Not a remarkable picture by anyone's standards of photography, but I'm posting it because I know that at least one friend out there - Martin (MJR) - will appreciate the story behind it, if not the picture itself. So this one's for Martin.
Yesterday, on the day of local council elections all over England, Scotland and Wales, I took a trip to the lovely village of Culross (pronounced "Coo-ross") which lies in south Fife on the estuary of the River Forth, facing the Grangemouth oil refinery which you can see in the distance in this picture.
But what was this? Has Alex Salmond finally given in to Donald Trump? Is Scotland now the 51st. State of America? No, I did count all the stars on that flag and there's still only fifty of them there. But why was this curious flag flying over the ruins of the old harbour in this tiny little coastal village? I must admit that I've never seen this flag before - a hybrid of the "Stars & Stripes" and the Scottish Cross of St. Andrew.
As a matter of fact, Culross might be a tiny village but it is a beautiful little place (I shall post some more pictures later) and also has a very considerable history from the industrial revolution. But, from the point of view of this curious flag, I just had to do some more research.
Apparently, various flags are flown here from time to time: sometimes a Greek flag, sometimes a Brazilian one, sometimes a Chilean one, each occasionally joined with the Scottish Saltire or flown beside it. But why?
Culross did, in the distant past, have very close connections with the very remarkable Admiral Sir Thomas Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald, a Scotsman from Hamilton, who was a daring and successful sea captain of the Napoleonic Wars, leading Napoleon to nickname him Le Loup des Mers ('The Sea Wolf').
Cochrane joined the Royal Navy in 1793 at the age of 18. He served on four naval ships between 1793 and 1798, and briefly commanded the captured French battleship Genereux in 1799. He was also, in 1798, court marshalled for challenging a fellow-officer to a duel. Cochrane's triple characteristics of superb seamanship, inspirational leadership and a ready ability to make important enemies were already apparent.
In 1800, Cochrane, while still a Lieutenant, was given command of the RN sloop, HMS Speedy. The ship came complete with just fourteen 4-pounder guns and a crew of only ninety-two. Yet within a year Cochrane had captured fifty ships, 122 guns and 534 prisoners. The most famous of these early engagements was the capture of the 32-gun Spanish frigate El Gamo on 6 May 1801.
In 1801 Cochrane was promoted to the rank of Post-Captain. Given the command of the frigates Pallas and later Imperieuse, Cochrane terrorized shipping along the French and Spanish Mediterranean coasts. In 1808 he attacked Valencia in Spain and captured a number of ships. At the Battle of Basque Roads in 1809, Cochrane used fireships and explosive vessels to cause terror among the French squadron, most of which was run aground. Unfortunately his commander, Admiral Lord Gambier, delayed ordering the main fleet to attack and the opportunity for a truly comprehensive victory was lost.
Meanwhile Cochrane had, at his second attempt, succeeded in being elected to the House of Commons as an MP in 1806. He used this as a platform to attack the government's conduct of the war against France, to attack naval corruption, and to attack Admiral Lord Gambier and other establishment figures. This won him few friends in the government of the day. In 1812 Cochrane courted further controversy by, at the age of 37, eloping with and marrying Katherine "Kitty" Barnes, over 20 years younger than himself.
But the Great Stock Exchange Fraud of 1814 gave the establishment a chance to get even with Cochrane. He was implicated in the fraud, probably as an unwitting pawn, by his uncle Andrew Cochrane-Johnstone, and convicted after a less-than-fair trial. He was sentenced to the pillory, to a year's imprisonment, and a fine of £1000. He was also stripped of the knighthood he had won, and ejected from the Royal Navy and from Parliament.
But Cochrane remained a popular hero and, because of fears of riots following widespread public outcries, his sentence to the pillory was rescinded, his fine was paid by public subscription, he avoided imprisonment and, within a month, he had been re-elected to Parliament.
