Plymouth 400th Anniversary

Well, it’s almost here. 2020 will mark the 400th anniversary of the landing of the Mayflower on Cape Cod. Most of us connect this event with Plymouth, Massachusetts, but the ship first made landfall near what is now Provincetown at the tip of Cape Cod. I’ve visited both Provincetown and the recreation of Plymouth Plantation many times,  am looking forward to the upcoming commemorations and festivities planned by many different parties, including the New England Genealogical Society, the town of Plymouth, the Wampanoag tribal nation, and the countries of England and the Netherlands.


Here’s what’s on the schedule so far over the next year, according to the Boston Globe:


April 17, 2019: Opening Ceremony at the American Ancestors headquarters, Boston, 10 a.m.

American Ancestors and the New England Historic Genealogical Society will host an opening ceremony for the commemoration at its headquarters, 99-101 Newbury St. headquarters. Festivities include the “launch” of a Mayflower replica and the unveiling of the “Wampanoag Legacy Art Installation,” according to a statement.

Also opening that day is the “Origins & Legacy of the Mayflower,” a multi-media exhibit which “considers the back stories of the Mayflower passengers — where they came from in England and what is known about their ancestry,” organizers said.

An open house with programs and other activities will follow from 11 a.m. through 8 p.m.

June 2019/2020: “Heritage Tours” led by the New England Historic Genealogical Society

Two tours, one in June and another the following year, will take participants to the Netherlands and England, respectively, to trace the history of the Mayflower and the Pilgrims, from the town in Holland where some once lived to how passengers boarded the ship. More information is available on the society’s website.

April 24, 2020: Plymouth 400 Commemoration Opening Ceremony, Memorial Hall, Plymouth

Guest speakers, artists, and others will take part in a ceremony and spectacle “honoring the past and celebrating the future,” according to Plymouth 400. “VIP invitations” include national and foreign leaders.



June and September 2020: “A New England Sojourn”

New England Historic Genealogical Society experts will lead two tours (three days each) to “historic sites in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts associated with the Pilgrims, including Plymouth, Provincetown, Boston, Duxbury, and elsewhere,” according to the society’s website. A tour itinerary is forthcoming.

June 27 and 28, 2020: Maritime Salute, Plymouth Harbor/waterfront

A regatta of wooden ships and other vessels will honor the original Mayflower journey, organizers say. Participants can also expect a seaside lobster dinner.



Aug. 1, 2020: “Wampanoag Ancestors Walk,” Plymouth

People from the Wampanoag tribes of Massachusetts will lead participants on a walk while carrying placards of the names of the original 69 villages of the Wampanoag Nation, according to organizers. “Participants will pay homage to Massasoit and King Phillip and stop at designated sites to bless the spots where their ancestors once walked,” Plymouth 400 said. “The walk will conclude with a drum ceremony and reception.”

Sept. 7 through 14, 2020: Mayflower II visits Provincetown

The Mayflower II, a replica of the historic vessel, will arrive in Provincetown for a week of activities on Sept. 7, according to Provincetown 400. “During the visit, Mayflower II, will be part of the daily historical reenactments of the Signing of the Mayflower Compact in Provincetown Harbor in 1620,” organizers say. “These historical reenactments will enable the public to witness the history that happened in Provincetown waters in 1620.” A “Sunrise Toast and Bon Voyage” event is slated for Sept. 14, the day the ship leaves Provincetown for Plymouth.

Sept. 12, 2020: Mayflower II Gala, Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum, Provincetown

A gala commemorating the signing of the Mayflower Compact, complete with food, drinks, and historical reenactments is planned, according to Provincetown 400. Additional information is yet to be announced.

Sept. 14, 2020: State House salute, Massachusetts State House, Boston 

A ceremony honoring the Pilgrims and native people of Massachusetts will be held on Beacon Hill and will feature the rare display of Gov. William Bradford’s journal.

