Per Ardua Ad Astra


Yes, I have climbed to the top of the greasy pole

Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881)

The illustration is © Creativa | View Portfolio via Wikimedia

Wikimedia explains the reference to ‘the greasy pole’ thus:

In the UK, contests to climb a greasy pole were held at numerous fairs including the Crab Fair in Egremont, Cumbria where the contest continues to this day – alongside the annual Gurning World Championships see Gurn. The prize for climbing the 30 foot pole was originally a hat, but from 1852 became a side of mutton – which if there are no winners is cut up and distributed to the poor…The phrase ‘to climb the greasy pole’ means reaching the upper echelons of any hierarchy but usually refers to politics.

The phrase ‘per ardua ad astra‘ (literally ‘through hardships to the stars’) is the motto of the British Royal Air Force, and many other institutions. The Dragon School near Oxford has the similar ‘Arduus Ad Solem‘.  My own free translation is:

It’s a long, hard struggle to the top, baby!


About layanglicana

Author of books on Calcutta, Delhi and Dar es Salaam, I am now blogging as a lay person about the Church of England and the Anglican Communion. I am also blogging about the effects of World War One on the village of St Mary Bourne, Hampshire.
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