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Damn those popular operas!

More random tidbits from my research today…

The following extract appears in Mayfield and Fountainhall: A Short History (1962), which gives a history of the now defunct Mayfield and Fountainhall Church in Edinburgh. The quotation comes from a 1900 report of the Psalmody Committee to the Deacon’s Court, and suggests that there might have been a problem with some Gilbert & Sullivan creeping in on the organ…

Damn those popular operas


Pan Drops and Bored Church-goers

I came across the following text when researching the history of my current research site. The author is referring to a street in Edinburgh called “Causewayside”, which is literally 2 minutes away from my residence. He is writing about life in the 1950s/60s.

Nice and poetic, no?

“Drifting from the factory of confectioner John Millar and Sons Ltd. was the tantalizing bouquet of boiling sugar, chocolate, fruit flavourings and, above all, mint, for this was the home of the celebrated Pan Drop, one of the most popular sweets ever to have been manufactured in sweet-toothed Scotland and a boon to bored church-goers throughout the land as they slowly sucked their way through many a long, tedious sermon, the air over the pews becoming more heavy with mint than piety.”

James Beyer, “The Land of Sweets”. Scottish Memories (April 2009), p. 34.

Image from

Image from

Scientology Publicity…

This came through my door the other day. The first time I have ever received a Scientology leaflet. I’m touched…

Toward a Typology of ‘Nonreligion’: A Qualitative Analysis of Everyday Narratives of Scottish University Students

It is six weeks until  submit my 25,000 word MSc by Research thesis. Thank goodness I now have a title and an abstract…

Here it is, for your enjoyment:

Toward a Typology of ‘Nonreligion’: A Qualitative Analysis of Everyday Narratives of Scottish University Students

This thesis details the outcomes of a small-scale research project into a relatively new and under-researched field. The aim was qualitatively to map out the different types of nonreligiosity articulated by some nonreligious students at the University of Edinburgh. Beginning by demarcating the concept of ‘nonreligion’ around which the study revolves, the author outlines: first, why such a study is necessary and worthwhile; second, the specific theoretical questions to which the study is directed; and third, the specific relevance of studying nonreligion within Religious Studies. In approaching the subject in this way, this study calls into question the reified dichotomy between religion and nonreligion, expands what the author calls the ‘nonreligious monolith’ and questions ideas of religious universality. The specifics of this study are detailed at length. Particular focus is given to the suitability of a Scottish university student population as a subject-group, and to the methodology employed, which uses electronic questionnaires and in-depth interviews to elicit unscripted narratives from selected participants. The author demonstrates that current typologies based on internally and/or externally selected and defined nonreligious identity labels, tend to be inadequate and inaccurate. Nonreligious students are shown to be highly aware of the subjectivity of their interpretations of key identity terms, and in many cases they maintain multiple identities simultaneously, in a situational and pragmatic fashion. These identities also vary in terms of concreteness and salience, and are informed by a wide variety of relationship- and education-based subjective experiences. A more nuanced approach is then proposed, based on the questionnaire and interview evidence, categorising individuals according to the overarching narrative through which they claim to interact with (non)religion. The thesis concludes by returning to the initial motivating questions – particularly concerning the reified status given to (non)religion  in traditional representations – and calling for future research investment in order to continue fleshing-out the nonreligious field, and for a continued movement away from attempts to explain nonreligion from a perspective of normative religiosity.

A Scientist’s Approach to the New Atheism – Edinburgh, 31 May 2011

This might be of interest to some:

Professor John Lennox, Public Lecture, 31 May 2011 at 4pm in New College, University of Edinburgh. Entitled “A Scientist’s Approach to the New Atheism”. See here for more details: NPBS Flyer (Draft).

