The Origins of The Ulro Chronicle and Bugle

Bob Forrest

The name “Ulro Chronicle and Bugle” arose out of a series of letters to and from self-styled “Mystical Anarchist” and “Psychic Revolutionary” Tony Roberts, author of Atlantean Traditions in Ancient Britain (1974; 1977) and Sowers of Thunder (1978).  He also published, through his own Zodiac House Publications, Glastonbury – Ancient Avalon, New Jerusalem (1976; 1977), a collection of essays by, amongst others, John Michell, Nigel Pennick, Mary Caine and Donald Cyr.  The opening essay, “Glastonbury – Ancient Avalon” was by Tony himself. 

A little background information is in order at this point.  In the 1970s I had developed a reputation as “the Doubting Thomas of Ley Hunting”, having published various articles in the likes of The Ley Hunter (TLH), Journal of Geomancy, Fortean Times (FT) and Stonehenge Viewpoint (SV), claiming that most if not all ley lines were chance alignments.  I had also done some sceptical analysis of some of the “sacred geometry” supposedly delineated by ancient sites.  Much of this criticism was, of course, directed at the work of John Michell, notably his View over Atlantis (1969; 1972), City of Revelation (1972) and The Old Stones of Land’s End (1974).  Despite this, John and I became good friends, and I remember once being a dinner guest at his house in Powis Gardens, when he cheerfully introduced me to his other guests as the only one of his readers who didn’t believe a word of what he wrote!  Tony Roberts, though, was not so accommodating.  To him, John was a hero, and I was little more than a miserable worm. 

Unfortunately the first letter of the series – a letter from me to him, probably in response to a letter of his published in TLH 74, in which he dubbed ley statisticians as “scientific fifth columnists” and “poetic illiterates” – has not survived the ravages of time.  But Tony’s response to it has.  Dated 21st February 1977 it opens thus:

“Thank you for your letter – it only confirms what I already suspected about your whole blinkered approach to the subject of leys and geomancy.  You appear to function intellectually like a rigid, depersonalized robot; you respond to a limited social programming that tells you ‘proof’ of anything is the only criterion to judge reality by.  Tell that to a Zen Master and he would indeed pity you!  In fact tell that to anyone who has rejected the ludicrous straitjacket of ‘rationality’ and they might well consider you to be a most miniscule human personality indeed!  Your ‘total science’ is your downfall.  It only accepts a framework of ruthlessly ‘empirical evidence’ that fits neatly into a pre-conceived superstructure that only really dates back to those arch-enemies of humanity, Newton and Darwin.”

At least I was in good company, then!  A little later in the same letter he wrote:

“You forget that leys do not (like yourself) exist in lonely isolation.  They are only a small, newly rediscovered part of the geomantic pattern and are surrounded by the richly glowing auras of 20,000 years of occult history and magic.  I am sure you dismiss folktale, myth and magic as ‘unquantifiable imponderables’ or something equally dogmatic and arrogant, but their pedigree of helpful enhancement for the developing human psychic personality is longer and more inspiring than two or three centuries of what Blake called the ‘Hell of Ulro’ i.e. scientific rationalism.”

This was the first mention of Blake’s Ulro.  Naturally I had great fun responding to all this (in a letter dated 26th Feb 1977), though it was probably not the best of ideas to question Tony’s mental equilibrium and to class him with a long list of cranks, nor to sign off my letter with “Yours from the depths of the Hell of Ulro”, for it prompted this in his reply of 9th March 1977:

“Rational Empiricism, what you might call factual evidence, without Poetry and Imagination, is a foully verminous disease.  Its practitioners are human vermin who crawl like bubonic rats across the bleeding surface of the Living Earth.  What does it feel like crawling down in the shit of Ulro, Mr Forrest?  You seem to glory in being there and that also confirms me in my belief (with your own supplied evidence) that you are really an expendable, sub-human zombie.”

Ulro was now firmly on the map, then, and my next letter to him (10th March 1977) was addressed from “Ulro House” (in mimicry, it should be noted, of Tony’s house in Fulham, which was known as “Zodiac House”.) That letter concluded, “Incidentally, I am toying with the idea of starting a magazine, The Ulro Chronicle & Bugle, and, in addition, I signed the letter “Ulroistically yours.”

