The little King of the Park and The Elastico Fantastico!

16 Mar

Rivelino cannon

The Short stocky man sits at a table at the back of the bar. He is balding, paunchy, has bushy dark eyebrows and sports a similarly bushy moustache which is white/grey in colour in contrast to the eyebrows.

He will tell you that he sports the moustache in honour of his father and that he feels naked without it.

Regular processions of people come to the table to shake his hand, kiss his forehead and just get a few words from him. It is a scene befitting of an Italian Godfather as portrayed by Hollywood, and in this instance it is totally appropriate as the man is indeed of Italian ancestry.

At one point, he gets up from his seat, and opens a cage within which a bird of some kind has been squawking. He takes the bird out of the cage, caresses it, talks to it, feeds it, and gently places it back in the cage. He has a fondness for, and an expertise in, birds it seems. Particularly those of the parrot and finch variety.

The man is clearly at home. When he smiles he does so with charismatically wrinkled eyes. He is engaging, constantly laughing and very descriptive in his stories – and he has plenty of stories!

He was born on the first of January 1946.

The first day of the year is said to be the day when the happiest and luckiest people are born and the paunchy man certainly considers himself to have been lucky and he most definitely appears happy with his lot.

He is always ready with a joke and a funny story.

He describes how a former boss once suddenly chased after a professional colleague whilst waving a gun about with the intention of shooting him. This act of potential violence in turn led to the boss man being replaced. “That was lucky for me & things really changed for me then!” he says with a smile and without further explanation.

However, that incident is part way through his story and to understand this man’s unique journey, and indeed his legacy, you have to go back to the start.

Ever since he could remember, the paunchy man loved to play football.

He would play in the city streets with no socks, no shoes and no ball. He and others played with anything that resembled a ball, and they would play till their feet bled, even though they were wrapped in bandages and covered in skin which was as tough as old leather.

From rough unorganised games in the streets, he progressed to indoor football. Five a side games or futsal as it was known locally.

Eventually he would get to play on the big pitch with a full blown eleven a side team. However, it was on the street, and later in those futsal games, where he learned to control a football and move it along with an extraordinary degree of skill, and in ways which the world of football had not seen before.

By the time he was sixteen he was playing for a local team which reached a state final against the youth team from the club that he and his family had always supported and had always adored. It was his dream to play for this club, but on this day and in this match he would do everything he could to defeat them. It was the biggest game of his life.

In the final he played well, really well. In fact he played so well that he caught the eye of the management team of his boyhood heroes who saw a stocky youth, with supreme confidence, unbelievable skills and what appeared to be a magical left foot.

After the game he received a call from one of the club’s directors asking if he would be interested in playing a trial for the club. He accepted at once and was delighted to start training with the club he had always dreamed of playing for.

However, his luck did not hold, and before the third day of his trial, he was told by the club’s coach, Mario Travaglini, that he would not be receiving an offer from the club. He was invited to stay and train if he wanted, but there would be no contract at the end of the sessions.

The young man was angry and declined the offer there and then. He walked out on the club he loved but vowed to forge a career in football – somewhere. Shortly afterwards, he turned up at the gates of the great rivals of the club he and his family had always supported and once again played in trials and impressed.

This time his impressive performances caught the eye of a coach who thought the boy was good enough to take a gamble on. Sure, the player was not the tallest, he would never stand above 5’7”, but he was strong, confident, had an abundance of ability, a fierce shot and that magic left foot.

“What’s your name, son?”

“My name is Roberto – Roberto Rivellino — with two L’s”

For those of a certain era, the very name Roberto Rivellino conjures up a mental image of the short, stocky, tousled haired Brazilian player with the fierce left foot shot and the wildest, craziest, bushiest moustache in the history of football.

And so it should, because Rivellino was a one off visually. No other football player before or since had his look and swagger, nor his crazy arm waving celebrations when he scored a goal. Almost 50 years on since the magic Brazilian played in his pomp, you will find kids in his native Sao Paulo, who were not born when he played, mimicking his style, donning false moustaches, wearing Rivellino wigs and masks, and acting out the manic arm movements he used to celebrate the ball hitting the back of the net.

Almost 50 years on and those who were not born when he played are mimicking him – both on and off the park.

Rivellino was a truly unique talent, and it might surprise some to learn that his impact on the game of football is still very evident, if not actually increasing, to this day. To gauge just how highly “Riva” is regarded you have to listen to the words of those who played with him and against him—and maybe one or two others!

The boyhood club that rejected him was Palmeiras (much to their later regret) and it would be with their great rivals, Corinthians, that “Riva” would make his name and first display his skills.

Having joined the Corinthians’ youth ranks he made his debut with the senior team aged just 18 in 1964 and very quickly he established himself as an absolute favourite with the crowds. In the end he would make 471 appearances for Corinthians over a 9 year period.

Of course, when Rivellino started playing professional football, Brazil were the World Champions having won the Jules Rimet trophy in 1958 and again in 1962.

Amazingly he made his International debut within a year of playing in his first full professional football match forcing his way into a glittering international squad before his 20th Birthday on 21st November 1965. By the time the 1966 World Cup came round he was in and around the group being considered for the trip to England.

However, the then national manager, Vicente Feola, who had led Brazil to success in the World Cup Finals of 1958, decided to leave the young Rivellino out of the final squad which would travel to Europe.

There was no doubt that Feola recognised and appreciated Rivellino’s talent, but the moustachioed player wore the number 10 shirt for his club, was barely out of his teens and well …………. Brazil already had a stocky number 10 called …….. Pele.

Accordingly, the youngster with the mop of hair and the moustache stayed at home while his countrymen jetted off in an attempt to secure their third successive Word Cup.

Of course, it was not to be and Brazil underperformed in England even although their squad boasted many names which would become not only familiar but legendary in the game of Football.

In addition to Pele, the Brazil squad of 1966 boasted Tostao, Gerson, Piazza, Jarzinho, and Brito who were all lined up alongside names such as Garrincha, Djalma Santos, Bellini, Lima and others.

Despite having players like these, Brazil failed to progress beyond the group stages losing 3-1 to Hungary and by the same score to a very physical Portuguese team who boasted the star of the Tournament one Eusébio da Silva Ferreira.

The Brazilian press and public turned on the team that had promised so much and for the next few years that public remained sceptical and critical of the national side and the men who would manage it.

Having failed to defend the World Cup title, Feola stepped down to be replaced by a succession of new managers during a period when the national team seemed to suffer from inconsistency and turmoil off the park.

First up was the man who had taken over from Feola after the World Cup Triumph in 1958 and who lead the team to victory in 1962.

Aymoré Moreira was an unusual character in that he started his professional playing career as a right winger but eventually switched position and became a goalkeeper. He was so successful between the sticks that he became the Brazilian national keeper for an 8 year period between 1932 and 1940.

He had previously managed the National side as far back as 1953 and then again between 1961 and 1963 during which period he successfully retained the World Cup in Chile in 1962.

Accordingly when he was once again appointed as the national team boss after the 1966 World Cup it was his third spell in charge.

By the time he left the post in 1968 he had a fairly impressive record of 61 matches, with 37 wins, 9 draws and 15 losses. He not only won the world cup but various other tournaments on the South American continent as well.

Moreira’s third period in charge did not start auspiciously, especially as the talismanic Pele announced that he was no longer prepared to play International football due to the heavy tackling and rough tactics he had had to endure during the 1966 World cup finals. Pele declared he was no longer interested in representing his country and so Moreira had to rely on other players one of whom would be young Rivellino.

After little over a year in charge however, Moreira was on his way and Brazil were without a manager.

The Brazilian FA then put another goalkeeper in charge for one single game.

The new man was called Dorival Knippel but was known to everyone in Brazil as simply “Yustrich” and much later he was inadvertently to play a major part in the career of Rivellino and have an unintended impact on the fortunes of The Brazilian National team and the way it was viewed by football fans throughout the world.

However, after just that one game, Yustrich was replaced with the most political and technically surprising of appointments in the form of João Alves Jobin Saldanha who took charge of the team at the start of 1969.

Saldanha had barely been a footballer and was considered more of a journalist.

In fact, he was a very good journalist, with an engaging if occasionally crazy personality which made him very difficult to deal with. It is said that the reason he was appointed Brazil manager in the first place was because the then president of the Brazilian FA ( Joao Havelange ) hoped that by appointing a journalist to take charge of the team, the press would desist in their criticism of the FA and the players.

Crazy as it seems, that was how it came to pass that a Sports Journalist became manager of the Brazilian football team just a year before the 1970 World Cup.

For 23 year old Rivellino, the journey between Moreira and Saldanho would be a roller coaster ride of changing emotions with immense highs, and desperate lows.

Having made his international debut in late 1965, Rivellino would wait two and a half years before winning a second cap when he played in a two nil victory over Uruguay in the Copa Rio Branco.

In the intervening period he had become a stalwart of the Corinthians side and had made a reputation for himself as a skilful and explosive attacking midfielder with a brilliant left foot. He had also earned himself a nickname “O Reizinho do Parque” – The little King of the Park, with the park concerned being the name of the Corinthians home stadium, Parque Sao Jorge.

However, despite his brilliant appearances in the number 10 jersey of Corinthians, who were not a good side at the time, he found it difficult to break into the National Team which boasted a wealth of talent such as Jairzinho, Tostao, Gerson, Edu, Lima and of course the undisputed holder of the Brazil number 10 jersey – Pele.

At this stage I should explain that the No 10 jersey is revered in South America and elsewhere with the player who wears that number normally being an attacking midfielder or a slightly withdrawn forward who plays just behind the centre forward or No 9.

The No 10 is also traditionally considered to be an honour bestowed on the best player in the team. Hence the No 10 jersey being worn by the likes of Diego Maradona, Mario Kempes, Ronaldinho, Zidane, Puskas, Platini and of course Pele.

Following upon the failure of the 1966 World Cup campaign, and the retirement from International football of Pele, Rivellino got the call from the then manager Aymoré Moreira.

Having been recalled to the squad in 1968, by the end of the calendar year he had played a further 17 times in the international colours scoring 6 goals.

Official records always list him as a midfielder, not a forward, and he played in a midfield role with various players beside him and in front of him in the forward line though it was never really a settled or consistent side.

Moreira’s team won internationals against Uruguay, Poland, Mexico, Portugal, Yugoslavia, Peru and Paraguay. However, there were losses to Czechoslovakia, Mexico, and Paraguay as well as draws with Germany and Yugoslavia at home, so the progress was not startling. While the team played some nice football, the Brazilian public were far from convinced that they had a settled national side which was worthy of wearing the yellow shirt.

After his 10th game in charge, in which Brazil lost 2-1, Moreira pulled off a coupe when he persuaded the great Pele to return to the international stage and lead the forward line along with the diminutive but consistent Tostao. Until that point Moreira had experimented with other strikers such as Edu, Lima and Natal, but none of these could compare to having the threat and excitement of seeing Pele fill the number 10 shirt.

Rivellino and others had contributed key goals from midfield but the side desperately needed a striker to hit the back of the net and create in the forward area consistently, and there was none better than Pele.

Accordingly, it was on 14th July 1968 that Rivellino finally got to play in the national side along with Pele with the latter playing in his usual withdrawn forward role just behind Tostao.

Rivellino, wearing the number 8 shirt, would play the role of an attacking midfielder partnering Gerson and Piazza in the middle of the park at that time.

However, despite relative success, Moreira made way for Saldanho after just over a year, and the new man had very different ideas.

Suddenly, Rivellino found himself frozen out. In the next 13 internationals he made just one appearance and that was coming on as a substitute against Chile where it took him only a matter of moments to score in a 6-2 victory.

Saldanho’s was an altogether different regime to what Brazil had experienced before. He wanted fit players and a player for each position so that his team functioned like a machine in a strict 4-2-4 system.

He also demanded immense preparation, regular national squad training sessions, an adherence to a strict diet and absolute compliance to his playing system.

His approach seemed to be working, on the face of it!

Saldanho’s team won their first nine International matches in a row, and they ran through the qualifying section of the World cup without a single loss. Going by the stats, Brazil were in good shape.

However, if you looked behind the statistics, there was another story altogether.

The Brazil fans were not impressed with the football played by Saldanho’s side. They found it boring, rigid and methodical with little flair.

Further, his regime was becoming increasingly authoritarian with Saldanho openly warring with some of his players, the backroom staff and the Brazilian FA.

As his winning streak progressed, so he became more confident in his position and progressively more outspoken about his team, politics and Brazil in general.

Saldanho was a known communist and for political or genuine sporting reasons he refused to pick a striker by the name of Dario who was a favourite of the President of the Brazil. As the pressure to pick the player continued, Saldanho became more and more outspoken against the regime and this cast a cloud over his successful results.

Worse still, Communism was banned in Brazil and so Saldanho was known to visit other countries, such as Uruguay, and make anti-Government pronouncements while visiting before flying home again and so courted huge controversy within and outwith Brazil.

However, despite all of these idiosyncrasies, it was accepted that his team was winning and as doing well in the World Cup was a matter of national pride, he was allowed to remain in office although the football supporting public appeared to be less than convinced about the abilities of his team.

However, then the wheels came of the Saldanho bogey in the most spectacular fashion and very publicly.

Having qualified for the world cup, Saldanho began a war of attrition with his own team. He became more and more dictatorial, behaving increasingly like an egomaniac.

He laid down strict and mad orders for his team in the preparations for the forthcoming World Cup. He started to dictate when and how the players could change their girlfriends, how often they could have sex, and exactly what diet they would eat.

On the question of diet, he split the squad in two, specifying one group as “the fat boys” and was at pains to limit and dictate their food intake. Pele was included among the “fat boys” and increasingly the players felt humiliated and resentful.

Further, Saldanho then picked a war with Pele in particular saying that he was blind in one eye and questioned whether or not the great striker was up to playing for Brazil at all. Pele insisted that there was nothing wrong with his sight but it was clear that he and others were adversely affected by the strange behaviour of the manager. Saldanho then went on to express the opinion that Gerson, his midfield general, had mental issues and required guidance and counselling. His behaviour had by this time become so unbearable that his No 2 resigned in protest.

All of this was clearly evident on the field of play when a lacklustre Brazil side lost 2-0 at home to their great rivals Argentina on 4th March 1970.

Not surprisingly, there was outrage on the terracing and among the millions watching at home on TV. Further, the press were clearly moving against Saldanho who stubbornly insisted on basing his team around players from Botafogo and Santos to the exclusion of others such as Roberto Rivellino. This insistence on basing the national side on players from just two teams became a running sore and the cause of heavy criticism from sports journalists and football fans within Brazil.

His Brazil team had a chance to redeem themselves just 4 days later in a rematch against the Argentinians which was once again played in Brazil.

In the intervening 4 days, a BBC Panorama crew were allowed access to the Brazil training camp and were able to report to the world that there was major conflict within the camp and that Pele himself was on the verge of quitting the national squad altogether and this time for good.

The BBC crew were there when Brazil overturned the defeat to Argentina by winning the second match 2-1 with goals from Jairzinho and Pele. However, despite the result the play was stagnant and stilted and the partisan crowd, while pleased with the result, were far from impressed with the style and substance of an uninspired and uninspiring national side.

The BBC crew reported that the result might not be enough to quell the growing criticism of Saldanho.

And it is here that fate played a hand in the career of Roberto Rivellino who was the forgotten man of the Brazilian national side.

One of Saldanho’s open critics was his immediate predecessor Dorival Yustrich, the man who had been in charge of Brazil for just one game. By this time, Yustrich was the manager of Flamengo, one of the biggest clubs In Rio, and when Saldanho heard of Yustrich’s outspoken criticism he chose to confront him in the most outrageous of fashions. He ordered his driver into his Brazilian FA vehicle and told him to set out for the Flamengo training ground where he thought Yustrich was to be found. The driver apparently asked him why he was carrying a gun but did not succeed in persuading the national coach into rethinking his mission. Once at the training ground, Saldanho simply marched in and started looking for Yustrich while waving the gun about. Apparently he met a Flamengo player whilst walking through the building and when he was confronted by the player and asked what he was doing, he simply told the player to stay out of his way or he would shoot him! Eventually, having failed to find Dorival Yustrich, Saldanho had the gun taken from him and then left without shooting anyone. However, that march with the gun more or less sealed his fate as the national coach.

This behaviour, his open communism, the loss to Argentina, the resignation of his No 2 and the festering feud with Pele and others was too much and so the President of the Brazilian FA simply disbanded the entire National coaching squad and then set about appointing a new one without Signor Saldanho.

However, before we leave the remarkable and outspoken Saldanho it would be unfair to leave the reader with the impression that the former manager disappeared quietly into the night.

After Brazil, he never managed any other football team but went back to his chosen profession of journalist. His dry and outspoken style was a huge hit in Brazil and he went on to be a very popular if occasionally crazy and outrageous TV pundit and reporter. Amazingly he became a huge critic of the “Europeanisation” of the Brazil team and despised the team’s more tactical play in later years despite the fact that his own Brazil team had been very tactical and lacked a degree of creative flair.

A lifelong chain-smoker who effectively survived for years on one lung, Saldanho died from progressive cancer whilst in Rome covering the 1990 World Cup. He was a unique character, but there is no doubt that had he remained in charge Brazil would never have won the world cup in 1970.

For that tournament, the Brazilian FA turned to the former international winger Mario Zagallo who had won the Jules Rimet trophy as a player in 1958 and 1962. The FA had approached other managers but they all declined the job believing that Brazil had no chance in Mexico and that what they were being offered was a poisoned chalice of a job.

Eventually, Havelange was able to persuade Zagallo to take the job.

Small and bespectacled, Zagallo was immediately nicknamed “the professor” and later “The Wolf”.

Unbelievably, the new manager was given the job just a few weeks before the start of the World Cup and inherited both the good and the bad from Saldanho. The good was the meticulous preparations Saldanho had made for the tournament in Mexico. Nothing had been left to chance at the chosen Brazil training camp and everything from the training pitch to the food to the scientifically redesigned shirts (they were made to measure for each player and had special sweat absorbent collars) was organised to the nth degree.

However, the “bad” was that Saldanho had left a team which played a rigid 4-2-4, was not convincing in its execution of the chosen tactics, lacked confidence, marale and togetherness, and was viewed as having no chance whatsoever of winning the world cup.

Zagallo, in direct contrast to the philosophy of his predecessor, stated at the outset that he wanted to play the best players possible instead of the best system. He wanted the football team to be exciting, inspiring and most of all attacking. But how was he to achieve this?

For a start he dropped Wilson Piazza back into defence alongside Brito and effectively transformed a defensive midfielder into a ball carrying defender.

