14 August 2018

Vienna is the World's Most Liveable City 2018. Sorry Melbourne and Osaka

The Economist Intelligence Unit is a British business providing forecasting and advisory services through research and analysis, including country, industry and management analyses world-wide. Plus, as examined in 2016, it has published an annual Global Liveability Ranking which began in 2004. The Unit ranks cities for their urb­an quality of life, based on assess­ments across five categories — stability, infrastructure, healthcare and culture, education and environment.

With Melbourne winning the world title for the past seven years, it may come as a surprise to Australians that Vienna for the first time topped the EIU’s Global Liveability Index. The 2018 results were as follows: 1. Vienna Austria; 2. Melbourne Australia; 3. Osaka Japan; 4. Calgary Canada; 5. Sydney Australia; 6. Vancouver Canada; 7. Toronto Canada and Tokyo Japan; 9. Copen­hagen Denmark and 10. Adelaide Australia.


The differences between the top 30 cities in this index were small. Vienna and Melbourne have been very very close in the annual survey of 140 urban centres for years, and are still separated by less than a point. Vienna scored 99.1% and Melbourne scored 98.4%. Osaka, which did not make last year's top 10, is now just 0.7% behind Melbourne. Even Singapore and Hongkong, which only came equal 35th, had good scores of 91.3%.

Both Vienna and Melbourne saw an improve­ment in their score this year. Both cities scored maximum points in the health-care, educ­ation and infrastructure categories. But while Melbourne extended its lead in the culture and environment component, that was out­weighed by Vienna’s improved stability ranking. [There was both a downgraded threat of militant attacks in western Europe and an improvement in Vienna’s crime rate]. Osaka's improvements in scores for public transportation, as well as a consistent decline in crime rates, contributed to that city’s imp­roved ratings in the infra­structure and stability categories respectively.

Osaka, Calgary and Sydney completed the top five positions. The EIU believed the survey usually favoured medium-sized cities in wealthy countries, often with relatively low population densities. Much larger and more crowded cities tended to have higher crime rates and more strained infrastructure. London, for instance, ranked 48th.


I expected Australian, Canadian, Japanese and European cities to dominate any measure of liveability. Australia and Can­ada achieved great results, exactly as expect­ed. Melbourne (98.4%), Sydney (97.4%) and Adelaide were joined by Calgary (97.5%), Vancouver (97.3%) and Toronto (97.2%) in the Top Ten. But apart from Vien­na, only one other European city achieved a great rating. This was Copen­hagen in Denmark, in 9th place at 96.8%. Helsinki and Ham­burg, who held Top Ten places last year, dropped out this year.

Green spaces with the city seem important. 50% of Vienna comprises green areas, parklands and gardens that can be reached on foot or by tram. Melbourne has huge public parks and wide, tree-lined boulevards. Vancouver has its harbour setting, with many beautiful parks and gardens. Copenhagen has delightful Botanical and Tivoli Gardens.

At the other end of the table, find Lagos (38.5%) in Nigeria and the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka (38%), then Damascus (30.7%) came last! The index only meas­ured 140 cities, so we can assume that the world’s most dang­erous capitals like Baghdad and Kabul were not included.


I recognise that being a very liveable city does not necessarily make for a city that would be very attractive to tourists. While universal heal­th care and free tram rides for school children may make local citiz­ens happy, travellers may care much more about unique tourist sites, great pubs and exotic night life.

11 August 2018

a Tartan Heritage Centre in Stirling Scotland! history, research and tourist attractions

The Tartan Weaving Mill on The Royal Mile in Edinburgh covers 5 storeys inside, with an exhibition that shows the whole process involved in tartan production: shearing sheep, working looms, making a kilt and being photographed kitted out.

So I already knew that tartan  was not described in Scotland until the C16th. In 1538, James V ordered a tartan hunting out­fit for himself and his men: they wore trews/close-fitting trousers and stockings of a warm stuff of divers colours call­ed tartan. A plaid about their shoulders, which is a mantle of divers colours, of much finer and lighter stuff than their hose, with blue flat caps on their heads.

Thus the belted plaid appears to have become a loose garment made up of 5 metres of double tartan. Highland looms could only weave a maximum width of 75 cms so lengths had to be sewn together down their long edge to make the plaid. Such outfits were practical for riding and led to the aristocratic fashion for tartan trews.

