Monday, February 20, 2012

Christian TV channel fined £25,000 for healing claims

Christian TV channel Believe TV has been fined £25,000 by OFCOM for

In Ofcom's finding published on 22 August 2011 in Broadcast Bulletin 188
Ofcom  found that a number of programmes and pieces of content broadcast by the Licensee
had the potential for harm, because some viewers with serious illnesses – especially
more vulnerable ones – may not seek, or may abandon existing, conventional
medical treatment on the basis of what they have seen on Believe TV. 
OFCOM decided to act because of the repeated nature of the incidents which included claims to be able to cure cancer.

The original complaints can be found here:

and includes this:

A cancer healing “testimony” was made by a woman who had attended a healing by
Pastor Alex Omokudu at the Victorious Pentecostal Assembly (VPA). She said she
had originally collapsed with “a tumour in her head”. Her relative, standing at her
side, explained that after the woman with the tumour left hospital she went to the
VPA and “purchased” Ribena (allegedly representing the blood of Christ) and “oil”.
Her relative explained that the woman with the tumour stopped taking her medication
for seizures, continued to take Ribena, and that when she went for a scan she was
told “there wasn’t a problem”

The full judgement is here:

It will be interesting to see whether Christian pressure groups view this as an attack on Christianity or welcome it as a protection for the vulnerable.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The problem of the nominal Christian

The nominal Christian is a problem for Evangelical Christians because they like to count them in the census results when looking for evidence that Christianity is still the main religion of Britain, or count them as Christians when looking for evidence of persecution in countries like Egypt and Iraq. Yet, if these same people were to turn up at their church on Sunday they would not be considered Christians at all.

This is an example of the sort of intellectual dishonesty common among fundamentalist Christians. For example, saying they believe th bible is literally true while allegorising the heck out of the books of Daniel and Revelation.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

HD Douglas and Son brass instrument makers of Glasgow

This is the summary of my research into Douglas & Son, brass musical  instrument makers of Glasgow.

My interest in Douglas and Son started when I acquired a cornet with the company name engraved on it several years ago. I had never seen an instrument with a Scottish maker's mark so I had it restored to a playable condition. The bell is engraved Douglas & Son Ltd, 66 Brunswick St, Glasgow. It is a high pitch cornet that has been converted to low pitch at some point. I originally thought it was made in the 1880's but my research into the company name show it is probably post 1908 although the style is earlier. Here are some photographs from before and after the rebuild:

Other Examples
There is a similar cornet in the collection of Edinburgh University marked "Douglas and Son" which they date to "1860 probably c 1872". This company name does not match any of the ones I am able to date, but my hunch is that their instrument is closer to 1907 as the earlier ones reference Hugh or H D Douglas. Mine must be post 1907 as it has Ltd in the company name, but is built in the earlier style.

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow used to have a Douglas cornet listed in their collection, but it is not currently showing up in their online archive.

The story of Douglas and Son
Hugh Dow Douglas was a musical instrument maker who started his business around 1850 at 190 Trongate, Glasgow. His company made or sold a variety of woodwind, brass and bagpipe instruments aimed at the military and growing civilian wind band market. Douglas himself was a brass player and is listed as bugler to the 1st Lanarkshire Rifle Volunteers. The 1st Lanark had a bugle band, but by 1887 it had  become a brass band under Mr Robert Strachan and promoted to the 1st Battalion, replacing the pipe band who were demoted to the 2nd. The 3rd Lanark didn’t have a band. They had a football team instead, which went on to become quite famous. Its probable that Hugh Douglas started in the bugle band and moved into the brass band, possibly even supplying some of the instruments.

Douglas seems to have been something of an entrepreneur and saw the potential for the new brass instruments to supplant woodwind instruments in civilian bands as a money making opportunity. In 1862 he organised and sponsored the first brass band contest in Scotland (known as H D Douglas' Contest) with a series of further competitions in 1864 and 1865. The top prize was £77 -  equivalent to £1600 in today's money.
Credit is due to the late Mr. H. D. Douglas, musical instrument-maker, Glasgow, who was Field Bugler to the 1st L.R.V., for having attempted to do something for the improvement of these bands while they were still brass bands. He organised contests in 1862,1864, and 1865, with the view of "increasing the efficiency of the Volunteer and other bands in Scotland.
(Music for the people: a retrospect of the Glasgow international exhibition, 1888, with an account of the rise of choral societies in Scotland, Robert A. Marr 1889 (reprinted in The British bandsman: the official organ of the National Brass Band Championships, Volume 1, Issue 24 quoted in this article).
However, later in 1862 something appears to have gone wrong and he was in debt with his assets subject to sequestration (notice from the Edinburgh Gazette):

Maybe he was one of the first promoters of brass band contests to find out that there was no real money in it? This not withstanding, his business continued and by 1870  included his son at expanded premises 36-38 and later incorporating no 42 Brunswick Street. Then in 1908 the firm moved to 66 Brunswick Street.

