27 July 2014 Books

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A very very dry day

Scrabble I wins, but gets over 400. perhaps Mary will win tomorrow.


JT Edson was a writer whose fight-packed, politically incorrect Westerns crafted in Melton Mowbray sold 27 million copies

JT Edson

JT Edson

6:30PM BST 25 Jul 2014


JT Edson, who has died aged 86, was a former British Army dog-handler who wrote more than 130 Western novels, accounting for some 27 million sales in paperback.

Edson’s deft, if hardly elegant, works – produced on a word processor in an Edwardian semi at Melton Mowbray — contain clear, crisp action in the traditions of B-movies and Western television series. What they lack in psychological depth is made up for by at least 12 good fights per volume . Each portrays a vivid, idealised “West That Never Was”, fuelled by corny jokes at a pace that rarely slackens.

His authentic descriptions of 19th-century weapons, his interest in what causes a gun to jam and in the mechanics of cheating at cards enjoyed a strong following, especially among serving British soldiers .

But his accounts of catfights involving women punching, scratching and biting as they tear the clothes off each other in the mud, did not appeal to the new breed of feminist publishing executives. Others pointed out that a young man sent to Broadmoor for killing a Sunday School teacher claimed to have modelled himself on Edson’s hero, the half-Comanche, half-Irish Ysabel Kid. There was also the novel The Hooded Riders (1968), which portrayed an organisation resembling the Ku Klux Klan as a heroic resistance group.

In 1984 the Labour Party protested about the characters in JT’s Ladies: they included a gunslinger called Roy Hattersley (then the party’s deputy leader) and his sidekick Len Murray and three desperadoes named Alex Kitson, Alan Fisher and David Basnett — all of them well-known trade union leaders.

At the same time, Edison delighted in pricking southern, middle-class, pretensions. The dedication to JT’s Ladies declared: “For all the idiots of the press who have written articles entitled things like ‘The Fastest Pen in Melton Mowbray’ and have been filled with the most stupid, snob-oriented pseud-jargon never to appear on the pages of mine or any other author’s books. May the bluebird of happiness fly over them when it has dysentery, because that is catching.’’

John Thomas Edson was born at Worksop, Nottinghamshire, on February 17 1928, the son of a miner who was killed in an accident when John was nine. He left Shirebrook Selective Central School at 14 to work in a stone quarry and joined the Army four years later.

As a sergeant in the Royal Army Veterinary Corps, Edson served in Kenya during the Emergency, on one occasion killing five Mau Mau on patrol. He started writing in Hong Kong, and when he won a large cash prize in a tombola he invested in a typewriter.

On coming out of the Army after 12 years with a wife and children to support, Edson learned his craft while running a fish-and-chip shop and working on the production line at a local pet food factory. His efforts paid off when Trail Boss (1961) won second prize in a competition – a promise of publication and an outright payment of £50.

The publishers offered £25 more for each subsequent book, and — with the addition of earnings from serial-writing for the comic Victor — Edson was able to settle down to professional authorship. When the comic’s owners decided that nobody read cowboy stories any more, he was forced to get a job as a postman (the job had the by-product of enabling him to lose six stone in weight from his original 18).

Edson’s prospects improved when Corgi Books took over his publisher, encouraged him to produce seven books a year and promised him royalties for the first time. In 1974 he made his first visit to the United States, to which he was to return regularly in search of reference books. He declared that he had no desire to live in the Wild West, adding: “I’ve never even been on a horse. I’ve seen those things, and they look highly dangerous at both ends and bloody uncomfortable in the middle. My only contact was to shoot them for dog meat.”

Edson’s bachelor-tidy study, with a wall covered in replica firearms, was the setting for a daily routine broken by a lunchtime stroll to the local pub. A secretary in the room next door handled his fan mail, income tax demands and the sales in Danish, German and Serbo-Croat. Occasionally he would ask her to help him act out some particularly complicated Main Street gunplay and to help produce a JT Appreciation Society newsletter .

His heroes were often based on his favourite film stars, so that Dusty Fog resembled Audie Murphy, and the Ysabel Kid was an amalgam of Elvis Presley in Flaming Star and Jack Buetel in The Outlaw.

Before becoming a recluse in his last years, JT’s favourite boast was that Melton Mowbray was famous for three things: “The pie, Stilton cheese and myself – but not necessarily in that order’’.

Edson and his wife Dorothy were divorced. They had two sons and a daughter, and he also adopted her three sons by a previous marriage.

JT Edson, born February 17 1928, died July 17 2014


Aseem Malhotra (“Over-treatment is the great threat to western health“, Comment) bemoans the poor quality of hospital food that contributed to the decline in his mother’s condition. He is right to identify this as a major problem, particularly for elderly patients, and many hospital patients will not be lucky enough to have a family to bring them good food.

In a major breakthrough, NHS England has now recognised this as a clinical issue and an increasing number of hospitals are looking to qualify for a new clinical excellence award for their food provision by adopting the Soil Association’s Food for Life catering mark to ensure they are serving freshly cooked, seasonal, locally sourced, higher animal welfare and healthier meals that are independently verified. GP commissioning groups can now make hospital food one of the areas where a hospital’s budget is made dependent on raising standards. Patients should be calling on their local commissioning group to take action to improve their hospital food now.