The trews were cut on the bias so that they had elasticity and clingability. The distinctive sett/pattern of the tartan was smaller than seen on the kilt and the hose was carefully crafted to match on the seams which ran up the back of the leg. Having no pockets, a sporran would be worn.

The practicality of the trews became very evident when it came to riding a horse during horrible winters. Kilt wearers could not have ridden half frozen horses very easily and in any case, horses were largely owned by wealthy families. So trews came to be regarded as the domain of the rich gentlemen on horseback, and by Highlanders when travelling in the Lowlands.

For journeying, the kilt was a length of tartan gath­ered at the waist by a belt, pinned on the shoulder by a brooch, and worn kilted on the thighs. This could be adapted, by every level of society, to create an enveloping hood.

During the Jacobite Rebellions, I loved to read how the most effective fighters for Jacobitism were the supporting Scottish clans. This led to a direct association of tartans with the Jacobite cause. Even if they was no longer identified solely with the Highlands, after 1707 they became a reflect­ion of opposition to the Union, for both men and women. Banned after the 1745 up­rising, Highland tartans were soon valued for their powerful historic value.

Portrait of John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore
painted by Joshua Reynolds in 1765

These complex political implications were relevant to art historians. Examine portraits of grand tour­ists, painted in Italy by Pompeo Batoni and his contemp­orar­ies, where portraits of one young man looked more learned and more important than the last. But no-one looked as noble as Scot­t­ish grand tourists! Loaded up with symbolism, these images portr­ay­ed wealthy Scottish lads in full Highland gear.

And when Batoni wasn’t sure what he was doing, he took tips from British artists, such as the visiting Scot, Allan Ramsey. Colonel Gordon, for example, had elected to be painted in uniform with drawn sword, kilt and swathed in a length of Huntly tartan. Note the Colosseum in the background and Roman statuary to the side.

With the Whigs moving towards liberal democracy, these pretend Highland soldiers were now Romantic heroes, their tartan unif­orm newly designed and worn with all the prestigious regalia: tassled sporrans, Glengarry bonnets, dirks, shoulder plaids with brooches. There had long been regional differences in the patterns and colour of tartan. But although some famil­ies could be associated with spec­ific tartans, late C18th Scotsmen felt free to wear any patterns.

For me, a person with no Scottish connection whatsoever, most interesting to see how the kilt had become the Scot­sman’s national dress. Two royal events promoted the C19th obsession with clan tartans. Firstly King George IV travelled to Edin­burgh in 1822 in a kilt. Sir Walter Scott requested that all the clan chiefs turn out in full hereditary tartan reg­al­ia, whether their family had such regalia or not. Retinues of clansmen marched through the capital to greet the king.

Secondly a tartan pageant staged at Taymouth in honour of Queen Victoria in 1847. Clearly their royal patronage enhanced the reputation of the material and boosted demand. High­land dress had become a formal costume associated with ceremony and ritual. Romantic history, with the imprimatur of royalty. And as the Scottish diaspora grew, it became THE mark of Scottish identity, a comfort for displ­ac­ed Scots and a statement of ethnic solidarity, without any overt political message.

Scottish District Tartans
For a list of districts and their tartans, see Scot Clans

Now a Tartan Heritage Centre is being planned as part of a £90 million deal for Stirling. Celebrating the history of tartan, the centre will be set up as part of a £90 million City Deal plan. The Scottish government is providing £50.1 million and the UK government is proving £45+ million for the investment package.

But how much will the Tartan Heritage Centre be just an em­otional moment for tourists, before they move on to eat hearty bangers and mash? Or will it be a seriously curat­ed historical collection that inspires research and public­at­ions.

The vision for a National Tartan Centre is that it will include a self-sustaining gateway that showcases and promotes tartan and its important Highland heritage as well as its iconic status as the defining symbol of a nation.

From traditional Highland Dress to modern fashion, manufacture and design, the past, present and future should combine to create a journey, identifying the origins of a fabric now synonymous Scotland and exploring the versatility of Tartan in its woven and non-woven forms, providing a source of identity to many people across the globe.

The Stirling Centre will be a:
· educational resource
· showcase for Scottish history and contemporary culture
· showcase for the tartan industry
- forum for debate on issues of identity and culture.

07 August 2018

a history of bridge games - in Turkey, Russia, Britain, France and the USA

Let us start with whist. The history of Whist can be traced at least to the early C16th in England (as mentioned in a pub­lish­ed sermon by Bishop Latimer in 1529) and through succeeding centuries under different names. Whist maintained its pop­ularity as a fashionable amusement, but it was not until 1742 that Edmond Hoyles’ famous Short Treatise on Whist appeared.

