Padraig Colman

Rambling ruminations of an Irishman in Sri Lanka

A Health unto HRH (and Confusion to his Enemies)

I have made my own  tradition of sending Prince Charles greetings on his birthday. November 14 is here again, and I haven’t yet got Chas a present. This year he is  64 and still hasn’t got a proper job.

Usually I churn out an article  along the lines of  “Happy birthday, Sir,  and long may you prosper at our expense!” This year there is a new development. An old pal, nay “mentor” indeed! of HRH  is attracting a lot of posthumous interest. One Jimmy Savile is a hot topic of conversation with the British public and establishment.

Savile, a former Yorkshire miner, ballroom manager, wrestler and disc jockey is rocking the British establishment with tremors being felt in the BBC, National Health Service (NHS), the press, police, Crown Prosecution Service,  academia, charities, toffs clubs and even the monarchy. From his humble origins, Savile rose to become a knight of the realm, Knight ­Commander of St Gregory the Great , a member of the exclusive Athenaeum club, an advisor to Israeli governments, a confidant of popes, princes and prime ministers.

Charlie’s pal Jim used this power-base to rape and molest children, some of them sick or disabled, one with brain damage. It appears he used the premises of the BBC and the NHS to carry out his nefarious deeds.

The Drivelling Dauphin counted Jimmy Savile as a friend.

Prince Charles led tributes to Savile on the national treasure’s  death  a year ago. Savile  was a frequent visitor to Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace and Highgrove (Prince Charles’ estate). Charles sent a Christmas card saying: “Jimmy, with affectionate greetings from Charles. Give my love to your ladies in Scotland”. Princess Diana described Savile as a “sort of mentor to Charles”. He is said to have offered marriage guidance to the trouble-and-strife-beset Charles and Diana.

Prince Charles himself was entertained by Savile at his Glencoe cottage retreat, Allt na Reigh,  in the Scottish highlands where Savile is alleged to have abused more than 20 victims.

Dickie Arbiter, who handled media relations for the Prince and Princess of Wales while spokesman for the Queen between 1988 and 2000, said that when Savile visited St James’s Palace he  used to rub his lips up the arms of Prince Charles’s young female assistants as a greeting. Arbiter said he thought the women might have thought Savile’s greeting was “rather funny”, but he said it was a cause for concern and he struggled to understand why Savile was granted such access to the royal family. “I looked on  him as a court jester and told him so,” said Arbiter. “I remember calling him an old reprobate and he said ‘not so much of the old’.”

I wonder if Chas’s thoughts will stray to his machang Jim on his birthday. Anyways,  Chas won’t be short of a bob or two to take his mind off things.

The London Daily Mirror is a UK paper that is read by  Chavs and Pikeys, white trash,  the great unwashed working class – sorry, I meant to say loyal subjects. For its special 60th birthday issue the UK Daily Mirror revealed some fascinating facts about Prince Charles.

Chuck  wears handmade shoes that cost £650 a pair. Turnbull & Asser make his shirts and also, from 2006, his made-to-measure suits, which cost up to £2,500. Previously, Savile (no relation to Jimmy) Row tailors Anderson & Sheppard handmade his suits, at £4,000 a pop. This should set an example of frugality to all of us in this age of austerity – time for us all to cut our clothing expenses. As Thoreau so wisely wrote: “beware of any enterprise that requires the purchase of new clothes”.

No fancy silk monogrammed Jimmy Palmers for our Chas – he always sleeps in the nude. Calm down, Ladies!

He has a boiled egg every afternoon. Chefs boil seven eggs at once to make sure one is perfect.

Whatever about his seeming extravagance at the taxpayers’ expense, Charles has  a reputation for caring about the planet. He runs his 32-year-old Aston Martin on bio-fuel made from English wine. Better than drinking the foul brew! His Jaguars, Audi and Range Rovers have all been converted to run on 100 per cent biodiesel made from used cooking oil. This is one great eco-friendly  prince, don’t you know!

For his 60th he  was photographed in his birthday suit, the ceremonial uniform of the Welsh Guards. Being a prince gives the chance to dress up and play-act (this runs in the family – his son Harry got a lot of unfavourable publicity dressing up as a Nazi). Charles is often snapped festooned with medals! He must be a very brave man. Being a royal is like being in a big play-pen.

The palace is keen to portray itself as an institution which is sharing the pain in these austere times. In July 2012 the palace claimed that expenditure had fallen by 26% in real terms from a level of £36.5m three years ago. Last year did see  a fall in the Civil List, most of which pays wages, but royal travel and upkeep of residences rose. The published accounts do not show the cost of security for the Royal Family. When the Queen’s granddaughter Zara Phillips got married, the wedding cost  Scottish police £400,000.

BBC royal correspondent Peter Hunt said: “The price of royal travel is what tends to excite attention year in, year out.” The royal travel bill for 2011 was £6.1m. A Prince Andrew charter flight to Saudi Arabia cost £81,000; a Prince Charles royal train journey was £38,016.

Charles came to Sri Lanka in 2005 to help out after the tsunami. He  visited Batticaloa but floundered helplessly. “I feel awful. All I have done is interrupt their very hard work. You’ve got a lot more to do when I’m gone,” he told the volunteers. That trip by Prince Charles to Sri Lanka cost British taxpayers £300,000. We took  food and supplies to Hambantota in our car and it didn’t cost nearly as much as that. How much parippu can you buy for £300,000?

Sharing the pain should not mean stealing from the poor. The Independent newspaper revealed documents that showed the Queen had tried to claim for  Buckingham Palace gas and electricity bills from funds set aside for energy-saving grants aimed at families on low incomes.

The Queen’s loyal armed forces seem to have been particularly badly treated by governments during the misguided adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan. All the royal family have a fetish for dressing up in military uniforms and pretending to be soldiers or sailors. This is supposed to convey a solidarity with the armed forces. Does it make any more sense than Bush dressing up as a pilot off the coast at San Diego to prematurely proclaim “Mission accomplished” for the invasion of Iraq? I wonder if the royal family expressed their solidarity with the British armed forces by trying to persuade Her Majesty’s Government to give them a better deal in terms of equipment, homes and pensions and to treat them with the respect that they deserve.

There have been calls for the UK Government to strip Jimmy Savile of the British knighthood he was awarded in 1990. I wonder what the birthday boy thinks.

What We Knew: Jimmy Savile and the Culture of Abuse

John Banville:  “We knew, and did not know. That is our shame today”


What We Knew

A former Yorkshire miner, ballroom manager, wrestler and disc jockey is posthumously rocking the British establishment with tremors being felt in the BBC, National Health Service (NHS), the press, police, Crown Prosecution Service,  academia, charities, toffs clubs and even the monarchy. From his humble origins Savile rose to become a knight of the realm, a papal knight, a member of the exclusive Athenaeum club,  a confidant of popes, princes and prime ministers.

He used this power base to rape and molest children. It appears he used the premises of the BBC and the NHS to carry out his nefarious deeds. The conspiracy theorists are coming out of the woodwork. Now many people are coming forward to claim he abused them. Many people are coming forward to claim that they always knew he was a wrong ‘un.


Teenagers in Gloucester

I was a teenager in the sixties in the sleepy cathedral city of Gloucester. We thought ourselves  pretty cool but had no connections with the world of celebrities. I had been to London once as a child  when my  Aunts took me to see Norman Wisdom in pantomime. Those Aunts were great fans of Ruby Murray and David Whitfield and took me to see both in Brighton, which was a raffish kind of place in the 1950s.[i] Even then,  as a pre-teen, I did not find Ruby Murray or David Whitfield cool. Something very different was about to happen. My parents took me to variety shows at the Cheltenham Opera House and the Gloucester ABC Regal. The Beatles played at the Regal but somehow I missed them.

I did see Dusty Springfield at the Regal when she was a member of a folk/pop trio called The Springfields. I am pretty sure I must have seen her also when she was a member of the Lana Sisters but that could be a false memory. Such things happen.  Listening to a Dusty four CD-set it is odd today to hear the Lana Sisters singing Seven Little Girls Sitting in the Back Seat (hugging and kissing with Fred).

Another blonde beauty I saw sing  live on stage was Kathy Kirby. She had a certain resemblance to Marilyn Monroe and had a tremendous number of hit records. Not cool though. Russ Conway was another uncool prolific hitmaker I saw live. He  played solo piano and smiled charmingly on the Billy Cotton Band Show on Saturday night BBC TV.

How did we teens know, as we gathered in the New Inn on Saturday nights looking for parties, how did we know, and I mean a known known, that Rock Hudson was gay (the term had not yet gained wide usage); that Dusty Springfield was a lesbian; that Ruby Murray was an alcoholic; that Kathy Kirby had had at least one abortion as a result of her long-term affair with bandleader Ambrose (42 years her senior); that Russ Conway was having a homosexual affair with Billy Cotton (Cotton’s son Sir William Frederick “Bill” Cotton CBE went on to become Managing Director BBC TV).

Another thing that we “knew” was that Jimmy Savile was a child molester.



Savile first came to public notice on Radio Luxemburg, the first of the pirate pop stations, founded in 1948. For my generation, 208 on the radio dial was where we kept up with pop music because the BBC did not cater for us. The main format for 208 pop music shows was  a sponsored slot in which the major record companies touted their own product. This was better than it might seem.  My favourite was the Decca show, knowledgeably hosted by Tony Hall (someone who met Tony in 2008 when he was 80 described  his ”good manners tinged with a mischievous wit”).

Jimmy Savile had joined  Luxembourg in 1958, but I first became aware of him when  hosted the Teen and Twenty Disc Club, which peddled the pop product of the Warner Brothers label. The show went out at around ten p.m. on  Wednesdays. Listeners were invited to “join” the club. For the life of me, I cannot remember what records he played and diligent research has not helped my memory. WB had started out as a means of the movie studio selling soundtrack albums and then moved on a little by producing comedy albums by Allan Sherman, Bob Newhart and Shelly Berman. Their big act was the Everly Brothers newly acquired at great expense for  a miserly company from Cadence.  Peter, Paul and Mary gave the label, and Bob Dylan’s career,  a big boost with their version of Blowin’ in the Wind. Their manager Albert Grossman also managed Dylan.

Savile as a radio presenter was better than Savile as a TV host because one could not see him. I recall however that, even in his 208 days,  he had already started developing his irritating verbal tics: “howzabout that then guys and gals?” “Am I right , or am I right?” “Now then, now then”.  Savile established himself then in my mind as a mass of mannerisms and no substance.


National treasure. What was he famous for?

It is difficult to comprehend how Savile  rose  from the TTDC to the status of  “national treasure”  and  Knight of the Realm.

BBC TV producer Colehan had the idea in 1963 of making a TV version of Teen and Twenty Disc Club. He produced the pilot which later became Top of the Pops, which ran until 2006. There are now allegations that Top of the Pops was the centre of a paedophile ring at the BBC.

Another of Savile’s long-running programmes was Jim’ll Fix It, the premise of which was that children wrote in to ask for a wish to be fulfilled and Savile and his team would make the wish come true. It is now clear that this was high concept paedophile programming.

Mark Williams-Thomas made a documentary for ITV (after working on one that was shelved by the BBC) which caused the current furore. He has made a second documentary in which he talks to more than 36 victims to uncover the full extent of Savile’s abuse, which started at Radio Luxembourg in the 1950s. “I believe he engineered his programmes within the BBC and Radio Luxembourg in order to gain access to children. The classic examples are Top of the Pops, Savile’s Travels, Jim’ll Fix It – all of them gave him access to young children. That’s why there were so many victims… this isn’t just someone who offended only against 13, 14 and 15-year-olds. It’s someone who offended against ten-year-olds.””

Savile is sometimes described as a disc jockey but he was not  a pioneer in that field like John Peel or Roger Eagle


Unlike even mass market  DJs like Tony Blackburn or Noel Edmunds, it would be difficult to detect any particular musical enthusiasms in Savile. See his banal choices on Desert Island Discs.[ii]

Savile became famous for being famous. His eccentric appearance and manner were unattractive to many but that did not prevent him becoming rich and influential. Novelist Howard Jacobson’s father was a Manchester cab driver who knew Savile through charity work with disabled children. The young Jacobson was horrified that his father could claim to like Savile.

“’But the man’s a creepy nincompoop’,” I used to say. “’He has the dead face of a thug, makes ridiculous noises, and aspires to the condition of a slow-to-develop infant. You’d have had me adopted had I behaved like that when I was three.’”

One of the reasons that Savile achieved such wealth and prominence and a knighthood was that he was perceived to do great work for charity. Now it seems he used that work as a cover for the abuse of children. The national treasure is now boldly described,  by the police as well as the tabloid press, as a “predatory sex fiend”.

Jacobson asks: “So, is philanthropy the last refuge of the scoundrel?”


The Accusations

After interviewing him for a BBC programme, psychiatrist Anthony Clare said that Jimmy Savile” appeared to be a man without feelings”.

In an interview with Louis  Theroux, Savile  said he never brought a girl home to the apartment he shared with his mother until her death in 1973, because it would have been disrespectful to her. Out of the apartment’s window he pointed out his  “love nest” , a camper van. He also had trailers, caravans, private apartments at various institutions where he did “charity” work.

On 19 October Scotland Yard launched a formal criminal investigation into historic allegations of child sex abuse by Savile, over four decades. Other reports state that allegations cover six decades. Police said they were pursuing over 400 separate lines of inquiry, based on evidence of 200 witnesses, via 14 police forces across the UK. They described the alleged abuse as being “on an unprecedented scale”, and the number of potential victims as “staggering”.

Met Police Commander Peter Spindler described the police inquiry as a “watershed” moment in the investigation of child abuse. He praised the media for exposing Savile “for what he was.” He said Savile was “undoubtedly” one of the most prolific sex offenders of recent history, and the weight of evidence from victims against the late DJ was overwhelming. “We have to believe what they are saying because they are all saying the same thing independently.”

It is alleged that he preyed on young patients at Stoke Mandeville and Broadmoor hospitals. He also, as part of his “charity “ work was a porter at Leeds General Hospital. A former nurse said she saw Savile molest a brain-damaged patient there. Savile mainly seems to have targeted under-age girls but there were some boys also. Lawyer Alan Collins said that a client of his had been abused by Savile when he was a ten-year-old at the Haut de la Garenne children’s home in Jersey.

Someone walked into Jimmy Savile’s dressing room at the BBC to find Savile engaged in penetrative sex with an under-age girl. Savile was annoyed but not ashamed. He told the intruder to get out. The intruder said he had gone to discuss business and  was shocked enough to report the incident. No-one did anything.

Some news reports on Savile allege that he made unaccompanied visits to mortuaries (such as the one at Stoke Mandeville) and that he spoke publicly to the media about his “fascination” with dead bodies. Paul Gambaccini, who started working as a DJ on Radio 1 in 1973 on Radio 5 Live claimed that a reporter was heard talking at a wedding ten years ago about Savile being a necrophiliac. In an interview with Q magazine Savile once said: ‘One of my jobs is to take away the deceased. You can look after somebody, be alone with somebody, who has lived a whole lifetime, and I’m just saying goodbye and looking after him. That is a privilege and an honour. Some people get hold of the fact that Jim likes looking after cadavers and say, ‘Aha, Jim’s a necrophiliac!’ I’m not a necrophiliac”.[iii]


In the bosom of the establishment

Despite his eccentricities – long dyed hair, tasteless jewellery, big cigars, shiny tracksuits, not to mention persistent rumours about paedophilia- the British establishment bizarrely clasped Savile to its bosom.

Chris Patten, chair of the BBC Trust, wrote in the Mail on Sunday: [iv]:  “He was received into the heart of the Establishment; feted from Chequers to the Vatican; friend to Royals and editors. How did we let it happen? And could someone like this con us all again?”

Savile was for years a regular guest of Margaret Thatcher at her official country house when she was prime minister.

Prince Charles regarded him as a friend. Savile was frequent visitor to Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace and Highgrove (Prince Charles’ estate). Charles had visited Savile at Savile’s retreat in Glencoe, Scotland. There was even a Christmas card in which the Prince wrote “Jimmy, with affectionate greetings from Charles. Give my love to your ladies in Scotland”. The Daily Mail reported in 2011 that Savile had “been used as an intermediary in an attempt to resolve the differences” between Charles and Diana. Indeed the late Princess Diana described Savile as a “sort of mentor to Charles”.

He was elected to membership of the Athenaeum Club on Pall Mall (a far cry from the Teen and Twenty Disc Club). Other members  include cabinet ministers, senior civil servants, peers of the realm and senior bishops. For many years The Athenaeum Club was widely seen to represent the peak of London’s clubland for the public intellectual. Most members of the Athenaeum were men of inherited wealth and status but the  admission of men who had gained their social position through intellectual influence and achievement rather than by title or money gave the club an unusual diversity of membership. Members have included Charles Dickens, Charles Darwin, GK Chesterton, Joseph Conrad , Winston Churchill, Alec Guinness, TS Eliot, WB Yeats and my former boss Sir Arthur Armitage. Savile was put up for membership by Cardinal Hume and was accepted over the protests of many other members. The cardinal had introduced Savile to Pope John Paul II when he visited Britain in 1982. Of Savile’s election to the Athenaeum, the cardinal’s spokesman noted: “He is a great admirer of what Jimmy has done for young people – and Stoke Mandeville – and is delighted to help in this matter.”

Savile once described himself as “the most Jewish Catholic you will ever meet”. He helped raise money for Jewish causes in Leeds and beyond, all (it would appear) as a smokescreen to keep on-side the community in whose midst he lived. Savile, who visited Israel on a number of occasions, met senior political figures there in the 1970s, and as recently as 2005 raised money for Laniado Hospital in Netyana.[v] It seems Savile did not visit the hospital. Savile received a medal from Israel in 1979. He visited Israel in 1975 to advise Israel’s President Ephraim Katzir on a matter of security. Reportedly, Savile told the Israeli cabinet that he “was very disappointed: the Israelis had won the Six Day War but they had given back all the land, including the only oil well in the region, and were now paying the Egyptians more for oil than if they had bought it from Saudi Arabia.” A memorial to Sir Jimmy Savile was recently removed from the Leeds Jewish Welfare Board (LJWB) building.[vi]  Savile’s Jewish connections have caused a great deal of anti-Semitic ranting in the murkier depths of the blogpond.


Undermining of institutions

Patten again: “Above all else, I think of the victims of abuse – women and men – marooned for decades with terrible memories of physical and mental torment which, even when they had the courage to report them, no one apparently believed. Not the police. Not the newspapers. Not the BBC… In recent years, some of our greatest institutions have been discredited one after another: Parliament; the police; the press. Now the BBC risks squandering public trust because one of its stars over three decades was apparently a sexual criminal; because he used his programme and popularity as a cover for  his wickedness; because he used BBC premises for some of his attacks; and because others – BBC employees and hangers-on – may also have been involved.”

Although there have been rumours for decades about Savile’s proclivities and actions, the stories really  emerged  into the daylight after an ITV documentary showed interviews with many victims making allegations about him. There have been accusations of a cover-up by the BBC. Victims are likely to sue and the BBC might be “vicariously liable” for Savile’s actions on their premises.

Operation Yewtree, the Metropolitan Police’s investigation, headed by Peter Spindler,  into sex abuse by Savile, is looking at 400 lines of inquiry and around 300 alleged victims. Mr Spindler said: “I have no doubt that we are in watershed moment for child abuse investigation and this will be a landmark investigation. I want to praise the courage of the 300 or so who have come forward.” The celebrities named by victims – some huge household names – are set to be quizzed over serious sex assault allegations. Revealing an “arrest strategy” had been drawn up by his 30-strong team of officers, he said: “There is Savile but there are also others and if those others are living we can now look at them. We are dealing with a major crime investigation here.” While the majority of calls fielded by police are about Savile, some relate to individuals who are believed to have been complicit in the TV star’s abuse, or carried out abuse themselves.

Mr Spindler declined to say where these people worked or if they had links to the NHS, BBC or other institutions with which Savile was involved.