Next, he slightly changed the role of the talented Clodoaldo and chose to promote him from the bench to partner the clever Gerson in midfield.

Gerson was not the most physical or the most mobile of players but he was clever and demanded inclusion in the team. By pairing him with Clodoaldo, who was much more of an athlete, it allowed Gerson to be much more effective.

However, the key decision in the opinion of many was to consult the senior players in the squad about the changes to be made. Whilst undoubtedly his own man, Zagallo recognised that there was no point in having experienced players such as Pele, Carlos Alberto, Gerson, Jairzinho and others if you did not consult them and listen to their opinions.

It may surprise some to learn that to a man the senior players, when asked about what should be done to improve the effectiveness and style of the team, were unanimous in their recommendation. Individually and quite separately they all recommended that somehow, somewhere a place had to be found in the team for 24 year old Roberto Rivellino – he was that important!

It is when you listen to the testimony of players who played alongside Rivellino that you begin to grasp the quality of the footballer concerned.

The 1970 World Cup was to be the first major tournament that was televised in colour and so it seemed that the game itself was suddenly bigger and better and more exciting than it had ever been, with the worldwide footballing public being treated to not only colour pictures but replays and minute by minute analysis for the first time.

Further, for many watching in Europe this would be the first time that they had the chance to see many of the world stars including the unbelievable Brazilians, many of whom were unknown in Europe. In particular, the tousled haired guy with the moustache was a bit of a mystery as he had not featured under Saldanho and so to many outside Brazil he was unknown and so they did not know what to expect.

However, the Brazilian players themselves, and some knowledgeable others, knew that Rivellino was a truly special talent.

One of these was Franz Beckenbaur who had played against Rivellino twice in the space of a few days in 1968 when he played against Brazil for a FIFA select and later for Germany in a friendly. Even although Brazil had fielded Jairzinho, Gerson, Carlos Alberto, Pele and various other well-known players, one particular player caught Beckenbaur’s eye. Before the 1970 World Cup he was asked what he thought of Brazil and commented “Well we know they have Pele – but now we know they have Rivellino too….In 1968 I came to watch Pele, but ended up watching Rivellino” Clearly in the Kaiser’s eyes the moustachioed one was the one to watch.

Back in the Brazilian camp, the praise of Rivellino as a player was unstinting and unqualified.

Players such as Carlos Alberto, Lima, Felix and various others all speak of what Rivellino brought to the football pitch,

First, there was his unbelievable close control of the football. He could stop the ball, move it, beat a man either at pace or while seemingly walking. Carlos Alberto would later say that in terms of ball technique, his dribbling and retention of the football it was almost hard to describe fully just how skilful he was.

Second, there was his ferocious shooting power especially with the left foot. Players from Brazil all knew that Rivellino could not be given any space at all anywhere around the edge of the penalty box as he would simply find a way to unleash one of those cannon ball shots which invariably meant a goal or led to a goal as the goalkeeper would not be able to hold the ball and would spill it.

Thirdly, he was arguably the best passer of a ball in the Brazilian team of 1970 – the other contender being Gerson – and probably one of the best passers of the football in the world at that time and for years to come. There is video footage of Rivellino using that left foot almost like a sand wedge. He would ping the ball about with slice, backspin or side spin with the result that the ball would bend, float, accelerate, stop , sit up and appear at the feet of players as if by magic. He would play long passes, short passes, give and goes and intricate short one twos long before Xavi or Iniesta were even born.

Fourthly, he was strong and muscular, could tackle, fight for a fifty fifty ball and either get to or get away from an opposition player with surprising strength and pace, and despite his 5 foot 7 inches he was no shrinking violet!

Zagallo had other left sided players to choose from, all of whom were very good players indeed – Ademir da Guia, Dirceu Lopes, Paulo César Caju – but none of them were Rivellino and everyone knew it.

However, to really appreciate just how good a player Roberto Rivellino was you only have to listen to one of his greatest admirers for no more than a few minutes or a few sentences, and even then some of the comments and the nature of the observations and opinions expressed might surprise some.

When it comes to talking Rivellino there is no better person to listen to than Pele.

As mentioned above, by 1970 Pele had already quit international football but had been persuaded to return to the National squad at the age of 29.

However, after the sacking of Saldanho few in Brazil believed that the national squad would get beyond the group stages of the 1970 World Cup where they were in a group which also featured England the holders, Czechoslovakia the European Champions – who had beaten Brazil twice in recent years – and Romania who were regarded as a very good side.

However, under Zagallo, Pele and Brazil rediscovered their mojo so to speak and the great striker is only too clear as to where Roberto Rivellino featured in that transformation.

“Rivellino was simply one of the greatest midfielders ever to play for Brazil. He had incredibly skilful technique and was unbelievably skilful especially with his left foot. People said that he and I could not play together because we both played in similar positions – both wearing the number 10 –  and so Zagallo decided to find a place for him out on the left and make no mistake it was the inclusion of Roberto Rivellino that made that Brazil team complete or made it whole.”

Pele goes on to talk about all the usual plaudits that one hears when talking Rivellino – his dribbling, his passing, his shooting – but then he goes on to add more:

“Rivellino also brought something else. He was an incredibly intelligent footballer. He had great vision and was very clever in seeing where other players were and was able to see where the game was going before anyone else realised.”

This is something that is echoed by Roberto Carlos: “Rivellino was very tactically astute and very clever. He was asked to perform a role by Zagallo and he was fantastic at it and was so important for us as a team”

Pele again: “He had great discipline and tactical sense. That was one of his greatest qualities.”

In short, playing Rivellino on the left was Zagallo’s stroke of genius yet in retrospect no one should have been surprised.

Zagallo himself had been a left winger and a very effective one for Brazil. He was known for both his attacking and his defensive qualities but at times was no doubt overshadowed by the immense talent of Garrincha on the right wing. Zagallo had only a fraction of Garrincha’s skill and flair but made up for it with sheer hard work and a tactical knowledge of the game. Some said that he was the luckiest Brazilian on earth to have won two world cup winners medals as a player, as he was not the most skilful Brazilian of the time, but they ignore the fact that Zagallo made teams better and more effective by way of his hard work and his tactical knowledge on the left hand side of the pitch.

In Roberto Rivellino, Zagallo had the opportunity to play a far more skilful player than he had ever been in a role which he understood perfectly.

And so it came to pass that Rivellino moved left to fit into a team which some said boasted the 5 No 10’s.

Jairzinho, Tostao, Pele, Gerson and Rivellino.

While the physical and mobile Clodoaldo protected and helped Gerson at the back of midfield, so Rivellino would use all his intelligence to dictate the shape of play on the left hand side of the field which in turn allowed Gerson lots of room to roam forward into space. When he did so, it would be Rivellino who would drop back slightly and inside to provide defensive cover or to collect the ball if it broke loose and so start an attack all over again.

Brazil had played a strict 4-2-4 under Saldanho, but with Rivellino in the team the formation easily shifted between 4-2-4, 4-3-3, 3-3-4 and even 3-2-5 on occasion.

Pele is unequivocal: “The attack line of Jairzinho, Tostao, Rivellino and me was irresistible and unstoppable. No team could deal with that”.

Yet within 18 minutes of the first game against Czechoslovakia, Brazil were a goal behind and it looked as if the doubters back home in Brazil were justified in their scepticism.

Then, in the 24th minute, Brazil were awarded a free kick on the edge of the penalty box and so the TV watching world was introduced to the fearsome left foot of Roberto Rivellino.

The resulting free kick was hit with such ferocity that the Brazilian number 11 was given a new name – “Il Patada Atómica” (The Atomic Kick) by the Mexican fans and press. The ball was struck with such force that it hit the back of the net as if fired from a rocket. The big goalkeeper, Viktor, who was absolutely sensational for the Czech’s throughout the tournament, had managed to get a hand on the ball but was unable to stop it due to the ferocious pace of the shot and was left sprawling and bewildered on the ground. As the keeper looked around him and appeared somewhat dazed, the TV cameras and the viewers throughout the world were treated to the wild arm swinging goal celebrations that were to become yet another trademark of the man with the biggest moustache in football.

From that moment onwards, the Brazilian team of the 1970 World Cup would not look back. They were simply immense.

Jairzinho would end up as top scorer and Pele would deliver moments of genius and memorable goals including his 100th goal which came in the final from a Rivellino cross. The most famous moment of the entire tournament was when the Brazilian number 10 actually didn’t score after dummying the play by ignoring the ball as it came across the penalty box at an angle, and instead ran around the advancing Romanian goal keeper only to collect the ball on the other side and just miss the far side post with a first time shot when the goal was at his mercy.

And all the while, throughout the entire tournament, rigidly sticking to the left touchline, other than when he was given the signal to roam, was Roberto Rivellino.

“Look at the number of goals we scored which were created from the left hand side?” says Pele making a point.

Even Carlos Alberto’s great goal in the final was fashioned all down the left hand side. Everyone talks about Clodoaldo weaving and jinking past 3 or 4 Italian tackles with the score at 3-1 when taking the ball out of defence. However, the big Brazilian midfielder is a man on a mission at that moment because if you look at the move again you will see that he is beating the oncoming attackers with only one intention in mind. He wants to go left!

Despite constantly moving forward when he releases the ball Clodoaldo is well within his own half and he playys a short pass to the left touchline where he finds the deep lying Rivellino.

If you watch the entire move for that goal you will see that Rivellino strikes the longest pass in the move from exactly the half way line. He bends the ball up the touchline some 25 yards taking out the entire Italian midfield with a pass that has been described as “luxurious”.

The ball lands at the feet of Jairzinho who for some inexplicable reason has abandoned his normal right wing position and has wandered to the left touchline. He starts to run with it across the pitch. The right back tries to tackle and misses, with the result that the right centre back now has to advance and the remainder of the Italian defence all move across to that side of the pitch like well-trained robots.

By the time the ball comes to Pele he already knows that Carlos Alberto is tearing up the Brazilian right and as everyone knows his simple lay off is sublime.

The Brazilian captain runs on to the ball like a steam train and thunders the ball into the back of the net!

There were no Italians there to block him; they had all gone to the Brazilian left.

According to some, including the Brazilian players, it was the presence and the ability of Rivellino that forced the game and the shape of the play left and allowed Brazil to capitalize on the space created on the right.

Rivellino himself would score three important goals in the tournament, all from outside the penalty box, but it was his tactical and technical ability mixed with his individualistic creativity and flair which really made a difference to the Brazil squad of 1970.

One of his goals came against the talented Peru side which was managed by former Brazilian legend Didi. Speaking of Rivellino, he had told his team to try and prevent him from being able to shoot at all costs.

After that first game against Czechoslovakia and before Brazil played England, Pele was asked by the press if Rivellino was going to be a world star? Repeating what he had told Zagallo before the Brazilian party had left for Mexico the great man said simply “Rivellino is a world star already!”

Hugh McIlvanney reporting from Mexico made this observation on the seemingly new discovery with the bushy moustache and atomic shot.

“The new menace that had emerged since England lost narrowly to Brazil in Rio a year previously was Rivellino. He had the handsome, moustachioed and side burned face of a playboy but his body was thickly athletic and the legs bulged with power. On the field his left foot looked dainty enough to put a match football in an eggcup but the shots when they came were intimidatingly violent.”

For the game against England, Brazil would have to play without Gerson who was injured. The England midfield at the time was considered very strong and included the legendary Bobby Charlton who was partnered by Martin Peters, Alan Ball and Alan Mullery.

With Gerson out what was Zagallo to do?

The answer was simple, he would allow Roberto Rivellino to play in his favoured role in midfield in direct opposition to Bobby Charlton and introduced Paulo Cesar on the left wing.

It turned out to be a classic match with the battle between Rivellino and Charlton being described as fascinating.

Brazil would win by a single goal from Jarzinho although England would have their chances as Brito and Piazza looked shaky at the back.

A later analysis of the game points out that Bobby Charlton was replaced after 70 minutes of duelling with Rivellino, who was clearly having the upper hand in midfield especially in the second half, and that after 10 minutes Martin Peters had ceased to be a force in the game at all. The three top rated players for Brazil in the game were Jairzinho, Pele and Rivellino.

By the time the all-conquering Brazilians lifted the Jules Rimet trophy for the third time, football as the TV spectating fan knew it had changed forever.

For a start, most of the watching public had never seen anything like a step over before and the first time it was seen around the globe on live television it was performed by Roberto Rivellino who seemed to do things at a pace that was hard to comprehend.

That was just one of his tricks.

The most often copied, however, is a move that almost bears his signature and is still being perfected and changed to this day.

Rivellino maintains that he is not the inventor of the flip flap, or the “Elastico Fantastico” as it is known but he is undoubtedly the person who singlehandedly introduced the move into International football and inspired countless numbers of others to attempt the move over the intervening decades.

Some, like Pele, were never able to master the technique at all and gave up trying. He laughs at the thought of Rivellino performing the move in training before the world cup and at his own inability to perform the manoevre. With Rivellino, however, Pele describes the ball as simply being glued to his foot.

If you are not sure of the “elastico”, just think of someone rolling their foot over the football, making it go one way but then suddenly moving it the opposite way and so wrong-footing the opposing defender.

Players such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Ronaldinho come to mind in the modern era but they only know of the move because of Rivellino.

There are various pieces of footage of Rivellino performing the trick including the 1970 world cup final where he uses it to “nutmeg” one of the Italians. At times he has performed the elastico while running and on other occasions he simply stands stock still and goads the defender like a matador with a bull. The result is that the defender jumps in and before he knows it the ball that was going one way has gone another with the moustachioed matador suddenly nowhere to be seen.

One of those who watched the world cup of 1970 and who was in absolute awe of the stocky Brazilian was a young Harry Redknapp. Writing much later about the 1970 world cup he said;

“We’d never seen anyone do the Roberto Rivellino move before! He would take the ball up to an opponent, put his foot on the inside as if to go outside him and then, at the last moment, step over it and move off in the opposite direction. We couldn’t believe what we were seeing. Defenders were going six yards the wrong way, and everyone at home was asking the same question: how did he do that? I can remember the TV panel slowing the footage down so they could study how it was done? Now everybody tries it – Ronaldinho, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo – but Rivellino was the first to do the flip flap, ……..”

“Even footballers try to imitate the greats. I think when we reported back for training that summer, everyone was trying, secretly, to see if they could do the stepover like Rivellino. I mastered it in the end but never at the speed he managed it.”

After the 1970 World Cup final, the Italian press complained that the result in the final would have been different had Rivellino been playing for Italy. They argued that given his Italian grandparents he should have been wearing the blue of the Azzurri. However, the 24 year old went back to his native Brazil and Corinthians with his world cup winner’s medal and a whole host of new fans.

At Corinthians he was treated as a hero – The Little King — and was the shinning jewel in the team. Unfortunately, the rest of the team were not remotely of the same standard and in his time with the club he won nothing whatsoever.

Despite their star midfielder, Corinthians were not a good team and when they lost a state final in 1974 to their great rivals, Palmeiras, and in a country fuelled full of superstitions, Rivellino was blamed for being some kind of hoodoo or unlucky charm.

After that losing final and a nine year stay at the club, he walked out of the ground with his coat turned up and never returned to the park where he had been king.

In the interim, he was a stalwart of the new Brazilian team which now had to move on after the retiral of the great Pele and others.

It is said that Rivellino is singlehandedly responsible for dragging a pretty dreadful Brazil to a creditable fourth place in the 1974 world cup.

The 1974 national team were nothing like the team of 1970. Jairzinho was still there but he was no longer the fast strong hurricane of a player from 4 years before and the players around him were not of the same calibre as the heady days of Mexico.

However, Rivellino was there and now he was in the middle of the park and not confined to the left hand side. Once again he scored three goals in the finals – enough to make him his country’s top scorer in the tournament.

Just as he was at Corinthians, in the 1974 World Cup finals he was seen as almost a one man team.

He pomped and preened his way through the tournament with some majestic football that was awe inspiring. In the intervening years he had helped Brazil to some memorable victories in South America in minor tournaments and friendlies, but at the really top level his country was found wanting and in particular their tactics were seen as far too negative and counter attacking which didn’t suit the style of football that Rivellino had come to represent.

There was a new dawn in world football and the Brazilians would lose out in the semi-finals to Johan Cruyff’s wonderful Dutch team despite Rivellino himself being excellent. They would also lose the third place play-off game to Poland who were the surprise team of the tournament.

However, it was widely accepted that Riva was the midfielder of the tournament.

In 1974, whilst still at Corinthians, Rivellino would score a goal that was described as “the miracle goal” in the Brazilian press. The goal was not, of course, a miracle but did show the combination of quick thinking, tactical astuteness, skill and vision for which Rivellino had become known in his home land.

As he and a Corinthians team mate kicked off the start of the match, Rivellino noticed that the opposition goalkeeper was otherwise engaged. Some reports say that the goalkeeper was praying, others say that he was speaking to a photographer at the side of the goal just as the game commenced. Either way, Roberto Rivellino noticed that the keeper was not paying attention and upon receiving the ball from the kick-off he thundered the ball towards the goal from behind the half way line with a swing of his mighty left foot.

He was never officially awarded the accolade of the fastest goal in history as there was simply no means of recording the feat at the time but some reports say that the ball struck the net in less than three seconds from the sound of the first whistle. All that is known is that the goalkeeper did not know that the shot had even been struck and that his first knowledge of the game being underway was when he was alerted to the fact that the ball was in the back of the net.

In Brazil, and South America generally, the goal took Rivellino’s reputation to a new level, and it perhaps explains another phenomenon that was to occur not long after.

When he lost in the state final with Corinthians, Rivellino left the ground of the club he had served for over 9 years without knowing that he would never return as a Corinthians player.

The next he knew was that he was being sold to Fluminense who played in Rio De Janeiro and where he would have the most spectacular effect even before he had kicked a football.

In Rio, carnival is king and when Mardi Gras time comes the football stadiums lie empty as nothing can compete with “Carnival”.

However, his new employers decided that Rivellino would make his debut for Fluminense at the Maracanã on the first Saturday of carnival. The game concerned was a friendly against Corinthians and was no doubt part of the transfer deal between the two clubs. To play a pretty meaningless friendly on the Saturday of Mardi Gras was a decision which was widely thought of as crazy, but nonetheless that was when the game was scheduled to be played. It was widely thought that no one would come to watch.

Amazingly, over 100,000 spectators came to the game that day. This was so completely unusual that it was worthy of comment on the national news and when offering an explanation as to why so many people had gone to a football match on a day when nobody goes to see a game, the pundits were unanimous in their explanation – Rio de Janeiro had turned out to see Roberto Rivellino!

And what a show they were given?

Playing against the club which had so recently released him, the moustachioed midfielder put on a masterclass for the benefit of those watching and scored a spectacular hatrick in the process.

