8 December 2013 Sandy

I go all the way around the park round the park lIts Pertwee against Pertwee Pertwee has fallen out with uncle Ebeneezer. Priceless.

Potter about Sandy comes and brings tea

No Scrabbletoday





Donald Featherstone – obituary

Donald Featherstone was a writer who turned a tabletop hobby of wargaming into a popular recreation for armchair strategists

Donald Featherstone (right) explaining tactics to the actress Annette Whitely and Major York of the Middlesex Yeomanry

Donald Featherstone (right) explaining tactics to the actress Annette Whitely and Major York of the Middlesex Yeomanry

6:12PM GMT 03 Dec 2013

Comments3 Comments

Donald Featherstone, who has died aged 95, was the author of more than 40 books on wargaming and military strategy, credited with turning an obscure hobby into a widely popular recreation for living-room generals of every age.

Though pretend conflict is arguably as old as the real thing, wargaming itself – pitched replica battles that incorporate hypothetical or historical strategic elements – emerged only at the beginning of the 20th century with the publication of HG Wells’s Little Wars in 1913. The rule book Wells established was for a game between “two, four or six amateurish persons”, with basic principles for the movement of troops, exchange of fire and close combat.

If Wells was the grandfather of wargaming as it exists today, then Featherstone was the father. In 1960 he became co-editor for the British edition of War Game Digest, a newsletter founded by the American toy soldier manufacturer John Scruby. After two years Featherstone departed to launch his own monthly publication, the Wargamers’ Newsletter. It appeared for the next 18 years, featuring reports of epic tabletop battles, interviews with noted players abroad, a correspondence column and a league table. The publication also served as a springboard for the country’s first public wargamers’ convention, which took place over the second weekend of May 1962 and attracted around 70 attendees.

That same year, just as full-size Britain was adjusting to civilian demilitarisation, Featherstone published War Games, the first major book on the subject since Wells, and the first to adopt a modern military perspective. The approach that he outlined in this and subsequent works – including Advanced War Games (1965); War Game Campaigns (1970); and Solo Wargaming (1972) – was based on a strong grasp of campaign history, from British Colonial Wars to the conflicts of Ancient Egypt. At the same time, adaptability for circumstance and personal enjoyment was key. A central requirement was that all rules should be confined to the back of a postcard.

With the success of his books, Featherstone emerged as a senior spokesman for the nascent community of wargamers. He gave interviews about the hobby on television and constructed a scale model of the Gettysburg battlefield for a CBS documentary . Today, the “Featherstonian” doctrine is still mainstream for players on both sides of the Atlantic.

Born on March 12 1918, Donald Featherstone spent his early childhood in London. His interest in military strategy began as an eight year-old, when his father presented him with a box of lead soldiers; at 12, he encountered Little Wars in his local library, and was enthralled. “The immense thrill of discovering [wargaming],” he wrote, “was perhaps only matched by that of later years when I realised that there was another sex called girls.” Sadly for many young men following in his footsteps, however, an interest in the former was often to prove incompatible with attracting the latter.

When war was declared Featherstone immediately decided to enlist – not, as he was quick to insist, because of any burning ambition, but because both father and uncle had seen active service during the previous conflict, and their accounts of the horrors of trench life made him determined to avoid the infantry at all costs. He joined the Royal Armoured Corps and trained at Bovington Camp, where his typing skills soon landed him a position on the permanent staff. Posted to the 51st Royal Tank Regiment, he was caught in shelling of the RHQ at San Giorgio, the only one of his party to escape without serious injury. He was eventually promoted to the battalion HQ and then brigade HQ, ending the war in Calais.

After demob Featherstone became the physiotherapist for Southampton Football Club while continuing his own military campaigns – “with no bloodshed, widows, or nuclear weapons”, as he put it. In order to ward against housemaid’s knee, the likely consequence of so much time spent crouched over model battlefields, he secured a hardboard table top, which could be folded away whenever his wife Joy needed to reclaim the dining room.

Later he purchased a Victorian house next to the grounds of Southampton FC where he was able to devote an entire room to wargaming. His collection of diminutive soldiers expanded to an army of 25,000, and he kept detailed campaign diaries, often with an accompanying photo‑narrative.

In addition to his histories of military strategy, Donald Featherstone also wrote books on the treatment of sporting injuries and backache. Though finally retired from physiotherapy towards the end of the 1990s, he remained active in the wargaming community into his last year, producing carefully typewritten letters in answer to queries from fellow enthusiasts.

Donald Featherstone’s wife Joy and a son predeceased him, and he is survived by two daughters.

Donald Featherstone, born March 12 1918, died September 4 2013






Ed Helmore’s welcome article further underlined the woeful position of women in the film industry (“The naked truth: Hollywood treats its women as second-class citizens“, In Focus).

There are also still questions to be raised about the representation of women in films. In fact, women rarely appear as women – they appear as sex objects or as ersatz men – sometimes both at once.