Peter Melchett

Policy Director, Soil Association,


Gaza’s tragic ocean of hate

In a week of heartbreaking news, the most moving for me was the article by Sayed Kashua (“For 25 years I tried to tell Israelis the Palestinian story. Now it’s time to leave“, New Review). I ache for him and the Palestinian and Israeli people. As a British Jewess, I support the Arab/Israeli Oasis of Peace village Neve Shalom and the Israeli Palestine Bereaved Families for Peace. I feel helpless and these are drops in an ocean of hate. Like Sayed Kashua, I am a lover of books and now I have heard of him I’ll buy his book Exodus, but I fear this will be of little comfort to him.

Sybil Gottlieb

London NW3

Demonising Putin

It was with great dismay that I read the emotional and one-sided rhetoric of your leader railing against Vladimir Putin in the manner of a cold war warrior who can only see one side of a complex situation (“It’s time brutish Putin was held to account“, Comment). It was based on speculation and caricature and ignored the fact that the west’s leaders can be equally, or even more, hard-hearted, irresponsible and thuggish – if that is what Putin has been – in their support for separatists and terrorists in conflicts much further from home than that supported by Russia in eastern Ukraine. Demonising Putin in isolation and depicting him as the only bad boy on the block in this manner denies the fact that western intervention directly and indirectly in Iraq, Libya, Syria and (since supporting the Maidan coup) in Ukraine has led to disintegration, civil war, instability and thousands of deaths.

Professor Richard Woolley

Pickering, North Yorks

Betraying the young

Your leader correctly identifies the worsening position of Britain’s young people on a range of issues – poverty, disease, mental well-being (“Britain’s young deserve better from this government“, Comment). The coalition has diminished the lives of young people by shredding the services designed to encourage and support their development, despite David Cameron’s fine words in 2008. A year ago, it transferred responsibility for youth policy and services to the Cabinet Office. Ed Miliband has pledged to strengthen youth services, if elected. The Liberal Democrats made a similar commitment in 2010, but there will be no glad, confident morning until those who work with the young see detailed proposals to turn words into action.

Tom Wylie

Former CEO, The National Youth Agency


Singling out mothers

I take issue with the term “single” mother or “single” parent. (“Single mothers ‘do just as good a job as couples‘” (News) There is no such thing as a child born of or to a “single” parent. It takes two to make a child, even via artificial insemination. There are children being raised by one parent, most often the mothers, and most often due to separation, divorce or fathers not taking responsibility. The term “single parent” lets these fathers off the hook, as if they had no part in creating the child/ren. As long as “single parent” is used so thoughtlessly and until journalists and policymakers do not think to ask: “Where is the other parent?”, fathers will continue to be let off the hook.

Lorraine Schaffer

London SW16

Celebrate our engineers

I remember little of my engineering graduate and post-graduate degree courses 40 years ago, but still try to employ the logical thinking and professional approach to problem solving that an engineering career trained me in (“Forget damsels in distress: we need more female engineers“, Businessk). Yes there are “too few engineers”, both male and female, and particularly in management, where those logical and professional skills are in short supply. It is good, in a world where bankers, footballers, “celebrities” and pop stars can receive astronomic amounts, that engineers are beginning to be better paid. But don’t look down on the skills of “…. the engineer who came to fix the photocopier”.

David Murray

Wallington, Surrey

Kenneth Clarke

Goodbye to all this: Kenneth Clarke arrives at 10 Downing Street to learn he has lost his cabinet post in David Cameron’s reshuffle. 1 Photograph: Will Oliver/EPA

Perhaps avuncular Ken Clarke’s political longevity is due to not being an Etonian millionaire, out of touch with public experience, but he has contradictions (“UK economic recovery ‘not firmly rooted’, warns Clarke”, News,). While claiming to be “on side” with government economic policy, he does concede the folly of depending on a house boom without the productive base to compete long term in global markets, thus repeating the process that got us where we are.

He claims we don’t want to be a low-skills, long-hours economy, but is mystified why productivity is not rising when the whole system is skewed in favour of the rich who constantly plead that top people need top money as incentive – but the rest don’t.

Comparable executive pay in Germany is half that of the UK and they make things with no balance of payments deficit. They also build enough houses without creating a bubble on unsustainable domestic debt. To his credit, Mr Clarke ferociously fought Margaret Thatcher over Americanising the NHS, but still created the disastrous “internal market”.

Bill Newham


Andrew Rawnsley’s article on Mr Clarke mentions the three times when the Tory party rejected him as leader, without emphasising enough the folly of these rejections. If he had succeeded in any of those times, Britain would be a richer and a fairer country. Those of us working abroad in business for 30 years saw him as an ally, who understood that Britain is a trading nation, living by selling “widgets” abroad to provide work for the 25 million people of working age, rather than for the 10% of that number in services. When the recent austerity measures had to be introduced, they would have been more palatable from a government headed by a man from Nottingham high school, not from an Etonian. The original “One Nation Tory”, Benjamin Disraeli, must be turning in his grave.

