Will Crooks

Will Crooks

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William Crooks, the son of a ship's stoker, was born in a one-room house Poplar, East London, on 6th April, 1852. When he was three years old, William's father lost an arm when a ship's engine was started when he was oiling the machinery. Unable to find regular work because of his disablement, the family had to rely on the earnings of Mrs. Crooks work as a seamstress.

In 1861 Mr. Crooks and the five youngest children, including William, were forced to enter the Poplar Workhouse. Eventually Mrs. Crooks was able to find enough work and a cheaper room and the family were reunited. These experiences had a dramatic impact on Crooks and helped to influence his strong views on poverty and inequality.

Mrs. Crooks, despite being illiterate herself, encouraged her children to go to school. Although always short of money, Mrs. Crooks found the penny a week needed to educate William at George Green School on the East India Dock. She was also a deeply religious woman and the whole family attended the local Congregational Church.

As soon as he was old enough, William found work as a errand boy at a grocer's for two shillings a week. This was followed by a period as a blacksmith's labourer, but in 1866 Mrs. Crooks was able to arrange for the fourteen year old William to be apprenticed to a copper. Crooks was an avid reader and as a teenager discovered the works of Charles Dickens. He also began reading radical newspapers and found out about the campaigns of reformers such as John Bright and Richard Cobden.

Crooks impressed his fellow workers were impressed with his knowledge and asked him to speak to their boss about the excessive overtime they had to work. Crooks agreed to do this but as a result of the meeting he was sacked as a political agitator. Crooks, whose young wife had just had their first child, was forced to leave the area in search of work. Eventually Crooks found work in Liverpool. His family joined him but within a month his child died and Crooks and his wife returned to London.

Crooks found work as a casual labourer at East India Docks. Every Sunday morning he gave lectures on politics at the dock gates in Popular. Subjects of his lectures, at what became known as Crooks' College, included trade unionism, temperance and co-operative societies. John Robert Clynes later recalled: "Will Crooks combined the inspiration of a great evangelist with such a stock of comic stories, generally related as personal experiences, that his audience alternated between tears of sympathy and tears of laughter. I know of no stage comedian who can move his audience today to such roars of merriment as could Will Crooks, when he related the human incidents that formed so valuable a part of his platform stock. I once heard him say that a non-Union workman who tried to gain personal advancement at the expense of his mates was like a man who stole a wreath from his neighbour's grave and won a prize with it at a flower show!"

When the London Dock Strike started in August 1889, Crooks used his considerable skills as an orator to help raise funds for the dockers. Over the next few weeks Crooks emerged with Ben Tillett, Tom Mann and John Burns as one of the four main leaders of the strike. The employers hoped to starve the dockers back to work but other trade union activists such as Will Thorne, Eleanor Marx, James Keir Hardie and Henry Hyde Champion, gave valuable support to the 10,000 men now out on strike. Organizations such as the Salvation Army and the Labour Church raised money for the strikers and their families. Trade Unions in Australia sent over £30,000 to help the dockers to continue the struggle. After five weeks the employers accepted defeat and granted all the dockers' main demands.

The London County Council (LCC) was created as a result of the 1888 Local Government Act. The LCC was the first metropolitan-wide form of general local government. Crooks became Progressive Party candidate for Poplar. Elections were held in January 1889 and the Progressive Party, won 70 of the 118 seats. Crooks won in Popular and other leaders of the labour movement including Sidney Webb John Burns and Ben Tillett, joined him in the LCC.

In 1892 Crooks' wife died, leaving him with six children. A year later he married Elizabeth Lake, a nurse from Gloucestershire. Crooks became chairman of the Public Control Committee and in this post promoted fair wages for LCC employees and the Infant Life Protection Bill which ended baby-farming in London. Crooks also became the first working-class member of the Poplar Board of Guardians.

Crooks became chairman of the Board of Guardians in 1897 and with the aid of his fellow member and friend, George Lansbury, began the task of reforming how the Popular Workhouse was run. Corrupt and uncaring officials were sacked, and the food and education that the inmates received were improved. Every effort was made to find homes for the young orphans in the workhouse. Crooks and Lansbury were so successful that the Poplar Workhouse became a model for other Poor Law authorities.

Crooks also became a member of the Poplar Borough Council and in 1901 became the first Labour mayor of London. He also helped establish the National Committee on Old Age Pensions. Influenced by the ideas first expressed by Tom Paine in The Rights of Man, Crooks believed that pensions were the only way to keep the elderly poor from entering the workhouse.

In 1903 the Labour Representation Committee invited Crooks to stand as their candidate in a by-election in Woolwich. Crooks had made many friends in the Liberal Party during his time on the London County Council and they withdrew their candidate from the election. During the campaign Crooks argued against the Taff Vale decision and the 1902 Education Act and urged the government to take measures to help the unemployed and those workers on low wages. Although normally a safe Conservative seat, the support of the Liberals enabled Crooks to obtain an easy victory.

