Quiet day

16 March 2014 Quiet day

I go all the way around the park listening to the Navy Lark. Our heroes are in trouble, again.They have to transport a dangerous cargoPriceless

Cold slightly better sort books and things

Scrabbletoday Iwins but getunder400, Perhaps Mary will win tomorrow.




Lord Ballyedmond, who has died in a helicopter crash aged 70, founded the largest veterinary pharmaceutical company in the world and became one of the richest people in Northern Ireland; he was also variously reported to be either the first or second person ever to have sat in the upper houses of both the Irish Republic and the United Kingdom.

Edward Enda Haughey (no relation of the former Taoiseach Charlie Haughey) was born on January 5 1944 into a Roman Catholic family and grew up on the family smallholding in Kilcurry, north of Dundalk, Co Louth, on the southern side of the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.

Educated at the Christian Brothers School in Dundalk, Haughey, like many young Irishmen of his generation, emigrated immediately after leaving school, heading for New York where he became a salesman with a pharmaceutical company, working his way up to regional marketing manager.

In the late 1960s, reckoning that Britain and the EEC were about to follow American practice and introduce tougher rules on the manufacturing and dispensing of veterinary antibiotics, he decided to return to Ireland and set up an operation based on these new American norms. In 1968 he duly set up Norbrook Laboratories in Newry, Co Down.

It was the year that Northern Ireland lurched into the headlines with Catholic civil rights marches and Newry was deep in the Province’s turbulent border country. During the ensuing Troubles, Norbrook Laboratories remained a rare beacon of hope in an otherwise gloomy economic scene.

At first Haughey simply imported veterinary products from Holland and relabelled them, but he invested serious money in R&D and the operation expanded swiftly. A major breakthrough came with the patenting of a long-acting antibiotic for animals that offered a cost-saving one-shot therapy — especially welcome for farmers in the United States and Africa with cattle on the prairies.

Over the next 40 years Norbrook Laboratories, which remained family-owned, prospered beyond anything Haughey could have imagined, building a range of drug products which, as he explained, covered “everything from ladies’ poodles to the lion”. The company increased profit margins by making many of its own raw ingredients. It won the Queen’s Award for Export Achievement four times and the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in 2011. Later the company expanded into developing and marketing human medical products, and became heavily involved in HIV/Aids research in Africa. Now worth £660m, it exports more than 80 per cent of its products worldwide.

Haughey was appointed OBE in 1987, and in 2008 was awarded an honorary Fellowship of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons

Haughey maintained a relatively low profile until the Fianna Fail-led government of Albert Reynolds appointed him first chairman of the newly-established Irish Aviation Authority in 1993. The following year, as he was leaving office, Reynolds appointed him to the Irish upper house, the Seanad. He was reappointed by Bertie Ahern in 1997 and, though he rarely spoke in debates, remained a member of the house until 2004.

Lord Ballyedmond outside one of his homes, Corby Castle in Cumbria (CATERS NEWS AGENCY)

In 2001, however, he emerged, along with Sir Paul Getty and spread-betting magnate Stewart Wheeler, as one of three multi-millionaire contributors to the former Tory leader William Hague’s election war chest, thus finding himself in the curious position of being a supporter of both the Fianna Fail brand of republicanism in Ireland and the British Conservative Party.

In fact, Haughey’s views were strongly, if quietly, pro-Unionist. In the late 1990s he played an important behind-the-scenes role in negotiations in the run-up to the signing of the 1998 Belfast Agreement and in 2004 the Ulster Unionists under David Trimble nominated him to the House of Lords, where he took the title of Lord Ballyedmond of Mourne. But he continued to support the Conservative Party and in 2007 he left the UUP to join the Tories.

According to last year’s Sunday Times “Rich List” Lord Ballyedmond was worth £860m. In addition to his pharmaceutical interests, he became involved in the aviation business, founding Haughey Air, a charter helicopter business and, for a time, owning Carlisle Airport. He also invested in sporting estates and luxury homes in Ireland, North and South, in England and Scotland, and further afield, commuting between his various properties in his helicopter or private jet.

Lord Ballyedmond was killed with three other people when a helicopter came down in thick fog in a field in Gillingham, near Beccles, Norfolk, on Thursday evening. It was reported that the helicopter was flying to Northern Ireland from Gillingham Hall, an estate he had bought in 2005 for £2.25 million.

In 1972 he married Mary Gordon Young, a solicitor, who survives him with their daughter and two sons.

Lord Ballyedmond, born January 5 1944, died March 13 2014



Andrew Anthony’s Q&A article on Elizabeth Kolbert and her book, The Sixth Extinction (New Review), makes for interesting and sobering reading, but I am saddened by the view that she is “impressed by what zoos are doing”. If this multimillion-pound business and its deluded supporters are all that stand between wild animals and extinction, we are in a sorry state indeed.

Most of their collections do not consist of endangered species and their animals are seldom returned to the wild. Conversely, as recent press coverage has shown, zoos are prone to “culling” their surplus stocks, to make way for baby animals – to bring in paying customers. Zoos and aquariums are, frankly, stains on our collective conscience.

