1 January 2015 Sharland
Mary a little better, Sharland and Steff come to call.
The 8th Duke of Wellington, who has died aged 99, led a level-headed and responsible life in the shadow of his great ancestor, the victor of Waterloo.
He earned a Military Cross in the Second World War, spoke up for the Army and rural communities in the House of Lords, and served as a Hampshire county councillor and as president, trustee, governor and member of a wide variety of bodies.
Well aware of the social changes that followed the Second World War, Wellington once remarked, tongue in cheek, at a meeting of the Zoological Society, that perhaps dukes should be made a protected species. He remained determined to protect his property, and took steps to secure his family’s interests in Britain, Spain and Belgium against threats posed by politicians and high taxation; he was not afraid to be seen backing causes in which he had a personal stake.
Above all, he kept a judicious eye on both the 1st Duke’s reputation and the battlefield of Waterloo, becoming exercised by the commercialisation of the site, where he felt that the predominant number of imperial eagles and other items bearing the initial “N” in the gift shop implied that Napoleon had really won.
In 1995, after seeing the “inglorious flag” of the European Union flying over the site, he wrote to The Daily Telegraph to protest against the “unnatural” celebrations of the battle’s 180th anniversary. “We British have a feeling and respect for the past, something that not all nations understand or share,” he explained; in addition he noted that Napoleon’s headquarters, which had once housed a small museum, was now a discotheque.Shortly before the letters column’s deadline, he rang back to add another line below “Duke of Wellington” at the bottom of the text: “Prince of Waterloo”.
Arthur Valerian Wellesley was born in Rome on July 2 1915, the centenary year of his great-great-grandfather’s victory over the French. His father was Lord Gerald Wellesley, the third son of the 4th Duke, an author and diplomat who later qualified as an architect and succeeded as the 7th Duke in 1943. Valerian’s mother was Dottie Ashton, a wealthy industrialist’s daughter and poet who married her husband in 1914 and published a volume of letters from the poet WB Yeats and another containing her letters to him after his death . When Valerian was seven, his parents’ marriage broke up, partly because of his mother’s drinking and her friendship with the writer Vita Sackville-West.
The Duke of Wellington’s house Stratfield Saye, between Reading and Basingstoke (REX)
At Eton he was a member of the shooting VIII. While serving in the corps, he fainted during a parade at Windsor, and when Queen Mary asked afterwards what had been wrong he said he thought he had measles — drawing the comment from George V (who believed such diseases should be experienced in childhood): “And high time, too.”
Although Valerian wanted to go straight into the Army, his father sent him to read History and Languages at New College, Oxford, where he was a member of the Bullingdon Club; at the same time he enjoyed London society, dancing with suitable girls at grand balls and less suitable ones in subterranean nightclubs. As a result he failed his finals and was sent to a London crammer, run by an attractive widow, and then to France to learn French. He was commissioned into the Royal Horse Guards, which taught him sword, lance and revolver drill, tent pegging and other cavalry exercises. Before embarking for Palestine in 1940, he paid an Indian at Liverpool docks to tattoo his regiment’s emblem on his left arm.
After being posted to Tulkarm with the 1st Household Cavalry, Wellesley made patrols through Arab villages, but was upset after a few months to be ordered to shoot 14 black horses, which had taken part in George VI’s coronation, when the regiment was mechanised.
He was then part of a column which advanced 500 miles into Iraq, where he found himself hunting, and being hunted by, the canny nationalist leader Fawzi al-Kawukji who, in league with the Vichy French in Syria, was harrying British supply lines.
A painting of the ‘Iron Duke’ at the Battle of Waterloo (GETTY)
On one patrol Wellesley found himself crawling at night through the ruins of the ancient city of Palmyra, outside which he found a French officer’s scarlet cloak; it would remain on the ducal bed for many years until the Duchess threw it out as moth-eaten. On another he was turned back by enemy armoured cars outside El Beida. “Apart from the above incidents,” the citation for his MC declared, “this officer’s conduct throughout the operations in Syria was exceptionally gallant and he was a magnificent example to all ranks of his squadron.”