Sept. 19 and 20, 2020: “Embarkation Festival,” Plymouth

The culture and arts festival will “honor the traditions, cuisine, and music of not only the original settlers and Wampanoag people but the diverse immigrants who followed and contributed to the fabric of American life,” Plymouth 400 said. International leaders, students, and celebrities will be invited to join.

Oct. 30 through Nov. 1, 2020: “Indigenous History Conference and Powwow,” Bridgewater State University, Bridgewater

Speakers and experts will discuss and highlight “the longevity and continuity of America’s indigenous people,” including their past and current contributions, organizers said. The conference will conclude with a traditional Powwow.

Nov. 20 through 25: Thanksgiving events, Plymouth 

A weeklong series of celebrations leading up to Thanksgiving will include concerts, a parade, and, among other festivities, a “Once Small Candle” ceremony, which will give the “One Small Candle Award” to someone “who has made a difference in many lives at a young age,” Plymouth 400 said.

Ongoing: “‘Our’ Story: 400 Years of Wampanoag History,” 

The regional traveling exhibit aims to educate others about key pieces of Wampanoag history. According to Plymouth 400, “This exhibition, created by a Wampanoag research and design team, travels regionally. The exhibit expands each year leading up to 2020 with new ‘chapters’ in the history and culture of the ‘people of the dawn.’” For more information, check out the Plymouth 400 website.

See the calendar of events in England.

See what’s planned in the Netherlands.

See festivities planned by the General Society of Mayflower Descendants.

I’m very excited – a childhood visit to Plymouth Plantation ignited my lifelong interest and involvement in history, US and otherwise, and I hope to attend some of these events. I admit to some trepidation over the tremendous crowds that are expected, and hope the organizers have some good crowd and traffic control strategies in the works. None of these sites are very large……..  but I’ll be there.










History News: Stonehenge Quarries


Reproduced from Posting 2/21/2019 by Atlas Obscura


One of the Welsh quarries, Carn Goedog. Credit: University College, London

IN 1923, BRITISH GEOLOGIST HERBERT Henry Thomas published a now-infamous study on Stonehenge, in which he claimed to know the precise location where the prehistoric architects had quarried the stones used in the massive monument. Turns out he was way off.

In a recently released study published in Antiquity, a team of archaeologists and geologists have reported the exact location of two of these quarries in western Wales. Stonehenge is made up of several different types of rocks collectively called “bluestones,” which have long been known to have come from somewhere in the Preseli Hills in Pembrokeshire. However, the researchers (who have been excavating the area for eight years) now believe they know more precisely where this megalith quarrying took place 5,000 years ago, and how it was done.


The radiocarbon dates from charcoal from both quarries show that the stones were extracted around 3000 B.C., which lines up with the first stage of Stonehenge’s construction (when bluestones were erected in the Aubrey Holes) and with previously found dates for when people were buried near the Neolithic monument. Additionally, researchers found tools such as sharp hammer stones and stone wedges that appear to illustrate how the quarrying was performed. In a stroke of early engineering genius, the stone wedges were likely used to maneuver naturally occuring vertical pillars off of the parent rock by creating space between “joints.”

These quarries sit about 180 miles away from Stonehenge, which is much farther than initially reported by Thomas in 1923. Mike Parker Pearson, who studies British prehistory at University College London’s Institute of Archaeology, and led the project, says that this “shows an unusual degree of connectivity and unity between different tribal groups in the west and east of southern Britain, uniting to build Stonehenge despite their geographical distance apart.” Previously, scientists flirted with the idea that the early builders may have transported the bluestones south to Milford Haven and then brought them to Stonehenge’s location by water. But now, since both quarries are located on the hills’ north side, Pearson and his team think that people probably carried them east over land instead. “It is making us think that this was part of a coordinated and unified operation that extended across southern Britain and that Stonehenge’s purpose was to unify the two cultures (east and west) of Neolithic Britain,” he says.

