Saturday 13 October 2018

Tory Island

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Tory Island, Donegal, the remotest inhabited island in Ireland.

The islanders elect one of their number to be king. When Sachaverell Sitwell visited the king was a woman.

Tory is an Irish word for robber or bandit and many dispossessed Irish Catholic peasants became bandits in the reign of King Charles II. 
Newspapers in England were just starting in his reign (the London Gazette, at first called The Oxford Gazette, began publication in 1665) and Tories were news.

The original Tories in English politics were people well disposed to the Catholic Duke of

York (later King James II, New York was named after him) and were so named in around 1679 as an insult, implying they were primitive Catholic rebels.

The Tories' opponents the Whigs were named after Protestant rebels in Scotland. The Tories disappeared into Whigs and the Whigs eventually called themselves Tories but the two names continued. Unlike Tories, by the early 19th century Whigs were few, exclusive and mostly upper class. Thackeray said every man would be a Whig if he could. 

America had her Whigs too, who came to an end and the Northern Whigs became the Republican Party. In England the Whigs came to an end when they left the Liberal party over Mr. Gladstone's proposal to grant Home Rule for Ireland.  They and some radicals like Joseph Chamberlain became the Liberal Unionists. Their ghost just about lingers on in the official title of the Tories: the Conservative and Unionist Party.

The Whigs also lingered on and flourished in Liberia, where the True Whigs ran a one party state until 1980, controlled by the descendants of American slaves who returned to Africa, the Americo-Liberians. The True Whigs in Liberia governed the native (so to speak) Liberians like coolies and instituted de facto slavery.

The Tories ended up supporting all the proposals Theresa May keeps making for more women and ethnic minorities on boards and fewer calories in pizzas.

Enoch Powell always insisted he was a Tory not a conservative. I also love the word Tory and consider myself one, in preference to a conservative. 

Mrs Thatcher was once reported to have thought aloud

We should drop the name conservative because we are not are we?

Ruskin said he was a Tory of the old school, the school of Homer and Sir Walter Scott. I don't consider Scott an old school Tory at all and I have only read Homer in translation which is slightly pointless. Dr Johnson, Miss Austen and Shakespeare are my sort of Tories - and of course William Cobbett.

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