While in Cairo he enjoyed the friendship of a Druze princess, who once hid him in her bedroom while she remonstrated with an enraged friend. He took part in the battle of Alamein before being wounded when a “brew-up” of tea exploded. It was in late 1943 that he learned that his cousin, the 6th Duke, his elder by three years, had been killed with the Commandos at Salerno. Wellesley’s father succeeded as the 7th Duke, and he began to use the courtesy title, Marquess of Douro.
On being posted to the staff in Jerusalem he met Diana McConnel, who worked in the office of her father, Major General Douglas McConnel, the GOC. Shortly before their marriage in January 1943 a bomb was discovered outside the Anglican cathedral; it had been due to go off on their wedding day. Nine weeks later Douro was sent to Italy where, in the course of the difficult advance, he was given a duck which, instead of eating, he kept with a pointer in his armoured car, which his men dubbed “The Dog and the Duck”.
The Duke and Duchess of Wellington at Stratfield Saye in 1974 (REX)
Posted to Germany after the war, he considered leaving the Army until King George VI asked him to stay on, saying: “I like to have people I know in the Household Cavalry.” The following year Douro stood guard for 22 periods at the King’s lying-in-state.
His next significant posting was as commanding officer of the Blues in Cyprus, where he always slept with a pistol under his pillow. He then commanded the Royal Armoured Corps in Germany before a final appointment as military attaché in Madrid — he was in the unusual position of being a diplomat in a country where he was heir to a title (Duke of Ciudad Rodrigo) and to 2,500 acres, which had been conferred on the 1st Duke.
On retiring from the Army in 1968 in the rank of brigadier, Douro turned his attention to the family estates. These were in an unsatisfactory state since his father had handed over the running of the main holdings to the government in the hope of preserving them. As a result these became a “parliamentary estate”, vested in the Prime Minister, the Speaker of the Commons and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, an arrangement with great disadvantages which was dissolved in 1972.
After succeeding as the 8th Duke in the same year, in order to meet estate duties he sold 1,135 acres at Silchester and 230 at Wellington, Somerset (from where the family had originated). Over the following years he sold paintings, drawings and a 120-piece Sèvres dessert service made for the Empress Josephine. When it was learned that the buyer of the Sèvres was the French government there was a storm of protest in Britain, and an export licence was delayed before it eventually went to the Victoria and Albert Museum for £450,000. The Iron Duke’s papers were dispatched to Southampton University as part of an agreement with the Treasury.
The Duke with his dog, Nutkin, in 1990 (REX)
A plan to modernise the Wellington estates included opening to the public Stratfield Saye, the 17th-century house with 7,500 acres between Reading and Basingstoke which had been given by the nation to the 1st Duke, and the creation of a 700-acre country park . In the course of 40 years, it was estimated that he planted more than one million trees.
The democratic age sometimes posed a threat to the Wellington properties abroad. In Spain, 500 farmworkers staged a sit-in on the ducal hunting estate near Granada . In Belgium in the 1970s and 1980s, two retired senators (one a descendant of a Napoleonic general) called the Duke’s right to an income of £20,000 a year from the 2,600 acres next to the battlefield of Waterloo a “feudal and medieval annuity”.
There were other irritations, such as the persistent press interest in his daughter Jane’s friendship with the Prince of Wales in the early 1970s; and he could be sure that, wherever he was in the world, nobody would miss the opportunity to serve him Beef Wellington.
In the House of Lords, the Duke was particularly critical of the cutting of the Army’s numbers after the fall of communism. (When the Blair government introduced its reforms of the Upper House, the dukes declined to put their names forward for election.)
In his later years the Duke visited Iraq (he was highly critical of the 2003 invasion) and made a pilgrimage to the 6th Duke’s grave near Salerno. He was proud when a grandson served in Afghanistan with the Blues and Royals.
The Duke’s many appointments included being the last Colonel-in-Chief of the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment; president of Game Conservancy; a director of Massey Ferguson; a trustee of the Royal Armouries; and a governor of Wellington College.
He was appointed LVO in 1952, OBE in 1957 and KG in 1990. He was also an officer of the French Legion of Honour, and a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael of the Wing in Portugal, and of the Order of Isabel the Catholic in Spain.
The Duke’s wife died in 2010. The heir to the peerages is the eldest of his four sons, Charles, Marquess of Douro, a former MEP, who was born in 1945 and married Princess Antonia von Preussen, a great-granddaughter of the last German Emperor.