Now, Rivellino would get his winners medals. Playing in a team that boasted players in every position who were either current Brazilian internationals or who had been Brazilian internationals, Rivellino’s Fluminense would win titles, cups, and trophies by the bucketful.

Over the next few years, Roberto Rivellino virtually held a weekly masterclass in midfield football.

His Fluminense team waltzed past opponents with such relentlessness that in a country where giving someone or something a nickname is second nature they were deemed “A Macquina Tricolore” – The Tri Coloured Machine.

The line-up for this team – deemed one of the greatest if not the greatest Brazilian club sides of all time included Felix in goal, fullbacks Marco Antonio and Carlos Alberto, Edinho, Neto,  Paulo César, Dirceu, Gil, Doval and various others who would all command International recognition.

Rivellino was not so much the engine room of that machine but more the rhythm section of a truly sensational band, and he himself was the chief soloist.

The passing, the ball skills, the close control technique were all on show at their best as he teased, dominated, conducted, dictated and orchestrated his team mates and the game in general.

He won two state championships back to back and collected numerous other trophies with Fluminense prompting one former International team mate to comment that in that period he collected more trophies than any one man could carry.

The victories at that time included what was billed as a game between the two greatest club sides in the world with the Brazilians facing a Bayern Munich side which boasted Beckenbaur, Muller, Hoeness, Rummenigge and all the others who made Bayern top dogs in Europe.

The game resulted in a 1-0 victory for the Brazilian side with Gerd Muller scoring an own goal when trying to track back to cover a Fluminense attack. However, the ball only hit the back of the net after Rivellino had “flipped flapped” Beckenbaur and the rest of the defence and played a superb ball through for a team mate which would undoubtedly have resulted in a goal anyway had Muller not stuck out a foot.

In Brazil it was reported that the 1-0 result did not reflect the true nature of the game and that Fluminense were so dominant that they could have clearly won by 4 or 5 goals or even more.

In talking about his time at Fluminense, Edinho describes Rivellino as just sensational in their midfield. The range of passes, the ability to read the game, the spectacular goals and the tricks, flips and flaps were all on show and had the crowd on their feet week after week.

Fluminense toured Europe and won an invitation only tournament in Paris where they defeated Paris St Germain with two goals from Rivellino and then went on to defeat a European team which was made up of various stars from across the continent.

The French press declared Rivellino as the greatest player in the world at the time.

Ironically, in Fluminense’s second great year, 1976, their manager was Mario Travaglini who had told the young Rivellino that he would not be offered a contract at Palmeiras all those years before.

On the international front, 1976 saw Brazil invited to play in a 4 team competition in the United States as part of that countries bi – centennial celebrations. Besides Brazil, the other teams to play were England, Italy and an American league team made up of players from many countries who were now playing “soccer” in the USA. This team included Pele, Giorgio Chinaglia and Bobby Moore among others.

Both England and Italy were at full strength while there were two notable features about the Brazil team.

The first was that they had a new Captain in Roberto Rivellino and the second was that Rivellino himself had a new young, raw, skinny, long haired midfield partner called Artur Antunes Coimbra. To avoid confusion within his family where there were a few “Arturs”, this young Artur was given a family nickname “Arturzico” and this nickname was then further shortened to Zico.

The American league team were not up to much and so the competition came down to Brazil, England and Italy. Indeed, at the end of the game one of the English born players playing in the American team, a chap called Eddy Keith, was so star struck at playing on the same park as the Brazilian captain he ran the full length of the park to try and swap shirts with Rivellino only to find the little king of the park exchanging shirts with Bobby Moore!

The Italian team which faced Brazil was very strong with a starting line-up of Zoff, Facchetti, Bellugi, Benetti, Antognoni, Tardelli, Capello, Causio, Graziani, Pulici and Rocca. Later they would bring on Roberto Bettiga and Eraldo Pecci among others.

Brazil, fielded a slightly experimental side featuring the midfield trio of the wily old Rivellino surrounded by the younger pairing of the attacking Zico and the more defensive Falcao.

Fabio Capello opened the scoring for Italy but the Italians eventually succumbed to a 4-1 defeat which could have been more.

Zico scored a great goal from midfield after Gil had scored two excellent goals stemming from superb Rivellino passes, and the big Brazilian forward Roberto added a fourth.

However, there is a video piece on you tube which shows the performance of Roberto Rivellino in this game that is worth the watching, principally for Riva’s passing exhibition against a very good Italian midfield, but also for the fun of watching world class footballers become so frustrated with his posing, strutting and general micky taking that they resort to pure unadulterated physical violence of the crudest kind.

Rivellino himself is shown as no soft touch, but his swagger and deliberate tormenting of the Italian midfield is something to behold.

The first Brazilian goal in this game comes from a Rivellino pass which almost defies belief as he sends the ball fully fifty yards through the heart of the pitch. The ball seems to bend first one way and then the other cutting out five Italian players before landing at his team mate’s feet in the penalty box.

However such a pass was apparently common place for Roberto Rivellino and his side went on to defeat England and the American league team to lift the trophy.

Rivellino was still playing international football in 1978 and featured in the world cup qualifying campaign and friendly matches in the lead up to the world cup finals in Argentina.

While he did travel with Brazil to the 1978 world cup, he did not feature much as he was carrying an injury and it is a world cup the great man does not remember with relish despite playing very well in the third place play-off game.

However, a relatively poor Brazil did succeed in coming third in Argentina though back in Rio the very thought of Argentina getting their hands on the new World Cup trophy was enough to cause great public angst and the 1978 finals marked a need for change of thinking within the Brazilian FA.

As a player on the international stage, Rivellino’s time had come and gone, however in many respects his noticeable long lasting influence was only just beginning. The great, but ultimately unsuccessful, Brazil side of 1982 would have more than a touch of Rivellino’s flair and swagger about them which is not surprising as most of that team had grown up watching the side of 1970 and had been inspired by the beautiful football it played.

I had sat and watched the 1970 World Cup on the television in glorious Technicolor like millions of other spectators. As has been mentioned above, few Europeans knew anything about Brazil other than that the great Pele played for the country, but beyond that they could have been a one man team as far as a European public was concerned.

Whilst the whole team impressed and Pele’s iconic smile became ever more famous, it was the “other” Brazilian players who were somehow a surprise.

The powerful and tricky Jairzinho ended up top scorer with a goal in every game. Tostao and Gerson were heralded for their clever contributions and Carlos Alberto scored the greatest world cup goal of all time.

However, Rivellino’s moustache, trickery, craziness, passing, creativity and his shooting prowess made him a viewer’s favourite and not just in in Europe either. As Harry Redknapp would later point out, the greatest coaching vehicle in the world for anyone – particularly kids – is to see great players doing what they do, and just as Johann Cruyff would 4 years later, Rivellino lit up the world cup with his ball tricks, step overs and elastico fantasticos firing the imagination of kids and adults all over the world.

Thousands of ten year olds like me were glued to the TV back in South America and one in particular is in no doubt what and who was most memorable and inspirational. Many years later he would recall the 1970 world cup with these words:

‘When I was a kid I used to watch Brazil play. I wasn’t bothered about what Pele was doing, though. I used to watch out for Rivellino, on the other side of the pitch. He was everything I wanted to be as a player. His dribbling was flawless, his passes perfect and his shots unstoppable. And he did everything with his left foot. It didn’t matter if his right foot was only good to stand on, because there was nothing he couldn’t do with his left. To me it was beautiful. He was my idol.’

To be fair, Rivellino’s right foot was for more than standing up in, as in the 1970 final against Italy it was with his right foot that he thundered a shot off the bar and you only have to see his right foot volley against Botafogo while playing for Fluminense to realise that it was no mean footballing weapon in its own right.

However, the kid who watched back then only saw a stocky left footed guy who could do everything with that left – run, dribble, tackle, pass, shoot and control the game despite being below average height and with apparently just the one foot.

The kid was called Diego Maradona and he has since repeatedly made it clear that Roberto Rivellino was the footballer that he always wanted to be!

From the mid 70’s onwards, South America produced a succession of midfielders who all pay homage to the football of the one and only “Riva”.

Osvaldo Ardilles, Socrates, Maradona, Zico, Kaka, Ronaldinho, Juninho, Rivaldo, Riquelme, Carlos Valderrama and many more in between and since, all eventually talk about what they saw in Roberto Rivellino that made them want to be the footballers they became. Strikers such as Romario and Ronaldo also talk of Rivellino as an inspiration in terms of ball control and shooting for goal.

Ronaldinho in particular liked the Rivellino style of play. “I used to dream of being Roberto Rivellino” he says. “I would watch endless videos of him and wanted to be left footed like him, do tricks like him. He was, and still is, one of my greatest idols and heroes.”

The use of the elastico fantastico was taken to a new level by the tall and muscular Brazilian between his time at PSG and at Barcelona where he used the move at spectacular speed and with devastating effect.

As has been pointed out, today, Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar and of course Lionel Messi all use moves and dribbles that many first saw with Rivellino and which were later passed on by many others like Zico, Socrates and Maradona.

However, the comparisons do not stop there because as Pele said one of Rivellino’s greatest talents was his tactical awareness, his discipline and his ability to control the game and see where it is going.

Whilst it was not evident in the 1970 world cup where he was deployed more on the left wing, in his more central role in later years – particularly when with Fluminense – Rivellino became the rhythm section of his team by conducting a series of short sharp passes in seemingly tight areas of the pitch while surrounded by opponents. It was something he learned on the streets of Sao Paulo.

He would get the ball, give it, get it back and give it again whilst all the time controlling the direction of the play and the fate of the football, knocking it about with spin, slice and pace like a golfer with a wedge or a tennis player with a tennis racquet.

The pattern of play adopted by Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona and by Messrs Xavi and Iniesta in particular can find their pure roots in the footballing brain and instinctive style of play of Roberto Rivellino.

An adaptation of that passing style of play and the constant movement into space was a key part of the total football system so advocated by Rinus Michaels and performed brilliantly by Johan Cruyff. Cruyff would later take the “system” to Barcelona and instil it into their training regimes with the youth teams in particular being trained to run into space to receive the ball and then give it back.

Roberto Rivellino would openly say of the Dutch World Cup team that they brought a new style of football to the tournament and that they had to be admired for that.

However, 4 years before the Dutch entertained the world with their system, Roberto Rivellino, as an individual, was playing football in exactly the same way having learned the same lesson on the streets of Sao Paulo and using his footballing instinct and unbelievable skills. Get it, pass it, move and get it again and repeat.

One footballing article I have read suggests that Rivellino was the most influential South American footballer of his generation and perhaps of the past 50 years! And it cannot be denied that the influence of South American players on European Football has grown increasingly since the 1978 World Cup with ball players and entertainers becoming real supertsars within the game.

When his days at Fluminense had come to an end, his old International boss, Mario Zagallo, signed him for a club he was managing in Saudi Arabia and it was there that Rivellino saw out his professional career.

He was still scoring spectacular goals, and making the crowds gasp with his skill and artistry but the fitness was going and his time on the pitch was coming to an end. However, the goals and the tricks were in evidence in abundance and as the standard of player he played against dropped in comparison to World cups and the Brazilian domestic league, so Rivellino would conjure up ever more fantastic feats in Saudi Arabia.

In the course of winning three successive league titles there, he would score free kicks from forty yards out, play sublime passes and generally flip flapped and back heeled to the cheers of the crowd who came to watch in their thousands.

In South America, in particular, the Rivellino legend shows no sign of diminishing. In January 2015 the Argentinian midfielder Juan Ramon Riquelme announced that he was retiring from football after a stellar career.

There is no doubt that Riquelme was a terrific footballer and given that he was a gifted midfielder comparisons to others from the past were inevitable.

One such comparison was with Rivellino and stated that the Brazilian was the left footed or “southpaw” equivalent of the right footed Argentinian Riquelme.

The reaction from some was very heated and immediate. While most admired the talented Riquelme many did not think he was worthy of comparison at all to Rivellino stating that it was like comparing Monday to Friday. They are both days of the week but at different ends of the spectrum and that the very comparison was an insult to Rivellino.

“Riquelme is a great player, but it’s not fair to compare him to the genius that was Roberto Rivellino” said one critic with another adding unkindly that the only comparison that could be made would be to say that Riquelme was an overrated midfielder compared to Rivellino simply being an underrated genius!

The point is that almost 50 years on, In South America no matter how good you are you are not likely to outshine the reputation of Roberto Rivellino.

When he eventually retired and returned to Brazil “Riva” bought a petrol station but had to give that up because his ownership caused endless traffic jams. Motorists would queue for hours to get petrol just in the hope that their tank would be filled up by the great man and they could catch a few words.

However, his great love was always football and he never forgot the days when he was dirt poor and when he and his friends had to play with no shoes, no socks and no ball.

In due course, he was persuaded to write his autobiography, the title of which said everything about his entire philosophy on football, what was most important in his football career and perhaps about life in general

It was called simply “Get out of the street Roberto!” and is a reference to the regular call that came every night from his mother when trying to persuade her son to come into the house and stop playing football.  In it he states categorically that “… the streets formed me as a man and a footballer” and that his entire being, all his success and his attitude to life in general was shaped by the experiences of his childhood on the streets of Sao Paulo.

This belief and overriding attitude also explains why he built the Roberto Rivellino soccer school for children right in the middle of his native city, one of the most densely populated cities on earth. Barely a square foot of the city is not built upon and developed, yet today, in the heart of an ever growing concrete jungle, there are some football pitches  ( grass and Astroturf ) which bear the great man’s name and where kids can come and learn their football skills under the tutelage of Rivellino approved coaches and sessions.

He is adamant that the ever continuing development of the cities of Brazil have ignored the “street education of children” leading to a reduction in the amount of street football and a consequential deterioration in the ball skills among the young men and women of today.  The result, he argues, is that Brazil now produces far fewer footballers with real natural talent, and he passionately rails against such a situation. He further argues that if older guys like him gained raw basic skills in unorganised games played in urban open spaces and then progressed to provide the beautiful football of the 1970 World Cup team, then why can’t that lesson be replicated and maintained throughout Brazil ( and the rest of the world ) rather than be allowed to die under the auspices of so called progressive inner city development?

Today, as he heads towards his 70’s, he is a regular TV pundit on football and he hosted one famous show with Maradona where they talked football, football and football.

He owns the bar mentioned at the start of this piece and is treated by the public as an iconic godfather like figure with people coming to visit him virtually all the time.

In 1989 he came out of retirement and helped a seniors Brazil side to the title of World Cup of Masters where he scored in the final against Uruguay thus becoming the first player in history to have won the world cup and the senior’s world cup.

He is not averse to being commercial and knows what he is worth in terms of media contracts, yet at the same time the small balding paunchy man is neither a big head nor a braggart and as mentioned above he is a street footballing socialist.

His name appears regularly in polls of “the greatest” conducted by football magazines, UEFA, FIFA, retired players and sports journalists with monotonous regularity and for all sorts of different skills.

He has been voted as one of the greatest number tens of all time and is mentioned in the same breath as Pele, Platini, Zidane, Puskas, Maradona, Baggio, Hagi, Messi and Matthaus and at one point was voted as the fourth greatest footballer ever to come out of Brazil behind Pele, Garrincha ( his own personal favourite ) and the aforementioned Zico to whom he taught a thing or two .

He makes the list of the top 100 or 50 footballers of all time on a repeated basis despite the fact that more modern players get far more exposure and media coverage and so their feats and skills are more readily available to watch on video.

When Geoff Hurst chose his top 50 players of all time he added that in his opinion Rivellino, Pele, Jairzinho, Gerson and Carlos Alberto would have formed the greatest 5 a side team in history and would probably have beaten many 11 a side teams without a goalkeeper! By the way Gerson and Carlos Alberto didn’t make his list.

Rivellino is the only player listed as scoring two of the top 25 free kicks of all time. His goal against East Germany in the 1974 world Cup has to be watched in slow motion to be believed and to fully appreciate its pace and accuracy. Michel Platini has described that goal as firing the ball through a mousehole!

The name Rivelino appears yet again in the list of players who were the all-time great dribblers with the football with many citing him as a supreme example of someone who had complete control of the football with his step overs, flip flaps, feints and dummies.

When it comes to who had the hardest shot he is always nominated, as he is when it comes to the most stylish player ever seen, the player with the best left foot, the player with the best tricks in football, and of course the player with the most memorable moustache!

In some articles his football is described as “art” or “sheer artistry with a football”.

Any discussion about who was the best passer of the ball results in the name Rivellino once again coming to the fore, and those who played against him remember some of his passes with awe. The one mentioned above in the 1976 game against Italy in America was one such pass, however another is graphically described by Kevin Keegan in his autobiography where he makes no attempt to hide just what he saw and felt when playing against Rivellino.

“I’ll never forget one of his (Rivellino’s) passes in Rio, it was every inch of 80 yards,” wrote Keegan in his excellent 1979 book, Against The World. “I wouldn’t have believed it was possible to strike a ball so hard, so far, so accurately, until I saw Rivellino do it from the edge of his penalty area.

“The target man was 20-yards inside England’s half and starting a full diagonal sprint to get behind Dave Watson and Emlyn Hughes. Yet the ball pinpointed him, it fell in his stride. He didn’t need to change direction. I was about three yards away from Rivellino and I felt the wind as the ball passed me at shoulder height. The astonishing thing is that it stayed at the same height all the way. I watched wide-eyed as it flew on and on; that’s one of the rare times when I’ve felt outclassed.”

Yet that very pass throws up two conundrums about assessing Rivellino’s place in the record books of world football.

The pass was never caught on TV. Many of his truly great performances are only reported by eye witnesses while the skills of others he is compared to and with, and who played in a later era can be seen time and time again and so help further their reputation.

With Rivellino you have to go with the younger stars who went on to play for Brazil, Argentina and whoever at a later date to truly measure his impact, and you have to rely on guys like Keegan and Beckenbaur who played against him, and others like Pele, who played with him, to really get a sense of how highly players of real calibre rated him.

Keegan’s report of the pass in Rio raises another issue and takes you back to Pele’s comments about Rivellino’s intelligence as a footballer. His vision was said to be legendary and that he could see where the game was going long before others could. He could see where players were and where they could and would move to.

And so the question has to be asked when considering the pass described by Kevin Keegan: Did the forward player start to make the diagonal run which Rivellino then responded to instantly and with great skill in a split second, or did Rivellino strike the pass into an exact spot causing his colleague to make such a run thus changing the pattern of the game?

Pele says that Rivellino could do both. He could react with such skill that he made the ball do all the work whether the pass be short or 80 yards long, and he could play the ball in and into areas which would instinctively make players, both team mates and opponents, move into areas where they had no intention of going only seconds before.

