickshaws. Opium use is common to deaden the pain as the labor takes it’s toll on their bodies and souls. They look old beyond their years, dieing before their time.

Who would want a job like this? Only someone desperate enough. Almost all the rickshaw runners are Chinese coolies. These are poor peasants coming to Singapore to escape crushing poverty, only to find it has followed them. Many are indentured, having to pay back, with high interest, the recruiters that paid for their passage. Coolies work the hard jobs no one else wants. Besides pulling rickshaws, they work on plantations, carry bags on their backs to load ships, toll in mines or dig ditches.

The Chinese are the largest minority group in Singapore. In fact they are so large, they make up 70% of the population. I know, mathematically they are the majority, but socially they are treated as a minority. Some lucky ones are doing well, a few are quite wealthy with high standing in the city. Most are very poor.

For much of its history, China has been a wealthy and powerful nation. However the nineteenth century probably marked its lowest ebb. It is now a poor country racked with famine, plague, wars and rebellions. Things are so bad, it’s hard to believe it will be a world power again in a hundred years.

Singpore's Chinatown
(much nicer than the one currently in San Francisco)
And so the Chinese come to Singapore’s Chinatown and try to find people from their own districts. We think of China as a country, but it is really an Empire made up of many cultures, each with its own language. Looks can be deceiving. Chinese immigrants all look the same, because they are forced by the Qing Dynasty to wear the Manchu queue and dress in Manchu fashion. While the system of writing has been generalized, language has not. Right now Hokkien, Teochew and Cantonese are the most common languages in Singapore. English is often a second language, not only so they can speak with the British in charge, but so they can talk with each other.

Add to this mix the Peranakan, the first Chinese to Singapore. They have been in this area since late 1400s. They intermarried with the native Malay and have a culture that mixes the two groups. Most of these are merchants and are doing well. They do try to help their brethren from a country they have long forgotten, but the need is too great for simple acts of charity.

William Pickering
Ten years ago the British Colonists set up William A. Pickering as the Chinese Protectorate in an effort to help these people. He has been fighting to stop the human rights violations of the coolie trade and to help the Chinese community. There are also missionaries trying to give aid to the poor. Even so, it’s not enough.

To their credit, the British have treated the Chinese workers better than most countries. The Chinese are allowed to manage affairs in Chinatown for the most part. Unlike San Francisco, that has confined thousands of Chinese into just a few blocks, this Chinatown is allowed to expand. And unlike Seattle, Singapore officials will not drive the Chinese out of town. Even in the next century when Singapore begins to chafe under Colonial Rule, Britain will be looked upon not as an evil tyrant, but more like an over-bearing patriarch who insists on running everything and is getting too senile to do so.

Soon the children’s children of these coolies will be the middle-class backbone of one of the wealthiest nations in the world. But that is not the reality now. Now life is one of unending drudgery and suffering for these people as they build Singapore.

I decided I would ride in the rickshaws. The runners beg passersby to allow them to drag them about, for no passengers means no dinner. I wish I could toss them a guinea, but I’m not allowed to give charity without risking losing my Time Travel License. Even a shilling could possibly change the life of a coolie and somehow change history. (Like some poor chap getting a foot up would set time on its ear.)

I was warned at the hotel to be careful that the rickshaw runners didn’t cheat me. They try to tell you it’s seven cents a mile instead of six, or tell you they took you over mile when it was only three-quarters. Like I’m going to worry about being cheated out of a couple of pennies.

So when I ride a rickshaw I try to act just haughty enough that they feel obligated to take the snooty elitist for a few cents, but not mean enough to ruin their day. It’s the least I’m allowed to do for these men treated as beasts of burden.

And more importantly I want to be able to show their descendants what their ancestors went through so their children could have a better life.


The Good Shepherd

Sunday, 3 July 1887 - Singapore

Today I visited the Church of the Good Shepherd on Brass Bassa Road. Built in 1847 it was the first Catholic Church in Singapore, but is no longer the only one. I was here to record Good Shepherd while it is still a church. Next year it will be made a Cathedral.