The 8th Duke of Wellington, born July 2 1915, died December 31 2014
With the radical left Syriza coalition tipped to form the next government in Greece following the announcement of early elections in the new year (The future has begun, says leftist Tsipras as he scents power, 30 December), liberal democracy is under scrutiny as it has never been before in the very heart of Europe. Will the Greek people and their democratic constitution be respected and upheld by the European and US establishments which have committed billions to foreign interventions in the name of democracy and human rights, or is Europe poised to experience the overthrow of a democratically elected government within its union?
In connection with the possibility of Syriza forming the next government, one cannot help remembering US president Lyndon Johnson’s hubristic disregard for Greek democracy when he expressed himself with regard to the Greek ambassador’s concern with the US’s preferred solution on Cyprus: “Then listen to me, Mr Ambassador, fuck your parliament and your constitution. America is an elephant. Cyprus is a flea. If these two fleas continue itching the elephant, they may just get whacked by the elephant’s trunk, whacked good … We pay a lot of good American dollars to the Greeks, Mr Ambassador. If your prime minister gives me talk about democracy, parliament and constitutions, he, his parliament and his constitution may not last very long.”
• The size of the Greek economy being minuscule in comparison to the major economies in the EU, the only threat to world finance of a Syriza victory is political. It is a threat of the loss of grip on the narrative of the financial crisis, that the crisis is caused by the profligacy of the poor, in the hands of the plutocracy of global finance.
If Syriza is allowed to retain the euro on its own terms, people elsewhere might begin to question the benefit of continuing with the particular programme of poor-bashing austerity, even if they accept the need for austerity, preached by the union leaders, the troika, of this governing plutocracy. The governing classes ask for decades of sacrifice from citizens, holding out at best only the prospect of low-paying, insecure jobs.
If the received narrative comes into question, workers like those in Germany might begin to doubt their masters. Workers there have accepted low wages for decades without questioning the narrative of competitiveness ensuring their financial security. They would see that their sacrifice has, paradoxically, contributed to their economic insecurity by allowing for a glut of money in trade surpluses to be built up in a banking system that has developed innovative techniques of financial engineering which only reward the plutocracy in corporate boardrooms and banks, and contribute to the instability of the economic edifice that delivers jobs and prosperity to the masses.
• You state (Editorial, 30 December) that if the left-leaning Syriza wins the January election, it will ask the EU for debt forgiveness. Perhaps you should have pointed out that Germany too asked for such macroeconomic mercy after its defeat in the second world war, which was duly granted by the allies under the postwar London debt agreement, thereby paving the way for West Germany’s economic miracle.
A debt write-off for Greece, however, although affordable, will not please German voters, as they will have to bear its cost. But such a prescription, if agreed upon, will go a long way towards lessening the growth of extreme pathologies that invariably ensue from stagnating incomes and declining living standards.
Randhir Singh Bains
Gants Hill, Essex
• Syriza is being disingenuous in repeatedly declaring its intention of keeping Greece in the European economic and monetary union (Syriza can transform the EU from within – if Europe will let it, theguardian.com, 30 December). If you belong to a club, you have to play by the rules; which doesn’t include having your debt written off by the other member states. In order to avoid deceiving the electorate, Syriza should do the honourable thing and advocate Greece leaving the EU.
• The people of Greece now have a stark choice: more brutal austerity in return for EU and International Monetary Fund bailouts for the banks, or a rejection of austerity altogether. With the party of the radical left, Syriza, now topping the polls, it is clear which way Greeks are leaning. If the Greeks can vote to reject austerity, so can we – we need to break the pro-austerity consensus of the main parties. Let’s make 2015 the year we put people before profit and public service before corporate greed.
Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition parliamentary candidate, Tottenham
My hearing daughter learned sign language to communicate with her school friends during silent assemblies at her Quaker school. I had no idea she had this skill until on an family outing we were forced to take shelter in a mountain hut during a blizzard. Sharing our table was a silent and rather sad-looking man. We were told by his companion that he was unable to speak, so my daughter started signing. I shall never forget the joy on his face as he realised he was able to communicate with us. I for one will be signing the Let Sign Shine petition (Letters, 31 December).