William Robert Haines


After your (happily) lively postmortem on Ken Clarke, it may seem churlish to flag up one of his less creditable ministerial actions, particularly for a distinguished lawyer. This was his refusal as home secretary in 1992, although a professed opponent of the death penalty, to grant Iris Bentley the pardon she sought for her brother, Derek, on the legalistic grounds that established practice required “moral as well as technical innocence”, a decision the high court overruled, resulting in a pardon in 1995, followed in 1998 by the quashing by the court of appeal of Derek’s conviction. A happy sequel for a man declared to be technically innocent, despite Ken Clarke.

Benedict Birnberg

London SE3

Nicky Morgan may well have promised to listen to teachers (“Morgan hints at a more teacher-friendly attitude”, News) but we should be wary of celebrating the demise of Michael Gove. Every recent education secretary has felt obliged to revolutionise the profession, so there is no reason to assume the new one will be any different. As long as education is a political football there will be no peace for the teachers and children they teach.

Stan Labovitch


As someone concerned to promote a broad, balanced and largely data-free primary education, my advice to Nicky Morgan is to pause, listen and consult, and to begin by consulting her own parents and parents-in-law to see what they would want for their own grandchild’s well-being and education.

Professor Colin Richards

Spark Bridge, Cumbria

Cameron’s reshuffle may slightly change the gender numbers but does nothing to alter the social balance; the cabinet is still devoid of those with experience of life at the hard end. Not that Labour can complain as it has rapidly decreased its number of MPs from working-class backgrounds.

Bob Holman



True, the pay gap could be closed significantly if more women took up apprenticeships in traditionally male sectors (“Do I look like I work on Type 45 destroyers?”, 20 July), but why do we accept that jobs in female sectors should pay less?

Demos are right to say that we need to challenge outdated perceptions of work roles, but that includes challenging the notion that women performing vitally important tasks such as nursing the sick, caring for the elderly and looking after the very young should be penalised rather than recognised for doing so.

Closing the pay gap isn’t just about encouraging more women to do “men’s jobs” but about creating equality – of opportunity and reward – across all sectors. This in turn would unlock other equalities, for example by making it economically viable for more men to share childcare responsibilities.

Dr Carole Easton

Chief executive

Young Women’s Trust, London N1

Hurrah for Amol Rajan (“Which of these editors would rather wear the trousers?”, 20 July), who, to paraphrase John Knox, has given “the second blast of the trumpet against the monstrous regimentation of male attire”! This matter is particularly relevant at formal events where the unimaginative uniformity of black tie or morning dress holds sway, whereas with women “anything goes”. David Beckham, alas, failed to set a trend when he wore a sarong which is appropriate in tropical climes – and yet with climate change why not think the supposed unthinkable?

After 150 years mourning the Prince Consort, when the establishment effectively enforced a black dress code, isn’t it time to break free from such constraint?

Women “liberated” themselves following the First World War – why are men so conservative, or are we waiting for practical, as opposed to wacky, expensive and unrealistic, men’s clothes designers?

Russell Webb

Ringwood, Hampshire

Intelligent readers will applaud the courage of Archie Bland’s searching piece on paedophilia (20 July).

Blanket condemnation does nothing to protect children. Asking about the complicated motivations behind a sexual interest in children is the path to helping abusers manage their impulses. Yet even with therapists it’s difficult to raise such questions without being accused of sympathy with the abuser, as I found in publishing my own work on incest.

Mary Hamer

London SE1

To rush to judgement over the causes of an air crash is the road to potentially very serious errors resulting in placing blame in the wrong place. How does your correspondent Andrew Buncombe know if a missile even brought down flight MH17 let alone what kind of missile it was (20 July)? He doesn’t, and is presenting untested allegations as facts. The only sensible course is for a full independent international investigation to report back.

Bill Haymes


Katy Guest (July 20) says that “to kill an author’s mystery is a terrible thing”. But it all depends who the author is. I mean at first J K Rowling seemed annoyed that she had been outed as Robert Galbraith, a supposedly new writer of detective mysteries. Now, however she publicly admits that she’s well into writing the third book in a series which could run longer than Harry Potter!

Tim Mickleburgh

Grimsby, Lincolnshire

You are spot on in publicising Glenn Mulcaire’s story. We only get so much from court cases, and this tells the story straight from the source. It shows how the News of the World gave up its worthy fight for justice in the hunt for celebrity. That is a question for our society. Well done.

Michael Harley


Personally, I’ll be voting for Ed Miliband’s brain and philosophy, rather than his looks.

H James

Chester-le-Street, Durham


FLIGHT MH17 may have been shot down unintentionally but it was no accident (“This is an outrage made in Moscow”, News, and “Make Putin the pariah pay”, Editorial, last week). Civilian airliners “squawk”, transmitting an identification code that would have clearly distinguished this plane as commercial air traffic. It could not possibly have been mistaken for a Ukrainian military transporter.

