Category Archives: Literature

Chapter 1. Loyalists.


April 1912.

”That was a good match”, said Duncan Self catching his breath and flicking some mud off his football jersey. Duncan was six feet tall and broad shouldered though tending to corpulence. He had dense warm brown hair, a pale complexion, slightly thin lips and and well proportioned face that was dashed with freckles.

”It was but we could have licked them’,’ said Denis Edwards wiping the perspiration of his teenage brow. Denis was 6’2” and blessed with a crop of thick blond hair that was carefully brushed. He was slim but not feeble. His eyes were incongruously hazel on a pale though healthy face and he had a Roman nose protruding from a strikingly handsome face.

”Two-two. We could have thrashed them papists” said Jude Conroy. ”That first goal the papists scored  – I think our goalie let it in on purpose. He is a papist pig don’t forget.” His eyes blazed with sheer hatred. Jude stood barely 5’3” and was porcine. His chestnut brown hair was lank and greasy. His oval face was olive tinted and his brown eyes blazed malevolence and resentment. Jude was stooped and seemed to hold himself in as if hoarding spite. His uneven teeth were permanently set on edge.

”Leave it out” said Duncan wearily. ”Alan is a fine goalie. He plays his best for us. Does not matter he is a Catholic.”

”Yeah” said Denis, ”Alan O’Rourke is on our time and if you don’t like it then leave. I think we only drew because you were so lazy in defence.”

”Well I have flat feet. And asthma and I broke my leg this match.” said Jude.

”Broke your leg? You broke your leg did you?” said Duncan. ”I suppose you blame that on the Catholics too.”

”I never said a bad word about papishes in my life” said Jude without a hint of irony. He turned and walked off in a sulk across the damp, dark green fields.

Steam rose off the teenage players in the cool spring afternoon. They nattered as they walked back into the market town of Dunmore.

”I remember when I was in the Boys’ Brigade – we were the best football team in Tyrone” said David Henderson. David stood 5’9” and was an average build. His skin was exceptionally pale and rosy cheeks lent point to this pallor. His brown eyes flashed with exuberance and a brooding folly lay under his sharp facial features. His dark brown hair was messily cast over his narrow brow. There was a gap between the middle of his unusually sharp teeth.

”Best in Tyrone? We were quite good we were not that good” said Duncan indulgently.

”It is true. Catholics cannot play football. Not the two left feet – that’s nonsense. But they spend most of their time playing Gaelic and hurling and suchlike.” said David.

”Well maybe that’s so.” said Duncan ”But I think you are letting your drama get the better of you.”

”I am a serious actor. I will get a big part in no time – you’ll see.” said David defiantly. He took a cigarette of his pocket and lit it.

”Serious actor – that is another word barman is it?” chortled Denis.

David took a drag on his cigarette and exhaled.

”I am just a barman till I make it big. You’ll see. You saw my star at the pantomime in Dungannon? There’s a theatre in Londonderry is very interested in me. ” said David. He then offered his pack of Woodbines around. Duncan and Denis both took one and thanked him before lighting up.

Apropos of nothing Duncan turned to Denis. ”Denis did you see this thing in the Belfast Newsletter – there is a Home Rule Bill going before Parliament.”

”yes, I did. Haven’t I a brother a journalist on the Newsletter? ” said Denis.

”Home Rule – could that get through? Last election Liberals hardly mentioned it. I used to like Asquith. They won’t do it – not to Ulster at any rate.” said Duncan concernedly.

”I am not so sure. They might do. Asquith needs the Home Rulers. That was only way he got the People’s Budget. That Lloyd George is trying to sell us down the river just like he betrayed the whole country in the South African War.” said Denis tutting.

”You two talking politics again? Give over will you?” said David.

”I shall see you down the pub tonight” said Denis peeling off towards his home.

”See youse there” said David.

Once Denis started to walk down his unpaved lane towards his red brick single story house then David turned to Duncan.

”You know the Roman Catholics asked if we could play on the Sabbath?”

”Play on Sunday? They didn’t?” said Duncan.

”They did. I see them playing their GAA game on the Lord’s day all the time.” said David in horror.

”Now to be fair the boys we played football against do not play GAA. Gaelic Athletic Association will not let them. They either play football or they play GAA. GAA bigots will not play football because it comes from England.” said Duncan.

”I suppose they won’t speak English because it comes from England, won’t touch a Bank of England pound note, won’t drink tea because it comes from China. ” said David.

”Won’t they claim their pensions as England subsidises Ireland.” said Duncan wryly.

”My father is a big noise in the Lord’s Day Observance Society. The Sabbath is the Lord’s Day and we shall keep it holy. No work – not thy manservant not thy maidservant.” David intoned gravely.

”I do not mind a child kicking a ball on Sunday. Seems a big excessive to me – this no games on Sunday. But everyone know team will play a proper game on a Sunday.” said Duncan/

”Now that is the first step to Rome. I am not that godly but you know that playing sport on a Sunday is not on.”

”It does not matter to me. The GAA play their games on Sunday and the police do not stop them. Does not bother me but the Catholic team was foolish to ask us if we would play. Captain of the Queen of Clergy was foolish to ask.”

”Queen of Clergy who is that?” said David in puzzlement.

”That team we just played from Carrickmore – they are called the Queen of Clergy. Queen of Clergy is the Virgin Mary.” said Duncan.

”Queen of Clergy – Virgin Mary. What a queer name.” David disapprovingly.

”Catholic teams have their patron or patroness saint.” said Duncan.

”Good morning at school was it?” said David changing the subject.

”Yes it was – most of the pupils turned up. Only a few helping on family farms and shops.” said Duncan. His cigarette was finished and he cast the butt aside.