Kirkby Overblow, North Yorkshire
• We are now on an even split between men and women in the honours list (New year honours 2015: the full list, theguardian.com, 30 December). About time. Puzzling, then, that women who have no other title are still listed with indicators of their marital status. If relationship status is relevant to achievements warranting honours, then surely we should be given this information for the men too? To do otherwise would surely be illegal discrimination.
• The best aphorism in the Guardian of 2014 (Review of the year, G2, 30 December) was by Barney Ronay – he defined God Save the Queen (sung by England fans) as “a plea to an entity that doesn’t exist to preserve one that shouldn’t” (Sport, 20 November). Brilliant.
Dunbar, East Lothian
• When I went into the central London branch of my old bank to close the last account, the cashier gave me £3.83, which emptied the account, but said I would need to make an appointment if I wished to close it (Letters, 31 December).
In response to Martin Kettle’s article on the People’s History Museum’s invitation to supporters to sponsor one of its 100 radical heroes (Right, left and centre: our debt to history’s radicals, 26 December), I wanted to let readers know that people can suggest and sponsor their own radical heroes – we welcome relevant additions to the list. We selected our 100 from the museum’s diverse collections from across the political spectrum – all of them appear somewhere in our museum. They are all radical men and women who believed in ideas worth fighting for and who changed history. The campaign was launched in November by Alan Johnson MP, who sponsored his own radical hero, Scottish activist Jimmy Reid, taking our list immediately to 101.
Chair, People’s History Museum
• Gerry Abbott asks (Letters, December 31) whether anyone will celebrate the centenary of the publication of Robert Tressell’s The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists? Mugsborough itself did so. Hastings borough council, to its great credit, published a brilliant illustrated edition of the book in 2014 “as a public enterprise, not for private profit”, for the handsome price of £2.95. I bought mine from its seafront information office.
Hastings, East Sussex
• The centenary of The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists was celebrated with a symposium at the Hastings campus of the University of Brighton in April, 100 years to the day after its publication. We also celebrated the arrival of the Robert Tressell family papers left to the university in Hastings, which we hope to have online by the end of 2015.
Dr Trevor Hopper
Lecturer in social history, University of Brighton in Hastings
Your editorial on Britain’s broken council tax (20 December), calling for councils to be free to introduce new council tax bands, is welcome. In its report, Devolution in England: The Case for Local Government, published in July 2014, the communities and local government committee, which I chair, called for devolved areas – in the first instance, London or combined authority areas such as Manchester – to be given the power to introduce new council tax bands at the top end of the scale and to split existing ones.
This change needs to follow a revaluation. Council tax rates are based on 1991 valuations, and those in the highest-banded properties are limited to paying no more than three times the tax of those in the lowest. The pretext for deferring revaluation – that it would increase most people’s council tax – is erroneous if the revaluation is fiscally neutral overall locally. Therefore a revaluation of itself must not affect a council’s income. If nothing is done, there is a risk that the whole system will eventually collapse. The government has to legislate to revalue domestic properties every five years. With up-to-date valuations, devolved authorities can introduce a new band with the appropriate properties in it. Doing so would increase fairness in the distribution of the tax burden locally.
With the growing demand for the devolution of tax-raising powers to local authorities in England, the council tax should, in the next parliament, I hope, be overhauled and handed back to the control of local politicians.
Clive Betts MP
Chair, communities and local government committee
• It is not only Scotland that has been used as a testing ground for government policies (Downing street files reveal how Letwin kept poll tax plans alive, 30 December). Properties in Wales were revalued in 2005, which led to 40% of properties being moved up one or two council tax bands and higher tax bills. Revaluation of English properties has never been implemented. In ruling out an English revaluation, communities and local government minister Eric Pickles said it would put up to £320 on the average council tax bill for English households. In this election year, no party would dare to even suggest, never mind implement, such a policy. One law for the English and another for the Welsh.
As the Anglican chaplain living in Abu Dhabi, a former chaplain in Kuwait and a canon of Bahrain Cathedral, I would like to address your editorial on Christian persecution (26 December). I appreciate the Guardian highlighting what has become a disturbingly widespread trend. However, as a resident in the Gulf, I felt the throwaway line presenting the Gulf as a front line in Christian persecution was misleading. While this would be true for Saudi Arabia, the reality in other Gulf countries is far more nuanced. Though there is a large domestic workforce consisting of Christians from the Philippines, India and Ethiopia, there is also a significant Christian minority who work in the professional sector, in education, health, tourism and the oil and gas industry – in other words, we are not all impoverished servants.
