I don’t want to sound disrespectful but I was rather dismayed to discover this celebratory inscription on a sandstone outcrop near Captain Cook’s Monument on Easby Moor. It’s very obtrusive, with six inch high capital letters, so overall quite an area.
There seems to be a modern predilection for public memorials to passed loved ones. I know of a whole poem carved in a crag face near Boulby, plaques bolted to rock or screwed into trees are becoming commonplace. There are four memorial benches on Roseberry. How many more can the hill take? Shrines are everywhere too, with bouquets of flowers often still wrapped in their cellophane. At popular beauty spots too there are deposits of little piles of ashes, not scattered to the four winds. Until very recently on Roseberry there were ashes still in the polythene bag supplied by the crematorium. And at this time of the year there seems to be an increasing number of clumps of (non-native) daffodils.
But of course commemoration is not a modern idea. The inscription in the photograph is overlooked by the 19th century monument to Captain James Cook. And of course the four thousand Bronze Age burial mounds that are known to exist on the moors can not be ignored. So perhaps in the past it was always those with power who could make a lasting mark of commemoration.
I just had to climb Easby Moor today to visit the monument to Captain James Cook R.N. Today, because on this day in 1779 Capt. Cook was killed at Owyhee in the Hawaiian Islands. The Wikipedia account of his death makes it sound as though Cook’s arrogance and assumed superiority contributed to what the inscription on his monument of Easby Moor describes as a massacre. One recent TV programme I’ve seen suggested that Cook was suffering from the onset of mental illness. It is easy to look with modern eyes but news of his death, by the time it reached our shores, shocked the nation. James Cook spent his childhood at Airyeholme Farm in Great Ayton and has become deeply engraved in the psyche of the village. He went to school there and his statue as a schoolboy stands overlooking the village green.
I thought I would head for Captain Cook’s Monument on Easby Moor this morning as on this day in 1778 Cook became the first European to visit the Hawaiian Islands naming them the Sandwich Islands, after John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich and the First Lord of the Admiralty.
On the way back I cut across Great Ayton Moor to look at the Iron Age Enclosure. This is a rectilinear ditch and earth bank about 24m across that looks very impressive on Google Earth. It was excavated in the 1950s when the remains of a oval roundhouse, hearth and pottery fragments were discovered, dating to about 100 BC. For the photo I’ve only managed to capture the north western corner of the earthworks which are just about discernible without the summer’s lush growth of bracken. At the time of construction the moor was open grassland. Nearby was an arable field system. The climate was warmer and drier than today.
Appropriately for this day, in the far distance standing proud on Easby Moor is the 51 feet high monument to Capt. James Cook RN.
An evening walk up Captain Cook’s Monument to see the Supermoon. The reflected light has travelled 221,524 miles to earth, the shortest distance since 1948, only to be scattered by the clouds. The inscription on the monument provided some interest.
My turn to take the dog out this morning so out early from a damp and misty Great Ayton, the sea fret of yesterday still persisting. Climbing Roseberry the sun began to appear until a cloudless blue sky at the summit with the Cleveland plain hidden below. This is a view to Capt. Cook’s Monument on Easby Moor.
There’s an old adage that is said in all farming communities, from Scotland, to Wales and to Cumbria:
Where there’s bracken there’s gold;
where there’s gorse there’s silver;
where there’s heather there’s poverty
At first it’s hard to see the reasoning. Bracken is allelopathic, it produces toxins in the soil which prevents other plants from germinating. Hardly gold. But the saying actually refers to the underlying fertility of the soil, heather growing on the poorer acidic soils.
But for four weeks of the year the common heather, or ling, produces a blanket of purple. This is Great Ayton Moor with Capt.Cook’s Monument on the left and the Cleveland Hills in the distance.
I recently read an article which suggests a Masonic connection to the obelisk and with the great man himself. Apparently obelisks symbolize the Egyptian sun god Amon Re and its cap or ‘benben’ is actually a pyramid. Now a pyramid forms the basis of the Freemasonry symbol The Eye of Providence, a symbol which can be seen on the reverse of the Great Seal of the United States or a dollar note. It is also suggested that Robert Campion, the Whitby banker, who had the monument built was a freemason. It goes on: Cook’s first expedition to the Pacific track the Transit of Venus was of interest to freemasonry and in fact there were several freemasons on board. I had better stop there before I end up writing a conspiracy novel.