Business Names and locations:
1850 - 1870 Hugh Douglas, 190 Trongate
1870 - 1907 Hugh D Douglas & Son, 36-42 Brunswick Street
1907 - 1920 Douglas & Son Ltd, 66 Brunswick Street

Entry for H Douglas 190 Trongate, Musical instrument maker in the 1866 Glasgow Post Office Directory:

Entry for Hugh Douglas in the 1866-1867 Post Office Glasgow Directory - note his home address is listed as 25 Main Street, Gorbals:

His display advertisement fromn the 1870 Glasgow post office directory:

His display advertisement from the 1875 Glasgow post office directory:

Display advertisement from the 1893 Glasgow Post Office Directory (Hugh D had died in 1887 and the business was now run by his son):

Display advertisement from the 1900 Glasgow Post Office Directory:

Douglas & Son Limited
The company Douglas & Son Ltd (company number 6545) Was formed in 1907 (source - National Archives of Scotland).

66 Brunswick Street
Brunswick Street in 1913, photographed by the Springburn photographer William Graham. No 66 is on the right hand side at the end of the row:

 A shop sign carrying a representation of a bugle and other musical instruments is just visible in the distance:

By the onset of the first world war the company was mainly producing bagpipes and seems to have stopped trading totally around 1920.

Its not clear if Douglas & Son made brass instruments themselves or just marketed other peoples. His premises were rather small and although that does not preclude manufacturing of small instruments, manufacturing the full range of larger instruments he sold would have been difficult. At the time of Hugh D Douglas' death in 1887 he was selling instruments made by Thibouville Lamy of France (according to his will which lists a debt to that company), but he also owed a debt to an electro plating company in Glasgow so he must have been repairing or manufacturing something.

The cornet I have is very similar to French models of the late 1800's and Douglas were agents for Millereau of Paris (who also manufactured the Arban brand cornets). Its possible my cornet was made for Douglas and sold with his name on it. Against this theory is the fact that many Millereau instruments exist with the Douglas name engraved on them as supplier. I have only seen cornets and trombones made by Douglas which may indicate that he only made these smaller instruments.

Genealogy of Hugh Dow Douglas
I undertook this work to try and determine who the son was in Douglas and Son.

Hugh died in 1877 and many of his children died in infancy. He had two surviving sons:

  • John Gray Douglas, 03 Jan 1867, Glasgow
  • Hugh Dow Douglas, 24 May 1869, Glasgow

Both were too young to have inherited the business on their father's death, but his daughter was 24 and may have continued the business until they were old enough. John Gray Douglas is listed in the 1881 census as a "music seller" so it seems that he is likely to be the "& Son".

Hugh Dow Douglas 04 Jul 1833, Perth - parish register entry

Hugh Douglas (occupation also given as a musical instrument maker on Hugh D's death certificate of 1887)
Margaret Walker

Christina Gray, 17 Jul 1857, Edinburgh,

1866 post office directory - 25 Main Street, Gorbals

1871 census - 37 North Albion Street
With his wife Christina, son John (aged 11) and Christina Milne (a saleswoman)
Occupation - assistant instrument maker employing one boy

1881 census - 106 Sauchiehall Street
With Christina and son John G
Occupation - music seller

04 April 1887, Glasgow (106 Sauchiehall Street), from liver disease - death register entry

According to his will lodged in the Glasgow Sheriff Court Hugh D Douglas died with debts including:

  • £4 to Thomas Smith and Son Electroplaters
  • £86 to J Wallis and Son, London (suppliers of woodwind instruments)
  • £35 to Thibouville Lamy & Co, London (manufacturers of brass instruments)
  • £3 to Riviere and Hawkes of London (later an instrument maker, but at this stage making instrument reeds and publishing music for military bands)

His main asset on death was his shop stock, worth £689. His cash in hand was insufficient to pay for the funeral. The business was inherited by his wife along with the rest of his estate.