In 1834 Lord Henry Cavendish-Bentinck (1804-70) invented the first sig­nal where partners defending against a contract could play particular cards to give a coded meaning, to guide each other. After ret­irement in 1857, Cavendish devoted himself to playing world class whist at the Port­land Club in London. In fact the first game of Duplicate Whist was pl­ayed in London that year, under Cav­end­ish’s dir­ec­t­ion.
Two beautifully dressed couples playing bridge

The USA progressed in parallel with Britain in extending Duplicate. A dup­licate whist game was played privately in Chicago in 1880 and in a club in New Orleans in 1882. The first interclub match was played in Philad­elphia in 1883. The first duplicate match in Britain was in Glasgow in 1888.

Duplicate offered the possibility of replacing private games by public contests. Major steps forward followed:
a) foundation of the Americ­an Whist League in 1891;
b) first book on tournament organisation, by John Mit­ch­ell, des­cribed pair-play and the method of match pointing; and
c) Henry Barbey printed Laws of Bridge in New York in 1892.

In London, members of the Port­land Club took on "bridge" very seriously in 1894, encouraged by Lord Brougham who had learned it in India from army off­icers.

But claims of a much earlier existence of the game were made by people who had lived abroad. And from non-English speaking countries. Metin Demirsar reported that as part of a course on Ottoman history and architecture, his guide discussed Brit­ish soldiers play­ing bridge while serving in the Crimean War in 1854-56. Was the name taken from Gal­ata Bridge, spanning the Golden Horn and linking both parts of Is­t­anbul, where they crossed every day to play cards in coffeehouses? The book Modern Bridge by Slam (London 1901) also suggested Bridge was first known in Turkey and had been played in South-Eastern Europe ever since the early 1860s.

In 1869 Christian Vanderheid wrote Extensive Self-teaching for the Learning of Yeralash-Russian Whist, published in Vienna. This booklet, now in the Bridge Collection Amsterdam, named Russia as the country of origin.

Edouard Graziani, an Italian Embassy translator, was one of the best Bridge players of the Cercle d’Orient Club in Const­ant­inople. In Aug 1873 Graziani played bridge at the home of Georges Cor­onio, Bank of Const­antinople manager, along-side his Rumanian financier friends. From Const­antinople, he said, the game travelled to Cairo and thence to the West.

Colonel Studdy said the game was actually of Levantine orig­in; he’d learned bridge in the trenches at Plevna during the Russo­-Turkish War of 1877-8. This dating of the game and the Turkish or Russian origin were strongly supported in a letter from AM Keiley, a member of the Khedival Bridge Club in Cairo. Turkey held Egypt from the early C16th until WWI, when “Khedive” was the official title held by the Turkish viceroy.

The Daily Telegraph discussed a Mr OH van Millingen, who lived in Constant­inople in 1879-80. He remembered Britch, a Russian game that became very popular in all clubs, instead of whist. He noted that bridge had app­eared in the 1860s among Greek, Armenian and Russian communities of traders and diplomatic off­icials in Turkey.  

Ely and Josephine Culbertson
painted by Nikol Schattenstein, 1930
Credit: National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

In conclusion, Thierry Depaulis’ comprehensive Histoire du Bridge agreed that bridge devel­oped in the diplomatic community in Istanbul. Depaulis connected the game to Russia where it was called Sib­erian mix­ture, bel­onging to the wide family of whist-related games. It came to Istanbul about 1860-65 and changed its name to biritch. The game was prob­ably spread by wealthy Greeks who travelled to Russia and Turkey, and helped introd­uce it to Western Europe. But why did the game not appear in Britain earlier than it did? After all, some 14,000 officers and troops were con­cen­trated around Constantinople in 1854.

An important change from whist was the expos­ure of one hand as the dum­my; Dummy Whist originated as a game for 3 players. Anot­h­er innovation was the introduction of the double and redouble. There was no limit to the number of redoubles, and this gambling feature of the new game was soon eliminated by the change to Auction Bridge.

In the 1920s there were different scoring systems in use. In France Contract Bridge was called Plafond i.e. ceil­ing.

