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    Rod Liddle’s obsession with Mary Seacole continues

    by Sunny
    1st October, 2009 at 6:26 pm    

    You may have read a little while back that right-wing commentator, and former BBC Today programme editor, Rod Liddle got so annoyed that Mary Seacole (a mixed race nurse) was one of the ‘great Victorians’ that his children knew, that he went off on a bizarre rant.

    Keep in mind that Mary Seacole may have been mixed race but that wasn’t why she was famous. But Rod Liddle can’t stand it. I mean… surely this is just political correctness gone mad!? Earlier in the year he wrote a column once again invoking the dead woman’s name when he referred to the fictitious ‘Mary Seacole City Academy for Advanced Textspeak and Stabbing’. Why would you associate a Victorian nurse with that? Does he think think black people should continually be linked to crime?

    And so he’s off again today, writing: Changing your name to Seacole will eradicate your inner racist. Perhaps it’s something about being in the company of Melanie Phillips that makes him like that.

                  Post to del.icio.us

    Filed in: Humour,Race politics

    47 Comments below   |  

    Reactions: Twitter, blogs
    1. pickles

      New blog post: Rod Liddle’s obsession with Mary Seacole continues http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/6064

    2. Matt Borum

      Pickled Politics » Rod Liddle’s obsession with Mary Seacole continues- Latest comments. Kismet Hardy on The BB… http://bit.ly/193DeB

    3. pickles

      Rod Liddle admits he’s a sexist idiot http://is.gd/3Sx42 - so why is he now obsessed by Mary Seacole? http://is.gd/3SxfL

    4. Campaign against Liddle gathers pace «

      [...] Politics has commented on the fact that Liddle has penned a stream of articles attacking Seacole’s status as a [...]

    5. Independent’s progressive credentials must be respected «

      [...] Politics has commented on the fact that Liddle has penned a stream of articles attacking Seacole’s status as a [...]

    6. Liberal Conspiracy » Indy journos send coded messages to Rod Liddle

      [...] kept coming back to the topic of Mary Seacole, later writing a whole blog posts titled: Changing your name to [...]

    1. Rumbold — on 1st October, 2009 at 6:57 pm  

      It is a bizarre piece, as he mocks the idea of an British house in a school being named after a British person, but says nothing about another house being named after an Italian who never set foot on these shores.

    2. David T — on 1st October, 2009 at 7:03 pm  

      What is wrong with this man?

      There’s an obvious answer, of course…

    3. Ravi Naik — on 1st October, 2009 at 7:08 pm  

      He was not exaggerating when he said: “I’ve become obsessed with a woman. I think she is going to crop up in this blog quite often because I can’t get her out of my mind. She is the last thing I think about before I sleep at night. I wake with her name on my lips.”

      He is truly deranged. Was this triggered by Obama?

    4. Germaine — on 1st October, 2009 at 7:10 pm  

      Rod Seacole Liddle shall be his name henceforth and we must NEVER let him forget it.

    5. Germaine — on 1st October, 2009 at 7:14 pm  

      Is it contagious?

      Let’s ask Boris Seacole Johnson and David Seacole Cameron!

      Or even Nick Seacole Griffin!

    6. Kismet Hardy — on 1st October, 2009 at 7:14 pm  

      Punchline for weak joke: So, in the end, Rod was a leedle bit seacole over it

    7. Don — on 1st October, 2009 at 7:33 pm  

      Liddle (and several of his fans) seem to consider their ignorance of Seacole to be evidence that she has been elevated to an inappropriate prominence.

      To contemporary Victorians she was indeed a prominent and celebrated figure with massive support among ordinary soldiers, ‘Society’ and the public at large.