Savile, like John Peel and Alan “Fluff” Freeman (another dead former Radio One DJ about whom there are plenty of child abuse allegations floating around the web),  were all recognised by the British honours system (with Savile himself also being close to various members of the British royal family). An irreverent  blogger commented:  “This starts to create the impression that unless you are a kiddie fiddler you’ll never be offered an honour by Queen Elizabeth II. The class system still stinks something rotten and it is high time we not only stripped all royals of their titles and wealth, but did the same to every last member of the superannuated  establishment!”



Academia nuts- Dr Savile and Professor Ebdon

There are ridiculous pictures of Savile dressed up in an academic gown. Professor Les Ebdon was appointed as the head of the universities’ admissions Office for Fair Access. Savile was made an honorary doctor of arts by the University of Bedfordshire, of which Ebdon was vice-chancellor. Before the ceremony, Savile  was interviewed by the university for a television broadcast. The interviewer asked him if he was “carrying on leading an interesting life”. He replied: “Yes, well, I’ve not been found out yet.” The honour raised eyebrows, with some commentators who said Savile  was hardly an example of academic excellence. Savile’s honorary degree has been rescinded.


Liz MacKean, a Newsnight reporter who had been working on a Savile investigation, which was shelved by the BBC, said: “The story we were investigating was very clear cut. It was about Jimmy Savile being a paedophile, and using his status as a charity fundraiser and television presenter to get access to places where there were vulnerable teenage girls he could abuse.”


Newsnight editor Peter Rippon  shelved the  Savile programme with the words: “Having pondered this overnight I think the key is whether we can establish the CPS [Crown Prosecution Service] did drop the case for the reasons the women say. That makes it a better story – our sources so far are just the women and a second–hand briefing.” The phrase “just the women” incensed many.  Alison Pearson wrote in the Daily Telegraph: “So, BBC icon imports girls from approved school and secure mental hospital to pimp them in orgies in his BBC dressing room. And a senior BBC news executive allegedly thinks the offences could have been worse?”

Rippon stopped his journalists’ investigation into paedophilia allegations just two days after the BBC published its Christmas schedule, which included tribute programmes to Savile. Liz MacKean has taken “voluntary redundancy” from Newsnight.

The  BBC is investigating nine allegations of “sexual harassment, assault or inappropriate conduct” among current staff and contributors.

Spindler said a retired officer who previously worked in the Yard’s juvenile bureau had come forward to say he looked into an allegation of indecent assault which he thought had taken place in Savile’s caravan. The alleged sex attack was reported to Hammersmith and Fulham police station, the nearest station to TV Centre, but there was “no evidence that would substantiate a prosecution. Cmdr Spindler said he could not give further details of the 1980s investigation because so far officers had been unable to locate the file on the case. He said he did not know whether Savile was interviewed over the allegation.

There have been reports of a paedophile ring at the BBC centring on Top of the Pops. Jim’ll Fix It would have been an ideal opportunity to gain access to children.

Lord Patten, a practising  Catholic, wrote in the Mail on Sunday: “The filth piles up.”  Patten  has insisted the corporation’s two independent inquiries will hold nothing back in establishing the truth, “however terrible”. He suggested it was unlikely that no one knew about Savile’s abuse. “Can it really be the case that no one knew what he was doing?”

“Today, like many who work for the BBC, I feel a sense of particular remorse that abused women spoke to Newsnight, presumably at great personal pain, yet did not have their stories told as they expected. On behalf of the BBC, I apologise unreservedly.”

“How could the BBC, for example, ever cover sexual crime in other organisations unless we deal thoroughly with what happened in our own?”

Some have seen hope in the fact that the BBC aired a BBC Panorama programme that was highly critical of the role BBC itself in the Savile saga. Patten: “The BBC must retain its capacity to conduct investigative journalism without fear or favour. That should include looking at itself, as Panorama did last week at Newsnight.”

Tom Sutcliffe wrote about the Panorama programme in The Independent. “The Human Centipede in media form” was how the comedian David Schneider described it on Twitter – a recursive nightmare in which the BBC found itself investigating its own failure to investigate. Jeremy Paxman  acknowledged  that it had been a bad day for the BBC and added “it can at least take some comfort from the fact that the BBC did most of the damage”.

Sutcliffe: “It was the sight of the BBC’s new Director-General being questioned by one of his own reporters that drove home the true paradox of this unprecedented hour and a bit of broadcasting history. It was this: only by further damaging its own reputation could the BBC even begin the process of mending it. Last night’s film was grim and depressing – but it was also very difficult to think of any other organisation, media or otherwise, that would have exposed itself to such a painful self-laceration. It’s not over by a long stretch but Panorama may have started to restore some trust.”

BBC director general George Entwistle resigned on Saturday, just two months into the job,

“Kiddie-fiddlers” are not new at the BBC. Respected figures from the cosy days of the 1950s –Gilbert Harding, Derek McCulloch (Uncle Mac), Lionel Gamlin – were seriously disturbed people with a penchant for young boys.

Andrew O’Hagan wrote in the London Review of Books[vii]: “The BBC isn’t the Catholic Church, but it has its own ideals and traditions, which cause people to pause before naming the unwise acts that have been performed on its premises. Perhaps more than any church, the BBC continues to be a powerhouse of virtue, of intelligence and tolerance, but it is now suffering a kind of ecclesiastical terror at its own fallibility. One has to look further into the institution to see another, more obscure tradition, the one that leads to Savile and his liberty-taking. There was always an element of it waiting to be picked up. Many people I spoke to wished to make that clear, but – feeling the Chorus watching from above – they asked for anonymity.”


Did the  NHS ignore Savile’s behaviour  because he raised so much money for hospitals?

Savile was given bedrooms or an office at three hospitals. He was given his own gold-plated keys to high-security Broadmoor hospital for the criminally insane. Broadmoor now houses only adult male patients – but in the 80s accompanied children were allowed to visit relatives. The Department of Health is to investigate how he  was allowed to work as a volunteer following allegations that he abused and raped patients at Broadmoor in the 1970s and 1980s. A spokesperson said there would be an investigation into how Savile  was appointed to lead a “taskforce” overseeing a restructuring of the hospital’s management.

Alison Pink said Savile put his hand up her nightdress when she was 17 when he walked  in on a group of girls watching TV in 1969: “I felt absolutely disgusting afterwards, like I had been used as a piece of meat for his sexual gratification.. He made very good friends with patients on the male ward, which was full of sex offenders.”

A former patient at Broadmoor has claimed that Savile assaulted her at the hospital, touching her intimately under the cover of giving her a hug. She told ITV that when she complained about the star’s behaviour she was put into solitary confinement.

Psychiatric nurse Naomi Stanley told the Guardian that a patient told her she had been frequently abused while she was in hospital in the 1980s. She said the young woman said Savile had raped her repeatedly near the stage of the theatre at the hospital. When she threatened to report he  claimed ‘nobody would believe her and he could do what he liked’.

Richard Harrison, a former psychiatric nurse who worked at Broadmoor for 30 years told Channel 4 that talk about Savile being a paedophile was widespread at the hospital: “I’d long considered him, as my colleagues did, as a man with a severe personality disorder and a liking for children .”

Savile, who raised £40m for Stoke Mandeville, had boasted that he “lived” in a bedroom hospital managers had given him and could do as he pleased. Stoke Mandeville hospital was at the centre of a child sex abuse scandal in the late 1980s. Dr Michael Salmon, a consultant paediatrician was struck off  and  jailed for three years in 1990 after admitting indecent assaults on two 13-year-old girls and a 16-year-old girl. Three years earlier he had been praised by Princess Diana  for helping to organise a trip to Walt Disney World in Florida for 300 disabled children.

Nurses at Stoke Mandeville hospital dreaded Savile’s visits and would tell children to stay in bed and pretend to be asleep when he came round. Former patient Rebecca Owen told BBC News she overheard nurses talking in a way that suggested he also targeted them. “It was an air of resignation that you had to put up with,” she said. “There was some sort of ironic chatter between the nurses about who would be the lucky one to go off to his room.” A spokesman for Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs Stoke Mandeville, said: “We are shocked to hear of the serious allegations about Jimmy Savile.

Christine McFarlane, former director of nursing and patient care at Stoke Mandeville said Savile “basically … had the freedom to walk wherever he wanted” and maintained a powerful position thanks to “subtle bullying” of hospital managers. There was a fear of him taking something away. He argued that it was his and not theirs.”

June Thornton, a patient at the Leeds General Infirmary (LGI) in 1972, told ITV News “In 1972 I was taken into the LGI for an operation on my spine. After the operation I was laid flat on my back and I saw, at the bottom of the ward, to the side of the ward, Jimmy Savile come to a young lady sat in a chair. Unfortunately, this lady had I think brain damage because she just sat there and he kissed her and I thought he was a visitor coming to see her. He started rubbing his hands down her arms and then, I don’t know of a nice way to put it, but he molested her, he helped himself. She just sat there and couldn’t do anything about it. When eventually a nurse came to see me, I said to her ‘that’s Jimmy Savile over there’, she said ‘yes’. I said ‘if he comes anywhere near me I’m going to scream the place down’.”

Terry Pratt, who was a -hospital porter at LGI, has told the BBC[viii] that Jimmy Savile was regularly handed a key to nurses’ accommodation there. in the late 1980s. Savile would arrive in the early hours, with teenage girls who seemed “star-struck” and were “not streetwise”, take the girls to the nurses’ home and leave before dawn. Savile had a home in the Roundhay suburb of Leeds less than three miles from the hospital.

The National Association for People Abused in Childhood said it had been “inundated” with calls about Savile. Chief executive Pete Saunders said: “Two this morning told us that not only did Jimmy Savile abuse them at Stoke Mandeville but a doctor did as well.”

Information on three doctors who worked at hospitals where Jimmy Savile had links has been passed to police amid claims they were involved in a network of child abusers with him.[ix] The Guardian said the trio were alleged to have abused young people in their care and were identified by victims who came forward recently. Police are examining individuals, some of whom were associated with Savile, who might have had access to vulnerable children.

Downing Street and the Conservative Party

Was there a paedophile ring within Number 10 Downing Street?

Labour MP Tom Watson, the scourge of Murdoch, recently asked a parliamentary question,[x] which suggested that there was “clear intelligence” linking a former Number 10 aide with a notorious group of sex offenders. “The evidence used to convict paedophile Peter Righton, if it still exists, contains clear intelligence of a widespread paedophile ring. One of its members boasts of his links to a senior aide of a former prime minister who says he could smuggle indecent images of children from abroad. The leads were not followed up, but if the file still exists I want to ensure that the Metropolitan Police secure the evidence, re-examine it and investigate clear intelligence suggesting a powerful paedophile network linked to Parliament and No 10.”

In the aftermath of Mr Watson’s remarks, media outlets speculated that he was referring to the late former Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath – who was the subject of unsubstantiated rumours about sex with under-age boys – or to Sir Peter Morrison, a former Downing Street aide who died in 1995. The Daily Mirror, referred to “Savile’s pal Edward Heath, who appeared on his BBC1 show Jim’ll Fix It”.[xi] ] Newsnight,  in association with the Bureau of Journaliostic  Investigation,  eventually revealed one of the Conservative names that had been cropping up in rumours but argued the case for his innocence.[xv]

This caused further grief for the BBC because Newsnight had named Lord McAlpine only for his accuser to say he had been mistaken. Media commentator Steve Hewlett said: “For the BBC this is just a disaster. You have a programme like Newsnight which in the last few weeks has been flayed alive for not broadcasting something that probably was true (about Jimmy Savile) and has now responded – or that’s how it appears – by broadcasting something that flagrantly wasn’t true. How on earth did it get on air? If there are questions about the BBC these just multiply them. What does this say about the BBC’s journalistic standards? It looks like it was done on the rebound.”[xvi]

Nick Davies[xvii] reported in the Guardian in 1998 that “Fleet Street routinely nurtures a crop of untold stories about powerful abusers who have evaded justice. One such is Peter Morrison, formerly the MP for Chester and the deputy chairman of the Conservative Party. Ten years ago, Chris House, the veteran crime reporter for the Sunday Mirror, twice received tip-offs from police officers who said that Morrison had been caught cottaging in public toilets with under aged boys and had been released with a caution. A less powerful man, the officers complained, would have been charged with gross indecency or an offence against children. At the time, Chris House confronted Morrison, who used libel laws to block publication of the story. Now, Morrison is dead and cannot sue. Police … confirmed that he had been picked up twice and never brought to trial. They added that there appeared to be no trace of either incident in any of the official records”

Edwina Currie, former health minister and mistress of John Major,  quoted from her diary in her published autobiography: “One appointment in the recent reshuffle has attracted a lot of gossip and could be very dangerous: Peter Morrison has become the PM’s PPS. Now, he’s what they call ‘a noted pederast’, with a liking for young boys; he admitted as much… when he became deputy chairman of the party but added, ‘However, I’m very discreet’ — and he must be! She [Thatcher] either knows and is taking a chance, or doesn’t; either way, it’s a really dumb move. It scares me, as all the press know, and as we get closer to the election someone is going to make trouble very close to her indeed.” Currie says today: “Was he doing anything illegal? Almost certainly. Would it be illegal today? Hard to tell now the age of consent is down to 16.”

A blogger writes: “My family live in Northern Ireland and in the 1970’s they had heard rumours about a certain leader’s activities with boys. They had also heard about an actor, now dead, and recently linked to the Haute Garenne stories. If these stories reached the west of Northern Ireland in the 1970’s then surely a lot more was talked about in England. So, how high up in the police, judicial system and parliament were the people who quashed any attempt at justice? Did they get paid for their help, or just a share in the paedophile pot?”[xviii]

In  1980, three members of staff at the Kincora Boys home in Northern Ireland were jailed for   offences relating to the systematic abuse of children in their care over a number of years. It was alleged by satirical magazine Private Eye that high-ranking members of the Whitehall civil service and senior officers of the UK military were involved in the sexual abuse of boys in Kincora. One person alleged to have visited Kincora is British prime minister Edward Heath. Another is Jimmy Savile. Another is Lord Mountbatten. Heath is also alleged to have visited Haute la Garenne[xix]. Jimmy Savile claimed he had never been there but there is photographic evidence placing him there.[xx]

Heath came under suspicion purely because he never married. Some thought him asexual, some thought he was a repressed homosexual, some a repressed heterosexual. Labour minister Barbara Castle said: ”We knew he was a repressed something, but were never quite sure what”.

A typical comment from the blogpond, on the Before It’s News website: “He [Savile] was said by Gordon Logan, ex-MI6 spy, to be procuring children for Edward Heath to abuse”. [xxi] Here is another: “The ex-British Prime Minister, Edward Heath was a paedophile. I can write this with no fear of libel action; you cannot libel the dead. It has been reported that Heath (British Prime Minister 1970-74) was known to rent boys in London, would hang around public toilets and had been warned by the Special Branch and Metropolitan Police that his actions would risk his political standing… They were both associated with Haut de la Garenne[xxii] on Jersey, the boys’ home at the centre of a horrific paedophile scandal. Savile reportedly provided boys to Heath, who would take them for a sail on his yacht, where, it’s been alleged, sexual acts on the boys would take place by Heath.”[xxiii]

Peter Hannaford, one of Jersey’s leading trade union officials, who was sent to the home as an orphaned child, waived his right to anonymity to tell the Jersey Evening Post how his earliest memories were of abuse.”Boys and girls were raped when I was there,” he said. “The abuse was anything from rape and torture. It happened every night. And it happened to everyone.”[xxiv]

 The Independent understands that Mr Watson’s comments were not aimed at either Sir Edward or Sir Peter, but at a living person associated with Margaret Thatcher’s administration.[xxv] They are thought to involve the activities of the Paedophile Information Exchange, a pro-paedophile group in existence between 1974 and 1984, which believed there should be no age of consent. [xxvi]

Tom Watson refers to the abuse in North Wales children homes. Someone has come forward to say he was abused by Savile at Bryn Estin. The victim told The Sun newspaper: “Howarth pulled down my pyjama bottoms in front of Savile. I was helpless as Jimmy watched. He thought it funny entertainment. This happened to a number of boys.” According to “Ben”, Savile would ask him: “What do you want me to do? Can I fix it for you.” The victim added: “He kept on looking at me and smiling and laughing. Then he started rubbing my leg. After that I went to bed but he had other children brought up to him.” [xxviii]

A note of caution would be wise here. Some newspaper reports are still referring to “whistleblower” Alison Taylor. Richard Webster effectively demolished her case in his lengthy and exhaustively researched and argued book The Secret of Bryn Estin: The Making of a Modern Witch Hunt, which was praised by such luminaries as John Le Carre, David Lodge, Anthony Clare, Bernard Crick, Richard Hoggart and Anthony Storr. Unfortunately Webster is not available for comment as he died in June 2011.[xxix] A summary of his book can be found at

Here is an excerpt from the Introduction to The Secret of Bryn Estin: “It requires only a little knowledge of human nature to recognise that wherever adults and young people are placed together in residential settings…sexual abuse will sometimes take place….some of those who are now in prison are there for no other reason than that they are guilty of the crimes alleged against them.. {Many} are concerned above all about the manner in which allegations have been obtained and about the soundness of some of the convictions they have led to.. Some defence lawyers have expressed the view that false allegations are now being made on a massive scale, and that the majority of the most serious allegations made against care workers are false”.

Webster argued that one disgruntled care worker, Alison Taylor, (who had a separate career as a writer of crime fiction) encouraged vulnerable people to seek the limelight and financial reward by fabricating allegations. She was assisted in this by the distortions and selective reporting of a freelance journalist called Dean Taylor, used by the Independent.



Prince Charles led tributes to Savile when he died a year ago. Savile  was frequent visitor to Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace and Highgrove (Prince Charles’ estate). Charles sent a Christmas card saying: “Jimmy, with affectionate greetings from Charles. Give my love to your ladies in Scotland”. Princess Diana described Savile as a “sort of mentor to Charles”. He is said to have offered marriage guidance to the strife-beset couple.

Prince Charles himself was entertained by Savile at his Glencoe cottage retreat, Allt na Reigh,  in the Scottish highlands where Savile is alleged to have abused more than 20 victims.

DJ David Hamilton told how Savile made a beeline for the Countess of Wessex when she was a young PR at London’s Capital Radio. Prince Edward’s wife-to-be, Sophie Rhys-Jones greeted  Savile with a bottle of champagne as he joined Capital Gold in 1990. The wind blew her skirt up. Savile leered at her legs, pawed at her side and attempted to shower her with kisses. Hamilton reported: “Sophie stormed off and said: ‘I refuse to have anything to do with that revolting man.’”

Dickie Arbiter, who handled media relations for the Prince and Princess of Wales while spokesman for the Queen between 1988 and 2000, said that when Savile visited St James’s Palace he  used to rub his lips up the arms of Prince Charles’s young female assistants as a greeting. Arbiter said he thought the women might have thought Savile’s greeting was “rather funny”, but he said it was a cause for concern and he struggled to understand why Savile was granted such access to the royal family. “I looked on  him as a court jester and told him so,” said Arbiter. “I remember calling him an old reprobate and he said ‘not so much of the old’.”

Much of what is now being accepted as fact about Savile has long been scurrilous gossip on the internet. David Icke has long been regarded as number-one flake in England. He used to be a minor goalkeeper and sports presenter but achieved greater fame when he appeared to go completely bonkers. In March 1991 he held a press conference to announce that he was a “Son of the Godhead”.  On the Terry Wogan Show he announced that the world would soon be devastated by tidal waves and earthquakes. He said the show changed his life, turning him from a respected household name into someone who was laughed at whenever he appeared in public. At the heart of his theories lies the idea that a secret group of reptilian humanoids called the Babylonian Brotherhood controls humanity, and that many prominent figures are reptilian, including GW Bush, the Queen, Kris Kristofferson,  and Boxcar Willie. Just because he might be wrong about a lot did not prevent him from being right about Savile.