Sue Berry



Not such a papal blessing

I found your sugary adulation of the pope nauseating (Magazine). Is the Observer a mouthpiece of the Vatican, one of the world’s most corrupt and secretive organisations? Why exactly is this pope so special? Because he flashes a white set of teeth frequently? Has he opened up the Vatican accounts? Has he lifted the ban on contraception? Will he negotiate on women priests? Just because Francis is marginally better than his predecessors does not make him so extra special.

Aroup Chatterjee

London E3

Just give a damn

Catherine Bennett on the NHS reminded me of what I define as the red-tray syndrome (“Wouldn’t it be easier to try a little empathy?“, Comment). This is when practitioners introduce something that gives them a sense of wellbeing that is not necessarily felt by the recipient. Faced with the scandal of elderly patients going hungry because they needed help with feeding, managers in one institution proposed the introduction of colour-coded food trays: red for the most needy. You don’t need old suits, fat suits or zoot suits; neither do you need red trays. You just need to give a damn.

Frank West


English? Nae thanks

Kevin McKenna on immigration (Scotland edition) clearly perceives racism as a nascent problem in Scotland and “the tendrils of this creeping disease” as only recently arrived there. As a native with a Scottish mother and a father born in England to an Irish father and a mother whose family was Welsh, I have always been aware of the anti-English sentiments of many Scots. So normal is this attitude that people routinely express this resentment without any reaction from others. So I was quite unsurprised by McKenna’s description of the verbal abuse suffered by the African street musician in Glasgow. My Devonian husband, an Aberdonian for more than 50 years, recently held the door of a local shop for an elderly man whose reply to my husband’s friendly “Morning!” was: “English bastard.”

So McKenna thinks “Scotland needs more immigration”. He fails to add the blatant nationalistic subtext – just so long as it’s not from England.

Carolyn Kirton


Unseen effects of epilepsy

Much as I admire Helen Stephens’s courage in publicly putting forward the case for improving epilepsy services, it is a sad indictment of the NHS that this should be necessary (New Reviewk). Chronic diseases managed largely on an outpatient basis, as is the case with epilepsy, have been the innocent victims too often of the evolving commissioning arrangements of the modern NHS.

It is unfortunate that quite rightly it is best for the patient to be treated out of hospital but the hospital will receive more money for an admission. Epilepsy is common, potentially fatal (three deaths per day) but, above all, life-altering. As Helen said, the fits are a relatively minor feature but it is the effect on lifestyle, learning, emotional state and public perception that are so devastating and insufficiently recognised and supported.

Dr John Trounce


A vision of the future

No one can deny Steve McQueen’s great achievements, but it was the artist Conrad Atkinson and several others who created a fine art world where it was possible to break away from the flat square canvas or the big bronze slab(“Steve McQueen paves way for artists to break the boundaries“, In Focus). Atkinson’s groundbreaking 1970 exhibition, Strike, about women workers in a west Cumbrian thermometer factory (shortly after Dagenham) and shown in his solo show at the ICA in 1972, broke the boundaries. This was the moment the Arts Council recognised that video was an art form that could be funded in the future.

Margaret Harrison

Burgh by Sands


‘Protection’ racket

If, as Vladimir Putin seems to suggest, it is perfectly acceptable to send troops into another country to “protect” people who speak your language, how long before Polish and Italian tanks garrison Bedford near me, while Pakistani and Bangladeshi special forces parachute into Luton just down the road, and our own brave SAS lads “liberate” the Costa del Sol?

Charles Garth

Ampthill, Bedfordshire



When CEO Bob Diamond was paid £17m just before leaving Barclays, we considered this to be an obscene amount and stopped banking there after 40 years. We moved our money to the Co-op, attracted primarily by its ethical stance and traditional, speculator-free banking. We continued our support throughout the Paul Flowers debacle and welcomed the pledges made by the new management team and embodied in the “charter”.

Now our personal banking history appears to be repeating itself (“New Co-op storm as board awards bosses huge pay and bonus deals“, News), a view further reinforced by the subsequent resignation this week of Euan Sutherland as CEO of the Co-op Group.

Once again, the usual paltry rationales and justifications for excessive and ludicrous remuneration packages have been trotted out: consistent with salaries in comparable organisations, extraordinary challenges to be faced, past experience and track records of the managers, the going rate for global talent etc.

How very disappointing. Where next for our bank account?

Mick and Viv Beeby



Outrageous pay seems always justified by reference to remuneration committees as though they are somehow independent, authoritative and knowledgeable. In fact, they consist of a cabal of directors sitting on each other’s committees recommending ridiculously high salaries for each other. They are neither transparent nor accountable and need to be strictly regulated.

Trade unions, which support and protect the rights of working people, are rigidly regulated, while those people running big businesses are allowed to drive companies into the ground for their own aggrandisement. The real threats to the economy are left to regulate themselves and, of course, don’t.

C Terry

London SW18

So the Co-op is no longer a sound bank based on sustainable growth, specialising in ethical investments and sharing its profits equitably between its members but a failing cash cow whose parasitic executive management are draining it of its dwindling financial lifeblood to line their own pockets.