”I see. I would have loved to have been a teacher but family finances would not stretch to that. But being a barman is great. When the pipkin is about to go off the landlord sells it to us at half price.” said David.

Duncan tried not to wince. Though David was only 17 he had noticed that David drank far too much. Duncan chose to bite his tongue.

”Those woodbines are splendid. Cleans the lungs – so the doctor says. Relaxes the larynx.”said Duncan.

”You should give them to your pupils/” said David.

”Well I do sometimes but only when they are over the age of ten. But there are a few fathers who object – religious grounds. Not Church of Ireland or even Presbyterians. There are some low church folk with very funny ideas. You know those who go to gospel hall. Puritans really.” said Duncan.

”Ridiculous. Just because cigarettes make you feel good. Smoking is no sin.” said David. ”The Good Lord would not have made tobacco for us if he did not want us to smoke.”

”You are right. Don’t the Church of Ireland rectors smoke and the Presbyterian ministers smoke. It is the most innocent thing in the world.” said Duncan. ”It is an innocent pleasure. One of the fathers – he found his teenage son smoking and he thrashed him with a horse whip. I know a father has the right to discipline his children but that was too much.”

”I agree. Why would anyone be against smoking? It is as strange as being a Catholic” said David.

”It is it is. But Catholics are not so different.” said Duncan.

”You are right. They are not. There is that fella on our team. Could not find a goalie so we took a Catholic. Supposed to be a Protestant team but he is as a good a lad as any of them.” said David.

”I got to turn here. This is my lane” said Duncan.

”Off you go.” said David.


That night most of the team foregathered at the Dunmore Arms. The lads were togged out in their suits such as had them. The scene was sheened with greased down hair. The pub was thronging with men and only men.

Duncan walked into the pub and it was already echoing with revelry. In the corner a skinny  old man with a shaggy white beard played the fiddle as he tapped his toe.

”How’s about you Duncan?” said John King bonhomously. John was 5’9” and had very dark brown hair atop a square face. His nose was a little broad and his teeth had only one filling. John’s semi-sculpted features recommended him to womenfolk. John wore a perfectly tailored navy blue suit, transfiguration white shirt and a dark green tie. His black leather brogues were polished to brilliance. Not a hair was out of place nor was there a crease on his shirt. He stood swilling his pint.

”Ah John – not so and yourself.”

”I am very well. We will beat those papishes next time five nil” said John exuberantly.

Duncan deduced from John’s tone and demeanour that John was not simply talking optimistically – he actually believed it.

”Well it would be nice if it happened” said Duncan soothingly.

”I am one of the best players on the team. Don’t know how I didn’t score. You should have scored too.” said John.

”Oh me? Well thanks but come on we both know I have two left feet. I like the game. Don’t mind much if we lose. We could lose every game in the seasons and I would still enjoy it.” said Duncan placidly.

”I am going to stop working in the shop. A sales clerk is no future. I am thinking of going to be a keeper at the mad house. Now that is a real job and going somewhere. It is sort of scientific. ” said John.

”I saw your results in the schools certificate – you could study medicine” said Duncan/

”Study medicine? Are you joking me? Only posh boys do that. Where would I get the money from? It is a miracle that my father paid for me to stay at school till 17. A waste of money he says. Should have gone off to get a job in the Bank of Ireland, dad said. My uncle wrote me a letter of recommendation because he has an account. I think maybe dad is write. I missed the boat on that one. ANy I will go off and work at the lunatic asylum. Lunatics cannot be as hard to handle as some customers. It is good money. I even thought of being a medical orderly in the army. You see the uniform is fine.”

”You are so fastidious about your clothes. It would suit you. You look like a Guardsman.” said Duncan.

”That is the nicest thing we ever said. My cousin Billy is in the Irish Guards you know. Ireland’s finest. Makes me proud to be Irish. Half the men in the Irish Guards are Roman Catholics mind but that’s no harm.” said John.

”But think of it – do you really want to be in the army. What if there is a war?” said Duncan.

”A war. There will be no war. Don’t be silly. I think you should be in the lunatic asylum” John chuckled. ”Now what’ll you have, a drink?”

”Let me have some lager please.” said Duncan.

”Right you are” said John sidling up to the bar and ordering one for Duncan and another for himself. Duncan could tell that John had had a few already.

As John was at the bar Duncan fell into conversation with Mark Walker. ”Hello there Mark” said Duncan.

”Hello Duncan, put it there.” he extended his hand and they shook ardently. Mark was a fleshy faced youth with a mass of dark brown curls. His round ugly faced was disfigured by a bulbous nose liberally covered in carbuncles. His very fair skinned jowls wobbled as he spoke. Mark was not too fast around the pitch.

”A good game we had today” said Duncan.

”Yes it was all right. I had been hoping to win. I must have not prayed hard enough. The Lord granted victory to the Catholics.” said Mark.

”I am not sure that the Good Lord involves himself in something so petty as a football match between us and Queen of Clergy.” Duncan felt like laughing but he saw that Mark was in earnest.

”Oh but he does. God is with us in all things great and small.” said Mark. ”I am becoming a deacon so I am going to a course at Queen’s – the Queen’s University of Belfast” he pronounced its name with a proud flourish. Duncan could see that being a deacon would appeal greatly to Mark’s self-importance. Mark took a sip of his pint.

”Very good – Church of Ireland.” said Duncan.

”Yes, Church of Ireland. Presbyterians do not have deacons.” said Mark.

”You are right they don’t but I thought you were brought up as a Presbyterian.”

”I was brought up in both really. I became a bit more Church of Ireland in the last few years. Our church has light, and colour and music and everything positive. ” said Mark.