Over the following 10 years he mounted a series of literally incredible naval operations as commander of, successively, the Chilean, Brazilian and Greek navies. Amongst many other feats, he captured the formidable Spanish fortress of Valdivia with just 300 Chilean troops in 1820; and in the same year he captured the flagship of the Spanish South American fleet, the Esmeralda, in the port of Callao. While in charge of the embryonic Brazilian fleet and against overwhelming odds, Cochrane captured the Portuguese garrison of Bahia and accepted the surrender of the fortress at Maranhao after an outstanding campaign of bluff and deception. In Greece he helped fight for liberation from Egyptian control.
In 1832, Cochrane received a royal pardon for his wrongful conviction and in 1847 his knighthood was reinstated by Queen Victoria.
Not only was Thomas Cochrane a remarkable naval commander, but he was also an effective politician, as a Member of the UK Parliament being responsible for the abolition of underground mine working for women and girls. He was also a brilliant engineer and worked closely with Sir Marc Isambard Brunel (father of the more famous Isambard Kingdom Brunel) in developing caisson systems here in Culross for extraction of coal from beneath the River Forth - the first ever underwater mining of coal to have been carried out in the World.
Cochrane died in 1860 at the age of 84 and is buried in the central part of the nave of Westminster Abbey.
There is a monument to Sir Thomas Cochrane in the village of Culross itself and now I know why a variety of flags fly down at the old harbour!
Critiques | Translate
bayno (18342) 2012-05-04 8:40
sure the shot is not your best but the story of this Thomas Cochrane is incredible , had to be really a great strategist and a man with a big identity, there is always something to learn from your shots, refineries in the background make a certain impression...good evening...
lousat (73947) 2012-05-04 8:58
Eheheh...very original an funny title for this pic,it's nice to see something to different on TE,grea quality of sharpness,details and colors,i like it! Have a nice evening and thanks,Luciano
ourania (28330) 2012-05-04 9:58
the story of Sir Thomas Cochrane is stunning. He was a fascinating man with a most remarkable personality who influenced the lives of such a vast number of people. Your lovely picture is a great motive to learn all these amazing facts. It's very well composed, superbly clear and well lit and the chimneys of the refinery could act as guns to illustrate the action in the story. Well done for the picture and excellent writing and warm thanks!
All the best, have a great weekend,
delpeoples (52777) 2012-05-04 16:43
Gidday dear Giovanni
Love this, and I'm sure Martin will too. This is a superbly TE photo, one where the beautifully written Note is perhaps more interesting than the photo itseld. But the photo illustrates perfetly the point your making and the impressive research you've made. What a fascinating man this Cochrane was. Talk about living life to your full potential. And how poorly he was treated by those fatcats once in power. I am though, quite delighted that Scotland has not been commandeered by the Yanks and turned into a giant McDonalds.
Thanks for sharing, have a wonderful weekend
PS: I've got my mamma staying over this weekend who is a Scotsophile - of course - and is enjoying your beautiful Gallery and notes. She wanted me to ask you if you read Scots Magazine (I think you can get it online too). It's fascinating and such a great guide to finding out those lesser known places in your beautiful country
weetrees (15) 2012-05-05 3:52
A story to go with an image is sometimes better than the image itself
As you say unremarkable but a remarkable story.
If the loons in power get their way we will be a state with no home and maybe a need to ally ourselves closer to that once very close country but now not so much after the release of the locherbie bomber :-(
I enjoyed reading the wee story and the image itself
Perfect use of thirds as ever :-)
timecapturer (46487) 2012-05-05 4:03
intriguing shot and even more so in the lengthy notes that accompany it! It is a fascinating contrast of elements and strangely atmospheric. I think this comes from the amazing looking industrial complex sitting on the far shore. Well done!
Have a great weekend - best wishes Brian.
agjika (3616) 2012-05-05 9:08
This is a much better photo than you give it credit for.If the light conditions were good this could have been a fantastic show. As for the 51st State? well I do not know but the queue for that place is very long indeed!
mesutilgim (81368) 2012-05-05 14:58
Why not ? Very nice capture and perfect TE entry with many interesting notes and a perfect title :-))
TFS and have a nice weekend
annjackman (18481) 2012-05-05 23:07
Full marks for a super note - you certainly did your research. The picture is also good with the unusual flag well positioned and waving in the breeze. The oil refinery behind prevents the background being bland. Very well done indeed.