Our only hope is for John Lewis to open a bank so we can all flock to it, and to shop at Waitrose, where hopefully they would have bought up all the farms being sold off by the Co-op. Oh, and maybe all the bankers could go to live together somewhere unreal that mirrors their self-worth – such as Dubai.

Pat McKenna


The reason that the Co-op Group is rewarding its board of directors so handsomely is the same reason that Barclays, Lloyds et al are paying their directors large bonuses with seemingly no heed to the profitability of their companies. It is just because they can.

Apart from some vague remonstration, about fairness, which they have decided to ignore, there is no reason why they should curb their excesses and they are not going to do so.

Charles Cronin

London SW11

Anyone who believes they need the kind of grossly enlarged pay given to senior executives is either completely incompetent in managing their own affairs or just greedy. Either way, they are clearly not people who should be entrusted with responsibility.

Co-op members should show the way by bringing pay for their executives down to reasonable levels. Perhaps a generous figure of £100,000 would be appropriate – far more than many people get in much more responsible jobs.

Kevin McGrath







I would never normally support the antics of The Sun, but, whatever the validity of some of the points raised by Stella Duffy (“Dear ‘The Sun’, breast cancer isn’t sexy”, 9 March), I am disappointed that the article failed to distinguish between its gripes with The Sun, and a new approach to increasing breast awareness in young women.

For their “Check ’em Tuesday” campaign, The Sun is working with a group called CoppaFeel!, an extremely successful website (coppafeel.org) and campaign begun by Kristin Hallenga who was diagnosed with breast cancer aged 23. Her aim was to “get the word out there” in language that more younger women are likely to connect with.

Far from sexualising breast cancer, the aim is to talk to all members of the public, from the widest possible range of backgrounds. We and many other charities and patient groups have adopted the same kind of awareness methods with testicular cancer. Health awareness comes in many guises but one size does not fit all. Well done CoppaFeel! for a new approach that is welcomed by many.

Sue Brand

Germ cell clinical nurse specialist and chair of It’s in the Bag, Supporting Men with Testicular Cancer

I’m puzzled that both barristers and solicitors have held their second court walkout over the cuts in legal aid (“Legal aid cuts force more people to represent themselves”, 9 March), but judges have remained silent. Has our judiciary forgotten that its main role is to ensure justice is achieved in every case? How is this possible with people representing themselves?

Kartar Uppal

West Bromwich, West Midlands

Pippa Lewer (Letters, 9 March) rightly deplores the regional prejudice that irks Northerners so much. I was born in Wakefield and raised in Stockton-on-Tees. I’ve lived in London since 1981. Northerners in London and “back home” have assumed that I “must be rich”, that I probably work in the City, that I own a house and a car and that I can spoil myself visiting London’s top attractions and restaurants. None of which is true.

It’s even been insinuated that I’m a traitor for having left the North-east to study and find work. Such provincialism is just as depressing as Southern ignorance and makes the North-South divide even wider.

Rik Ward

London SE13

Your political editor Jane Merrick sets out six very good reasons why the “Better Together” campaign is failing (9 March).

The principal reason is that the three disparate London-based parties are all only interested in Middle England’s vote. What possible hope do Scotland’s 59 (proposed reduction to 52), or 9 per cent of all MPs, have of getting a fair deal for their constituents against the 91 per cent blinkered, middle England parliamentarians, as at present.

The Scots want a democracy and we want parliamentarians with broad varied backgrounds. When Scotland leads, the other regions will follow. The London clique’s days are numbered.

Ron Wynton

Fortrose, Ross-shire

If the Scottish people can vote for independence, then why cannot those in Crimea be given the chance to vote to become Russian? (“Labour urges Cameron to take tougher action against ‘calculating’ Kremlin”, 9 March.) In proposing sanctions against legitimate Russian aspirations, Douglas Alexander is agitating to turn our lights out, which will guarantee that Labour loses the next election.

Malcolm Howard

Banstead, Surrey

The main barrier to flexibility in the workplace (“Free childcare from 12 months should be our aim”, 9 March) isn’t a lack of legislation. The issue is a cultural one. Employers are often concerned that family-friendly working practices will be an administrative burden. Employees, on the other hand, may worry about the impact on their career. The upcoming extension of the right to request flexible working to all – not just those with children – should go some way to taking away the stigma of requesting flexible working.

However, for a real transformation to occur, the attitudes of employers and employees need to change, not just the laws that govern their relationship.

Andrew Crudge

Solicitor, Thomas Eggar LLP

Southampton, Hampshire







Let Ukrainian and Tatar voices be heard in Crimea

SO Crimea’s 58% pro-Russian population wants to be part of Russia (“What would the West fight for?” and “Ukraine’s implosion tears families apart”, Focus, last week). Don’t the Ukrainians and Tatars have a say? The former remember the famine orchestrated by Joseph Stalin that killed more than 5m. He then repopulated these lands with Russians. The Tatars also have cause to loathe this tyrant, who deported them to central Asia — many died of disease and starvation.
Ivan Rakiwskyj Leicester

Poll position

The US government says all Ukraine should vote on whether Crimea should secede. However, only the Scots are voting to decide whether to leave the UK.
Rodney Atkinson, Stocksfield, Northumberland

Toeing whose line?