I like a strong female lead as much as the next person, but so often that female acts and talks exactly like a man and is surrounded by men – though she is usually allowed to have sex with the male lead at the end of the movie. When can we acknowledge that women do interesting, thrilling, beautiful, unusual, brave and clever things without having to inhabit a “traditionally male” role? Worst of all, the man-woman has now become a cliche, through lack of imagination on the part of film-makers.

A further irritation is the constant pairing of a much older man with a much younger woman, such as Jeff Bridges and Maggie Gyllenhaal in Crazy Heart or Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones in Entrapment.

As the much younger wife of a much older man, I know from experience how rare this is in real life. Watching Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford in Star Wars recently, I realised that it was becoming increasing unusual to see a screen couple who actually appear to be roughly the same age. Film-makers should take a step back and ask themselves what their audience – and not just their female audience – wants to see.

Catherine Rose



Ed Helmore cites research to claim that Hollywood exploits female nudity much more than that of men.

But this research is most misleading and unreliable because it is a) based on a sample of only the “top 500 films” subjectively chosen by the researcher, b) limits “nudity” exclusively to instances of “partial nakedness”, an expression for which no precise definition is offered in the case of either men or women, and c) makes no attempt to distinguish between the relative occurrence of toplessness (female only of course) on the one hand and full nudity (both male and female) on the other.

Perhaps Mr Helmore might care to consult Craig Hosada’s seminal tome The Bare Facts. Its exhaustive documentation of every example of nudity in more than 5,000 movies makes it abundantly clear that whereas the phenomenon of toplessness alone has long been widespread in the film industry, the incidence of total female nudity in movies is much lower and has consistently averaged no more than one-third that of the male variety.

Jeremy May



There’s a huge element of socialisation in this issue. Unfortunately, women often go along with misogynistic ideas, internalising and reproducing them. It’s called living in a patriarchy.

So even if it is right that films are misogynistic, sadly I don’t think that stops women going to see them or even saying that they think these are good films, or defending the misogynistic violence/exploitative nudity as “essential to the plot” or “artistically justified”.

The argument that women like this stuff so it must be OK, which is often made, is a very poor one. Women don’t have a level playing field to think about things that affect them, because they are born into a narrative that normalises all human experience as male experience, assumes that the neutral gaze is male and delegitimises female reactions.

Name and address withheld



In his piece “British society is bursting with creativity. Except at Westminster” (Comment), Henry Porter bemoans the increasing disaffection with politics from the British public. He suggests that a major cause of this disaffection is the similarity of the three main political parties. Another reason is probably the large number of safe seats, in which a vote for an alternative candidate is almost worthless.

It’s no surprise therefore that, according to the Electoral Reform Society, so few people intend to vote at the next election. Elsewhere, Kevin McKenna, discussing the Scottish government’s independence white paper (in effect an SNP manifesto), suggests: “Once upon a time the real Labour party and not this wretched facsimile that pretends it is would have been proud to call this its own”, echoing Henry Porter’s view.

I suggest that proportional representation is the immediate answer to voter apathy. At a stroke, this gives other, less mainstream, more radical parties of both the left and right a serious platform, so widening the choice and crucially making every vote count. Political parties, instead of trying to keep everyone happy in order to win an overall majority, would be more likely to spell out what they truly believe in order to win the support of their core constituency.

Philip Maughan


Isle of Skye

Police must tackle hate crime

We were pleased to see the Observer‘s editorial on disability hate crime (“Brutal death must alter attitudes to disabled people“, Comment, ). As a charity supporting people with learning disabilities who have experienced abuse and trauma, Respond has campaigned against disability hate crime for many years.

In our experience, men with learning disabilities are frequently wrongly labelled as “paedophile” and “pervert” – these terms seem to be directed towards their disability/difference. The murder of Bijan Ebrahimi has made us increasingly fearful for the safety of a man we have been supporting for two-and-half years, who has been similarly taunted by neighbours and local school students with apparent impunity. The police, social housing provider and local authority have dismissed all complaints and, in some cases, treated the victim and his family as if they are the problem.

It was more than two years ago that the Equality and Human Rights Commission urged agencies to “recognise the high level of risk faced by disabled people who have been labelled as ‘paedophiles'” in its report, Hidden in Plain Sight. So we wonder – how is it that police officers, when confronted with incidents involving a disabled person branded a paedophile, are still failing to ask themselves: “Could the allegations be motivated by hostility to their disability?”

We hear a great deal of rhetoric from senior police officers on the importance of tackling disability hate crime, yet it is clear that crucial recommendations are not being embedded in the work of front-line police officers. It is clear that this grave omission has very dangerous consequences, often leading to the needless and brutal death of vulnerable people.

We are very glad that you gave this story the profile it deserves and we hope that others may follow your lead.

Dr Noelle Blackman



London NW1

Look on the bright side of HS2

Are people in the Chilterns ashamed of where they live (“Soil from HS2 ‘will trash’ Chilterns beauty spot“, News)? Don’t they want HS2 travellers to enjoy their lovely countryside? Haven’t they noticed that the Ribblehead viaduct is actually a thing of great beauty?