Many of the conspiracy theorists base their crazed allegations against the royal family on a book called War of the Windsors by Lynn Picknett, Clive Prince and Stephen Prior. One reader comments: “They make sweeping statements  …over and over again, and leap to extraordinary conclusions on little to no evidence. The factual errors are endless, and make the hypotheses even more unreliable.” There is a website for conspiracy fans.[xxx]

Dan Davies writes about the Duncroft home in his unpublished book about Savile:

“Many of the 25 or so girls in its care at any one time came from comfortable backgrounds and included the daughters of ambassadors and BBC producers. As a Home Office-approved school, funding came from Social Services. Regular guests at their parties included the actor James Robertson Justice, who was one of Britain’s leading film stars in the 1940s and 1950s and reportedly a close friend of the Duke of Edinburgh. Princesses Marina and Alexandra are said to have attended. Among the former Duncroft girls to have come forward, one has said she was put in the isolation unit for ‘two or three days’ after loudly protesting when Savile groped her in a caravan on the school grounds. ‘For years we tried to report him,’ another confided to me. ‘We even had a mass breakout to Staines police station.’

There have been calls for the UK Government to strip Savile of the British knighthood he was awarded in 1990. David Cameron, the Prime Minister, hinted earlier this month that the honour could be removed. However, the Cabinet Office said that honours ceased to exist when a person died, although there is a campaign to change the law so that they can be revoked after death.


Catholic Church

Savile was made a Knight ­Commander of St Gregory the Great by Pope John Paul II for his charity work in 1990. It is one of the ­highest awards the Pope can bestow.

Following Savile’s death the Scottish Catholic [xxxi]newspaper carried a glowing tribute: “The popular Catholic DJ, entertainer and philanthropist passed away at his home in Leeds just two days before his 85th birthday. His funeral was at St Anne’s Catholic Cathedral in Leeds on Wednesday.”

Cardinal Keith O’Brien, (who has recently been named “bigot of the year” for his views on homosexuality[xxxii]) Britain’s most senior Catholic clergyman, spoke of his friendship with Savile: “My friendship with Jimmy Savile developed over many years since I was assistant priest in St Patrick’s Parish, Kilsyth, along with the parish priest, the then Fr Denis O’Connell. We were always trying to fundraise, not only for the parish, but for a variety of local and national charities and Father Denis had got to know Jimmy quite simply because of Jimmy’s mother, ‘The Duchess.’  It was Jimmy’s fond mother who attributed the healing of Jimmy when an infant to her prayers to the Venerable Margaret Sinclair, a young Scottish nun.”

Savile was put up for membership of the Athenaeum by Cardinal Hume and was accepted over the protests of many other members. The cardinal had introduced Savile to Pope John Paul II when he visited Britain in 1982.

Savile could become the first person to be stripped of a Papal knighthood posthumously. Other recipients have included Rupert Murdoch. Church sources said there was no established process to remove a Papal honour posthumously because the award dies with the recipient. However, senior Roman Catholic clergy in Britain feel that the Vatican should look at whether it can do something to recognise its disgust at the “deeply shocking” series of allegations.

Civil Service

How was Savile appointed to head a taskforce looking into the management structure of Broadmoor? A spokesperson for the Department of Health  said: “We will investigate the Department of Health’s conduct in apparently appointing Savile to this role. “Apparently”? “Although the framework for child protection and safeguarding for Broadmoor and other special hospital patients changed radically in 1999, we of course want to establish the circumstances and see if any lessons can be learned. “In hindsight, he should very obviously not have been appointed. Had anyone involved in the appointment been aware of allegations of abuse against Savile, we would not have expected him to have been appointed.”

A senior civil servant whom I encountered at a few meetings in the early 1980s. He  ran the mental health division of the Department of Health and Social Security in 1987, when plans were drawn up to appoint Savile to run a taskforce overseeing the hospital. He left the civil service under circumstances which I have been unable to fathom and became Special Adviser to the mental health charity MENCAP and a contributor to Community Care and other publications.

Department of Health  sources said they understood this official  was “instrumental” in the creation of the taskforce. In a book about psychiatric care, Alan Franey, an NHS administrator who was appointed to the same taskforce describes being issued with the invitation in 1987 – during “an unusual meeting in the Athenaeum Club in London with some officials who shall remain nameless.” He neglected to mention that Savile was present, although he confirmed it when contacted by The Sunday Telegraph, but refused to say whether this man  was among the officials. Contacted by The Sunday Telegraph, he confirmed that he was very closely involved in discussions about the running of Broadmoor but could not recall his part in Savile’s appointment. He  said he had never been to the Athenaeum and only recalled meeting Savile once at Stoke Mandeville Hospital.

The former senior civil servant, now 74, was prevented from working with children by Croydon Council in 2005, when he was stopped from running a children’s church group. Three years earlier Bromley Council ended his involvement with services for children with learning difficulties.  The interventions followed police investigations into his conduct during volunteer visits to children’s homes. The interventions followed police investigations into his conduct during volunteer visits to children’s homes.

The former official told the Sunday Telegraph: “Ministers made the decisions obviously because that is what they are there for. I am not saying I wasn’t involved but I simply don’t remember a single thing about this appointment.”  With regard to his own conduct, the former civil servant said he had done “absolutely nothing wrong”. [xxxiii]



Children in Need is the BBC’s corporate charity, providing grants to projects in the UK which focus on young people who are disadvantaged. Sir Roger Jones was chair of the charity from 1999 to 2002. He said he would have stepped down from his Children in Need role if Savile had been allowed to become involved with the charity. Sir Roger, who  was also  a BBC governor for Wales from 1997 to 2002, said he had refused to let Savile “anywhere near” the Children in Need appeal after being told of rumours by BBC colleagues in London. “I think we all recognised he was a pretty creepy sort of character”. Jones said paedophiles target the annual charity appeal “just like flies around the honey pot”.

John Oldfield, who was on the Yorkshire committee of the Royal Variety Club of Great Britain from 1981 to 1996, and its chairman in 1989, said he didn’t let him near the charity. [xxxiv] “Everyone knew, everybody I spoke to knew he was dodgy. It was widespread, it went back to when he was working at the Meccas, all over the UK, but also in Leeds,” said Oldfield, who owned an ad agency based in Leeds until he sold out in 1999 and is now membership director of industry trade body the IPA. “He had a reputation for entertaining young girls. He was the top DJ in Leeds. He was always chasing around with young girls, it goes back 30 to 40 years, and it just wasn’t right, even when you consider it was the days of flower power and free love. He looked dodgy, he sounded dodgy, he was dodgy. And why did he always turn up with that motorised van?”

Savile, who raised millions of pounds by running marathons and half-marathons, has now been removed from the Great North Run Hall of Fame.

Abuse campaigner Shy Keenan told The Sun newspaper that she told ChildLine founder and long-time BBC presenter Esther Rantzen about allegations against Savile some 18 years ago. Asked about the claims, Ms Rantzen replied: “I have no memory whatever of this lady. I’m sorry to be disrespectful, but I don’t remember the conversation at all. She said in The Sun that she told me about rumours. If she did, I would have said to her: ‘Can you take it any further; can you discover any evidence; can you pass it to the police’.”


The press are clearly enjoying the story but revelations are also undermining the newspaper culture. If I and my friends in Gloucester knew about Savile before the days of the internet, the press would have known also. Why didn’t the press do something?  It is said he blackmailed any paper about to unmask him with the threat of putting an end to his giving, but that should not deter any self-respecting journalist.

As Andrew O’Hagan writes:” For forty years people believed Savile was the hero of Stoke Mandeville Hospital and for forty years the red-top papers promoted his image as the nation’s zaniest and most lovable donor. He may have abused two hundred children during that time.”


Police and Crown Prosecution Service

Although Operation Yewtree will be an extensive investigation the police have been criticised for failing to prosecute Savile when he was alive. Victims of Savile made complaints to several  police forces including in London, Sussex and Jersey, but it was decided that no further action should be taken.

The Director of Public Prosecutions announced he was to review the original police file sent to the Crown Prosecution Service alleging child abuse by Savile. The DPP, Keir Starmer,  will investigate why the CPS took the decision not to prosecute over allegations in 2009. He has also asked to speak to the attorney general, Dominic Grieve, about whether the CPS should start referring Savile sex abuse cases to other relevant agencies, including social services, where the evidence is not deemed strong enough for a criminal prosecution. The CPS is investigating a decision in 2009 not to prosecute the star despite a file from Surrey police detailing four victims.  At the time the CPS advised the police that no further action should be taken because of lack of evidence and because the alleged victims’ unwillingness to support police inquiries made a conviction unlikely.

Shadow attorney general Emily Thornberry welcomed the DPP’s decision but said “any review should be independent of the CPS in order to command public confidence”.[xxxv]


National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children

When I worked in child protection at the Department of Health,  the government gave large financial grants to enable the NSPCC to continue its work. The NSPCC also felt the need to maintain a public profile by raising funds itself from the public individually. They did this by attention-grabbing campaigns which indicated that just about everyone in Britain had been abused as a child. When one analysed the raw data one discovered that their definition of sexual abuse range from violent and continued penetrative rape to having seen a flasher or to two consenting teenagers being caught at it and being labelled sex offenders because they were underage.

The Savile case has brought out statements like one from Sue Berelowitz, Britain’s deputy children’s commissioner, who is quoted as saying: “There isn’t a town, village or hamlet in which children are not being sexually exploited.” I have dealt with sexual abuse hysteria and lynch mob mentality before in this paper. This conflation of different types of behaviour can result in wrongful persecution of innocent people. In this case it trivialises the gravity of Savile’s crimes.

The Kissing Sailor, the Groping DJs

There was an interesting debate on a blog about the “Kissing Sailor”.

At the end of the Second World War,  photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt captured the iconic image of a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square. The image has been extensively analysed and many have come to the conclusion that what had been regarded as a joyful moment was in fact a sexual assault. The nurse was a stranger to the sailor. He had performed a sexual act upon her without her prior consent. Her body language clearly indicates that she is resisting rather than participating. His body language speaks violence and power and coercion. The title of the article mentions a “Culture of Rape” although the writer and her supporters vehemently deny that they are suggesting the kiss equates to rape.

Did a culture of rape exist at the time the picture was shot? Does a culture of rape exist today? Was the culture of the 1960s and 1970s different from the culture of today? In many ways things were worse in the 70s. I found the “classic” movie The Italian Job unwatchable because of the attitudes to “birds” and the “pulling” of birds. However, today hard-core porn is easily available and the hardness of that core generally means objectification or violence towards women. The publishing phenomenon Fifty Shades of Grey was aimed at the female market while trading on the (supposedly) erotic potential of female submission.

Continuum of exploitation

A number of individuals have been dragged into the Savile scandal and a number have come forward themselves to  relate their experience.

It seems that  Savile once said Gary Glitter had done nothing wrong. Glitter (Paul Gadd)  served two months in jail in Britain in 1999 for possession of child pornography. Gadd was deported from Cambodia and imprisoned for four years in Vietnam for having sex with underage girls (as young as ten). Comedian Freddy Starr has strenuously denied any guilt. At time of writing, the police have arrested him twice for lengthy questioning. His most serious alleged offence seems to be groping a 14-year-old girl a long time ago.

The BBC has also been embarrassed by revelations that eminent, saintly and dead DJ John Peel impregnated a 15-year-old girl. It has long been a matter of public record that Peel married his first wife when she was 15 and that  he boasted (in his unassuming, non-threatening kind of way) to have had under-age  girls throwing themselves at him. Julie Burchill wrote about this in January 1999[xxxvi] but it has taken the Savile revelations to topple the institution that was John Peel.

Dominatrix Miss Whiplash (former prostitute and brothel owner Lindi St Clair) , said Savile  had sex with her (when she was 15) and a 13-year-old friend when they were runaways. He paid GBP3 for the privilege.

Two women have told the Daily Mirror about sexual attacks involving Savile. One woman says Savile and a friend from the BBC got her drunk and took her to a hotel: “I remember seeing them stark naked and the BBC star’s friend was very aggressive in his tone. He was shouting quite loudly at one point. He then took hold of me and got on top. I felt so helpless. I was terrified. At one point the BBC star held my head as the other guy was on top of me.”The woman says she was then forced to perform a sex act on the presenter with the other man still in the room.“The room had two single beds and I woke up with the big man hugging me from behind” .[xxxvii]

Guilt by association and conflation of different orders of abusive behaviour has somewhat fogged the picture. In an attempt to convey a “culture of sexual abuse” at the BBC a number of people have come forward with their own experiences. Sandy Toskvig and Liz Kershaw have said they were groped on air. Some have had a brief moment of press interest by saying they were not abused. Toyah Wilcox has said she had not been groped because she was too tough but knew it was going on. Headlines suggested that David Walliams had been in danger but he was merely trying to amuse by saying that he had written to Jim’ll Fix it but had not got a reply.

Eve Graham, who  was  the young lead singer of The New Seekers, whose hits included I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing, said: “When I was a naive 19-year-old virgin, I was alone with an agent in his office when he pinned me against a wall and tried to force my hand to touch him intimately”. “I said, ‘No’, walked away, and that was the end of it. If he hadn’t let me out of the room, I would, probably, have punched him, but I wouldn’t have made a case out of it.”

Anne Robinson has told of how she was groped by Irish Prime Minister Charles Haughey.


Bill Wyman has joined up with the other Rolling Stones for reunion concerts. Wyman is still accepted  despite famously beginning a relationship with Mandy Smith when she was 13. Jerry Lee Lewis had to cancel a tour of the UK in the 1950s when it was discovered that his wife was 15. The “Killer” thought this was quite normal back in Ferriday, Louisiana and was shocked at the shock.

The word culture has been bandied about a lot in this affair. Wasn’t it Goering who said: “when I hear the word culture, I reach for my gun”?

The Oxford Companion to Philosophy uses this definition: “a system of values in terms of which participants in a form of life find meaning and purpose”.

Raymond Williams, laid the foundations for the field of cultural studies. In his conclusion to  Culture and Society, published in 1958, Williams wrote: “The word, culture, cannot automatically be pressed into service as any kind of social or personal directive.” In Keywords [xxxviii]Williams wrote: “Culture is one of the two or three most complicated words in the English language. This is so because of its intricate historical development, in several European languages, but mainly because it has now come to be used for important concepts in several distinct intellectual disciplines and in several distinct and incomplete systems of thought”. Williams examined Herder’s ideas on the topic: “It is then necessary, he argued, to speak of  ‘cultures’ in the plural: the specific and variable cultures of different nations and periods, but also the specific and variable cultures of social and economic groups within a nation. This sense, which has become common in C20 anthropology and sociology, and by extension in general use, remained comparatively isolated, however, in all European languages until at earliest mC19 and was not fully established until eC20”.

Frank Furedi, one of the professional contrarians at,  in an article titled The Culture of Abuse, quotes himself:

“Back in 1997, when I wrote my first book on the sociology of fear, I argued: ‘The theme of abuse has become one of the most distinct features of contemporary Western culture. The frequency with which the term is used and the growing number of experiences that are defined as abusive are symptomatic of the significance of this artifact of contemporary culture.. There is little resistance to the depiction of most forms of human relationships as potentially abusive.. Like the effects of toxic waste, the effects of human pollution are long-term, apparently. That is why many believe that the causes of our present-day distress can be located in the distant past. Memory is believed to have the power to discover the truth that evades us in the present, and so the official inquiry becomes the institutional setting through which the ritual of revelation is conducted.’”

Britain’s biggest commercial broadcaster, ITV, now stands accused of contributing to a culture of trial by internet, because Phillip Schofield ambushed the prime minister on live TV with a list of names accused of child abuse on the web. ITV sought to limit the criticism by issuing its own statement. “It is extremely regrettable that names may have been very briefly visible as a result of a misjudged camera angle, although most viewers would not have been able to read the list. As Phillip has stressed, the programme was not accusing anyone of anything.”[xxxix]

Music writer Jon Savage describes a particular culture of the 1960s: “mixing homosexuality (illegal until summer 1967), blackmail, organised crime, the music industry and the most famous pop stars on the planet.” Savage interviewed Beatles publicist and Apple PR Derek Taylor in 1997:”he mentioned Beatles’ lawyer David Jacobs in passing: Brian [Epstein, Beatles manager] ‘had a vast and successful group of homosexual friends. Including Nat Weiss, David Jacobs… that was a very dodgy business, it ended so badly, and I don’t know why he hanged himself…he had no innocence at all left, David Jacobs.’” [xl] There have been suggestions that Jacobs was murdered.

Patten: “The BBC should reflect our society’s ethical values. How has this been shown by the relationship between our dismal celebrity culture and our values system? How can we have allowed so many people and institutions to be mired in fawning over one awful man – a  devious psychopath?”

Savile was not the only “awful man” at the BBC.

Jonathan King was a DJ who also presented other BBC TV programmes. He was tried in September 2001 and received a seven-year sentence for six offences against five boys aged 14–16 committed between 1983 and 1989. He continues to protest his innocence. In January 2012 he appeared as a witness at the Leveson Inquiry into the culture, ethics and practice of the press and media in the United Kingdom.

Chris Denning was one of the original DJs on BBC Radio 1. Denning’s first conviction for gross indecency and indecent assault was in 1974, when he was convicted at the Old Bailey. In 1985 he was imprisoned for 18 months for gross indecency with a child, and in 1988 when he was jailed for three years for indecent assault on a 13-year-old boy and possession of indecent photographs. In March 1996 he was imprisoned for 10 weeks for publishing indecent photographs. Denning was part of a group of child sex offenders based around a disco for young people in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey. He is currently serving a  five year sentence in Slovakia for producing child pornography.

Alan Freeman was a long-time presenter of Pick of the Pops on BBC radio and a familiar face on Top of the pops and other TV programmes. Freeman confessed to being bi-sexual but did not deal with rumours about under-age sex. It has been  alleged that East End gangster Ronnie Kray had access to many London care homes and would have boys delivered to parties at Freeman’s large flat over a music shop in East London. There they would meet with show biz types and DJs including Jimmy Savile, Gloucester-born record producer Joe Meek, playwright Joe Orton, actor Peter Arne  and Beatles manager Brian Epstein. Peter Arne, like Orton was bludgeoned to death. Meek killed himself after bludgeoning to death his landlady. Ronnie Kray remained in Broadmoor until his death on 17 March, 1995.


Channel 4 News said it had seen an email sent last December by Liz MacKean in which she wrote: “Having commissioned the story, Peter Rippon keeps saying he’s lukewarm about it and is trying to kill it by making impossible editorial demands.” She reportedly claimed: “When we rebut his points, he resorts to saying, well, it was 40 years ago … the girls were teenagers, not too young … they weren’t the worst kind of sexual offences etc.”

An inquiry will be conducted by former Court of Appeal judge Dame Janet Smith. She will examine the BBC’s culture and practices in the years that Savile worked there. She will also examine whether BBC child protection and whistle blowing policies are good enough.

Many commentators are echoing LP Hartley’s observation that  the past is a different country. The rock world of the 1970s was a bizarre, hedonistic country. The strutting rock gods of that era (and their hangers-on) may have claimed an element of consent in their sexual exploits, although their behaviour may have been morally reprehensible as it abused their power and status. Often their behaviour was illegal. They contributed to a more general distasteful culture because it seemed to give permission to many nonentities to emulate them.

Dozens of big name stars from the 1960s and 70s have contacted publicist Max Clifford “frightened to death” they will become implicated in the Savile scandal. He said the stars, some of whom are still big names today, were worried because at their peak they had lived a hedonistic lifestyle where young girls threw themselves at them but they “never asked for anybody’s birth certificate”. Mr Clifford said young pop stars at the time had gone from working in a factory one week to performing in front of thousands of people “and girls are screaming and throwing themselves at them then”.

It was a culture shock to me to go from university to a local social security office in Manchester. There were certainly inappropriate relationships between teachers and students at university but the brutal atmosphere of male chauvinist piggery in the local office was as  depressing as the fog of cigarette smoke. That it went on at a higher level is indicated by the eventual ousting of a senior civil servant I knew well for sexually harassing his subordinates.