Ukrainians, it seems, have to choose between the Russian boot and the EU one.
Aidan Convery, Kautokeino, Norway

United front

Why should Crimea not be allowed reunification with Russia? It was only transferred as an autonomous republic from the Soviet Union in 1954. Regular demonstrations by the majority of ethnic Russian residents have culminated in the latest clashes.
John McDowell, Co Antrim

Students must learn to act like customers

I HAVE taken degrees in Britain and America, which makes for an interesting comparison between US and UK universities, especially with the introduction of the fee system (“Surge in student complaints about poor-value universities”, News, last week). British universities need to adjust to the idea that when students are paying £9,000 a year they are customers (as in the US system ) and will demand value and efficiency for their money.

UK universities must also toughen up. In America there are no personal tutors, just advisers who assist with more general matters. If you want help with a class it is up to you to contact the professor, lecturer or research assistant. I have little sympathy for the student who says, “I could disappear for good and none of the academic staff would notice.”

There are thousands of undergraduates at a university — if a student wishes to stand out they need to get to know their professors by visiting them in their offices and asking questions during or after class. At US universities the onus is on individuals to seek help and develop relationships with the staff (just as in the real world).
Emma Hodcroft, Edinburgh

Put free meals on every school’s menu

PILOT projects in schools across Newham in east London and Durham have shown universal free school meals lead to a rapid and marked improvement in academic performance, particularly among the poorest pupils. This is partly because well-nourished children concentrate better (only 1% of packed lunches meet current nutritional standards for school food) and partly because of the wider cultural benefits. Pupils and teachers eating and talking together make a dramatic difference to the ethos and atmosphere of a school.

This is why — whatever political gossip you might read — this policy has such broad cross-party support. Originally a Labour idea, it was brought back into play by Michael Gove and has been carried over the finishing line by the Liberal Democrats. From September all infants can eat well for free.

As head teachers, and as professionals working in the sector, we have seen what a difference this policy will make. We understand the logistical challenges involved. But help is available (schoolfoodplan.com). We would urge heads teachers to take advantage of this state- funded support.
Rachel Chahal, The Oval, Birmingham
Richard Dunne, Ashley C of E Primary
Professor Ashley Adamson, Newcastle University
Jeanette Orrey, Food for Life
Carmel McConnell, Magic Breakfast.

Richard Dunne Ashley CE Primary School, Walton
Louise Nichols Kingsmead and Gayhurst Schools
Sarah Rutty Bankside Primary School, Leeds
Gill Harrison St Oswald’s CE VA Infant & Nursery School
Lindsay Vollans St Michaels Primary School, Bishop Middleham
Carmen Palmer St Richard’s CE Primary School, Ham
Ed Vainker Reach Academy, Feltham
Caroline Owen St Laurence CE Primary School, Derbyshire
Kim Dorian-Kemp High View Primary, Plymouth
Helen Colbert East Sheen Primary School
Rachel Chahal The Oval, Birmingham
Jared Brading Sacred Heart Primary School, Battersea
Tim Baker Charlton Manor Primary School
Simon Barber Carshalton Boys Sports College
Calvin Henry St Marks Primary School, Islington
Simon Mower Chaddlewood Primary School, Plymouth
Sally Quartson Chase Side Primary School, Enfield
Catherine Lester Cheam Fields Primary School
Catherine Langham Abbotsmeade Primary School, Peterborough
Mrs Hilton Little Gonerby CE Infant School, Grantham
Claire Platt Collaton St Mary Primary School
Travis Latham The Federation of George Betts and Shireland Hall

Primary Academies
Paula Cummings Cambo First School, Morpeth
John Lynch High Street Primary School, Plymouth
Karen Holmes St Tudy’s CE Primary School, Bodmin

School Food Plan Expert Panel and others
Professor Ashley Adamson, Public Health Nutrition (Newcastle University)
Myles Bremner, Director, School Food Plan
Rosie Boycott, Chair of London Food Board
Anne Bull, National Chair, Lead Association for Catering in Education
Linda Cregan, Chief Executive, Children’s Food Trust
Henry Dimbleby, Co-author, School Food Plan
Alison Garnham, Chief Executive, Child Poverty Action Group
Libby Grundy, Director, Food for Life Partnership
Judy Hargadon, Former Chief Executive, Children’s Food Trust
Christine Lewis, National Officer for Education, Unison
Carmel McConell, Chief Executive, Magic Breakfast
Professor Theresa Marteau, Director, Behaviour and Health Unit, Cambridge University
Dr Michael Nelson, Public Health Nutrition Research
Jeanette Orrey, Ex-school Cook and co-founder, Food for Life
Sarah Owen, School Cook, Stoke Newington School
Sara Jayne Stanes, Chief Executive, Royal Academy of Culinary Arts
John Vincent, Co-Author, School Food Plan
Stephanie Wood, Founder, School Food Matters
Adam Breakwell, Orleton CE Primary, Shropshire
Jim Wallace, College Road Primary, Plymouth
Steven Badcott, Uplowman Primary, Exeter

Mental health dangerously low on NHS list of priorities

I AM a soon-to-retire mental health professional with 42 years’ experience and work for a large county council in northwest England where the number of beds has been drastically reduced, with further reductions in prospect (“Mother’s pain at lost chance to stop suicide”, News, last week).