And, by the way, you can’t dispose of excavated material in a cutting. A cutting is itself excavated but you can, like the great Victorian engineers to whom we owe so much, use the spoil to create embankments.

Robert Harris



Selfish ‘cool’ of the coke users

Why we are all talking about cocaine“, In Focus was a well-written article that focused on the UK cocaine user. One quote stated: “Despite being well-educated professionals, they have no knowledge of the health consequences of regularly using cocaine.” They also seem to be oblivious to the consequences for others. Do they really not understand that their “kicks” and efforts to be “cool” are directly responsible for the crime, murder and the destruction of whole societies in South and Central America? Or are they able to disassociate themselves? These selfish people should be ashamed of themselves and this was a missed opportunity to tell them so.

Teg Jones



Write 100 times: centenarian

I enjoyed enormously the review by Yvonne Roberts of Lynne Segal’s book Out of Time: The Pleasures and the Perils of Ageing (New Review) but was alarmed to read: “Now 10 million Britons are over 65 and soon centurions (sic) will be the norm.” What have the Romans ever done for us?

Paul Hewitson






Your article on the changes to the GP contract misunderstands how they will affect patient care (“Doctors ignore ‘wonder-drug’… fresh air) 1 December 2013). Previously the GP contract prevented GPs from offering meaningful exercise advice, since it diverts them to filling in laborious surveys of limited clinical value that ask patients how much time they spend on gardening, DIY and housework.

GPs, like all doctors, are committed to promoting a healthy lifestyle. Thanks to the changes to the GP contract negotiated between the government and the British Medical Association, GPs will have more time to look at the patient in front of them and advise on the benefits of exercise, and less time spent filling in boxes on a computer screen.

Dr Chaand Nagapul

Chair, BMA’s GP committee

London WC1

Katy Guest uses the term equalitist in connection with the sharing of parental leave and other issues between men and women. Please can we have a similar term for being fair to single people? I think a single person would get a short answer if he/she asked for six months off. Most political policies are aimed at “hard-working families”. Don’t single people work hard?

Rob Edwards

Harrogate, North Yorkshire

Your report (“Gold-diggers thwarted by Ancient Rome”, 1 December) suggests that the publication of an archaeology report into the Roman mines of Rosia Montana in Romania will make it “difficult for the Romanian government to deny the contribution that the area makes to world culture”.

Nobody denies the mines are of historic and archaeological interest. The pressing requirement is to pursue a realistic option to rescue and preserve them. This is why the Rosia Montana Gold Corporation is investing $150m (£92m) in research and archaeology. This involves rescuing the ancient mining galleries beneath the protected village of Rosia Montana, and opening a world-class museum of mining, celebrating the unbroken history of mining since Roman times. This will sit alongside a modern working mine, providing employment for thousands, and a long-overdue revival of the local economy.

Granting the area world heritage status would preclude mining taking place, and consign the local population to further economic degradation.

Adrian Gligor

Vice-president, Rosia Montana Gold Corp

Rosia Montana, Romania

Rupert Cornwell (1 December) calls for President Obama to pardon people, not turkeys.

Since the American Civil War, only one US soldier has been shot for desertion. Eddie Slovik, singled out from thousands, including generals, who “fled to the rear in panic” from the German breakthrough in the Battle of the Bulge. Eisenhower approved the execution. Seven presidents in a row have rejected all calls for a pardon.

Norman Duff

Sheffield, South Yorkshire

In naming his top 10 monarchs, Sir Michael Barber (The New Review) omits the greatest of all: George VI, who was forced to accept that colonial empire would become the more democratic Commonwealth, with the loss of India, Burma and the Republic of Ireland.

Ian McKenzie


Far from attempting to restrict participation in sports, Hackney Council’s leisure and physical activity development team has been working with local groups to open up sport to everyone, and in particular to women’s and girls’ groups (“Rising fees force the next David Beckham off the pitches”, 24 November).

We have been working with the women’s football team Hackney Laces for more than a year, to assist them in the development of their club and, in turn, women’s and girls’ football throughout the borough.

We have provided free use of a council facility for their under-14s to play in a friendly league. The council has supported Hackney Laces under-16s entry into the Capital Girls League by providing the pitches at Mabley Green as a free home venue. The council has also supported another girl’s team, ReachOut FC U14’s, to join the Capital League.

Jonathan McShane

Cabinet member for health, social care and culture

London Borough of Hackne






Pupils lack competitive streak of Far East peers

THE lesson China and South Korea can teach us is simple — they compete and graft for success (“UK schools stuck at back of the class”, News, “Another caning for Britain’s schools”, Editorial, “Will we never learn?”, Focus, and “Let slip the Shanghai dragon into our schools”, Tristram Hunt, Comment, last week).

When all you have is a bowl of rice, roast turkey is an incentive to strive. We who have the turkey have little to aspire to so we sit back and complain it is not big enough.

