From Egypt to Dorset

CLEOPATRA’S NEEDLE IS a familiar landmark in London. It was originally erected at Heliopolis in Ancient Egypt in about 1450 BC and brought to London in about 1877. Less well-known is another hieroglyph covered obelisk in the gardens of Kingston Lacy near Wimborne in Dorset.

The pink granite obelisk at Kingston Lacy arrived in the grounds of this rich family’s dwelling in about 1827. Like Cleopatra’s Needle, this monument is inscribed with hieroglyphics. Because there is a mixture of Greek words and hieroglyphics, the obelisk, discovered on an island in the River Nile, became important in the early attempts to decipher the Ancient Egyptian writing.

In Banke’s collection of Egyptian artefacts at Kingston Lacy

Kingston Lacy has been owned by successive generations of the Bankes family since the 1660s, when John Bankes (1589-1644) took possession of the estate and built the present grand house. One of his descendants, William John Bankes (1786-1855), who met Lord Byron when they were both studying at Cambridge University, first travelled in Spain and collected a vast number of Spanish paintings, many of which are hanging within Kingston Lacy House. Later, during the early part of the 19th century, William travelled extensively in the Middle East and along The Nile. During his travels, he collected many valuable Ancient Egyptian artefacts, some of which are beautifully displayed in a former billiards room within Kingston Lacy House.

The obelisk was found by Bankes at Philae in Upper Egypt in 1815. According to Wikipedia (, the inscriptions on the object:

“… record a petition by the Egyptian priests at Philae and the favourable response by Ptolemy VIII Euergetes and queens Cleopatra II and Cleopatra III, who reigned together from 144-132 BC and again from 126-116 BC. The priests sought financial aid to help them deal with the large numbers of pilgrims visiting their sanctuary and the king and queens granted the sanctuary a tax exemption.”

Both the Greek and the Egyptian inscriptions deal with the same topic but are not direct translations of each other.


DR BR AMBEDKAR (1891-1956), lawyer and fighter for the rights of dalits (‘untouchables’), was the chief ‘architect’ of the Constitution of India ( adopted for use in late 1949). Highly educated, he had degrees from the Columbia University (USA) and the London School of Economics (LSE). While at the LSE, Ambedkar lived in a house near Primrose Hill, which has been preserved as a museum dedicated to his memory.

While walking along the splendid seaside promenade in Pondicherry, we visited a monument to Ambedkar, the Ambedkar Manimandapam. Opened in March 2008, this memorial complex contains a large statue of Ambedkar, some highly enlarged photos taken during his lifetime, and a small library.

The captions to the pictures are currently in the local language, Tamil, only. One huge painting depicting Ambedkar handing over a copy of the Constitution dated 1952 to various worthies including Jawaharlal Nehru and Maulana Azad had no caption identifying the persons in it. We asked a young lady, a Bengali, if she could name any of the men. She pointed at Motilal Nehru, Sardar Patel, and Rajagopalachari in addition to those we could identify ourselves. Pointing at Rajagopalachari, she said: “He must be some kind of ‘southie’.” He was a Tamil.

And then, pointing at the portraits, she added: “If it had not been for that bunch of morons, India would have become independent much sooner. They should have left it to Netaji.” She was referring to her fellow Bengali, the late Subhas Chandra Bose, whose Indian National Army gave the British an important jolt towards allowing India to leave the British Empire.

Facts and opinions



The title of this brief blog article was inspired by the name of a Russian magazine  Аргументы и факты (‘Arguments and Facts’).

When I was a PhD student back in the 1970s, I did my experimental research in a laboratory.  For a while, the maintenance of this lab was supervised by a technician, ‘H’ by name. H was left-wing in his political views and made no attempt to keep his views to himself.

One day while I was working, H and I started talking about the newspapers we read. In my case, it was simple. I hardly ever read them. H said to me:

“I read two papers every day.”

“Which?” I asked.

“Oh,” he replied, ” I read the Times for the facts and the Morning Star for the opinion.”

For those who do not know, the Times used to be Britain’s most authoritative newspaper and the Morning Star is published by British Communists.

So, for H, the Times provided the facts which he coud use in arguments inspired by the Morning Star.