Fraser MacDonald

3 June 2024

Send Back the Money

After the 1843 Disruption, when the Free Church of Scotland split from the Church of Scotland, some of its leaders tried to raise money from Presbyterians in the American South. Some of those who gave money were slavers. There was disapproval, but the money spoke louder – some sources say the church accepted £3000, others $3000. The American abolitionist Frederick Douglass came to Edinburgh in 1846 to urge the church to ‘Send Back the Money’. Last year, the Free Church Board of Trustees agreed to set up a committee of inquiry into these donations, led by the principal of the Edinburgh Theological Seminary, Rev. Iver Martin. The expectation was that it would report to this May’s General Assembly. ‘It’s an important issue,’ Donald Forsyth, the chairman of the trustees, said, ‘and we’re not going to dodge it. It needs to be addressed.’ It looks like it has been dodged.

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3 October 2012

Waiting for Malina Crater

When Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory was looking to name the site where the Curiosity rover touched down on Mars in August, ‘Bradbury Landing’ must have been an obvious choice. Ray Bradbury, who died in June, was a regular visitor to JPL. He wrote his first Martian stories in Los Angeles just a few months after the lab was founded in Pasadena in 1943. As a teenager in 1939, he had attended a meeting of the LA Science Fiction Society where he listened to the self-taught rocketeer Jack Parsons, one of the leading lights of the group that would become JPL. A devotee of Alesteir Crowley, Parsons carried out experiments in ceremonial sex magic as well as solid-fuel rocketry. He was killed in 1952 when he dropped a coffee can with mercury fulminate in it, blowing up his house. There’s an impact crater named after him on the dark side of the Moon.

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