I’ll definitely be there with both my academic hat on, and my slapping glove at the ready…

The MacCormick Lectures 2011, Edinburgh Law School (via Religion And Society Edinburgh Network)

Looks like this could be pretty interesting…

A CHRISTIAN EUROPE? Joseph Weiler (NYU Law School   23 May 2011 Is there a Space for a Cross on the Walls of European Integration? Lecture Theatre 175, Old College 17:30 to 19:00 24 May 2011 What in Christian Culture may enrich European Self-­Understanding? Lecture Theatre 175, Old College 17:30 to 19:00 25 May 2011 On the Place of (Christian) Virtues in the European Discourse of Values Lecture Theatre 175, Old College 17:30 to 19:00 26 May … Read More

via Religion And Society Edinburgh Network

New College Postgraduate Conference – 14 April 2011, Edinburgh

Another plug for a paper of mine… and a thoroughly interesting day. We all had to make it through a selection panel to present at this conference, and I am sure we’d appreciate your support. My paper will be a shortened version of an article I am having published next month in the International Journal for the Study of New Religions. Entitled “Consciousness Raising: The Critique, Agenda and Inherent Precariousness of Contemporary Anglophone Atheism”, it shall be a condensed, revised and updated amalgamation of many of the posts I have already made on this site. As with my previous post regarding a presentation, I shall endeavour to make this available here, however I am very busy with interview transcription at the moment, so it might take a while!


The New College Postgraduate Spring conference 2011

This is the latest in a series of one day conferences, which allow students across the diverse disciplines in New College to showcase their work for their peers.

The Spring 2011 event takes place on April 14th, in Martin Hall 10am – 3:45pm, New College, Mound Place, Edinburgh.


10 – 10:35 “T.F. Torrance’s Reading of Athanasius of Alexandria” by Jason Radcliffe

10:35 – 11:10 “Conversion, Millennium, Reformation and John Eliot’s Motives for New England Native Indian Ministry” by Do Hoon Kim


11:20 – 11:55 “Moses and the Burning Bush—No Fire without Smoke? Madness, Meaning and Jean-Luc Marion” by Richard Saville-Smith

11:55 – 12:30 “Necromancy and the Impure Mirror of Being: An Ontology of Textual Reincarnation” by Joshua Broggi

12:30 – 1:15 LUNCH, THE WASH BAR

1:15 – 1:50 “Criticizing and Defending the Reliability of John in the Early Church” by Scotty Manor

1:50 – 2:25 “‘Knowledge by Identity:’ A Critical Examination of the Work of Aurobindo Ghose in Dialogue with Western Structuralism” by Emily Kilburn


2:35 – 3:10 “Richard Baxter, Francis Glisson and the Metaphysics of Inadequate Concepts” by Simon Burton

3:10 – 3:45 “Consciousness Raising: The Critique, Agenda and Inherent Precariousness of Contemporary Anglophone Atheism” by Christopher Cotter

Grace Davie Seminar, March 2011 (via Religion And Society Edinburgh Network)

Definitely worth putting in the diary! One of those names that you just cannot avoid when working in my field…

Grace Davie, University of Exeter, probably needs no introduction. She is a leading sociologist of religion and author of, amongst other works: The Sociology of Religion (2007); Europe, the Exceptional Case. Parameters of Faith in the Modern World (2002); Religion in Modern Europe: A Memory Mutates (2000); Religion in Britain since 1945: Believing without Belonging (1994). Professor Davie will be speaking on the topic of “Understanding Religion i … Read More

via Religion And Society Edinburgh Network

Public Lecture: Combating HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other diseases

Today I received a notice of this public lecture, happening at the School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh.

Combating HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other diseases

You are warmly invited to a public lecture by Dr Liz Grant on Combating HIV / AIDS, Malaria and other diseases. This is part of the ongoing series of events on the Millennium Development Goals. This will take place on Thursday 13 January 2011 at 5.30pm in the Martin Hall, New College. All are welcome.

Only two of the Millennium Development Goals use the language of war. Goal 1 to eradicate poverty and Goal 6 to combat disease. In this lecture Dr Grant will interrogate the use of this language, exploring the ways in which diseases create cycles of economic, social, and emotional poverty. She will also consider the role that faith communities play in tackling both the consequences and causes of these diseases.


