Tag Archives: Middle East

The Father of the Dog

A vocation as a veterinary surgeon has its fair share of highs and lows. It is a privilege to be able to assist animals and those who care for them but there are also those occasions when sadly the time comes when it is no longer possible to do more. At this point it is both a blessing and a painful duty sometimes to be able to offer help by means of a final act of kindness.

Here is an account by HV Morton of just such a heart rending situation as he illustrates both the pleasure and the pain which we willingly enjoy and endure when we take an animal into our hearts.

It is from Chapter 8 of “In The Steps of the Master”, first published in 1934. Early in the chapter Morton describes how he came across a dog, a Saluki, lying in the dust in the village of Banias, dying of hunger. Unable to walk, she was covered in flies. Morton writes “… her eyes were lost in a world of unutterable pain… I had never in my life seen an animal in such a ghastly condition”.

Angered and profoundly moved but unable to help her himself Morton instead prevails upon “a nice, gentle Arab in an old suit of khaki” whose job it was to sweep out the shrine at El Kedir, and gives him ten shillings to look after the dog and try to restore her to health. He promises to return then departs to continue his travels with mixed feelings as to whether he has acted for the best.

Sometime later, having thought of the starving Saluki of Banias every day since, to the bewilderment of his driver, he disrupts his intended route and makes a return visit, desperate for news of her:

In the Steps of the Master

… as soon as I appeared the whole village gathered round, but not with the grim, hard expression which terrifies nervous tourists: they were all laughing and smiling, and a cry went up “Abu kelb, Abu kelb!” which means “Father of the dog.”

The Arab is a great hand-shaker. I went round the group shaking hands, telling the driver to ask them how the dog was.

“Come and see, O Abu Kelb!” was the reply.

And a crowd of bare-legged little children went running up between the mud walls announcing the great and spectacular news that “Abu kelb, the father of the dog,” had returned.

I was led to the squalid little hovel behind the mud walls. The crowd was so great that we had to shut the gate, but the children climbed up on the wall to watch. A white mare was tethered in the yard. A douanier, whom I had not seen before, came out of the house, dressed in a pair of khaki breeches and a grey army shirt. He shook me warmly by the hand, explaining in French that he was a lodger in the house, but had unfortunately been out on duty when I had been there before. Now, however, how happy he was to make my acquaintance! How glad he was that I had come back…

All the time the douanier bubbled with affability and I gazed round for the dog, but could not see her. My heart sank. So she was dead! Perhaps it was just as well. But I was too familiar with the habits of the Arabs to ask any questions. All would be known in time.

The douanier, it appeared, was an Armenian from Aleppo. He had a great affection for England. He had learnt English from a priest at a mission school in Aleppo. Ah, if some day he could go to London! He would like that very much… So he rattled on. Then the crowd parted and the man who sweeps out the shrine of El Kedir came up with the Saluki.

I could hardly believe my eyes. She could stand! Her hind legs trembled woefully and her tail, bare and mangy, was still well down. But her eyes had lost the fear of death, although they were still full of pain.

The Arab had made her a little coat from a pair of khaki trousers and he had bound up the wounds on her forelegs with pieces of rag. The Armenian explained that he had bathed her wounds with wine and oil the remedy which the Good Samaritan used on the wounded traveller.

The dog seemed to know in some way that I was the cause of her present well-being and she did something which completely finished me. She walked up to me and just rested her bruised muzzle on my knee. I decided at that moment that, grotesque and blown out with starvation as she was, wounded, mangy and sore, I would somehow take her home with me to England.

I thought how extraordinary it is that a show of interest and a little money can make so much difference to any living thing. The poor creature that a week ago had been stoned and kicked about was now a feature of the village. She was the protege of the rich, mad, Englishman.

I asked the Armenian what would happen if I did not take her away.

“This man,” he replied, pointing to the Arab; “will look after her as long as you pay, but when you stop paying he will turn her loose, because he is too poor to buy food for her.”

I told him of my intention of taking the dog to Jerusalem. He shook his head. The Palestine Customs would not allow her to enter in her present condition. But if I got an order from the Government? I suggested. Yes, it might be done.

So we agreed that they should continue the feeding and the bathing of the dog, and I handed out some more baksheesh.

“That is the name of the dog,” I explained. “I shall call her ‘Baksheesh’ ”

This was a joke that everybody understood!

I went off, promising that I would either call again at Banias or send someone in my name to take “Baksheesh” into Palestine. And as I went off I heard the children shout ing “Abu kelb!”

Weeks later I got a letter which read:

My dear friend, Mr. Morton, I am verry glade I get a great satisfaction by this relation which commenced with a dog. You can be able for its hospitality. I brought a big jar of sea water from Sidon by which I wash it evry day, morning and evening. Now it is better than bifore. I hope that we will not forget ourselves, and I am allways redy to execute your commissions. Excuse me for my mistakes, be cause the last war of Turkey in 1930 wich resulted after two years with all Christchen immegration has destroyed our futur and high life. God be with you till we meet.

JOHN.”

It was from the excellent Customs Officer at Banias. So he was bathing the dog with water from Sidon.