After his election Crooks continued to live in his house in Poplar. He argued that it was important that he continued to retain his links with the working-class. In the House of Commons Crooks concentrated on the issue of unemployment. He supported the Unemployment Bill introduced by Arthur Balfour in 1905 and controversially advocated compulsory agricultural work for the able-bodied unemployed.

Crooks was re-elected in the 1906 General Election and for the next four years supported the reforming Liberal administrations led by Henry Campbell-Bannerman (1906-1908) and Herbert Asquith (1908-1910). Will Crooks was defeated in the January 1910 General Election but returned to the House of Commons in the election held in December, 1910.

Unlike most of the leaders of the Labour Party, Crooks enthusiastically supported Britain's involvement in the First World War. He participated in the recruiting campaign and toured the Western Front in an effort to boost the morale of troops. In one speech Crooks declared that he "would rather see every living soul blotted off the face of the earth than see the Kaiser supreme anywhere."

Crooks won the seat in the 1918 General Election but he was forced to retire from his seat in February 1921, due to ill-health. Will Crooks, who had never moved away from his house in Poplar, died in London Hospital, Whitechapel, on the 5th June, 1921.

Will Crooks combined the inspiration of a great evangelist with such a stock of comic stories, generally related as personal experiences, that his audience alternated between tears of sympathy and tears of laughter. I once heard him say that a non-Union workman who tried to gain personal advancement at the expense of his mates was like a man who stole a wreath from his neighbour's grave and won a prize with it at a flower show!

History of Shepherd's Crooks

Walking sticks, ceremonial staffs and shepherd's crooks have been an integral part of human history dating as far back as their are records. Tantamount had over 100 sticks and canes in his tomb, some of them were intricately carved and would not seem out of place today. Moses is hardly ever pictured without a long staff resembling a shepherd's crook, an item that was ubiquitous to sheep and goat herders of the time.

The crook as a symbol of power, guardianship or prestige appears in both ancient and modern art and emblems. The crook and the flail were two symbols associated with the ancient Egyptian god, Osiris. Political and religious leaders from Pharaohs to Jesus to Kings and Popes have carried them to symbolize that they shepherded or led their people.

Even today high ranking clergy of many denominations carry a crook or similar staff to show their responsibility for their flocks. Legend has it that the candy cane, shaped like a simple crook, got it's start as long ago as 1670 when the choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral handed out sugar sticks, in the shape of a shepherds crook, among his young singers to keep them quiet during the long Living Creche ceremony.

Despite all it's historical and current symbolism the shepherds crook was first and foremost an essential tool of the shepherd. Its curved head designed to help catch a sheep by the neck or leg, its upturned nose a place to hang a lantern, its sturdy shank a support and aid to the shepherd as he walked the many miles tending his flock over often uneven ground.

The walking sticks that we know so well today are a more modern creation. Coming into prominence in the 17th century. It is believed that as Europe became more civilized and having a sword with you at all times became socially unacceptable a strong stick of about the same length came to serve some of the self defence role of the sword.

While the materials and carving on a walking stick came to be symbols of the status of a gentleman few shepherds could afford to buy a crook and thus learned, perhaps with the help of an older shepherd skilled in the art of stick dressing, to make their own.

People being people it is not hard to see how shepherds would compare their sticks to each other and striving to make theirs better than those of their friends and neighbors. As competition grew and interest in owning a fine shepherds crook grew among the wealth land owners the secrets of stick dressing started to be more closely guarded.

Then in 1951 the Border Stick Dressers Association came into being from a meeting held at the home of Mr. J. McGuffie in the College Burn valley on the English side of the Scottish Border. The organizations goals were to promote the art of stick dressing, to hold competitions and to encourage the dissemination of information on the making of sticks. Since that time a number of other organizations with similar goals have formed, books have been written and classes taught on the art of stick dressing. Well there are still a limited number of practitioners of this ancient art, particularly in the US, interest is growing and the fine craftsmanship is in no danger of disappearing any time soon.

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White men must be stopped: The very future of mankind depends on it

By Frank Joyce
Published December 22, 2015 8:15AM (EST)


This article originally appeared on AlterNet.

The future of life on the planet depends on bringing the 500-year rampage of the white man to a halt. For five centuries his ever more destructive weaponry has become far too common. His widespread and better systems of exploiting other humans and nature dominate the globe.

Admittedly, this encouraging development is hardly the dominant view. To the contrary, given the possibility that Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Ben Carson or one of their ilk might become president, white supremacist ideology seems to be digging in harder than ever.