Rivellino will never be heralded as the greatest overall player in the world, nor the greatest in any one discipline or skill to be seen on the football pitch.

However, what is clear is that to be classed as a better overall footballer than he was, or even his equal, in any area of the game, you had to be truly exceptional in any era and come from that rare pantheon of footballers whose legend transcends the generations and more importantly inspires others.

Those who do the voting and saw him play in the flesh care not for the comparison to the later Rivellino-likes no matter how good they may be or may have been. He was the original. He was the one little king of the park playing with a heavier ball and they will tolerate no mention of any pretender. He was the originator of moves, tricks and dribbles. Others may have taken those moves on, perfected them with the lighter ball which is easier to move and bend and deployed them before a greater TV audience, but they were not the original.

He has been dubbed “Maradona’s professor” and was the footballer who inspired not only the average Joe in the crowd but also a host of kids and young men who would go on to rank as among the greatest footballers the planet has ever seen. In that sense his influence can still be seen on the field of play to this day.

Some may argue that others like Cruyff were more influential, were better and more effective players and have had a greater lasting effect on the game.

However, Cruyff and others, whilst undoubtedly brilliant, played in a system, were coached and taught many aspects of the game with the result that the teams they played in were dominant for a period until someone else worked out a tactical solution to combat their system.

Rivellino’s skills on the other hand were natural, learned on the street, and then adapted and used in the professional game. He was not always surrounded by great players or deployed in a team which played to a winning system, but he still stood out and made the game seem magical.

He made kids want to play football like him and there can be no greater compliment especially when you consider the number and the calibre of players who would later say they were Rivellino inspired.

Zico would play for his country 71 times; Gerson would amass 70 caps as would Romario. Kaka gained 87 caps, Jairzinho 81 and Rivaldo 74. Carlos Alberto turned out for Brazil 53 times and the legendary Garrincha would make 50 appearances.  Cruyff would only play 48 times for Holland.

Rivellino would make exactly the same number of official international appearances as Pele with 92 caps, though some lists credit Rivellino as having appeared 96 times as some games were not treated as official Internationals.

Either way, he played for his country more often than Falcao and Socrates put together as they amassed 28 and 60 appearances respectively.

Had Saldanho not frozen him out over a thirteen match period then he may well now be classed as the third highest capped player in Brazilian history behind Cafu and Roberto Carlos neither of whom, while good, were the same calibre of footballer. He would also have added to his tally of 26 International goals.

When it comes to the measure of putting bums on seats, it is arguable that Rivellino was in a league of his own with his trickery, his shooting, his celebrations and his overall pomp, flair and character. Millions all over the world tried to copy his moves in training grounds and playgrounds and his very presence was guaranteed to add to the number of spectators attending any match. In the days before global football coverage on TV, Roberto Rivellino singlehandedly increased the gates at every club he ever played for.

One commentator has remarked that he came to watch Fluminense at the age of 14 and to see Roberto Rivellino play in that first match on the Saturday of Carnival. The same man goes on to say that he was so thrilled while Rivellino remained at Fluminense he never missed a single match.

Other than his final stint in Saudi Arabia, he never played football for any club outside of his native Brazil. His was an era when South Americans generally did not travel to Europe.

However, had the market for Galacticos been in existence in his era, there can be no doubt that the Real Madrid’s, Barcelona’s and the likes would have broken the bank for Roberto Rivellino.

Yet at no time in his career did he seek a move. He simply played and spent the majority of his career playing for a provincial side that were not very good while at the same time developing a reputation as a truly special footballer.

Unlike the little King of the Park, many of the later players who were inspired by him, and who would emulate his talents and tricks, only did so in the most talented of winning sides whilst earning millions of Pounds or Euros.

It could be argued that Rivellino was among the last of the truly great provincial players as from the 1978 World Cup onwards football players became real global stars with money dictating that the entertainers and ball players who would put bums on seats would cross oceans to play in successful teams.

Zico would go to Italy, Ardilles to England and Kempes to Spain thus heralding the fact that in due course the real ball players, the trick masters, the exceptional footballing talents would always command the highest transfer fees and go to the biggest clubs – and most would cite Roberto Rivellino as either their main influence or one of their main influences.

Yet the man himself is somewhat humble. He is or was a footballer and simply loved being one. He is a critic of the modern trend towards tactically killing the game and bemoans the lack of genuine skill and flair in the modern footballer.

He believes the crowd are there to be entertained and that players should hone their skills and provide flair and excitement with a view to getting those bums off the seat and the arms in the air.

In the modern game, with the value of transfers reaching ever crazier numbers, it is interesting to note that as each few years pass it is the Rivellino-likes who always seem to attract the really huge transfer fees. The Maradona’s, Ronaldos, Messi’s, Ronaldinho’s, Figo’s, Neymar’s and so on are all Rivellino types – the types that make you sit up and gasp. What would the moustachioed one be worth in today’s market given the testimony of the football players mentioned above?

He is adamant that the role of the No 10 as he knew it no longer exists in modern football together with the honour of wearing the number and the inspiration it brought –  and he deeply regrets its passing.

“The priority today isn’t creating, but marking, and that is all wrong. Today instead of calling up the best players in each position, the tactical options for each position are called instead” he complains.

The only sure way to occasionally beat any given tactical system is to face that system with a sheer genius in your midst and that is how many see Roberto Rivellino – a footballing genius who could change a game singlehandedly. The guy who could take a bad team and singlehandedly make it competitve or, as Pele says, the guy you could introduce into a potentially good team who would make it complete!

He is unfazed and amused by the plaudits that are thrown his way by the press and other bodies and while appreciative of the adulation he measures himself in other ways and with other comparisons.

“4th all-time greatest player for Brazil behind Pele, Garrincha and Zico? Yes that is not bad. However, I think of it another way. When Pele retired from the Brazilian national side, I was given his shirt. I was the next No 10 in the yellow shirt, I was his immediate successor. THAT means something.”

A couple of years ago, a Brazilian TV station caught the humble side of the ever joking talismanic Rivellino at a time and on an occasion which neither he nor the TV Company were expecting.

He had played for Corinthians for some 9 years and had won nothing leaving under something of a cloud. The relationship with the club and their fans had remained slightly strained ever since despite the fact that he had said that he would have given up his World Cup winners medal to have won something with the club.

Corinthians had permanently under achieved before during and after the Rivellino years but it was totally unfair of certain sections of the fans and management to lay any blame at the feet of Roberto Rivellino. When they eventually did win something he was asked for his comments and said he was delighted as for the better part of a decade the Parque Sao Jorge had been his second home. He was genuinely thrilled – a real fan.

However, once again the club were drowning in mediocrity when the President, possibly in an attempt to boost his own popularity, announced that the club had commissioned a bronze bust of “O Reizinho del Parque” as a tribute to him after all these years.

The TV footage shows the return to Corinthians of Roberto Rivellino who is seen walking through the club museum, taking in the memories of games gone by while talking and wisecracking as always. He is wearing a short sleeved casual shirt and is speaking directly to the camera as he walks into the boardroom of the club and sees, for the first time, the striking bust of his younger self complete with longish hair, bull like shoulders, and that iconic moustache.

The bronze piece sits on a sideboard and overlooks the boardroom table where the decisions that shape his old club are now made. It is a magnificent sculpture and dominates the room.

The TV cameras are still rolling when Rivellino sees the statue and suddenly and inexplicably stops talking and just bursts into tears. He holds his hands in his head and cries uncontrollably.

He turns his back on the camera and on the statue, walks away sobbing like a grief stricken child and the silence in the room makes for uncomfortable watching.

Eventually the President of the club goes to comfort him and is heard saying “Riva! Riva!” as he puts an arm around him to console the emotion struck man.

Rivellino eventually turns and looks at the statue again with tears running down his face and simply says “Fantastico – Obrigado! Oh Obrigado” – “Fantastic!  Thankyou – OH Thankyou.”

The emotion is clearly genuine and moving, and the whole incident was of such note that it made the national news in Brazil.

All the accolades, list mentions, and tributes will never bring him back those heady days when in his late teens and early twenties he developed and strutted at this club, but at least the statue has taken away the notion that he was somehow bad for the club and that no one wanted to remember his play and contribution while he was there.

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A small balding fat man wearing shorts, trainers, a football shirt and a hat to protect his head from the sun comes out of his office, crosses the pathway and enters a football pitch where a group of school kids, both boys and girls, are being coached.

Many of the children involuntarily run towards the man and give him a hug.

“Who is he?” a watching journalist asks a young girl.

“That is Riva” replies a young girl pronouncing the name that is written on the back of the man’s shirt.

“And what is special about Riva?” asks the reporter.

“Oh he played football ……. For Brazil!” replies the child in a tone which makes it clear that 50 years on “Riva” is someone special.

The look on the face of the on looking, paunchy balding man suggests that the child has just paid him the greatest tribute of all.

Roberto Rivellino played football – he is and was The Little King of the Park, and to this day, directly or indirectly, he still inspires football fans young and old and the very best modern players who try to replicate his skills and tricks on the park – and when they do the fans, the TV companies and the sponsors all turn up in record numbers to pay and to watch!

The Stranger, The Queen and the Glasgow Garden Festival

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This is a slightly different style of tale for me.

It is far removed from the style and content of Fabulous Harry Maguire and his exploits, and it has a completely different mood.

Hopefully, those who read it will enjoy it and won’t find it too sentimental in tone.

All the characters mentioned in it are ……….. well judge for yourself!

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Caroline stared at her coffee cup and felt a tear roll down her face. She wiped it away and sniffed only to find that she now had tears silently flowing down each cheek.

She tried to shake off the sadness that brought the tears and found that all her attempts were in vain, and despite her best attempts at concentrating on something else she found herself drawn back to that late summer night 12 years ago. It was a night she had almost forgotten about at one time, maybe deliberately forgotten about or put out of her head, but now it loomed large and just would not go away.

Her mind was in Nice, on the Cote D’Azur and the date was Tuesday 31st of August 1982.

There had been seven of them, sitting in a café in a somewhat shabby section of the city, and they were steadily getting drunker as the evening went on. As the alcohol took ever greater effect, so the laughter and the antics had become more and more spontaneous, silly and stupid. She could see that now, but at the time it had all seemed so much of an adventure; a vital part of their rebelliousness and their journey, whereas in reality they had just been seven daft students on holiday getting pissed and no doubt being a pain in the arse as far as everyone else in the vicinity was concerned.

They were just into their second week in France but this was to be their one and only night in Nice, before moving on through Monte Carlo to a brief sojourn into Italy where they would spend two nights in San Remo before starting to head north again to catch the ferry back to Dover.

Of the seven, Simon and Julie were loved up like Romeo and Juliette – everywhere they walked they held hands, constantly kissed and let everyone know they were in love. Of course it hadn’t lasted. He was now working in the city somewhere and Julie was a successful Advocate in Edinburgh, happily married with two small children. There were three other boys, Danny, Joe and Michael who, together with Caroline and Maria, made up the seven.

Maria was her pal, all long dark hair and brown eyes. She had always turned a head. She even turned heads first thing in the morning, when she walked into a lecture when everyone else was half asleep and looking as if they had just fallen out of bed in the clothes they had slept in. While Caroline would accept that she herself was pretty with a good figure, everyone knew that Maria was supermodel stunning – and knew it, sometimes playing on her good looks.

Of the boys, she knew Danny best as he was in some of her classes and generally hung about in the same company. Joe and Michael she knew less well though, as they sort of hung about the edge of her crowd. Throughout the previous week, all three had shown that they could be very funny albeit in a daft immature way at times.

As the week had gone on, Danny and Maria had been flirting with one another more and more until one night they disappeared together leaving Caroline with the ever entwined lovers and the other two boys. For some reason, this made her feel a bit awkward though looking back she did not really know why.

On that Tuesday night, they were all staying in a cheap hostel with the boys in one room and the girls in another according to the rules of the house, and so at the café Caroline had somewhat drunkenly warned the others that there would be no mysterious copping off together for some “hanky panky” that night – or so she thought.

They had been in the café since about 4pm after a day of wandering around Nice, taking in the sites and enjoying the occasional drink as they wandered. Prior to that night, they had spent a few days staying in Frejus just along the coast where they had spent lazy days on the beach, eaten fabulous food and been to an open air Roxy Music concert on the Friday night topping what had been a fabulous few days in the town. Now they were sitting at two tables outside the café door watching the world go by and getting steadily drunker.

Caroline hadn’t taken much notice of the others sitting at the adjacent tables. If she had, she would have seen two elderly men drinking wine and playing chess, a young man sitting on his own reading a book, a middle aged husband and wife sharing coffees in silence, and two men who were in heated debate about……. about something or other. There were others sitting inside the café but they barely registered, if at all, but she was conscious of music coming from a juke box or radio.

The street was not so much a street but a wide alley with old sandstone apartments on the opposite side from the café. Further up, there was a small supermarket, a dry cleaners and a pharmacy, before the alley took a curving bend to the left and disappeared out of sight.

This was the scene that she now looked back on from 1994.

Through her tears, she recalled that they had been playing charades. Maria was standing on the pavement attempting to mime the name of some book or other when there was the sound of glass smashing somewhere behind her.

Caroline was slow to react but the next thing she knew was that the game had stopped and Michael was out of his seat like a flash sprinting across the alley where an old woman had fallen whilst apparently attempting to enter the door of her apartment. It looked as if the old lady had tripped on the step leading to the apartment door and in so doing she had dropped her shopping bag with the result that a bottle of wine and a bottle of water had smashed to the ground.

The woman was half lying in the alley, muttering to herself in French, and struggling to get back to her feet.

Caroline could remember seeing Michael bent over the fallen woman and speaking to her in French, and then with the help of the young man with a book in his hand, who had made his way over just behind Michael, he was trying to get the old lady back to her feet. Whilst the book reader held the old lady’s hand, Michael rather awkwardly and rather forwardly wrapped his arms round the prone woman’s waist and physically lifted her off the ground and set her back up on somewhat unsteady feet.

“Is that what you call picking up a bird, Mick?” Shouted Simon rather boorishly, though the comment did get a laugh “Bet she gives you a knock back!” continued Simon encouraged by his earlier jibe.

As far as she could remember, Caroline and the rest simply carried on drinking while Michael and the book reader helped the old woman into her flat and the entire incident was literally just dismissed and forgotten about ……… until Michael came back and resumed his seat some several minutes later.

“ Poor old dear” he said as he sat back down “ she is a bit wandered. She lives on the top floor and must have real difficulty with the stairs!”.

“ And are you help the aged?” jibed Simon.

“ Naw, he’s grab a granny!” replied Joe which caused a burst of laughter “ I have never seen you move out of your seat that fast in my life “ said Joe grinning “did you think she had money or something? Were you looking for a tip? Did she take her dentures out and give you a snog?”

“Ah Shut it” replied Michael “ She is just a poor old soul. You lot are heartless!”

And with that the group simply continued to slag one another off and resumed their drinking and laughing. The game of charades forgotten, Joe ordered another two bottles of wine and the night continued.

However, about fifteen or twenty minutes later, unobserved by the group, the door of the apartment building opened once again and the young man with the book stepped out into the alley.

The next thing Caroline knew this swarthy good looking man was standing at their table clearly intent on interrupting their merriment.

“ Good Evening.” He said, addressing Michael in particular, “The old lady has asked me to thankyou for your kindness and has asked me to buy you and your friends a drink to show her gratitude.”

“ Oh, there is no need, honestly” said Michael “ is she ok?”

“ Yes, she is fine. A bit shaken, but it is her pride that is hurt more than anything else. She feels she has made a fool of herself in public, and that angers her.”

“Ha, being picked up by Michael would bring shame on any woman!” quipped Simon in his usual mode.

This remark drew a strange look from the young man who continued none the less:

“ She has given me the money to buy a couple of bottles of wine…. It would be…. impolite to refuse.” He said with a little purpose.

“ Oh we will never refuse wine from a handsome stranger, will we Caroline?” said Maria flirting somewhat outrageously which brought a disapproving look from a so far silent Danny.

“ The wine, is not from me, Cheri” said the young man in an accented voice “ It is from, Madam.”

He was somewhat matter of fact in his statement, and without further consultation he walked into the café and returned a few moments later with a carafe of the house red and another carafe of white which he put on the table without saying a further word. From his pocket he drew a solitary glass which he made plain was for himself

When he had put the wine on the table, he stood back, poured some red wine into his glass, turned to Michael and said “On behalf of my friend, Thankyou for your kindness. Merci à tous” and with that, he drank the wine and turned to leave.

“ Thanks” shouted Michael

“ Ha Michael, there is your holiday story” said Simon “ the best you could manage was being bought a drink by some old French bird!”.

There was some laughter at this, but it quickly stopped when the young man with the book turned on his heel and came back to the table fixing Simon, whom he had not addressed before, with a stare for the second time.

Caroline, now looked at this man altogether differently, as he was no longer a passing stranger. He was someone who was clearly annoyed and was intent on making a point. She feared there would be trouble as he had a very intense look on his face. At that moment she would have described him as intriguing, but tense. Very tense.

However, the stranger in their midst then did the most unexpected of things. He simply drew up a chair, picked up his glass, filled it with red wine again, and began to talk. Initially he addressed Simon, but one by one he would stare each of them straight in the eye.

“ Listen, my friends. Your wine does not come from some “old woman”. No, I tell you that this is an act of gratitude from someone I consider to be one of the greatest women on the planet.”

“ Sorry – I didn’t mean to offend your….. mother?” said Simon realising he had gaffed.

“ Oh she is not my mother, nor is she related to me in any way – in fact, I only met her for the first time when I went to help her with your friend here.” Said the stranger nodding towards Michael.

“ What?” exclaimed Julie somewhat drunkenly

“ I only met her for the first time a few moments ago” he repeated “ and I will probably never meet her again.”

The Group looked puzzled.

Caroline was just glad that the trouble she thought was coming appeared to have disappeared, as whatever this guy was about he was not looking for a fight although he still made her uneasy.

“ Sorry Mate, but you have lost me!” said Joe filling his glass.

“ Let me explain then” said the young man tucking his book into the inside pocket of his leather jacket.

“ That “old woman” as you call her was once a famous Parisian dancer, a famous international celebrity who had the world fall at her feet. More importantly she was at one time the fastest and bravest woman in the world. She should be a French national treasure—instead she is living in this cheap and run down area of Nice, living off charity and in the attic apartment of this building.” He said pointing across the alley.

Caroline and her friends looked at the doorway across the road as the young man continued.

“ With no disrespect intended to anyone here, “The Old Woman” was and always will be out of your league guys, I predict that none of you will ever have a woman like her…. Ever!”