Tony’s response to this (dated 23rd March 1977) opened with surprising – if short lived – warmth:

“I must say it is a pleasure to cross swords (or should I say psychic daggers) with such a resilient adversary!  You ride the blows of my pen like some metallic pugilist, punch drunk but always lurching back for more; your equanimity is certainly to be commended.  But not, alas, your pathetically ‘rational’ arguments.”

Pleasantries over, it was back to work as usual:

“Dealing with you, Mr Forrest, is even better than watching the antics of Tom and Jerry.  Of course I still would not cross the road (or old straight track) to spit on your grave, but I am sure you understand that.”

It was in this letter, too, that Tony awarded me the title “P.R. man for Ulro”.  He also wrote in a PS: “When you start your ‘ULRO BUGLE’ perhaps I can have a permanent column as ‘angel’s advocate’?  Reversed polarity fifth-column.”

In my next letter (28th March 1977) I told Tony that, “if I ever really do organise The Ulro Chronicle & Bugle in any form, I would be delighted if you would do a reverse polarity column.” Unfortunately, The Ulro Chronicle & Bugle never got beyond the stage of three or four stencilled broadsheets privately circulated amongst a few friends.  The first issue, “Ulro Papers No. 1”, was entitled “Why I do not believe the Great Pyramid to be a very mystical edifice”, and referred to my spoof use of the Great Pyramid to indicate the ‘sacred’ location of Merton Sewage Works in Oxfordshire, which spoof had featured (actually to make quite a serious point) in my article “That Damned Pyramid” in FT 18 in October 1976.  I sent a copy of Ulro Papers No. 1 to Tony, for his “disgust and vilification”, with my letter of 28th March 1977, and indeed it was duly dismissed by him in his letter of 10th May 1977 as “the usual banal waffle based on discredited, orthodox and outdated sources” whose conclusions were “expectedly flippant and superficial.”

Ulro Papers No. 2 was “The Terrestrial Zodiac at Nowhere-in-the-Dale”, and is dated May 1977.  I’m not sure whether Tony ever saw this (he was a firm believer in the Glastonbury Zodiac) or subsequent Ulro Papers, for, following my letter of 19th May 1977, in which I asked if I could quote his comments on Ulro Papers No. 1, he angrily terminated our correspondence in a letter dated 2nd June 1977, saying, “I simply have no time for such inconsequentials as explaining my points in the language of a simpleton, for that I fear is the language you need to help your understanding.” He went on:

“You may quote freely from any of my letters (as long as there is no editing or ‘manipulation’), there is nothing in any of them I do not mean or wish other people to know.  My letters to you were polemics to a traitor, declarations of war, chastisement of a fool and as such have served their purpose well.  If you want an ‘angel’s advocate’ section in your new rag, I suggest you cobble together your favourite insults from my epistles and publish them!”

Hence the present account of the proceedings, albeit 35 years on.  Incidentally, Ulro Papers No. 3 seems to have been “The Lore of Place-Names in and around the County of Herefordshire”; Ulro Papers No. 4, Michael Behrend’s “Winnie the Pooh as an embodiment of the Canon”; and Ulro Papers No. 5, the (projected but never ‘issued’ – till now) contribution by David Randell, “The Bury Earth Zodiac” (for the reading of which readers need to be aware that, at the time of its writing, I lived in the Bury – Edenfield – Ramsbottom area of Lancashire.) “The Reviews Page” was actually a set of reviews of some of the stranger earth mysteries related books I had come across – they are all real books that are so strange that they don’t even need spoofing!  Why I didn’t include Conor MacDari’s Irish Wisdom Preserved in Bible and Pyramids (1923), I don’t know – but I should have done! 