I don’t take this lightly. Once upon a time I foolishly thought that there was no way that Ronald Reagan could get elected president. Lesson learned. Now is the time to start contingency planning for intensified resistance to mass deportations of immigrants, atrocities against Muslims and extreme danger to African Americans.

That said, it would be a mistake to focus only on the negative. Recently theNew York Times ran Gordon Davis’ op-ed What Woodrow Wilson Cost My Grandfather. It is still generating debate. (Gordon Davis and I are both “alumni” of the Northern Student Movement, a 1960s civil rights group.) Davis was writing in the context of the student-led protest at Princeton University over the veneration of its former president, Woodrow Wilson. The controversy stems from Wilson’s viciously racist speech and behavior particularly when he was president of the United States.

A subsequent Truthout article by Harvey Wasserman, "Princeton Students Are Right, Woodrow Wilson Was Way Worse Than You Think," complements the critique. Most of the 776 comments on theNY Times article (as well as 1,600 more on a followup Times editorial) were the predictably negative responses usually heard regarding white racism. Many said some version of, “that was a long time ago when values were different.” Others took the tack that “nobody is perfect and the good things Woodrow Wilson did outweigh the bad of his racism, so let it rest."

But there was also a substantial undercurrent voiced by those who were open-minded enough to learn.

Following are NY Times comments on the article:

Jim K. New York, NY 2 days ago

As a former Princeton professor, I applaud the students for raising this issue. It's not about erasing history, but confronting it honestly. This beautiful column makes clear how Wilson's policies, based on his deeply racist and white-supremacist views, destroyed the lives of thousands of black families. Why should we publicly venerate this person? Why should elitist Northern universities get to insist that we overlook this man's systematic, consequential racism, while every Southern municipality and retail store is expected to rid itself of monuments and souvenirs of their racist politicians and soldiers. Let's indeed, every American community, take stock of the deeply embedded racism that has been a part of our history (North and South), recognizing that a thoroughgoing accounting will involve reconfiguring our public and institutional spaces in many ways. Because that has yet to be done, and the younger generation of Black militants will, rightly, not be content until it is.

It's sad that after having been through 12 years of grade school in CA and graduating from a UC, I just learned this about Wilson. It’s silly that I'm surprised I didn't learn of his racism I suppose, but I'm glad I do now. My opinion is forever changed.

Many commenters were startled to learn about a long known but rarely taught side of Woodrow Wilson. White people have a lot to be surprised about. The very nature of white supremacy requires sanitized teaching about slavery, the genocide of indigenous people, the reach of U.S. militarism and many other topics.

Fortunately, gains from past struggles give African Americans increased opportunities to expose what was previously deliberately obscured. Ta-Nehisi Coates is the best known of a new generation of black, indigenous, Hispanic and white writers, scholars and activists revealing ugly realities hidden from most of us.

Even the New York Times conservative columnist David Brooks has acknowledged this development. “So much of the national conversation this year has concerned how to think about past racism and oppression, and the power of that past to shape present realities: the Confederate flag, Woodrow Wilson, the unmarked sights of the lynching grounds. Fortunately, many people have found the courage to tell the ugly truths about slavery, Jim Crow and current racism that were repressed by the wider culture.”

Admittedly, new information does not necessarily translate into social change. Cherished and deeply rooted beliefs are not easily surrendered. I often think of how long it took for the arguments of Copernicus and Galileo that the earth revolved around the sun, not the other way around, to be accepted. Ideas and habits are stubborn. Systems resist change. Powerful institutions have vested interests in preserving the status quo.

By way of example, a recurring concern of those responding to the Times’ Woodrow Wilson op-ed was, “Where will it all end? Will we have to destroy Mount Rushmore?” some asked. Maybe we should. Not just because it honors slave owners Jefferson and Washington, Mount Rushmore is also a powerful symbol of brutality and racism toward indigenous people.

As idigenous scholar Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz points out in her book, An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, “The most prominent struggle has been the Lakota Sioux’s attempt to restore the Paha Sapa, or Black Hills, where the odious Mount Rushmore carvings have scarred the sacred site. Called the ‘Shrine of Democracy’ by the federal government, it is anything but that rather it is a shrine of in-your-face illegal occupation and colonization.”

White racism distorts how we think about virtually everything, including history itself. No one will dismiss Bill O’Reilly’s goofy books about Jesus or Lincoln or Patton or Reagan as irrelevant because, “oh, that was a long time ago, it’s got nothing to do with me now.” As a general proposition people appreciate that we can discover in the present important things we didn’t previously know about the past.

Not so when it comes to race in the USA. Not for some people anyway.