The fact is that a highly sophisticated surface-to-air missile system was made available to irregular forces who did not have the discipline or training to assess the situation. The pro-Russian separatists, the Buk anti-aircraft system operators — if they are different — and the supplier of the weaponry, namely Russia, are equally culpable. It was no accident, or terrorism, but a war crime.
William Wilson, London SW11

History repeating itself

Your editorial on the tragedy of Malaysia Airlines MH17 recalls the downing of Iran Air flight 655 by the USS Vincennes in 1988. The American warship was in Iranian territorial waters when it launched its surface-to-air missiles. All 290 civilians on board the aircraft died.

The captain of the Vincennes, William C Rogers III, was subsequently awarded the Legion of Merit by former president George HW Bush. A further irony is that the Vincennes was in the Gulf as part of a western effort to ensure that Saddam Hussein’s ill-fated invasion of Iran would not result in his outright defeat.
Yugo Kovach, Winterborne Houghton, Dorset

Block and tackle

Monetary sanctions are sadly the only option for law-abiding countries. A block on Russian transactions in London would be met with an immediate response to apprehend the perpetrators and bring them to justice. Strong action also needs to be taken now for the future safety of commercial aviation with handheld rocket launchers in the wrong hands.
Richard Andrews, Witney, Oxfordshire

Supply chain

The Malaysia Airlines tragedy shows what terrible things can happen when powerful destructive weapons are used irresponsibly, having been supplied by a supporting world power. A similar situation exists in Gaza (“Israel sends troops into Gaza tunnels”, World News, last week) where an even higher number of innocent civilians is being killed with equally destructive weapons supplied by a world power.
Bruce Payne, Sheffield

Imbalance of power

In Gaza, one’s sympathy is with the underdog — the side that has hundreds dead and many more injured. On one side there are all the weapons of war, while on the other there are rockets against which Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system protects its civilians.

I do agree with Ari Shavit’s thesis of the missed opportunity for getting even a temporary truce, but the blame cannot legitimately be put on the US diplomatic effort (“War clouds over my sons’ future”, Focus, July 13). It is only the parties to the conflict that can make peace. There is one very serious problem, though. Israel has a huge preponderance of power; the Palestinians have nothing with which to bargain. The rockets from Gaza are a pathetic attempt to get a place at the negotiating table.

Shavit’s article did, of course, contain the answer. There was no immediate threat from the refugees on their tiny strip of desert, so why bother?
FL Gardener, Bristol

Duties of States

If the Afghan people were to democratically elect the Taliban, the western world would abandon them to the sorry fate they chose for themselves and certainly not give them money nor any moral support.

So why is it different for the Palestinians? Hamas, which has shown in recent days its sheer disregard for the lives of the people it is responsible for, did not come to power in a vacuum.

This organisation, whose raison d’être is anti-peace, anti-Jewish and a dedication to the destruction of Israel, was democratically elected by the Palestinian people. It is time for the international community to recognise this fact, and to make the message clear to the Palestinian people that while it supports a Palestinian state, statehood comes with responsibilities. The last thing the world needs is another terrorist regime.
Michelle Moshelian, Givatayim, Israel

Life bans for drivers caught on phone

YOUR heartbreaking article “Killed for the sake of a text” (Focus, last week) reinforces the urgency with which the government must confront this issue. A driving licence is a privilege, not a right, and anyone caught on a mobile phone while at the wheel must be handed a substantial punishment. Repeat offenders and those who cause a fatal accident should be banned from driving for life.

Mike Dunstan, Reading, Berkshire

In plain sight

The law against the use of mobile phones while driving is one of the most openly ignored. It is treated with disdain by many motorists, and it is increasingly hard to spot drivers not breaking this rule.

Rowell Wilkinson, Leyton, London

Wrong message

While I applaud your campaign, I doubt anything will change. A young woman driving behind me spent the whole time looking at her phone. When she stopped at red lights, a police patrol car with two officers inside halted in a queue of traffic opposite. I attempted to alert them but they took no notice and she blatantly continued her texting.

Cynthia Farrell, Warwick

Global threat of antibiotics

THE Conservative MP David Davis highlights antibiotic resistance as one of the greatest threats to our ability to fight disease (“Reckless use of antibiotics will kill more than any war”, Comment, July 13) and it has the potential to become a global catastrophe.

Davis correctly points to the fact that the lack of oversight and regulation of antibiotic use outside Europe is a serious cause for concern. But he is mistaken in his assertion that: “The scientific consensus is that most antibiotic resistance in human infections is of farm-animal origin.”

In reality the opposite is true, as was recognised by the government’s UK five-year antimicrobial resistance strategy, published last year. It states: “Increasing scientific evidence suggests that the clinical issues with antimicrobial resistance that we face in human medicine are primarily the result of antibiotic use in people, rather than the use of antibiotics in animals.”

Of course that does not mean that those of us working in the animal health sector are complacent. The British Veterinary Association has been leading the call for the responsible use of antibiotics both in the UK and across the globe.