Richard Bevins of the National Museum of Wales is one of the two geologists involved in the study, and his work contributed greatly to pinning down the exact quarry locations. Based on his findings, he says, it’s likely that the “bluestones were first erected to form a henge by a Neolithic population in Pembrokeshire, and then as that population migrated to Salisbury Plain they literally took their henge with them.”

History News: Coventry’s Doom Painting



Doomsday paintings are medieval depictions of Christianity’s Last Judgment, when the dead rise from their graves to gather before Christ enthroned, to find out whether their new eternal homes will be in heaven or hell. The most famous painting is that of Michelangelo, an enormous, extremely detailed rendition that covers the east wall in the Sistine Chapel. But in less important churches across Western Europe, as well as in some cathedrals, less renowned artists produced smaller frescos that were usually located on the arch at the exit point, generally a west wall. Their purpose, of course, was to scare the congregation into avoiding temptations and focusing their behavior on performing works of mercy and kindness. Sometimes such paintings would be placed on the chancel arch near the altar, where worshippers could contemplate it throughout the entire service.

In England, many of these paintings were destroyed or whitewashed over during the Reformation, but quite a few still remain. The one shown above is located at Holy Trinity Church in Coventry, where it was restored in 2004.


Just a little food for thought……..


It’s a Mystery: The Detective’s Daughter, by Lesley Thomson


My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Detective’s Daughter  does not have a straightforward opening, which is off putting to many readers. It reads as a collection of unrelated short stories, and requires some patience until things start to become clearer. These are backstories, and they’re well worth the wait.

On a sunny day in 1981, young mother Kate Rokesmith is found murdered along the banks of the Thames in Hammersmith. Hours later, her little boy, Jonathan, is found huddled at the foot of sculpture he always enjoyed visiting, and police deduce that he probably witnessed to killing, but the trauma leaves him unwilling/unable to answer their questions.  A single witness, a neighbor,  saw the pair head off for their walk, but otherwise there is a frustrating dearth of information. The police suspect the husband, but lack any semblance of evidence, and the case goes cold. This is one of the cases that has  obsessed former DCS Terry Darnell for thirty years, even into retirement. When he dies suddenly of a heart attack, his semi-estranged daughter, Stella, owner of a professional cleaning business, sets about clearing his house, and a box  of papers she was sorting through indicates that he was actively pursuing the case. When she hires  Jack Harmon to serve a cleaner to her new dentist, Stella finds him decidedly quirky, but surprisingly effective and efficient. It isn’t long before he becomes as interested as she is in the unsolved crime. What ensues is a distinctly cerebral mystery that grows harder and harder to put down. Along the way, Stella learns things about her dad as well as herself that she had never before considered or even recognized. More than a simple police procedural, The Detective’s Daughter is a book about relationships, with vivid, realistic characters, eerie surprises, and several genuinely suspenseful moments.

While reading this novel, I did a web search about the setting, finding many evocative photos that helped bring the story to life. Finished the book this afternoon, and now I’m off to start Ghost Girl, the second book in this series, eager to know more about how Stella and Jack develop as characters. Can’t wait!

It’s a Mystery: Weycombe, by G. M. Malliet


My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jillian White is bored. When she and her aristocratic husband married and moved to a posh enclave in the village of Weycombe, she thought her life was perfect. Then she lost her job producing a crime series with the BBC, and with time hanging heavy on her hands, she realizes that, as an American, she doesn’t quite fit in. So when her near neighbor Anna is murdered, Jill decides that investigating this crime on her own will liven things up for her, distracting her from her loneliness and from dwelling on  the failing health of her marriage.

The mystery is recounted in first person by Jill, and it isn’t until about halfway through the book that it becomes clear that she’s an unreliable narrator. Shallow and self-centered, she has difficulty empathizing with others, operating from a false  sense of superiority and keeping everyone at arm’s length.  The story has its interesting segments, broken too often by rambling soliloquies about Jill’s innermost thoughts. Something about the brittleness of  her shell is distinctly off-putting; then again, it seems that the entire population of this village are like that. Given the meandering nature of the bulk of this book, the ending seems rushed and abrupt, but it did contain surprises, and Jill does attain her goals at  last.