There is no persecution in the UAE, Bahrain or Oman. Living in Kuwait, I saw a lot of abuse of domestic workers, and sometimes that was related to religion, but mainly it was abuse of power rather than persecution. I have found that the ruling families have been unstintingly generous towards the church, especially in the UAE. At the recent G20 Interfaith Summit in Brisbane, as a representative of the Christian community in the UAE, I spoke about the UAE as an excellent example of religious freedom within an Islamic framework.
I think your editorial also needs to remind readers that some of the named countries are dysfunctional to the extent where all minorities and even the majority suffers (I think of North Korea especially). Iraq is another case where Muslims who fall foul of the Isis brand of Islam are just as savagely persecuted as Christians.
Yet Christian persecution is a reality and I thank you for raising awareness about the suffering of countless devout Christians. In the case of the Gulf, though, your editorial is an inadequate representation of the experience of the church.
Rev Canon Andy Thompson
Senior chaplain, St Andrew’s Church, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
John Freeman’s years as British high commissioner to India, 1965-68, happily coincided with my own stay there, sponsored by the Ministry of Overseas Development, as a professor at Delhi’s Indian Institute of Technology and occasionally invited to High Commission events. Tall, well-built and handsome, with wavy, gingerish hair, Freeman (obituary, 29 December) was a combination of diplomatic charm and intimidating presence. Yet despite his determination to represent Britain’s Labour government as a new political and cultural presence, the high commissioner’s extensive private compound, with accompanying croquet lawn and equipment, did little to convey to both Indian and British guests that, as the writer Khushwant Singh observed, he was little different from a “pukka sahib”.
Sir, I couldn’t disagree more with Carol Midgley (“Call me love, but never bossy”, Dec 31). We usually praise assertive and outspoken women as role models but men with such traits are often seen as overbearing.
Newton Abbot, Devon
Sir, My grandchildren (letters Dec 29, Dec 31) call me “grandoc”.
Dr Robert Scholefield
Sir, Given my love for champagne, I am known to my grandsons as “GFizz”.
Sir, My wife and I are “GP” and “GM”.
Sir, I’m “grandad”.
Sir, The closure of King’s Cross provoked heavy criticism of Network Rail’s management (letters, Dec 28), but at no time was any mention made of the critical importance of completing these engineering projects safely and with full inspections before letting services resume.
Memories of the Clapham Junction disaster seem to have passed out of public memory. It is critical that these outcries should not affect the safe completion of projects. The risk of public persecution is a small price to pay for safe execution.
Sir Bob Reid
Former chairman, British Rail
Sir, I defend your selection for man of the year . Those who wrote to criticise the choice have totally missed the point (letters, Dec 30). It is Nigel Farage who has forced the Westminster village to address the concerns of the electorate.
Politicians have been made to listen to the views of the electorate, regardless of whether these views are justified or not, and act accordingly. They are after all the “employees” of the electorate not their party political machines. Such an achievement in itself warrants the accolade given by The Thunderer.
Sir, There were 65 awards for the army in the New Year’s Honours List. Fifty six went to officers, 8 to warrant officers and one to a sergeant. Yet the reporting from Afghanistan praises in the highest terms the performance of junior ranks.
In the 1980 New Year’s Honour List, the Queen awarded the British Empire Medal to 62 soldiers (all staff sergeant or below), of whom 14 were corporals. This year she was asked to approve honours to just one soldier who would, under the old rules, have qualified for a BEM.
The record of the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force is similarly poor. We can correct it.
Colonel (Ret’d) John Wilson
Former editor British Army Review
SIR – Your leading article finishes with a plea for the proponents of assisted dying to “accept the outcome and not come back time and again until they get what they want.”
This is naive. No matter how many times the vote is against assisted dying – and it has been many times over the past couple of decades – its proponents will keep on coming back to the issue.