It is a long time since I worked in an office,  but from what I read, the smoke is no longer a problem and I would think there is also less sexual harassment. The Protection from Harassment Act 1997 obliged employers to take seriously the issue of female staff being bullied or sexually harassed in the office. The Employment Equality (Sex Discrimination) Regulations of 2005 provided clear protection for any woman subjected to “unwanted conduct that has the purpose or effect of violating her dignity or of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for her”. The TUC has said that law means “that if, for example, a colleague persists in making remarks about what nice legs a female employee has, or her boss promises her promotion if she goes away with him for the weekend, she should be able to claim that this is sexual harassment”.

I recall that in the 1970s it often seemed that promiscuity was compulsory whether one wanted to join in or not. That does not mean that paedophilia was condoned. I do recall a certain naiveté – the idea of anyone wanting to rape a baby was too bizarre. However hedonistic people might be that was beyond the pale. The mores of the 70s and 80s as regards paedophilia were no different to today. Actor Peter Adamson died a penniless recluse after achieving wealth and fame in the tele-drama Coronation Street on which he was a regular for 23 years. He was acquitted of inappropriately touching two young girls at a swimming pool. Despite the acquittal the accusation was enough to destroy his life.

Patten referred to “celebrity culture” In the 1970s and 1980s, Savile was tragically turned into a saint by a society that looked to celebrities for moral and social guidance.

Deborah Orr: “It’s also easier to bear the idea that Savile’s reign of terror was due to some unique historical confluence, that he slipped though the gap that appeared during a time of great cultural upheaval. This narrative is true enough. Savile exploited the chaos created by changing attitudes – to sex, class, youth, culture, entertainment, money, fame, even to public services and charity – that were themselves a response to an industrial age of rapid technological advancement,.. it’s easy to understand how a figure as unlikely as Savile could have been mistaken, by those girls, for a handsome prince. He wore the invisible yet dazzling cloak of celebrity and promised them the tawdry glamour of television exposure. Savile knew better than anyone that TV is better at concealing than exposing, particularly in the light entertainment department..”[xli]

Andrew O’Hagan traces a distasteful culture at the BBC back to the thirties and sees it still prevalent. Prevalent in the BBC and the wider world. “Why is British light entertainment so often based on the sexualisation of people too young to cope? And why is it that we have a press so keen to feed off it? Is it to cover the fact, via some kind of willed outrage, that the culture itself is largely paedophile in its commercial and entertainment excitements? Milly Dowler’s phone was hacked by journalists cynically feeding the ravenous appetites of three million people who love that stuff, and that’s just the ones who actually bought the News of the World. When Leveson’s findings are duly buried, will we realise that it was the nation’s populist appetites that were on trial all along?

We’re not allowed to say it. Because we love our tots. Or, should I say: WE LOVE OUR TOTS? We know we do because the Mirror tells us we do, but would you please get out of the way because you’re blocking my view of another 14-year-old crying her eyes out on The X-Factor as a bunch of adults shatter her dreams. Savile went to work in light entertainment and thrived there: of course he did, because those places were custom-built for men who wanted to dandle dreaming kids on their knees. If you grew up during ‘the golden era of British television’, the 1970s, when light entertainment was tapping deep into the national unconscious, particularly the more perverted parts, you got used to grown-up men like Rod Hull clowning around on stage with a girl like Lena Zavaroni. You got used to Hughie Green holding the little girl’s hand and asking her if she wanted an ice-cream. Far from wanting an ice-cream, the little girl was starving herself to death while helpfully glazing over for the camera and throwing out her hands and singing ‘Mama, He’s Making Eyes at Me’. She was 13”. died at the age of 35 after suffering from anorexia since she was 13.

Alison Philips wrote in the Daily Mirror: “Like woodchip wallpaper and leg warmers, these things weren’t nice, but it was how it was.. And let’s keep in clear focus the real issue: the terrible actions of a dangerous predatory paedophile – Jimmy Savile – and how he managed to evade ­detection, for far, far too long..”

David James, writing for Wales Online said: “We may be seeing the death of an innocent culture of trust in authority that allowed those who benefited from the cover of respectability – whether as an MP with an expense account or a TV celebrity with a private dressing room – to abuse it.”[xlii]


Howard Jacobson again: “The psychology of the grope is interesting, and self-evidently has more to do with the exercise of power than erotic appreciation. Feeling a woman’s reluctant body can be pleasurable only if reluctance is itself a spur and defying it a turn-on, which is a mystery to simple men like me who prefer desire to be reciprocal. Power corrupts, in sexual matters as in political, and one of the most important lessons to be learnt from Savile’s progress is that we should check power at every turn.”

The most disturbing thing about Savile is that he gained power and used it against children, sometimes children who were already vulnerable, disabled children , brain-damaged children, sick children in hospital. This is very different from a drunken sailor kissing a woman without permission or one adult DJ putting his hands inappropriately on another adult DJ. They should not have done it but it was different to what Savile did.

How Did He Get Away with It?

Criticising the BBC’s performance, David Cameron said: “These allegations do leave many institutions – perhaps particularly the BBC – with serious questions to answer – I think above all the question, ‘How did he get away with this for so long?” As one former victim described it: “Adults look, but then they turn their faces away”.

In Savile’s 1976 autobiography, Love is an Uphill Thing, he boasted about inappropriate behaviour with young girls. “I train my men well and, to date, we have not been found out. Which, after all, is the 11th commandment, is it not?”

I remember Ray Teret  (Ugli Ray)  as a DJ on Radio Caroline and then Piccadilly Radio in Manchester. Teret was Jimmy Savile’s former flatmate and chauffeur. He has been released on bail after being held on suspicion of rape

In his best-selling book The Gift of Fear, Gavin de Becker outlines some of the strategies used by abusers.[xliii] Becker list some PINS – Pre-incident Indicators:

  • Forced Teaming. This is when a person tries to pretend that he has something in common with a person and that they are in the same predicament when that isn’t really true.
  • Charm and Niceness. This is being polite and friendly to a person in order to manipulate him or her.
  • Too many details. If a person is lying they will add excessive details to make themselves sound more credible.
  • Typecasting. An insult to get a person who would otherwise ignore one to talk to one. For example: “Oh, I bet you’re too stuck-up to talk to a guy like me.”
  • Loan Sharking. Giving unsolicited help and expecting favours in return.
  • The Unsolicited Promise. A promise to do (or not do) something when no such promise is asked for; this usually means that such a promise will be broken. For example: an unsolicited, “I promise I’ll leave you alone after this,” usually means you will not be left alone. Similarly, an unsolicited “I promise I won’t hurt you” usually means the person intends to hurt you.
  • Discounting the Word “No”. Refusing to accept rejection.[xliv]

According to the Sunday People, Savile said: “All I have to do is call my friends in the IRA. They’ll have someone waking up in hospital the next morning eating their breakfast through a f***ing straw. [xlv]

BBC TV producer Paul  Jackson said he believed the  BBC was  initially reluctant to use Savile on Top of the Pops because of his background in the Leeds and Manchester club and dance hall scene. As well as DJ-ing he was a club manager in the 1950s but, according to Mr Jackson “you didn’t cross him”. “Savile was thought to be dodgy, there was a feeling he was heavy, you didn’t cross him, he was a heavy dude,” Jackson said. He added that those who came through the clubbing circuit, flooded with cash and drugs, were tough: “They had bodyguards, they had sharp elbows, you had to protect yourself.”

There is a strong whiff of violence about Savile. A picture is emerging of Savile as a an opportunist who surrounded himself with dubious characters. One line of inquiry is following Savile’s links to the criminal underworld in Manchester, including the notorious Quality Street gang, who supposedly dominated the city in the 1960s.[xlvi]

Former West Yorkshire Police detective John Stainthorpe said Savile was a suspect in the hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper more than 30 years ago.[xlvii] The brutal murders were committed in Savile’s home town of Leeds, some within sight of his apartment. Between 1975 and 1980, the vicious murderer attacked women, stabbed his victims with screwdrivers, stamped on them, left notes with their bodies taunting police for not catching him and killed a total of 13 women. ‘When the Ripper was really active one of the suspects put forward by members of the public was Jimmy Savile, strange as it may seem.”  Police  hunting the serial killer took a cast of Savile’s teeth from Harley Street dentist Dr Mace Joffe. [xlviii] Sutcliffe named Savile in police interviews and two of his victims were found near Savile’s flat. The TV star visited Sutcliffe in prison soon after his conviction.

Peter Sutcliffe was convicted of the murders and Savile befriended him in Broadmoor.

Savile tricked Frank Bruno into shaking hands with the Ripper. He didn’t tell Bruno who it was until afterwards

In an interview with Louis Theroux,[xlix]  Savile  talked about how he dealt with troublemakers when he was working in clubs: “I never threw anybody out. Tied them up and put them down in the bloody boiler house until I was ready for them. Two o’clock in the fucking morning… We’d tie em up and then we’d come back and I was the judge, jury and executioner.” Savile later told Theroux he was talking metaphorically and said he would never tie anyone up – only with words – but admitted “some of my people might have done”. He described drug dealers as “dirty slags”. “If those people wanted to sell drugs, so be it, but it must not happen in my place. All there is to it. No arguments. I invented zero tolerance.”

Liz Boothe was Savile’s girl friend in the early 60s. She told The Sun[l]: “He knew a lot of dodgy people. I remember hearing him telling someone to set fire to Bruce Woodcock’s house. He’d say, ‘What happens in this office stays in this office’, so I kept quiet.” Bruce Woodcock was boxing hero who won heavyweight titles from 1945 to 1950.

O’Hagan: “He was loved for being so rich and so generous and for loving his mother, the Duchess. And no one said, not out loud: ‘What’s wrong with that man? Why is he going on like that? What is he up to?’ He was an entertainer and that’s thought to be special. A more honest society brings its victims to the Colosseum and cheers. We agreed to find it OK when our most famous comedians were clearly not OK. When Benny Hill’s mother died, in 1976, he kept her house in Southampton as a shrine, just as Savile kept his mother’s clothes, and it might have been weird but it was also the kind of celebrity eccentricity we had come to expect.”

Savile  is said to have threatened that there would be some funding shortfall for Stoke Mandeville hospital should claims about his rape of children be made public. In recent days many people have said that even in retirement Jimmy Savile was just too powerful.

Douglas Murray writes on the Spectator blog:”If the sexual abuse of children – and the sexual abuse of children with disabilities at that – is something that can be an unspoken secret because of fear and group-think (and when the fear is of a crappy low-grade entertainer) what does it say about our inability to deal with major issues arising from people who have real power?” [li]

Alison Bellamy, who ghosted Savile’s autobiography,  heard the rumours about his fondness for young girls and says: “Like almost everyone who knew him, I never believed them. Or maybe I did not want to believe them.”[lii] During a series of interviews in 2006 with Savile she asked him about the rumours and admits accepting his dissembling replies. She writes: “He was dismissive, as if what I was saying was ridiculous. But he was always manipulative with the press and, even though he insisted he would always answer any question thrown at him, he would often change the subject or talk nonsense.”

Unknown Knowns

Alison Pearson wrote in the Daily Telegraph: “After Savile died, a year ago on Monday, a commemorative page was put up on the BBC website. As requested, viewers shared their memories of “Ow’s-About-That-Then” Jimmy – only, instead of a light-entertainment legend, they recalled a dark, devious pervert. The Savile tribute page was hastily removed. Shouldn’t that have been the first sign that celebrations needed to be put on hold?”

Writing in the New York Times about the child abuse scandal in the Irish Catholic church, novelist John Banville said: “It was an echo of that silence which, like the snow in Joyce’s story ‘The Dead’, was general all over Ireland, in those days. Never tell, never acknowledge, that was the unspoken watchword. Everyone knew, but no one said.

Amid all the reaction to these terrible revelations, I have heard no one address the question of what it means, in this context, to know. Human beings — human beings everywhere, not just in Ireland — have a remarkable ability to entertain simultaneously any number of contradictory propositions. Perfectly decent people can know a thing and at the same time not know it. Think of Turkey and the Armenians at the beginning of the 20th century, think of Germany and the Jews in the 1940s, think of Bosnia and Rwanda in our own time.”

[i] BBC DJ Alan Freeman lived in Brighton. He knew the Beatles lawyer David Jacobs (not to be confused with the more famous DJ of the same name). Jacobs died in Brighton in 1968 after a rumoured S&M orgy. Jacobs loved boys. So did playwright Joe Orton. He planned a move to Brighton but was murdered before he could. So does Julie Burchill, scourge of Saint John Peel.


[xxxviii] Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society, Raymond Williams, Fontana Communications Series, London 1976.

Irish Cricket

Samuel Beckett second from left.

I was recently invited to a reception at the Galadari Hotel in Colombo to meet the Irish cricket team participating in the T20 tournament. Our boys in green were rather glum at the Galadari, following a defeat by Australia (in a joust truncated to ten overs each). Captain William Porterfield had been dismissed with the first ball (he had suffered the same fate against England in Bangalore last year and he repeated the same trick against the West Indies in Ireland’s next and final game 2012 T20 game). I had heard rumours about a stomach bug but that did not stop the glum players tucking enthusiastically into the spicy buffet.

William Porterfield

It was quite a quirk of fate that Ireland’s cricket team should depart from a tournament in Sri Lanka partly because torrential rain prematurely ended their match against the West Indies. When I first came from Ireland to live in Sri Lanka ten years ago, a friend asked me if I missed the Cork rain. I said that I missed its moderation. Up in the mountains where we live, the monsoon season generally seems to last for 13 months each year. Hiding indoors, it seems as if we have been living underwater. However, this year there has been a prolonged drought even at our mountain retreat.

Dr Johnson famously remarked, “Sir, a woman preaching is like a dog’s walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.” Some might think that an Irishman playing cricket would be a similar phenomenon. But no!

For some time, I had been aware of one celebrated Irish cricketer. One of the strange facts fairly commonly known about Samuel Beckett is that he was the only Nobel Literature laureate mentioned in Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack, the cricket bible. Beckett played for Trinity College, Dublin in two first-class games against Northamptonshire and apparently acquitted himself well.

In his 2011 MCC Lecture, Kumara Sangakarra spoke about cricket in Sri Lanka being part of the colonial legacy. It was colonialism that prevented cricket catching on in Ireland. Irish nationalists regarded cricket as a symbol of imperial oppression and cultivated the essentially Irish sports of Hurley and Gaelic football as means of building a national identity.

A ban on playing “foreign” (i.e. English) games by the GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association), which was an integral element of the push for Irish independence, limited the spread of cricket in Ireland. The ban was not lifted until 1970.

Despite the tinge of treason, cricket began to spread soon after it was introduced to Ireland by the English in the early 19th century. Many of the clubs which were founded then are still in existence today. The first match played by a national Irish team was as long ago as 1855. This was against The Gentlemen of England in Dublin. The Irish Cricket Union (ICU) – the governing body of Irish cricket – was officially founded in 1923, although its predecessor had been active since 1890. In common with a number of other Irish sporting governing bodies, the Union was formed to represent cricket throughout the island of Ireland, rather than just the Republic.

So the Irish cricket team is one of those cross-border institutions dismissed by Bernadette Sands-McKevitt, hunger striker Bobby Sands’s sister, wife of Real IRA leader, Michael McKevitt. “Bobby did not die for cross-border bodies with executive powers. He did not die for nationalists to be equal British citizens within the Northern Ireland state”.

At the Galadari reception, I committed a social faux pas. I was in conversation with Arun Narayan, Vice President of the Irish Investment and Development Agency (IDA) in India. I spotted a ginger cricketer heading towards us. I extended my hand and said “Pleased to meet you, Kevin”. He muttered: “I’m Niall. That’s Kevin over there”. Brothers Niall and Kevin O’Brien have been the backbone of the current team. I blundered on by asking if he played English county cricket for Somerset. No, he played for Northamptonshire. Kevin plays for Somerset. My prior research had clearly left my brain. My study of team photographs had been in vain. Luckily, I did not get the chance to ask where Eion Morgan was. I later discovered that he was playing for England.

Kevin O’Brien

Niall O’Brien

Current batsman Ed Joyce had also joined the imperial project and played for Sussex and Middlesex in county cricket and in 2005 became the first batsman to hit 1,000 runs. Joyce was born in Dublin and like Beckett was educated at Trinity College. Despite that he played for England. On February 2, 2007, Joyce scored a match-winning 107 from 142 balls, helping England amass 292-7. He got a special dispensation from the ICC to play later for Ireland. Joyce said in 2010: “When I made the decision in 2001 to try and play for England, it was with a view to trying to play Test cricket which is the pinnacle of the game and which of course Ireland doesn’t play.”

Ed Joyce in England gear

Easily noticeable at the Galadari reception was Boyd Rankin who is six foot seven. The T20 tournament in Sri Lanka will be his last outing for Ireland as he hopes to play for England. He has signed a three-year contract with Warwickshire.

Boyd Rankin with Kieran Kennedy of sponsors O’Neills

Paul Stirling is a quality batsman with several four-day centuries for Ireland, but he has still to make his first-class debut for Middlesex after three years at Lord’s.

Paul Stirling

When Jack Charlton was manager of the Irish football team he became a hero to the Irish. His success depended on him finding effective players with often tenuous claims to Irish nationality. Wits dubbed the FAI (Football Association of Ireland) Find an Irishman. Irish cricket stalwart Trent Johnson was born in Wollongong, Australia. An unusually jovial presence at the Galadari reception among the morose players was coach Phil Simmons, a large Trinidadian, whose nephew Lendl plays for the West Indies.

Phil and Jayce Simmons

In the 2011 World Cup, Ireland scored a historic victory against England. Ireland beat England by three wickets on 2 March 2011 with Kevin O’Brien hitting the fastest World Cup century off only 50 balls. It was the highest successful run chase (329 in 49.1 overs) in World Cup history.

Wicket-keeper Gary Wilson with a  nine-year-old Hiberno-Lankan charmer called Luca. I must ask his father, Hemantha and mother Linda who the boy would support if Sri Lanka were playing Ireland.

Irish ambassador Feilim McLaughlin with Irish cricket manager Roy Torrens OBE

At the Galadari reception, the Irish ambassador Feilim McLaughlin, praised the Irish team for the great PR job they were doing for Ireland in the cricket-crazy world of the rest of the ex-British Empire. That may be true but the individuals did not seem very comfortable with their PR role. Niall O’Brien made a good effort at putting himself about but seemed ill-at-ease. Niall had once said of Kevin “in the field he was grumpy, he was moping around … when he’s like that, he tends to kinda take the bull by the horns” Most of the players seemed grumpy, clustered together muttering among themselves or stayed close to their WAGS (William Porterfield’s girl friend Natalie, resplendent in a leopard-skin patterned blouse).

I found crassness of the commercialism on Star TV quite astounding. The same ads showing smug middle-class Indian families were repeated endlessly and squeezed in between balls and even as a ball was being bowled ads appeared at the side and bottom of the screen. Occasionally, there was something a little different as Kevin O’Brien popped up to advertise the attractions of his homeland. Sometimes Kevin was extolling the beauties of the Irish landscape. In another ad he was trying to persuade foreign students to go to Ireland and pay for a great education. A third ad had Kevin working for the IDA, trying to persuade foreign investors to put their money into the Irish economy.

It was a disappointing exit by the Irish. Ireland did not even get to play two entire games. Playing the West Indies, eventual winners of the tournament, Ireland made 129-6 in 19 overs after being asked to bat first at R. Premadasa Stadium, and persistent rain prevented any further play. According to the peculiar rules of this tournament, Ireland were out although they scored 129 runs and West Indies scored none. Something to do with an abstruse calculation of average run-rates apparently.

Despite years of being “promising” Ireland’s cricket faces a bleak future. ICU CEO Warren Deutrom doggedly fights for Test status but Trent Johnston believes other Associate nations are begrudgers. “Why don’t Bangladesh and Zimbabwe want to play us? I know why, because they’re scared that we’ll beat them and that we’ll go above them in the rankings. I know that for a fact.”

