Boring History: Return to Boris Island

In which Chris Sams looks to the slightly more recent past, to a time when our current Prime Minister threatened our towns with an aeroplane station..

As we start a new year and a new government, it is time to look at what we can expect and what a Johnson-led government will mean for the people of Medway.

Obviously this is out of my area as a historian and I’ll leave a lot of the suggestions and speculation to political commentators – something I gave up a long time ago!

History often repeats itself and as a student of the subject you can see things repeating themselves time and time again through the centuries and even decades. World War follows World War (Austrian war of succession to War of Independence to Napoleonic, to World War One to World War Two..), pandemic diseases, economic recession and growth.. I’m often looking at what’s going on and drawing parallels with what has happened before.

Now, with Boris Johnson firmly in power with a good majority, he’ll looking to increase business for Britain in a post-Brexit society. How long will it be before we see the reappearance of his big projects such as the bridge from Scotland to Northern Ireland, or more pointedly for the Medway towns – Boris Island?

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Boring History: The Zinoviev letter

In which Chris Sams looks to the past to try and figure out the General Election, and finds a Medway parallel along the way..

As the nation enters the throes of another General Election the bored electorate seem to be heading out to vote again, but there seems to be such divided opinion it would only take a news event to cost either of the big two parties their lead.

This is what happened in 2017 with Theresa May, when she singlehandedly cost the Conservatives votes by speaking at debates and events causing people to slide away. This time around Boris could do the same, Jacob Rees-Mogg may have already done so with his Grenfell comments, but who can tell at this stage?

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Boring History: Independence Day

In which Chris Sams manages to tenuously link Independence Day to Medway politics..

The 4th of July is one of those dates we remember much like 1066, 1940 and 1348, I mean who can forget the date that Will Smith and that doctor from Jurassic Park saved the world from alien invasion?

The 4th July is, of course, the American Independence day. A date when the American nation celebrates breaking the union of the thirteen colonies with the English Empire in a move that is seen as driven by taking control of their own affairs, greater freedoms and democracy but in reality was all about dodging paying tea tax. Seems fair? Well, the mists of time and a popular history has hidden a few of the salient facts..

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Huguenot or Huguewilling

In which Chris Sams remembers when Rochester once accepted religious refugees from a hostile country with open arms, yet at the same time treated them with the suspicions and xenophobia..

In the sixteenth century Europe was rocked by a religious ‘schism’ which was started by the German monk Martin Luther and the English King Henry VIII. This of course was the rise of Protestantism and the separation from the Catholic Church. This has caused ruptures in different countries for hundreds of years, which we are still feeling the after effects now, especially in Northern Ireland. It was only recently that an age old law banning Catholics from being Prime Minister was lifted.

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In which local historian Chris Sams digs into the past and ponders what we should be seeking to preserve..

It is a sad fact of life that you cannot save everything from your past. In 2007 my grandfather passed away and it was with heavy heart that I took responsibility for clearing out his house. It was not an easy task with a lot of the objects holding some sort of sentimental attachment or just that it had been Pop’s. The end result was that in 2016 when I moved house (from his old house to my current address) I found myself packing a lot of stuff that was Pop’s and I had to be brutal with what came with us and what was going to have to be discarded. By contrast when my other grandfather died in 2014 my Mother cleared the house and the majority of the belongings were discarded save for a few keep sakes.

The same is true for heritage sites and local authorities.

Continue reading “Redoubts”

Franklin v Joyce

In which local historian Chris Sams digs into the past to find a parallel with the present..

In recent weeks the Medway political scene has been rocked by the discovery of Councillor Franklin’s suspension from his post and even the Conservative party for the Retweeting of Islamophobic posts but he is not the first person to be thrown out of somewhere for overtly or subtly racist propaganda during a social and racially divisive period.

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What lays beneath Medway History?

In which local historian Chris Sams digs into an overlooked tale of Medway history..

The Tory led council are very proud of our heritage and landmarks and well they should be. However you would not be considered foolish if, as a tourist you got off at Chatham station and only went to the Dockyard, Fort Amherst. or soaked in the carefully engineered aesthetic that is Rochester town centre.  

The other Medway towns also have a rich and forgotten history and landmarks that are being allowed to rot that could be used as tourist attractions.

So what else is there to see within the Medway towns?

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Medway Fun With Flags

We at The Political Medway need time to drink these coffees that some of you wonderful people have bought us, and sometimes there’s a topic that we don’t want to look up on Wikipedia. Either way, we return to a series of Guest Posts..

We didn’t think much of this update from Medway Tories. Until we saw this tweet.. 

But even then, our interest was only piqued by this exchange..

Treason you say?

Like many voters we had forgotten about Chris Sams, but he is apparently a published historical writer.

So we asked him to write for us about flags.

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In memory of Stephen Kearney

Stephen KearneyA couple of weeks ago my friend Steve Kearney died. It was not really a shock as he has been unwell for quite some time and this has been exacerbated by Shelia’s poor health.

I first met Steve and Shelia at a Medway Liberal Demo
crats exec meeting back in 2010. I hadn’t been long with the party and had decided to leave my comfort bubble by meeting new people and seeing what it was all about. I had just arrived when someone asked me who I was and where I lived.

“Steve! One of yours!”

After a lengthy chat about everything I’d found myself volunteered for deliver Focus leaflets for Sturdee Avenue, Valley Road and Acorn Road but was happy to do it. It wasn’t until I woke up the next morning that I found myself thinking about what I had volunteered to do and how I had got there!

Steve had a long association with the Medway LibDems having sat on the council for some years, even serving as Deputy mayor, and with Gillingham itself. He was well liked by members, residents and politicians from other parties – something I hadn’t really realised until I had posted news of his passing with comments from Rehman Chishti and Vince Maple. I heard a rumour that had he not lost his seat in 2011 then the local Tories were going to offer him the position of Mayor.

I remember sitting with him over the night of the local election count in May 2011 and watching the votes come in. I had to leave him at 6 am as exhaustion set in but when I got home an hour later I got an email saying Steve had lost out. It was gutting for him as he had given his all into the position and only lost out by a handful of votes because of the Coalition.

Steve had amassed a vast array of deliverers across Gillingham South through personal loyalty and friendship. He was warm, friendly, very knowledgeable about history and militeria which he collected in vast swathes. We had several long discussions about military history – our shared passion and the Imperial War Museum (where I work) and Gillingham. He always stopped my wife in the street or at her work and asked after her and my children.

My thoughts and prayers are with Sheila who is recovering from her own operations and has lost her husband of many years right on top of Christmas.

He was a good man and friend and I will miss him.

Chris Sams is an author, Gillingham resident, and executive committee member of the Medway Liberal Democrats.