This remark drew a narrowing of the eyes from Maria, a drunken shirk from Simon and a giggle from Julie, the rest simply stayed silent.

Caroline, looked at the newcomer again. There was something about him. He was dark haired, dark eyed, clearly foreign, probably French she thought, and very intense but in a sort of charming way.

She estimated that he was about 5’ 9”, slim and looked pretty fit underneath the faded jeans and T shirt housed underneath the leather jacket. On his feet he wore a pair of fashionably scuffed cowboy boots with a pointed toe.

She heard herself saying:

“ Go on. Tell us who she is then, maybe we have heard of her?”

This set the young man off again. He turned and fixed Caroline with the dark eyes.

“ I do not think you will have heard of her, but I will tell you her story. She was born Mariette Hélène Delangle on 15th December 1900 in a small village about 50 miles south west of Paris where her father was the village postman. However she left the village at the age of sixteen and came to Paris where she got a job dancing in cabaret in the music halls. By 18 she was causing a sensation in Paris as she danced naked, not as a cheap stripper you understand, but with feather boas and live birds to accompany her. She posed naked for photographs and generally caused a scandal. At one point she openly shared a house with two men who were both her friends and her lovers. Eventually she was topping the bill in The Casino de Paris dancing naked  before the glitterati of Paris and causing a sensation. The Parisian press loved her.”

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By this time, the group of Scottish students were captivated by the book reader’s tale of the old woman. All their laughter had stopped and they sat quietly, drinking the wine and listening to his tale as he continued.

“ She changed her name to  Hélène Nice although eventually she would further shorten it to Hellé  Nice and it was by this name that she became famous – for her dancing, her devil may care attitude, her fast, racy and scandalous lifestyle and eventually for………. Well we will come to that in a minute.

By the age of 25 she had had enough of being a naked solo act and so she decided to partner a man called Robert Lisset and together they formed a dance partnership which toured Europe. She had her own house, her own yacht and was so famous, so beautiful and so daring that she had an endless procession of rich lovers and suitors, including members of the European nobility and other personalities such as Henri de Courcelles and Count Bruno d’Harcourt.

However, even this fast lifestyle of frivolous fame and fortune did not satisfy her as throughout her life she only really had one true love……. and that was….. speed.

She was a fantastic downhill skier, but even more than skiing she loved to drive very very fast cars. After being injured in a skiing accident, she entered and won a Paris showbiz motor race, and so in 1929 she entered and won her first professional race — an all-female Grand Prix  at Autodrome de Montlhéry and  in the process  she set a new world land speed record for women driving at 197 Kilometres per hour. She was La Femme Rapide!

She won the race in an Omega Six car and more or less immediately gave up dancing to drive professionally. She toured America as the world’s fastest woman, racing on dirt tracks and hard tracks, driving a Miller car but then, on her return to France, she was introduced to Philippe De Rothschild who was to become yet another lover and who was known for racing a certain type of car.

De Rothschild eventually introduced Hellé Nice to the car’s designer –  Ettore Bugatti who immediately wanted her as part of his team of professional drivers. Rumours say she became Bugatti’s lover, and that she also seduced his son Jean Bugatti. From 1931 she was the only female driver who was allowed to compete on equal terms against all the male drivers of the time. She raced Bugatti’s and Alfas, but was mostly famous for her bright blue Bugatti which she personally owned and in which she was photographed often, bringing her huge commercial spin offs and rewards. She raced in the Italian and French grand prix and set many records. Whilst she did not win the races, she beat many of the leading men and had a reputation for being absolutely fearless. The crowds loved her, and it was at this point that her fame and fortune were at their very height. She still loved the fast lifestyle. She partied, drank champagne and had a host of rich and famous lovers yet could often be found sleeping just as easily with mechanics or people who worked at the race tracks because she liked them as people. She loved people and could see inside their skin which is a great talent.

She won the woman’s cup at the Monte Carlo Rally, entered competitive hill climbs and broke records at Le Mans.

She was, ladies and gentlemen, the undoubted Queen of Speed. The Bugatti Queen!

Then, in 1936 she was invited to South America for a series of Races. She was driving in a Grand Prix in Sao Paulo Brazil and was competing for a place in the top three of the race when her car hit a bale of hay which had strayed on to the track. The result was that her car left the track at over 130 miles per hour and launched into the crowd. The car killed 4 people and seriously injured 30 others. Hellé, herself, was thrown clear of the car but was fired into the crowd like a human bullet with her head landing square in the chest of a spectating soldier. The impact of her helmet on the soldier’s chest killed him, but saved her, although she was in a coma for two days and in hospital for three months. When news of her recovery was announced there was great cheering in Brazil as no one believed that she was responsible for the crash. The race organisers even paid her a large sum in compensation for her injuries and the loss of her car which was an Alfa.

 

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Remarkably, once back in France she decided to get back behind the wheel to race when no one thought she would even drive again. The following year she set 10 world speed records for women. She was all set to rejoin the Bugatti team when Jean Bugatti was killed during practice, and by the time the team recovered from this tragedy the war had started and racing was suspended.

However, it was after the war when real tragedy and hypocrisy struck. Hellé was due to take part in the 1949 Monte Carlo rally but on the eve of the race, right in the grand ballroom in Monaco, she was unfairly denounced as a collaborator during the war. Her accuser was a French driver called Louis Chiron, and despite having no evidence to support his claims, he stated that Hellé Nice had been a Gestapo Agent throughout the war – something that subsequent enquiry proved completely false although that would be many years later.

As a result of these allegations however, all her sponsors and friends deserted her and she never raced again. Her fortune was squandered by a lover who then left her, and for the past 35 years or so she has lived in the attic of the old apartment there, relying on hand outs from a charity called “La Roue Tourne” which means “Things never stay the same” or “ The wheel always turns”.

So that is your old lady – and as I say, with all due respect, you boys will never lay your hands on a woman like that! You are simply not in her league and never will be!”

With that, the stranger drained his glass and made to take his leave.

“ So how do you know her?” asked Maria “ Do you work for La Roue Tourne?”

The man paused and simply stood there: “ No…. I do not work for the charity. I just know her story, and know that she lives here. I decided to come and sit opposite her house for a couple of hours and perhaps catch a glimpse of her. Now, I have actually met her, albeit in slightly unfortunate circumstances. I have helped her up to her shabby apartment, drank her wine and I am delighted simply to be able to say that I made her acquaintance. I have a great story to tell—as have you.”

“ Remember her name, Hellé Nice, the fastest and bravest woman of her day!”

Once again, the young man with the book turned to take his leave.

He wished the somewhat inebriated students farewell and began to walk away. He had gone about 30 yards when Caroline suddenly jumped up from her seat, looked at her friends and said out of the blue “ I am going after him – if I am not back in a minute I will see you tomorrow!” and with that she was off with shouts from Maria, in particular, ringing in her ears.

She had no idea what she was doing or why, she felt she just had to go after this strange young man who had told them the story of Hellé Nice, the dancer and racing driver. She caught up with him just as he turned a corner, and disappeared from the sight of her astonished and alarmed friends.

When she did catch him, the young man was surprised and immediately thought he must have left something at the table, but Caroline was very quick to let him know that was not the case.

“Eh, excuse me but could we go for a drink somewhere… just you and I…. away from the others?” she asked somewhat brazenly.

He looked slightly puzzled at first but eventually smiled and said “ Well it would be impolite to refuse such a charming invitation!” and with that they turned another corner and entered into a small dark bar full of locals drinking strong coffee and various liqueurs.

For the next hour they sat and drank. She told him her name, how she was a student from Glasgow studying accountancy and business studies. In turn he said that his name was “Beco”, that he was only in Nice for the night and that he would be leaving for Paris the following morning. At 22 he was two years older than she was, but he seemed years older and so much more worldly wise than Danny, Simon, Joe and Michael. She asked more about Hellé Nice and her fabulous lifestyle, and how he had come to know her story.

“ It is just something I read” he replied “ Perhaps I am just fascinated by beautiful fast women?” he said looking directly into her eyes with more than a little devilment.

Looking back all these years later, Caroline realised that it was foolish to go back to the small hotel he was staying in. He was a stranger she had never seen or met before. She knew nothing whatsoever about him, yet she was absolutely pulled towards him on that night as if by some magnetic force of nature. She had never done anything so foolish or reckless in her life… and after this night she swore that she never would again.

Once in the room, they had climbed into a creaky bed and made love – awkwardly at first, then with greater familiarity and more confidence before eventually falling asleep in one another’s arms.

The following morning, they made love again before Beco announced that he had to go.

Caroline had known that this moment would come, she had not been that drunk, but all the same she felt awkward when the time came to part. She looked at him and said “ Well, thanks for last night. It was nice to meet you- I’ll just go back to my boring friends”.

As soon as the words left her mouth she felt guilty. Her friends weren’t boring; they just weren’t an exotic stranger with a great tale to tell.

Without any hesitation Beco turned to her and chided her slightly; “ You have good friends, nice friends, count yourself lucky. Think of Hellé Nice- she has no friends.”

“ Apart from you” said Caroline

He stood at the door and turned to her, drawing her close:

“ I don’t know her and she doesn’t know me” he replied “ And if I am a friend of Hellé Nice then your friend Michael is an even greater friend. It was he who was first by her side, helped her to her feet, and helped her up the stairs without even knowing who she was. I had a motive. I knew who she was and wanted to meet her, see inside her apartment, I wanted the story of helping Hellé Nice all for my own purposes. Whereas, your friend Michael just reacted. Just did what seemed right. He didn’t see the once famous racing driver who interested me, he just saw an old woman who fell and who he chose to help. I would think about that if I were you. By the way, Simon is a pain in the ass, tell your friend Julie she can do much better!” and with that he laughed, kissed her on the cheek, and left.

She never saw him again.

When Caroline returned to the hostel she was met with a very mixed reaction.

Maria was furious with her for running off with someone she did not know.

“ What were you thinking about?” she shouted “ He could have been anyone? A rapist or a murderer! You are a selfish cow- I was worried sick. I chased after you with Joe but we couldn’t find you anywhere. Fuck sake – of all the stupid things……… “ she slammed the door of the room and left.

Julie just wanted to know that she was ok, and then wickedly asked “ Well – come on spill the beans—what was he like?” and started laughing.

Later Simon couldn’t resist teasing her and calling her “ The Frenchman’s tart” which Caroline laughed at but inwardly didn’t like. Simon went further and said she had stolen Hellé Nice’s title as the fastest woman on earth which again Caroline didn’t like.

She now regretted the entire episode and wished she had just stayed with her friends rather than face this ridicule.

Maria and Simon later began to discuss whether or not the whole Hellé Nice story was a pile of cobblers designed just to be a good story which the guy told to get one of the girls into bed…. And it had worked!

Eventually Maria calmed down and appeared to forgive her though she was still furious and repeatedly said that she would not have fallen for such a load of baloney.

Caroline inwardly agreed with Beco, Simon was an asshole and Julie could do much better.

She was sort of saved by Joe and Michael who really said nothing and who just got on with the day and started the usual round of jokes between themselves. They were funny those two, but Caroline still thought the jokes and the chat immature and so looked upon them as wee boys in comparison to the mysterious Beco.

As they travelled along the coast through Monte Carlo and on to San Remo, she couldn’t help but think of the night before, the spontaneousness of her actions, the story of Hellé Nice and the dark book reading stranger. She wondered if she had just been caught up in the story? Did she just want to live one night like Hellé Nice—taking a mysterious lover in a devil may care moment?

She would ask herself that question for months afterwards.

The seven finished their holiday, returned to university and the months rolled into years and the next thing Caroline knew she was working for a PLC wearing a smart suit and being every inch the young business woman.

The others all went their separate ways and she lost touch with them all, even Maria – although she did send a card every Christmas.

In the following years, she changed jobs a couple of times, had  a few different boyfriends but never settled down with a steady partner and by 1990 she found herself as a single professional woman with her own apartment and several rungs up the ladder in the world of business. She had a growing reputation in her field and the night in Nice some 8 years before was completely forgotten. She was wrapped up in the corporate world, was successful, financially independent, enjoyed good holidays with professional friends and was as happy as the proverbial pig in shit.

Or so she thought.

Glasgow was in the middle of the year of culture celebrations with the specially built Garden Festival site proving a huge attraction.

She had worked late on into the Friday night on a project she was managing and on Saturday she had gone to visit her parents whom she had not seen in a few weeks. Her dad was forever asking if she had a boyfriend, and he always looked disappointed when she replied “No one special”.

On Sunday 3rd June she had arranged to meet some friends and colleagues at the Garden Festival site for lunch. It was going to be a big day – literally—as it had been dubbed “ The Big Day” Music concert with lots of famous bands and acts performing throughout the day.

She had left the car at home, and so was free to enjoy a few drinks with her meal, and after a couple of hours with her friends she felt a bit like a student again – they had had more than a few drinks and nothing to eat.

They had just sat down to order at one of the open air restaurants, when there was a commotion about thirty feet away. Caroline hadn’t seen what happened, she just heard chairs being knocked over, some glass breaking and some shouts. Someone had fainted, falling on top of a table and knocking over plastic chairs.

As Caroline belatedly looked over at the scene, she saw that someone was now cradling the head of the woman who had fainted—she immediately presumed that it was the woman’s husband or boyfriend. But then another man arrived and he seemed to be the woman’s partner.

As Caroline looked on, she suddenly felt there was something familiar about the guy on the ground holding the distressed woman’s head gently in his hands whilst at the same time speaking to her in a soothing voice. He had asked someone to bring her some water, and now he was putting the glass to the woman’s lips and telling her to drink slowly.

Caroline felt herself rise from her seat and involuntarily walk towards the scene, becoming more and more certain the closer she came to the man on the ground holding the woman’s head.

Now, the man was helping the injured woman to her feet and Caroline knew for sure— it was definitely him.

He had his back to her now, looking down at the woman who had fainted who was now sitting in a chair.

Caroline placed a hand on his shoulder causing him to turn round at exactly the same time as she said his name;

“Michael? Is that you?”

Michael turned to look at who had touched his shoulder and saw a good looking woman in jeans and a fashionable sweat shirt, wearing flat shoes. She had short dark hair, and looked pretty elegant in the sun light. Then he caught her eyes and her face;

“ Caroline! Good God! How are you doing, It’s great to see you!”

Caroline gave him a hug and looked at someone she had not seen in at least 6 years. Yet at the same time she was immediately aware that she was in fact seeing someone for the very first time. Here was goofy Michael, the guy with the immature jokes, but at that moment she knew he was not Michael with the immature jokes at all – this was a different Michael altogether – or later she would reflect that maybe it was a different Caroline.

He explained that he had only been back in Glasgow for a few weeks after spending four years working abroad and had only come down to the Garden Festival site for the music. He was on his own and was just wandering by when he saw the woman faint and obviously just did what he could to help.

He accepted Caroline’s invitation to join her and her friends for lunch and in the course of the afternoon they talked and laughed about days gone by.

Eventually, as the afternoon wore on, they got round to talking about their trip to France.

“ Remember Frejus?” Asked Michael “ Roxy Music in the Ampitheatre?” he went on without waiting for a reply. “ That was brilliant!” he concluded.

She said she did and they talked a little more.

“ And remember the night in Nice?” said Michael “ And the incident with the old woman falling and the handsome stranger coming to tell us all about who she was?” he added and gave Caroline a wicked wink.

She felt herself blushing and defensively added “ Yes, well that was when I was young and foolish. It was a most stupid and uncharacteristic thing to do—I must have been drunk!”

“ Oh give yourself peace, woman,” said Michael sensing her embarrassment and gently teasing her “ If a young woman didn’t fall for a handsome foreigner, personally telling a fantastic tale like that then there must be something wrong with her. Besides you were a grown woman and were capable of looking after yourself- you were just having some fun!”

Caroline was slightly taken aback at even talking about this as the incident had long faded from her mind. However, she felt pleasantly surprised at Michael’s opinion on what had happened that night.

“ Do you think his story was true?” she found herself asking.

“ What?” asked Michael “ You mean you don’t know?”

“Know what?”

“ You don’t know if the story was true? And who your mysterious stranger was?”

“ What do you mean?” asked Caroline now somewhat concerned that somehow she had missed something or had been the butt of some long running joke which only she had not understood.

Michael turned to her and said “ let’s go for a walk – I have something to tell you – though I can’t believe you don’t know!”

They made their excuses and started to walk through the Garden festival site.

As they walked Michael began to talk and as he did so he held her hand as if it were the most natural thing in the world. It was a gesture that Caroline had not resisted.

“ The fantastic woman known as Hellé Nice died in October 1984. She was 83 years old and until a few months before her death she was still living in that attic apartment.”

“ So the story WAS true?”

“ Oh Yes! She was exactly who we were told she was. But her story does not end there. When she was denounced as a collaborator, her family abandoned her. She was cut out of her parents will and the family house was left to her sister. Apparently, her sister was very jealous of her fame and her fortune and was openly delighted when Hellé was brought down by the false accusations of collaborating with the Germans. When we saw her, she literally did not have a friend in the world, bar the young fella you ran off with for the night.”

Caroline recalled the conversation she had had with Beco about being a friend to Hellé Nice and what he had said about Michael. However before she could say anything Michael continued talking.

“When Hellé died, she was penniless and asked that she be buried in the village where she was born along side her parents. However, the sister, despite promising to fulfil Helle’s last wish, simply buried her in an unmarked grave depriving her of that wish. The sister was a really miserable cow!”

“ How do you know all this?” asked Caroline

“ Because, I was intrigued with the story. We saw an old woman, but that old woman had once been the most fabulous woman on earth and I wanted to know what became of her, and so a couple of years ago I took some time out and went back to Nice on my own to find out what had happened to her. That is when I learned that she had passed away and what had happened with her sister.”

“And how did you find that out?”

“ Simple!” said Michael “ I contacted the charity that had looked after her—La Roué Tourne –and they gave me all the facts. I even went to her burial place in her wee village just to pay my respects.”

Once again Caroline found herself looking at the man talking to her and felt she was seeing him for the first time. He wasn’t interested in the tittle tattle of her night with her mysterious lover, he wasn’t making fun of her, he was just interested in the old woman and her story.

Again she remembered Beco saying to her that Michael had ran to help the old woman for no reason other than…….. other than that is what he did automatically. He had done the same thing just a few hours before with the woman who fainted. How odd was that?

They had reached the bandstand area and a huge crowd had gathered to hear a group performing. Caroline didn’t recognise the musicians on the stage at all but Michael did. They were in the middle of some song or other.

“ Let’s sit down here for a minute” he said.

As she went to sit, Michael suddenly added “ Wait here, I will be back in a minute!”