Where did the concept of vulnerability come from? Harold Vanderbilt was aboard the Steamship Finland during a 9-day trip from Los Angeles to Havana via the Panama Canal. The Finland reached Balboa in Panama in Oct 1925, too late to ent­er the Can­al. That night a young lady joined their game of Plafond and suggested some exotic but impractical changes bas­ed on a game she’d played in China. At first Vanderbilt could not describe the status of “being subject to higher pen­alties, because of having won a game”. The young lady solved the prob­lem by suggesting the word “vulner­able”. The very next day, while the ship passed through the Canal, Vander­bilt establ­ish­ed the scoring table for bridge. The game had formally become Contract Bridge!

Harold Vanderbilt’s rules embodied the Plafond principles but corrected that game’s major faults. Thus to the best features of Auction and Plafond, he had added some exciting new feat­ur­es eg premiums for slams bid and made, and the element of vulnerability.

In the USA Contract Bridge took off in 1927, thanks to the soc­ial app­roval of Harold Vanderbilt, his new scoring system and Ely Culbertson’s (1891–1955) marketing genius. Culbertson who took the game beyond the elite to the middle classes where Contract Bridge quickly became the favourite card game.

In 1928 the new game was adopted in the major New York clubs. Later that year the first National Championship was held, with the Vanderbilt Cup as the prize. Leadership in the new game went to Ely Culbertson, who founded the first bridge magazine in 1929. Committees representing the USA, Britain and France were appointed and the first issue of The Bridge World magazine promulgated an International Code of Laws. In 1930 Culbertson published the best-selling book Contract Bridge Blue Book, showing how he and his wife were a successful partnership.

The Anglo-American Matches in 1930, 1933 and 1934 were huge. The first recognised World-Wide Championship was in 1937 and it restarted after WW2 in 1950. The World Bridge Federation was founded in 1958, and the first Team Olympiad in 1960.

One of Charles Goren's many bridge books

Charles Goren (1901-91) had begun playing auction bridge while a law student at McGill, and by the early 1930s he had become an expert on the newer contract bridge. He developed point-count bidding, a simplified system of valuating one’s hand in which points are assigned to both high cards and short suits. The elegant Goren System of bidding in Contract Bridge became standard after 1950.

I learned whist and its derivatives (500 and Solo) in the 1950s and joined the elite circles of bridge players in the late 1960s, meeting my then-boyfriend across a bridge table! My standards for a potential husband had been high.  A young man had to be socialist, feminist, anti-war (Vietnam), university educated, surrounded by a loving family and preferably a red-head. But mostly he would have to love bridge.

04 August 2018

Scandal in Bohemian, arty Melbourne - murder of Mollie Dean (1930)

A Scandal in Bohemia by Gideon Haigh (Hamish ­Hamilton, 2018) tells an incredible story.  Mollie Dean (1905-30) was a very attractive Melburnian, a young woman who had great plans for the future. Many men said she was an excep­t­ional person, with great vital­ity and was a good conversation­al­ist. Women (like playwright Betty Roland) said Mollie was sul­try or sullen-looking. Everyone agreed she was slim with dark bobbed hair and simple makeup. And that she was forceful and Bohemian, wanting to energet­ically discuss art, culture and pol­it­ics with the males. Clearly Mollie was a rising star, writ­ing a novel that would be call­ed Monst­ers Not Men.

Mollie’s family was already problem-filled. Her father George, a tough school prin­cipal, died during her childhood. Her mother Ethel Dean was manipul­at­ive, controlling and physically violent. Ethel had just one plan for Mollie: to quickly marry her off, to a specific groom - mechanic Adam Graham (the Deans’ lodger in Elwood in 1921).

Mrs Ethel Dean (left) and Mollie Dean (right)
Truth, 1st February 1931

But Mollie was talented and Adam Graham was not. She was a special education teacher in North Melbourne, and by her early 20s had won lit­er­ary awards at Teachers’ College. So in­stead of going out with the very boring Adam Graham, she social­ised with George Browne, Vice-Principal of the Teachers’ Coll­ege, comp­oser Hubert Clifford and law student Geor­ge Sell.

Mum Ethel apparently did not know about Molly’s dearest lover, Colin Colahan (1897-1987). After all,  Colahan was safely married and was therefore "out of Mollie’s reach".

Mum Ethel upped her violence, stalking­ Mollie with Adam Graham, and confronting Browne, Clifford and Sell to  herher expr displeasure. Once, when Clifford returned Mollie to the front gate, Ethel dragged her daughter in­side by the hair. Mollie later apologised!!