It is, I gather, a “conscience vote” in Parliament. One can only hope the Lords have the gumption to allow doctors a conscience clause, or we may have the spectacle of doctors being prosecuted for not killing their patients.
John Allen FRCS
SIR – Campaigners use selective quotation as the drunken man uses the lamppost: more for support than illumination.
The letter calling for a change in the law on assisted dying (December 29) quotes Dr Atul Gawande, this year’s Reith lecturer, as saying “we are heartless if we don’t recognise unbearable suffering and seek to alleviate it”.
Dr Gawande went on to point to the three- or fourfold rise in the number of people in the Netherlands choosing assisted suicide, noting that “the number one reason is no longer unbearable suffering, it’s become that people don’t want to be a burden on the family and the society any more. And that concerns me a great deal because we can put people in a position where they feel that they are just a burden.”
Neither the judicial nor the medical safeguards proposed thus far would relieve this insidious but powerful social pressure.
SIR – At what stage did actors, comedians and prize-winning novelists acquire sufficient status and moral high ground to tell Parliament how to proceed on an issue as important as assisted dying?
SIR – I accept that there are compassionate people on both sides of the assisted dying debate and that such a debate is needed in this country.
I do not, however, believe that it was a coincidence that both my beloved husband and mother were enabled to die peacefully and calmly in hospices.
Law-makers must listen carefully to the views of palliative care professionals and their patients before deciding on a law that would have an international impact. Many of the fledgling palliative care programmes around the world are based on the principles and practice of the modern hospice movement, pioneered in this country by Dame Cicely Saunders. Where we lead they are likely to follow.
SIR – I was the Chairman of Birmingham City Council’s Health Scrutiny Committee from 2004 to 2012, while the new Queen Elizabeth Hospital was being planned and built.
On a number of occasions my committee questioned whether the number of beds planned was adequate. We were assured by health professionals that, because hospital stays are shorter these days, everything would be fine.
As your report (“Night one of our brightest and best hospitals was defeated by the dire state of the NHS”, report, December 29) shows, it is not. And with Birmingham’s population set to rise quite considerably over the coming years, the situation will surely only get worse. The number of on-site parking spaces is woefully inadequate, too – as a look around the clogged neighbouring roads will confirm.
Cllr Deirdre Alden (Con)
Run out of puff
SIR – Over the weekend just gone, the coldest of the year so far, all 100-plus off-shore wind turbines along the North Wales coast were idling very slowly, all using grid power for de-icing and to power their hydraulic systems that keep the blades facing in the same direction.
Thanks to Ed Davey, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, we will be subsidising these follies for the next 30 years. And then, if we continue to vote for technically naive green politicians, for further periods after that.
SIR – Releasing a dog caught on wire, without injury to the rescuer, should simply involve throwing your Barbour over the dog’s head while you get on with the business. Failing that, a lead wrapped round the dog’s muzzle and tied not too tight is a trickier alternative.
Ear defenders (for the rescuer) are helpful but seldom available.
Cut off in Cumbria
SIR – Alan Kibblewhite (Letters, December 26) is spot on when he writes about rural buses. In Cumbria, the only bus connecting Penrith and Kendal has been withdrawn due to the loss of the county council subsidy. The result is that several villages no longer have access to public transport. Some people have been forced to give up paid and voluntary employment, while others may even have to move house.
Eric Pickles is the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. Perhaps he could explain why the council is spending vast sums of money on a new headquarters, while abolishing a subsidy for a service upon which so many people depended.
There’s no good time of year for rail repairs
SIR – Dr David Cottam (Letters, December 29) suggests that major rail engineering work should be carried out in August to avoid the effects of winter weather. This seems to be a good suggestion. Regrettably it’s not as easy as that.
For example, when I was track renewals contract manager for Railtrack, and then Network Rail in the North-West, mid-winter was the period of the year booked for routine track renewal works over Shap on the West Coast Main Line.
I was told that the train operating company, which Network Rail has to negotiate with to agree such blocks, would only permit this period as the summer was too busy.
However, this company was the first to complain when sub-zero conditions caused ballast to freeze solid in the wagons delivering it to the site, with a resultant delay in completing the job.
There is never a good time to renew track and undertake disruptive engineering works; the availability of diversionary routes is too limited in many areas.
I hope something positive comes out of discussions of the post-Christmas debacle.