Dr Liz Grant is a Senior Lecturer in Global Health and Development, in the University of Edinburgh’s Global Health Academy and leads the international palliative care research strand in the Primary Palliative Care Research programme in the Centre for Population Health Sciences.

She is currently bringing forward new Distance Learning Masters programmes on the Global Burden of Chronic (Non Communicable Diseases)  specifically aimed at supporting health personnel in low income countries engage with the dynamics of the chronic disease burden  while remaining in situ and in their working environments. Her research interests are in international palliative care, health workforce in low income countries, HIV care and rehabilitation, and the interactions between religious beliefs and health systems.

Dr Grant works part time for NHS Lothian coordinating NHS Lothian’s partnership with Zambia, and has carried out a number of consultancies in Sub Saharan Africa in the field of HIV/AIDS, cancer and palliative care.  She sits on the Scottish board of CBM and HIV Scotland.  Previously Dr Grant was the Health Advisor to the Scottish Government’s International Development team.  She worked in Kenya for a number of years as a Community Health Advisor at Chogoria Hospital with responsibility for young people’s sexual health and for palliative care services.  Her PhD studies (at the CSCNWW, New College) were based in Sierra Leone and explored the interconnection between traditional beliefs and Christianity.


More on the series:

In 2000, 189 countries signed the UN Millennium Declaration, a historic commitment to pursue the eradication of poverty, and set eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which required progress in specific areas by 2015.

To help investigate progress towards the goals the Centre for Theology and Public Issues at the University of Edinburgh, the Centre for International Development at Glasgow University and Christian Aid Scotland have organised a series of eight public events in late 2010 and early 2011. This is the fifth event in the series entitled: The Millennium Development Goals: So Near and Yet So Far.

Musings on the Happy Leaf: An Englishman in Edinburgh on all things TEA

Given the strong opinions on this matter, this post may be a little risky. However, following on from my previous post, about tea… I thought it would be great to ask Samuel – the most knowledgeable person that I know, in all matters tea-related – to pen his thoughts on the matter. Being the lovely chap that he is, he happily obliged… and here are his thoughts:

Musings on the Happy Leaf: An Englishman in Edinburgh on all things TEA

Samuel J: Tea Guru

It may be a touch of the “stiff upper lip” or my simple philosophy of being pleased with my lot, but I believe it is difficult to make a bad cup of tea, when one has the correct ingredients. In fact, I enjoy drinking tea from those great urns, mainly because there is a copious amount! True it is not good tea per se, but I can always know there will be an equally average cup to follow soon after!

I thought I would always remember my bad cup of tea. By being very wary of various shops propounding to sell tea I’ve managed to keep it to one in the past few years. Though darn it if I can remember where it was. Perhaps at the airport? They gave me the American thing of tea bag, pot of lukewarm water etc… just as many have described in various articles (see the links in the recent “Christopher Hitchens, Douglas Adams and George Orwell on Cups of Tea“). Usually if you are provided with a pot, bag and UHT milk you can go up and “accidentally” spill all the water, pop the bag in and watch as the assistant puts some really boiling water in. I was surprised a few days ago when I went out for a meal and ordered Tea afterwards. We were each given very hot pots and bags, but all of my colleagues proceeded to pop the bag in to the cup and pour on the water. “Daft”, I said to them, as I deposited my bag in the hot pot and enjoyed a glorious cup! In these places where you are given the tea and expected to take your milk in its UHT pot form, then you must always protest and ask for a jug of milk. My father usually resigns to drinking it black on these occasions, but if you ask specifically for a jug then they often manage to find one.