In Nov 1930, late on her 25th birthday, Mollie arrived at St Kilda rail­way station. At midnight she found a public telephone box to contact Colahan at home in Hawthorn to discuss leaving her teaching job in favour of journal­ism. Colahan told her that any hurried dec­ision would be fool­ish! Anyhow... the call caused Mollie to miss the last Brighton tram at 12:11am, so she walked the 2ks home.

Some witnesses saw Mollie sitting outside the St Kilda station and not­ic­ed a be-suited man, walking with a peculiar gait, watching her. Others saw her being followed by the same man as she ent­er­ed her own street. But they did not see her as she was brutally bludg­eoned from behind, dragged into a laneway, killed and mutilated. On the foot­path outside her front gate, the police found a pool of blood, her hat, coat, handbag and book. Dean was rushed to hospital, but died from haemorrhage.

This murder came straight after another shock­ing and unsolved tragedy, the murder of 11-year-old Mena Griffiths in Nov 1930. Her strang­led body was found in a derelict house in Ormond. Then another murder, 16-year-old Hazel Wilson, followed six weeks later. Sinister!

Colin Colahan (left) and Adam Graham (right)
Truth, 1st February 1931

At the coronial inquest (Jan 1931) re Mollie Dean, endless sensations were revealed. Att­ention foc­ussed on Molly’s personal life, her appal­l­ing mother Mrs Ethel Dean, and her mother’s dodgy relat­ion­ship with young Adam Graham. The police noted that Adam Graham had a peculiar walking gait; her blood was found on his suit; and that mum Ethel strongly obj­ec­ted to Mollie’s bohemian, arty friends.

Witness statements coll­ected during the police investigation and placed in the Public Record Office Vic­tor­ia were examined as part of the coroner’s briefing notes. The coroner Mr Grant agreed with the police, and found that Adam Graham had malicious­ly inflicted the injuries.

Graham was ordered to stand trial in the Supreme Court, but for some reason, the Crown Prosecutor said the police and the coroner were wrong. In Mar 1931 the Crown Prosecutor advised that no trial be started. There was to be no justice for lovely young Mollie Dean!

Six years later a completely unconnected man confessed to the killings of  teenagers Mena Grif­fiths and Hazel Wilson, so even Mollie’s old colleagues lost interest in Mollie’s murd­er. Some of her friends left Aus­tralia and others got busy dev­eloping Vict­or­ia’s art colony Montsalvat in semi-rural El­tham. Mollie's case faded.

Truth Newspaper, 30th Nov 1930

Colahan was a loyal follower at the studio of famous tonal artist Max Meldrum, promoted in The Bullet­in by Mervyn Skipper, and by Betty Rol­and and Sue Vanderkelen in their cultural salons. Even one day before her death, Colahan was completing a lovely and fresh nude of Mollie folded into an armchair. The painting, called Sleep, was on Colahan’s easel as she was being murdered.

Lena Skipp­er, who with her husband Mervyn Skipper and others found­ed the famous art colony Montsal­vat in the 1930s, wrote of Mollie in a detailed diary. And play­wright Betty Rol­and featured Mollie in her history of the Mont­salvat circle. Luckily handwritten let­ters from Mollie survive in the State Lib­rary of Victoria.

For decades Australians have read the novel My Brother Jack (1964), George John­ston’s story of inter-war Melbourne. Yet few would have rec­og­nised that the plot aped this true murder story of 25-year-old schoolteacher, novelist and Bohemian Mollie Dean, mistress of artist Colin Colahan. The author George Johnston never met the victim; only 20+ years af­ter the ev­ents did he become close to the sociable Colahan and Johnston’s famous wife, Charmian Clift. The novel was then serial­ised for the ABC in 1965 by the very same Charmian Clift. Finally Colahan’s work appeared in Misty Moderns, a 2008 National Gall­ery of Australia touring exhibition; the cat­alog­ue’s chronology noted her murder VERY brief­ly. 

A Scandal in Bohemia by Gideon Haigh (left)
The Portrait of Molly Dean by Katherine Kovacic (right)  Twitter

 Why did Mollie Dean's life virtually disappear from Melbourne's art-world history? Perhaps Max Meldrum and Colin Colahan belonged to Melbourne’s very cliquish artistic circles and these proved too cliq­uish for poor Mollie Dean. Or perhaps she was just too assertive for a young woman. Fortunately her story is now being re­ass­ess­ed in a new novel (Katherine Kovacic’s Portrait of Molly Dean, 2018).