Soon we will have to make do with the bowl of rice as we slip down the educational and industrial ladder. The Chinese and South Korean education models may not be for Britain but their pupils’ willingness to work hard and compete is.
John Azzopardi, Sorède, France

Realising ambitions
The key is parental ambition to provide the best education for their offspring, whether Chinese or British. The traits you describe, such as creativity, are less prevalent in oriental graduates, who often defer to age and experience, which means going down well-trodden paths.
David Haggart, Windsor, Berkshire

Parental guidance
UK schoolchildren’s fall in the world rankings cannot be attributed to teachers alone. Pupils are starting school with a lack of basic communication and social skills. It is far easier for the government to blame teachers than to tackle problems in parenting.
Rowena Ward, Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire

Firm hand
The answer to our poor educational achievement is simple — discipline, which is very much a thing of the past in many state schools. Talking, interruptions and poor behaviour waste much time, unlike in the classrooms of China and Singapore, where the discipline is stern.
Bernie Green, Birmingham

Class act
Richard Lokier, the teacher featured in your Focus article, is an inspiring example, but his 12-hour days and demanding workload are not sustainable. The majority of teachers are passionate about their job but often face a moral dilemma: educate or meet school targets. This catch-22 has led many to sacrifice their wellbeing and personal lives. We must nurture and support these inspirational teachers or risk losing them altogether.
Julian Stanley, Teacher Support Network

Home schooling
This government seems to have lost sight of education as a mutually supportive partnership between home and school. Professor Alison Wolf of King’s College London makes a valid point: parents of different cultures value education differently. This, above all, explains why UK teenagers are falling behind.
Rhian Spence, Teaching Consultant, Uxbridge, London

Bad marks
It certainly is time to root out bad teachers, but why are so many of them entering the profession in the first place? Perhaps those responsible for instructing trainee teachers are incompetent. Or perhaps they are operating on the principle that bad teachers are better than none at all.

I did not enter teaching with the expectation of becoming rich, but paying good teachers more would help with retention. So would a reduction of the dead hand of government interference.
Eric Fogg, Chessington, London

I agree we should be lighting fires in the minds of our children. Michael Gove and Ofsted are hellbent on driving out the very teachers who can light those fires, and want to replace them with an army of drones. These drones can be controlled and measured, but inspirational marvels cannot.
Eryl Powell, Walsall

Premium bond
It is a pity that it took until the end of her Focus article for Sian Griffiths to hit on the key factor in ensuring successful teaching and learning — a good working relationship between teacher and student.

Socrates was an inspiring teacher for Plato despite having no formal qualifications. He succeeded because of a love of both what and whom he was teaching. The truth is that in education relationships are not just vital; they are everything.
Peter Edwards, London, SE25

Qualified opinion
If Tristram Hunt is keen that all teachers should be qualified, why is it that wealthy parents in the Far East are falling over themselves to send their offspring to independent schools where only a minority of teachers have the postgraduate certificate in education?
John Harrison, Co-author, Wot, No School?

Bleak future
Each year I attend the Microsoft global forum. Of the 800 delegates invited because of their excellence in ICT, the vast majority are from Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia, where one-to-one computing is becoming the norm. We are preparing pupils for a world that is already part of history in the Far East. If we could see the world through the eyes of our children, they would be eyes filled with tears — their future is already redundant and most of them know it.
Lena Knox, Londonderry

And here’s a cliché politicians made earlier

THANK you, Atticus (November 24), for giving us the opportunity “at this moment in time” to “address the issues” regarding the most hated political phrases.
Lesley Elliott, by email
Best all-rounder
Surely the Atticus prize for the most hated political phrase must go to “Too little, too late”. It has everything — omnipotence, superiority and alliteration and it’s unanswerable.
Ken Black, Angmering, West Sussex
Public inconvenience
The term “hard-working families” is as annoying for single people as it is for childless couples. They could be called the hard-working tax-paying individuals who don’t use any public services. As for “the great British public”, some of us are decidedly average and others utterly useless. And what normal person would answer a question with, “Well, I’ll tell you what we wouldn’t do?”
Ian Martin, Worcester

Empty plate
“Stepping up to the plate” is the new “robust”.
Phil Boakes, Lewes, East Sussex

Clear as mud
When politicians say, “Let me be absolutely clear”, being absolutely clear is the one thing they won’t be.
Alan Wilding, by email

Aiding independence

IT WAS disappointing to see such prominence given to the article by Harry Mount on a post-referendum independent Scotland (“Aye, welcome to the new free Caledonia”, News Review, last week). As a Scot and a convinced unionist, may I say it is pieces of this nature that aid Alex Salmond and his ilk in seeking to persuade many “don’t know” Scots to vote yes.
Professor Iain Moffat, Hexham, Northumberland

Wishful thinking
I have not read the Scottish first minister’s 670-page wish list for an independent nation, but I don’t need to as I have just enjoyed Mount’s hilarious summary. The whole thing confirms the old saying: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Geoff Taylor, Pouzols-Minervois, France