Trent Johnston strutting his funky chicken

Phil Simmons rarely gets his full squad together in the Irish summer because of the players’ commitments to English county cricket. Many of his seasoned players will no longer be available to him at all. There are no fixtures on the horizon to test the new team he has to develop, first to qualify for and then to compete in the 2013 World Twenty20 and 2015 World Cup.

The Constant Badger

In those dear dead days on Open Salon, someone (Mr Toad?) objected to me criticising him, or even mildly disagreeing with him or correcting him. He accused me of “constantly badgering”  him. I decided to rename my blog An Broc Dilis, which is Irish for The Constant (Faithful) Badger. I wrote an article which paid tribute to that much maligned animal.
I have often wondered why such an OK kind of beast should have given its name to “badgering” in the sense of pestering or harassing. The OS Mr Toad was an enemy of bullying. According to the etymologists, the usage dates from 1794, (how can they be so precise about dates?) from the noun (based on the behavior of the dogs in the “sport” of badger-baiting). Looks like a case of blaming the victim.
The badger grunting on his woodland track
With shaggy hide & sharp nose scrowed with black
Roots in the bushes & the woods & makes
A great hugh burrow in the ferns & brakes
With nose on ground he runs a awkard pace
& anything will beat him in the race

John Clare

In his 1785 taxonomy, Linnaeus categorised the badger as meles meles. He mistakenly thought it was a species of small bear. In fact, it is part of the family Mustelidae, which also includes the otter, pine marten, stoat and mink. Like mygoodself, the badger is stockily built with relatively short and powerful legs and, unlike mygoodself, a short bushy tail.

The word “badger” may be a reference to the “badge” or striped face of the animal or may derive from the French becheur, to dig.

The Irish name is broc and appears in place names like Clonbrock, Co. Galway and Brocklagh, Co. Longford.

The old English name is brock.
My hero, Brian O’Nolan, wrote under many pseudonyms, mainly Flann O’Brien. One of his names was An Broc (The Badger).
Badgers travel in a slow ambling trot, reminiscent of a rhinoceros, pausing frequently to sniff the air and when alarmed they run for cover very quickly. Their sense of smell is important in communication and they even have scent glands in the anus.
The anthropomorphic notion of the badger’s constancy and kindness is probably mainly derived from Kenneth Grahame’s wonderful book The Wind in the Willows.
Mr Badger is the taciturn but authoritative leader of the group of animals who reform the boastful Toad. Is that not just like my good self?

I first read Wind in the Willows when I was a mixed junior under the tutelage of Sister Theresa. She was particularly taken with the line, “soft breezes caressed my heated brow” as an example of fine prose.

As an adult I can still read it with great enjoyment. Alan Bennett did an adaptation for the National Theatre (which made it seem very Alan Bennettish). I saw it twice and would be happy to see it again. I can’t remember who played Mr Badger. Richard Briers was Mr Rat.

Griff Rhys-Jones played Mr Toad and had difficulty carrying on at one point. Toad  was debating whether to steal a motor car and a small voice called out from the audience: “Don’t! It’s naughty!”

There was a review in the New York Review of Books (Vol LVI No 13) about two annotated editions of Wind in the Willows – Annie Granger (Norton) and Seth Lerer (Harvard)

We first meet Mr Badger in Chapter 4. Rat and Mole have been lost in the snow in the ominous Wild Wood when they stumble upon Mr Badger’s abode and mole trips over the boot scraper, injuring his shin.

“The Badger, who wore a long dressing-gown, and whose slippers were indeed very down at heel, carried a flat candlestick in his paw and had probably been on his way to bed when their summons sounded. He looked kindly down on them and patted both their heads. `This is not the sort of night for small animals to be out,’ he said paternally. `I’m afraid you’ve been up to some of your pranks again, Ratty. But come along; come into the kitchen. There’s a first-rate fire there, and supper and everything.’
The kindly Badger thrust them down on a settle to toast themselves at the fire, and bade them remove their wet coats and boots. Then he fetched them dressing-gowns and slippers, and himself bathed the Mole’s shin with warm water and mended the cut with sticking-plaster till the whole thing was just as good as new, if not better. In the embracing light and warmth, warm and dry at last, with weary legs propped up in front of them, and a suggestive clink of plates being arranged on the table behind, it seemed to the storm-driven animals, now in safe anchorage, that the cold and trackless Wild Wood just left outside was miles and miles away, and all that they had suffered in it a half- forgotten dream.

When at last they were thoroughly toasted, the Badger summoned them to the table, where he had been busy laying a repast. They had felt pretty hungry before, but when they actually saw at last the supper that was spread for them, really it seemed only a question of what they should attack first where all was so attractive, and whether the other things would obligingly wait for them till they had time to give them attention. Conversation was impossible for a long time; and when it was slowly resumed, it was that regrettable sort of conversation that results from talking with your mouth full. The Badger did not mind that sort of thing at all, nor did he take any notice of elbows on the table, or everybody speaking at once. As he did not go into Society himself, he had got an idea that these things belonged to the things that didn’t really matter. (We know of course that he was wrong, and took too narrow a view; because they do matter very much, though it would take too long to explain why.) He sat in his arm-chair at the head of the table, and nodded gravely at intervals as the animals told their story; and he did not seem surprised or shocked at anything, and he never said, `I told you so,’ or, `Just what I always said,’ or remarked that they ought to have done so-and-so, or ought not to have done something else. The Mole began to feel very friendly towards him.
The Badger’s winter stores, which indeed were visible everywhere, took up half the room–piles of apples, turnips, and potatoes, baskets full of nuts, and jars of honey; but the two little white beds on the remainder of the floor looked soft and inviting, and the linen on them, though coarse, was clean and smelt beautifully of lavender; and the Mole and the Water Rat, shaking off their garments in some thirty seconds, tumbled in between the sheets in great joy and contentment.”

After the two animals are well rested…

“In accordance with the kindly Badger’s injunctions, the two tired animals came down to breakfast very late next morning, and found a bright fire burning in the kitchen, and two young hedgehogs sitting on a bench at the table, eating oatmeal porridge out of wooden bowls. The hedgehogs dropped their spoons, rose to their feet, and ducked their heads respectfully as the two entered.

`Where’s Mr. Badger?’ inquired the Mole, as he warmed the coffee- pot before the fire.

`The master’s gone into his study, sir,’ replied the hedgehog, `and he said as how he was going to be particular busy this morning, and on no account was he to be disturbed.’

This explanation, of course, was thoroughly understood by everyone present. The fact is, as already set forth, when you live a life of intense activity for six months in the year, and of comparative or actual somnolence for the other six, during the latter period you cannot be continually pleading sleepiness when there are people about or things to be done. The excuse gets monotonous. The animals well knew that Badger, having eaten a hearty breakfast, had retired to his study and settled himself in an arm-chair with his legs up on another and a red cotton handkerchief over his face, and was being `busy’ in the usual way at this time of the year.”

When relaxed badgers  are quite noisy. Their hearing is acute. They are highly vocal and have a varied repertoire of sounds like purring, growling and screaming.

They are rarely seen alive because they are nocturnal. Their eyesight is poor but adapted to work in low light. They become torpid in cold weather but do not hibernate.

Males are called boars (note bores), females sows and offspring cubs. Pregnancy lasts about eight weeks and the sow is confined to a separate chamber in which the bedding is constantly renewed. Usually two or three cubs are born and they weigh about 100g each at birth. They are born blind and their eyes open at five weeks. The mothers feed them for 12 weeks but lactation can continue for five months

They are opportunistic feeders and will gorge themselves on whatever is available from sea shore to mountain top. I seem to recall that Mr Badger was fond of Garibaldi biscuits but in the wild they can eat 200 earth worms in a single night and are also happy with slugs, snails and beetles and a variety of berries and vegetable foods. They are also rather partial to rats and moles for supper.

There may be about 250,000 badgers in Ireland organised into 50,000 social groups. They live in complex underground tunnel systems called setts. Main setts have as many as 30 entrances and a number of smaller setts leading off from them. A sett near Dublin contained 25 chambers and 260 metres of tunnels and passages.

They are very social animals defending their communal areas, up to 200 hectares, against neighboring groups by a complex system of boundary latrine sentry posts at which scents are deposited. The usual number in a group is six but can be more than 20.
Badgers are compulsive and powerful diggers and spend a lot of time modifying and maintaining their homes. They are very fastidious and constantly renew their bedding.

The badger is totally protected in Ireland under Appendix III of the Bern convention. It does not seem to be an endangered species and changes in agricultural practices and afforestation may make more habitats suitable for them.

They are not universally popular because they have been blamed for spreading bovine tuberculosis. There are different schools of thought on this but it seems that about 20% of the badger population in Ireland may be infected and possibly up to 20% of TB outbreaks in  cattle may be because of badgers. The development of a vaccine seems to be a more humane and feasible way of dealing with this than mass extermination of badgers.

It is sad that a creature as lovable and social as the badger should be persecuted by humans. Badger baiting is illegal but in a nationwide survey up to 22% of main setts seem to have been targeted.

John Clare wrote about badger-baiting:


When midnight comes a host of dogs and men
Go out and track the badger to his den,
And put a sack within the hole, and lie
Till the old grunting badger passes by
He comes an hears – they let the strongest loose
The old fox gears the noise and drops the goose.
The poacher shoots and hurries from the cry
And the old hare half wounded buzzes by.
They get a forked stick to bear him down
And clap the dogs and take him to the town,
And bait him all the day with many dogs,
And laugh and shout and fright the scampering hogs.
He runs along and bites at all he meets:
They shout and hollo down the noisy streets.

He turns about to face the loud uproar
And drives the rebels to their very door.
The frequent stone is hurled where’er they go;
When badgers fight, then everyone’s a foe.
The dogs are clapped and urged to join the fray.
The badger turns and drives them all away.
Though scarcely half as big, demure and small,
He fights with dogs for hours and beats them all.
The heavy mastiff, savage in the fray,
Lies down and licks his feet and turns away.
The bulldog knows his match and waxes cold
The badger grins and never leaves his hold.

He drives the crowd and follows at their heels
And bites them through – the drunkard swears and reels
The frighted women take the boys away.
The blackguard laughs and hurries on the fray.
He tries to reach the woods, and awkward race,
But sticks and cudgels quickly stop the chase.
He turns again and drives the noisy crowd
And beats the many dogs in noises loud.
He drives away and beats them every one,
And then they loose them all and set them on.

He falls as dead and kicked by boys and men,
Then starts and grins and drives the crowd again;
Till kicked and torn and beaten out he lies
And leaves his hold and crackles, groans, and dies.

John Clare
The American badger looks a little different from the European badger (a bit heavier with a broader skull). In Africa, they have the honey badger which will endure hundreds of bee stings to obtain his favorite snack.

Homeland security – how can you not admire the way badgers defend their territory, by pissing at the sentry points. One has to have a lot of respect for a creature that can smell WITH its ass as well as HAVING a smelly ass?!

It was news to me that in American English “badger” is the nickname of inhabitants or natives of Wisconsin (1833).

Roger Eagle

Roger Eagle at 355 snapped by Steve Hopkins with laundry in background

The 355 Wilbraham Road Nexus


On the morning of 24 October 1971, I heard a peremptory rapping on the door of my attic room  at 355 Wilbraham Road, Whalley Range. I tentatively opened the door and a huge, gruff, grizzly bear of a man thrust a vinyl album at me. “I believe it’s your birthday. Take this”. With that,  he retreated to his own room in the basement. The album was Seatrain. The six-foot-four grizzly bear with eyebrows meeting over his nose was Roger Eagle.

I met Roger briefly in the 60s and re-met him  in the early 70s through my Wilbraham Road connections. My friend Paul Burke (an alumni of Xaverian College) introduced me to Annie O’Malley at a gig at Manchester Polytechnic. Annie introduced me to her Loreto Convent classmate Cathy Hopkins. I got to know Cathy’s brother Steve who was being left in charge of the house at Wilbraham Road while his parents emigrated to what was then still Southern Rhodesia.

Rockettes Annie, Cathy and Lois

Frank Rodriguez and me at 355. Note the greasy hair and Manchester City away strip.

Steve Hopkins was a friend at Xaverian of Martin Hannett who went on to be a legendary record producer (Joy Division, Happy Mondays, Stone Roses, Durutti Column, Buzzcocks, New Order, Nico). Steve is now teaching physics at Durham  University. In those days, as well as being my landlord, he played keyboards for The Invisible girls, John Cooper Clarke’s backing group. He also recorded with Velvet Underground chanteuse Nico during her sojourn in Manchester (I am told I was once at the same party as her above a Co-op near Manchester City’s football ground. I do remember being there, but I cannot claim to have seen her). Martin Hannett was a regular visitor at 355 as were the band Greasy Bear (who were sort of managed by Roger) which morphed into Alberto y Lost Trio Paranoias. Annie O’Malley, Cathy Hopkins and Lois Hilton sang in a group called the Rockettes.

Rockettes Cathy Hopkins and Lois Hilton

Roger had a habit of press-ganging fellow-residents to help him out with his musical promotions. Many was the rainy night (usually a Sunday, when I was dreading going to work in the morning) when I would be dragged out of my room and driven off to some god-forsaken spot like Preston looking for venues for his ventures. Sometimes Roger would hire a car and Paul Burke did the driving, as Roger at that time had not  learned to drive. Sometimes a van would appear  and we would all pile in. Paul Burke has memories of these kidnappings.“Roger , Padraig and myself went off to some club/dancehall in Burnley I think and I felt like we were in ‘duelling banjos’ country, a long, boring drive there and back. To this day I have no idea what was in Roger’s mind about these visits.” I have hallucinatory memories of being in the dark in a depressing town I did not recognise with Jo Jo Gunne playing on the radio.

Me and Cathy and Liz Regan at Paul’s wedding. Yes Cathy was tall but I was standing on a lower step

Paul also brings back to my mind some of the warp and woof of daily life at 355. “I fondly remember being summoned by him late at night to play several smoke-filled hours of Scrabble, which usually ended at around 3-4 am. We had some great games.” I remember those as quite terrifying because Roger was determined to win every game.

With Helen East and Rockettes Annie and Cathy 1992

Who Was Roger Eagle?

Roger Eagle was a man who could count among his friends Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, Rod Stewart, Captain Beefheart and Mick Hucknall. Despite this, he  lived in penury for most of his life and died too young at the age of 56. He was once employed  for a pittance by Bill Drummond, manager of The Teardrop Explodes and hit-maker with the Justified Ancients of MuMu and KLF. Drummond once burned a million pounds as a publicity stunt.

Roger’s life was one of  poorly managed finances, escapes, squalid living conditions. His enthusiasm rarely dimmed and everywhere he went some kind of music scene happened. His zeal and knowledge probably could not have been made financially exploitable because he would not allow himself to be trapped in an office as a high-power executive.

Why Did Roger Eagle Matter?

Why should Roger  have been more financially secure? How did he know such rock luminaries?

As a DJ and promoter he was immensely influential in the development of in Britain of urban blues, R&B, Northern Soul, British Rock, Reggae, Punk, Indie and New Wave.

Twisted Wheel

Memorabilia at Roger’s funeral

Roger with Hubert Sumlin 1964

Roger’s unique career  in music began when he was the DJ from 1963 at the Twisted Wheel, a disco in Brazennose Street, at the centre of the Manchester Mod Scene. In a 1985 interview with Mod fanzine The Cat, Roger recalled: “I walked in there one afternoon, when it was the Left Wing Coffee Bar, with a pile of Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley imports on Chess and Checker and this guy asked me if I knew anything about Rhythm’n’Blues.”

As well as DJ-ing Roger presented live acts such as Chuck Berry, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, T-Bone Walker, John Lee Hooker.“When Sonny Boy Williamson came over, he freaked over English girls wearing miniskirts. He was wandering around looking up all the girls saying ‘Heaven Hath Come Down’.” There are wonderful stories about what Sonny Boy got up to at Roger’s apartment at 504 Wilbraham Road.

At Roger’s flat at 504 Wilbraham Road –  Sonny Boy Williamson with a lady whose friendship he purchased in Liverpool for GBP40 per day. Apparently,  among her many talents, she was a good cook.
In an interview Roger recalled: “The Stones came down to the club and they were standing in the coffee bar having a cup of coffee. The kids were standing round them – just looking at them. Not talking to them – just looking. And I played all of the original tracks off their first album, which had just come out….’I’m A King Bee’ by Slim Harpo, ‘Walkin’ The Dog’ by Rufus Thomas, Arthur Alexander… They knew exactly what I was doing… I played them in exactly the same order as the LP. ”

Muddy Waters plays a hand

Roger with Sugar Pie de Santo and Howlin’ Wolf

Roger said: “I actually got on OK with The Stones. Brian Jones bought a copy of R&B Scene [Roger’s own magazine from the early/mid-60’s] from me when I was in London. Mick Jagger once bummed a cig off me. That sums up The Stones for me.”

Roger left the Twisted Wheel in mid-1967 (still only aged 25) partly because the demands of Northern Soul fans became too restrictive and boring. There was also the problem of remuneration. “I made them a fortune and they treated me like shit”, he said of the Abadi brothers, owners of the Twisted Wheel.

Magic Village

Roger Eagle’s first love was the black music of the 50s but his enthusiasms moved with the times. The venue at which he promoted “progressive” music in the late 60s was the Magic Village in Cromford Court.

“Progressive Music” has had its reputational ups and downs. I went through a phase of thinking it clever and important. Punk was supposed to have destroyed its pretensions but John Lydon is a fan of Peter Hammill (who lived in the Tower Block at Owens Park at the same time as me) and Van der Graaf Generator (I went to one of their recording sessions in 1970). I recall being impressed by the Dutch band Focus. I went to a gig of theirs at Manchester Polytechnic on November 1 1972 with Martin Hannett. I was deeply embarrassed when Martin kept shouting “Boogie!” at the band.

When I was at the Village, the ambiance was less than magical. It had some of the atmosphere of a squat – many people had occupied benches and ledges with sleeping bags and were fast asleep! On June 8 1968, I saw John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers featuring future Rolling Stone Mick Taylor and jazz trumpeter Henry Lowther, who played violin and cornet. Dick Heckstall-Smith on sax (Frank Rodriguez later taught him economics). Jon Hiseman (later with Coliseum) was on drums. This was around the time of the Bare Wires album.

Jethro Tull played the Village before issuing any records. I think it must have been the same night I saw them at Manchester University Union. Marc Bolan also played the Village, as did Roy Harper, Pink Floyd, Incredible String Band, Joe Cocker and the Grease Band. John Constantine reminisces :”I recall hanging David Bowie’s coat up one Friday night and charging him six pence!”

Sometimes a larger venue was required – the Houldsworth Hall next to Kendall’s on Deansgate. I saw Country Joe and the Fish there – although Barry Melton was still on lead guitar I recall being told that most of the band were remnants of Janis Joplin’s Big Brother and the Holding Company. The band, minus Joe McDonald, came into the burger bar on Deansgate where I and my friend Roger Amos  were eating. Roger Amos recalls:” They were very non-rock & roll, Southern polite – ‘Yes sir, nice to know you enjoyed the show…’ I learned later from someone I knew vaguely, who was a minor support act that night, that the guitarist had to virtually beat up the band to get them out on stage after shooting up – or so he claimed.”

There will be no plaque commemorating the Magic Village. The site was destroyed when the Provisional IRA blew up the Manchester Arndale Centre.

Liverpool Stadium

The Seatrain album Roger gave me for my 25th birthday was a promotional demo given to him by the record company because he had organised a concert for them at Liverpool Stadium. I had been press-ganged into helping out at the concert. I can’t remember what duties I performed but I do remember getting there quite early and trudging around Liverpool in the cold and rain. I can still feel the special Liverpool rain making its way up my flared denims  by  osmosis.

Paul Burke did more than me on the Liverpool stadium thing: “My job was that of driver/chauffeur and general factotum. At the gigs, this involved anything from getting a bottle of Remy Martin brandy for Marc Bolan, taking the band ‘Yes’ to the pub and buying them countless rounds of beer. Also getting whiskey for Canned Heat and pulling the plugs on Maggie Bell and ‘Stone The Crows’ when they would not come off stage, were also some of my not too onerous duties. There were long periods of acute boredom punctuated by the odd moment of terror- Maggie Bell was a fearsome sight when angry.”