This matters a great deal. In many years of anti-racist work, I have discovered that whites who deny any connection to the racism of the past will also generally deny any connection to the racism of the present. “Please don’t tell me,” cry deniers of systemic white racism. One step removed is the view that we should “accept” the history but must take the good with the bad. This is sometimes known as the “warts and all” theory of history. A variation is the convenient idea that slavery was the “original sin.” Sin, of course, in the Western Christian point of view is inevitable and immutable.

This takes an especially pernicious twist when white racism deniers argue that there has always been slavery as though that itself somehow makes it justified. It’s not true that every society over all time has enslaved people. But even if it were true, the kind of slavery on which the U.S. was built is unlike any other that preceded it. It co-evolved with capitalism and it conflated slavery with “race”—plantation capitalism as the Rev. James Lawson calls it. CSU Fresno scholars Blain Roberts and Ethan J. Kytle put it this way recently in theNew York Times: "New research has gone further, exposing how American capitalism and democracy — once thought to be antithetical to slavery — emerged hand-in-hand with it.”

Hard as it may be for propaganda-conditioned whites to grasp, global race-based capitalism is not a system of the past with lingering effects. It is a living, breathing organism of the present. It is a unitary thing. It is therefore not a good thing with warts. It is one thing. The “good” things always comes packaged with the “bad” thing. The mechanics of how it often works has a name: grand bargains.

The mother of all grand bargains is the U.S. Constitution which accommodated slavery in several ways, including the notorious three-fifths clause. While the Constitution was by no means the first grand bargain, it solidified a pattern that continues to this day. The New Deal, as Ira Katznelson demonstrates in his book Fear Itself, was another grand bargain that combined “progressive’ achievements such as union rights and Social Security with reaffirming the power of Dixiecrats and the institutions of Jim Crow.

Katznelson is white. So am I. So are many others now writing and speaking honestly and openly about the enduring power of white racism. That is valuable because it strengthens the idea that whites can come to terms with reality, past and present, as opposed to the myths we are encouraged to believe. As we do so, another world does become possible.

Of course white people can’t “save” the world. That mindset is the problem not the solution. But we can help. As Vietnam antiwar leader Rennie Davis points out, it is when we stop being invisible to each other that we start to become a movement.

The Unlucky Gambler: Richard Whitney

He was the president of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) from 1930 to 1935. On October 24, 1929 (Black Thursday), acting as an agent for a pool of bankers, he bought shares in many companies, creating a dramatic turnaround in the market. This caused him to be falsely hailed as a hero to the market, but the inflated stocks inevitably crashed five days later.

Whitney was an unlucky gambler who played penny stocks and blue-chip stocks aggressively. To cover his losses, he would borrow money from friends, relatives, and business acquaintances. This allowed him to buy even more stock in a market that was collapsing, which made his problems even worse.

Despite his losses, he continued to live a lavish lifestyle. When he could no longer borrow any more money, he began to embezzle it from his customers as well as from an organization that helped widows and orphans. His fraud became more perverse when he looted the NYSE's Gratuity Fund, which was supposed to pay $20,000 to each member's estate upon death.

After an audit discovered the crime, he was charged with two counts of embezzlement and sentenced to five to 10 years in prison. As a result of his misdeeds, the newly formed Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) set caps on how much debt firms can have and separates customer accounts from the property of brokerage companies.

Генеалогия и история семьи Crooks

Jonathan Crooks b. 1794 Sheffield, England son of Jonathan and Amelia Crooks. He enlisted with the Royal Artillery as Bombardier in Sheffield on February 19 1812 and married Sarah Bellaby (b. 1796) on February 1 1816 in St. Mary’s Church, Nottingham (Sarah was the daughter of Joseph Bellaby who died on February 24 1879 and was buried in St. Mary’s South End Cemetery). Jonathan Crooks arrived in Port Elizabeth in about 1825. In 1830 he was a shoemaker and during 1832/3 served as Messenger of the Court d. September 27 1834 and buried in St. Mary’s South End Cemetery, PE. Historical note: November 19 1838 sale of property (house & premises on allotment of erf 5 and comfortable house on hill above town)

Eleven Crooks children were born to Jonathan (senior) and Sarah Crooks (nee Bellaby): (1)-(11):