Pots and bags

I think you should always drink tea from the pot. Well, you know, using a pot… Don’t lift your china high and dribble the spout down your top! I also like using large mugs. Make sure they are emblazoned with interesting pictures or vaguely riveting text, more for the enjoyment of your fellow tea drinkers… Or even your colleagues who choose to sin against the tea club and drink coffee in your presence. I disagree with George Orwell who said that:

“The teapot should be made of china or earthenware. Silver or Britanniaware teapots produce inferior tea and enamel pots are worse”

Samuel disapproves!

Black teas, the only ones you should drink according to Orwell, are very suitable for brewing in a silver pot. In fact I believe that Indian or Ceylon teas should be brewed in a silver teapot, it gives a stronger flavour. Green teas (see ‘namby pamby tea’…) are better brewed in china pots as they were originally intended – the metal will impair the delicate flavours in these examples. It’s true that you get better cups by using loose leaf tea rather than bags, but it is very easy to be very lazy. Personally I hate using baskets or muslin bags for this loose tea, – you’ve bought it to be different to the paper bags, then you re-enclose it in a different receptacle! Pointless! Much better to use a tea strainer as you pour from the pot. I do admit, though, that loose leaf tea is of a higher quality so naturally it will make tastier tea than the usual bags even when constrained by a mesh cage.

Starting off, you should always use freshly boiled water. People often re-boil the kettle or top it up. This isn’t the best as the repeated boiling drives off the dissolved oxygen in the water which is an essential component of delicious tea. Pop three teaspoonfuls, (or three bags, if you must!) in a warmed teapot first and then pour in the boiling water second for a normal pot, if you feel you need it a bit stronger, then one or two more should suffice! I agree with Douglas Adams et al. when he states you should warm the pot on the stove; my grandmother always leaves her teapot on top of the water heater in the kitchen, but regrettably I don’t have a suitable warm surface in my kitchen. Ergo I still have to swish my teapot with water…

Pouring the tea.

Always pour into the milk. Anyone who complains that “I want to see exactly how much milk is needed after I’ve put the tea in my cup” or sim. either hasn’t drunk enough tea or is just a bit loopy. If you drink the same cup of tea every day, then all you have to do is realise how much you put in after the tea and just switch the order. I tend to find that most people like about 8-10mm of milk in the bottom of the cup. This is varied slightly on the diameter and depth of the cup, but generally remains about the same. If someone, like Lawrence, especially enjoys milky tea, then simply putting 12-15mm of milk in is usually suitable! I know this rule of ‘milk in cup then follow it with the tea’ is a slightly outdated (and in fact lower class) rule, but I prefer to follow it. I am led to believe that it stems from the days when people with not much money bought poor quality china which would crack with the high temperature of the scalding hot boiling tea, and so putting the milk in first would stop the cheap china cup cracking under the sudden temperature change.

She look a little loopy...

Those upper classes who could afford it would buy more expensive china which was less susceptible to sudden temperature changes – thus they would happily, and unthinkingly, drink it black. Another element that can mar the flavour on occasion is when stirring the cup. When imbibing with those who choose only to partake of the evil bean, some might unconsciously take a used teaspoon from a coffee mug and stir their tea with it. This is a definite no no. I also find that when others use my teacups for coffee this leaves a horrible hint of the bitter coffee flavour in the cup even after washing. If you don’t have such delicate taste buds then these are less important points.

To get good tea for yourself, the easiest thing is to go to a good tea shoppe… there are two excellent examples in Edinburgh. My favourite is the quaint AnTEAques shop on Clerk street. It sells tea and antiques, as you might expect from the name. They have a choice of a perfect plethora of loose leaf teas from Assam pekoe fannings to chocolate mint tea! And have delicious fruit scones for accompaniment. On the other hand, if you want more space (AnTEAques seats about 10 people and has no facilities) then try Tea Tree Tea on Bread street. They have a much larger operation which includes coffee, sandwiches, cakes and a similar selection of fine leaf teas. For china pots and elbow room, go to Tea Tree Tea and for the choice to purchase the delightful bone china tea service you use, go to AnTEAques!

Or indeed make a date to sample tea a la Samuel!

And after tea? A good, refreshing pint!