Annie O’Malley was also press-ganged. She remembers Keef Hartley pinching her bottom.

I cannot remember how I got to Liverpool Stadium, what I did there or how I got home. I remember listening to Seatrain rehearsing all afternoon in a very professional manner and recall that they did a storming performance in the evening. For me they out-classed the headline band, Traffic. I am a great fan of Traffic and greatly respect Steve Winwood but that evening Traffic  were somewhat shambolic. I was positioned fairly close to the stage and sometimes backstage. I could clearly see the exasperation on Winwood’s face as Chris Wood floundered about petulantly complaining about the equipment and fluffing his notes. Another clear memory is Rebop taking a lustful interest in Steve Hopkins’s girl friend, Lois.

Chris Lee  went on from Greasy Bear and the Albertos to be a playwright. His musical Sleak, ran for several months in London’s Royal Court Theatre and the Roundhouse and also had a run in New York. Today he is Dr CP Lee of the Film Studies Department at Salford University. He reminisces on the Stadium website:

“Cold and ugly, with very primitive seating, with a boxing ring in the middle…There was still a smell of the boxing ring about the Stadium, liniment and embrocation – the dressing room used to reek of it”.

That site also includes memories of Sutherland Brothers and Quiver member  Gavin Sutherland (they wrote the Rod Stewart hit Sailing). He recalls falling through a hole as he left the stage and descending rapidly down the layers of scaffolding on which the stage was built. When Can played rain was coming through the roof.

Keith  of the Heavy Metal Kids recalls a heavy glass plate falling from the ceiling and striking Ronnie Thomas a glancing blow.

In his recently published book Sit Down! Listen to This!  Bill Sykes provides a list of  of Roger’s Stadium gigs which includes:

Rod Stewart, Status Quo, Queen, Captain Beefheart, Led Zeppelin, Mott the Hoople (with Max Wall), Frank Zappa, Kevin Ayers, Free, Hawkwind, Argent, Yes, Bonzo Dog Band, Sha Na Na, Faces, Canned Heat, Terry Reid, Incredible String Band, Uriah Heep, Black Sabbath, Chuck Berry, Jethro Tull, David Bowie, Rory Gallagher, Roxy Music, Mountain, Everley Brothers, Procol Harum, Ten Years After, Sutherland Brothers, Curved Air, The Kinks, Slade, Lou Reed, Steeleye Span, Thin Lizzy, Supertramp, Gentle Giant, Focus, Deep Purple, Can, Arthur Brown’s Kingdom Come, Wishbone Ash, Bad Company, Judas Priest, Barclay James Harvest, Cockney Rebel, Faust, Tangerine Dream, Love, Camel, Osibisa, Dr Feelgood, T Rex, Ronnie Lane’s Slim Chance, AC/DC, Ultravox.

Bill Sykes’s  list does not include Traffic supported by Seatrain. The Stadium website gig list does include Traffic for May 30 1971 but says “cancelled”. It wasn’t. I was there.


By the time Roger co-founded (with Ken Testi and later joined by Pete Fulwell) Eric’s on Mathew Street, Liverpool (near the legendary Cavern, shrine to The Beatles), in 1976, I had lost touch with him. Some say they named it Eric’s because it was a simple, unpretentious Anglo Saxon name unlike other clubs of its era (e.g. Annabelle’s Tiffany’s and Samantha’s). I have also heard that it was named in honour of the great jazz multi-instrumentalist Eric Dolphy. I know that among his musical enthusiasms Roger loved the work of Charles Mingus and John Coltrane, both of whom Dolphy worked with.

In 1976, I acquired my first mortgage and a house in the east Manchester suburb of Denton. My step-son attended Audenshaw Grammar School, where there was a fellow pupil called Mick Hucknall, another Denton resident. Mick Hucknall has just confirmed to me his relationship with Roger Eagle: “He and I were very close friends. He did infact manage me and the Frantic Elevators for well over a year and I used to also DJ for him at ADAMS club in Liverpool which is was after his ERICS experience.”

Eric’s was a membership only venue whereby members had to buy a yearly membership to enter the club. One of the more beneficial ideas was to provide membership for ‘under 18′s’, which allowed younger music fans to see both local and national bands during a ‘matinee’ show. This was a good way of building an audience and a market. Roger co-opted clothes shops to publicise the club to what he called the “taste-makers”.

The club lasted until March 1980. The story, according to Wikipedia was that the club was raided and closed by police because drugs, which was ironic considering Roger’s strong stand against drugs at The Twisted Wheel. Pete Fulwell said it was not as simple as the police closing the club and suggested they visited regularly, hinting at bribes. Roger told the Guardian: “”I’m not anti-police. I respect the values  they are there to protect”. Roger felt he had dealt responsibly with the police. “It was shameful. They were using tactics against us they would use against the IRA. All of a sudden you had representatives of law and order literally running in and hurting people”.

Eric’s was legendary as a breeding ground for Indie and New Wave bands, but also played host to jazz-men Johnny Griffin and Stanley Clarke.

Others who appeared there were:

The Stranglers, Sex Pistols, Flamin’ Groovies, The Damned, Dave Edmunds Rockpile, Buzzcocks, The Clash, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Ramones + Talking Heads, Elvis Costello, XTC, The Adverts, Adam and the Ants, Boomtown Rats, Ian Dury, The Fall, Robert Gordon + Link Wray, Colosseum, Sham 69, The Rezillos, Richie Havens, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Doll by doll, The human League, The Specials,, Split Enz, Teardrop Explodes + Echo and the Bunnymen, Gang of four, John Martyn, X-Ray Specs, David Johannsen, The Police, Joy Division + Cabaret Voltaire, The Undertones, Joe Jackson, Jonathan Richman, The Pretenders, The Cure, The B52s, Iggy Pop, Dexy’s Midnight Runners, Simple Minds, Madness, The Selecter, Toyah, Rockin’ Dopsie, Steel Pulse, The Beat, Bad Manners.

The main problems were financial and Roger did not cover himself in glory. To cut a sad story short he disappeared leaving Pete Fulwell with the debts.

There were protest marches when Eric’s closed. Plans to re-open Eric’s came under strong criticism from those who did not relish the prospect of something that meant a lot to many people being museumised for current profit.
The International

After Eric’s, Roger went on a bit of a wandering fugue. He returned to Manchester and tried a new venture at Rafters in Oxford Street , with Dougie James of Soul Train and Paul Young of Sad Café. Mick Hucknall says Roger tried to help his career and introduced him to the music of Mingus. Roger then moved back to Liverpool and ran Adam’s where he booked Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Bo Diddley  and Junior Walker. He also tried an arts centre cum recording complex called Crackin’ Up and lived in a freezing shed in the roof space of a warehouse.

Roger left Liverpool again in a hurry (for reasons that remain mysterious but probably had much to do with large debts and small income) leaving some of his record collection behind. At one point he fetched up in Bangor, North Wales, where there are reports of Mick Hucknall visiting him. He did DJing around town and at the University.

Bruce Mitchell of the Albertos reports that Roger was discovered in Anglesey at a popular restaurant in Beaumaris. Roger ran away with the elegant blonde Swedish proprietress  and they set up the Lord Buckley in the smart Bristol suburb of Clifton “a Ferrari on every street corner” according to Roger’s brother John. This venture did not work out. Mike Tobin, manager of Stackridge, recalls Roger phoning him  sounding “terrified” and asking Tobin to drive him out of Bristol to Oxford.

Roger had gravitated to the outskirts of Blackburn by the time he was headhunted for The International. This venue was on the corner of Dickinson Road and Anson Road. In my final days at Manchester University in 1969, I had lived in a depressing house down an unmade road, Harley Avenue, within spitting distance of the nightclub Oceans 11. The only time I went inside the venue was in the early 70s for an office stag night, the highlight of which was the stripping of Manchester legend, Big Julie, a mountainous foul-mouthed woman who wobbled when she breathed. One punter recalls: “She came out as Nell Gwynne with a basket of oranges and threw them out to the crowd.  The crowd responded with ‘Get ‘em on’ rather than the more traditional ‘Get ‘em off'” . The patrons of Oceans 11 mistakenly thought they were sophisticated, in their drunkenness fantasising that they could emulate Sinatra or Dean Martin.

In 1985, Oceans 11 became The International and under Roger’s guidance became  one of the leading music venues in the world. Gareth Evans and Matthew Cummins owned the nightclub and managed The Stone Roses who also frequented the club. Evans and Cummins were alleged to have underground connections. Manchester rock writer Mick Middles  describes Evans as “a loose cannon of the bombastic variety, prone to extraordinary scams which zip, this way and that, from a central work ethic…Evans would use his underworld influence to decorate the entire city centre with promotional posters”.

Roger’s booking and promoting know-how resulted in  an impressive list of artists performing  at The International.

Simply Red, Thomas Mapfumo, REM, The Last Poets, Hugh Masakela, Toots and the Maytals, Happy Mondays, The Waterboys, Fairport Convention, Hüsker Dü, World Party, Roger McGuinn, Loudon Wainwright, Robert Cray, Jimmy Smith, Curtis Mayfield, Marc Almond, Courtney Pine, Commander Cody, Roy Harper, The Pogues, The Stone Roses, Lone justice, Big audio Dynamite, Michelle Shocked, Steve Earle, Richard Thompson, The Long riders,, Gil Scott-Heron, Albert King, 10,000 Maniacs, Bhundu Boys, The Sugarcubes, Hothouse Flowers, Wayne Shorter, Microdisney, Throwing Muses, Red hot Chilli Peppers, Fairground Attraction, My Bloody Valentine, James, Lester Bowie, Ali Farka Touré, Green on Red, Tom Tom Club, Jane’s Addiction, American Music Club, The La’s, Deborah Harry, Melissa Etheridge, The Charlatans, The Lemonheads, Manic Street Preachers,, Christy Moore, Maxi Priest, Augustus Pablo, Johnny Thunders, Dudu Pukwana, Gregory Isaacs, Motorhead, Jeff Healey Band, Salif Keita, Pixies, Fela Anikulape Kuti, The Beautiful South, Ziggy Marley.

Roger was not destined to be rich or happy as long as he was dependent on  people like Cummins and Evans.

The International 1 is now the Turkish supermarket “Venus Foods”. The “International 2″ building has been demolished and replaced by a gated apartment building complex

Later Years

Roger moved to the small Derbyshire town of Whaley Bridge and commuted to the International. He told Pete Fulwell that he had lost the appetite for the club and told others that he had moved to a cottage because of his health. He smoked at least 40 mentholated cigarettes each day and his diet consisted of huge fry-ups  and curries.
Almost to the end, he had projects on the go and many of his ideas were good. He had so much experience of the music business but could not turn his knowledge into financial success or even security.

Tom McMaster once played at the Liverpool Stadium as support for Chuck Berry.Tom has kindly sent me some pictures he took at Roger’s funeral.

Greasy Bear Dr CP Lee

Dimitri, bass player for Drive In Rock

Alan Wise, who brought Velvet Underground chanteuse Nico to Manchester.

Dougie James of Soul Train fame


Many of those quoted in Bill Sykes’s book comment on something intimidating about Roger Eagle. Roger Amos introduced me to Roger Eagle in, I think, 1967. Roger A now recalls : “He was a slightly alarming character; simulating avuncular maybe, but probably only while it suited him – that was how I read him at the time.” Eagle would have been 25 then.

Many in Sykes’s book echo my own experience that Roger Eagle  rarely referred to anyone by their forenames. It was always surnames like at school. Although he did not go to university he was educated at the Dragon School whose other alumni include Sir John Betjeman, John Mortimer, Hugh Gaitskell and Nevil Shute. Roger’s brother Martin had a career in the aeronautical industry. Martin says their father (a military man) treated people as objects and may have had Asperger’s Syndrome. “We didn’t love him and he didn’t love us”.

Val Randall knew Roger from the Magic Village days. She told Roger when he was dying: “You used to scare the crap out of me sometimes”. She is six foot tall. He said “Well, let’s face it, Val, somebody had to do it. It had to be me didn’t it”. Nicky Crewe reminisces about the same era: “Tall enough to appear remote, with dark curly hair and a booming middle class voice, he was an imposing figure. I realised later that he was far more at ease with musicians than hippy teenage girls, but I liked him.”

Many remark on a certain vulnerability. Others tell of small acts of kindness delivered with embarrassment.

Roger was born in Oxford. Distantly related to George Bernard Shaw, his mother, Dorothy, edited the Oxford Literary Guide To The British Isles.

Despite his financial difficulties throughout much of his life he resisted claiming welfare benefits, preferring to rely on his entrepreneurial  skills. Those skills were undoubted  but he never managed to become rich through them. Simply Red’s manager, Elliot Rashman said: “He had times when he was on the cusp of making big money but something within himself made him not do that- otherwise he would have been Harvey Goldsmith, he would have been in an office and it wouldn’t have been about music.”

Roger Eagle’s Legacy

Roger Eagle died of cancer in North Wales in 1999. In his Guardian obituary Bob Dickinson wrote that Roger: ”was an influential DJ, record collector, club promoter, and musical mentor. Without him, performers like Mick Hucknall of Simply Red, would have missed a vital element in their musical education and their vocal approach – when Hucknall’s punk band, the Frantic Elevators, split, the singer spent weeks in Liverpool with Roger absorbing his knowledge of Afro-American and Afro-Caribbean music.”

When I knew him,  he was living in the coal hole at 355 Wilbraham Road. Later he risked hypothermia living in a unconverted loft space of a Liverpool warehouse. Judy Williams told Bill Sykes: “When Roger was really struggling in Whaley Bridge and was short of money, the help that he asked for was not given generously. I think they did help him to get his house but it wasn’t seen as a gift really, he owed them for that”.

As Paul Burke recalls: “He genuinely believed that more music would make the world a better place. Although this sounds rather hippyish in tone, he was nevertheless right wing in his attitudes towards the poor and the weak, although this was a result of his rather posh background. He did not believe in taxes or governments really; this chimes with his views on the poor. Politically he was close to  the adherents of the present day Tea Party ‘faction’ in US politics. Oddly though,  he never showed any real interest in being rich or making real money for himself.”

Most who knew him saw him as an educator. He was known as the king of the blues compilation tape. Let Steve Hopkins’s view stand as a specimen: “The important thing about Roger is how he influenced a whole generation of Manchester musicians. He influenced their taste and was responsible for educating them”.

Mygoodself in 1992 with screenwriter  Helen East and Ian Wilson of Sad Cafe

Only  yesterday Mick Hucknall told me: “He and I  were very close friends…The most romantic, idealist R&B missionary I have ever known bless him!”


Six years ago, I went to Chorlton-cum-Hardy to visit my dear friends of 40 years standing, Paul Burke and Annie O’Malley. Paul and I took a stroll along Wilbraham Road and stopped outside number 355, beyond whose portals once walked Roger Eagle, Martin Hannett, the Invisible Girls, Jilted John, Eggs Over Easy. The building is now a care home for elderly people. Perhaps one day there will be a blue plaque on the wall.

Ireland – Democracy without Choices

This article was published in the Sri Lankan paper The Nation but has disappeared from their website.


The internationally renowned Irish political scientist, the late Peter Mair, who died suddenly at the age of 60 in August 2011, used the phrase “democracy without choices” to describe the situation of Ireland today. Political parties are expected to respond to voter preferences, but international and supranational actors demand that certain policies are pursued by domestic authorities. It is clear that outside actors trump the wishes of Irish voters.

Fintan O’Toole, writing in the Irish Times: “It is  obvious to everyone that ordinary government has ceased to function in Ireland. What has been less clear is that something even more profound has happened: our system of government has been set aside. This is not a rhetorical exaggeration, but a demonstrable truth.”

The parlous state of Irish democracy in 2012 must be seen in the light of  Ireland’s historical links with Britain and the USA and the nation’s  more recent enthusiastic membership of the EU and commitment to the euro. However, the Irish politicians who ran the state from the beginning must take credit for their own part in undermining democracy. When Ireland won independence from Britain in 1922, the new Irish constitution appeared in the newspapers on the morning of Polling Day. Those voters who lived at any distance from Dublin did not see it before going to the Poll.  Tens of thousands voted with the promise of a Republican Constitution still in their minds.

Kevin O’Higgins, Minister for Justice, announced to the Dáil , the new Irish parliament, in October 1922: “If a large section of the people feel that a certain law is desirable; and if Parliament fails to introduce the desired legislation, power is given here to the people to initiate legislation themselves. …  it keeps contact between the people and their laws, and keeps responsibility and consciousness in the minds of the people that they are the real and ultimate rulers of the country.”

This sounded good but turned out to be humbuggery. That kind of open democracy never happened. On 3rd May 1928, opposition leader, Eamon De Valera failed with a petition of 96,000 signatures to force a referendum for the removal of the oath of allegiance to the English monarch.  [The Constitution, Article 48, required only 75,000] On 12th July, by  Constitutional Amendment No. 10, in less than 100 words, the Government effectively buried true democracy. In June 1928,  many other constitutional amendments were rushed through. A senator complained that the voters should be consulted. “Ministers have made statements to the public, which they must know are not true. They have stated that this Bill, if it is not passed, will produce a state of war or disturbance in this country. It is hard to understand how any people with any intelligence could possibly make such statements.”

The website Direct Democracy Ireland comments: “The British Government and preeminent jurists refused to acknowledge Direct Democracy… Our elected rulers probably recognised its benefits for the people and scuppered them.  The amending statutes … provided stark evidence of its serial manipulation into a Westminster-style elective dictatorship. While cynically and systematically denying the electorate the necessary power, the Free State government duplicitously proclaimed the people as ‘the real and ultimate rulers of the country’.”

Ireland was dominated by Britain for so long that it saw Europe as a means of taking a different path.  Accession to the European community in the 1970s was seen as completing the removal of  postcolonial constraints. Europe was popular with voters and  political elites saw it as  compatible with Irish nationalism. The EU gave the Irish economy a chance to escape economic dependence on Britain. Irish diplomats were skilled  at getting what they wanted from the EU. An insider told me that they were to be seen at all the social functions in Brussels, working the room with a charm offensive,  while the Brits sulked in their hotel rooms.

The EU gave great assistance in improving the Irish infrastructure and protecting Irish agriculture. US multinationals were attracted to Ireland because they wanted to participate in the single European market. There was an educated English-speaking work-force and Ireland’s low corporation tax was an incentive. The downside was that Ireland had to commit to the neo-liberal voodoo economics of  the Washington Consensus. This was successful for a time. Ireland became a global model for development and modernisation and bettered the UK in many indicators of prosperity.

Although the referendum idea had been scuppered  by the Free State government in the 1920s, Ireland’s EU profile was as a referendum state. There have been ten referendums on EC/EU treaties, beginning with accession in 1972 and then on each successive treaty since. Irish Governments decided  it was more politically prudent to hold referendums than rely on parliamentary ratification. The electorate felt it was  safer to be an integral part of the European Union than not in troubled economic times.

The Irish population has been quiescent about Europe, but this could be changing. They did vote out the Fianna Fail scoundrels who caused the economic mess but have not got much confidence in the current government.

Dr Paul Gillespie, former foreign policy editor of The Irish Times and a lecturer in the University College Dublin school of politics and international relations: “Being locked into the European credit and banking system meant Ireland’s capacity to act unilaterally was tightly constrained in any action which might be perceived to endanger the wider euro system. Not paying in full debts to bondholders who lent money to Irish banks was put top of that list by the European Central Bank and key member-states for fear of contagion – and they now had the financial power because of the bailout to insist they got their way.”

Asked why he was permitting unsecured bondholders of Anglo Irish Bank to be repaid €700 million, the Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan, said in the Dáil: “It is the choice between two evils, as far as I am concerned, and the decision we are taking is the lesser of two evils … It is more in the interests of the Irish people to grit our teeth and allow Anglo Irish Bank to pay the bond than to default, because default takes us over the edge of the cliff.”