(1) John Nuthall Crooks b. August 12 1816 in Nuthall, Nottingham d. April 21 1878 buried in St. Georges Park, Port Elizabeth married Eliza Daniel (b. 1815) January 1 1838, St. Mary’s PE. Eliza buried in Uitenhage (2) Annie Crooks, b. November 13 1819, Portsmouth, England d. September 15 1838 Annie buried St. Mary’s South End Cemetery, Port Elizabeth married John Ainsworth Hancock June 7 1837 (3) Elizabeth Crooks b. September 20 1821 married John McKenzie September 4 1838 in St. Mary’s Church PE d. August 1843 (4) Mary Crooks b. 1823 married Francis Armstrong January 1 1839 in St. Mary’s Church., PE (5) William Crooks, b. February 18 1825 Christened in St. Georges Church, Grahamstown d. December 1825 in Barracks, PE (6) Amelia Crooks, b. June 8 1826 married in St. Mary’s Church April 30 1845 to John Potter Tee b. 1821 d. September 7 1867 [Children: Arthur Ernest Tee, Sarah Matilda Tee, John Richard Tee, Mary Elizabeth (Tee) Belt, Lennox Frederick Potter Tee, Walter Scott Tee, George William Tee and John Tee] d. September 11 1903 (7) Emma Crooks, b. Aug 8 1827 d. September 1828 (8) Edward Crooks, b. September 11 1828, d. May 17 1883 at South Union St, PE buried in St. Mary’s South End Cemetery (9) William James Crooks, b. July 16 1830 occupation Cooper d. January 18 1898 married in New Church December 8 1853 to Mary Ann Baxter, b. 1834 d. March 4 1910 [Daughter: Isabella Crooks] (10) Henry Crooks, b. October 9 1831 d. July 30 1863 buried St. Mary’s South End Cemetery occupation Shoemaker. Married August 6 1851 in Union Chapel PE to Sarah Jane Lloyd [Child Henry b. July 17 1859] (11)Sarah Weston Crooks b. February 27 1833 d. April 3 1910. Married Samuel Charles Everitt (b. 1826/27 d. August 7 1862) March 21 1855 in St. Mary’s Church, PE [Children: Charles Egbert Everitt, Alfred Page Everitt, Frederick Edward Everitt, Ernest Henry Everitt and Samuel Charles Everitt]

Four Crooks sons were born to John Nuthall Crooks and Eliza Crooks (nee Daniel) in Port Elizabeth (A)-(D):

(A) Jonathan Crooks, b. January 31 1840 P.E. and presumably named after his grandfather, Jonathan (snr) d. June 18 1916 in Steynsburg buried in the Steynsburg Cemetery married February 14 1861 at “Mulberry Grove” to Elizabeth (Libby) Collett, daughter of James Lydford Collett, b. February 8 1844 at “Groenfontein” d. July 20 1913 buried in the Steynsburg Cemetery. (B) Edward Sampson Crooks, b. July 9 1842 P.E. d. March 4 1877 buried in St. Georges Park, Port Elizabeth (C) Frederick Crooks married Sarah ES? [1 daughter, Florence Maud, born PE d. July 20 1874 aged 3 months, buried St. Georges Park 2 daughters born Uitenhage: Elna Marial, b. July 6 1881 Ethel Eliza, b. February 6 1883]. Eliza Crooks buried in Uitenhage (D) Henry Daniel Crooks, b. 1846 Port Elizabeth d. April 17 1878 buried in St. Georges Park, P.E.

Five Crooks children were born to Jonathan and Elizabeth (Libby) Crooks [Nee Collett] (i)-(v):

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Top 10 Most Wicked Popes

Out of the 266 Popes to have ruled the Catholic Church, ten in particular stand out for their wickedness. This is a list of the ten with a description of their errors and faults.

1. Liberius, reigned 352-66 [Catholic Encyclopaedia]

Pope Liberius is the first Pope not to be canonised a saint. He reigned during the height of the Arian crisis during which a large majority of the Church believed that Jesus was not God, but merely a man. The Arian heresy was fought against by the Patriarch of Alexandria Saint Athanasius who consecrated Bishops without permission.

Pope Liberius, rather than defending Athanasius, signed a document that supported those against him and condemned Athanasius. Nearing the end of his pontificate he recanted his signature and reinstated Athanasius. While the Pope did not embrace the heresy himself, he did not use his power fully to put an end to it. His reign did nothing to stop the confusion spreading throughout the Church.

Pope John XII committed incest with his sisters. Pope Formosus had his body dumped in a river after his death. Read more incredible stories in Dark History of the Popes at Amazon.com!

2. Honorius I, reigned 625-638 [Catholic Encyclopaedia]

Like Liberius, Honorius I was condemned and excommunicated for heresy by the sixth general council in 680. The heresy in question was Montheism in which Jesus is seen as a divine-human, rather than the orthodox belief of physeis that he is both fully God and fully man. Patriarch Sergius of Constantinople wrote to Honorius asking him to decide the question that was causing much division at the time. Instead of clarifying the view of the Church, Honorius did nothing. His lack of action was so scandalous that for 3 centuries, each new Pope had to state at his coronation that he:

&ldquosmites with eternal anathema the originators of the new heresy, Sergius, etc., together with Honorius, because he assisted the base assertion of the heretics.&rdquo

The Roman Breviary contained the condemnation of Honorius on the Feast of St Leo II right up until the 18th century.