      Fund-raising activities included the “Seacole Fund Grand Military Festival” which was held at the Royal Surrey Gardens, from Monday 27 July to Thursday 30 July 1857. This successful event was supported by many military men, including Major General Lord Rokeby (who had commanded the 1st Division in Crimea) and Lord George Paget: over 1,000 artists performed, including 11 military bands and an orchestra conducted by Louis Antoine Jullien, which was attended by a crowd of circa 40,000. (Wikki)

      A rather more distinguished journalist than Liddle, William Howard Russell, wrote in the preface to her autobiography,

      “I have witnessed her devotion and her courage … and I trust that England will never forget one who has nursed her sick, who sought out her wounded to aid and succour them and who performed the last offices for some of her illustrious dead.”

      She was posthumously airbrushed from history, we can speculate about the reasons, and Liddle seems to disagree with Russell and fervently wish that she had remained forgotten. Again, one can speculate about the reasons.

    8. Sunny — on 1st October, 2009 at 7:40 pm  

      He is truly deranged. Was this triggered by Obama?

      That has happened to a lot of people. I wouldn’t it past Liddle, though I suspect this is a long term derangement syndrome.

    9. Katy Newton — on 1st October, 2009 at 8:20 pm  

      I’m still laughing about him holding Dickens the man up as a more worthy subject of study. I love Dickens’ books, but I suspect that the Victorians would have considered Mary Seacole’s work *slightly* more important than his.

    10. Don — on 1st October, 2009 at 8:38 pm  

      Dickens I could see - the Marshalsea, the blacking factory, court reporter, the train crash. Very vivid life, lots to teach. But the idea that Ruskin and Carlyle were more valid lives through which eleven year olds could learn about the Victorians …

    11. cjcjc — on 1st October, 2009 at 8:48 pm  

      Da Vinci

      it is a very odd list though, isn’t it?

      Clearly deliberately (not saying it’s bad) 50/50 M/F split. And I’m sure they did want to include one non-white (not saying that’s bad either).

      No obvious principle by which it was constructed other than that, though, is there.


    12. Don — on 1st October, 2009 at 8:58 pm  

      Random? Maybe. Two science, two arts, two social reform. (In broad terms)

      Four British, two foreigners. Four Victorians, two Renaissance.

      As you say, 50/50 male/female.

      No politicians, military, explorers or financiers.

      Any list of six will be a bit odd. That one seems pretty reasonable.

      (I’d have gone for Mary Wollstonecraft over Pankhurst myself.)

    13. Paul — on 1st October, 2009 at 9:03 pm  

      You ask: “Does he think think black people should continually be linked to crime?” Yet you yourself obsessively link immigrant minorities to honour killings. The search

      site:www.pickledpolitics.com sunny “honour killings”

      yields 1970 hits on Google. I didn’t look at them all, but you seem to post a topic linking minorities to honour killings, several times a month.

    14. Sunny — on 1st October, 2009 at 9:15 pm  

      heh. Paul is a parody of… someone.

    15. KB Player — on 1st October, 2009 at 9:22 pm  

      What’s wrong with Rod Liddle?

      a) He thinks he’s making a daring, unorthodox point.

      b) He thinks he’s being witty

      On both counts, he is a sadly deluded man.

      Where are his tablets? Quick, Nurse - sorry, not such a good idea.

    16. douglas clark — on 1st October, 2009 at 10:56 pm  

      I quite enjoyed her autobiography. I think she was a pretty amazing person. She tried to sign up with Florence Nightingale, but she wouldn’t have her. She made her own way to the Crimea, and bankrupted herself at the end. The concert Don refers to was good people trying to save her from that.

      But she had more dimensions than simply a healer, which she clearly was. She was also a commentator, as her autobiography showed, and she was a businesswoman too.

      I have read her story twice, and I still do not know what to make of her. She was incredibly brave as an anti racist, that is for sure.

    17. Reza — on 2nd October, 2009 at 4:52 pm  

      “…the black nurse who helped out during the Crimean War.”

      Brilliant! Rod Seacole Liddle, you rock!

      I asked my kids if they had ever heard of Mary Seacole. They hadn’t.