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It’s a Mystery: The Girl Before, by J.P. Delaney

The Girl Before

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Recently, it’s become increasingly difficult to find new original novels, what with so many authors seeking to capitalize on the popularity of such bestsellers as Fifty Shades of Gray, Gone Girl, and Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and also the dystopian/YA/vampire market. Some book sources are inventing names for new genres. I don’t know about that, but it’s pretty easy to recognize piggy backing for popularity when you see it. Some of the writers doing that are Ruth Ware and B. A. Paris, both of whom I’ve read and enjoyed, and perhaps if their  books had been published first, they’d be the bestsellers. The same can be said of The Girl Before, by J. P. Delaney, but to give credit where it’s due, Delaney has added some twists of her own.

This book focuses upon two women who rented One Folgate Street, an avant-garde, architectural prize winning house in London going for a ridiculously reasonable rent. Emma is the first tenant, the “girl before”, whose occupancy ended with a fatal fall down the interior stone stairs. Her successor is Jane, who is struggling to find her equilibrium following a stillbirth. It’s a mystery why either of them would even consider moving to a place whose creepy, obsessive owner, architect Edward Monkford, presents them with a manual containing hundreds of  restrictions (just the two about no rugs and no books would have killed the deal for me) and has a computerized, visual monitoring system called “housekeeper” that controls the home’s every system and ensures the tenant’s compliance.  The book’s other mystery concerns Emma’s death; when Jane learns about she becomes determined to discover what happened and why. That task is complicated by the steamy affair she and the kinky Edward are conducting.

Though loaded with time-honored  tropes and other derivatives (that creepy “housekeeper”, an owner reputed to have caused the death of his own wife and child, the fact that both Emma and Jane are ringers for the dead wife), this book has its appeal. The atmosphere is decidedly eerie, and the  house, austere as it is, nevertheless provides some clues, as does Emma’s rejected former boyfriend.  Jane’s behavior is often foolhardy, but if you can accept that, the psychological implications of all that goes on are fascinating, as is the surprise that abruptly pops up at the very end. The characters are strange and Edward in particular is odious, but their story is weirdly compelling.

Modern Lit: Into the Water, by Paula Hawkins

Into the Water
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The sleepy, remote little town of Beckford, England has a decidedly spooky history. The river that runs through it has what’s known as the drowning pool, which over the centuries has the site of a string of drownings, all women. As Into the Water opens, Jules Abbott is summoned following the death of her older sister Nel, to identify the body and to take care of Lena, her teenaged niece. Nel has been researching the  history of all the local women who died in the pool, starting with a young 17th century woman who drowned during the dunking test for witchcraft. There are many in Beckford who resent that work and who vow to keep the book from publication. The police believe, or say they believe, that Nel committed suicide, but Jules isn’t buying it. One of Nel’s supporters is Nicky, the elderly town mystic. Most view her as barmy, but when she tells Jules that most of the victims, recent and historical, have been wronged by the men in their lives, what she says resonates with Jules, who will come to rely more and more upon Nicky’s insights. Nicky may not have paranormal powers, but she’s certainly a good observer.

Into the Water has multiple narrators, and it is difficult to tell which are reliable. The star of the production is the town with its river; the theme is social justice, misogyny, and the misuse of power. Because there are several victims, there a several subplots, the most vivid being not Nel’s death but that of her daughter’s best friend who drowned only the month before. But all of the women’s stories are compelling in their own right;  the development of Jules’s thorny relationship with her niece is well presented, as is the denouement of her thorny relationship with her sister.  And over everything lies the aura of the strange, secretive town, not threatening, just peculiar. And it’s easy to allow oneself to be drawn into Nel’s conundrums. Into the Water is more psychological drama than suspenseful mystery.

Most of the critical reviews I’ve read compare Water with Girl on a Train, all opining that Water lacks the same brilliance. I prefer to judge books on their own merits, and that’s what I’ve done with my own review.