Report From The Planting Moon Gathering - Saturday, 17 May 2003

The Planting Moon Gathering took place at the City College, (East Birmingham Campus), Birmingham, on Saturday, 17 May 2003 - twenty-seven members and guests were present.   

The twenty-seven members and guests in attendance were treated to two excellent presentations and the first showing in England of a superbly filmed 30-minute video as well as having plenty of time to socialise on an informal basis, which is an important part of our half-yearly get together.

Associate Member, Sandy Barnard, from Terre Haute, Indiana, opened the formal part of the day’s proceedings with a well-illustrated presentation on the life of First Sergeant John Ryan, Company M, 7th Cavalry. Sandy’s in-depth knowledge of and passion for his subject was immediately apparent and he introduced several facets of this cavalryman’s long life that were previously unknown to many in the audience. Although Ryan was born in West Newton, Massachusetts, both his parents hailed from Tipperary, Ireland, which was part of the United Kingdom at that time and this gave us a closer affinity with the man who survived both the valley and hilltops fight in June 1876.

Vice-president Derek Batten then introduced the video, entitled Little Big Welshman, that had been filmed by BBC Wales to coincide with the 125th anniversary of the battle. It traces the life of Sergeant William B. James, Company E, 7th Cavalry, the only Welshman to take part in the battle and who may well have been among those killed in Deep Ravine. The final shot of the popular BBC Wales broadcaster Roy Noble proudly placing the distinctive Welsh flag at the base of the Cavalry Memorial, against a backdrop of the setting sun, was a poignant end to this well-produced documentary. An expanded biography of William B James is scheduled to appear in a future issue of the The Crow’s Nest.

Unfortunately, Derek Ware, who was down to make the first presentation of the afternoon session, was unable to be at the meeting due to circumstances beyond his control and this slot was ably filled by Darrell Dorgan, Bismarck, North Dakota, who gave a most interesting and amusing account of “Old Nash,” the three times married laundress of Company L, 7th Cavalry. Her (or rather his) true identity was only revealed after death, which became the talk of Dakota Territory and far beyond. The public humiliation was too much for ‘husband’ Sergeant John Noonan to bear and a month later to the day he shot himself dead in front of a group of fellow troopers.

The final part of the day’s proceedings was taken up with fund-raising activities. Two pairs of Custer and Sitting Bull “dolls” were raffled and, with Darrell Dorgan acting as auctioneer, a fine sweatshirt, generously donated by North Dakota Tourism and a large poster advertising the planned North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame, helped to raise £50 for CAGB funds.

A meeting of the Committee was convened immediately following the Gathering and it was unanimously decided that, as the membership had grown from the original 12 to 158 in just three years, the time had come when the Association should have a written constitution and be organised on a more formal and accountable basis. Full details will be announced later. The office holders for 2003/04 are: President, Francis Taunton; Vice-presidents, Derek Batten and John Croy; Chairman, Lawrence Sherrington; Vice-chairman, Phil Butler; Secretary & Treasurer, Peter Russell; Events Co-ordinator, Mike Christian; Deputy Events Co-ordinator, Ken Doran; Webmaster, Kevin Galvin.  The Co-editors of the newsletter, The Crow’s Nest, are Kevin Galvin (Technical) and Peter Russell (Literary).  

Report From The Deer Rutting Moon Gathering - Saturday, 15 November 2003

The Deer Rutting Moon Gathering took place at the City College, (East Birmingham Campus), Birmingham, on Saturday, 17 November 2004 - twenty-one members and guests were present.

In the absence of Lawrence Sherrington, who was unable to attend due to work commitments, Vice-Chairman Phil Butler took charge of the day’s proceedings and in his inimitable style he got the meeting off to a good start. Having set the mood and tempo for the day, he then handed over to Peter Russell, who introduced a short video entitled ‘Custer and the 7th U.S. Cavalry on Celluloid”. This was first shown on British TV in 1976, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Little Big Horn, as part of the ‘Clapperboard’ series, which was made by Granada Television and specifically aimed at teenaged viewers. Our own Derek Ware, authentically dressed as he believed Custer was on the day of the battle, provided the historical expertise in the show. Unfortunately, at the time of the meeting Derek was indisposed due to illness and consequently was unable to attend.

The main speaker was the well-known Manchester-based, Indian ethnologist, Kingsley Bray, who presented a scholarly paper, Crazy Horse: A Lakota Life, which is also the title of his new book due out in 2005. Kingsley rejects much of what has already been written about this legendary warrior and has gone back to primary sources in researching his book. He firmly believes that the events that took place should be seen against the contemporary experiences of Crazy Horse, how he dealt with them and also how he used them to influence his own actions. In the question and answer session that followed Kingsley more than held his own against the comments and vigorous challenges of more conventional views. We were delighted to enrol him as a member of the CAGB before the end of the day!

In the third and final presentation Neil Gilbert captivated his audience by recounting his journey and experiences when travelling with a Lakota (Brulé) family from Bear Butte to the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, via Deer Medicine Rocks, for the dedication of the Indian Memorial on June 25 last year. Neil’s talk was delivered with his usual empathy and understanding of Plains Indian culture and lavishly illustrated with a fine series of over 70 photographs taken during the trip. Neil is the author of an attractive little volume, The Saffron Walden Scalplock Shirt, published by Westerners Publications Limited, London, 2003.


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