“ Where are you going?” she asked quizzically- in truth she didn’t want to stop talking, she didn’t want to break the spell that seemed to have been woven in the last couple of hours.

“ I am going to get a couple of drinks—and I am going to ask them to play a song for us—and Hellé Nice!”

And with that he disappeared down the steps.

She watched as he went to the bar and then approached the stage. Amazingly he was able to speak to the girl who was on the stage from the side. He seemed to have some sort of security pass which enabled him to get passed what she presumed were bouncers.

The girl on stage was wearing a black coat and a sort of pill box tri corn hat. Michael, pointed to the others on the stage, said something to her and in return she nodded.

Michael left the stage area and headed back up the stairs.

Caroline watched as the girl on the stage spoke to the other musicians making up the group. They had a quick confab and started playing just as Michael returned.

“ So what are they playing, and who are they?” asked Caroline

“ Ever heard of a guy called John Prine?” asked Michael

“ Never.”

“ Well he wrote this song in 1971, and when I heard it for the very first time, it made me think of Hellé Nice. It’s called Hello in There”

Caroline sat and listened. She was taken by the words and found herself resting her head on Michael’s shoulder while he sang along.

When the number finished the crowd cheered, the group left the stage.

Michael and Caroline got up to leave.

“ How did you manage that?” asked Caroline

“ Oh, I just asked the girl singer if she knew the song and asked her to sing it—and she did!”

Caroline wasn’t too sure about this but let it pass.

“ So “ said Michael “ did you ever here from the mysterious boy with the book again?”

“ Oh no!” said Caroline “ I knew I never would” she added. “ As I said it was just one of those stupid things that happened and should never have happened.”

“ Do you regret it?” he asked earnestly

“ No… but it never happened again and I wouldn’t dare disappear with someone I don’t know—anyway would you mind if we change the subject? It was years ago and a lot of water has passed under the bridge since then”

“ Ok” said Michael “ But you do know who he was?”

“ Oh I know his name was Beco… but that was it”

“ You don’t know who he really was?” asked Michael with a tone in his voice which was unbelieving.

“ Yes! He was called Beco!” she said forcefully

“Caroline!” exclaimed Michael “ Do you really not know who he was?” said Michael smiling like the Cheshire cat.

He registered the confusion on her face, took both her hands in his and said

“ Look, I am not judging here at all and you have nothing to feel defensive about with me, but the story of that night in Nice does not end with the story of Hellé Nice …. You have your own fantastic story to tell.”

When she continued to look confused, Michael told her that “Beco” was a nickname and went on to reveal the true identity of the man she had chased after and shared a hotel room with for one night only —- and as he did so he had a great big warm reassuring smile on his face.

She was astonished at his news. She wasn’t sure how she felt but she had to admit it was a good story although at the same time she felt stupid for not knowing the boy with the book’s real name.

At the same time, she felt something else. Something weird. Again she felt she saw Michael for the first time and started to remember things.

He had always been kind, always had spare tickets for things so that someone could go along at the last minute. He was always generous with his time and anything else he had. He hadn’t seemed to run with a particular crowd, had never been judgemental and always did his own thing. Yes, his jokes were immature, but he had made her laugh—and she remembered again that he had ran to help Hellé Nice with no motive in mind.

By Christmas 1990 Michael and Caroline were living in the one house.

He made her feel special and she loved him more than anyone else and anything. He always knew just what to say and just what to do – and as she sat with tears strolling down her face on that May afternoon in 1994 she wished that he was here now.

But he wasn’t—he was at his parents house where he had spent the night because his father was ill – and he would not be back till morning so she was on her own.

She gave herself a shake and went to make some fresh coffee and thought about making something for her dinner. She knew it was stupid to feel sad and tearful but she just couldn’t help it. She started to cry again.

She didn’t hear the front door open and Michael walk in.  She turned around and saw him at the precise moment the television screen  changed to show a picture of a young handsome man with dark eyes – the same eyes that had been reading  a book in a Nice café all those years before, and the same eyes she had looked into on a creaky bed in a Nice hotel some 12 years before..

“ I knew you would be upset, so I came home early” said Michael.

Caroline burst into a flood of tears for reasons she really could not explain or understand. She clung to her husband for dear life and sobbed uncontrollably.

The caption on the television simply read.

“ Ayrton Senna pronounced dead.”

 

 

 

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THE DATE WAS 1ST MAY 1994.

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For anyone interested in the fantastic story of Mariette Hélène Delangle; 15 December 1900 – 1 October 1984 otherwise known as Hellé Nice can I recommend a book entitled The Bugatti Queen: In Search of a French Racing Legend by Miranda Seymour which was published in 2004.

 

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The Roxy Music Concert performed in Frejus France on August 27th  1982 was recorded on video for posterity:

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John Prine wrote the words and music to Hello in there in 1971

 

“Hello In There”

 

We had an apartment in the city,

Me and Loretta liked living there.

Well, it’d been years since the kids had grown,

A life of their own left us alone.

John and Linda live in Omaha,

And Joe is somewhere on the road.

We lost Davy in the Korean war,

And I still don’t know what for, don’t matter anymore.

 

[Chorus:]

Ya’ know that old trees just grow stronger,

And old rivers grow wilder ev’ry day.

Old people just grow lonesome

Waiting for someone to say, “Hello in there, hello.”

 

Me and Loretta, we don’t talk much more,

She sits and stares through the back door screen.

And all the news just repeats itself

Like some forgotten dream that we’ve both seen.

Someday I’ll go and call up Rudy,

We worked together at the factory.

But what could I say if asks “What’s new?”

“Nothing, what’s with you? Nothing much to do.”

 

[Chorus]

 

So if you’re walking down the street sometime

And spot some hollow ancient eyes,

Please don’t just pass ’em by and stare

As if you didn’t care, say, “Hello in there, hello.”

 

 

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The impromptu performance of the song for Michael, Caroline and Hellé Nice by Natalie Merchant, Michael Stipe and Billy Bragg took place on the bandstand on the Glasgow Garden Festival site on the afternoon of 3rd June 1990.

 

It too was recorded for posterity – the trio performed the song again three days later in Prague on 6th June. After that they never performed the song again.

 

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Ayrton Senna da Silva ; 21 March 1960 – 1 May 1994 died while leading the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix. In 1982, having dropped the da Silva part of his name, he won the British and European Formula Ford 2000 championships  and would go on to be a three time world champion in the Formula One Category.

Senna had been a virtually unknown spectator at the 1982 Swiss Grand Prix which took place in Dijon-Prenois in France on August 29th. This was the only win of the season for eventual World Champion Keke Rosberg. The following year, Senna would complete a test drive for Williams at the Donnington race Track in Rosberg’s formula one car. He drove faster than any other driver including Rosberg.

He commenced his Formula One career on 25th March 1984 when he competed in the Brazilian Grand Prix.

Senna was given the nickname “ Beco” as a child by his family in Brazil.

He remains the last racing driver to have been fatally injured during a Grand Prix.

 

 

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DAYS OF GRACE – THE STORY OF A QUIET MAN

24 Jun

Good Morning.

Let me tell you a story.

This is a hastily written story and is one that I have longed to tell properly for many years but circumstances dictate that it should be made public today in a perhaps rushed and imperfect form rather than at a later date when I might be able to make it longer and more detailed with many additional inserts included in the main theme.

On 8th August 1908, in Dufftown, Banffshire, Scotland, a man by the name of Maurice Walsh was married to Caroline Begg who was always known by her nickname “Toshon”. Maurice was an Irishman, having been borne in County Kerry, and was fond of writing the odd story. He was something akin to an early 20th century blogger.

While in Dufftown he sent away a few of his stories for publication but he did not achieve any great success.

Following the establishment of the Irish Republic in 1922, Maurice decided to return to his homeland and commenced working for the excise division of the new Irish Government. His wife and family joined him in Ireland in 1923 when Maurice felt that it was safe for them to come to Dublin and there they lived a happy life together until Maurice died in 1964.

However during that time, Maurice wrote many more stories and some of them were published. His writing was widely recognised and his readership grew and grew to the extent that at the time of his death he had achieved a reasonable degree of fame in Ireland and his funeral was attended by the likes of President De Valera.

Maurice Walsh exemplifies how doing a bit of writing on the side so to speak can change a life as he never foresaw that his hobby of writing stories would eventually become his main claim to fame.

One of his most famous stories was written in 1933 and was called The Green Rushes.

“Never heard of it” I hear you say although there may well be a few aficionados who may well recognise the title of the story and know of its claim to fame.

Well, The Green Rushes was published, among other places, in an American bi monthly Magazine called The Saturday Evening Post which can trace its roots all the way back to Benjamin Franklin and his publication of the Pennsylvania Gazette which first came off the presses in 1728.

The story was a great success and some 20 years later became a worldwide phenomenon when it was immortalised in film. The screenplay was adapted and written by a New Yorker called Frank S Nugent ( more of whom on another day perhaps ) who decided to change the title from The Green Rushes to ……….. The Quiet Man.

Who knows what the inspiration was behind the change of name. Perhaps it was merely a reference to Sean Thornton’s character in the film or perhaps it was a reference to an ancient Chinese proverb which says “Beware the wrath of the quiet man”.

I have always been intrigued by the image and the mystery of the quiet man and in literature “quiet” men have often been the unlikely or misunderstood heroes in books and plays.

Such men (and woman) often face adversity and prejudice, hardship and betrayal with a quiet grace and devastating dignity which is only truly recognised far too late in the tale. They often “turn the other cheek” when lesser individuals resort to retaliation, violence and a reactionary anger.

George Bernard Shaw once wrote “Beware of the man who does not return your blow: he neither forgives you nor allows you to forgive yourself.” While John C Calhoun said “Beware of the wrath of the patient adversary”

This is the story of a Quiet Man and a patient adversary who in many ways never returned a blow nor allowed many adversaries to forgive themselves for what they could not see at the time.

For me, he stands head and shoulders above many of the more iconic sporting heroes of our time and as the years pass more and more people have come to know and respect his famous yet untold and unknown story.

As a kid his friends called him “Skinny” or “Bones” simply because he was no more than a tall skinny kid. He wasn’t just ordinary skinny like other skinny kids of his age; he was noticeably skinny to the extent that his physique was instantly noticeable in comparison to others. Accordingly he became “Skinny” by name and by reputation.

Not only that, he was a kid that did not enjoy the best of health. He was sickly and poorly and because of this his father would forbid him to play in contact sports where he might be injured.

His mother had died when he was aged 7 and so our boy and his younger brother were raised by their father who was a strict disciplinarian and who drilled into his sons that there was a certain way to behave and a certain way to conduct yourself at all times.

It was a lesson that would never be forgotten although later it would be privately questioned, repeatedly pondered over, but never departed from.

One day the skinny boy was playing in a park in his native town of Richmond Virginia with some friends. Richmond was a town of segregation where black and white were not allowed to mix and accordingly there were black parks and white parks.

On this day, Skinny and his pals were playing in a certain area when they were told to move on by some white kids as they were just not allowed to play where they were. Some of Skinny’s friends protested: Some showed a degree of dissent: However, Skinny just turned on his heel and left quietly ………. And never ever forgot that he had been thrown out of the park because of the colour of his skin.

Because of his ill health and bean pole stature, his father forbade him to play American Football, or to box or even play basketball. Baseball was permitted, as was athletics, but skinny’s destiny lay in another direction altogether – a direction which would take him into the very heart and soul of elite white society in America and where he would make a mark on that society and upon his sport which has no equal and stands no comparison to any other sports start before or since.

Skinny’s real name was Arthur Ashe Junior.

To many people in the UK of a certain age, the very name Arthur Ashe conjures up a unique yet uninformed image.

Yes he was a black tennis player. He was the only male tennis player in the world who wore spectacles – the only female being Billie Jean King.

And he won Wimbledon in 1975 against the red hot favourite Jimmy Connors.

However, go beyond that very simple image of Arthur Ashe – dig a little deeper – and you will find a remarkable, tragic, astonishing and wonderful story.

Since his death at the dreadfully early age of 49 on February 6th 1993 the legend of what Arthur Ashe achieved outwith playing tennis has simply grown and grown.

Today, the name of the skinny kid who was kicked off the all-white tennis courts of Richmond Virginia is emblazoned all over the National Tennis Centre at Flushing Meadows New York with every single tennis professional in the world wanting to feel the pressure and honour of playing on “Arthur Ashe”.

Not only that, but for reasons that will become apparent all sorts of organisations from broadcasters, to charities, to newspapers, to sports bodies in a whole host of different sports hand out annual awards which bear the name “ The Arthur Ashe award for …….” whatever.

In terms of playing tennis it is worth briefly repeating some of the Arthur Ashe story.

He was unbelievable tall and skinny but started to play the gentleman’s game of tennis from the age of seven and showed prodigious talent for the game. In Richmond he was coached by the best black coach of the time, Robert Johnson, who had also coached the first black woman to win Wimbledon Althea Gibson.

From 1953 to 1960, Johnson coached young Arthur and reinforced the lessons that had been taught to young Arthur by his father Arthur Ashe senior, only this time the coaching was tennis specific and emphasized what was known as racial socialisation.

That meant that Arthur was taught always to be a gentleman, to return every ball that was within two inches of a line and if there was ever any doubt about whether a ball was in or out he had to cede the point to his opponent out of courtesy. Further, it was drummed into him that he was never to question the decision of an umpire and never to show any signs of emotion, distress, anger, frustration, annoyance or unsportsmanlike conduct when playing the game of tennis.

In short, no matter what the circumstances or the occasion Arthur Ashe was trained over the entire course of his formative years to be “The Quiet Man” no matter what.

It was to be a lesson Arthur learned well.

For a period, Arthur was not allowed to play in any integrated tennis tournaments in Virginia but eventually he was given permission to play in such a tournament and to the astonishment of many “The black kid won”.

In December 1960, and again in 1963, Ashe featured in Sports Illustrated, appearing in their Faces in the Crowd segment which highlighted up and coming people to watch in the field of sport. He became the first African-American to win the National Junior Indoor tennis title and was awarded a tennis scholarship to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in 1963.

In the same year Ashe became the first black player ever selected for the United States Davis Cup team and in 1965, ranked the number 3 player in the United States, Ashe won both the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) singles title and the doubles title (with Ian Crookenden of New Zealand), helping UCLA win the team NCAA tennis championship.

In 1965 and in 1967 he reached the final of the Australian open but lost on both occasions.

In 1965 he had reached the semi-final of what was to become the US Open although at that time it was not a truly open tournament at all.

It was only in 1968 that the US Open became a fully open tournament where any of the top players in the world could enter freely and that first “US Open” was won by Arthur Ashe. Not only that but in the same year he had won the US Amateur Championship and so became the first black male to lift either championship and the only player in the history of tennis to have won both in the same year.

In 1968, Ashe was  a confirmed amateur player and so could not collect the winner’s prize money for the US Open with the money concerned going to runner up Tom Okker of Holland. Ashe was still registered  with the US army, where he was a lieutenant working at West Point, and was only paid $20/day in expenses for competing at Forrest Hills.

Now it should be remembered that all of this occurred at a very volatile time for black Americans.

Malcolm X had been shot in 1965, Martin Luther king had been shot only four months before Ashe won the US Open and Mohammad Ali had been stripped of his title by the boxing authorities in 1967 for refusing to go to Vietnam with the US Military.

However Ashe was no public militant and was a leading part of the US Davis Cup team which won the cup for America by defeating the reigning champions on their home soil in Adelaide Australia between 26th and 28th December. The following year saw the American team retain the cup by beating Romania with Ashe defeating legendary player and coach Ion Tiriac and the crazy and mercurial genius called Ile Nastase whom he defeated in an epic straight sets win 6-2, 15-13, 7-5.

1969 was to be a pivotal year in the life of Arthur Ashe, and indeed in the lives of countless thousands if not millions who were unknown to the tennis player from Virginia.

In that year the then reigning US tennis champion decided to apply for a visa to travel to South Africa to play in the South African open. The application was refused on the basis of the colour of the applicant’s skin.

To “skinny” it was like being kicked off the park in Richmond only this time he was not prepared to simply walk away quietly.

Over the next 5 years, Arthur Ashe would apply repeatedly for a visa to travel to South Africa with a view to entering tennis tournaments there and winning them. The purpose of the applications was to show the apartheid supporting government that a free black man could come to their country and defeat the white man at his chosen sport.

When the visas were repeatedly refused he used this example of discrimination to campaign for U.S. sanctions against South Africa and the expulsion of the nation from the International Lawn Tennis Federation (ILTF). Arthur Ashe was now a gentleman on the tennis court but a militant off it with South Africa in particular becoming a focus for his activism.

On the tennis court Ashe continued to achieve success. In 1970 he won the Australian open and led the US to their third consecutive Davis Cup title claiming that success in the Davis Cup was far more important to any individual achievement. This is a view he held and repeated throughout his entire career.

In 1971 he won the French doubles title at Roland Garros with Marty Reissen and reached yet another Australian Open final (his 4th) losing to Roy Emerson.

Due to his membership of the World Championship Tennis organisation (The WCT) the International Lawn Tennis Association banned him from entering the French and Wimbledon championships in 1972 but in the same year he reached the final of the US Open where he once again faced the crazy Nastase. This was to be the biggest disappointment of his career because he was leading the mad Romanian by two sets to one and by four games to one and let the match slip losing in an epic 5 setter.

To be fair, Nastase was the best player in the world at the time and he played some fantastic tennis to win, but Ashe was annoyed by his on court gamesmanship and openly criticised Nastase for his antics on the court which clearly put Arthur off his game.

Yet the relationship between the two players was a strange one. While Ashe despised Nastase’s court antics, he marvelled at his tennis abilities. Not only that, in his campaign against the South African Government and The South African Tennis Association Arthur Ashe was to find that he had no greater or more vociferous supporter than the Bucharest Buffoon as Nastase was known.

Where Ashe would at least be congenial to individual South African tennis players, Nastase greeted every single South African of his acquaintance with the same greeting: “Hello Racist!”.

It was during the 1972 US Open that a number of players began to express concern that they were not properly represented in the world of tennis and that they were being underpaid in terms of the sport’s growing worldwide appeal. The players felt that they were being manipulated by promoters and tournament directors and so it was decided to form the Association of Tennis Professionals ( The APT ) with Arthur Ashe at the forefront of the campaign. By 1974 the other players had elected him to the position of APT President.

In 1973 the APT voted by single vote to boycott the Wimbledon tournament of that year. Ashe was one of those who voted for the boycott and the decision was widely criticised by the press, by Wimbledon officials and the International Lawn Tennis Federation who were openly hostile to over 83 players demonstrating this exhibition of “player power”.

