On my reading shelves!

I really love to read but it' »s not always easy with heavy schedule and work, it must have been be the first time I did this but I’ve read a lot this summer when I don’t usually take the needed time to do so or as much as I’d like to anyway. Being a vivid fan of the legend of the angels of Mons, I got to meet Jerred Metz on a day especially organised around this theme in the brand new Mons War Museum  . We had an all-english conversation table and then heard Jerred presented his work.

It was then than I discovered Jerred’s book and avidly read it as soon as I was on my train back home.

We follow the group of soldiers in all their adventures and sad fate. What I particulary liked about it was the relationship between the men, their different characters and the relationship with the superiors during those difficult times. Band Of Brothers, during WWI and only better. From Belgium to France, we are up to the head in the mud with the courageous boys and are confronted not only with BEF retreat but also with the intervention of the surreal and fantastic. Not to spoil but there’s also some glimpse of Conan Doyle in this book which makes it even more enjoyable. It’s important to note that Jerred is American but has perfectly pictured the story right and how I hate when « history » stories are mismatching reality!

Do not search for any in-depth analysis of the case of the Angels of Mons, this is not the point of this work and, I’d say, it would miss his entertaining goal had the author taken that path.  A must read for me!

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Doudou’ time in Mons!

This week end is the week end  the city of Mons waits all year for ! It’s the annual celebration of the ‘Doudou’. This centuries-long tradition, since 2005 a official oral and immaterial UN heritage dates form the Middle Ages and takes place each year during the Trinity week end, one week after the celebration of Pentecost.  This traditional ‘Ducasse » last for several days and has many important times including The Procession of Saint Waudru, the city Saint who founded an abbey at the foot of the castle of Mons and The Battle of the Lumeçon.

Of course, this year the celebrations holds a special place for the city is a European Capital City of Culture so if you go there for the Doudou celebrations, be sure to also visit the art installations that are all over town and the five museums that just reopened several weeks from now. The procession of Saint Walburge will go through town with the traditional ‘Car d’Or’ (Golden Cart) and its cortege including corporations representants and city dignitaries. Last year, as a rememberance of the legend of the Angels of Mons ( telling of how british soldiers were protected by angels during the retreat of 1914) , angels took place in the procession as well and I hope, as a big fan of this legend (As a child, I knew about the legend long before I realized that Mons was in Belgium 😉 ) , they’ll be there this year too. At the end of the procession, the participants and inhabitants gathers behind the golden cart that must go up a hard slope next to the collegiate Church of Saint Waudru. If the ‘Car d’Or’ goes up the slope in a go, pushed by hundreds, if not thousands, of inhabitants the city will have luck for a year.

Saint-Georges-et-dragon (19th century-source : Wikipedia)

On sunday, a battle will oppose Saint George to the Dragon, it’s the ‘Battle of the Lumeçon’ where Saint George has to kill the dragon after a fight first with a lance, then with a gun pistol. The game of Saint George is codified and symbolises the victory of good against evil. The public, mostly young and strong men it must be said 😉 , also helps Saint George by fighting back the dragon tails that goes into the audience. Gripping a hair of its tail is a very looked for good luck charm and many are fighting to get one! It’s a unique tradition and I cannot resist posting this video from the local tv channel :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uwcExoBZmTw

and another one dated 1945 who surely was special for it marked the end of WWII in a city wounded by two wars not mentioning the 18th centuries conflicts.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=muZvoOdqCEM

but this symbolic battle could (can? 😉 ) sometimes be impressive to foreign visitors, ‘The « Courrier de l’Escaut », regional newspaper of 16th of June 1892 tells the story of  a french student was so shocked by the dragon’s tail attacks that he filed up a legal complaint against the ‘Doudou’!

The hymn of the ‘Doudou’ is the famous song « Chant du Doudou’ and its lines « C’est l’Doudou, C’est l’mama » are known by heart and transmitted from one generation to another. Talking about younger generations, to let them have a part in the ceremony without being scared by the crowds,a « Children’s doudou’ is organised the next sunday after the « Doudou’ with a child-scale battle and game. It sure has a great success with the younger ones!

A young girl enjoying the Children's Doudou ( (c) and courtesy A. Morren)
A young girl enjoying the  rehearsal of the battle of the Doudou  in Mons ( (c) and courtesy A. Morren)

Happy Doudou Everybody! (and especially my friends and long lost cousins from Mons)

Opening of 5 new museums in Mons!

5. Yes, no less than 5 museums just opened their doors in Mons thanks to the city being one of cultural capitals of 2015! Those openings  have been merged with Mons2015, European Capital of Culture. In a region where unemployment and social problems were more common news than museums opening, this is a very good news for the former fortified city of the County of Hainault.

Mons, fortified City. Map pre 1700 (source : Wikimedia)

 

The museums will be opened in the context of Mons 2015 and the least we could say is that Mons 2015 already has its positive effects on the city for visitors for both belgian and foreigners tourists are gathering to the « City of the Doudou »* to explore and discover.My favorite of all 5 has to be the Mons Memorial Museum focused on History and life of the city and his citizens throughout centuries and especially during both world wars.