David came over presently with a pint.

”Ah thanks David” said Duncan. ”Cheers” all three chinked glasses and took a swig.

”Ah …bathing my gums in a frothy pint” said John ”nothing finer.”

Duncan saw the beginnings of redness on John’s nose. He was a functioning dipsomaniac.

”Work at the county council offices this morning.” said Mark. ”Not so fun. But now I have that testamentarium in divinity I do not need to study in my free time”.

”That is a feather in your cap” said Duncan.

Over sidled Thomas Flaherty looking timid. Thomas was 5’10” and had dark brown hair. His long face was not usually sorrowful. His skin was an average complexion and his eyes were the clearest blue. Thomas’ cheekbones were prominent and his teeth were a little too large. He was a powerfully built youth.

”Hello Thomas – good to see you” said Duncan loudly.

”Hi fellas” said Thomas finally pulling himself up to his full height. There were handshakes all around. ”Good match. Good skills to teach the boys at school” .

”I wonder which one of us would get to be headmaster first” said Duncan.

They chuckled. ”Sad thing is how some of our boys – really bright lads will have to go into work at 12. You take Sam Igoe. He would love to do secondary school but this June that is it. There are eight children in the family. He has to go out and bring in a wage. Makes me listen to those socialist johnnies when I hear of this happening.”

”Come on” said Mark ”How could the country afford for most children to stay in school after the age of 12. I know I did till 16 but still. It would mean more tax and ruin. Lloyd George is already taxing beer enough” he quipped.

”That’s true” said Thomas – his mood lightening. ”My dad says if the government has so much money why can’t they pay the RIC more?”

”Your father is in the RIC isn’t he?” said Mark remembering. ”The Royal Irish Constabulary” he said with elan. ”That is a fine body of men. I would like to be their chaplain.”

”Is that the beer talking. You getting carried away with yourself? You’ve a secret ambition to be a clergyman?” said Duncan sagely.

”Ah no” said Mark looking and suddenly rubbing the bridge of his nose with his forefinger and thumb.

The others laughed at his blatant lie.

”People like us do not get to be clergy in the Church of Ireland” said David. ”You have to be a gentleman, you know a toffee nose with money. We are working class.”

”Thomas’ father is a sergeant in the police I wonder if that is not getting on for middle class.” said Duncan.

”Some on look at you” said David. ” I am a barman. Sharing a room with six other men. After food and beers and fags I have no money left. You are a teacher. I have seen your articles in the county gazette. You get extra for that. You are not so poor. You are middle class.”

”Middle class is a very broad term. I am maybe on the lower end of middle class” said Duncan.

Just then Andrew Saddler entered the pub with an awkward goofy gait. He was 5’5” and had slightly receding tawny hair. His forehead was very convex and he wore thin rimmed glasses. His skin was a tad redder than the others and his lips were very thin. His clothes were very tidy but certainly not stylish.

”Speaking of middle class it is Andrew – the finest bookmaker in Ireland” Duncan joked. The others laughed. He gave Andrew a strong pat on the back. Andrew creased up in embarrassment and went red.

”Right now pint everyone?” so Duncan suggested. ”I have not bought one so far.”

”yes we noticed” said David mirthfully.

Duncan made his way to the bar to purchase pints for his chums.

”How is life at the accountants’ firm?” said Mark.

”It is right enough” said Andrew in a soft monotone. He lowered his eyes.

”Good to hear it is going well.” said David. ”I don’t suppose they would lend me a hundred pounds” he laughed raucously.

”No they would not” said Andrew completely oblivious to the fact that David had been joking. ”If I do well they shall move me to the Omagh office.”

”Omagh now that is a big town. What a thing!” said David with mock flattery.

”Twenty miles away – never been so far in all my life” said Andrew contemplating it as though it daunted him.

”I have been all over Ireland and to England” David bragged.

Duncan returned with the pints.

”Thanks for the bevvies” said David. Alcohol was clearly getting to him.

”Slainte” said Duncan as he chinked his glass against David’s/

”Shla what?” said David.

”Slainte – it is Irish for cheers. Well literally it means health.” said Duncan.

”Why are you speaking Irish. Aren’t you a Protestant?”

”Yes, I am. I was just curious. I only know a few words. We can learn it too. Catholics all speak English so why shouldn’t we know a bit of Irish. There’s this organization called the Gaelic League – encouraging the language. The president of it is Douglas Hyde and he’s a Prod.” said Duncan.

”Gaelic League – is that like the Gaelic Athletic Association? We are Irish. We are not Gaelic.” said David resolutely. ”We should we speak that prate? Ulster-Scots there’s a language. I do not like Gaelic anything. It is for rebels who would cut your throat.”

”We are not Fenians” said Mark firmly. ”As for Catholics speaking English – my granny grew up in Donegal. When she was a wee girl there was some Catholics spoke no English.”

”We are the greatest country in the world.” said Andrew ” That ship we are building in Belfast. It will be the biggest in the world. I can tell you all its statistics – how long it is, how many tonnes displacement…” the others groaned until he stopped. He started there blinking and uncomprehending as to why they would not wish to hear all this information.

”Why on earth are they calling it Titanic?” said David.

”Titans in Ancient Greek mythology – like a titan.” said Duncan ”Let’s hope it does not become a Prometheus” he joked. Only Mark chortled.

Just then Joel Coles walked in. ”Joel ”they chorused.

Joel was a gaunt little man with thick brown hair in tight little curls. He wore glasses and had woeful teeth that grinned permanently. He stalked over looking scarecrowish, hands thrust into his pockets.

”Hi fellas”, said Joel in a high pitched tone that was at once apologetic and truculent.