Accordingly, for two consecutive years when it could be argued that Ashe was at the peak of his game he missed out on Wimbledon twice and the French open once.

Then in November 1973, with the South African government seeking to end their Olympic ban and re-join the Olympic movement, Ashe was finally granted a visa to enter the country for the first time to play in the South African Open. It had taken fully five years of persistent and relentless lobbying to allow him the right to enter the company under an American flag.

As it turned out, he lost in the final of the competition to Jimmy Connors, but won the doubles with partner Tom Okker.

Despite boycotts against South African sport, Ashe believed that his presence could help break down stereotypes and that by competing and winning the tournament, it would stand as an example of the result of integration, and help bring about change in apartheid South Africa. He reached the singles final again in 1974, losing in straight sets to Connors for the second consecutive year.

However, later, in 1977, Ashe addressed a small crowd of boycott supporters at the U.S Open and admitted that he had been wrong to participate in South Africa and once again supported the boycott of South African players after he had tried to purchase tickets for some young Africans for a tennis match in South Africa, and was told to use an “Africans only” counter. In the media, Ashe again called for South Africa to be expelled from the professional tennis circuit and Davis Cup competition.

Between March 1974 and May 1975, Arthur Ashe defeated Bjorn Borg no less than 5 times in separate ranking tournaments including the WCT finals in Dallas. During the same period, he defeated old foe Tom Okker in the finals of three separate tournaments and so by the time he came to Wimbledon in June 1975 he had been declared champion in Barcelona, Munich, Dallas, Stockholm and Rotterdam.

The story behind Arthur Ashe’s victory in the Wimbledon final of 1975 is the stuff of legend. Connors was the heavy favourite having defeated Ashe in every single previous match between the two. “Fighting Jimmy” and his steel racquet represented a new brash era for tennis and was the American from Philadelphia was expected to blow all opponents away for some time to come.

It is hard now to imagine just why the only bespectacled black man on the tennis circuit was seen as “old school” and “establishment” in comparison to Connors but Ashe was viewed as the gentleman no hoper against streetfighting Jimmy.

Not only that, but the background to the final is fascinating in that there was real enmity between the two men and only days before the final Connors commenced legal action against Ashe personally suing him for $5 Million.

Connors was already suing the ATP, with Ashe as its president, for alleged restraint of trade after opposition from the ATP and French officials meant he was refused entry to the 1974 French Open as a contracted member of World Team Tennis (WTT). Just two days before the start of the Wimbledon tournament, it had been announced that Connors was now raising court proceedings against Ashe personally for $5 million. The action was a result of comments in a letter Ashe had written to ATP members in his role as president, criticizing Connors insistence that Davis Cup captain Dennis Ralston should be fired and slating Connors “unpatriotic” boycott of the competition which had started after Ralston left him out of the team against the West Indies in Jamaica in March 1972.

On final day, Ashe pointedly and symbolically wore his U.S.A. Davis Cup warm-up jacket when walking out onto Centre Court and he put the jacket on again during the award ceremony while receiving the trophy and winners cheque.

There are some great stories behind the fantastic Ashe win that day. It is said that the night before the final Ashe went for dinner with fellow and friend Charlie Passarell  and long-time friend and mentor Pancho Gonzales.

Gonzales in particular was a wily old tennis fox and rebel who had outraged Wimbledon officials in 1969 when playing an epic match against Passarell. With the light fading, Pancho had suggested to the umpire that he could no longer see and that play should be suspended. When the umpire refused, Gonzales repeatedly fired the ball in the direction of the umpire’s chair feigning lack of vision due to bad light. Play was suspended. The final score was an improbable 22-24, 1–6, 16-14, 6–3, 11-9. With Pancho going on to the fourth round of the championship, where he was beaten in four sets by …………………. Arthur Ashe.

However, on the evening of the Ashe v Connors final the three old men of tennis ( Ashe was by this time 32 ) sat round a table and discussed how to defeat the power of Connors. It was decided that Ashe should repeatedly throw up lobs and play drop shots to take the pace out of the game and repeatedly place the ball rather than play his traditional power serve and volley shots which Jimmy could simply power back with his Wilson.

At 5’ 10” Connors was not the tallest player and the thinking was that a mixture of overheads and touch play would put him out of his traditional rhythm.

Another story told regarding Ashe during 1975 is that he practised by placing a chair on the opposite side of the net. The chair was repeatedly moved around the court and as balls were fired at Arthur in practice he was told that there was one golden rule: “Do not hit the chair when returning!”

Ashe apparently practised for week after week deliberately not hitting the choir no matter where it was placed.

Then, after weeks of such practice, the routine was changed with the instruction being that no matter what kind of shot was fired at him and no matter where the chair was placed on the other side of the net, Arthur now had to hit the chair time after time.

Amazingly, the story goes that using this technique Arthur Ashe became astoundingly accurate in learning to place the ball into a specific spot and the tournament results of 1975 show that he perfected this technique with deadly accuracy.

On July 5th 1975, in the first all American Wimbledon final since 1947, Arthur Ashe blew Jimmy Connors away by lobbing, dinking, and placing the ball wherever he wanted to. Connors had no answer and never got into the game.

Shortly afterwards he dropped the law suit.

After the Wimbledon final Ashe continued to play and won the Australian Open doubles with Tony Roche in January 1977, but a left foot heel injury requiring surgery a month later and subsequent long-term rehabilitation saw his world ranking drop to a lowly 257th before a remarkable comeback saw him rise back to 14th in the world again at the age of 35.

However, unknown to everyone, his longstanding health was not good and in June 1979 he suffered a heart attack while hosting a tennis clinic in New York. Emergency examinations revealed that one of his arteries was completely closed, another was 95 percent closed, and a third was closed by 50 percent in two places. As a result  he had to undergo quadruple bypass surgery in December 1979 and despite recovering from the surgery and being on the verge of a tennis comeback, he officially retired in April 1980, aged 36.

Both his father and his mother had congenital heart conditions and it would appear that it was a bit of a miracle that Arthur Ashe had ever been any kind of sportsman at all.

By the time playing career came to an end Arthur Ashe’s record stood at 818 wins, 260 losses and 51 titles.

After his retirement, Ashe took on many roles, including writing for Time magazine and The Washington Post, commentating for ABC Sports, founding the National Junior Tennis League, and serving as captain of the U.S. Davis Cup team from 1981-1985.

Ashe had always believed passionately in the Davis cup and was determined to emulate his achievements as a player where the US had won three titles in a row by bringing the cup back to America.

In this quest he was aided and abetted by, on the face of it, the most unlikely of allies – John Patrick McEnroe.

Where Jimmy Connors and some of the other top flight American players of the time had eschewed and abandoned the Davis Cup in favour of lucrative prize money events, McEnroe had grown up with the tradition of Davis Cup and was a keen supporter of the tournament.

However, JP McEnroe was the absolute antithesis of “Gentleman Arthur” and he embarked upon a series of court demonstrations which absolutely outraged Ashe.

The Davis cup captain stated openly that he had absolutely no time for McEnroe’s fiery and petulant attitude towards officials, umpires and opponents and it would be fair to say that at first he had no idea how he was going to handle McEnroe as captain at all – if McEnroe decided to play and if McEnroe could be managed at all.

Yet, for all of the antics and the petulance, Arthur Ashe openly said that John McEnroe possessed tennis skills and touches that Arthur himself could only dream off.

As a commentator, Ashe once described McEnroe as being like a surgeon with a scalpel. He said that while Borg and Connors battered opponents with power and spin, McEnroe lanced and nicked opponents with drop shots, heavy slice and unreturnable shots that got into their head and so cut opponents up with a nick here and a nick there with the result that they found that they were literally bleeding to death on the tennis court.

The relationship between the two men is worth a book on its own. Like Nastase before him, young McEnroe had no time for Arthur’s gentlemanly ways and at times considered him to be a weak captain and a poor leader.

Yet, underneath the New Yorker had an admiration for the pure tennis pedigree of Ashe and recognised the dignity and goodness of the once skinny boy from Richmond.

The two had many public quarrels some of which were fierce and brutal with McEnroe occasionally letting his temper go and saying the most derogatory things about Ashe as a captain and a man.

On one famous occasion McEnroe was persuaded to come directly from a tournament to play a vital Davis Cup rubber against Argentina in Buenos Aries. His opponent was the brilliant Guillermo Vilas and the match went to five sets before a very hostile crowd who took every opportunity to berate McEnroe, throw garbage on him and spit at him.

McEnroe was losing, his hands were literally bleeding from holding the racquet, and he was injured, knackered and was a beaten man in the 5th set ……….. and Arthur Ashe simply looked on and thought that he had never admired any tennis player as much in his life.

Sitting with a towel over his head, McEnroe turned to Ashe and asked if he had any words of advice. Apparently, Ashe simply said something like “ You are the best player in the world, a far better player than I could ever be, who am I to give advice to you?”

At this McEnroe is said to have retorted “Is that it? Is that all you have to say?” and then completely lost the plot at Ashe in front of the cameras and so absolutely humiliating him in public. Ashe was outraged.

McEnroe still lost the match, but later explained that he had meant none of what he had said and insisted that at that stage in the match he needed to get angry at someone and something if he had any chance of beating Vilas and winning the match for the USA. Ashe just happened to be handy.

This incident is vitally important when it comes to understanding something that Arthur Ashe did and said later.

He was a very successful Davis cup captain and he succeeded in his quest to bring the cup back to the states.

However, more and more he was drawn away from tennis by his health problems and his other consuming passions which were civil rights, the under privileged, the lot of the black man and woman and South Africa in particular.

In 1983, Arthur Ashe underwent a second heart operation which was intended to carry out some corrective surgery as a result of some errors resulting from his 1979 operation.

In the same year he had what he described himself as one of the best days of his life.

In 1971, Ashe had been touring the Cameroon when he discovered a young boy playing tennis. He and Charlie Passarell gave the boy some coaching and Arthur eventually gave the boy one of his racquets to keep. He was also instrumental in getting the boy into the French Tennis Federation in Nice and he was a courtside commentator for American television when his prodigy became the first French Player to win the men’s single title at Roland Garros in 1983. He then conducted the obligatory on court interview with the new champion before the cameras and the cheering French crowd. The player concerned was, of course, Yannick Noah.

Apart from doing his match summariser and commentator for American TV, the once “Quiet Man” was now an active civil rights campaigner. He was a member of a delegation of 31 prominent African-Americans who visited South Africa to observe political change in the country as it approached racial integration. He was arrested on January 11, 1985, for protesting outside the Embassy of South Africa, Washington, D.C. during an anti-apartheid rally. He was arrested again on September 9, 1992, outside the White House for protesting on the recent crackdown on Haitian refugees.

In September 1988, Arthur Ashe was hospitalized once again after experiencing paralysis in his right arm. He underwent exploratory brain surgery and after a number of tests, doctors discovered that Ashe had developed toxoplasmosis, a parasitic disease that is commonly found in people infected with HIV.

Subsequent tests later revealed that Ashe was HIV positive with his doctors believing he contracted the virus from blood transfusions he received during his second heart surgery in 1983. Once again, Arthur had conducted a hugely active life without ever realising that he was ill in this way. He and his wife decided to keep his illness private for the sake of their daughter, Camera, who was then two years old.

At the time, HIV and aides was considered not only a death sentence but also a disease which only struck at people who were, in the opinion of many, morally reprehensible. The disease was thought to affect only promiscuous gay men and intravenous drug users and Arthur Ashe was neither.

Ashe eventually went public with his illness and began to work to raise awareness about AIDS and advocated teaching sex education and safe sex. He also fielded questions about his own diagnosis and attempted to clear up the misconception that only homosexuals or IV drug users were at risk of contracting AIDS.

In September 1992, Ashe suffered a mild heart attack yet was well enough to address the United Nations General Assembly on World AIDS Day, December 1, 1992,  where he called for the growing need for AIDS awareness and increased research funding saying “We want to be able to look back and say to all concerned that we did what we had to do, when we had to do it, and with all the resources required”

Ashe founded the Arthur Ashe Foundation for the Defeat of AIDS. Two months before his death, he founded the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health to help address issues of inadequate health care delivery and was named Sports Illustrated magazine’s Sportsman of the Year.

Arthur Ashe died on February 6, 1993,  from AIDS-related pneumonia at New York Hospital. His funeral was held at the Arthur Ashe Athletic Centre in Richmond, Virginia, on February 10th and Governor Douglas Wilder allowed his body to lie in state at the Governor’s Mansion in Richmond.

More than 5,000 people lined up to walk past the casket. Andrew Young, who had performed the service for Ashe’s wedding in 1977, in the chapel of the United Nations, officiated at his funeral.

Over 6,000 mourners attended.

Ashe requested that he be buried alongside his mother, Mattie, who died in 1950, in Woodland Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia.

So that is a brief and potted history of Arthur Ashe – or is it?

I ask the question because in the intervening years since his death more and more has come to light about the legend of Arthur Ashe and the effect that he has had on other people.

During his lifetime Ashe campaigned repeatedly for many different causes. He championed those who suffered from Aids, heart disease, brain cancer and many other maladies.

He set up foundations for the better health of inner city kids and deprived families.

He founded coaching schools for juveniles and kids who wanted to learn how to play tennis bit who came from backgrounds where they could not join clubs.

There are numerous awards and prizes that bear his name throughout the length and breadth of America and of course the American Tennis Federation and the ATP pronounce his name loudly.

The home of American tennis is not named after McEnroe, Connors, Budge, Tilden, Smith, Sampras, Agassi, Williams, Evert or anyone else – it is named after Arthur Ashe the skinny black kid who got kicked off the court in Richmond all those years before.

On July 14th 2014 Andy Murray was awarded the Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Award for his work with a variety of charities, including the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity and Stand Up To Cancer.

Every year since 1993, ESPN award the Arthur Ashe award for courage at a huge gala event which receives nationwide coverage. Although it is a sport-oriented award, it is not limited to sports-related people or actions, as it is presented annually to individuals whose contributions “transcend sports”

Past winners include Mohammad Ali, George Weah, Tommy Smith and John Wesley Carlos who stood with the black power salute at the 1968 Olympics just weeks before Ashe won his US Open title. The list of other winners is impressive.

Yet I believe none of these things demonstrate the real value and influence of Arthur Ashe.

I started this piece with the tale of an Irishman whose story resonated in a US magazine and which became a piece of Hollywood folklore many years later.

Well, Arthur Ashe wrote two books one of which he said was the most important and valuable thing he ever did. The second was the most astonishing autobiographical piece I have ever read.

Many years ago, I was given a copy of Days of Grace which was written by Arthur Ashe when he was dying from his Aids related illness.

This was not really a book about tennis, but rather the story and the thoughts of a black man who had led Arthur Ashe’s life.

In it, he talks about his regret and guilt at being “The Quiet Man” and how during the sixties he had been more of an activist when it came to civil rights and protest within America. He openly expresses his wish that in many ways he had not been “gentleman” Arthur and had not had that great sense of sportsmanship drilled into him from an early age. This regret is not because he wanted to challenge more line calls or win more points in a tennis match, but because he felt he could have done more for his fellow black man given his influence as the only black man to have won a US Open and a Wimbledon title.

Further, it is remarkable book in that it reveals that despite the heart problems, his contracting AIDS from a blood transfusion and all that has befallen a once champion athlete, Arthur Ashe’s greatest asset is his humility.

At some point he was publicly asked if he ever thought “Why Me?” in relation to the AIDS illness. The questioner asks “ Given that the transmission of the disease was just plain bad luck and that there is no cure, do you ever wonder – Why Me?”

The response is remarkable:

Ashe’s reasoning is that out of all the people who play tennis in the world only a tiny minority get to play the game and earn a living at it. Of those, an even smaller minority get to play in Grand Slam events and very very few humans ever get as far as a quarter final. Even fewer get to a final and an odds defying number get to win at Wimbledon and so he points out he did to stop to think “Why me?” when he was lifting the trophy on centre court so why should he stop and think that way because of AIDS and misfortune?

Days of Glory is one of, if not the, best sports books I have ever read and the last chapter – where Arthur Ashe writes an open letter to his then six year old daughter from his deathbed – could only fail to bring a bucket of tears from someone who has a heart of pure stone.

However, having said all of that it is Ashe’s other book which he was most proud of.

Published in 1988 it was a six year labour of love charting the story, history and lessons to be learned from many of the black American sports stars of the past.

Entitled, A Hard Road to Glory: A History of the African-American Athlete the book charts not only the sporting careers of the many men and women within its pages, but points out the very real struggles that these so called superstars had to endure in their own country despite their sporting prowess.

Ashe points out that very few were able to enjoy a peaceful and successful life despite their sporting successes. They were still discriminated against, remained poor and impoverished, and in many cases were destitute and absolutely on the breadline while similar white sports stars were lauded and made fortunes.

In later years Ashe called on black communities to push back from seeing the way forward for many black children as being through the baseball diamond, the running track, the football field and the boxing ring.

Ashe had a degree in Business Management and was a straight A student. He explained that he could never explode on a tennis court and rage at a linesman because in the sixties he was afraid that the watching white public would castigate all black kids like that and that there would be repercussions for others if he behaved that way.

Accordingly he played the role of the Quiet Man.

Yet, when asked many years later who he admired on a tennis court his reply was automatic: The answer was John Patrick McEnroe partly because of his sublime gifts with the racquet but mostly because he envied McEnroe’s ability ……….. To Rage! And fire himself up.

It was only in later years that Ashe realised that he longed to rage, to get angry and to fight against oppression vocally, loudly and forcibly with rage!

In Days of Grace, he talks about the shame and embarrassment of being arrested in front of the South African Embassy yet knowing that his cause was just, his protest was right and that his opponent was evil and unfair. Yet the “Quiet Man” syndrome that had been drilled into him from the days of his childhood struggled with the act of civil disobedience.

More and more people have come to read and listen to the words of Arthur Ashe, and the more people talk in his name, raise money in his name ad through his foundations, and reward others’ good deeds by making presentations in his name so his legend grows.

What is not widely known is the effect of Arthur’s own personality and his own words had on one very significant person.

In the same way that Maurice Rush’s story The Green Rushes travelled thousands of miles so did Arthur Ashe’s story about the black American sports stars of yesteryear.

In particular, that book made its way to a prison cell thousands and thousands of miles away from Richmond Virginia and it was read from cover to cover and back again by a sports mad inmate. The man concerned wanted to know more about this Arthur Ashe and even made requests for a tennis court to be laid out in the prison yard so that he and other inmates could play tennis on a regular basis.

Not only that, but the prisoner had been writing a book for many years and after reading A Hard Road To Glory he decided to plagiarise the title slightly: he called his book Long Walk To Freedom.

