Plagiarism, Peter Pomegranate & the Raising of Mary Rose
1982 was a strong year for anniversaries, particularly where Scotland is concerned:
1582: 400 years ago saw the publication of the Rerum Scoticarum Historiae, by Robert Buchanan, believed to be the first comprehensive history of Scotland. Buchanan was a poet and humanist born in Killearn in Stirlingshire, who went on to become a tutor to Mary Queen of Scots, before defecting to the other side after the murder of Lord Darnley.
1682: 300 years ago George Mackenzie founded The Advocates Library, which later became The National Library of Scotland, a gift that is still growing and giving to this day.
1782: 200 years since James Watt invented his double-acting rotary steam engine, though exactly how it differed from the single-acting rotary steam engine, I have absolutely no idea – explanations welcome…
1882: 100 years since Robert Louis Stevenson published Treasure Island, still read as avidly today as it was then, never mind all the bickering about who he pinched the original ideas from: these include Washington Irving, W.H.G Kingston, Defoe, Poe, and Captain Marryat, all of whom Stevenson acknowledged at one point or another. The one person he never mentioned in connection to Treasure Island, however, was Charles E. Pearce, whose previously serialised novel, Billy Bo’swain, contained exactly the same elements that Treasure Island does, namely a mutiny, a cipher, a derelict ship, an island, and a treasure to be thereupon found. Pearce specialised in the adventures of plucky boys at sea, and when asked about RLS’s apparent theft of his work he replied mildly by saying that such materials have been common property [since] Poe’s Gold Bug.
Very noble, or maybe a case of the plagiariser plagiarising the plagiarist, which is not a sentence anyone wants to say twice.
Just as controversial, though patently not so long lasting, were the mass-weddings conducted by Sun Myung Moon and his self-created Unification Church, aka The Moonies, 1982 being the year he held his first mass wedding ceremony, in Madison Square Gardens, New York, marrying 2,075 couples all in one go, all partners chosen to go together by Sun Myung Moon himself, many of whom had not met until that very day. The initial cost of taking part was $170, though this was soon dropped to the bargain basement price of $20 to encourage participants.
Either way, that’s money for old rice.
Of far more value - $250 million dollars worth to be precise - was the emancipation in 1982 of Czechoslovakia’s gold reserves, which the US and UK governments had been 'looking after' for more than three decades, ever since the end of World War II. Lawyers, though, did not rear up at this as much as they did at the conviction of the famous actress Sophia Loren, who was sentenced to one month in prison for tax evasion.
And speaking of actresses, this is also the year in which style icon and girl-made-good, Grace Kelly, died in a horrendous traffic accident, her car nose-diving over a cliff with her in it. Also falling off their perches in 1982, though not so dramatically as Grace, were Ingmar Bergman, Henry Fonda, and musicians Karl Orff and Thelonious Monk.
And, sticking with the death theme, over in Texas convicted murderer Charlie Brooks, was executed by lethal injection – the first time this particular method had ever been used, at least on humans. And what a palaver they made of it – the bleak surgical table, the complicated leather straps, the bogus injection levers, not to mention the ticking of the clock and the hand hovering over the phone...
I’ve sadly seen the demise of several of my dogs and cats by lethal injection (through old age and illness, not because they went around murdering people, I'm happy to say) and it was all over in a couple of seconds.
And I do mean a couple of seconds - here, injection, gone.
Why this can’t be scaled up satisfactorily for more deserving characters is an absolute mystery.
On a cheerier note this was also the year the Mary Rose was raised from Portsmouth harbour, having sunk there in 1545 with the loss of several hundred lives - probably not from being fired on by French canons, as was once thought, but more likely as a result of that chaotically unpredictable factor, human error.
The man who brought this all about was Alexander McKee (1918-1992) who, after a lifelong obsession, first discovered the whereabouts of the wreck buried in the Solent in the 1960s and then went on to spearhead the campaign for its recovery.
McKee was the son of a British Army Surgeon and served in a Scottish Regiment in World War II, afterwards becoming a historian and amateur diver, writing several well-known books both on diving and aviation and military history, including, unsurprisingly one entitled How We Raised the Mary Rose, published in this very year of 1982.
He earned an OBE for his championing of the cause, and quite right too.
For some idea of what the Mary Rose looked like, here’s a contemporaneous ship depicted in the Anthony Roll of the 1540s, and one of the main reasons I’m putting it in is because the ship is called the Peter Pomegranate, and a name like that just cannot be allowed to drift on by unremarked...