3. Stephen VI, reigned 896-89 [Catholic Encyclopaedia]

Pope Stephen VI was consecrated (possibly against his will) by Pope Formosus who, during his reign, was excommunicated for leaving the Papal seat and &ldquoconspiring to destroy the papal see&rdquo. He was eventually forgiven and returned to Rome. When Stephen VI came the Papal Throne, he had the body of formosus exhumed and put on trial (this is the famous Cadaver Synod). Formosus was accused of transmigrating sees in violation of canon law, of perjury, and of serving as a bishop while actually a layman. Stephen had Formosus&rsquo papal vestments removed and two fingers from his right hand cut off. Formosus&rsquo body was thrown in to the Tiber. After the Synod, public opinion turned against Stephen. He was deposed in an uprising and strangled to death.

4. John XII, reigned 955-964 [Catholic Encyclopaedia]

Through his mother Alda of Vienne, John XII was a seventh generation descendant of Charlemagne. John was the temporal and spiritual ruler of Rome and during his pontificate he virtually turned it into a whorehouse. Moral corruption in Rome became a major problem. After crowning Otto I Emporer of Germany in order to secure his support in a war against Berengar II of Itlay, he changed his mind and began communicating with Berengar. Otto learnt of John&rsquos treachery and returned to Rome after defeating Berengar. He called a council which deposed John who was hiding in the mountains, and elected Leo VIII in his place. John, with a large group of supporters, returned to Rome to depose Leo VIII before Otto had even left. Otto pledged to assist Leo against John but before the matter went any further, John died. It is rumoured that he was killed by the husband of one of his mistresses.

An account of the charges against him in the Patrologia Latina states:

They testified about his adultery, which they did not see with their own eyes, but nonetheless knew with certainty: he had fornicated with the widow of Rainier, with Stephana his father&rsquos concubine, with the widow Anna, and with his own niece, and he made the sacred palace into a whorehouse. They said that he had gone hunting publicly that he had blinded his confessor Benedict, and thereafter Benedict had died that he had killed John, cardinal subdeacon, after castrating him and that he had set fires, girded on a sword, and put on a helmet and cuirass.

5. Benedict IX, reigned 1032-1048 [Catholic Encyclopaedia]

Benedict IX was Pope from 1032 to 1044, again in 1045, and finally from 1047 to 1048, the only man to have served as Pope for three discontinuous periods. He was also one of the youngest Popes (reigning from around age 18-20). He reportedly led an extremely dissolute life, and also allegedly had few qualifications for the papacy other than connections with a socially powerful family, although in terms of theology and the ordinary activities of the Church he was entirely orthodox. St. Peter Damian described him as &ldquofeasting on immorality&rdquo and &ldquoa demon from hell in the disguise of a priest&rdquo in the Liber Gomorrhianus, a treatise on papal corruption and sex that accused Benedict IX of routine homosexuality and bestiality.

He was also accused by Bishop Benno of Piacenza of &ldquomany vile adulteries and murders.&rdquo Pope Victor III referred to &ldquohis rapes, murders and other unspeakable acts. His life as a Pope so vile, so foul, so execrable, that I shudder to think of it.&rdquo

Benedict gave up his papacy for the first time in exchange for a large sum of money in 1044. He returned in 1045 to depose his replacement and reigned for one month, after which he left again, possibly to marry, and sold the papacy for a second time, to his Godfather (possibly for over 650 kg /1450 lb of gold). Two years later, Benedict retook Rome and reigned for an additional one year, until 1048. Poppo of Brixen (later to become Pope Damascus II) eventually forced him out of Rome. Benedict&rsquos place and date of death are unknown, but some speculate that he made further attempts to regain the Papal Throne.

6. Boniface VIII, reigned 1294-1303 [Catholic Encyclopaedia]

Due to the King of France (Philip IV) taxing the clergy of the Church to help finance his wars, Boniface VIII released one of the most important papal bulls of Catholic History: Unam Sanctum. It declared that both spiritual and temporal power were under the pope&rsquos jurisdiction, and that kings were subordinate to the power of the Church.

&ldquoNow, therefore, we declare, say, determine and pronounce that for every human creature it is necessary for salvation to be subject to the authority of the Roman pontiff&rdquo (Porro subesse Romano Pontifici omni humanae creaturae declaramus, dicimus, definimus, et pronuntiamus omnino esse de necessitate salutis).