That sounded excellent.

In a few days I was able, through the kindness of the Palestine Government, to get poor “Baksheesh” through the Customs and into the kennels of the S.P.C.A. in Jerusalem, an organization that, although dying for lack of money, is striving hard to make the Arab understand that animals can feel and suffer.

The report was encouraging. I saw myself taking “Baksheesh” for walks in Hyde Park and for long tramps over the Sussex Downs. Then one day I received a letter saying that she was dead. She was too weak to stand treatment.

“Knowing how much you cared,” wrote Mrs. Reynolds, a member of the Society, “I have buried her in my own garden, where you can think of her sleeping among the rock flowers.”

When I was near Banias again I made a detour to thank John for all his kindness. The Arabs and the children crowded round my car with cries of “Abu kelb!” looking and peering into the car for “Baksheesh.” I told them she was dead.

“It is the will of Allah!” they said.

And they looked at me with the respectful sympathy due to any man who tries to defy the inscrutable will of God. Even John, the Good Samaritan, said it was a good thing, and that when I went to Aleppo he would give me two much finer dogs. Even he did not understand that the crucified eyes of poor “Baksheesh” had marked her out from all the other dogs upon this earth.

With best wishes,

Niall Taylor,
Glastonbury, Somerset, England (Originally circulated as HVM Society Snippets – No.217).

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Tut-ankh-amen’s Gold: Into the Land of Egypt

I hope you will forgive me when I say I am feeling a little pleased with myself at the moment. I have just managed to acquire one of the rarest examples of Mortoniana there is!

A large booklet in heavy-weight paper, its silvery front page bears the title ‘EGYPT‘, written in blue letters which are shaped from stylised papyrus bundles. The cover is enclosed between protective transparent sheets of blue plastic and the whole thing bound with spiral wire. It measures approximately 315 mm (12.5 inches) in height by 235 mm (9.5 inches) in width and comprises 31 unnumbered pages. From the style and content, it appears to be aimed at attracting tourists to that ancient land, particularly American, English and French tourists.

The first section is an introductory article by HV Morton entitled Tut-ankh-amen’s Gold: Into the Land of Egypt. This is laid out on four pages, each decorated on one margin with depictions of the art and heiroglyphs of Ancient Egypt in blue. The text is very similar to sections on pages 55 to 57 of Morton’s book “Middle East” (published by Methuen, London, on 5 June 1941).

Unfortunately, just to temper my joy, my newly acquired copy has obviously got a little damp at some point in the past – the metal binding has rusted and, most frustratingly, the pages of Morton’s article have stuck together in places and when pulled apart again some of the text has been lost.

However, nothing is too much trouble for the HVM Society so, looking for all the world like extreme archaeologist, Indiana Jones, (only without his rugged good looks and Hollywood lifestyle), I held the pages up to a strong light source and managed to peer through them, despite their thickness, in order to get an idea what the missing sections originally said. Eventually I was able to make a transcript of the piece for the archives.

The second section comprises ten poems by Ali Asir-El-Din interpersed with several stock photographs depicting Egyptian scenes (the photographs are by: M.C. Salisbury, G.W. Allan, Alban, Photo Kodak Egypt, H.J. Fresco, Royal Egyptian Air Force, and the Egyptian Museum Cairo).

I haven’t been able to find much about the poet, google is unusually tight-lipped about him. And, although I am no judge of poetry, the reason for this may be, at least from the examples published here, that he is no Shakespeare, in truth he may barely even be a McGonagall I’m afraid. Here’s an example:

BY THE NILE

The swiftly running river,
Moonbeams a-quiver
Within the trees

A white form, gowned and slender,
Eyes dark and tender,
And lips that please…

… and so on.

Drawing a (mystic) veil over this dodgy doggerel, the next section is a page of prose by a Claire Cowell (again, nothing seems to be available on the internet to suggest who Ms Cowell may have been), eulogizing the wonders of Ancient Egypt.

After this we have three illustrated maps depicting the course of the river Nile and the principal transport routes from Wady (now spelled Wadi) Halfa north, through Abu Simbel, Assuan, Thebes and Luxor to Cairo and the Nile Delta.

After a single page left blank for notes by the traveller the whole work is rounded off with a page of information for the benefit of the visitor: a list of routes by which to journey to Egypt, as well as exchange rates, hotels, taxis, hints concerning clothing considered suitable for the climate and a list of spots likely to be enjoyed by the tourist.

The booklet was designed and printed by Editions Mayeux, Paris and bound by Reliure Integrale Bree France et Etranger. In the opening article Morton mentions his witnessing of the opening of Tutankhamen’s tomb fourteen years previously so, since he was sending despatches from the tomb-site to the Daily Express in February 1923, presumably the booklet was published around 1937, although no specific date is given on the booklet itself. Morton presented a number of on-board lectures for the Hellenic Travel Club from 1935 to 1939 on cruises to the Middle East and it is possible the booklet is associated with one of the tours.

With best wishes,

Niall Taylor, Glastonbury, Somerset, England, 5 July 2017 (with gratetful thanks to Peter Devenish and O.H.)