Former PM John Bruton argued that repaying loans in full is unfair and unethical because they were originally lent as a risk and have since been profited on in secondary trading.

O’Toole argues that Ireland has a weak parliamentary democracy but constitutionally a strong executive cabinet system. Article 28 of the Constitution defines the cabinet directly as “the government”. Constitutional expert, John Kelly, interprets this as meaning that, in relation to the statutory functions of government, “the valid exercise of these functions must presuppose a formal consideration and decision at a government meeting.” A TV documentary demonstrated that the blanket bank guarantee of September 2008, was made without “formal consideration and decision at a government meeting”. Uninformative phone calls were made but the Cabinet did not meet.

During the troika bailout, decisions were made without consulting the Cabinet, and, indeed, deliberately keeping them in the dark. Details of the next two budgets were communicated to the EU and other European governments before those decisions were made by the cabinet.

O’Toole believes legal action should be taken over this unconstitutional activity: “The Offences Against the State Act outlaws anyone ‘taking part in any way in a body of persons purporting to be a government . . . but not authorised in that behalf by or under the Constitution.’ But the legal establishment, which felt obliged to warn us that cutting judges’ pay was a threat to our system of government, is oddly silent. The Supreme Court has found the attorney general is obliged to act when faced with breaches of the Constitution: ‘It is a power, function and duty imposed on him by the Constitution”. The duty of the Attorney General in such a case is entirely independent of her role as legal adviser to the Government. She has to ask the appalling question: on what lawful authority do the bank bailout, the troika deal and the budget rest?”

Paul  Gillespie wrote in a tribute to Peter Mair: “Mair argued that political parties which originated in representing ordinary citizens in 20th century democracies have been transformed by professionalisation, elite dominance, experience of government and the search for political power. Democracy, as a result, has been hollowed out.”

Democracy all over the world is suffering the same fate.

Reconciliation in Ireland Part 2

Cromwell’s Genocidal Legacy

During the negotiations towards the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1921, which eventually led to independence and today’s modern republican state of Ireland, Lloyd George was heard to express his exasperation at the Irish team’s  reluctance to discuss current mundane issues such as borders and policing. “They  only want to talk about Cromwell!”
Jonathan Powell in his book on the more recent Northern Ireland peace process, Great Hatred, Little Room, said that he and Tony Blair had the same problem with Gerry Adams and Martin McGuiness. With them it was Cromwell,  with Reverend Ian Paisley it was the Siege of Derry and the Battle of the Boyne.

Winston Churchill was not loved by the Irish. My father described him as the man who sent the Black and Tans into Ireland to shoot civilians and burn villages. Churchill described the impact of Cromwell on Anglo-Irish relations thus:
“…upon all of these Cromwell’s record was a lasting bane. By an uncompleted process of terror, by an iniquitous land settlement, by the virtual proscription of the Catholic religion, by the bloody deeds already described, he cut new gulfs between the nations and the creeds. ‘Hell or Connaught’ were the terms he thrust upon the native inhabitants, and they for their part, across three hundred years, have used as their keenest expression of hatred ‘The Curse of Cromwell on you.’ … Upon all of us there still lies ‘the curse of Cromwell’.”

History lives in the present. Cromwell was a hard act to forgive and forget.

Plantations and Genocide

In October 1641, after a bad harvest, Phelim O’Neill launched a rebellion, hoping to rectify grievances of Irish Catholic landowners. Once the rebellion was underway, the resentment of the native Irish in Ulster boiled over into indiscriminate attacks on the settler population. Recent research suggests  4,000 settlers were killed directly and up to 12,000 may have perished from disease or privation after being expelled from their homes. Ulster was worst hit. The atrocities committed by both sides further poisoned the relationship between the settler and native communities and arguably the wounds still fester. Does this remind anyone of Palestine?

Cromwell with the New Model Army by 1652 had effectively re-conquered Ireland. Cromwell held all Irish Catholics responsible for the rebellion of 1641. The Irish Catholic land-owning class was utterly destroyed and Cromwell achieved the logical conclusion of the plantation process. Over 12,000 New Model Army veterans were given Irish land instead of wages. They were required to keep their weapons to act as a reserve militia in case of future rebellions.

Cromwell has his defenders among modern historians but a recent book, God’s Executioner by Mícheál Ó Siochrú, is a forceful restatement of the prosecution case. The 1649-53 campaign lingers in the Irish psyche for the  huge death toll (possibly 40% of the population).There was  wholesale burning of crops, forced population movement and slaughter of civilians. The post-war Cromwellian settlement of Ireland has been characterized as “genocidal”.

The fifty years from 1641 to 1691 saw two catastrophic periods of civil war in Ireland  which killed hundreds of thousands of people and left others in permanent exile. Some Irish were sent to the West indies as slaves. The first recorded sale of Irish slaves was to a settlement along the Amazon in South America in 1612 but early arrangements were probably unofficial although encouraged by James I. In 1637, a census showed that 69% of the inhabitants of Montserrat in the West Indies were Irish slaves. The Irish had a tendency to die in the heat, and were not as well suited to the work as African slaves, but African slaves had to be bought. Irish slaves could be kidnapped. After the 1641 rebellion, an estimated 300,000 were sold as slaves. In the 1650’s, 100,000 Irish Catholic children were taken from their parents and sold as slaves, many to Virginia and New England. From 1651 to 1660 there were more Irish slaves in America than the entire non-slave population of the colonies.

The wars, which pitted Irish Catholics against British forces and Protestant settlers, ended in the almost complete dispossession of the Catholic landed elite. The Plantations had a profound impact on Ireland in several ways. The native ruling classes were destroyed and replaced by the Protestant Ascendancy.

Sir William Petty

William Petty (1623-87) – mathematician, mechanic, physician, cartographer and statistician – devised a public-private partnership for “fusing science and policy”. Petty is best known through his connection with the Cromwellian settlement of Ireland. Arriving in Ireland in 1652 as physician-general to the army, he set about making himself useful by  surveying the boundaries of holdings and assessing relative values. This became known as the Down Survey, which commodified Irish land. It standardised the measure of estates, in size and in value, and, as, Petty himself was a major holder of these debentures, he became very rich. When he arrived in Ireland, he had maybe £500 in assets, but  he came to own 50,000 acres in County Kerry alone. John Aubrey estimated Petty’s  rental income at its height at £18,000 a year – perhaps £27 million in today’s money.

Petty anticipated Henry Ford’s methods (Ford’s father was from County Cork) of division of labour and economies of scale. He divided complicated tasks into bits that could be handled by men “not of the nimblest witts”, that is, by the soldiers themselves, who were also tough enough to deal with angry landowners and “with the severall rude persons in the country, from whome they might expect to be often crossed and opposed”.

One way of preventing Ireland from being a haven for terrorists was to transform it  by social engineering into a peaceful and productive land. Ireland could be seen as a laboratory in  which a new, rational and virtuous society might be developed. Petty wrote: “Some furious Spirits have wished, that the Irish would rebel again, that they might be put to the Sword.” He had some scruples: “I declare, that motion to be not only impious and inhumane, but withal frivolous and pernicious even to them who have rashly wish’d for those occasions.”

Eugenics and Ethnic Cleansing

Petty explored the idea of breeding the “meer Irish”  out of existence by deporting 10,000 Irishwomen of marriageable age to England every year and replacing  them with a like number of Englishwomen?  “The whole Work of natural Transmutation and Union would in four or five years be accomplished.” The Englishwomen would run Irish households on much more civilised lines: “The Language of the Children shall be English, and the whole Oeconomy of the Family English, viz. Diet, Apparel, &c., and the Transmutation will be very easy and quick”.

Cromwell’s genocidal campaign had been financed through promises of confiscated Irish land. Rebels were executed and others were sent as slaves to the West Indies. Irish soldiers were given the opportunity of going abroad to fight in foreign armies and became known as the Wild Geese.

All land east of the River Shannon was claimed by the Crown. About 8,400,000 acres were reassigned from Catholic to Protestant owners. The former Irish owners could either accept transportation to poorer land reserved for them in Connaught or be tenants of the new Protestant owners. Catholic ownership plummeted from 60%  of the land before the Rebellion to less than 10%  after 1652. It was a great experiment in the movement of populations and transference of social power.

There has been speculation  that Irish travellers  were descended from ancestors who were made homeless by Cromwell.

Petty may have provided some useful ideas to Hitler and Mengele.. While I deplore the activities of conflict junkies who are only happy when the fires of hatred are constantly stoked, one cannot understand contemporary Ireland without knowing where the divisions in Irish society originated.

Reconciliation in Ireland Part 1

Ireland’s Revenge on the Tudors.

I have been watching on DVD the Showtime TV series The Tudors. It strikes me as ironic that the series was filmed in Ireland and has provided gainful employment to innumerable Irish actors (including my Facebook friend Nick Dunning, wonderfully shifty as Thomas Boleyn).  Ironic because many of the troubles Ireland has suffered over the centuries resulted from the policies and actions of Henry VIII (played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers – Sean O’Keefe from County Cork- who first came to fame as the man who shot Michael Collins in Neil Jordan’s film).

Patriotic Irishmen, my father included, like to talk about 800 years of British oppression (see the responses to my essay on Groundviews: True, Strongbow (Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke, Lord of Leinster, Justiciar of Ireland)  invaded Ireland in 1170, but it was not until the Tudors that the real oppression began. Strongbow is described as Cambro-Norman,  a term used for Norman knights who settled in southern Wales after the Norman conquest of England in 1066.

War on Terrorism?

The Normans were not generally too much of a bother to the native Irish and actually helped bring a measure of efficiency to agriculture, commerce and the law. To a great extent the Normans “went native”. Some adopted the Irish language and customs, and intermarried, and the Irish themselves also became “Normanised”. Many Irish people today bear Norman-derived surnames such as Fitzgerald, Burke, Roche and Power. There are many Irish D’Arcy’s, De Laceys and De Burghs. There are several distinct types of Irish face. One of them- thin lips, sharp nose- is distinctively Norman.

Many of Ireland’s problems came from Wales. The  Welshman Henry VII founded the Tudor dynasty in 1485 after killing the reigning King Richard III. In 1536, Henry VIII deposed the Fitzgerald dynasty of Kildare as Lords Deputies of Ireland. The Fitzgeralds had been, in effect, rulers of Ireland since the 15th century but had become a security threat to the Johnny-Come-Lately Tudor dynasty by inviting Burgundian troops into Dublin and crowning  the Yorkist pretender, Lambert Simnel as “King of England” in 1497. In 1536, Silken Thomas Fitzgerald rebelled  against Henry VIII. The rebellion was put down and Henry tried to bring all Ireland under his control to prevent it being used as a base for  a Catholic invasion of England.

Spenser’s Final Solution

Edmund Spenser, considered by many the first English poet of note after Chaucer, could also be regarded as the  Radovan Karadzic of his day. Spenser  wrote most of his masterpiece, The Faery Queene, on his 3,000 acre estate at Kilcolman Castle in County Cork. County Cork is in the province of Munster. He also wrote propaganda advocating genocide. The Munster Plantation of the 1580s was the first mass plantation in Ireland. It was a punishment for the Desmond rebellions.  The Desmond dynasty was annihilated and their estates were confiscated.

In his View of the Present State of Ireland (1596), Spenser outlined his programme for civilizing the wild Gaels. Declan Kiberd has written: “The sheer ferocity of Spenser’s writings on the Irish resistance – a ferocity quite at odds with the gentle charm of his poetry-  can only be explained  as arising from a radical ambivalence.   He wished to convert the Irish to civil ways, but in order to do that found that it might be necessary to exterminate many of them”. The tract was definitely written to influence policy and seriously argued that starvation was the best way to bring the Irish under control. The pamphlet argued that Ireland would never be totally “pacified” (remember the “pacification villages” in Vietnam?)  by the English until its indigenous language and customs had been destroyed, if necessary by violence.

Spenser’s View is seen today as genocidal – a precursor of fellow-poet Radovan Karadzic, perhaps? Spenser did express some praise for the Gaelic poetic tradition, but also used much tendentious and bogus analysis to demonstrate that the Irish were descended from barbarian stock. He fully understood the consequences of what he was advocating and described in graphic detail the effects on a starving Irish population who “consume themselves and devour one another”.

Spenser was a beneficiary of the theft of land from the native Irish. Spenser communicated with his neighbor and fellow poet Sir Walter Raleigh, who had commandeered 40,000 prime Irish acres for himself at Youghal.

Richard Boyle, First Earl of Cork, may have been an ancestor of the writer Richard Boyle, who has long been resident in Sri Lanka. Both were born in Canterbury. The Earl of Cork claimed most of the County and Munster as his own.



English “Undertakers” were wealthy colonists who undertook to import tenants from England, Scotland  and Wales to work their new lands. The plan was for land to be confiscated and redistributed to create concentrations of British settlers around new towns and garrisons. The new landowners were explicitly banned from taking Irish tenants. The Planters were also barred from selling their lands to any Irishman.

The remaining Irish landowners were to be granted one quarter of the land in Ulster and the ordinary Irish population was relocated to live near garrisons and Protestant churches. Up to 80,000 English and Scots Protestants had been settled in the previously Catholic north of Ireland by 1641. The Reformation did not “take” in Ireland. This was because brutal methods were used to pacify the country and exploit its resources, which heightened resentment of English rule.

Settlers with a British and Protestant identity, would form the ruling class of future British administrations in Ireland. Penal laws discriminated against Catholics, who were barred from public office and from serving in the army. Voting for  Parliament was rigged so the Protestants would always have the majority.

There is a familiar imperial pattern here of colonisation, land theft, divide and rule, religious and racial discrimination, and brutality leading to conflict. During the years of the Provisional IRA terrorist campaign the British from a superior height would say : ”Why is it these people can’t just get on with each other?” To Irish people, it is not an Irish problem. Ireland suffered from an English (or possibly Welsh) problem.

Reconciliation in Burma

What’s in a name?

I generally like to call this South East Asian nation “Burma” rather than “Myanmar”. In doing so, I am in line with the US State Department: “Although the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) changed the name of the country to ‘Myanmar,’ the democratically elected but not convened Parliament of 1990 does not recognize the name change, and the democratic opposition maintains use of the name ‘Burma.’ Due to consistent, unyielding support for the democratically elected leaders, the U.S. Government likewise uses ‘Burma’.”

Burmese lessons for Sri Lanka?

That “State Peace and Development Council “ is the name the dictatorship gives itself. They have been giving a show recently of relaxing their grip somewhat. On July 30,  US Under Secretary of State Robert Hormats told the Washington International Trade Association: “My baseline scenario is they will continue to move in the direction of reform”.



President Thein Sein

The “new” government, led by President Thein Sein, a former military general, has started overhauling the country’s economy, easing media censorship, legalizing trade unions and protests and freeing political prisoners. The most prominent of those, Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese opposition leader, has been allowed to travel outside the country.

I have seen a  few bizarre  comments in the Sri Lankan media suggesting that the Sri Lankan should look to Burma for lessons on how to conduct itself. These commentators seem determined  to think the worst of Sri Lanka if they think the nation consistently  placed at number 190 in the human rights league of shame could be an exemplar to anyone.

“There has been one admirable quality among many Burmese leaders in the past and present, unlike in Sri Lanka. They were modest enough to admit failures. Ne Win himself declared that ‘Burmese socialism’ was a failure and stepped down in 1988. That led to continuous social upheavals asking for democracy.”



General Ne Win

So says Laksiri Fernando,  author of Human Rights, Politics and States: Burma, Cambodia and Sri Lanka writing in the Asian Tribune. Fernando can even see the bright side of  the ethnic conflicts in Burma: “There are thousands and thousands of internally displaced people in the country due to the ethnic conflict. No one calls the ethnic conflict a myth like in Sri Lanka!” Another great thing was, according to Fernando, that “no insurgency evolved into ruthless terrorism like in Sri Lanka”.



Colonial background

British rule in Burma lasted from 1824 to 1948, from the Anglo-Burmese Wars through the creation of Burma as a province of  British India. The First Anglo-Burmese War arose from friction between Arakan in western Burma and British-held Chittagong to the north. The British navy took Rangoon without a fight in 1824 but the war itself had cost 15,000 European and Indian troops and cost the equivalent of 48 billion US dollars of today. This caused a severe economic crisis for British India. In 1852, the Second Anglo-Burmese War was provoked by the British who wanted the teak forests in Lower Burma as well as a port between Calcutta and Singapore.


The Third Anglo-Burmese War in 1885 was because of the British desire to get their hands on the resources of the north. The British government justified their actions by claiming that the last independent king of Myanmar, Thibaw, was a tyrant and that he was conspiring to give France more influence in the country. After 25 years of peace fighting started again and lasted until the British occupied the whole of Lower Burma.



King Thibaw

The Third Anglo-Burmese War lasted less than two weeks during November 1885. British troops entered Mandalay on 28 November 1885 and Burma was incorporated into the British empire on 1 January 1886. The new colony of Upper Burma was attached to the Burma Province on 26 February 1886. Rangoon, having been the capital of British Lower Burma, became the capital of the province.

The British tied  Burmese economy to  global market forces and forced Burma to  become a part of the colonial export economy. Suddenly a large amount of Burmese resources were being exported for Britain’s benefit, thereby extracring the resources needed by the Burmese to continue living their lives as they had before colonisation. Vast tracts of land were converted  for cultivation of rice for export. Burmese farmers were forced to borrow money from Indian moneylenders at high interest rates prepare the new land for cultivation. This often led to the eviction of indigenous farmers and most jobs went to indentured Indian labourers.

An account by a British official describing the conditions of the Burmese people’s livelihoods in 1941 describes the Burmese hardships as they must quickly adapt to foreign trade:

“The peasant had grown factually poorer and unemployment had increased…. The collapse of the Burmese social system led to a decay of the social conscience which, in the circumstances of poverty and unemployment caused a great increase in crime.”

Burmese were excluded from the civil service and the military which were staffed by Indians, Anglo-Burmese and minority groups such as the Karens. The Burmese resented both the British and the Indian migrants, and staged guerrilla warfare, often led by former Burmese army officers, against the British army of occupation.

The British rulers imposed a separation of church and state and exiled King Thibaw. This was a way of imposing direct control. The monarchy had supported the sangha and the Buddhist monks were dependent on the monarchy and explained the monarchy to the public. The imperial power introduced a secular education system and encouraged Christian missionaries to found schools Buddhism and traditional Burmese culture were discouraged as part of a plan to deprive the  Burmese people of a cultural unity separate from the British.



Resistance continued in northern Burma until 1890, with the British systematically destroying villages. Grass-roots control was exercised by burning villages and uprooting established families regarded as disloyal. Dissent was suppressed by  mass executions.


An independence movement emerged in the early 20th century, initially led by monks and students. A nationalist movement began to take shape in the form of Young Men’s Buddhist Associations (YMBA). Between 1900 and 1911 the “Irish Buddhist” U Dhammaloka  (a hobo variously known as Laurence Carroll, Laurence O’Rourke and William Colvin or “Captain Daylight”, who was probably born in Dublin in 1850) publicly challenged Christianity and imperial power, leading to two trials for sedition.



U Dhammaloka

By the 1930s a new radical movement known as the Thakin was formed. Its leading figures included Aung San, U Nu and Ne Win. They began to look to neighbouring powers to help break the yoke of British rule. One student, Ko Aung Kyaw, was beaten to death by British colonial police in the third Rangoon University student boycott in December 1938. Students had been supporting striking oil workers. In Mandalay,  police shot into a crowd of protesters led by Buddhist monks, killing 17 people.



Aung San

Aung San, Aung San Suu Kyi’s father, sought support for the Burmese independence struggle from Japan. Japan invaded Burma in 1942 but never succeeded in fully conquering the whole country. On 1 August 1943, the Japanese declared Burma to be an independent nation. Aung San was appointed War Minister. He became disillusioned with the Japanese. One of his followers told General Slim:  ‘If the British sucked our blood, the Japanese ground our bones!’ When the British defeated the Japanese Aung San was offered the rank of Deputy Inspector General of the Burma Army, but he declined and became the civilian political leader and the military leader of the People’s Volunteer Organisation (PVO).