Off note
Anything would have been a more honest and enjoyable read than Mount’s heavy-handed, oh-let-me-be-controversial Sir Sean Connery fodder that passed for satirical writing.
Gerry McDade, Greenock, Renfrewshire

Aged have paid dues for NHS care

THE ageing population (I am 71) seems to be held responsible for many of the current problems of society — healthcare, unemployment or rising housing costs (“Patients need to be told what they cost the NHS”, Letters, last week). I feel I ought to shuffle off, even before I qualify for statins, hip replacements and a Zimmer frame or reap the benefits of many years’ tax contributions towards the NHS. Apologies for taking up too much space and oxygen.
Mitzi Upton, Kerry, Powys

Healthcare funding plan
Far too often, non-emergency patients are discharged too quickly simply to save money — the dreaded “bed-blocking” syndrome. And what about those who come in with sports injuries, or illnesses related to drugs and alcohol misuse, and those with a preference for smaller noses or bigger breasts? Perhaps sports injuries should be covered by insurance and cosmetic surgery restricted largely to the private sector.
Harvey Brown, Beverley, East Yorkshire

Off the drink
Dr Gordon Caldwell suggests that an 85-year-old may be better off having a Guinness rather than a statin and osteoporosis medication — citing cost as the issue. The statin and the osteoporosis tablet I prescribe cost the NHS a total of 53p a week — rather less than a Guinness.
Dr Michael Rosen, Liverpool

Losing count
The letter “Inside information” (November 24) said that since the 18th century staff in operating rooms have counted all the swabs. One was left in my daughter after a caesarean two years ago. She had to be unstitched and restitched while I sat nursing her baby.
Vivienne Graham, Lyme Regis, Dorset


Call of the wild
A few hours after I’d read the article “6,000 miles with Genghis and other killers at my heels” (News Review, last week) about Tim Cope’s book On the Trail of Genghis Khan the doorbell rang. Waiting on the doorstep was Tim Cope. He and Khorloo Batpurev, his Mongolian companion, are friends of the family, and both have visited us when in Britain. Cope’s film of the book was the people’s choice recently at a film festival in Dundee, and he is now off to Hungary to meet up with his horses once again. Truly a remarkable fellow.
Sandy Cooper, Elgin, Moray

Type casting
I have type 2 diabetes, eat carefully and exercise regularly and found the tone of Jonathan Leake’s article “Alzheimer’s may be late-stage diabetes” (News, last week) offensive. This story assumes that people with type 2 diabetes are fat, greedy and lazy, even though that’s not always the case.
Daphne Franks, Leeds

Printing error
Your article “Feeling seasick: storm ruins Walliams book” (News, last week) stated that 30,000 copies of David Walliams’s The Slightly Annoying Elephant were damaged by sea water in transit from printers in China. To rub it in, replacement copies were printed on the Continent. At the royal yacht exhibition in Leith in Edinburgh even the Britannia handbook on sale is printed abroad. How is the British economy expected to expand?
Harry Myles, Chipping Ongar, Essex

Present and correct
I cannot criticise the idea of giving money to charity rather than buying possibly unwanted presents but I do not agree that the latter is such a bad idea, provided that the gift is donated to a charity shop (“Oh how lovely, just what I didn’t want”, News Review, last week). It is a win-win-win situation: the giver has the pleasure of buying a gift, the recipient of opening a parcel on Christmas morning and the charity shop of reselling the item.
Tricia Stevens, Leigh, Greater Manchester

Green for go
There is no likelihood of the global population stabilising, let alone falling, before climate change causes devastating damage (“Growing concerns”, Letters, November 24) . All the pledges and conferences and developments in renewable energy have failed to stop fossil fuel consumption rising. That is the reality, and it cannot be wished away. Leading nations need to invest in technology to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere (carbon scrubbing and carbon capture and storage) and to artificially cool the planet (geo-engineering). Britain’s most prestigious scientific body, the Royal Society, has said that the technology is likely to be feasible. Now we need the political leadership to make it happen.
Richard Mountford, Tonbridge, Kent

Presidential action
The caption and the picture accompanying the article “Kidnapped by my dad to ‘cure’ my lesbianism” (World News, November 24) may have misled the reader to conclude that such abusive clinics are sanctioned or tolerated by the president and the government of Ecuador. In fact, the government has launched a fierce fight against illegal and inadequate centres that do not comply with basic human rights and many have been closed. As you stated, 500 people have been rescued from such clinics — action that has been possible because of the president’s commitment to uphold the right of sexual minorities.
Dr Juan Falconi Puig, Ambassador of Ecuador

Corrections and clarifications

Complaints about inaccuracies in all sections of The Sunday Times, including online, should be addressed to or The Editor, The Sunday Times, 3 Thomas More Square, London E98 1ST. In addition, the Press Complaints Commission ( or 020 7831 0022) examines formal complaints about the editorial content of UK newspapers and magazines (and their websites)

