May – June – July 1793. Thomas spends 2 months in La Havre wanting to leave France. He knows he’s responsible for the loss of his fathers’ money because he’s missed his court appearance in Edinburgh but he’s trying to get back now to face the court. Communication is cut with Britain and his only news is the French newspaper reporting government calls for increasingly restrictive measures against foreigners.
Relationship with Place
I visited Le Havre for a couple of days in April 2011. I have a friend; Elise Parre, who lives in Paris but who works as a tutor at Ecole Superiere D’Art & Design in Le Havre. I’d talked to Elise about the Thomas Muir Help Desk and other projects I’d squeezed this research interest into, and she’d agreed to approach her head of department proposing that I could do a days teaching in exchange for travel expenses (within France) and accommodation. I was part of a group exhibition called ‘L’Art est un sport de combat’ at the Musee des Beaux Art in Calais and as part of this exhibition I would be visiting France.
When I looked on the map I assumed that since both locations were on the north coast of France I would take a local train and make my way cross-country from Calais to Le Havre. I realise now that this was just a naive assumption. The way to reach Le Havre from Calais by train is via Paris. This was information that I only discovered the night before I was due to be in Le Havre. Therefore, rising in what felt like the middle of the night, I caught the 05:30 to Paris. Calais to Paris is three and a half hours by train. In Paris I transferred from Gare du Nord to Gare St Lazare by RER catching the Le Havre train just after rush hour. Two and a half hours later I was in Le Havre.
Much of the city’s present day character is shaped by the architecture of Auguste Perret. It’s a product of post war reconstruction. The port had been systematically destroyed by Allied aerial bombardment in 1944. Arriving from Scotland almost seventy years after the attacks I found the tangible nature of this fact uncomfortable. Tom who was travelling to Le Havre, while the Jacobin party were gaining power and busy denouncing outsiders, must have been scared stiff. Le Havre was called Havre de Grace at the time, six months later it would be called Havre-Marat in solidarity with this martyr of the Revolution. Britain had once again declared war on France and less than twenty years after the British navy had conducted a two-day bombardment on the naval garrison, British subjects must have been despised in the town.