Monday, September 19, 2016


Rihla (The Journey) – was the short title of a 14th Century (1355 CE) book written in Fez by the Islamic legal scholar Ibn Jazayy al-Kalbi of Granada who recorded and then transcribed the dictated travelogue of the Tangerian, Ibn Battuta. The book’s full title was A Gift to Those who Contemplate the Wonders of Cities and the Marvels of Travelling and somehow the title of Ibn Jazayy's book captures the ethos of many of the city and country journeys I have been lucky to take in past years.

This Rihla is about the passage of time.

This is a very appropriate Rihla, given that it is Number 60 in the series and the fact that my 60th birthday is fast approaching.

In late October 1969 with money I had received for my 13th birthday I bought my first ever album in a small record shop in Dublin. The record was Abbey Road, the last recording made by the Beatles as a band at the Abbey Road studios, London and released on 26 September 1969 before they broke up to go their separate ways (an earlier recorded album “Let It Be” from February 1969 was released after Abbey Road). 

The cover of the album was iconic (although at the time I was disappointed that the Beatles name was not featured as I wanted to show it off), the designer stating that as the Beatles were so famous no name was necessary. This type of hubris probably partially accounted for the band’s demise but the picture of George, Paul, Ringo and John striding across the pedestrian crossing at the end of Abbey Road has become famous. It has been a rite of passage for many Beatle fans to take those same steps and I was no different.

Abbey Road itself was the road that originally connected Marylebone and the small village of Kilburn, where a hermitage had been established beside a Holy Well by Goodwyne around 1100 CE. He enlarged the hermitage and gave it over to a Benedictine Convent under the jurisdiction of the Abbot of Westminster as a Cell to that Abbey, and dedicated to John the Baptist. A little later the Abbot Herbert, and Prior Osbert de Clare of Westminster gave the priory to three handmaidens of Maud or Matilda, the Scots-Saxon wife of Henry I of England. Godwyn was appointed their first Master or Custos. The new Abbey was freed from contributing to “making War, or supporting Bridges and Castles.” It never was a rich endowment and as an Abbey always struggled.

The map below shows the small amount of land associated with the abbey much of which was forest. It is remembered in the names of the roads of Kilburn such as Priory Road, Kilburn Priory and Abbey Road.

Map of Kilburn, London showing location of Abbey and extent of
tied Abbey lands at suppression in 1536

As with the Nuns of Kilburn Abbey in 1536 the time of the Beatles of Abbey Road in 1969 came to an end. The last song on the Medley section of the album is deliberately called “The End” as it was the last ever song recorded by all four members together although “Your Majesty” was placed last on the album. The Nuns would have approved of the very last verse!!!!!