John Banville, novelist, 68; Kim Basinger, actress, 60; Louis de Bernières, novelist, 59; Bill Bryson, writer, 62; Les Ferdinand, footballer, 47; Sir James Galway, flautist, 74; David Harewood, actor, 48; Teri Hatcher, actress, 49; Sir Geoff Hurst, footballer, 72; Amir Khan, boxer, 27; Sinead O’Connor, singer, 47; Terry McDermott, footballer, 62; Wendell Pierce, actor, 51; Maximilian Schell, actor, 83

1864 Clifton Suspension Bridge opens; 1941 America and Britain declare war on Japan the day after its attack on Pearl Harbor; 1974 Greece abolishes monarchy in a referendum; 1980 John Lennon is shot dead in New York; 1987 Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev sign first nuclear arms reduction treaty; 1995 head teacher Philip Lawrence, 48, is stabbed to death trying to protect a boy from a gang outside his west London school




SIR – Since railways began, it has been a tradition to “see people off” on the train. Not any more – at least, not here in Taunton. Gates have been installed in the booking hall with staff manning them.

When I’ve asked why I can’t see my family members off, I’ve been told, firmly: “The company would prefer it if you said your goodbyes in the booking hall.” They do not say why the company prefers this.

Andrew Puckett
Taunton, Somerset


SIR – The bleatings were predictable: I am now going to have to work until I am 70. What are they talking about?

Nobody in this country is forced to work. As is the case now, if anyone would like to retire earlier than the age at which the state decrees a full pension has been earned, he or she is perfectly entitled to do so. It is up to them, of course, to ensure they can afford to do so.

Paddy Germain
Marden, Kent

Reading muses

SIR – Two of Sir John Betjeman’s muses had connections with the town of Reading, so it is no surprise that he was attracted to a lecture on the pleasures of Reading.

The real Joan Hunter Dunn was more likely to have been furnish’d and burnish’d by Caversham sun rather than that of Aldershot, as she was a boarder at Queen Anne’s School in this north Reading suburb between 1929 and 1934.

Peggy Purey-Cust, whom the poet met when he was a boy at Byron House school in Highgate, was the daughter of Admiral Sir Herbert Purey-Cust, who had spent his boyhood years in Reading. His father was the Rev Arthur Purey-Cust, who was rector of the Minster Church of St Mary, in the centre of the town.

Both Joan Hunter Dunn and Peggy Purey-Cust had Daily Telegraph obituaries.

Ian R Lowry
Caversham, Berkshire

A name is for life

SIR – I always read the births columns in your newspaper and I am horrified at times at the names chosen.

I hated my Christian name as a child, and feel for the poor children given either boring old-fashioned names or horrific modern ones.

A baby has to live with his or her name throughout life, so, parents: please think before saddling the poor mite with the name of your current fancy.

Agnes Baker
Wilcove, Cornwall

SIR – There is no need to look outside the royal family for unusual first names. Among those in the line of succession are: Savannah, Tane, Senna, Rufus, Columbus, Cassius and Zenouska – and, of course, Zara.

Anthony Baker
Winscombe, Somerset

Foreign courts’ power

SIR – Lord Judge, the former Lord Chief Justice, makes clear that Parliament should not be obliged “to comply with the orders and directions of any court, let alone a foreign court”. His remarks on the Human Rights Act are not confined to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. They extend to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.

Parliamentary sovereignty is examined in last week’s unanimous report by the Commons European Scrutiny Committee, which I chair. It looked at the overlap between the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights in the context of the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Many understood that, under the Lisbon Treaty Act 2008, Britain enjoyed exemption from the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. This has been challenged by a European Court of Justice decision (itself binding on British courts under the European Communities Act 1972). The remedy to doubts about the supremacy of Parliament in relation to British courts lies in assertion of parliamentary sovereignty – notwithstanding the European Communities Act 1972 – as set out in my United Kingdom Parliament (Sovereignty) Bill, which had its first reading last week.

Parliament must reassert its supremacy by disapplying existing European laws where it is in our national interest to do so, and must reassert the national veto.

Bill Cash MP (Con)
London SW1

A moveable feast

SIR – Michael Fielding’s mother was stranded and unable to attend her own 21st birthday party. This reminded me of my own experience in Tripoli, Libya, where my father was a civilian schoolmaster at the Army school.

A party was planned for my 10th birthday, on November 1 1956, but the Suez crisis intervened. My parents and I were picked up by Army truck and were taken – me with my birthday cake on my knee – to Azizia barracks to prepare for evacuation, with other civilian families, to England.

Susan Fleck
Gretton, Gloucestershire

Pay as you cross

SIR – To prevent pedestrians thoughtlessly pressing the button at pelican crossings a 10p coin-in-the-slot mechanism could be introduced.