”You had an all right game today” said Mark.

”I am not one for football but you lads needed me so I came along” Joel looked sheepish.

”Drink for you?” asked Duncan.

”Ah yes I will have a half of bitter” he nodded softly.

”A half – a half? What is wrong with you? Only got on ball?” David sneered. This was no mere persiflage. David was genuinely incensed.

”Calm down will you? The fella only wants a half all right?” Duncan.

”A half, a half!” David carried on fulminating – his face growing redder. Joel went crimson for a different reason and stood rooted to the spot – speechless.

”Leave it out will you?” said Mark.

Duncan sidled off to the bar and came back with Joel’s drink. David had finally regained his composure. His eyes were narrowed and he grew melancholic.

”Thanks for very much Duncan” said Joel. He was grateful for more than the drink. ”I do not know how I would have handled David if you hadn’t…”

”Think nothing of it. Good of you to come out so it was. I know football is not your thing nor drinking. Let’s not talk about that fool.” said Duncan. Joel brightened – seeing Duncan as almost a savior.

”It is going well at the solicitor’s firm. The gaffer says I am a good clerk. Might start articles next year.” said Joel beaming.









A Very English Scandal by Paul Preston. Review.


This book is a biography that reads like the liveliest of novels. Paul Preston has not bored us by writing about the whole of Jeremy Thorpe’s life. Instead Preston has focussed on 1961-1979. These years bookend Thorpe’s ill-starred relationship with Norman Scott. Preston is a seasoned journalist and a consummate tale teller. Notably he relates the story in the present tense to lend it immediacy.
1961 – Jeremy Thorpe is a 32 year old Member of Parliament. He is in the Liberal Party which seems to be one elected away from extinction. The Liberals have only 6 MPs out of 650 in Parliament. Thorpe is a renowned wit and gifted debater. From his earliest childhood he was irrepressibly extrovert. The son and grandson of Tory MPs – he would have been guaranteed a safe Tory seat. However, ever the attention seeker he chose to be a Liberal. Thorpe is a compulsive risk taker and mischief maker. Many politicians are exhibitionists which is why they go into politics. But most of them have a few bedrock beliefs. In terms of racial equality Thorpe had such inflexible beliefs.

Jeremy Thorpe comes across as a genial and quixotic figure. He was President of the Oxford Union (debating society of Oxford University) and then a barrister (lawyer) before being elected to Parliament. He is a silver tongued advocate rather than a jurisprudential scholar. Thorpe possessed charisma and self-assurance in spades. John Jeremy Thorpe was a gifted impersonator and had an incredible knack for remembering names. He felt his humblest constituents feel as though he cared for them. He was a consummate showman – a sort of gay Tony Blair.  Preston depicts Thorpe as a winsome machiavell. The Liberal leader comes across as amoral in personal affairs and principled in politics.
Preston relates how there was an aspect of Thorpe’s life that the exhibitionist Thorpe chose to keep quiet. Thorpe was a Ganymede. Paul Preston uses dialogue supplied by Thorpe’s fellow Liberal MP and bosom buddy Paul Bessell. Bessell too had skeletons in his cupboard – he was a married man and a lay preacher. Bessell was also a philanderer. It is difficult now to remember just how judgemental the 60s were. Unwed pregnancy was considered scandalous and same sex attraction was held to be the most repellent vice. Indeed until 1967 it was a crime.
As Thorpe seemed on the brink of great things he met a 21 year old stable boy named Norman Josiffe. Norman Josiffe was born in London out of marriage . He was half-Irish and half English. His mother wed an accountant who brought him up as his own. Josiffe was a highly unstable character who was prone to flights of fantasy. Thorpe met the young Norman Josiffe and they began an intimate relationship. This only lasted a few months but it was a liaison that was to dog Thorpe to his dying day.
After a few months Preston has Thorpe ending his relationship with Thorpe. To the Liberal statesman this relationship seems to have been about physical gratification and nothing more. Josiffe claims he was besotted and was deeply hurt when he was spurned. According to Josiffe he felt romantic love for the Member of Parliament. When he realized that Thorpe had used him as a mere plaything this drove Josiffe mad. Norman Josiffe went to the police and confessed to engaging in unlawful intercourse with Thorpe. The police tugged the forelock to the squirearchy and chose not to even inform Thorpe of this allegation of a felony.

Josiffe was indeed mentally ill and sectioned on several occasions. He made more than one parasuicidal gesture. In the 60s and and 70s Josiffe drifted from one job to another. He was by turns and ostler and then a model. He was tall, slender with a saturnine look that was then the height of fashion. Thorpe had described himself as Josiffe’s guardian for a time and secured him a National Insurance card. This National Insurance card was to prove to be Thorpe’s undoing. Josiffe was forever losing his NI card and writing to Thorpe to get him a new one. Thorpe handed over the problem of Norman Josiffe to fellow Liberal MP Paul Bessell. Bessell handled Josiffe and sent him regular retainers.

Various attempts were made to get Josiffe a job overseas. He had various posts in Ireland. He never managed to stick at anything. Unsurprisingly Thorpe was exasperated by him.

In 1966 Jo Grimmond the Liberal leader stepped down. Thorpe was then elected leader of the six man Liberal Party. He was 37 and on the up and up. Thorpe enjoyed very cordial relations with the Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson. Wilson had been a Liberal in his Oxford days. So to had the doyen of the far left Michael Foot.

As Thorpe was in his 30s and had never been seen stepping out with a woman questions were asked of his orientation. Moreover, whispers of Norman Josiffe’s claims reached the ears of some in the Westminster Village. No newspaper would dare publish a word of it for fear of being sued for libel. Carnal acts between two males were a crime until 1967 in England and Wales. Long after 1967 such deeds were still regarded as morally repugnant by many.