This is considered to be an infallible declaration of the Catholic Church. Philip retaliated against the bull by denying the exportation of money from France to Rome, funds that the Church required to operate. Boniface had no choice but to quickly meet the demands of Philip by allowing taxation only &ldquoduring an emergency.&rdquo Philip&rsquos chief minister declared that Boniface was a heretic, and in return, Boniface excommunicated the King. On September 7, 1303 an army led by Nogaret and Sciarra Colonna of the Colonna family surprised Boniface at his retreat in Anagni. The King and the Colonnas demanded that he resign, to which Boniface VIII responded that he would &lsquosooner die&rsquo. Boniface was beaten badly and nearly executed but was released from captivity after three days. He died a month later, on October 11, 1303.

7. Urban VI, reigned 1378-1389 [Catholic Encyclopaedia]

Urban VI was the first Pope of the Western Schism (which ultimately lead to three people claiming the Papal throne at the same time). Urban VI was the last Pope to be selected from outside of the College of Cardinals. Once elected, he was prone to outbursts of rage. The cardinals who elected him decided that they had made the wrong decision and they elected a new Pope in his place (he took the name of Clement VII and started a second Papal court in Avignon, France).

The second election threw the Church into turmoil. There had been antipopes, rival claimants to the papacy, before, but most of them had been appointed by various rival factions in this case, the legitimate leaders of the Church themselves had created both popes. The conflict quickly escalated from a church problem to a diplomatic crisis that divided Europe. Secular leaders had to choose which pope they would recognize.

The schism was repaired forty years later when all three of the (then) reigning Popes abdicated together and a successor elected in the person of Pope martin V.

This list getting you down? Lighten things up with this Hood Pope T-Shirt at Amazon.com!

8. Alexander VI, reigned 1492-1503 [Catholic Encyclopaedia]

Born Rodrigo Borgia, Pope Alexander VI is so famous for his debased reign that his surname has become synonymous with the debased standards of the papacy in his era. Alexander&rsquos elevation did not at the time excite much alarm, and at first his reign was marked by a strict administration of justice and an orderly method of government. But it was not long before his passion for endowing his relatives at the church&rsquos and his neighbours&rsquo expense became manifest. To that end he was ready to commit any crime and to plunge all Italy into war.

Alexander VI had three sons in addition to his famous daughter Lucrezia. During his pontificate virtually everything he did was to further the position of his children and family in the world. In order to dominate the Sacred College of Cardinals more completely, Alexander, in a move that created much scandal, created twelve new cardinals, among them his own son Cesare, then only eighteen years old, and Alessandro Farnese (later Pope Paul III), the brother of one of the Pope&rsquos mistresses, the beautiful Giulia Farnese.

The death of the Pope is well recorded by Burchard: Alexander VI&rsquos stomach became swollen and turned to liquid, while his face became wine-coloured and his skin began to peel off. Finally his stomach and bowels bled profusely. After more than a week of intestinal bleeding and convulsive fevers, and after accepting last rites and making a confession, the despairing Alexander VI expired on 18 August 1503 at the age of 72. It is highly likely that he was poisoned, though others speculate that he may have died of malaria.

9. Leo X, reigned 1513-1521 [Catholic Encyclopaedia]

Pope Leo X is known primarily for his papal bull against Martin Luther and subsequent failure to stem the Protestant Reformation, which began during his reign when Martin Luther (1483&ndash1546) published the 95 Theses and nailed them to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. When he became Pope, Leo X is reported to have said to his brother Giuliano: &ldquoSince God has given us the papacy, let us enjoy it.&rdquo

Under his pontificate, Christianity assumed a pagan character, which, passing from art into manners, gives to this epoch a strange complexion. Crimes for the moment disappeared, to give place to vices but to charming vices, vices in good taste, such as those indulged in by Alcibiades and sung by Catullus.&rdquo Alexandre Dumas

His extravagance offended not only people like Martin Luther, but also some cardinals, who, led by Alfonso Petrucci of Siena, plotted an assassination attempt. Eventually, Pope Leo found out who these people were, and had them followed. The conspirators died of &ldquofood poisoning.&rdquo Some people argue that Leo X and his followers simply concocted the assassination charges in a moneymaking scheme to collect fines from the various wealthy cardinals Leo X detested.

Not every aspect of his pontificate was bad he raised the church to a high rank as the friend of whatever seemed to extend knowledge or to refine and embellish life. He made the capital of Christendom the center of culture.

The Venetian ambassador (Marino Giorgi) had this to say of the Pope:

The pope is a good-natured and extremely free-hearted man, who avoids every difficult situation and above all wants peace he would not undertake a war himself unless his own personal interests were involved he loves learning of canon law and literature he possesses remarkable knowledge he is, moreover, a very excellent musician.

Having fallen ill of malaria, Leo X died on 1 December 1521, so suddenly that the last sacraments could not be administered but the contemporary suspicions of poison were unfounded.

10. Clement VII, reigned 1523-1524 [Catholic Encyclopaedia]

Clement VII (Giulio di Giuliano de&rsquo Medici) brought to the Papal throne a high reputation for political ability, and possessed in fact all the accomplishments of a wily diplomat. However, he was considered worldly and indifferent to what went on around him, including the ongoing Protestant reformation.