From this week end, you’ll be able to discover the many exhibitions, temporary or permanents in the different museums but also discover the various art installations that are to see all over town.* Talking of the « Doudou » , one of the big novelty of this multi-opening is the « Museum of the Doudou » where you’ll learn all about the legend, customs and events around the most famous dragon of Belgium!  The « Artothèque », the Minieres of Spienne that will gives you an insight of what it was like to work in a coalmine while Sile’x will teach you all about prehistoric life in the region. Dragons, Prehistoric life….and Angels! For most of the British, Mons will ring a bell as being the city where angels appeared during the hard days of the battle of Mons in August 14! fiction based on a novel of Arthur Machen or real fact, a visit to the city can help you think about it 😉

If you like panoramas, you’ll also be able to visit the Belfroy and benefit from a great view on the town.  All of the museums are now opened from this Easter week end and there will be special events all over town so do not hesitate to treat yourself to a last minute city trip. Of course, if you wish to have a guided tour of the city, an insight into its history and a link to your ancestors, this is also very possible and you can contact me to proceed (It’s also possible to link it with a visit around Waterloo Battle) . I’m of course more than willing to help you with your Hainault family history and research trips including visits to the State Archives in Mons can be organised!

The pick up of Mons as one of the  European capitals of Culture of this year didn’t come easy and was much discussed about in the medias an political circles but the city proved the critics wrong and it turned out to be one the best ideas of last decade for the development of the region. More, it gives people inspiration and will to do more and have projects done! The city was already known to host the Saint Symphorien cemetery, final rest place for british and german soldiers of WWI. Last August, as the world remembered, HRH The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, along with HRH Prince Harry paid tribute to the fallen ones in that very same cemetery whose visit is always moving and sad.

Ceremony in Saint Symphorien Cemetery (Mons) last August in presence of many dignitaries including HRH The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and HRH Prince Harry. ( source : zimbio.com)

Those museums, and the city, are definitively worth a visit if you have ancestors coming from Mons and/or if you have ancestors who have been fighting in the battle of Mons in August 1914 you’ll find the Mons Memorial Museum a must. If you have little ones, you can also fit in a visit to Pairi Daiza, the best animal park of Wallonia where you’ll have the opportunity to meet Hao Hao and Xing Hui,  the much-loved pandas from China amongst a vast collection of animals in the beautiful surroundings of the Cambron Abbey! The tower dates from 1774 and the monumental staircase (see below) from 1776. And if you wonder what it has to do with family history, this is the right time to reveal that one of my man’s ancestors was a gardener for the  cysterian monks at the Abbey and I guess he must be very proud of what the park is now !

 

 

More informations :

http://www.mons2015.eu

http://www.monsmemorialmuseum.mons.be/

http://www.pairidaiza.be

 

* A map is downloadable on

http://www.mons.be/culture/events/plan-metamorphose-a3-bat.pdf

 

Commémorations du centenaire de la grande guerre

Le 4 aout prochain marque le début des cérémonies officielles du centenaire de la guerre 14-18 qui vit se déchirer pendant quatre ans les alliés d’un coté et les forçes allemandes de l’autre faisant des centaines de milliers de morts et des millions de civils impactés (veuves,orphelins,réfugiés…) . Le monde ne sera plus jamais le même et verra une vingtaine d’années plus tard ces pays se déchirer a nouveau.

Outre les cérémonies du 4 aout 2014 qui réuniront personnalités et représentants de la société civile pour rendre  hommage aux milliers soldats tombés pendant ce conflit mondial, de nombreuses activités seront organisées un peu partout dans le pays. Un petit passage en revue s’impose donc 😉

A Liège, tout commencera ce week end avec des animations dans les centre de la ville et l’inauguration de deux expos, l’une dans la guerre des Guillemins reprenant une présentation internationale du conflit et l’autre, « Liège  » mettant  plutôt l’accent sur les conséquences de la guerre sur la région liégeoise.

A Mons, un spectacle son et lumière reviendra rappeler la terrible bataille qui eut lieu fin aout 1914 et qui symbolise la réelle entrée en guerre des forces britanniques et ce tous les soirs jusque fin aout sur la grand place de Mons.

Tout au long du mois d’août et dans les mois qui suivront, d’autres cérémonies ou actions visant à entretenir la flamme du souvenir, parmi des dizaines d’initatives parfois plus locales mais non moins interessantes, épinglons le programme d’activité de l’association Sambre Rouge.

A Anvers, se passera un grand week-end les 3,4 et 5 Octobre et à Ploegsteert une reconstitution du match de football qui se déroula le jour de la nuit de Noel 1914.

http://www.be14-18.be

http://www.liege1914.be

http://www.2015histoires.be/mons-un-spectacle-son-et-lumiere-en-ao-t-sur-l-hotel-de-ville-_d_13145.html

http://www.commemorer 14-18.be

Des articles, des infos, des cartes et des videos sur http://www.rtbf.be/14-18

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(photo : « Liège dans la tourmente »-Musée de la vie wallonne,à voir jusqu’au 31 mai 1915 )