But that was not quite the end of the story.  On 26th July 1979 I attended the launch of John Michell’s new book Simulacra.  Also present was Tony Roberts.  I introduced myself and, much to the amazement of his wife Jan, we began to chat good-naturedly over such strange books as Vaughn M. Greene’s Astronauts of Ancient Japan (1978) and Comyns Beaumont’s even stranger book The Riddle of Prehistoric Britain (1946) – the latter being mentioned in “The Reviews Page”.  We parted on good terms, and that, I thought, was that.  But no …

On 21st September 1986 I wrote a brief note to Jan Roberts to order a copy of her recently published booklet, Mothers Beware Mothers.  (By now she and Tony were living near Glastonbury, and issuing Zodiac House publications from there, Jan’s booklet being one of a series.) My order elicited not only a copy of the booklet, but also an 8 page hand-written letter from Tony, expressing his fury that I had used – or rather, misused – the word “geomyth” in what he called a “psychically constipated” and “bloody boring” article I had written, as part of my Velikovsky series, in SV 72.  Tony claimed to have invented the word himself in 1975, giving it “geomantic / spiritual connotations” (as per his article in TLH 88), and so my usurping and misuse of it as a mere scientific term for a story to explain particular configurations of the landscape was “morally dishonest”.  I had made it clear that my usage followed that of Dorothy Vitaliano’s book about geology and folklore, Legends of the Earth, but unfortunately Tony had never heard of this book, plus I had inadvertently omitted its date of publication.  Consequently, as Tony put it: “For all I know the woman has ripped me off, unless, of course, the tome was published in 1860 or something.” As it happened, Vitaliano’s book was published by Indiana University Press in 1973, two years before Tony’s coining of his word, though actually she had defined geomythology as the geologic application of euhemerism rather earlier, in 1968, in Journal of the Folklore Institute (Indiana University), vol. 5, pp.  5–30.  Of course, I took great delight in pointing this out to Tony (in a letter dated 3rd October 1986), adding:

“As for calling me a morally dishonest researcher before you even knew the date of Vitaliano’s usage, well, I could go on, but I’ll spare your blushes & await your apology.”

No apology ever came, and I never heard from him again.  Not that I ever seriously held it against him.  Having met him in 1979, and seen his affable side, I couldn’t really believe this latest corrosive outburst over “geomythics”, to the point where I expressed the opinion, in my letter, that he was “just an old softie, really.” In fact, I fully intended to look him up on a trip I had planned for going to Glastonbury the following summer.  Unfortunately, that trip never happened, and, sad to say, Tony died of a heart attack on Glastonbury Tor in 1990, at the age of only 50. 

Those whom the gods love die young, they say, and it wasn’t long before a mythology developed around his death amongst our more mystical brethren.  There were apparently some who speculated that Tony hadn’t really died so much as had been spirited away by the fairies from within the giant fairy mound of Glastonbury Tor – spiritually rescued from this imperfect world, as it were*.  If that is the case, and he is ‘out there’ somewhere, maybe the publication of this on the web will prompt him to get in touch again. 

* The following are two theories quoted from
This blog seems to be no longer accessible (December 2013). 

“It is said that he died of a heart attack on midsummer’s day upon Glastonbury Tor, which is, of course, a fairy hill.  Chillingly it is said that at the time he was preparing a magical working to contact the spirit of Robert Kirk, author of Secret Commonwealth of Elves and Fairies.  Kirk too died on a fairy hill but it was thought his corpse was a changeling and that he had been carried away to the land of fairy that he had so compellingly described.  When Kirk’s spirit showed itself his family, in shock, failed to act in the prescribed manner and Kirk became destined to act as a guide between our world and the land of fairy.”

And again:

“Anthony Roberts resides, from time to time, within the invisible dimension of Glastonbury Tor – planetary Heart Chakra and Foundation Stone of the Gaian New Jerusalem.  On the 9th of February, 1990 – at the time of the total eclipse of the Leo full moon – knots of Fate were severely cut.  The global Dance of Life needs mastery of many curious steps: To fulfil his own curious and endlessly particular Destiny, Anthony suddenly and severely cut his spirit from his Body.  Certain ignorant folk would say that he “died” on the Tor.  Those of us who love Tony know better.  May his word be a Lantern in the Night, illuminating the darkest places of this earth with Hope and the Laughter of the Stars.  May the Living Waters of his Spirit forever nurture the Geomythic Seed of Avalon!”