6 May 2020

Self Construction?

One hundred years ago, on May 6 1920, a little fellow was born called Lawrence Alexander Robertson. When he died, on August 4 1994, he was Lawrence Alexander Durdin-Robertson, 21st Baron Strathloch in the peerage of Ireland, and Priest of Isis.

How did he make that journey?

I believe that it was a voyage of self-construction. I think it was rather like the life of Athelstan Riley, who re-invented himself by acquiring noble status through the purchase of a property on Jersey which carried with it a feudal title Seigneur de la Trinite; who had the arms his father had acquired redesigned and regranted to appear more medieval; who transformed a Cornish Church so that it looked just as if the Reformation had never happened and contained a distinctly attractive Riley Chantry Chapel; and who rebuilt his property in Jersey so that it looked just like a traditional Norman Manor House (the German CO lived there during the Occupation).

But Riley, for all his pretensions, remained an orthodox Anglo-Catholic. What happened to Robertson?

Trinity Dublin; BA and MA; Wells Theological College; Ordained in the C of E in 1948. He married in 1949; held a living in the County Wicklow (Aghold, 1951-1952) and then in Norfolk (East Bilney, 1952-1957). Then his career took off. As his obituary in the Irish Times, surely crafted by sources close to his family, was to put it, "He returned to Ireland ... religious convictions led him to withdraw from the Anglican Communion  in 1970 and, in 1972, to receive the priesthood of Isis and to found in 1976, with his wife and sister [sic] , the Hon. Olivia Durdin-Robertson, the Fellowship of Isis."

He appears to have augmented his surname by deed-poll. Not difficult. But whence the Barony?

The Obituary carries on: "In 1979 he established, by genealogical reearch, his claim to the ancienrt Gaelic title of Baron Strathloch, which was matriculated by the Chief Herald of the Irish Genealogical Office, on May 7th, 1979".

I apologise to his shade if what I now about to surmise is wrong. But here is my hypothesis.

I think he may have secured a grant or exemplification of Arms (anybody with adequate money for the fees can do this). The Grant included Supporters. In English heraldry, supporters indicate noble status. So he interpreted the Grant as acknowledgement that he was a peer of the Kingdom of Ireland.

But in Irish Heraldry, this is not quite so. For example, the head of the Liberator's family used Supporters, as anybody can detect by looking carefully at the silverware displayed in their romantic property at Derrynane in the County Kerry.

To continue the story in the Irish Times: "He devotedf a great part of his life to scholarship, as might be expected of a cousin of the poet Robert Graves [the Ascendancy gentry, not strangely, were much intermarried], and was the author of some 15 books, in the main dealing with goddess worship throughout the world".

He died on August 4 1994. May God have mercy upon the soul of the poor silly old apostate.


PM said...

A prejudice, I am sure, but I was brought up with the view that the Anglo-Irish were all mad. I received that view not only as a cradle Catholic, but from Anglican friends also.

william arthurs said...

Journalist and SSPX convert Moyra Doorly, whose correspondence with Fr Aidan Nichols is compiled into a short book about the letter and spirit of Vatican II, The Council in Question (Gracewing, 2011), once wrote a highly amusing article in the Guardian (25 May 1983) which features the Durdin-Robertson cult of Isis: "Equal Rites: 3000 years after they were overthrown, the goddesses are making a spirited comeback." It's rounded off with a quotation from The White Goddess by Robert Graves "who is incidentally a cousin".

Arthur Bousfield said...

Perhaps Elizabeth Bowen's definition of them explains it all. The Anglo-Irish she said were "the English who went to live in Ireland and were temperamentally modified".

Arthur Bousfield

Grant Milburn said...

Let me guess: he read his cousin's translation of The Golden Ass and said "Yes! The Christians are a degenerate cult and the worship of Isis is the true religion." Then he went to see The Magic Flute and said "Yes! Enlightened Men worship Isis and Osiris. The hymns are so beautiful. O Isis und Osiris, sollte ich zu Grabe gehen, nehmt mich in euren Wohnsitz auf. "

So now we have to pray that he's not in the Wohnsitz of the dei falsi e bugiardi, and say an Ave for Sarastro II.

william arthurs said...

It says here (in Moyra Doorly's article) that his sister had a revelation and "saw a great silver pillar of truth... in the form of a woman" --- and so did he --- so they "decided to dedicate the Fellowship to Isis. Olivia and Lawrence assumed the titles Priestess and Priest Hierophant. Hierophant means guide, and Olivia and Lawrence are therefore able to ordain followers into the priesthood of the Fellowship of Isis."

Sounds legit.

I was curious as to what has since happened to the historic castle in the land of my forefathers. His grandson Alexander lives there, and you can go and stay there. From a few months ago: Woman power is the key to this Carlow castle’s rich history:

Olivia also established her own religion in the old dungeons of the castle. Known initially as the Temple of Isis, but recently changed to Temple of the Goddess to avoid confusion with Islamic State, the religion, founded in 1976, celebrates the divine feminine.

“Olivia and my grandfather Lawrence thought that organised religions were too patriarchal, so founded the religion based on feminine figures, especially around Brigid, Isis and the Virgin Mary,” says Alexander. “At the time some people thought it was witchcraft, but Olivia and Lawrence, who was originally a Church of Ireland vicar, would have been in the company of their parents’ friends, WB Yeats and George Russell, who had a deep interest in mysticism.”