Robin Hargreaves, President, British Veterinary Association, London W1

Call NHS managers to account for targeting whistleblowers

YOUR report “Surgeon wins fight after NHS cover-up” (News, July 13) was not the first time we read about the unfair and arrogant behaviour of NHS managers, resulting in the sacking of whistleblowers and disruption to their lives.

When will we learn that unless managers are held to be accountable and given exemplary punishment for their actions against whistleblowers, the whistleblowers will continue to suffer? Perhaps it is time to start a serious campaign.

Arun Baksi, Physician, Rajeev Joshi, Haematologist (retired), Rajiv Ghurye, Rebecca Ashton, Peter Coleman, Martin Davies, General Practitioners, David McNeal, Gynaecologist (retired), John Smith, Chemical Pathologist (retired), Bettina Harms, Paediatrician, Bhupen Shah, Surgeon, Isle of Wight; June Cooper, Anaesthetist (retired), Anglesey, Derek Machin, Surgeon, and Beverley Moore, Gynaecologist (retired), Merseyside, Krishna Korlipara, General Practitioner, Bolton, Lancashire, Ronald Hill, Physician (retired), Wendy Gatling, Physician, Poole, Dorset


Off plan

Everyone in my village is aware that even the present planning laws were not enough to stop a developer building 10 large houses on an orchard in the green belt (“To build better towns we must first demolish the planners’ brick wall”, News Review, last week). The article’s author, Karl Sharro, fails to understand that developers build what they want and wherever they can in order to make a profit. The orchard in question was not what he describes as “derelict agricultural land”; it was part of what makes the area attractive. I agree that too much emphasis is placed upon scrutinising homeowners wishing to extend their properties, but removing planning controls will result in massive urban sprawl.

Nick Craddock, Pewsey, Wiltshire

Gone bust

Audacity has two meanings, one positive, the other not so. The first is bold or daring, the second is impudent or presumptuous (“Audacious as ever: The revamped Chichester Festival Theatre has lost none of its edge”, Culture, last week). Certainly the money has been well spent on the refurbishment and improvement of the theatre, and indeed “they have decluttered the old building, made more space and daylight in the foyer”. But where is the splendid bronze relief by the acclaimed sculptor Lawrence Holofcener? It presents, in the form of a series of busts, Laurence Olivier in 28 of his most famous theatre and film roles. Making inquiries, I was told it obstructed the clean, smooth lines of the architect’s vision. However, it was the vision of Olivier (who became the theatre’s first artistic director at the invitation of local councillor Leslie Evershed Martin) that was behind this regional venue’s lasting success. He put Chichester on the theatrical map, where it has stayed ever since. Almost 30 years ago it was considered absolutely fitting for this to be commemorated by a sculpture, which was unveiled by the humbled and honoured actor himself. It is unforgivable to fail to reinstall that tribute now. Put it back at once. Do others agree?

Mark Walker, Southampton

Badgering farmers

Charles Clover worries that the new environment secretary, Elizabeth Truss, may reduce the number of badger culls taking place (“All eyes on Iron Lady 2.0, caught between Brock and a hard place”, Comment, last week). Clover and the farming community seem hellbent on killing anything that moves in the countryside, unless there is direct financial gain to be had. Far more effective than culling badgers would be to stop compensating farmers for TB in cattle. Then we would very quickly see the introduction of badger-proof fencing around those cattle. Clover claimed that badgers are responsible for the decline of hedgehogs, bumblebees and ground-nesting birds. Farmers and their “modern” practices are clearly much more culpable than the few badgers we have left.

Michael Donkin, Chorley, Lancashire

Jury disservice

Your correspondent Vic Brown gives a very misleading impression of court proceedings (“Guilty as charged”, Letters, July 6). Jurors are supplied with writing pads and pens and encouraged to take notes. Judges almost always provide the jury with written directions on the law and definitely do so in lengthy and complicated cases. Finally, all jurors are advised that should they have any queries during their deliberations, the question should be written down and it will be answered in open court.

Heather Kennedy, Ormskirk, Lancashire

Smoke and mirrors

Amanda Foreman is right to call Colorado’s cannabis legalisation a great social experiment (“Let them eat cannabis cake: a great social experiment has begun”, Comment, July 13). Sadly, though, the canaries in the cage are its own citizens. She wonders “whether people can be trusted to behave like grown-ups; and so far the answer is yes”.Trusting a person to behave like an adult when a chemical is in control of their brain is asking a bit much. A 2013 study by the Maryland Psychiatric Research Centre shows it can take up to eight years for psychosis to manifest itself in cannabis users. Making positive statements about its legalisation six months into the experiment is at best premature.