He was assassinated on 19 July 1947 Former prime minister U Saw was tried and hanged. A number of middle-ranking British army officers were also were tried and imprisoned. There were rumours of higher-level British involvement, and/or involvement by Ne Win Aung San’s long-term rival.


U Saw with Lord Halifax


For most of its existence as an independent nation, Burma has been a military dictatorship. There were sporadic protests against military rule during the Ne Win years and these were almost always violently suppressed. In 1974, the military violently suppressed anti-government protests at the funeral of U Thant, Burmese UN General Secretary. Student protests in 1975, 1976 and 1977 were quickly suppressed by overwhelming force.



General   Saw Maung

In 1988, unrest over economic mismanagement and political oppression led to  pro-democracy demonstrations throughout the country. Security forces killed thousands of demonstrators.  General   Saw Maung staged a coup and established SLORC – the State Law and Order Restoration council. In May 1990, the government held free elections for the first time in almost 30 years and the NLD – National League for Democracy, Aung San Suu Kyi’s party won 80% of the seats. SLORC  continued to rule until 1997, and then ruled as the SPDC until March 2011.

Ethnic conflict

Pace Mr Fernando,  analyst Martin Smith believes “Burma has been the scene of some of the most-sustained and diverse ethnic insurgencies in the contemporary world… conflict resolution––with integrated support from the international community––remains a primary need if Burma and its peoples are to achieve peace, democracy, and a stable nation-state.” There are 135 officially recognised ethnic groups in Burma. Martin Smith writes: “In the deep mountains and forests of the borderland periphery, over 20 armed opposition groups controlled, under their own administrations, vast swathes of territory and continued to reflect an often changing alignment of different political or nationality causes.”

The Thailand Burma Border Consortium’s (TBBC) annual report on conditions in South East  Burma “found that more people had been forcibly displaced from their homes during the past year than any other since data was first collected in 2002.” Jack Dunford, the TBBC’s Executive Director, said: “A determined and sustained effort to resolve ethnic conflict in Burma is essential to avoid another generation of violence and abuse.” In recent years the TBBC’s and its partner agencies have documented “the destruction, forced relocation or abandonment of more than 3,700 civilian settlements in South East Burma since 1996.” The TBBC statement estimated that during the past year at least 112,000 people were forced to abandon their homes. “While some fled into Thailand as part of an ongoing flow of new refugee arrivals and others returned to former villages or resettled elsewhere in Burma, over 450,000 people currently remain internally displaced in the south eastern region.”


Mr Dunford said that while democratic reforms by the “new” government are both vital and welcomed but conflict has increased in ethnic areas.


Even though some wish to be optimistic about Burma, oppression of minorities hits the headlines even today. Burma has a  substantial Muslim population, known as  Rohingyas, of 800,000. Rohingyas have been subjected to persecution for decades. According to Amnesty International, 200,000 of them fled to Bangladesh in 1978 to escape a brutal military operation. Another  250,000 went into exile in 1991-92. The refugees complained of rape, persecution and forced labour by the military. Another 100,000 fled to Thailand, but were forced to leave for camps along the border. Although the Rohingyas have lived in Burma since the eight century they are regarded as illegal immigrants with no rights. A 56-page report released Wednesday by Human rights Watch  group called for strong international reaction to “atrocities” committed during last month’s bloody unrest between Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingyas, which left 78 people dead and about 100,000 homeless.

Recently a foreign journalist asked Aung Sang Suu Kyi whether she regarded Rohingyas as citizens of Burma. “I do not know. We have to be very clear about what the laws of citizenship are and who are entitled to them.” This can be translated as “I won’t get any votes by defending a minority group”.

US involvement


The US had  accepted Burma as one of the original beneficiaries of its Generalized System of Preference (GSP) program in 1976. It also granted Burma Most Favored Nation (MFN, now referred to as Normal Trade Relations, or NTR) status, and supported the provision of developmental assistance by international financial institutions.


There were also close military to military relations (including a major International Military Education and Training [IMET] programme) until 1988. The implementing of sanctions on Burma did not begin until after the Tatmadaw (Burmese military) brutally suppressed a peaceful, popular protest that has become known as the 8888 Uprising. Starting in the fall of 1987, popular protests against the military government sprang up throughout Burma, reaching a peak in August 1988.


Washington recently lifted some  financial and investment sanctions in response to nascent democratic reforms but has retained the ban on imports — a restriction that a US Senate committee this month said should be extended by three years.


Garment industry

Prior to the passage of Customs and Trade Act of 1990, the Bush pére Administration had suspended Burma’s eligibility for the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program on April 13, 1989. President Bush also designated Burma as a drug-producing and/or drug-trafficking country under the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 on February 28, 1990, which required the United States to oppose loans to Burma by international financial institutions.


Today, optimists on Burma have criticised sanctions as stifling key job-creating areas of the economy such as the garment industry rather than hurting the interests of the corrupt elite it targets. The
International Crisis Group(ICG)  think-tank is well-known to Sri Lankans. Although it has called for sanctions on Sri Lanka it opposes them on the far worse regime in Burma. It says Myanmar’s reform process had challenged “the dominance” of crony businessmen, who flourished under the disbanded junta, and nudged the economy towards greater openness at the expense of some key hardliners.


ICG warned that renewing the US import embargo, due to lapse this year, “could have a serious impact on Myanmar’s economic recovery”. ICG believes the  ban is skewing the nation’s economy towards “potentially problematic” extractive industries at the expense of sectors that employ large numbers of ordinary people.



Burma is cursed by being a resource-rich country. Burma’s GDP stands at $42.953 billion and grows at an average rate of  only 2.9% ICG believes that current sanctions will skew the economy towards extractive industries such as oil, gas and gem mining which have long been linked with corruption and also raise fears over environmental damage.


Human rights

The UN and several other organizations have reported consistent and systematic  human rights violations in Burma including child labour and human trafficking. After Hurricane Nargis devastated the country international NGOs feared that the reconstruction effort would depend on forced labour – be it from children or migrant adult workers. The Tatmadaw  routinely forces civilians to work on state infrastructure projects, such as the building of roads, bridges, military bases or even towns.


When friends have enthused about the joys of Burma as a tourist destination I have responded that I could  not be comfortable in a hotel that had been built by slaves. A Boycott Burma campaign stated : “As a tourist to Burma you will travel on roads and railroads, see temples and palaces and stay in hotels built or rebuilt since 1988, which will definitely contain the dead bodies of the slave labourers who made them for you… I never met anyone going to Burma since 1988 to help the people there. Only selfish, ignorant people on holiday who want to see for themselves. See what? Burmese used as human landmine detectors? Burmese slave labour camps? Burmese people dead in piles in the no man’s land? If you go to Burma, you pay to murder the people you visit.”
The army has  used  villagers as human minesweepers to clear the way for the safe passage of soldiers. Convicts are used as forced labour. It is estimated that as many as 20 percent of prisoners sentenced to “prison with hard labour” die as a consequence of the conditions of their detention. It has been reported that at least 91 labour camps operate in areas across the country .


Human Rights Watch (HRW) estimated that there may be more than 70,000 child soldiers in the SPDC Army. The children are often kidnapped without their parents’ knowledge while on their way home from school. They are then brutalised and physically abused during their induction and basic training before being shipped off to fight in the country’s ethnic states. “Child soldiers are sometimes forced to participate in human rights abuses, such as burning villages and using civilians for forced labour,” said HRW. “Those who attempt to escape or desert are beaten, forcibly re-recruited or imprisoned.”


Back in 2009, The Independent reported that Burmese soldiers, who provide security for the Yadana oil pipeline on behalf of the French company, Total, are forcing thousands of people to work portering, carrying wood and repairing roads in the pipeline area. They have also been forced to build police stations and barracks.


After such knowledge, what forgiveness? With poverty, inequality and racism,  there will always be conflict.
In a media statement the TBBC said: “While government figures estimate that a quarter of the nation live in poverty, the survey found that almost two thirds of households in rural areas of the South East are unable to meet their basic needs.” The TBBC statement said poverty severe in the “conflict-affected areas of northern Kayin State and eastern Bago Region.”


Jack Dunford said: “As prospects for the voluntary return of refugees and internally displaced persons are directly linked to national reconciliation, the urgency of finding a solution to conflict in Burma has never been greater.”

Reconciliation in Bosnia



I am old enough to recall when Yugoslavia was held up by leftists in the west as a model for how a society and economy could  be run for the benefit of citizens rather than corporations. Yugoslavia experimented  with a type of independent socialism that allowed  workers in state-run enterprises to participate in management. I purchased  a volume Penguin published of  learned essays on worker self-management (sometimes called workers’ control or autogestion) in which socialist intellectuals enthused about Yugoslavia. Autogestion, they believed, was the answer to labour relation problems in the west.

Tito could be seen as a benevolent dictator because he had stood up to Stalin. “Stop sending people to kill me. We’ve already captured five of them, one of them with a bomb and another with a rifle (…) If you don’t stop sending killers, I’ll send one to Moscow, and I won’t have to send a second.” His internal policies successfully maintained the peaceful coexistence of the nations of the Yugoslav federation and  he gained international attention as the chief leader of the Non-Aligned Movement. On 1 January 1967, Yugoslavia was the first communist country to open its borders to all foreign visitors and abolish visa requirements. Croatia became a popular holiday destination and its wine appeared on British supermarket shelves.
Tito’s good reputation survived  the criticisms of dissident Milovan Djilas, who had been regarded as Tito’s natural successor. Slobodan Markovic, a political scientist, derided a wave of Yugonostalgia: “People have forgotten that Tito was a dictator. They remember there was peace and stability, and they forget the violation of human rights. Yugoslavia lived well because it was the only communist country that received enormous US aid and then loans.”

One hundred and twenty-eight countries sent political delegations to Tito’s funeral; those present included the USSR’s Brezhnev, Jimmy Carter’s mother, James Callaghan, Yasser Arafat, Colonel Gaddafi, the Duke of Edinburgh, Nicolae Ceausescu, Erich Honecker. There were four kings, 31 presidents, six princes, 22 prime ministers, 47 foreign ministers. Only five countries, including Pinochet’s Chile and apartheid-era South Africa, stayed away.


After Tito’s death in 1980, the New York Times wrote: ”Tito sought to improve life. … Yugoslavia gradually became a bright spot amid the general greyness of Eastern Europe”.  Tensions between the Yugoslav republics soon emerged and in 1991 the country collapsed into a mayhem of  inter-communal strife and horror. Djilas wrote: “Our system was built only for Tito to manage. Now that Tito is gone and our economic situation becomes critical, there will be a natural tendency for greater centralization of power. But this centralization will not succeed because it will run up against the ethnic-political power bases in the republics. This is not classical nationalism but a more dangerous, bureaucratic nationalism built on economic self-interest. This is how the Yugoslav system will begin to collapse.”


The war in Bosnia and Herzegovina was particularly complex and horrific because there were so many parties involved. It was principally a territorial conflict, initially between Serb forces and the national army of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which was mainly composed of Muslim Bosniaks, and Croatian forces. The population of the  multi-ethnic, multi-faith  Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina was 44% Muslim Bosniaks, 31% Orthodox Serbs, 17% Catholic Croats. Serbs set up their own enclave within Bosnia, Republika Srpska, whose army had some 80,000 personnel during the war and  committed war crimes and genocide against Bosnia Muslims and Croats.

Sarajevo and Srebrenica

There is no space here to describe the full complexity and horror of the Bosnian war. Let Sarajevo and Srebrenica stand as specimens. The siege of Sarajevo was the longest siege of a capital city in the history of modern warfare, three times longer than the Siege of Stalingrad. There was an average of 329 shell impacts per day during the course of the siege, with a maximum of 3,777 on 22 July 1993. It is estimated that nearly 12,000 people were killed or went missing in the city, including over 1,500 children. An additional 56,000 people were wounded, including nearly 15,000 children. Snipers killed civilians queuing for water or trying to buy food in the market. Bosniak  homes were ransacked, males taken to concentration camps, women repeatedly raped. UNICEF reported that, at least 40% children in the city had been directly shot at by snipers; 51% had seen someone killed; 39% had seen one or more family members killed; 19% had witnessed a massacre; 48% had their home occupied by someone else; 73% had their home attacked or shelled; and 89% had lived in underground shelters. The Bosnian Government reported a soaring suicide rate by Sarajevans, a near doubling of abortions and a 50% drop in births since the siege began.

In July 1995, at Srebrenica, a  “safe area” under UN protection, 8,000 Muslim men and boys were rounded up by Serb forces under Ratko Mladić  and massacred.

The genocidal plan was orchestrated by poet-politician Radovan Karadžić, President of Republika Srpska.

Karadžić was accused of directing Bosnian Serb forces to “create an unbearable situation of total insecurity with no hope of further survival of life” in the UN safe area. In addition, he is accused by the ICTY of ordering that UN  personnel be taken hostage in May–June 1995.The Bosniak victims included boys aged under 15, men over the age of 65, women, and reportedly even several babies.

UN failings – to intervene or not to intervene?

Dutch UN soldiers were criticised for failing to protect the Bosniak refugees in the “safe area”. Lieutenant-Colonel Thom Karremans was filmed drinking a toast with  Mladić . Zumra Šehomerovic reported mass rapes. The rapes often took place under the eyes of others and sometimes even under the eyes of the children of the mother. A Dutch soldier stood by and he simply looked around with a  Walkman on his head. He did not react at all to what was happening. It did not happen just before my eyes, for I saw that personally, but also before the eyes of us all. The Dutch soldiers walked around everywhere. It is impossible that they did not see it.”

In 2005, in a message on  the tenth anniversary commemoration of the genocide, Kofi Annan  noted that, while blame lay first and foremost with those who planned and carried out the massacre and those who assisted and harboured them, great nations had failed to respond adequately.  Srebrenica would haunt the UN forever.  In 2004, the International Criminal court ruled that the massacre constituted genocide, a crime under international law.

Jasmin Mujanović argues that persistent fallacies have informed the international community’s attempts to “deal” with Bosnia since (at least) 1991-92. He writes that the war was not “the result of the unbridled and millennial ethnic hatreds of its peoples, but rather the engineered and orchestrated machinations of an unaccountable political elite seeking to secure its political and economic survival in a period of immense social crisis”… Significant elements of the international community advocated a foreign policy based on preserving a vacuous conception of ‘stability’ and ‘unity’ rather than a principled insistence on democratization and human rights. …the international community had sent strong signals to the country’s leadership that an increased role by the Yugoslav National Army (JNA) would be a welcome step towards checking some of their growing concerns about the stability of political authority in the country in the post-Tito period.”

Death Toll

There are large discrepancies between estimates of the total number of casualties in the Bosnian war, ranging from 25,000 to 329,000. According to Prof. Steven L. Burg and Prof. Paul S. Shoup: “The figure of 200,000 (or more) dead, injured, and missing was frequently cited in media reports on the war in Bosnia as late as 1994. The October 1995 bulletin of the Bosnian Institute for Public Health of the Republic Committee for Health and Social Welfare gave the numbers as 146,340 killed, and 174,914 wounded on the territory under the control of the Bosnian army. Mustafa Imamovic gave a figure of 144,248 perished (including those who died from hunger or exposure), mainly Muslims. The Red Cross and the UNHCR have not, to the best of our knowledge, produced data on the number of persons killed and injured in the course of the war. A November 1995 unclassified CIA memorandum estimated 156,500 civilian deaths in the country (all but 10,000 of them in Muslim- or Croat-held territories), not including the 8,000 to 10,000 then still missing from Srebrenica and Zepa enclaves. This figure for civilian deaths far exceeded the estimate in the same report of 81,500 troops killed (45,000 Bosnian government; 6,500 Bosnian Croat; and 30,000 Bosnian Serb).”


There were several major massacres during 1995 and NATO made many airstrikes against Bosnian Serb positions supported by UNPROFOR rapid reaction force artillery attacks. On 14 September 1995, the NATO air strikes were suspended to allow the implementation of an agreement with Bosnian Serbs for the withdrawal of heavy weapons from around Sarajevo. On 26 September 1995, an agreement of further basic principles for a peace accord was reached in New York. A 60-day ceasefire came into effect on 12 October, and on 1 November peace talks began in Dayton, Ohio. The war ended with the Dayton Peace Agreement signed on 21 November 1995.

The Dayton Accord was described as a “construction of necessity” the immediate purpose of which  was to freeze the military confrontation, and prevent it  from resuming. There is no space here to go into the intricate juggling to swap territories from one group to another in order to establish the new nation of Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH). Many scholars have deemed Dayton an  impressive example of conflict resolution which has turned Bosnia from a basket-case to a potential EU member.

Critics have, however, had problems with the fact  international , unaccountable to BiH’s citizens, to shape the agenda of post-war transition, and decide  punishment for  local political actors. Another perceived flaw is  each ethnic group was discontented with the results. Bosniaks were upset that  human rights issues were ignored  and that Serbian entities were given recognition. Edin Šarčević, of the Bosnian Academy of Sciences and Arts, the current legal structure of the agreement does not abide by the basic principles of international law making the Bosnian territorial and political situation continually unstable and fractious since its implementation.

Truth and Reconciliation

Retributive justice is impossible to apply in a context like Bosnia where so many were involved in the conflict. There are not enough resources to capture and try everyone who committed war crimes. Widespread arrests would reignite conflict. In January 2005, Hajra Catic, of the Mothers of Srebrenica organization, “lost faith” in ICTY’s ability to dispense justice after they sentenced Dragan Jokic, a man she believed was responsible for 3,000 deaths, to only nine years in prison.

Eileen Babbitt wrote about  UN efforts to reintegrate refugees: “they were coming back to communities where they were really, really unwanted. Most of them were coming back to places where they were a majority population and now post-war they are the minority, so another group has literally taken over and moved into their homes, and many of those people are also displaced, traumatized, etc. and they’re not about to simply give up everything and welcome the returning refugees with open arms.”

Reconciliation is hampered by a refusal to face up to the truth because each group has its own narrative. Schools are  strictly segregated and  children learn three different versions of the  war. After many failed attempts, there has still not been a successful truth commission.

On 6 December 2004, Serbian president Boris Tadić made an apology to all those who suffered crimes committed in the name of the Serb people. Croatia’s president Ivo Josipović apologized in April 2010 for his country’s role in the Bosnian War. On 31 March 2010, the Serbian parliament adopted a declaration “condemning in strongest terms the crime committed in July 1995 against Bosniak population of Srebrenica” and apologizing to the families of the victims.


In Bosnia, 88% support the country’s bid for EU membership. Identification with Europe as a supranational community can in Bosnia and Herzegovina become a way to overcome ethnic differences. Poll results show that support for EU membership is strongest in the Muslim community, with 97% in favour, while 85%  of Bosnian Croats support it and 78% of Bosnian Serbs. The EU-initiated processes of institutional engineering and systemic inclusion of minority groups and non-nationalists into policy-making processes in Bosnia and Herzegovina signals an important and historic shift from an ethnocentric citizenship model towards a democratic and inclusive citizenship regime.

Bosnia today

On 25 July 2012 Ban Ki-moon addressed the BiH parliament and noted the progress achieved by Bosnia and Herzegovina over the last two decades, including its transformation from a country which hosted UN peacekeepers to a troop contributor to UN peacekeeping operations, and from occupying the agenda of the Security Council to successfully serving on the Council. “Led by your priorities and direction, we are working together to create jobs especially for young people, extend social protection for the most vulnerable groups, end the suffering of those enduring protracted displacement, safeguard the environment, tackle discrimination and promote respect for human rights and the rule of law.”

The Council of Europe’s European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) highlighted the continued marginalization of minority groups, particularly Roma. In a joint opinion issued in June, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and UK Foreign Affairs Minister William Hague expressed disappointment at the protracted institutional gridlock in Bosnia that was preventing needed reforms, including ending ethnic discrimination in politics.

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