John H Brook
SIR – If Network Rail were a private company, heads would roll and future contracts put in doubt. However, as it is a taxpayer-funded organisation, no one will be held responsible and our money will continue to fund it.
Ed Miliband has promised to ensure more of the rail franchises are nationalised, just like Network Rail.
SIR – Ian Kemp’s assertion that cameras are “only ever installed at collision hotspots” (Letters, December 29) does not stand up to analysis. On the contrary, cameras are primarily installed where they are most likely to catch motorists exceeding speed limits – limits that are often unrealistically low.
On December 7 2003, in an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, the then chief constable of Durham, Paul Garvin, said that “if you break down the 1,900 collisions we have each year, only 3 per cent involve cars that are exceeding the speed limit.”
The available evidence clearly shows that cameras are an extremely efficient revenue-raising system, but have a negligible effect on improving road safety.
Car code cracking
SIR – I did not know the late Christopher Barlow (Letters, December 29), whose online password is the name of his first car. The car is likely to have been a Wartburg. Anyone would want to keep that a secret.
SIR – Yesterday I placed inside the envelope for my son to open after my death, a list bearing my mother’s maiden name, the make of my first car, his nickname as a child and the name of my first dog – together with, by way of explanation, a copy of the letter from Sarah Barlow.
Replacing the tangerine with seedless impostors
Forbidden fruit: the tangerine takes its name from the Moroccan seaport of Tangier (Valentyn Volkov / Alamy)
SIR – As a retired greengrocer, I may have the answer to the scarcity of tangerines in the shops (Letters, December 23).
Original tangerines were absolutely packed with pips and, although flavoursome, were difficult to consume politely – what did one do with the pips?
They were replaced by a seedless version – satsumas – which are almost tasteless, so sales of these have dwindled.
Clementines are much tastier but not as good as the old tangerine which, incidentally, has a very short shelf-life – and is thus unattractive to supermarkets.
SIR – I read the letter about the demise of the tangerine but there are many more candidates for their crown. Although I didn’t realise it at the time, the fruit I bought the other morning were clemenules.
Watching the waistline
SIR – Sqd Ldr T J W Leyland wonders what social events he can look forward to in his seventies (Letters, December 29). I suggest he visits Necker Island (report, December 29), where apparently he could eat sushi off the bare midriff of a young woman.
SIR – Sqd Ldr Leyland has much to look forward to in his seventies, including someone like me supplying him with Meals on Wheels. He should brace himself.
SIR – What comes next is a very long lie–in.
The fat of the land
SIR – Natasha Corrett advocates eating “as Mother Nature intended”.
Looking at the list of ingredients in her recipes (from umeboshi plum purée to galangal), I can only conclude that Mother Nature never intended anyone to live in the British Isles.
Globe and Mail:
In terms of Irish history, there are three new years every year.
We have the Celtic Samhain or Halloween, then there is the new light born of the solstice on December 21, and of course there is January 31. All are full of symbolism and meaning.
The New Year we celebrate today marks a fresh start, as the earth completes another 365-day marathon around the sun.
People and particularly the media have a tendency to look back as the cycle is completed.
Thus we’ll revisit the near revolution over Garth Brooks, the water charges and sundry other convulsions that this time next year will seem like so many tiny tempests in china tea cups.
You will also be bombarded with diets and fitness programmes on how to attain the body beautiful and a balanced life.
All are predicated on dissatisfaction with the way things were, are, or might be.
My belief is that we would all be a lot happier if we could accept who and where we are, and be thankful for what we have, while we have it. Everything is temporary, including trouble.
Certainly we can hope and trust that things can be better, but there is an old saying that one shouldn’t waste energy trying to push the river.
There is an ebb and flow in life, and if we can learn gratitude and acceptance in the certain knowledge that everything passes, and remember to enjoy the journey; then the space for us to overcome our difficulties will open up, and we can make the best of all our lots.
Killiney, Co Dublin Hope for 2015: a real statesman
Ireland as a society is clearly on a journey to an undefined destination, and for many decades now our political leaders have, at best, functioned simply as effective ‘pot-hole fillers’ on this uncharted road.
