Bernard’s travels (3): Alexandria

Corniche Avenue

Some places are so beautiful they need no publicity: Venice, Siena, Amsterdam.

Some are so awful even tourist campaigns cannot win over visitors. Some years ago I visited the Faroe Islands. Soon after I returned, there was a publicity campaign, promoting them as ‘Europe’s newest tourist destination.’ I was amazed: I had found them dark, cold, wet, the very opposite of appealing, with a population practicing a narrow-minded Calvinism.

There are places whose appeal has fluctuated. One such is Tipasa, on the Algerian coast. It appealed to the Phoenicians, then the Romans, then after almost two millennia of obscurity, to the French. I visited it in 1963, shortly after the war of independence. It was exhausted, drawing breath for the next round of savagery that followed the brief peace. Now I hear it has the makings (again) of a Mediterranean resort, with a new museum to house the Roman artefacts.

Alexandria is like that. It was home to two of the seven wonders of the ancient world: its lighthouse and its library. The lighthouse went centuries ago, but in recent years the library has been re-born. It has also been home for limited but significant period, to two of English literature’s major figures: EM Forster and Lawrence Durrell.

Forster arrived in Alexandria during the First World War, at the age of 36, working for the Red Cross by attempting to put soldiers involved in the conflict in touch with their relatives. He stayed three years. He had a love affair with Mohammed el Adl, a tram conductor, and wrote a curious book, Alexandria: a History and Guide, not published until 1922, and not always particularly easy to find subsequently. However, its value is still recognised; Tauris Parke published it in paperback in 2014. It includes an invaluable introduction which Lawrence Durrell added in 1982.

Durrell himself arrived penniless in the city in 1941, having narrowly avoided capture by the German army in Greece. He became the British Government’s Information Officer and started work on what was to become his masterpiece, The Alexandria Quartet: Justine, Balthazar, Mountolive, Clea. Durrell’s Alexandria’s population included a heady mix of nationalities, ethnicities, sexual and religious identities, producing a colourful narrative. They are to some extent drawn from real life and the Alexandria of Durrell’s time must have been an exciting place to inhabit.

Durrell’s return to the city in 1977 was a dispiriting experience. Arabic was spoken universally: previously speaking four languages was not uncommon for businessmen. Posters and advertisements were similarly universally in Arabic. Cafes were dull and the harbour, ‘a mere cemetery.’ Once again Alexandria has sunk into oblivion.

My own experience some forty years after Durrell’s return confirmed these impressions. The magnificent corniche road, several miles long, around the sensational bay, is in effect skin deep: a few yards behind, the buildings universally shoddy, with featureless design. The city lacks sparkle. Historical monuments look scruffy. The new library’s splendid modern exterior is not matched, according to a recent informant, by its content. The English section is dominated by books you would find in an airport shop. All is not lost: for those who choose not to visit, Michael Haag has written a marvellous book, Alexandria: City of Memory (Yale University Press 2004) which combines history (including literature), the city’s present state, and many rare and brilliant illustrations. Save the airfare and pop into your local bookshop!

The new family ties

António Branco Cabral as a child on the right with family in Santarem.

If you are happy with your family tree and perfectly comfortable with your ancestry maybe you should not do a DNA test. In my case, not being specially interested, in coats of arms or any of those motives connected to finding nobility and the likes I am happy to find out as much facts as possible and the DNA path is extraordinary. Anyhow I did the DNA test with Myheritage and met with sensational findings.

As I have, on this blog, previously written about my research on the Henriques Pinheiro connection it feels necessary to put things right. My paternal grandfather was António Branco Cabral (Santarem 1893- Lisbon 1983). My genetical grandfather was not a figure unknown to us in the family, but indeed someone that I met and that was present in the life of my father and of my grandmother Rogéria with whom they secretly shared a son. I am convinced that my grandmother would not be unhappy with this turn of events (it now being known) as she had up to her death in 1977 kept a relation to the man who had another family but was the father of her only surviving child.

Who was then António Branco Cabral?

According to the “Grande Enciclopédia Portuguesa e Brasileira, Vol.2”  he completed is studies as a Civilian Engineer at the Instituto Superior Técnico in Lisbon in 1915. He was then called up for the army and served in the first world war from where he was evacuated in 1919 after being subject to gas. After returning he then started to work for the ministry of Public Works and in 1923, he oversaw the Roads department for his native District. He went on to work for the Portuguese Railway (CP) and placed on the Paris Committee for that company. In 1932 he returned from Paris and became General Secretary for the Portuguese Railway Company in which post he remained until his retirement in 1963. During those 32 years he was involved in the development of many enterprises and in the administration boards of several companies including the Uranium mines in Urgeiriça. It is mentioned that he published texts and poetry in different newspapers and magazines under cover of pseudonyms. A renowned personality in the Lisbon society he received several medals such as St Gregory order, of Civil Merit of Spain, and several commendations for orders such as the British Empire.