Thorpe decided to put paid to rumours about his private life. He went for a characteristically bold gambit. He decided to take to wife. Who was to be his bride? He cast around for a suitable candidate. He happened upon a 6 foot upper class secretary named Caroline Allpass. After a romance of a few months he proposed and she accepted. Caroline was known as a fag hag. Can she have been unaware of Thorpe’s true inclinations. He seems to have married her principally to allay suspicions about his proclivities but also to boost the party.

Never one to avoid the limelight he held the wedding reception in Lambeth Palace Garden. Despite being a supposed progressive he had a curious hankering for establishment credentials. He was a passionate monarchist and his sartorial style with brown homburg hats and black silk top hats made him seem like a Tory of the most reactionary cast of mind.

Within two years a child was born to Thorpe and his wife. Thorpe also won over a British millionaire living in the Bahamas – Jack Hayward. Hayward was a stalwart Tory but was under Thorpe’s spell. Thorpe had the elan vital and the charm that Hayward believed a leader needed. For the perennially cash strapped Liberals the Hayward connection was manna from heaven.

Thorpe bet the bank on the 1970 election. It was a calamity. Despite gimmicks with huge rallies, helicopters and hovercraft the party lost seats. Just then his wife was killed in a car crash. Thorpe was forever a showman and wore many false faces. Despite all that acting – his grief over Caroline’s death was undoubtedly genuine.

Thorpe then met Marion Stein. She was an Austrian Jewess who had come to Britain as a teenage refugee. This gifted musician wed the Earl of Harewood who was the Queen’s cousin. Lord Harewood later embarked on an affair. He and Marion Stein divorced.

Marion Stein had three grown up sons and was a couple of years old then Thorpe. They married with great fanfare.

In the early 70s the Young Liberals were cutting edge radicals. They were prominent in the anti-apartheid movement. This made them trendy and relevant. Peter Hain who led the Stop the 70 campaign against the South African rugby tour was a Liberal. ‘Hain the Pain’ as he was dubbed by the right wing press kept the Liberal name in the media. The 70s did not seem like a time for Liberalism with its vacillation, insistence on rights and restraint. It was a time of inflation, unemployment, strikes, price controls and terrorism. People wanted decisive action and problem solving – not moderation and triangulation.

In the early 70s Josiffe moved to south-west England. He frequented Thorpe’s North Devon constituency. He regaled whoever would listen with his sordid tale. The Conservatives regularly denounced Thorpe as a queer at his rallies. However, their candidates would not stoop to using Josiffe’s story. About this time Norman Josiffe changed his name to Norman Scott.

Thorpe was at his wit’s end. He started saying to Bessell and others that Norman Scott (Josiffe) ought to be killed. Thorpe’s closest companions tried to persuade him of the impracticalities and the possible ramifications of committing murder. Thorpe became fixated with this as the only solution.

In 1974 an indecisive election result left neither major party with a clear majority. This was just what Thorpe had hoped for. He stood a good chance of being kingmaker. He was summoned to 10 Downing Street to meet Tory PM Edward Heath. They discussed the possibility of forming a coalition. As Disraeli said ”England does not love a coalition”. Thorpe’s fantasy of being Foreign Secretary was dashed. Heath would not commit to a referendum on proportional representation (PR). PR was the only way the Liberals would gain many seats. Thorpe’s party would not countenance propping up the Tories. That was a close as Thorpe ever came to the cabinet table. He saw himself in the mould of Lloyd George – his spiritual grandfather.

After 1974 his obsession with Norman Scott became pathological. A hitman was hired. In the end the hitman seems to have lose his nerve. Scott’s dog was shot dead. The man himself was not shot. The police came to have hear of the matter. The caninocide Andrew Newton served three years in prison for discharging a weapon with intent to endanger life.

The whole affair became public. In 1974 at Newton’s trial the whole story was related by Norman Scott from the witness box. This allowed newspapers to report it without fear of libel. Thorpe denied having had a physical relationship with Scott. The publication of intimate letters from Thorpe to Norman Scott tended to confirm the latter’s version of events.

In 1976 Thorpe was pressurized into stepping aside as Liberal leader. By this stage he had already been arrested in relation to the attempted murder of his own time paramour. Thorpe did not resign as an MP and affirmed his intention of standing as Liberal candidate at the next election. It did not play well on the doorstep.

Thorpe was then charged with conspiracy to murder. His former ally Bessell had turned against him. This must not be held against him. Thorpe had attempted fraud with Bessell and then put all the blame on him. He had also lied in the media and blamed who whole Norman Josiffe (Scott) affair on Bessell.

George Carman was the barrister of the day. He had been a chum of Thorpe whilst at Varsity. Upon hearing that Thorpe had been indicted he immediately offered his services. Thorpe had not practiced law for 20 years but still entertained the idea of running the defence as a legal duo. Carman poured cold water on that fond hope.

Thorpe fought the 1979 election. He lost his safe seat by a country mile. He was then called to trial in the Old Bailey. The prosecution’s case was fairly strong. Whoever, Carman then tore to shreds the reputations of the three prosecution witnesses. They were all proven serial liars. The judge could not have been more brazenly sympathetic to the defence. His summing up did not so much nudge the jury to acquit as shove them to.

Thorpe had been eagerly anticipating testifying in his own defence. It would be the speech of his life! Carman had to tell him there would be no such speech from the dock. The irrepressibly loquacious Thorpe could have talked his way to a life sentence.

The jury took some days to consider their verdict. He was acquitted on all charges.