Earlier this month I assessed and detained a dangerously unwell man with a history of violence. There was not a single NHS bed in the entire county when I approached the bed- finders at 9am. He was eventually admitted at about 10pm to a unit 20 miles from his home but before then he and I were in the outpatient department for many hours.

A very stretched local police force provided two officers to contain his threatening and intimidatory behaviour. This sort of thing happens on a weekly basis in my catchment area, which means staff often do not get home until the early hours.

The lack of beds is a national disgrace that would not be tolerated in any other branch of the health service and is entirely attributable to a misguided and ill-informed drive to cut costs.
Ron Latchford, Liverpool

Turn off taps for flood insurers

ARE insurers set to become the new bankers in the hate league if their small print penalises flood victims (“A quarter of flood claims face risk of rejection”, Money, last week)? Perhaps naming and shaming would lead to thousands of premium-payers boycotting such firms in solidarity with those whose homes have been ruined by flooding (from whatever cause). George Barnes, Maghull, Merseyside

Legal lifeline

In the Flood and Water Management Act 2010, under which the Environment Agency operates, the definition of a flood is all-embracing and it follows that the ordinary meaning of the term “flood” is intended to encompass groundwater flooding. On that basis it may well be worthwhile for those whose claims are rejected to seek legal advice as to whether or not such clauses are indeed unlawful.
Terry Williams, Environmental Law Consultant, Lincoln

In plain sight

Saying exclusions were hidden in small print is a little disingenuous if they are in the booklet that accompanies the policy.
Terry Farrell, Chichester

Iodine supplements vital to nation’s health

WHILE there have been substantial improvements worldwide in iodine nutrition during the past 20 years or so there is evidence that several sections of the UK population are iodine deficient to a mild or moderate degree. In at least four areas of Britain 50% or more of pregnant women lack adequate iodine nutrition.

This is particularly important as insufficient iodine negatively affects aspects of a baby’s brain and nervous system development, with the result that IQ and educational performance are suboptimal.

As with folic acid it is vital that adequate iodine nutrition is established before conception. There is evidence too that 14 to 15-year-old girls are deficient in iodine, and they are among those likely to become pregnant in a few years’ time.

There is also limited availability of iodised salt in UK because no legislation exists to ensure the compulsory sale of it. As less than 5% of salt available in the UK is iodised, we support the use of supplements containing iodine to particular groups, especially pregnant women. We would not wish to have the same time delay for iodine as there was for folic acid.
Professor John Lazarus, Cardiff University and chairman of United Kingdom Iodine Status Strategy Group, Dr Sarah Bath and Professor Margaret Rayman,University of Surrey, Professor Kate Jolly and Dr Shiao Chan, University of Birmingham, Janis Hickey, British Thyroid Foundation, Dr Alex Stewart, Public Health England, Dr Mark Vanderpump, Royal Free Hospital, Professor Graham Williams, British Thyroid Association

Apology is best medicine for school abuse

THE perception that an apology over past sexual abuse in schools will open “a legal can of worms” is as dangerous as it is misguided (“All I wanted was an apology”, Focus, last week). Insurers need to appreciate that a failure or refusal to apologise is the strongest driver pushing people into protracted costly litigation. An appropriately worded apology can show regret for distress suffered without amounting to an admission of liability.
Paul Randolph, Mediation Course Director, Regent’s University London

Tread carefully

I have a worry about the handling of abuse that took place decades ago. If a master who preyed on boys in the 1950s is still alive, and the evidence is compelling, he deserves to be charged. But how can it be right to sue the school? It is correct that a school should express regret, but I do not see that it should accept liability for incidents that took place under governors and headmasters who may no longer be alive.

The potential damage to what today are decent schools might outweigh the good it would do the victim — and I do not minimise the harm such abuse does.
The Reverend Chancellor, Geoffrey Morris, Narberth, Pembrokeshire


Off track

Surely it is not beyond our capabilities to have a GPS transponder device in all aircraft that relays by satellite in one-minute intervals the position of every plane (“Mystery air crash: terrorist fears”, News, last week).
Nick Jones, Mollans-sur-Ouvèze, France

Volume control

The trial of a new air departure route that has brought misery to the residents of Warnham in West Sussex (“Centuries of calm ruined as Gatwick planes take left turn”, News, last week) illustrates the true effect of concentrating flight paths. The aviation industry often states that it is its intention to reduce the numbers of people affected by noise. While some numbers are reduced, others may get even more flights overhead. Those considering future airspace changes must take note of Warnham. The aviation sector should not consider itself unrestrained by the planning restrictions that protect residents from other noisy industries.
Alan Morriss, Nutley, East Sussex

Tell it like it isn’t

Rod Liddle’s remark about the posh pronunciation of Powell being “Pole” (Comment, last week) reminds me of a few others. When did Ralph become Rafe? Recently Niall — or is it Neil? — Ferguson introduced the military historian Hew Strachan as Hew Strawn. Near me is a road named Ballymageogh. If you ask someone where it is, make sure you say Ballet Ma Juck.
Ian Rea, Dundrum, Co Down

Corrections and clarifications

In the article “The Tories have both motive and opportunity to Taser the police” (Comment, last, week) we incorrectly stated that Sir Paul Stephenson resigned as commissioner of the Metropolitan police service “for accepting favours from a former News of the World executive”. We are happy to make this clear.