This finding om Myheritage was only possible because another grandson to António Branco Cabral namely Pedro Cabral Magalhães, also had done his DNA test there. As far as my dealings with Pedro are concerned, I only have positive experiences since this news were also unknown to him and I really feel that I have gained a cousin that three months ago I did not know existed. I am looking forward to meeting him soon.

I have, in other words, no genetical connection with the Pinheiros from the province of Beira Baixa and that is that. It does not mean that there are no emotional or other ties as my father always considered that his father was João Henriques Pinheiro and he spent time as a child mainly in the region of Rosmaninhal.  

 My extensive research on the family Pinheiro/ Rija in the municipality of Idanha a Nova in the district of Castelo Branco is available ad hopefully useful to anyone wanting to access it.

PS: Please feel free to add to this story on the blog.

António Branco Cabral on the right. First World War

Os Caldeira Ribeiro

Regresso hoje ao tema dos Caldeira Ribeiro por uma razão muito simples. Colhi novas informações a partir das pesquisas que vou fazendo através da internet e do tombo.pt. Tambem reli alguns mails do meu falecido pai João Manuel Henriques Pinheiro que relata ainda alguns dados sobre outros familiares Ribeiro dos quais tentarei saber algo mais.

No sábado dia 4 de março de 1880 na igreja de S. Miguel da Sé de Castelo Branco apresenta-se a nubente Amélia Olimpia Adelaide Caldeira para contraír casamento com José Clemente Ribeiro. Este casamento é por procuração já que o nubente não está presente. Segundo os dados dao assento da cerimónia, José Clemente é empregado de comércio no Porto onde reside na freguesia da Sé. Amélia é modista e com já sabíamos tinha nascido em S. Pedro da vila de Trancoso em 22 agosto de 1850. José Clemente é mais novo tendo nascido a 23 de novembro em Enxara do Bispo, Mafra em 1854. Presentes no casamento estão o pai da noiva José Mendes do Couto comerciante de Castelo Branco. O nome Caldeira vem da parte da mãe Maria José natural do Porto.

Começa assim a familia Caldeira Ribeiro cuja descendencia não está completa mas da qual posso referir a seguinte, Vitor Zeferino nasce em Espinho ( BI) em 9 outubro 1881, Emidio nasce em Castelo Branco 1 junho de 1883, Stela 18 junho 1885 em Castelo Branco, Rogéria, minha avó 17 de outubro de 1886 em Espinho, Manuela de quem não tenho datas nem lugares mas da qual tenho memória e Martinho 1898.

Emidio morre em Porto Amélia, Niassa em 1923 talvez vitima de alguma doença tropical. Stella morre em Lisboa em 1959, Martinho em Madrid em 1967 e Rogéria em Lisboa em 1977.

Em relação a José Clemente sabemos que depois da sua vida no comércio terá enveredado por carreira nos caminhos de ferro onde aparece como amanuense em Vila Velha do Ródão em 1885 e terá acabado a sua vida ao pé da estação de Santa Apolónia.

The Umeå years (2)

 

umeå

Umeå was not an inviting town in 1976. I felt lonely… My son has later described my homecomings at weekends as those of a stranger. I spent most of my time sitting in the library studying in order to get my teacher’s degree as fast as possible. It was a time for sacrifice. We did not have much money. The Swedish system with a study grant was important to our economy. In the summer I earned some money on summer jobs in Sundsvall.

There were some positive highlights that I will mention in coming texts concerning my years in Umeå. The first one I would mention was enrolling in the Social-Democratic Student Association. I learned on arrival that every student had to belong to the Student Union (kår). I also learned that students could elect their representatives to the student Parliament.

Umeå was still living the spirit of 1968. They were many discussions and debates concerning most things big and small. The SD students were radical and much on the left of the main party. The British “Militant” section of the Labour party was the inspiration. The ideas for the newspaper” Offensiv”, were based on Trotskij’s socialist defiance of Stalin Communism. When I enrolled I got involved in the matter at hand that had to do on whether or not a number of members of the club should be excluded. A decision was eventually taken and some of the “Offensiv” members were excluded and accused of infiltration. When I arrived most of these exclusions had already been carried through.

Maybe one should remember in what world we were living then with violent Vietnam war just ended after 20 years and quiet cold war dividing people and ideas.

The student club was a place to be welcomed in. The interest for international questions and politics engaged and excited me. I recall many of these colleagues and many interesting meetings we had. I was invited to travel to different towns in the north and Olle Westerlund’s old Volvo took us to places like Storuman in the Lapland interior. We travelled there through snowstorms and reindeer herds.

Here with Christer Holmgren and Christer Söderman in 1977

Usf