This is a superb and riveting biography. There dialogue is drawn from the reminiscences of Norman Josiffe (Scott) and Peter Bessell. The narrative necessarily leans towards their version of events. As they testified and he refused to do so one must lend more credence to their statements. There is ample evidence that Thorpe had a sexual relationship with Josiffe (Scott) – something that J J Thorpe always denied. This clearly undermines his credibility. Thorpe was a devil in your ear and an inveterate liar. It is hard to believe that anyone would have invented the murder plot. Even if Thorpe did not want Josiffe (Scott) offed he surely wanted his erstwhile paramour to be at least scared into silence.

Although a free man in 1979 Thorpe was also a broken man. Only 5 years before he had had a good chance of being Foreign Secretary. He had even spoken of winning 150 seats and eventually become Prime Minister. Despite his acquittal he was unwelcome in the front rank of the Liberal Party. He had turned one of the own Liberal safe constituencies into a Tory citadel. He had dragged his party’s name through the mire. In the early 70s he had received a donation of GBP 10 000 from Jack Hayward. Instead of going to the Liberal Party he had channeled it via the Channel Islands and disposed of it personally. Thorpe gave three totally contradictory accounts of what he did with the money. The suspicion was that this was the sum used to pay off the assassin. It was not well spent! 10 000 pounds might not seem much but in the early 70s it was a king’s ransom especially for the impecunious Liberals. Thorpe made no attempt to reimburse the party he had wrecked. The new leader David Steel said that laconicism on behalf of Thorpe was apposite.

In 1981 he was spoken of as the British director of Amnesty International. Amnesty received sacks full of wrathful mail. The offer was withdrawn. Thorpe then lived a quiet life knowing that he was frozen out by high society. He hankered for a peerage and indeed lyingly claimed to be descended from a peer. He was almost as much of a fantasist as his nemesis Josiffe (Scott).

There was a plaintive descent into Parkinson’s. After 1979 he made few public appearance. He ought to have tread the boards. He would have been a star turn in Pantomime as a dame. He could have quipped with other characters, ”I have had people shot for less.”
John Jeremy Thorpe was a self-possessed gay gadfly. He campaigned for male-male love affairs to be legalised. He was also a stalwart of the anti-apartheid movement and a convinced Europhile long before it was fashionable.

Preston’s book is gorgeously written. It is as enthralling as its subject matter. The longsomeness of some of the toing and froing about blackmail slowed the book down. But it is a small price to pay for such accuracy. The dialogue and the facial expressions and tones of voice add vividness to the tale.  A measure of artistic licence must be allowed to the author. Otherwise the text would be desiccated. This is an eminently readable book. I give it my warmest recommendation.


should we welcome abortion in Ireland =================


can we rejoice?

people are not people

some people switch off compassion.

I know good people who have done this.

I knew an elderly German. uxorious, loving grandfather etc…. was in SS. Do not know what he did.

people are multidimensional

judge people. we all have the right to judge

be honest about why you have abortion

woman in 20s married , plenty of money, married so husband could buy expensive clothes and be in the golf club

baby does not have a choice

embryos do not look like humans

if you are a foetus be worried. I am being flippant.

get your rosaries off my ovaries

catholic Ireland is gone. holy Ireland is gone

we were  a virtual theocracy for 50 years

no hope of repeal of new law. it will be widened/



A tale of Old Dubai.


”Its a fine day to sail!” said Mahmud with a smile on his face. He looked out across the flat waters of the Arabian Gulf. The sun was shining but it was not too hot. He could begin his voyage to India today. It was not long since dawn prayer when Mahmud began to walk quickly and excitedly around to the houses of his friends in Deira and ask if they wanted to sail with him to India.  Mahmud was well known around Dubai. His narrow nose, jutting chin and prominent forehead were all very recognisable.

”We shall be sailing in my dhow to India – selling our pearls and buying their spices. We will make good money” he explained to a few of his friends. They all lived in beige coloured baked mud houses with wooden supports. Many men in Dubai did a bit of this and a bit of that. They dived for pearls, they worked as fishermen, they tended their farms, they looked after their camels and did dabbled in business.  He had to walk around to ask people in person because there were no phones back then. Luckily Dubai was small and he could easily walk to everyone’s house around the Creek. Women tended not to work outside the home because they all had several children to look after.

Just occasionally they heard a loud mechanical sound whine overheard. ”That’s a new invention – it is called a plane” Mahmud told his old mother. ”People say you can even fly all the way to India in it.” His mother looked astonished, ”So many new inventions – the car and now this.”

By mid morning Mahmud had a dozen sailors who had agreed to sail to India with him. The most outspoken was named Rashid, ”You have to take me because  I am the only one of us who can speak English. You cannot speak to the Indians unless you know English. I learnt it from an Indian teacher here.” Mahmud nodded wisely, ”You are right. Not many people over there speak Arabic.” Rashid was very pleased with himself. He has bushy eyebrows and enormous  jaws. His hands were hardened after pulling the ropes on countless voyages. He stroked his silky black beard in satisfaction.

There was plenty of hubub as carried their possessions and food through the busy port. They hastily loaded the wooden dhow. The harbour smelt of the salt sea, the tar that kept water out of the boats and aroma of many spices. The port was full of men loudly loading and unloading dhows as goods came from many countries and other goods were being sent to be sold overseas. There were shouts of ”watch out” and ”out of the way” it was hard for people to keep calm as they strained under heavy burdens. Some hardy fishermen sailed in beaming with nets choc full of silvery fish. A few fish were still alive and thrashing – they had been taken from the sea only minutes earlier.

After noonday prayers Mahmud the sailors boarded their dhow hopefully. Mahmud said to Ali, ”Ok Ali  you guide us out of the harbour.” Ali said, ”Aye, aye captain” and set to work. He was a quiet and efficient type of person. He was short and slight with far away eyes and a wispy black beard.