Graham Hoyle
Baildon, West Yorkshire

It’s an ill whimbrel on the Shetland wind farm

SIR – Scotland’s whimbrel population will be destroyed if Viking’s 103-turbine wind farm on Shetland goes ahead. Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) objected to Viking’s application because of its impact on the whimbrel, whose conservation was a matter of “national interest”.

SNH maintained its objection despite pressure from the applicant, but the Scottish government dispensed with the customary public inquiry and gave consent to the application.

Sustainable Shetland, a group of local objectors, successfully challenged the consent in the courts but, under pressure from the wind industry, the government is now appealing against the ruling.

Sustainable Shetland does not have the resources for a second round. So why isn’t SNH joining forces to ensure the Scottish government sticks to the European Union’s 2009 wild birds directive and saves the whimbrel from extinction by turbine?

SNH is government-funded. The government has a policy of unlimited wind farm expansion, and agencies are required to bend over backwards to help wind developers gain consent.

Until SNH is set free from government control, its mission to “care for the natural heritage” risks sinking to the level of farce.

Linda Holt
Pittenweem, Fife

SIR – I heard on the news that wind farms light 5,925,537 British homes. The report did not say that this is true “only when the wind is blowing” and “then not too hard”. Surely this is the “green crap” that the Prime Minister has promised to get rid of.

Dr John Gladstone
Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire


SIR – Nelson Mandelas legacy to the world is illustrated in part by the difference today between his South Africa and Zimbabwe.

George Herrick
Salford, Lancashire

SIR – A great light has gone out in the world with the passing of Nelson Mandela.

One of my favourite Mandela sayings is: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

George Givens
Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

SIR – In the hours since his death, there have been many attempts to explain why Nelson Mandela was so forgiving to his oppressors.

Nobody appears to have considered the obvious explanation: Mandela was a (Methodist) Christian.

Dr Nick Winstone-Cooper
Laleston, Mid Glamorgan

SIR – Glasgow, Liverpool and Dundee made Nelson Mandela a freeman of their cities when he was on Robben Island. In 1993 he flew into Glasgow to thank all three councils. I was present as Moderator of Dundee Presbytery and, though underwhelmed by any other politician I had met, I was bewitched by his charm, modesty, humour and candour.

Of course one man’s freedom fighter is another’s terrorist, and he was jailed for political violence, with his name remaining on the US watch-list until it was removed by George W Bush.

He was transformed rather than destroyed by prison and fortunate to have, in F W de Klerk and Margaret Thatcher, two powerful political leaders willing to swim against the tide.

His release and presidency, as well as the extraordinary period of reconciliation, lifted the whole tone of African politics. He and de Klerk rightly shared the Nobel Peace Prize.

Unlike the other great revolutionary politician with whom he was often compared – Turkey’s Mustafa Kemal Atatürk – he was not a good administrator and wisely served only one term.

His legacy is to have set an example of forgiveness and statesmanship which has been an inspiration to mankind, and he remains one of the planet’s most admired inhabitants.

Rev Dr John Cameron
St Andrews, Fife

SIR – Reference should be made to Nelson Mandela’s membership of the Central Committee of the South African Communist Party (SACP) in 1960-62, during the period of the formation of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), the military wing of the African National Congress and the SACP.

It is probable that he resigned his membership immediately before being arrested in August 1962.

This much was settled in scholarship published since 2011. His membership of the SACP in this period is no longer in question. Professor Stephen Ellis, of the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam – a past editor of African Affairs, the journal of the Royal African Society – established reliable sources for this.

It was confirmed with additional sources by Irina Filatova, professor at the National Research University, High School of Economics, in Moscow, in her book, The Hidden Thread: Russia and South Africa in the Soviet Era, published this year in South Africa, based on extensive research in Soviet and South African archives.

It does no good when the complexities of history are brushed aside. I write as a former member of the SACP, a former political prisoner in South Africa and editor of the underground MK newsletter in 1963-64 while Nelson Mandela was on trial for his life.

Paul Trewhela
Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire



Irish Times:


* Anyone who has grown up rearing stock among the rush-filled fields of the West of Ireland comes to view death as they do the rain. Sometimes it is an infernal nuisance and at other times a most welcome sight. It is as natural as sunshine and just as guaranteed.

Also in this section

Colm is some man

Letters: Negative spin on turbines

Letters: We can’t allow history to be rewritten

Nelson Mandela felt what at his age – and given the political posturing at his bedside – must have been the welcome and soft touch of the Reaper’s blade.

He had a full, eventful and politically inspirational life. He had children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren and had a great age clocked up, as they say.

The wall-to-wall coverage of his death is lending a “where were you when?” global feeling that is reserved for great historical events, such as Diana’s death or 9/11. Both of these incidents were tragedies, yet the passing of Mandela has a natural feel to it.

He was a great man who brought great change and no small amount of good to his fellow man, regardless of colour.

Many will point to Mandela’s freeing of his fellow black South Africans as his greatest achievement but the opposite was in fact the case. Rather, he brought freedom to white South Africans.