Nigel Price, Cardiff

Clarifcations on Coll

As the former owner mentioned in your articles about Alexander McCall Smith and the Cairns of Coll (” McCall Smith to give Cairns of Coll to nation”, News and “The No 1 writer’s retreat”, Home, last week), viz “someone who lived on Barra and in whose family they had been for three (sic) generations”, I would like to clarify that my home is in Coll and I work as a Gaidhlig medium teacher in Barra. The Cairns have never been under threat from development, the people of Coll have always had access to them and the wildlife has been free to come and go. This would be the case irrespective of who owns them, due to legislation and regulation over the last 30 years. The money I got from the sale – £140,000 and not “just under £300,000” stated in your paper – is being used to build my house on Coll, an expensive undertaking in a part of the country where costs are crippling.

These include the need to import sand and gravel to an island rich in beaches, thanks to a general commercial prohibition imposed unilaterally by Scottish Natural Heritage backed by the RSPB in recent years. I am glad that Mr McCall Smith mentions our pre-purchase discussions. I was determined that the islands should not end up in the hands of any conservation body because I did not want to see them, the people of Coll who use them nor the wildlife there subjected to the unnatural controls and destructive management plans which are the hallmark of conservation ownership. To that end, the selling agent was instructed by me to ask Mr McCall Smith at the point of sale whether he was going to gift the Cairns of Coll to any environmental group. Had he stated that this was his intention, I would not have sold him the islands. I am happy now to publicly confirm that he gave the required assurance that he would not do this. That, in my view, is the way to look after the islands.

Miss Kirsty MacFarlane, Isle Of Coll, Argyll and Bute

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)


Allan Border, cricketer, 59; Nikolaj Coster Waldau, actor, 44; Christopher Dean, figure skater, 56; Jo Durie, tennis player, 54; Bobbie Gentry, country singer, 70; Jack Higgins, novelist, 85; Timo Maas, DJ, 45; Julian McMahon, actor, 46; Jonathan Rhys Meyers, actor, 37; Baroness Williams, politician, 84


1694 foundation of the Bank of England; 1890 Vincent van Gogh shoots himself and dies two days later; 1940 debut of Bugs Bunny, in the short film A Wild Hare; 1974 House judiciary committee votes to impeach President Richard Nixon; 1996 pipe bomb at Olympic Games in Atlanta kills one and wounds 110

Letters should arrive by midday on Thursday and include the full address and a daytime and an evening telephone number. Please quote date, section and page number. We may edit letters, which must be exclusive to The Sunday Times


SIR – I am unashamedly proud to be a female contributor to the Letters page (“Don’t women have opinions? Comment, July 25). Each of my few published missives is framed for inspection in the downstairs loo.

Frances Williams
Swindon, Wiltshire

SIR – Just too busy multi-tasking to marshal thoughts – not necessary on “Mumsnet”.

Fiona Wild
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

SIR – I have written to the Telegraph on various topics over the years. To date, I have had one letter published and one included in the book Am I Alone in Thinking…?.

Pam Chadwick
Lechlade, Gloucestershire

SIR – I’m not sure what all the fuss is about. I write occasionally and I have been printed three times. All this from a girlie – and in the North East, to boot.

Rosie Harden-Vane
Holywell, Northumberland

SIR – Regular letter-writers Felicity Foulis Brown, Cynthia Harrod-Eagles and Ann Farmer don’t look at all as I imagined – but a pleasant surprise in all three cases.

Anne Bloor
Burton Overy, Leicestershire

SIR – If fewer women are represented on the Letters page, it would also appear that fewer of them have birthdays, going by “Today’s Birthdays”.

Jon Campanini
Twickenham, Middlesex

Healthier pinch of salt

SIR – Your trainee surgeon correspondents speak somewhat disingenuously of a reduction in their working hours as “forced on doctors by the European Working Time Directive”.

One of the strongest lobbies to Brussels for a reduction in junior doctors’ hours came from our own British Medical Association, which still prefers to focus on doctors’ alleged tiredness than to recognise the damage done to training.

For years I’ve enjoyed dialogue with fellow senior surgeons from Ireland and Continental Europe. None bleat about the EU directive, which for some masochistic reason we adhere to so slavishly in Britain. They just get on with educating trainees, and take the directive with a pinch of salt.

Why can’t we be a little street-wise here?

Peter Mahaffey FRCS
Cardington, Bedford

Dry fly

SIR – My mother-in-law’s wig flies off if she uses a hot-air hand dryer .

Sarah Gall
Rochdale, Lancashire

SIR – Your readers seem to have used machines which, if noisy, were at least benign. There used to be one in Great Yarmouth that bore a frightening message: “Dryer will stop after removing hands.”

Andrew Lindqvist
Halesworth, Suffolk

Show a leg

SIR – In the hot weather, would somebody please advise me on the correct length of my shorts. Should this be above or below the knee, and if so by how much?

John Holmes
Crookham Village, Hampshire

Sanctions and Russia

SIR – Dubai, Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai are among those centres that will be cheering at the prospect of sanctions against Russian oligarchs. Apart from the dubious legality of seizing, or freezing, the assets of the citizens of a country with which we are not at war, there is a noteworthy precedent for the threat.

During the Cold War, there were fears that America would block the accounts of Soviet institutions in New York. The Paris-based subsidiary of the Soviet Foreign Trade Bank, whose telex answer back was “Eurobank”, began placing its dollar deposits in London. So was born the Eurodollar market, and the development of the City of London as the world’s premier financial centre. It is still that, but it is not the only international financial centre.

