April 23rd is St George’s Day. Sadly for decades it has been un-fashionable to celebrate England’s patron Saint. Our American cousins, Ireland, Scotland and most other countries around the globe celebrate their national identity with pride, in England we don’t. A survey by a government agency revealed that fewer than one in five people mark St George's Day on April 23rd. There have been many excuses given out by government officials and local councils down the years as to why. It has been even been reported that some local shops have been forbidden to fly the national flag from their premises, for fear of upsetting the local residents from diverse cultures.
Meanwhile the flag of St George has developed negative connotations of football hooliganism and the racism of the National Front. In schools in the inner cities and across the country, lessons in the history of our nation have been removed from the curriculum or dumbed down to such an extent that in a survey in 2008, carried out by the Daily Mail newspaper, they found these shocking results:
“In the Survey a quarter of the population thought that Winston Churchill never actually existed.
While a poll recently named him the greatest Briton of all time, the wartime prime minister is seen by many as a mythical figure along with the likes of Florence Nightingale and Sir Walter Raleigh. Churchill, the 'greatest Briton of all time,' is merely a myth to some.
This could well have something to do with the TV insurance adverts inviting viewers to challenge Churchill and featuring a lugubrious talking dog.
According to the survey of 3,000 respondents, many believe the inspirational Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi, Cleopatra and the Duke of Wellington are also characters dreamed up for films and books.
Some think Charles Dickens was himself a character in fiction rather than the creator of David Copperfield, Oliver Twist and Martin Chuzzlewit.
In this damning indictment of the nation's historical knowledge, many of those surveyed said they believe Sherlock Holmes was a real person, along with the pilot Biggles and even the Three Musketeers!
Almost 50 per cent were certain that Eleanor Rigby existed not just in the imagination of John Lennon and Paul McCartney.”
Such damming evidence of a basic knowledge of our history and culture has inspired this recent poem:
DON’T SAY YOU ARE ENGLISH
Goodbye my England, so long old friend
Your days are numbered, being brought to an end.
To be Scottish or Irish or Welsh that’s just fine,
But don’t say you’re English that’s way out of line!
The French and the Germans may call themselves such,
As may the Norwegians, the Swedes and the Dutch.
You can say you are Russian or maybe a Dane,
But don’t say you are English ever again.
At Broadcasting House that word is taboo,
In Brussels they’ve scrapped it, in Parliament too.
Even schools are affected; staff do as they’re told,
They mustn’t teach children about the England of old.
Writers like Shakespeare, Milton or Shaw,
Do pupils not learn about them anymore?
How about Agincourt, Hastings or Mons?
Where England lost hosts of her very brave sons.
We’re not Europeans, how can we be?
Europe is miles away, over the sea!
We’re English from England let’s all be proud.
Stand up and be counted, shout it out loud!
Let’s tell Tony Blair and Brussels too.
We’re proud of our heritage, not just red, white and blue.
Fly the flag of St. George, not the Union Jack!
Let the World know ENGLAND is back!
The tide is turning and dear old blighty is starting to reclaim the day of its Patron Saint in a spirit of inclusiveness and rejuvenation spearheaded by London Mayor’s Boris Johnson. Let’s hope it’s not too late!
In an official statement published on March 22, Johnson said: "St George’s Day has been ignored in London for far too long, but I’m truly pleased to announce some fantastic events to mark this occasion. We have much to be proud of in this great country, England has given so much to the world, politically, socially and artistically."
So on April 23rd wherever you are, raise your glass and recite these famous words from Shakespeare's (he was born and died on 23rd April) famous St. George speech (Henry V - Act III, Scene I):
"I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start.
The game's afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry 'God for Harry, England, and Saint George!”