(This article was originaly distibuted as HVM Society Snippets – No.215)

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HV Morton the Photographer

Originally distributed as: HVM Literary Note – No.116

My Leica and I 150dpi crop small

It isn’t always widely appreciated that HV Morton was a keen photographer, taking many of the photographs which featured in his books himself. This passion was also shared by his second wife, Mary who took many of the photographs included in his works concerning the Middle East.

I received an email on this subject a while ago, in the heady days immediately after the change of coordinatorship – when my mind was suffering information overload from juggling membership lists, email addresses and ideas for future articles – from HVM Society member and professional photographer, David Jago. Having had this for a while on the back burner, so to speak, I thought now would be a good time to put the information out as a bulletins to members.

I love connections, and on re-reading David’s piece in preparation, I found there was a little bell ringing at the back of my mind. This in turn, after a bit of thought, led me to look even further back, to a much earlier email from then the coordinator, Peter Devenish, following a remark I had made about a cover of one of Morton’s books on the home page of the web-site:

Dear Niall,

I’m sure you know [I didn’t! – NT] that one of your favourite jacket designs, namely that for several editions of  “Middle East”, was taken at Aleppo by HVM. I agree, it is a superb design.

Cover Middle East

Did you know, though [I didn’t! – NT], that HVM’s photo was first published in an article he wrote for Leica News and Technique, No.26, March-April 1937; published by E. Leitz, London. The article was entitled Travel with the Leica.  Interestingly, the illustration on the dust-jacket of the book is the reverse image of the photograph printed in Leica News and Technique.

Aleppo 1

All the very best,

Peter

And this brings me to the later email from David:

Hello Niall,

Just a note concerning HVM. I am an agency photographer and mainly use a Leica camera.  Recently I discovered in a bookshop a second hand publication titled “My Leica and I”. Published in English and printed in Germany in 1937, it contains stories by well known people together with photographs taken by them in a variety of countries. The first article, and there are 18 in total, is by HVM describing how useful he finds his Leica camera on his travels, together with details of the apertures and speeds used.

Prior to finding this book I had rather assumed that he obtained photographs for his books from press agencies but it now seems that this was not always the case.

Best regards,

David

I wrote back, thanking David and congratulating him on his wonderful find. That has got to be every book-lover’s dream, surely – to find a copy of an obscure and sought-after volume by sheer luck, whilst browsing the shelves of the local bookshop (I have a slightly singed copy of “A Stranger in Spain” which has always been special to me for that very reason).

David kindly sent me copies of the cover of this publication (as seen above) – featuring a very arty, bohemian type squinting earnestly through his viewfinder – and of Morton’s article, which it contained. Thus I discovered the title of the article was also Travel with the Leica.

That’s when the little “connections” bell started ringing in my head and I thought first, of Peter’s earlier communication (above) and second, of a previous HVM society bulletin – Literary Note No.22 to be precise – also by Peter, about this same publication where a transcription of the text of Morton’s article, and both the photos by HVM (The Gorge at Delphi and Bedouin Girl), can be found.

So it appears that the article, which, according to Peter, originally appeared in Leica News and Technique, No.26, March-April 1937, was, later that same year, also included in the hardback volume discovered by David in his local bookshop – the full title of which is “My Leica and I – Leica Amateurs show their Pictures”.

I was so intrigued by this little known example of Morton’s works that I have since (more by luck than judgement) managed to acquire a copy for myself. The publication is a well presented hardback, featuring articles by a variety of authors on diverse aspects of how best to use the Leica; including at the theatre, at the zoo, with the family and, amazingly, while skiing, and climbing in the Himalayas. A section at the back is given over to 152 pages of photographs by the authors, including Morton’s two contributions (the townscape from Aleppo is, unfortunately, not included in the work).

The photographs are all wonderful, but of particular note is the one on page 50 which features an aerial view of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostella, North Spain, by Hans von Schiller. When I first looked at it, I thought it was somewhat spoiled by a massive shadow occupying most of its centre until I realised, from the shape, that this view had been taken from the gondola of an airship  – what a piece of history!

Other pictures have been taken all across the globe and feature landscapes as well as candid portraits of people at work, wild animals, people at sport and play; and some beautiful close-up work including studies of insects and snow-flakes – all giving an insight in everyday life in the 1930’s. My personal favourite is this one, entitled “Curiosity“, from the article entitled “The Leica in Family Life“, by Swiss photographer Dr Walter Weber:

Curiosity colour - mod

So, there we have it, another piece of the jigsaw of HV Morton’s life and works, and a side of him which gets little attention, even though photography seems to have been an important part of his life. In fact, according to Literary Note No.22, Morton once confided, in a letter to a friend, that he would have preferred to have been a photographer than a writer. Thankfully for us, he refrained from developing this idea further.

There are many more examples of Morton’s photographic works to be found though, if one looks carefully; and in part two, Stan White gives us a further insight into HV Morton, the Photographer.

With grateful thanks to David Jago of England, and Peter Devenish of Australia.

Best wishes,

Niall Taylor, Glastonbury, Somerset, England
January 2013

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