Christina Douglas, 25 Jul 1859, Glasgow (died in infancy)
Margaret Douglas, 13 Jun 1860, Glasgow (died in childhood)

Christina Gray Douglas, 24 Nov 1861, Glasgow (died in infancy)
Christina Douglas, 07 Nov 1863, Glasgow

Hugh Dow Douglas, b 18 Aug 1865, Glasgow (died in infancy)
John Gray Douglas, 03 Jan 1867, Glasgow
Hugh Dow Douglas, 24 May 1869, Glasgow
Margaret Walker Douglas, 30 Jul 1870, Glasgow

Other information
Here is a clip of me playing my Douglas and Son Ltd cornet:

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The real reason I could never be a Christian

When all is said and done and everything has been reasoned out, it all comes down to practicality. I just can't find it in my heart to hate other people enough to be a proper Christian.

Sure, I could be a woolly liberal, go to church and enjoy the music, but to be a true Christian requires a level of dislike for others that I would struggle to maintain. Anyone seeking evidence for this just has to look at how the online Christian community interacts with the unconvinced majority.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Excel Soprano Cornet Review

I recently had the chance to try out the Excel Soprano cornet in  Eb. These look very similar to the Chinese instrument sold under the JP brand, but are marketed by Band Supplies, one of the main dealers in brass band instruments with shops in Leeds and Glasgow as well as a mail order business. The one I tried was in silver plate and retails for around £300. The Yamaha student model is £660 so this one is half the price. It looks like copy of the previous (pre Xeno) Yamaha Maestro soprano cornet model.

First Impressions
The instrument feels heavy. Its not a lightweight bell, but the bell has the correct narrow throat of a modern soprano cornet meaning that smaller mutes will be needed than for Bb (Denis Wick and Wallace make suitable ones). The build quality is good. The silver plating looks good and the slides are nice and tight with good seals,  but the screws that hold the trigger linkages together need some Loctite on the threads to strop them coming loose.

I had exactly the same problem  with my old Yamaha Maestro cornet so this is a design that the Chinese should not so slavishly copy. On such short slides I would have preferred rings rather than triggers. In common with a lot of small trumpets and cornets the second valve slide is not removable. The valves are stainless steel which harder than brass and therefore not considered as good as monel for wear, but they are very smooth. The valve springs are quite strong like Yamaha ones. I am used to Schilke, and Besson which are much softer and Bach which is somewhere in between. It may be possible to fit weaker springs if this was a problem. Like all new instruments there was a bit of heavier assembly lubricant in the valves and this took a while to work its way out through normal oiling and swabbing of the valves and valve casings.

There is no fitting for a lyre. This means that if you want to march with it you will have to have one fitted or use a clamp on bell lyre like Schilke players do. Fitting a lyre box to the third valve tuning slide would be difficult because of the trigger mechanism. Putting one on the front bow of the leadpipe would interfere with the standing waves in the air column and is not considered to be a very good idea by instrument designers. This might be why it doesn't have one at all.

The case is made from a denim looking material with back straps and a shoulder strap and space for two mouthpieces, but no mutes. Clearly aimed at the student market rather than the committed brass band player who has music and mutes to carry. The case contains a cleaning cloth, the obligatory white gloves supplied with all Chinese made instruments and a mouthpiece that looks a bit like a Denis Wick 4B.

I can report that the instrument is well in tune with itself and the sound is nice. In common with all small trumpets and cornets I play on I am a bit low on the pitch so the tuning slide has to be all the way in to be at the correct pitch. I am going to have to select a mouthpiece that corrects this. I used a Wick 4B converted to screw rim with a Bach 1.5c rim on it for testing. Its not the right mouthpiece for this so I need to do some experimenting.

The upper register is very open and it doesn't close up on me. The top C is well in tune, D less so but acceptable, E is very flat and would require alternative fingerings - not that soprano parts ever go that high.

Here is a sample recording from my iPad:

This cornet is sold as a student level instrument and it does this and more. I have not been able to directly compare it to other instruments, but I have played a lot of soprano cornets over the years and this is how I think the Excel compares to some other student and professional models.

The Excel is not as responsive as the Schilke and does not have the same presence, but it does sound warmer. Its better than the either model of Besson Sovereign soprano, but thats not difficult as the Sovereigns were remarkably poor instruments. Its a bit better than the old 1980's long type Getzen I had because it speaks more easily. Its better than the old Imperial because it plays in tune with itself. Comparing it to student models its more free blowing than the later Besson student model soprano (although the Besson valves were superior) and better than the East European ones that schools used to buy in. Its about on par with the older Yamaha that it seems to be based on although the build quality is not as good.