Right now most Christians in Singapore are Catholics. That will change in the next century when most will be Protestant. I expected the church to be full of Europeans but was surprised to see mostly Asians. I assumed these were all new converts and that the missionaries had been very busy.

After the service I admired the lovely statue of Jesus with a shepherd’s crook and a lost lamb carried on his shoulders. I then noticed an elderly gentleman of Chinese descent in a suit beside me. Obviously one of the prosperous merchants.

“Very nice statue,” I said to be polite. I nodded and turned to leave.

“Yes, most don’t understand the significance of it.” Except for a slight accent, his English was as good as mine.

“It’s Jesus Christ as the savior of lost souls, isn’t it?”

“It’s shepherds laying down their lives for their flocks.”

“Then it’s a symbol of the Crucifixion?”

“It’s a symbol of the martyr Father Laurent-Marie-Joseph Imbert.” Tan said patiently.

“I never heard of that saint. Why did the church of Singapore pick this Imbert chap?”

“He was the first priest to give mass in Singapore.”

“This Father Imbert was martyred here?” I found that difficult to believe.

“No, if he had stayed here he could have died of old age. The British and the people of Singapore tolerate other faiths. We may not agree with each other, but we live and let live.”

I introduced myself to this gentleman who seemed quite interesting. He introduced himself as Tan Po Chan. “Please,” I said, “If you don’t mind, tell me about this Father Imbert.”

Mr. Tan sat down and proceeded to tell me about the history of the Catholics in this corner of the world. Tan’s own family was from the Peranakan, the Chinese merchants that settled along the Malaccan Straits centuries ago. His family had been Catholic for generations. The first missionary, St. Frances Xaviar, came here in the 1500s. Other missionaries followed over the years to continue Francis Xaviar’s work.

One of these was Laurent-Marie-Joseph Imbert who left France in 1820 to work in China. On his way he stopped in the newly founded city of Singapore to access the needs of the town and send back a report. He is believed to have also given the first mass here.

He reached China and did so well he was promoted to Vicar Apostolic of Korea and Titular Bishop of Capsa in 1836. The interesting thing about Korea is that the first missionaries were Koreans. They read a Catechism written by a Jesuit priest in Beijing and wanted to know more. One brave chap went to China to be baptized and came back to spread the faith. We may never know his name, because he had to do this all in secret.

Korea was a closed country and did not allow any contact with foreigners without the permission of the government. Alien ideas like Christianity were suspect and illegal. Despite that the Christian community was growing and needed a Bishop.

Imbert knew going in that this was dangerous work. Yet he felt he couldn’t ignore the Korean Christians. He had to sneak across the border and attend his flock in secret.

By 1839 the Korean authorities discovered Imbert’s work. He surrendered to them, not wanting to endanger any of his parishioners. He was taken to Seoul and tortured for the whereabouts of other foreign missionaries.

Believing that the converts would be spared if all the missionaries surrendered, Bishop Imbert sent Fathers Pierre-Philibert Maubant and Jacques-Honoré Chastan the following message: “In desperate circumstances, the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.” Maubant and Chastan did just that.

This time all three were tortured for three days for the whereabouts of their converts. They refused to break. and were beheaded. They were not the only ones. It is estimated 10,000 Christians were martyred in Korea this (the 19th) century. Luckily that has recently stopped.

When Singapore heard of the fate of Bishop Imbert, they resolved to name the church they were planning in his honor. Since he was not an official saint, they named the church “Good Shepherd” in reference to his message to the other missionaries.

I later checked my historic records and discovered that Laurent-Marie-Joseph Imbert would be made a saint in 1984, along with 103 other martyrs from these bloody persecutions. Although Imbert was canonized in Seoul, the church here in Singapore, named in his honor, will hold his relics.

I think any priest willing to die to try to protect his flock is indeed a saint by any definition.