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


Bernardo Bertolucci, film director, 74; Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England, 49; Jenny Eclair, comedian, 54; Erik Estrada, actor, 65; Flavor Flav, rapper, 55; Isabelle Huppert, actress, 61; Jerry Lewis, comedian and actor, 88; Jimmy Nail, singer and actor, 60; Theo Walcott, footballer, 25


1872 Wanderers FC win first FA Cup; 1912 Lawrence Oates, a member of Scott’s South Pole expedition, leaves his tent to die; 1968 up to 500 Vietnamese villagers killed by US troops at My Lai; 1976 Harold Wilson resigns as PM; 1988 Iraqi planes drop chemical weapons on Kurdish town of Halabja, killing 5,000 people.





SIR – The unforgettable slogan “A Mars a day helps you work, rest and play” was created by Francis Harmar Brown, my copy group head at Masius and Ferguson. As a junior copywriter then named Peter Pfeffer, I assisted him.

Harmar Brown wrote: “A Mars a day helps you work and play”. I added the word “rest” because Mars Ltd wanted three words in its new slogan to echo its previous one: “Mars feeds you goodness three good ways.”

Peter Phillips
Loudwater, Hertfordshire

SIR – A famous slogan from the Fifties was “You’re never alone with a Strand”, to advertise a brand of cigarettes. The television commercial showed a man in raincoat and trilby, alone in a London street and puffing on a Strand.

Although the slogan was much repeated and often parodied, the cigarettes were withdrawn shortly after their launch because of poor sales. No one, it seemed, wanted to smoke a cigarette that made them appear friendless.

Ian Rufus
Barford, Warwickshire


SIR – As a Muslim peer who contributed to a recent debate in the House of Lords on the subject of religious slaughter, I have been alarmed at the sudden and rather aggressive publicity surrounding the issue.

The recent comments from John Blackwell, president-elect of the British Veterinary Association, have led to misunderstandings.

Islam strictly forbids the mistreating of animals; there are numerous references throughout the Koran to substantiate this.

The Muslim method of slaughter, known as zabiha, ensures an extremely quick and near-painless death. A properly trained practitioner will cleanly sever the structures at the front of the neck with such speed and precision that blood empties rapidly, from both the body and the brain, and consciousness is lost immediately. Claims that animals are cut and left to bleed slowly to death are untrue.

In other methods, when stunning is used, the animal is paralysed and unable to display signs of pain. Animals can even regain consciousness before the point of slaughter.

We must pay greater attention to the wider welfare of animals throughout their lives, including the conditions in which they are bred, housed and transported.

Lord Sheikh
London SW1

Statin status quo

SIR – Is it possible that there are vested interests in the research concluding that statins have no side effects? I know only three people who have been on statins – I am one of them – and we all experienced debilitating muscle aches despite trying three different statin formulae. All of us experienced no such aches before treatment, and all have recovered fully having stopped taking the drugs. Can we be alone?

Robert M Hurran
Northwood, Middlesex

Airport security

SIR – We checked in for our British Airways flight from Munich to London only 36 hours after the Air Malaysia flight went missing. We were issued (unnoticed by us) with someone else’s boarding pass. Neither German passport control nor security noticed this, and it was only when we were waiting to board that a member of BA’s staff noticed the mistake. It is easy to criticise the Malaysians, but we should also look at security a little closer to home.

Charlie Holden
London NW1

Footballing heroes

SIR – Brigadier John Powell may be interested to hear that Lt Col Bernard Vann VC, MC and Bar, of the Sherwood Foresters, an ordained clergyman, played professional football for Derby County, having previously played with Northampton Town and Burton FC, before the First World War. He was the only ordained clergyman of the Church of England to earn the Victoria Cross in combat. He was killed in action by a sniper on October 3 1918.

Keith Kenworthy
Mansfield, Nottinghamshire

Show her you care

SIR – Sign outside a shop in Norwich: “Mother’s Day is coming, special knife sharpening and mending service available.”

Amanda Howard
Enfield, Middlesex

Crimean referendum

SIR – Crimea will almost certainly vote to go back to Russia. What then? Will America invade and risk a Third World War? The Ukrainians must be left to sort out their own future without provocative interference from the West.

Duncan Rayner
Sunningdale, Berkshire

Alien rhododendrons

SIR – Rick Emerson of Surrey threatens to defend rhododendrons with the nearest garden implement to hand. I regret to inform him that he will find an army of plant lovers on the other side of the battlefield just as ready to use the pruning shears to cut them down.

Rhododendron ponticum is an invasive species, meaning it drowns out native wildlife. The evergreen leaves and blowsy flowers may make useful borders and brighten up golf courses, but nothing lives under the thick canopy.

The species was first introduced by the Victorian plant hunters as an attractive garden flower and useful game cover. But it has now taken over whole tracts of land, including some of our last wilderness areas in Britain.