I give it 7.5 out of 10, but I am a harsh judge (I would only give the Schilke a 9 because of the pitch problems and I find the sound a bit harsh - there is no perfect soprano cornet yet). The excel is 12% of the price of a Schilke but its about 75% of the way there. Like all musical instruments its a law of diminishing returns when it comes to price. The Excel is, by far, the best student model soprano cornet I have ever played on and is ideal for schools, junior bands or for cornet players who want to dabble on soprano or have a cheaper instrument for marching with.

Young Scots play key role in Scottish independence referendum.

The younger generation of
Scots may be more
 lion rampant than saltire
One thing is clear about the forthcoming referendum on Scottish Independence: young people will play a key role in determining its  outcome. Even if Alex Salmond fails in his plan to include 16 and 17 year olds in the vote it is likely that the under 25's will decide the outcome of the poll. The older generation is very evenly split on the issue and younger people are more easily motivated to engage in political issues than they have been for many years.

This could work for or against the SNP's Yes campaign.  Anecdotal evidence from my younger friends is that they are either more internationalist than nationalist or they misunderstand what is being proposed under the umbrella word "independence".  The former group are less likely to vote Yes in the referendum because they don't see the relevance of international boundaries. The latter group seem to believe that an independent Scotland would be able to prevent immigration from eastern Europe (it couldn't); get rid of the royal family (the SNP have made clear that this is not on the agenda); have a level of autonomy that would allow it to take unilateral military action such as going to war with England if it wished (it couldn't) and have full fiscal autonomy with a currency unaffected by England (it couldn't).

On this latter point I see from today's papers that John Swinney has come out and said that an independent Scotland would stay in the pound. Its not clear if he means the UK pound or a separate Scottish currency called the pound with parity to the UK pound as is the case with the Isle of Man and Gibraltar pounds. He certainly means retaining the Bank of England as lender of last resort. How many of my young friends are going to be happy with that?

One of the problems with the current debate is that the SNP have failed to define exactly what they mean by "independence". They have allowed it to be all things to all people and seem quite happy to "run with the hare and hunt with the hounds" when it suits them. For example, they are clear that its geographical and political nationalism they are promoting rather than ethnic nationalism, but at the same time they are quite happy to lean on images of Scotland's old tribal culture and military victories when it suits them. These things appeal to the younger generation of Scots who may be more lion rampant than the Scottish Government's pantone saltire. If they vote for Independence on the SNP's terms then they may be sorely disappointed with the outcome.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Christian adverts banned for claiming miracle healing

According to the National Secular Society a Christian organisation called  Healing on the Streets - Bath has had its adverts banned because they claim to be able to cure specific diseases:

The ASA ruled that 'A video on the website made claims that HOTS volunteers had successfully prayed for healing for people with cancer, fibromyalgia, back pain, kidney pain, hip pain, cataracts, arthritis and paralysis. We noted the testimonials on the website and in the video but considered that testimonials were insufficient as evidence for claims of healing. We therefore concluded the ads were misleading'.
The ASA also 'noted we had not seen evidence that people had been healed through the prayer of HOTS volunteers, and concluded that the ads could encourage false hope in those suffering from the named conditions and therefore were irresponsible. We acknowledged that HOTS had offered to make amendments to the ads, and to remove the leaflet from their website. However, we considered that their suggested amendments were not sufficient for the ads to comply with the CAP Code.
The full article can be found here:

I have written before about a similar organisation in Scotland that seems to be based around churches with links to the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship. Their motivation seems to be that miracles are a "convincer" for God in what amounts to a sales process. Quite different to conventional protestant evangelicals who rely on a forensic (reasoned legal) argument for the existence of God, these new wave Christians use a sales process based around selling the benefits of belief - whether ultimate salvation or current earthly ones.

Some Christians will no doubt see this as evidence of persecution, but extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence and personal testimony just doesn't cut it. For example, I can remember being in a church where a miracle was announced to have happened - somebody healed of breast cancer - but on enquiring it turned out that the lady had felt a lump, gone to the doctors, the congregation had prayed and the lump was found to be benign. I am willing to bet that the lump was never cancerous. Had it been found to be so and then the congregation had prayed I might be more sympathetic to the idea.