Stanislas Yassukovich
Oppède, Vaucluse, France

SIR – Congratulations to the Dutch on their superb organisation of a simple and very moving but dignified ceremony to receive the victims of the MH17 plane disaster.

John Buggins
Sutton Coldfield, Warwickshire

Noisy adults

SIR – I am 13. On Sunday afternoon, while my younger brother and I were quietly relaxing in the sun, our elderly neighbour began to use a loud hedge trimmer. The noise drove us inside. He used the same trimmer at 7.30am on Tuesday, waking us.

A noisy trimmer is no better than a yelping child. Adults must decide: do they want us to get rickets by keeping indoors and quiet for the sake of their gardens?

Molly Wilson
Hook, Hampshire

SIR – Well done to Bill Hollowell on his method of ensuring that children are discouraged from playing in the garden when, of course, they should be hunched over their iPads, televisions and computer consoles.

Incidentally, how does he deflate tennis balls and destroy model planes?

Patrick White
London SW19

Park and bark

SIR – Regarding complaints over the lack of shade in car parks, a solution would be to leave the dog at home or take the elderly relative into the supermarket. It is, after all, a car park.

Andrew Glendinning
South Rauceby, Lincolnshire

Not so easy to get to see the Games in Scotland

SIR – My husband and I had a great day at the Olympics so thought we’d go to the Commonwealth Games and make a week of it. We applied for athletics (four events), netball and hockey. But we were only allocated tickets for hockey. As accommodation was four times the normal rate, and considering the cost of petrol, we cut our losses and stayed at home to watch on television.

Jonathan Liew writes of “pockets of empty seats at hockey and bowls”. Did others make the same choice?

Lucilla Lang
Knowle, Warwickshire

SIR – Should croquet be included in the Commonwealth and Olympic Games? It was good enough for Alice in Wonderland, and in what other game can you peg out and still live to play again?

Graham Bond
Matching Green, Essex

SIR – I thought that this picture, taken inshore from Chesil Bank, in Dorset, might be a good emblem for the Commonwealth Games.

Nigel Peacock
Llanbedr-y-Cennin, Caernarfonshire

Claude Monet and his wife, Alice, enjoy the pigeons of St Mark’s Square, Venice, in 1908  Photo:

6:59AM BST 26 Jul 2014


SIR – Michael Caine is right to express horror at the cruise ship invasion of Venice. The views of the Salute and the Dogana from St Mark’s and the Riva Schiavoni are permanently scarred, overshadowed by gigantic floating hotels that disgorge tourists who increase the population by up to 15 per cent, destroying any semblance of tranquillity.

The essence of Venice has always been its intimate scale and its infinite, colourful variety of form, structure and light. This is now only a two-dimensional memory to be viewed in the wonderful paintings by Monet.

Venice has always been a fragile place at the mercy of the sea, whence now comes the most menacing threat to date.

Paul Strong
Claxby, Lincolnshire

Persuade Palestinians to abandon extremism with carrot not just stick

Muslim Palestinians need to trust that partnership with Israel can offer them greater security than siding with Hamas

 A Palestinian peers from a window in the Gaza Strip following an overnight Israeli air strike

A Palestinian man peers from a window in the Gaza Strip following an overnight Israeli air strike Photo: REX

7:00AM BST 26 Jul 2014


SIR – The difficulty – not recognised by those who call on it to negotiate – is that whatever concessions Israel makes, hardcore elements in Hamas will not be satisfied until Israel is destroyed. The negotiation of interim concessions is just another weapon in the armoury.

That said, the popular support that Hamas enjoys and which gives it a “democratic” mandate is something that Israel could do more to erode by increasing the amount of carrot offered alongside the stick.

The vast majority of people in the world, Muslim Palestinians included, want simply to get on with their lives and see their children flourish. If they saw that partnership with Israel would deliver this, while the self-interested bile of Hamas would not, they would slowly turn their backs on the extremists.

The alternative for both sides is more hatred and death.

Victor Launert
Matlock Bath, Derbyshire

SIR – The West must be more balanced. The war crime here, if there is one, is Hamas indiscriminately firing rockets into civilian areas and using its civilian population as a human shield against the certain reprisals from the Israeli army.

In Gaza, arsenals have been sited among civilians and under schools, hospitals and mosques for no reason other than to wrench the heart strings of the gullible Western media by portraying Palestinian suffering on our screens. Sacrificing your own children to achieve sympathetic headlines takes terrorism to a new low.

The BBC, particularly, must be careful that by instilling anti-Israel sentiment, it does not fan the flames of anti-Semitism.

Brian Clarke
London W6

SIR – Martin Mears writes of Gaza that the “random firing of rockets will never win a conflict”. However, had one of those hundreds of random rockets that landed close to Ben Gurion airport hit a fully loaded international plane, then there would have been another MH17 situation.

Would the blame even then have been put on the Palestinians, and also on Iran as being the suppliers of those rockets? Knowing the world today, I fancy not.

