In 1999 I read that Ken Kesey was going to England in search of Merlin. I called my friend, Nancy Hamren, and asked her to talk her friend out of this debacle. I had met Ken on several occasions, and had been on ‘The Bus’ in the Eugene Celebration Parade. At the time I was studying King Arthur and the Holy Grail and chatting on yahoogroups that Dan Brown lurked in.
“There are a lot of people who take this serious, and will not be happy with Ken’s hit or miss tactics. If he wants to find Merlin, look no further, here I am, in his own backyard!”
That was the last time I spoke to Nancy, the first girl I ever kiss, because she was tops in King Kesey’s Court, and everything was set in stone, and, only Ken can withdraw Excalibur. Real hippies did not want leaders, or to collect our magical energy in a big beautiful pile, put it in a bag and hand it over to some clown.
The Cornish folks hated Ken’s act. The Hambley family is from Cornwall and are still mining tin. Above is the Hambley mansion in North Carolina where Viriginia’s great grandfather lived. Melqart is a candidate for Merlin in my book.
In 1966, Nancy and I lived in a SF commune called ‘The Idle Hands’ with the Zorthian sisters. Their father ‘The Last of the Bohemians’ was an artist that was influenced by Thomas Hart Benton. I have been to ‘The Ranch’.
In 1964 Ken Kesey and a bunch of friends, who later became known as the Merry Pranksters, set off in an old school bus, painted in psychedelic colours, to cross America. The bus trips spawned the Acid tests, the Acid tests spawned the Grateful Dead and so the Sixties as we know them were shaped.
Thirty five years later as the 20th Century draws to a close Kesey once again took the bus furthur (although this was a replcement – the original would be 60 years old and is sitting rotting on Keseys farm) on the road. This time the Pranksters set sail for England to view the total eclipse and to search for Merlin who Kesey believed would return before the Millennium.
You’re either on the bus or you’re off the bus
Our first sighting of Kesey and the Pranksters was at the Minack Theatre in Porthcurno, Cornwall the day before the eclipse. We drove for nearly 2 hours from our campsite near Helston to cover the 20 miles or so to Porthcurno. As we got closer the lane narrowed and narrowed and it was hard to see how they could have got Furthur up the hill to the theatre. Once we got past the traffic queue waiting for the beach carpark we climbed the hill and just as we got to the summit we spotted the bus.
A day or two days before they reached the Minack site, the Pranksters visited Stonehenge. Merlin would, wouldn’t he? Kesey, according to some stories, was disappointed by the ancient druid site. Perhaps he could still feel the vibes from the Battle of Beanfield twelve years before when, on Margaret Thatcher’s orders, hundreds of cops had brutally attacked the rainbow travellers assembling there for the summer solstice. Maybe the kingdom had picked up its bags and gone somewhere else after that. Things had changed for Kesey too. The last time he was here, his companions included Jerry Garcia and the Hell’s Angels. Things happened after dark, he intimated, that wouldn’t be going on in broad daylight with cameras and spectators surrounding them.
“Merlin isn’t here,” said Prankster John Swan (not buying into my thesis), “but I know we’ll see him before the eclipse.”
The top of the show saw Kesey read his account of coming to London and hanging out at the Apple Building with the Beatles. He was wearing a fisherman’s smock and held the stage in his hand. A deliberate reader with perfect cadence; an ancient American bard. Then there was their play: Where’s Merlin – a great ramshackling Arthurian affair with Pranksters n japes n mistakes n fun and which culminated in a jalopy jam of Dead tunes.
We hung out outside after the show. Kesey and Babbs came and sat on the back of the bus and shook everyone’s hands and exchanged smiles. No doubt I had my legend filters in but Kesey had a golden hue, something other, and serene, about him. At one point a girl, maybe sixteen and beautiful, made her way through the crowd and beheld Ken, and Ken beheld the girl and they hugged like you’ve never seen. Everyone watched, quiet. Bong!
Keseys eclipse show was universally panned by the critics…but then who cares what “The Cornishman” thinks.
The play started with Mordreds head being placed on the throne before Kesey introduced the characters from the Aurthurian legends such as Authur, Lancealot etc who were played by the Pranksters including Babbs, Mountain Girl and Anonymous. The play rambled on through technical difficulties until Mordreds head came to life. It’s re-incarnation being proceeded by the question “Who would want an Ugly Dead head?”
The play ended with the spirit of Merlin coming to life inside the “Thunder Machine”. This was a psychedelic machine with a hole in the centre in which there was a Grateful Dead like skeleton for which Kesey provided the voice.
The whole cast then broke into song with “Love Potion No.9” which then decended into a huge jam. I was getting really fustrated at the audience at this point because I felt we should be up and dancing but I also needed to piss! A chance came as Kesey struggled to get his theramin to work so I ran to the toilet.
The Hamblys of Cornwall
William Hambly lived in Cornwall, England, in the eighteenth century. Very little is known of him as an individual, but we know about many of his descendants. Most of the descendants still live in Cornwall, but some have moved to other parts of England or to North America. This site is dedicated to recording what is known of these descendants.
John Hambley married Mary Ann Rowe (christened 25 DEC 1836 in St Blazey) in the SEP quarter 1854 (St Austell 5c 200)
(In 1861 John is a Tin Miner aged 28. Mary is aged 24. The family are living in St Blazey Highway)
(In 1871 John was a Tin Miner and the family were living in St Blazey (District 16, Schedule 113)
(In 1881 John is aged 49 and a General Labourer. Mary is 46. The family are living in Biscovey, St Blazey)
(In 1891 John is 59 and a Tin Miner. Mary is 55. The family are living in Biscovey, St Blazey)
(In 1901 John is aged 70 and a Miner living with his son Joseph and family)
Hannibal was a faithful worshiper of Melqart: the Roman historian Livy records the legend that just before setting off on his march to Italy he made a pilgrimage to Gades, the most ancient seat of Phoenician worship in the west. Hannibal strengthened himself spiritually by prayer and sacrifice at the Altar of Melqart. He returned to New Carthage with his mind focused on the god and on the eve of departure to Italy he saw a strange vision which he believed was sent by Melqart.
A youth of divine beauty appeared to Hannibal in the night. The youth told Hannibal he had been sent by supreme deity, Melqart, to guide the son of Hamilcar to Italy. “Follow me,” said the ghostly visitor, “and see that that thou look not behind thee.” Hannibal followed the instructions of the visitor. His curiosity, however, overcame him, and as he turned his head, Hannibal saw a serpent crashing through forest and thicket causing destruction everywhere. It moved as a black tempest with claps of thunder and flashes of lightning gathered behind the serpent. When Hannibal asked the meaning of the vision Melqart replied, “What thou beholdest is the desolation of Italy. Follow thy star and inquire no farther into the dark counsels of heaven.”[