Some of the sailors looked back to Dubai. The terracotta coloured buildings were soon fading into the distance. No building was more than four storeys high. Before long they could only make of the minarets of a few mosques. They had little time to think about their dear city they were leaving behind. There was much to be done aboard the dhow. Fahd trailed a net behind the dhow to catch fish. They had dry food aboard but it was always good to have some fresh fish. Fahd was recently married and missing his young wife. Ahmed the cook came out of the kitchen and onto the back deck. ”Hey Fahd have you caught anything yet?”

”No yet, sorry” said Fahd.

”By the way how come you have shaved down to a goatee beard. Everyone else has a full beard?”

”I saw a photo of a goatee beard in a magazine – some men have these goatees. It is fashionable.”

”Magazines. You are wasting your time looking at pictures. You should spent more time becoming a better fisherman.”

”It is so fascinating to see how people in other parts of the world live. You know in other countries some men shave down to a moustache and some men shave all the hair off their faces. It is like that in India.”

”That is so strange. I have been to Bahrain and Qatar” said Ahmed ”but not India so far.”

”I met an Indian guy in Dubai – his name is Shahnawaz. He is working for a company they think their is a lot of oil in Dubai and he can get rich if he finds it.”

”Oil in Dubai? He must be crazy. There is only a tiny bit of oil in Dubai. We only use oil to light our oil lamps at home. How could you get rich from finding oil?”

”He says people use it for cars.”

”There are only about ten cars in Dubai. Why would anyone want a car? They are big, dirty noisy things.  Why drive a car when you can ride a camel or horse. Cars cannot go over sand anyway. Next that Shahnawaz will probably say there is oil in Saudi Arabia!”


Fahd saw land on the horizon and shouted ”Land ho” joyfully. The others sprang from their hammocks and race onto the deck. Sure enough they saw the greenish tinge on the horizon – it was India. Over the next few hours they drew nearer. They saw some boats and even ships coming out of an enormous harbour. Some tall buildings appeared on the skyline – taller than anything they had ever seen.

”India is amazing” said Mahmud, ”Like nothing you have ever seen.”

The others who had never seem India were silent at first – just taking in the scene. The water was very calm and the sun was blazing.

A police boat came out to them. A moustachioed police captain pulled his police boat up alongside them.

”Where are you from?” said the chubby middle aged policeman.

”We are from Dubai” said  Rashid, ”He is the captain” Rashid indicated Mahmud. The others looked at Rashid gratefully.

” I see. Why are you coming to India?” continued the roly poly police captain.

”We are here for trade.”

”Ok. Welcome to Bombay.” continued the police officer.

”Thank you sir” said Rashid graciously. He then turned to the crew and said, ”This is Bombay – they used to call it Mumbai long ago.”

The police captain did not understand Arabic but he recognised the word Mumbai. ”Nobody calls it Mumbai – that was hundreds of years ago. Some people want to change Bombay back to the old name Mumbai. That will never happen.”

”Very well continue. But if you come next year please bring these new documents they are called passports. There will be a new rule about them.”

”Yes we will” said Rashid.

With that they sailed on into Bombay Harbour. They passed an enormous grey stone arch called the Gateway of India.

Shortly they had moored at the harbour. They unloaded their wares on the quay. They were soon trading with Indian businessmen.

”How many Indian Rupees are there to a Gulf Rupee?” Fahd asked Rashid. ”I am not sure. Let me check. There is a money exchange booth over there.”

”Some people think we should call our money the Dirham” said Fahd.

”No that is a silly idea. We should call it the Gulf Rupee.”

After a brisk day’s trading they had sold all their goods at a handsome price. They had also bought many Indian spices and sacks of rice. They could resell them at home for a healthy profit. Mahmud bought presents for his wife each of his ten children.

The next day they set sail for home as they tide went out.

All was plain sailing for the first day. One the second day a mighty storm brewed up. The winds arose howling and the rain poured down like rivers from the sky. The sea was a riot of wild waves and frothing with fountains of foam. The sailors struggled to keep their little dhow afloat. They feared it might capsize and many of them could not swim. Mahmud kept his nerve. Inwardly he was frightened but he knew he must not show this to his crew or they would panic. He pretended to be brave and that led to real bravery. It was hard to hide his fear at first because he knew how dangerous the situation was. They little boat was thrown around at the mercy of the ocean. Men inside the boat was buffeted around by the power of the storm. The men on deck tied themselves on fearing they would be thrown into the squalling sea. The men on deck felt like they were whipped by the wind and the endless rain soaked them to the skin. All day and all night the fierce storm wailed and bounced. Until at last on the third day the waves grew smaller and the wind grew quieter. The rain slowed to a gentle patter. After a few hours it as calm as a garden pond. Mahmud was delighted that not one of his men had been injured.

They sailed home in triumph to be greeted by their families. They had gifts for them all, plenty of money and India products to sell. They all had fantastic tales to tell. No sooner had Mahmud got back to his house than he began wondering where his next voyage would take him.










An evangelical sermon.


Sisters and brothers, we stand on a precipice between damnation and salvation. The way of righteousness is beset by many snares and pitfalls. We are tempted by red wine and scarlet women. All of us have gone astray. All of us have wandered down paths of iniquity. Every one of us has tasted forbidden fruit. We are constantly in danger from the power of darkness. Yet the Lord in his infinite wisdom and boundless mercy has called us back to him. So we strive to be worthy of his grace.