      Thank goodness for private education.

    18. Katy Newton — on 2nd October, 2009 at 4:55 pm  

      I asked my kids if they had ever heard of Mary Seacole. They hadn’t.

      Thank goodness for private education.

      Aren’t privately educated kids supposed to know more than state-educated ones?

    19. coruja — on 2nd October, 2009 at 5:09 pm  

      Obviously Rod ‘Viagra’ Liddle is very upset by some black person turning up doing some sort of decent activity in an era that Spectator readers thought was unsullied by multiculturalism and all that nonsense.

      It all went wrong in the 50s/60s when they let the blacks in (and Britain discovered sex …surely a coincidence?) and they haven’t contributed anything to British culture apart from making some popular music. I think that’s how the argument goes. (In fact I know that’s how it goes as I have heard it from a Conservative politician a while back on the radio and I just can’t remember who it was.) Thankfully we have Rod to keep reminding us.

    20. douglas clark — on 2nd October, 2009 at 5:11 pm  


      Mary Seacole was a human being and she was quite interesting. She was neither black nor white, her father was Scottish and her mother was Jamaican. I am quite old, and I’d never heard of Mary Seacole up until recently. So, fucking, what?

      Your ignorance, and that of your kids is quite understandable, it is not however honourable…

    21. Reza — on 2nd October, 2009 at 5:14 pm  

      I don’t consider the study of inconsequential, token darkies to be helpful to anyone, and especially to so-called ‘minorities’.

    22. douglas clark — on 2nd October, 2009 at 5:22 pm  


      token darkies

      You might care to withdraw that. She was a person of mixed race who would have absolutely detested racially intolerant folk such as you. She is on record, remember the era, as having no truck whatsoever with Yankees.

    23. Reza — on 2nd October, 2009 at 5:27 pm  


      Stop being so pompous. My kids are mixed race. It was a joke.

      Ever seen South Park?

      Token. What a brilliant name for a character. Think about it.

    24. Katy Newton — on 2nd October, 2009 at 5:28 pm  

      I don’t consider the study of inconsequential, token darkies to be helpful to anyone, and especially to so-called ‘minorities’.

      No, wait a minute. There was a visible non-white presence in London in Victorian England. I didn’t know that until quite recently because my school curriculum didn’t touch on it. And I think it’s actually quite important for people generally and children in particular to know that, partly because it is true and it is interesting, and partly because of this fictional white paradise that our friends in the BNP like to hark back to every five minutes. The presence of non-white people in this country for centuries is an important part of our history and culture that children should know, I think. And I also think it is important that they know that non-white people and women did contribute to our society even back then and despite the general oppression suffered by everyone who wasn’t a middle-class white bloke. I’m sorry if that’s too knee-jerk politically correct for anyone.

      The process of deciding who to teach our children about is always going to be arbitrary. When I was at school we started out in ancient Greece, rattled through Rome, charged through the Renaissance, did a few modules about peasant life in the middle ages and then leapfrogged into international history from 1919-1939. And that was where I got off the history train, schoolwise. But I happen to know an awful lot about European history in general from around 1000 on and English history in particular. Why? I shall tell you why. It is because although my history lessons did not cover bits of history that the adults around me thought were important, and did cover bits that weren’t, my history teachers taught it so interestingly (and I was privately educated from 11-14 and then state educated to 18 so I have a reasonable overview of both regimes) that I went off and read about it in my spare time. My mother, who is a bit of a history buff, also encouraged me in this. The result is that I know a lot more than I was taught.

      The point of school is not just to ram stuff into your head whether you like it or not, but to teach you to want to go off and find it for yourself. If you’re interested enough you will fill in the gaps in your spare time. If your kids never learned anything apart from what was handed to them on a plate in school, they’d be dullards no matter how much you were paying for their education, and that is a fact.

