The beginning and end of a legal career

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Samuel and Jane Grasse Lithuania beach hut (small for blog)

Marriage and a new start in the Baltics. On the beach at Majorenhof, Latvia.

Over the past week I have been reviewing the 250 pages of Special Branch files on Samuel that were revealed through my FOI request. They present an extraordinary record of his desperate 18 year struggle to gain British naturalization, including harrowing details about his life that my grandmother never shared with the family. Thanks to the steely determination of just one man, a Mr J.D. Strathan who was the Procurator Fiscal in Glasgow, utterly determined to drive Samuel out of the country, he spent most of his life in Britain as an ‘alien’.

At last I know why he studied for so many years to become a Glasgow lawyer and ended up instead as a GP: without British citizenship his qualifications were useless, and J.D. Strathan was fully aware of this. His career as a Scottish lawyer was destroyed by this man before it had even begun. Continue reading

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Samuel’s parents and brother

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For the first time in my life I am seeing photos of my grandfather that I didn’t know existed. This is a rare picture of Samuel with his parents and his brother, taken at Fotografija Z. Tezba of Mariampole according to the stamp. This shows that he went back to visit his parents after his studies and confirms the connection with Mariampole, the place listed by Glasgow University as his home town. However, Mariampole (or Marijampole) may still only have been the family’s nearest town rather than where they actually lived and I am keen to find out their exact location.

Samuel looks strangely out of place in this photo, the newly qualified Glasgow lawyer visiting parents from a different culture. I am making an assumption that the other young man is his brother. He seems to be wearing some sort of uniform. I understand that Lithuania gained independence from the Russians in 1918 (only to lose it again in 1940), so I don’t know what uniform it would be. On the other hand, it may be that his brother is also on a visit to see his parents and brother. If only someone had labelled this photo!

Letter to the Editor JC April 23 1926

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letter

From Mr. SAMUEL GRASSE, M.A., BSc., LLB.

To the Editor of THE JEWISH CHRONICLE

SIR,—The Chief Rabbi’s second sermon on the affirmations of Judaism has been quite disappointing, and in many respects even objectionable. Many, as you expressed it in an Editorial note, have been looking to the Chief Rabbi to show “how orthodox Judaism is in no sense Inconsistent with the circumstances and conditions of modern life,” and there are those who have been looking to be shown – as it can be shown – that the fundamentals of Judaism have gained and not lost by the progress which mankind has made in the domain of positive and experimental science. So far, it cannot be said that the expectations of either have been satisfied. Continue reading

Jewish student life in Glasgow

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I have spent today absorbed in the political and social life of Jewish students in Glasgow between 1909 and 1919. The morning began with a simple aim of finding the announcement of Samuel’s death in the Jewish Chronicle (JC), but from there I was led into a world of student societies and political discussion, where I remained utterly captivated for the rest of the day.

Continue reading

Finding the gravestone

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gravestone

My cousin Caroline has managed not only to locate, but also to visit Samuel’s grave based on information from my mother Ethel, combined with a web search. It is almost at the back of the cemetery, and I’m glad to see there are trees around. The grave itself looks very bare though, just as the others around it do. Continue reading

Marijampole

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So this is Marijampole, which according to the Glasgow University archive, was Samuel’s home town. This is what Google Maps says in its summary about the town today:

Marijampolė is an industrial city and the capital of the Marijampolė County in the south of Lithuania, bordering Poland and Russian Kaliningrad oblast, and Lake Vištytis. The population of Marijampolė is 48,700.

My next aim is to find out about the Marijampole of the past.

Glasgow University

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glasgow-school-of-law

Amazingly, simply typing ‘Samuel Grasse’ into Google has immediately led me to a short biography about my grandfather on the Glasgow University website. It seems astonishing that noone in the family knew about this source as it is full of new information.

According to this, the town he came from in Lithuania was Marijampole and his father was Abraham, a shopkeeper. I now know the year he arrived at Glasgow University, how long he studied for, what he studied and when he died.  It turns out that Samuel was the first Lithuanian to study at Glasgow and the first president of the University’s Jewish Society. Discovering all this information at once opens up my investigation in all sorts of directions. What a gift! And it also confirms that he really did study all those different subjects, just as my grandmother always told me.

This is what the Glasgow website says in full: Continue reading