Important issues like creating jobs, education, an effective health system, etc, are the potholes, and, like the poor, they may always be with us. But without an overarching vision indicating where the road is taking us, we can never hope to build a meaningful society.
My hope for 2015 is that we and our political system may begin the process of spawning a dynamic leader who is a real statesman (or woman). One who puts an agreed vision for a truly ethical and right-living society in Ireland before ego or power or personal wealth or party.
Maybe it’s time now for each of us, the voters, to consider the type of society we aspire to have; to demand higher ethical standards from our politicians, business executives, and religious leaders; to seek out remarkable and visionary leaders; and to constantly look for that trace of greatness in ourselves and others as we all work to make Ireland a right-living example to the world?
Glenageary, Co Dublin
Pro-life amendment saves lives
As a result of last week’s extremely sad right to life case, a number of commentators have attempted to use this tragedy to bad mouth those who dared to vote yes to the pro-life amendment in 1983, and to push further for an abortion regime in Ireland.
The facts are that, largely thanks to that amendment, Ireland has one of the lowest infant/maternal mortality rates in the world. Our rates are much lower than those in the US and UK, where abortion on demand has corrupted the entire medical profession.
Many would argue that last year’s infamous legislation is already a step too far. In fact, on a contrasting basis, those who voted in favour of the 1983 pro-life amendment have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. Quite the contrary.
Navan, Co Meath
Give out Cabinet jobs on merit
Our Taoiseach has let it be known during the past week that he would consider appointing senators to Government based on merit.
Why not take this a step further and set up an non-political, unpaid advisory body, whose task would be to draw up a list to be presented to the Taoiseach of candidates who would be capable of taking on the role of a minster in the Government.
This list of candidates should have a proven track record in their own fields of expertise, have excelled in management and demonstrated their ability in reaching certain goals within their area of work.
Even to be on this list would be recognised as an honour in itself.
Should the Taoiseach ignore this list and appoint his own 11 nominees to the Seanad and to Government, we will be in a better position to make a more considered evaluation of his judgment in making his appointments to Cabinet.
Glanmire, Co Cork
A modern Robin Hood struggle
If there is one thing that we ought to be able to unite on, it is surely this: It is in all our interests to support both the arguments and the moderate approach of the Ballyhea protesters. We cannot possibly pay the debts of foreign bankers and it is foolish as well as cruel to try to do so. They are ruinous for Ireland and the Irish people.
It is an old struggle in modern economic form. To put it in English terms, it is the struggle between Robin Hood and the Sheriff of Nottingham.
Dr Gerald Morgan
The Chaucer Hub
Trinity College, Dublin 2
We must use our God-given gifts
Christmas day has gone for another year.
Many people will have exchanged gifts – some doing so in the traditional manner emulating the Three Wise Men who presented gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the infant Jesus. Others will have done so for no other reason than it’s what’s done nearing the close of another year.
A New Year is upon us and resolutions will be made. Perhaps this is a good time for everyone in Ireland, and in particular those who have been elected to govern, to discover what gifts they carry from God and if those gifts are being delivered as intended by the sender?
Perhaps unfortunately, messengers and/or gift bearers, have also been gifted with free will and quite often they chose to serve mammon rather than God.
This is most obvious when we consider a cruel fact that the wealth of just 85 persons exceeds the total wealth of 3,500 million of the Earth’s poorest people.
Totally overlooked, in a society that is no longer God-orientated, is the fact that over 2,000 years ago God sent a present, or gift, to all humankind in the form of His Son, Jesus.
It can be said, without fear of contradiction, that this one person’s enormous impact on the world has never been equalled by any other person, regardless of their achievements.
All He did in the final three years of his life on Earth was to encourage us to be charitable to one another, perhaps by each working for the common good of all humankind and by doing so reaping the reward of eternal life after death.
For bringing that message to humankind He was sentenced to death by a mob.
Fortunately, we don’t all have to prematurely die to deliver our God-given gifts to humankind.
Humanity fails to recognise the fact that God, despite not making His presence visible, has always been active sending messages and gifts carried by every single baby that exists in a mother’s womb and is then born, and that includes you, dear reader.
Perhaps this New Year, whether you believe or disbelieve in God, you could ponder on what message, or gift, you bear for humankind and resolve to play your part to the full?
Dundrum, Dublin 14