      Hence my complete boredom with this whole “WAH ETHNIC MINORITIES IS TAKIN OVER OUR SCHOOLZ” nonsense. They aren’t. Children get a whistle-stop, incomplete tour through all of their subjects. As they go through they pick what they find interesting to learn more about and ditch what they don’t. That means that they won’t pick up everything you think is interesting and they will pick up stuff you can’t see the point of. If you want them to learn what you think is important and nothing else, try homeschooling.

    25. camilla — on 2nd October, 2009 at 5:35 pm  

      Is Rod Liddle more obsessed with Mary Seacole than Sunny is obsessed with Rod Liddle?

      I don’t think so.

      She is artificially “made” famous to please people of non-white race. that’s it. period. and it’s historically unfair thing. period.

    26. douglas clark — on 2nd October, 2009 at 5:36 pm  


      You are not a joke. You are another person with an agenda. Sorry if I come across as someone serious and frankly unaware of South Park. But, there you go, not everyone gets your cultural references. In fact, some of us don’t think they existed much before you invented them.

      South Park, how droll…

    27. Don — on 2nd October, 2009 at 5:41 pm  

      The point of school is not just to ram stuff into your head whether you like it or not, but to teach you to want to go off and find it for yourself.

      Spot on, Katy.

      As for whether or not Mary Seacole was inconsequential, there is I suppose an argument to be made both ways, but if your position is one of proud ignorance then you are probably best off not making it.

    28. Katy Newton — on 2nd October, 2009 at 5:46 pm  

      I would like to add, though, that I have only heard of Mary Seacole because of Rod Liddle. Seriously. And I am very chuffed that I do know about her because she is jolly interesting. And the Chairwoman has ordered a book about her which I shall be reading over the weekend. Thanks, Rod!

    29. Sunny — on 2nd October, 2009 at 5:48 pm  

      Reza plays the race card eh. How do we know your kids are mixed-race. You could easily make that stuff up just to throw around racial slurs?

    30. Edward Token-Darky — on 2nd October, 2009 at 5:49 pm  

      All silliness aside, Mary Seacole was actually a far more interesting person than was the better-known Florence Nightingale.

      It is right and proper that people should make a fuss over her and hold her up as a role model.

      Has the ever-opportunistic SNP chosen to make a fuss about her SCottish descent? If not, why not?

    31. Edward Token-Darky — on 2nd October, 2009 at 5:51 pm  


      Wikipedia is NOT an infallible source but it’s usually a good starting point:


      A truly admirable person!

    32. Ravi Naik — on 2nd October, 2009 at 5:58 pm  

      I would like to add, though, that I have only heard of Mary Seacole because of Rod Liddle.

      I guess I also have to thank Rod Liddle for that. I found her life to be inspiring, and guess what, when you have the BNP pretending like non-whites didn’t exist in Britain before 1943 or that they are simply leaches, it is actually relevant to learn about people like Mary Seacole.

      As for Reza, I believe he is trying really hard to be the new non-European token for the BNP.

    33. Edward Token-Darky — on 2nd October, 2009 at 5:58 pm  

      While on the subject of mixed-race people, it can be assumed that all here are aware that Lord Liverpool, a now-almost-forgotten Prime Minister, was of part-Indian descent.

    34. douglas clark — on 2nd October, 2009 at 6:03 pm  

      Me too!

      I had only discovered the woman through Pickled Politics and she is an interesting character, but neither a saint or a sinner. It could be equally argued, I suspect, that Florence Nightingale was neither the saint she is sometimes portrayed as, nor the self serving egoist that others say.

      It is quite clear that Florence Nightingale led a large number of nurses to the Crimea. It is also obvious that, after rejection by Florence Nightingale, that Mary Seacole made her own way there, and did what she could.

      We are talking about the early days of medecine here. Neither had it right.

    35. Don — on 2nd October, 2009 at 6:05 pm  


      that’s it. period.