John Tilsiter
Radlett, Hertfordshire

SIR – Benjamin Netanyahu says his forces tell Palestinians to leave before they shell their homes, but where are they meant to go?

Matt Minshall
King’s Lynn, Norfolk

SIR – Alexander Hopkinson-Woolley points out that the people of Gaza live in terrible conditions. He should ask where the huge amount of aid (including from the British taxpayer) going into the area for years to help the people of Gaza has been spent, while tunnels have been built and rockets fired into Israel.

Linda Morris

Irish Times:

Irish Independent:

Madam – The news that Angela Kerins is taking a High Court action against the Dail Public Accounts Committee (PAC) for all sorts of suffering and stress shows the high opinion that some people have of themselves and the sense of entitlement that those same people think they have.

Angela Kerins was being paid €240,000 per annum for being CEO of Rehab when she resigned after a question and answer session with the PAC. Rehab was being heavily subsidised by the state. While sections of Rehab were losing money or making very little, Angela and Co. were coining it. A large number of Rehab executives were on €100,000 per annum but Angela and Frank Flannery were doing very well, thank you, on very large salaries indeed. Months of public pressure had to be applied to force Rehab to disclose the relevant salaries to the public who were paying a big proportion of these salaries.

It was apparent to all with any sense of proportion that Angela and Co. were too much over the top of the charity pay scales. Even the other charities were critical of Rehab. But were Angela and Frank abashed? Were they ashamed of themselves for receiving large sums of money that would have been better spent on helping the crippled and the lame, the people that Rehab was supposed to be helping? Not a bit of it. Instead they are claiming hurt, stress and all the usual legal words.

Ms Kerins obviously thinks attack is the best part of defence and Mr Flannery seems to be heading along the same road. Isn’t is about time that Ireland grew up and adapted it’s laws so that people like Ms. Kerins and Mr. Flannery could only slink away to deserved oblivion and not cause the unnecessary trouble they threaten at present?

Liam Cooke


Dublin 17

Madam – I am beginning to see a lot of parallels between President Putin of Russia and some of the dictators throughout history

His record on human rights is abysmal. His pronouncements on gay people and their treatment under his presidency is archaic and so out of touch with reality.

If this latest disaster in Ukraine is proven to be a Russian supported mass murder, then I believe he should be charged with a war crime and made appear before the relevant court.

Adolf Hitler‘s activities were tolerated for far too long before he was challenged by the Allies and eventually defeated.

This massacre should be seen as a line in the sand.

Pat Burke Walsh,


Co Wexford

Breaking the laws threatens the peace

Madam – a protestor recently tore down the Israeli flag as seven under-16 Israeli children participated in the European Optimist sailing championship in Dun Laoghaire. Why has there not been an arrest?

To quote Steve Collins, an outstanding, brave Irish citizen whose son was murdered: “If somebody doesn’t take a stand, where will it all end?” No society can exist in relative peace and harmony if laws are broken at a whim without consequence.

The attitude of some seems to be: if you do not like laws governing turf cutting, break the law! if you do not like property taxes, break the law! if you do not like water metering, break the law! if you do not like refuse trucks driven by non-union truck drivers, break the law! if you do not like property auctions in Dublin hotels, break the law!

When will this madness (and that is what it is) end?

When are the citizens of this nation and those in positions of power and influence going to speak up?

As a nation we are slowly heading towards anarchy and we are being led, for the most part, by duly elected officials, and a silent majority.

Vincent J. Lavery,

Irish Free Speech Movement, Dalkey, Co Dublin

Letter writers do have influence

Madam – Once again, I read with interest, another letter by Vincent J Lavery (Sunday Independent, 20 July 2014) on the subject of “Letters to the Editor”. He seems to be very negative on the subject. He describes these letters as “a feel good moment without any result”. Is not the feel good factor a good result in itself?

Editors have a job to do, and may not allow on-going discussions with those in positions of power, but I have no doubt, many letters have their influence, and do not go unnoticed. This page is a big asset to any newspaper, and for many readers, it’s the first page they turn too. A very enjoyable facility in which to air their views. Long may it continue.

Brian McDevitt,



Human life sacred on all sides in war

Madam- Referring to the Israeli/Hamas conflict I believe Eoghan Harris (Sunday Independent, July 20) misjudges the mind-set of many of those who oppose Israel’s incursion into Gaza when he writes: “But I doubt people would switch sympathies if Hamas rockets kill a larger number of Israeli children.”

There is something inherent in our human psyche that repulses us when we see the spilling of innocent blood, particularly when it is the blood of children. This revulsion does not discriminate between the killings of Palestinian or Israeli children. All human life is sacred.

In the midst of all this senseless killing I am reminded of the words of Vasily Grossman the Jewish writer and war-correspondent from the last century “When you think about new-born babies being killed in our own lifetime, all the efforts of culture seem worthless. What have people learned from all our Goethes and Bachs? To kill babies?”

John Bellew,

Dunleer, Co Louth

Sunday Independent


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