The European Union has already spent millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money encouraging landowners, including the National Trust, to clear wild land of the species.

Here in the West Highlands, we have been battling for decades to get rid of it so that Scots pine and pine martens can return. Hundreds of people are currently working hard to cut down even more.

No one is suggesting that the iconic rhododendrons of the Royal Botanic Gardens should be destroyed, but I think you will find that none of these institutions are planting more invasive species.

If puce flowers really are your thing, then you can choose from hundreds of new hybrid rhododendrons that are designed not to run wild in the countryside over the next 150 years. Anyone found planting Rhododendron ponticum should be cut down to size with their own secateurs.

Louise Gray
Torridon, Ross-shire

Virgin territory

SIR – I recently bought a bookpublished in 1862. Many of its pages were still uncut.

I have started to read it. It feels a little like desecration.

Stuart Jamieson
Eccleston, Lancashire

Church organists deserve a professional fee

SIR – Caroline Mitchell suggests that organists should play for nothing as an act of benevolence to the community in which they work.

The fundamental flaw with this is that many of those playing in our churches desperately need an income from this skilled role to top up an existing income or pension.

The Church ought to recognise the considerable training and ability of musicians who enhance its liturgies, and should remunerate them accordingly, whether the tax situation is complex or not.

You wouldn’t expect an accountant to give free advice, so why is the profession of musician, which demands a large amount of time and effort, not understood in a similar business way?

Most organists spend hours each week practising. They plan different repertoires for various seasons and often encourage singers in their churches to participate too.

We professional musicians are frequently expected to play for services, weddings and funerals for virtually nothing, and pay our bills on fresh air.

Elizabeth Stratford
Organist and Master of the Choristers, Arundel Cathedral
Littlehampton, West Sussex

SIR – I am reminded of seeing the vicar, some years ago, paying my aunt for playing the organ at a wedding, and saying that she received more than he did for officiating.

My aunt’s reply was that her fee was a £1 for playing and £2 for knowing how.

John Brooks
Preston, Lancashire



SIR – As a student of politics, I was in the visitors’ gallery on the day that Tony Benn renounced his peerage in order to be a member of the Commons.

I was young and I didn’t really appreciate the significance of the step. I gained realisation over the following years.

I have never agreed with his political views, but I cannot help admiring his sincerity. When I look at Ed Miliband’s intellectual but superficial outpourings, I realise just what is missing from the current Labour Party.

There are too many shallow career politicians around now. Tony Benn will be missed by people of all persuasions.

Mick Ferrie
Mawnan Smith, Cornwall

SIR – I was an assistant chief constable in Bristol in 1976 and responsible for seating the VIPs in the cathedral for the Lord Mayor’s annual service. Tony Benn was a local MP. As he came down the aisle, unsure of his allocated seat, I took him gently by the elbow and ushered him towards it. At the reception later he sought me out to thank me, saying I was the only person ever to move him “to the right”.

David East
Bingham, Nottinghamshire

SIR – Here it comes, a stream of sanctimonious claptrap about Anthony Wedgwood Benn, the greatest prime minister we never had.

Benn tried to form a communist party within the Labour Party. He wanted Britain to leave Nato.

If Michael Foot had won the election in 1983, he would have been usurped as prime minister within weeks by Benn, and Britain today would be part of the old Soviet Union.

Jeff Best
London N14

SIR – Tony Benn: giant.

Gerard Parke-Hatton
Broughton, Lancashire

SIR – I was one of about 300 to hear Tony Benn speak in Norwich a few years ago.

At the end, he asked all present who supported views other than those of him and the Labour Party to raise their hands. About 5 per cent did so, perhaps wondering what they had let themselves in for.

He thanked them in a sincere manner for attending and for being open to hearing the views of someone they knew they would largely not agree with.

Is not this a lesson today’s politicians should learn?

Brian Rayner
Colchester, Essex

SIR – In most images from his long public life, Tony Benn is enveloped in clouds of tobacco smoke from his ever-present pipe.

Oh-so-worthy nanny-groups should note that he reached the great age of 88, despite a lifetime’s exercise of that allegedly fatal addiction.

Graham Hoyle
Baildon, West Yorkshire


Irish Times:

Irish Independent:


Madam – Eoghan Harris (‘Call off carping about Ireland’s Call’, Sunday Independent, March 9, 2014), deserves unstinting commendation for his stalwart defence and praise of Phil Coulter’s alternative all-island anthem Ireland’s Call.

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Bono in dreamland

This well crafted sporting anthem shines brightly in sharp contrast to the militarist, ultra-nationalist, lugubrious whine of Amhran na bhFiann – blotting out the sunshine and casting its dark shadows of a fascist narrative upon the people. Ireland’s Call, with irresistible epical arousal qualities, soars like an eagle across a clear blue sky, inspiring all decent folk on this island, regardless of which side of the Boyne their ancestors were on, to great heights of passion, valour and belief in the attainment of glory upon the field where the noble game of rugby is played.

Phil Coulter‘s stellar sporting anthem is, of course, profoundly disliked by the dreary fossilised drones (inclusive of the obvious more sinister ones) who hold dear to their sentimental hearts the Fenian nationalist foundation myths in order to imprint legitimacy and meaning upon those shameful years from 1916 to 1923.