      Oh. Well that takes care of that, doesn’t it? Economical technique that, does away with all that tedious stuff like facts and presenting a case.

      I guess the Pope can get away with that approach, being infallible and all, but from anybody else it’s the rhetorical equivalent of a belch from a club house boor.

    36. Don — on 2nd October, 2009 at 6:31 pm  


      Neither had it exactly right, but it is a tragedy that a synthesis of their approaches was never possible. Nightingale’s rigid insistence on hygiene, light, air
      and a disciplined, systematic nursing regime was probably of more benefit to our national health than almost any advances by physicians throughout that period. Seacole’s use of herbal medicines proven to be effective and her sense that compassionate human contact was a crucial factor in recovery was never really followed up until well into the 20th century.

      The stories of wounded soldiers reaching out to touch the shadow of the Lady with the Lamp are moving, but probably indicate how desperate these men were for human contact. Nightingale was well known for strictly forbidding anything that might be construed as fraternising. Necessarily so, as she was trying to establish a body of professionals who could not be possibly seen as the old ‘camp followers’.

      Seacole was in a different position,but her innovations were just as valuable had they been further developed.

    37. douglas clark — on 2nd October, 2009 at 6:39 pm  

      Don @ 36,


    38. Reza — on 4th October, 2009 at 11:45 am  

      douglas clark

      “I had only discovered the woman through Pickled Politics and she is an interesting character, but neither a saint or a sinner. ”

      I heard of her from Rod Liddle. And I have nothing against the woman.

      However, her achievements do not make her a towering figure from the Victorian period worthy of inclusion on the school’s history syllabus.

      Answer this. If Seacole had NOT been half black then would anyone be talking about her today?

      Elevating someone simply because of their race is Orwellian. It’s racist.

    39. douglas clark — on 4th October, 2009 at 12:04 pm  


      Interesting why Florence Nightingale was raised to heroic status too, though.

      I agree that Mary Liddle Seacole is not exactly
      a heroic character. Though I would say she is an extremely interesting character. Whether or not she deserves her place in the history books, only time will tell. She was also half white, by the way, and half Scottish to boot!

      I am a bit ambivelent about her, to be honest, she is not quite the heroine that seems to be taught, but neither is she quite the nonentity that you wish to portray either. But Flo Nightingale wasn’t quite up to the mark either, was she? It was she that rejected Mary Seacoles offers of help and assistance after all, if the letter is to be believed.

      So, to answer you question:

      If Seacole had NOT been half black then would anyone be talking about her today?

      Well, perhaps, but why do we talk so admiringly of Florence Nightingale without a qualm, or a concern or a question mark? I think that is racist. I think it was because she was white.

    40. damon — on 4th October, 2009 at 12:29 pm  

      Reza. It doesn’t do any harm to talk about her though does it? She must have been unusual in Victorian society. Or maybe not that unusual and I just know much about history.
      Teaching about the British Empire and how people from around the world were received and treated under it is something to be taught I would have thought.

      That there were people from Africa and Asia living in Britain in communities like the Chinese in east London, or the Somali sailors who settled in Cardiff, or the Yemenis in South Shields (which at one time numbered over 3,000) …. I think it’s good that this kind of thing be taught.

      And Mary Seacoal fits in there nicely I’d have thought.

    41. douglas clark — on 4th October, 2009 at 12:31 pm  


      I read Mary Seacoles’ autobiography as an unreliable memoir. I had a feeling that not everything was there, although there was enough to make you jolt. Her discussion about the seige of Sebastapol from a civillian viewpoint, was enough to add it to the cannon of interesting books. I don’t know about you, but the idea that war could be a spectator sport was fascinating. Yet she was also willing to walk into that carnage and help. That juxtaposition, between observer and participant, makes Mary Seacole kind of unique. Florence Nightingale didn’t do that sort of stuff. It was MASH in the 1850′s, I think.

      Lent my copy of her book out, else I could probably make a better case….

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