His life was one which rejected violence as a solution to bigotry. Instead, he reflected through his undoubted strength of spirit the crassness and inhuman behaviour of South Africa whites towards their fellow human beings.

He made apartheid look little more than slavery. He reminds one of Gandhi, of Martin Luther King and of Frederick Douglas.

Western democracy will view him as a Lincoln-type character; a freer of the slaves, yet in reality he was one of those great and good that come to represent a hounded majority and who in turn defeat oppression with a simple argument of self-determination.

I’m fairly sure the government jet will be dispatched to bring the great and the good of our current political class to express our sorrow at his passing. Wouldn’t it be nice if it had one or two of those bravest of Irish people, the Dunnes Stores‘ workers, on board as well? One wonders which Mandela would smile upon the most. Given his huge compassion, the answer is probably both.

As he said himself when still this side of the eternal divide: “A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.”

Dermot Ryan

Athenry, Co Galway


* Protested, to overturn apartheid.

Prisoner, prepared to serve a life sentence for his convictions.

Peace Prize winner of the Nobel.

President of post-apartheid South Africa, aged 75.

People’s worldwide symbol for justice.

Persistent courage and selflessness in the face of adversity.

Persons? No, just one person – that is Mandela.


Kevin Devitte

Westport, Co Mayo

* When the great Mahatma Gandhi was killed, it was said: “We will never see the likes of this again.” But indeed we did, in Nelson Mandela RIP.

May this wonderful human being rest in peace.

Brian McDevitt

Co Donegal

* The sad passing of Madiba is all part of life and he will be remembered by everyone who seeks justice and fair play. Mandela was first and foremost a revolutionary despised by so many for so long, especially by governments of our close neighbour, Britain.

I think of two people in relation to Nelson Mandela. One was a young lady called Mary Manning, who stepped outside her comfort zone and, along with others, refused to take South African products during the horrible apartheid era.

The other was a young boy of 16, who got his first letter published in the ‘Irish News’ in Belfast, when I wrote about the apartheid regime and waiting for my father to come home from work to show him the fruits of my labour. I have not stopped writing since.

We salute you, Madiba.

Paul Doran

Clondalkin, Dublin 22

* Mandela was inspirational and eternal; he insisted on the sovereignty of his land, pride in his race, culture and heritage. He resisted invasion, sell-outs, dissolution and disaster.

It is a pity that these traits, which are lionised today by all, no longer seem to apply to us, the white Irish.

Sean MacGreine

Drumcondra, Dublin 9

* So the man who was so despised by Margaret Thatcher is now truly free at last.

Will the greatest political figure of my longish lifetime get the grand overblown funeral that she had? Her acolyte Tony Blair fixed it for her, with her blessing.

Mandela’s genuine humility was such that I will guarantee that any pomp at his funeral will be literally over his dead body.

Dai Woosnam

Grimsby, England

* A great light has gone out in the world with the passing of Nelson Mandela. As well as being an inspirational leader, he was a fine wordsmith. One of my favourite Mandela sayings is: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

George Givens

Bluff, Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

* We are all saddened to hear of Nelson Mandela’s death, but I find it interesting to see that many are trying to rewrite history to make Britain (its governments) appear to be anti-apartheid and pro-Mandela. It was not the case.

For decades, it and the US supported the racist regime there and supplied it with vast amounts of weapons, making huge profits in the process.

It wasn’t until the very end, the 1980s, that public opinion, backed up by boycotts of South African companies, helped bring the regime to its knees and it collapsed in 1990.

At the time of Mandela’s incarceration, the ANC (African National Congress) was labelled a terrorist organisation by the West.

It wasn’t until a very few years ago that Mandela’s name was actually taken off of the terrorist watchlist.

Colin Crilly

Tooting, London

* Whilst the great, the good, the not so good and the attention-seekers bend over backwards blindly to eulogise Nelson Mandela, let’s not forget the violence carried out by the ANC, with which Mandela was involved.

Mandela was a wise man and seized the opportunities through the years. Poor, black South Africans are no better off today with their ‘freedom’ than they were under apartheid. In fact, they are probably worse off as the crime rate has spiralled out of control, especially crimes against women (rape, in particular).

But apparently we must sweep all that under the carpet because Nelson was a hero and a freedom fighter.

Both sides of the argument need to be discussed if his legacy is to mean anything.

Joe Dixon

Ratoath, Co Meath

* I propose that it would be an appropriate addition to the 2016 celebrations to rename the Spire on O’Connell Street ‘Nelson Mandela Pillar’.

It is very close to the Dunnes Stores on Henry Street, where workers refused to handle apartheid goods in the mid-’80s.

The Spire is infamously a monument to nothing in particular. Other monuments in the same street are dedicated to emancipatory leaders, such as O’Connell, Parnell and Larkin. Currently, it is a complete incongruence.

The original pillar was dedicated to Admiral Nelson, a symbol of British colonialism, of which South Africa and Ireland were both victims.

Fiachra O Luain

Rialto, Dublin 8

Irish Independent



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