Why is this absolution even possible? Because the ever living God sent down his only child to pay for our wickedry. We were in the clutches of Satan when the Most High came to the rescue. That is why our faith means the emancipation and liberation of mankind. Everybody from the highest to the lowest, from the richest to the poorest, from the youngest to the oldest is offered the chance to be saved. Do not miss that chance. Even the foulest and more degraded sinner is offered a way back by our God of limitless love and mercy if only the sinner will sincerely repent and mend his ways. If we will only humbly bed Our Heavenly Father to forgive our trangression then all will be well.

The Lord helps us in all things petty as well as great. Only offer up a prayer to him aloud or silently and you will be aided by the divine. Even in the gym I beseech him to help me. I pick a weight that I am much to feeble to lift. I pull at it with every muscle fibre of have and it still will not budge a single inch. Then I call upon the Almighty to strengthen my arm and I lift the massive weight like a feather. I feel the Holy Spirit surging through me. Truly, the Lord can set every heart ablaze.

Every one of us can call upon the Lord to strengthen our arm. Every one of us can receive his help in our hour of need. When you feel fear only trust in the Lord and he shall put steel in your soul. The Omnipotent God who saved Shadrak from the fire, who saved Daniel from the lions, who moved mountains and raised the dead – he shall save you too if only you will allow him.

That is why we come together to sing the praises of the all knowing an every living God. He is the creator of the universe and the master of all and each. We sing of his glory and fame. The joy we feel as we laud his blessed name can never even approach the majesty and magnificence of God. Yet let lift our voices to honour the one true God and let the room re-echo with with Holy Name. We  would be deafened by the  exquisite and ecstatic choirs of heaven and blinded by the resplendence of his shining throne.


Was the US intervention in Grenada justified?


It is 30 years to the day that the US military and six Caribbean countries sent their armed forces into Grenada. Grenada was then ruled by a socialist dictator named Maurice Bishop. Bishop had killed the previous Prime Minister. I am not sure how bad his rule was. He tried to spread literacy and he provided free healthcare. This gives him some moral credit.

Bishop was friendly with the Soviet Bloc. He had hundreds of Cuban troops on the island and they were building an airfield. This was supposedly for peaceful purposes but it could have been used for military purposes. In view of what happened Bishop was sage to beef up his armed forces. His government really was under threat of attack by the United States, Jamaica and other US allies in the region. On the other hand by building up his armed forces he alarmed Washington and that precipitated the invasion. 

Grenada was a sovereign state and she was of course allowed to forge close relations with whichever nation she so desired. The Grenadan Government did not purpose to launch an invasion of any other state. I have never heard it argued that the increase in her military capability was for an aggressive intention. Further, the Grendan Government was entitled to pursue whatever policies that she wished so long as these were not inconsistent with international law.

There were over 1 000 Americans on the island. President Ronald Reagan said that he sent the troops in to protect these people. There was no evidence that they were in danger. One must ask oneself how it would have been had the boot been on the other boot. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Would Reagan have accepted it if Grenada invaded the United States in order to protect Grenadans in the USA? I suspect not. This justification is specious since by making Grenada a war zone Reagan put these Americans in danger. Dozens of civilians were killed in the conflict though so far as I know none of them were American. 

Bishop and some of his acolytes were captured. They were executed by firing squad. I am unsure who slew them. The bodies have not been located which is highly suspicious? If I were behind such an operation I would make sure that Grenadans killed the so the finger could not be pointed at the USA. 

A high majority of states in the United Nations condemned the US action. The United Kingdom abstained on this vote. 

Elizabeth II was and is Queen of Grenada. Maurice Bishop was her Prime Minister. Reagan professed himself to be a Britophile so it was a little off colour to kill the queen’s man! The Commonwealth was aghast at the invasion of a tiny and unoffending Commonwealth country. 

The British Government was not informed of the American intention. Reagan even denied to Margaret Thatcher that he was about to invade.

 It weakened the Western moral position viz a vis the Soviet Union. It was hard to speak out against the Red Army’s presence in Afghanistan when American attacked Grenada. The Afghan Government had invited the Soviets in. The communists of Kabul held the Afghan seat in the United Nations. I know they were undemocratic but so were half the countries in the world and few questioned the legitimacy of the governments of most states such as China. Much though I detest the communists in Afghanistan they were the lawful government of that country. In Grenada’s case the claim for legitimacy for Bishop’s government was feebler since he had ousted a democratic system.

Bishop was swiftly replaced. The US could truthfully say that democratic elements in Grenada had appealed to them for assistance. When these freedom loving people beseeched Ronald Wilson Reagan for succour he could not turn them down.

That was the end of the New Jewel Movement in Grenada. Democracy was restored. Some of Bishops cronies continued in politics and later won office. 

If Reagan had not taken strong action then maybe that land would have become fully communist. There might have been a Red Army base there and nuclear missiles. This is all conjecture.

If in doubt – stay out. So as I am unsure about this military intervention I have to say I think it was wrong. It is no use sitting on the fence. Militarily it was a complete success for the US. All the objectives were achieved for minimal casualties. Cuba was bested. I wonder if the prisoner yielded any useful intelligence or any were turned into spies. But I do not think that this action was morally or legally justified.

May Week was in June – some thoughts


I read this memoir by Clive James. He is an acclaimed Australian writer and broadcaster who spent most of his adult life in the United Kingdom. As the title indicates this book is about the foibles and the humour of being at Cambridge.  He takes us straight into the action – arriving on a misty October day aged 24. He has a degree from thE University of Sydney already under his belt. He is highly eloquent without ever being verbose. He only used a handful of words that sent me thumbing through the dictionary. In was the manner in which he strung his words together than was innovative. He never tarried with tedious details. He jumped from one arresting scene to the next. It was an engaging and droll book.