How uplifting to watch and listen to men from the Four Provinces of Ireland belt out, with great heart, the infinitely superior chords and lyrics of Ireland’s Call, rather than the few who – in slacked-jawed fashion – attempt to mouth the dispiriting dirge of Amhran na bhFiann.

Well done, Mr Harris, on an inspiring article.

Pierce Martin,

Celbridge, Co Kildare



Madam – I was interested in Eoghan Harris comments on Ireland’s Call, (Sunday Independent, March 9, 2014).

I am a unionist (small u) and a supporter of all Irish sports teams. Originally when Ireland’s Call appeared, I, like most others, was not emotionally connected. Everything changed when I was lucky enough to coach Ireland’s Men’s Hockey Squad for a period.

At my first international match, standing for Ireland’s Call, when it came to the line ‘the four proud provinces of Ireland,’ I realised I had tears running down my face.

Why? Well, when sung with sincerity, I feel that it shows an acceptance of each other as we are, as people rather than as political identities.

An inclusiveness more meaningful than any type of political unity with no one betraying their beliefs.

David Scott,



Madam – Eoghan Harris (Sunday Independent, March 9, 2014), need not be too concerned with any ‘ambivalent’ attitudes on the Decade of Centenaries website.

The site was developed by History Ireland on behalf of the Department of Arts, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht as a listings guide and learning resource for the commemorative initiatives relating to the 1912-22 period that will be conducted by the State, cultural and educational institutions, military and local history associations, community groups, and any interested parties in Ireland and abroad (including the authorities and cultural institutions in Britain and Northern Ireland).

Any perusal of the site will see that it is giving due weight to a wide range of traditions in an inclusive and respectful way, and will continue to do so.

We encourage readers to visit http://www.decadeof-centenaries.com.

It may well be of interest.

John Gibney,

History Ireland, Dublin 18


Madam – As an ardent reader of the Sunday Independent, I read your analysis pages over the “devastation of rural Ireland” and Donal Lynch’s facts and figures. A great piece.

I could not refrain from writing to you on the subject and hope you can find space to put it among your valued columns of letters.

Rural Ireland is being intentionally and systematically destroyed with all that goes with it – we must stand and fight for its survival.

We had three very nasty armed robberies within a half mile of me two years ago and as a result, I called a meeting. We packed the hall and balcony with all the councillors at the top table and so started the effective ‘texting’ system of which there are now 60 groups in operation.

But I can see the gardai soon being told to ignore this to frighten us into the cities and out of rural Ireland.

David Thompson,


Co Limerick


Madam – Reading the views and sentiments expressed on the incidents of suicide in Ireland prompted by Ruth Dudley Edward’s article (Sunday Independent, February 16, 2014), it occurs to me as rather odd that for a nation that has invested so much in the welfare of others in foreign fields, there isn’t a single word regarding the welfare of the exiles here in Britain.

As I have repeatedly reminded you, they were the ones who took the full brunt of the backlash of Irish republican violence and politics throughout the last century, while left voiceless, defenceless and powerless with nowhere to turn.

I may tell you how enraging and mortifying it felt for one who had to endure 30 years of IRA terrorism to have to listen to Mr Adams announcing at a Sinn Fein conference that: “It’s good to be Irish in Britain now.”

William Barrett,

Surrey, UK


Madam – Late on Sunday evening last, after exhausting the contents of the Sunday Independent and, as usual, having silently expressed my opinions on the various stories and articles, I turned to the section which I normally consign to the litter bin without as much as a glance.

I speak of the Living supplement.

There on the back page I found a little gem which echoed my sentiments exactly.

To tell the truth, it was Jim Cogan’s comical sketching of the panel for the ‘People’s Debate’, which really caught my eye.

Well, Declan Lynch really described the first edition of the new Vincent Browne show on TV3 as I have described it on numerous times to people who were lucky enough to have missed it.

I will not dare repeat Declan’s description of the programme, as I would only take from his report. But the programme had received such hype in the build-up, weeks prior to the show, and left one anxiously waiting for a real debate with real people.

As the show progressed, even Vincent seemed to run out of directions to look in search of someone resembling a real person.

He stumbled from one self-perpetuating person to the next and appeared to be about to run screaming from the studio long before we were all released from the boredom by his closing few words.

Thank you, Declan, for releasing me from the feeling that I had imagined the whole thing.

Tony Fagan,

Enniscorthy, Co Wexford


Madam – Reading Carol Hunt’s column (Sunday Independent, March 9, 2014), one would be forgiven for thinking we were living in 1950 as opposed to 2014.

Apparently I, as a man, will need to start calling out misogyny whenever and wherever I see it.

It’s an epidemic, apparently.

Where and who are these men? I’m finding it hard to tell them apart from the “blokes” who are masquerading as lovely guys.

I hope these fathers, brothers, husbands, partners and sons will listen to reason when I inform them that they are behaving in a misogynist manner.

I also hope that I have an attentive and caring nurse to tend to my wounds when I end up in hospital as a result of my role as protector of women’s sensitivities.

Charles McCarthy,

Dooradoyle, Limerick

Sunday Independent




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