The Pope&rsquos wavering politics also caused the rise of the Imperial party inside the Curia: Pompeo Cardinal Colonna&rsquos soldiers pillaged the Vatican City and gained control of the whole of Rome in his name. The humiliated Pope promised therefore to bring the Papal States to the Imperial side again. Soon he found himself alone in Italy too, as the duke of Ferrara had sided with the Imperial army, permitting to the horde of Landsknechts led by Charles III, Duke of Bourbon, and Georg von Frundsberg, to reach Rome without harm.

Charles of Bourbon died during the long siege, and his troops, unpaid and left without a guide, felt free to ravage Rome from May 6, 1527. The innumerable series of murders, rapes and vandalism that followed ended forever the splendours of the Renaissance Rome. Clement was kept as a prisoner in Castel Sant&rsquoAngelo for six months. After having bought some Imperial officers, he escaped disguised as a peddler, and took shelter in Orvieto, and then in Viterbo. He came back to a depopulated and devastated Rome only in October 1528. Subsequently the Pope followed a policy of subservience to the Emperor, endeavouring on the one hand to induce him to act with severity against the Lutherans in Germany, and on the other to elude his demands for a general council.

Pope Clement VII is remembered for having ordered, just a few days before his death, Michelangelo&rsquos painting of The Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel.

Crooks in history

I have just delivered a 33.000 unproofed manuscript to all those that last summer supported my crowdfunding for the fist Italian-language outing of BUSCAFUSCO.
The book is called La Storia Fatta coi Cialtroni (literally “History made with slobs”) and it is a first collection of eccentrics, adventurers, loose women and other assorted crooks and cranks across the last three centuries.

The proper book will come out (hopefully) for Christmas or (more likely) for Twelfth Night, and it was a hoot to put together and a cow to edit.
That’s why I sent off an unproofed version.

My Patreon supporters will probably get new excerpts of a second volume, and some English-language snippets of the first.

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Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

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What Is a Shepherd's Crook? (with pictures)

A shepherd's crook is not only an image that appears in ancient to modern art, but is also a very useful tool for shepherds who are navigating fields of varying height or uneven terrain. The symbol — a stick with a C-curve at the top, looking much like an oversized candy cane — has been in existence for millennia. The crook and the flail were two symbols associated with the ancient Egyptian god, Osiris. Pharaohs carried such crooks to evoke the godlike nature of their rule, and also as a symbol that they shepherded or led their people. People can also see many depictions Jesus Christ carrying such a staff, since he is frequently referred to as the shepherd of Christian followers.

Early versions of the shepherd's crook were likely carved or constructed from wood, or often horn. In fact, the crooked handle may be called the horn. The length of the staff is variable, and a shorter person would want a shorter crook, with the handle no higher than the hip. As with any walking cane, a shepherd, a goatherd, or a herder of any animals might find the crook extremely useful when walking across difficult or changing terrain. When not in use, the crook could be hung over the arm.

In modern times, people can still find many shepherds and goatherds, especially in the British Isles, who use a crook on a daily basis. While some still prefer the feel of carved wood or horn, others prefer a more modern version. Elaborately carved crooks are available for purchase, many as useful as they are ornamental. A newer trend is to offer shepherd’s crooks in light but sturdy metals. There are fans of both old and new forms.

Prices for the elaborately carved wooden sticks, which may be all or at least partially handmade can be particularly expensive. Aluminum crooks are lighter in weight, and some may be more durable than their wooden counterparts. Shoppers can also buy fairly simple mass-manufactured wood crooks relatively inexpensively.

Not only does the shepherd's crook serve as a walking stick, with many people using them only in that manner, but they may also serve a significant function in the shepherding world. The curved handle is normally wide enough to fit around the neck of a sheep or goat, allowing a herder to catch an animal that is straying and reroute it to a different direction. A crook might also have been used to hold a sheep in place while the animal was shorn, although this is not common today most sheep are tethered during the shearing process.

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent InfoBloom contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent InfoBloom contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.


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Crook, in brass musical instruments, detachable piece of metal tubing inserted between the mouthpiece and the main tubing or in the middle of the tubing to lengthen the air column produced. This manipulation allows the player to obtain notes not included in the harmonic series of the original air column. Crooks were in use at least by about 1600 and were used extensively by the late 18th century. They were superseded in the 19th century by valves, which, unlike crooks, allowed instantaneous changes in basic air-column pitch.

If such a piece of tubing is straight rather than curved, it is called a shank. In woodwind instruments a crook is a curved piece of tubing connecting the mouthpiece with the body and to a detachable tube that holds the reed.