Sunday, 1 November 2009

Lesotho - The Ampleforth Connection

A quick blog about an interesting connection between Lesotho and the UK. Both modern Basotho kings Moshoeshoe II and his son Letsie III were educated at Ampleforth College, the so-called 'Catholic Eton' on the edge of the North York Moors National Park.

Most likely due to intense missionary work, most Basotho Christians are Catholic, including the two modern Kings and it was certainly the first time I'd ever heard of Ampleforth.

I do a lot of work with schools in the UK and it always amazes me how many Catholic schools there are here. Coming from Ireland, it's easy to fall into stereotypes of Britain as a Protestant nation. Not forgetting the influence of Irish migrants to Britain, there seems to be something else going on: an older, aristocratic Catholicism, that has somehow been preserved in the upper echelons of British (particularly English) society. This fascinates me, as does the thought of Lesotho's kings being educated in the wild setting of the Yorkshire moors.

I know this post may not seem to be entirely relevant to learning about Lesotho, but I believe that learning about other countries is in fact learning about your own country/society and, in this case, our closest neighbour, which is Britain. I would say Britain has been in the background of this entire journey so far. Whether it's Hong Kong, Jamaica, Kiribati, Lesotho, Britain's presence is undeniable.

Coming from a small country living in the shadow of Britain, it has been difficult for Ireland to find its place in the world. I guess, as I'm learning about other countries, I'm learning about how other countries interacted with British culture. I'm trying to understand our own reactions to our powerful neighbour, but I'm also finding traces of Ireland everywhere the British have been.

Lesotho is a good example of this. I see a lot of parallels between Lesotho and Ireland and I'm beginning to understand why our two countries have had such a close relationship.
Image credits:
The photograph of Ampleforth College is courtesy of cat-loving grandmother and flickuser Verity Cridland who lives in Yorkshire. Thanks Verity for sharing this image using the Creative Commons License.
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