Best wishes, Ann
jhm (136680) 2012-05-06 3:20
I saw the new mayor of London yesterday on TV, again elected for six year.
Hundred year ago tried perhaps for England to annex, but England is a very great and militair a strong country, a part of our liberators during WAR II.
Excellent panoramic image with the flag as simbol.
Composition and presentation are nice.
Very well done, TFS.
Have a nice Sunday,
Royaldevon (27545) 2012-05-06 9:44
Notes as interesting as reading a book!
What a guy!
You belittle your shot, a little, but I think it expresses the moment well. The f/g is sharp and texturally detailed, the composition follows the rule of thirds and the elevated flag joins all the layers as it pronounces its importance.
My warm regards,
Silvio1953 (118258) 2012-05-06 9:45
Ciao John, lovely composition with strange flag, excellent clarity, splendid light and colors, very well done, my friend, ciao Silvio
macjake (54028) 2012-05-06 14:04
I've been trying to give you critiques, but TE isn't working correctly...
I love this photo for the overall package, the note, the interesting facts, and the dedication.
Its astonishing to read that he lived to 80+ in the 1860's!
well done all the way around with this one.
emka (75075) 2012-05-07 0:09
Fine picture and a long story to read. Incredible life of this adventurous admiral. very i nteresting note as always. I am sure martin will be delighted reading it. Amusing photo with this strange flag, easily made sewing together Stars and Stripes with St. Andrew's Cross. When I was in Madrid, I saw other strange flags - Spanish stripes but with the red star in the middle.
MJR (3360) 2012-05-09 4:35
At last ! A few more minutes to hand than a mere grabbed moment.
Yes, I do, did, do ( ah whatever ! ) appreciate the story. I quite like the photo too, but you, as I, are overly dismissive of your own. It is not a classic, but well proportioned, well coloured and even allowing its simplicity a lot of curiosity inducing interest. Like where is the catwalk going to, and why does it not reach the concrete in the foreground ? And how long has the concrete been crumbling in the foreground to render the mooring ring useless ?
And of course, that flag !
Now, in the normal course of events, I would probably have said, 'Never heard of him !' Certainly I had never heard of his conquests and his various success around the globe, and thus the point of your post, the flag.
But I had heard of him. When I was but a lad, I went to Outward Bound in Devon, and had a jolly time, doing things boys do. The name of the dormitory/team I was in was Cochrane. I could not have told you for love not money had you asked, but as soon as I read your story it all came back to me. All the teams were some such military hero, I was disappointed at the time not to be a Nelson or Wellington or some such, but Cochrane, who was he ?! In the days before Google it really remained a mystery, and then forgotten all about, until I read your post !
So, TE, you certainly move in mysterious ways ! All that information, brought to me free, gratis and without any effort on my part at all. Somewhere, deep in the darker reaches of my filing system ( system what system ?) I will find my old prints of the time, and search out one or two photos. How they will fare in today's digitally enhanced world I know not, they may not stand a posting, but they would certainly bring back a memory or two, and give Marta and the boys something to talk about. ( I must do it eventually, or in the fullness of time they will be thrown away as mere trivia, an unmarked record of an unknown event )
So thank you for that John,; I don't suppose for one moment you thought you would light such a touchpaper as this, but there you have it. One reason I did not rattle off a quick crit. of your post .
By the by, and I KNOW you will know the answer to this.. We nearly did become the 51st state ! Was Scotland not 'invaded' by an American navy party, somewhere in the mists of time. I think partly as a prank, partly as a display of derring-do. I recollect visiting the spot, and I am sure there is a TE post, it might even be yours ? But of course, cannot remember ANY more of the details.
Ho, hum !
- Copyright: John Cannon (tyro) (19286)
- Genre: Places
- Medium: Color
- Date Taken: 2012-05-03
- Categories: Humorous, Architecture, Decisive Moment
- Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark II, Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L USM, Hoya 77mm Pro1D UV(0)
- Exposure: f/10.0, 1/160 seconds
- More Photo Info: view
- Map: view
- Photo Version: Original Version
- Date Submitted: 2012-05-04 7:11