When Nelson Mandela was released from Robben Island he was asked who he wanted to meet?

Among the first people he named, and definitely the first American named, was Arthur Ashe!

When Mandela came to New York after his release there is a moment when he is seen waiving to a crowd along with Mayor David Dinkins. At one point, Dinkins whispers in Mandela’s ear.

Mandiba involuntarily stops what he is doing, bursts into a huge smile and says audibly:

“ Arthur? Is Here?”

And at that point the two men meet for the first time.

I will let Arthur Ashe’s own words tell the rest of the story:

““I watched [New York City mayor David Dinkins] go over to Mandela and whisper in his ear. I saw Nelson’s head rise abruptly, and he broke into a beautiful smile.

“Arthur is here?” he asked, with obvious surprise and delight.

“He’s right here,” David said, turning to me.

“Oh my brother,” Nelson said, looking straight at me. “Come here!”

He threw his arms around me and held me for a moment in a most affectionate embrace. He told me that in prison, he had read my three-volume work A Hard Road to Glory, about black American athletes.”

Ashe noted what so many felt, that for Mandela, “to have spent twenty-seven years in jail … to have been deprived of the whole mighty centre of one’s life, and then to emerge apparently without a trace of bitterness, alert and ready to lead one’s country forward, may be the most extraordinary individual human achievement that I have witnessed in my lifetime.”

The connection between Mandela and Ashe had evolved into the most significant international bond ever between a politician and an athlete. After all, the two agreed that, as Mandela wrote, “Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire, the power to unite that little else has … It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers.”

Mandela and Ashe would meet again in Johannesburg, London, and then in New York, at the Waldorf Astoria where, with the onslaught of Ashe’s deadly malady, their roles were oddly reversed. With courage and wisdom, Mandela the student, learned about Ashe’s new cause, AIDS awareness. When the end was approaching for tennis’ great humanitarian, Mandela wrote to Ashe, “I can never forget my own joy at meeting you. I hope you feel my embrace across the continents and that it serves to let you know that we love you and wish you well.”

Mandela played tennis as a young man, recalling, “I was by no means an expert. My forehand was relatively strong, my backhand regrettably weak. But I pursued the sport for exercise, not style… I was a backcourt player who only approached the net when I had a clear slam.”

A key part of the Mandela story is how, after years of a gutsy Gandhi-like disobedience campaign for prisoner rights, he gained the counterintuitive respect of his jailers, who evolved from sadistic brutes into respectful professionals that granted prisoners appropriate privileges. Years later, this same process of transforming his foes was replicated on a larger stage when his diplomatic brilliance led to the demise of apartheid. On Robben Island, the prisoners used their hard-earned rights to paint a huge green rectangle in the middle of their grim prison yard. They then added white lines and put up a net to create the world’s most poignant tennis court.

Ashe had first heard of Mandela’s name when he was attempting to get into South Africa without success. Ray Moore a South African professional had told him that there might be one man who could help him get into the country.

“Is he white?” asked Ashe

“ No he is a prisoner: He is a lawyer in jail called Mandela” said Moore in 1969

“Never heard of him” said Ashe

“ Well you will!” replied Moore.

There is much more to write about Mandela and Ashe. How Ashe demanded that blacks and whites sit together when he played in South Africa and how Mandela was read Ashe words and realised that sport could be a great unifying weapon if put to the right purpose.

Along with Harry Belafonte Ashe had formed Artists and Athletes against Apartheid and in retirement Mandela took to painting with many of his whimsical works featuring a tennis court.

I decided to write this piece just now because on Friday night at 9pm on BBC 2 there will be a broadcast documentary on the life of Arthur Ashe called more than a champion.

You will hear testimony from many great tennis players including Andy Murray, Serena Williams, Stan Smith, Martina Navratilova, John McEnroe and others all talk about the skinny kid from Richmond.

An older, wiser and mellower John McEnroe will openly shed a tear and tell the world that he is a far better man for having known Arthur Ashe and that the world is a poorer place without him.

I have read in other articles that had he lived there are those who would have supported the idea of a campaign to make Ashe president of the United Stares such was his charisma, integrity and his ability to reach out across a nation which to this day remains hugely divided.

At a time when we have recently had shootings in Charlestown and there is frequent friction between black and white all across America the timing of the programme could not better.

Do not miss this programme as it will probably explain and say more than I could ever do.

There are various video pieces on Ashe with one very moving one where Yannick Noah explains just why he is his hero and all that Ashe did for him and his family.

Days of Glory by Arthur Ashe is a must read book for any human being.

40 years from his heyday, Arthur Ashe is still the only black man on the planet to have won the Wimbledon crown  and scaled the heights of the sport of tennis. Away from the court he has inspired millions to never give up on freedom, heart disease, brain cancer, AIDS, injustice, bigotry and apartheid wherever it may occur.

In 2009, Nelson Mandela was awarded and gratefully received the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage from ESPN. That very fact and those words in that order,tells you something.

I finish once again with Arthur Ashe’s own words:

“True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.”

“Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.”

“From what we get, we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life.”

“I don’t want to be remembered for my tennis accomplishments.”

Beware the influence of the quiet man.

New Balls Please.

Play

Celtic Links – A day out and the story of Joseph.

5 Mar

A teenage boy sits and watches. His father is on the edge of his seat throughout and constantly cheers on his team, but the boy just watches. Their team is losing – losing but playing brilliantly and the man refuses to give up hope and keeps telling his son:

“They’ll score! They’ll score!”

And they do score!

There is jumping around the living room. There are shouts of encouragement to the team so many miles away: “Come on now!” says the father “We have them! You can do it!”

And the teenage boy watches. He watches his television and he watches his father and his father’s belief and soaks it all in.

Then, in the dying moments, their team scores again!

“Ya beauty” shouts the father and leaps off the couch. Father and son hug one another, for theirs is a special bond. They leap, shout, smile and sing – and they rejoice in that one fabulous and universally understood word — CELTIC!

The kingdom of Fife is one of the earth’s holy places in the world of sport. People, from every corner of the globe come to Fife for the sheer thrill of standing in the rain or the sun or the wind or the cloud just for the thrill of being able to say that they have played golf there.

From California to Kathmandu, from Bangkok to Bangladesh, from Newcastle to New York and from Partick to Panama when it comes to world of golf St Andrews is Paradise, with Kings Barns, Crail and many other courses treated as if they are hallowed ground.

Our teenage boy of the story above dreamed of winning the British Open in Fife but it was a dream he would never achieve.

Sam Torrance’s moment on the World stage would come at the Belfry Resort and Golf Club in Warwickshire where he would sink the put to win the Ryder Cup. It was a moment that would define a great sporting career.

However, ask him about football, and he will tell you how he watched Celtic win the European Cup with his father and legendary coach, Bob. Celtic was Bob Torrance’s team and so Sam was always going to follow them – it was inevitable.

A number of years ago, a well-known Golfing magazine decided to do a feature on Golfers and their football teams and have some of the leading golfers of the day pose in the strip of their choice.

This proved to be a problem because one team seemed to dominate the potential photo shoot and that simply would not do.

Eventually Sam got to wear the hoops but only after fighting off competition from Bernard Gallagher, Paul McGinley, Padraig Harrington and various others.

Shortly before the Ryder Cup, Paul McGinley, who followed in Sam’s footsteps as winning Ryder Cup Captain and player, was asked in an interview:

“What is your favourite word?”

“Celtic!” came the instant reply.

McGinley only turned to golf after a knee injury brought his budding Gaelic football career to an end. However in pursuing his chosen career he has never hidden his other passion – The Green and White of Celtic.

Watching Paul McGinley on a golf course is quite an interesting phenomenon.
He tees up with green and white hooped tees and wipes his clubs down with a green and white hooped towel.

On the afternoon of 22nd May 2005, McGinley was leading the BMW Masters Tournament and was hot favourite to win the title. This was his best year in golf and he would ultimately finish third in the European order of merit.

Unfortunately, on the 15th hole, Paul completely fluffed a shot and ended up in a bunker. He was clearly disgusted and so out of sorts that his game lost its consistency during the last holes and he eventually came in second two strokes behind Angel Cabrera of Argentina.

There is a story that abounds which says that Paul was interviewed on television immediately after his round had finished and was asked by the interviewer where things had gone wrong for him and what happened at the 15th?

Allegedly McGinley replied “ F**king Motherwell Scored!” – though that quote cannot be confirmed — or denied apparently!

However, it is not just the golfers who have this amazing love of Celtic football club on the pro tour.

There are few more recognisable people on the golf circuit than Ian Poulter who is a devout Arsenal fan apparently. However, his golf towel his half Arsenal half Celtic on the insistence of his caddy Terry Mundy who is well known for having an affection for the hoops.

However, the last word on this golfing affection for the Glasgow Football Club goes to Sam Torrance.

The scene is a sporting lunch in a Glasgow hotel with a Q & A session with Sam.
The MC announces that the next sporting lunch will be to honour the Rangers side who won the European Cup Winners Cup in 1972.

“ I’ll give that one a miss!” says Sam very loudly and turns to take another question from the floor.

“ How would you compare yourself to Jack Nicklaus?” asks the questioner.

Sam Torrance pauses, then says with a smile:

“ Well that’s like comparing Rangers to Celtic” he says dryly.

“They both play the same sport technically – but they are not really in the same league are they? – never were and never will be!”

———————————————————————————————————————

Joseph strikes a golf ball again and again. Sometimes the ball goes left, sometimes right sometimes it flies straight. It doesn’t matter on a golf range. The ball can fly for two hundred yards or barely make it past twenty yards and it won’t matter.

For Joseph it is the repetitiveness of the swing that counts; the recurring routine of the set up, the swing and the end result that counts. When he gets down to swinging the club again and again he is happy.

He talks non stop between hits:

“ That is a good one. I like that shot. That is a good one. Keep your eye on the ball when you hit it. That is a good one.”

And occasionally:

“ If you don’t hit it right you will go back in your box prospector! Yes you will!”

Joseph is severely autistic.

The exercise at the golf range is one of his favourite pastimes. He likes to cycle, swim, ski and various other things but he is keen on golf.

His mum can sit on the bench behind his place on the golf range and take a rest. She can maybe read a book or a newspaper and enjoy a cup of tea from a paper cup.

Sometimes she hits a few balls with Joseph but on other occasions she just takes a break at the golf range while he hits the balls.

After this there will be cycling, and then home for tea and then bed.

Tomorrow she will go to work, do her job and then come home and take Joseph out somewhere else – maybe to a concert, maybe just for a walk or maybe to the cinema – and then home for tea and the bed.

And on to the next day…… and the next.

Joseph’s mother is a widow. He only has her, and she only has him.

He is 25 years old and weighs 17 stone. If he doesn’t exercise he will get ever heavier and will suffer potential health problems. He is a big lump of a boy.

He is generally a happy bloke, and can be very funny with his observations and his repetition of any phrase he has heard on the TV.

Once his mother went out for dinner and a friend agreed to “babysit” with Joseph.

“ He likes to watch movies” his mum had said and so the friend thought nothing at all about saying to Joseph “ Come on and we will watch a movie big guy!”

And his face lit up as he sat down on the couch: “I like movies”.

Perhaps Pulp Fiction was not the best choice.

When Joseph’s mother came home he was in bed, asleep and all was well.

It was only the following day when she took him out and he started repeating all of the lines from the movie that she realised what had happened.

There was no point in trying to explain to passers-by, all they saw was a 6 ft plus chap with a big smile on his face suggesting that he was going to “shoot the mother**ker up the ass!”

That’s the way it is with an autistic adult and for the parent or carer of an Autistic adult.

Sometimes funny, more times sad – and all the time just hard —- bloody hard!

——————————————————————————————————————-

Thursday April 2nd 2015 is world autism awareness day.

Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people. It also affects how they make sense of the world around them.

It is a spectrum condition, which means that, while all people with autism share certain difficulties, their condition will affect them in different ways. Some people with autism are able to live relatively independent lives but others may have accompanying learning disabilities and need a lifetime of specialist support.

Joseph is one of those who needs specialist support 24/7

People with autism may also experience over- or under-sensitivity to sounds, touch, tastes, smells, light or colours.

Some Autism sufferers, like Joseph, have severe communication and learning difficulties. They cannot communicate like other people do and have no ability to pick up the social niceties that most of us come to learn naturally.

The world is a jumbled mixture of sounds, people, personalities and situations which don’t always make sense and which can’t be described.

So, Thursday April 2nd is World Autism Awareness Day.

It is also the day of the inaugural Celtic FC Foundation Charity Golf Day which will take place at Renfrew Golf Club next to the Normandy Hotel. All proceeds raised from the golf day will be going towards a project initiated by the Celtic FC Foundation which will help children and young people with autism and their families.

In collaboration with the University of Strathclyde, Celtic FC Foundation intend to create a project which will offer an opportunity to enhance each child’s wellbeing through supported physical activity such as football, dance and maybe some golf with a focus on fun.

The autism project will also seek to enhance parents’ and carers’ skills in behaviour management with an emphasis on promoting the development of social interaction skills for children and young people with autism.

Ultimately, the proceeds from Celtic FC Foundation’s inaugural Golf Day will help support autistic children and young people through both inclusiveness and providing parents and carers with practical skills to enhance their child’s well-being.

The format of the Golf Day will see a host of teams playing 18 holes with a shotgun start and a Texas scramble scoring system.

Among the teams, will be a team of ex-Celts aiming to take the prestigious Celtic FC Foundation Golf Day trophy.

Following the tournament, there will be a fantastic carvery lunch as well as a charity auction, raffle and entertainment.

The cost to enter a team of four is £400 and availability is now limited. Guests who want to just come to the lunch can pay separately.

The golf day and its aims are supported by European Golf Pro and Celtic Season ticket holder Stephen Gallagher among others.

If you are interested in submitting a team for Celtic FC Foundation’s inaugural Golf Day or require any more information, please emailcfcfoundation@celticfc.co.uk or call 0141 551 429.

If you are a golfer or have friends who are golfers please consider putting a team together and participating.

If you are not a golfer and would like to help then please text CELT07 followed by £1, £2, £3, £4, £5 or £10 to 70070 or donate on the Celtic FC Foundation just giving page which can be found herehttps://mydonate.bt.com/charities/celticfcfoundation

Autism is a very real problem for a huge number of people so please help.

Sadly, it is a very real problem for Joseph and his mum as theirs is an absolutely true story.

Joseph will never be Sam or Paul or Stephen or Padraig and he will never play St Andrews but you can help guys like Joseph by having a day out at the golf in Renfrew on 2nd April.

Thanks for your time.

BRTH

SCOTLAND – INTO THURSDAY AND BEYOND WHY THIS BOZO WILL BE VOTING – YES

17 Sep

A judge of my acquaintance once made a passing remark to me.

“ It’s amazing what you can see when you stop thinking like a lawyer!” he said, and went on to explain that when a committee of ten people, nine of whom were lawyers, came to consider a situation the nine lawyers all came to the same conclusion instantly and were unanimous on a course of action.

The one non lawyer was not the least intimidated by this and simply said that he saw things differently and went on to explain what he saw, why he saw it and what he thought should be done as a consequence. Needless to say it was a different course of action to that suggested by the nine lawyers.

The reaction to this dissenting voice was extra ordinary. One by one, all nine legal minds looked at the situation again, and one by one all of them came to the conclusion that their initial decision was wrong.

My friend was one of the nine, and what troubled him was that until the dissenter spoke he was convinced his initial decision was right. He was someone who regularly weighed up evidence and argument, cut the wheat from the chaff, and reached a decision.

However, in this case what bothered him was that it had become clear to him that he, as an individual, and his fellow lawyers as a group, had become almost institutionally bound to think a certain way….. and they did. All believing they were right, yet eventually coming to a conclusion that their automatic and natural response was in fact inappropriate and incorrect.

And that, he said, was scary.

That story is where I start my journey when it comes to the referendum on Scotland’s future which is set for 18th September. Have a look, consider the options, reach a decision … and then have another look and come at things differently and challenge your instinctive stance, and only once you have done that, make a final decision.

I have waited until now to write about this issue so that I can look at the entire picture, having listened to all the arguments and viewed the whole idea from a micro, macro and, dare I say it, a pub perspective.

And I have reached a conclusion. It is a conclusion that once reached I then challenged, argued against in my head and tried to talk myself out of. I have had others try to point me on a different path as well. However, I have finally reached my decision, having argued, read, researched, considered, and now at long last, I finally record my thoughts and ideas in written form below —- for all to shoot at if they so wish.

First a few statements of fact or opinion – it is not for me to judge which is the more appropriate term.

1. I am not a Nationalist per se and am more an Internationalist. I am not keen on borders, border regulations, barriers, obstacles, inward looking declarations of “ I am”, “ We are”, “ They are” or “ They will”. I am not at all sure I am keen on anything that approaches “Us” and “them”!

2. I am not anti English, anti British, anti Welsh, Irish or anti any “sh” you care to mention.

3. I am not a jingoist. I am not keen on Edward Elgar, pomp and circumstance, the beating of the great British drum, or the Scottish drum, The Empire Drum, Commonwealth Drum or any other kind of drum that is associated with a set of borders or the power to control or govern those within or outwith those borders.

4. I am not a member of the SNP. I have never joined a political party ( though in my youth I was a member of various societies that were associated to, if not affiliated with, The Labour Party.) My reluctance to join anything ( political party, trades union, gardening association, chess club or any other kind of organised plutocracy ) is based upon the fact that as sure as eggs are eggs I will eventually be expelled from the movement if I have not already resigned.
Traditionally, I am not a very good team player at anything, and I am not the best at listening to, or suffering, those who want to advance their “prospects” within any political party or movement. I am a curmudgeon when it comes to those who aspire to a career in politics.
Anyone who wants to be a politician should automatically be barred from being one!
5. I am, however, an optimist. I believe far more in the word “can” than “can’t” and when someone says “You can’t” I see that as merely an opinion that should be independently challenged before being meekly accepted. I am drawn to positive people far more than those who are perennial doubters and naysayers.

6. I cannot help being a lawyer – even although I no longer earn my living within that profession. I will read and read, stop and consider, argue and counter argue, and eventually reach a conclusion. Sometimes that is an infuriating practice however 30 plus years ago in my legal training I was told that the worst thing any lawyer can do for a client was to hedge your bets and fail to advise on a course of action. In other words, there comes a time to give an opinion: “Right, here is what we should do!” and then outline a plan and a process. Good lawyers don’t get skelves on the arse!

I have spent many years involved in the running of companies where at boardroom level you have to argue your corner, advance a strategy, be prepared to have your plan criticised, point out errors without making enemies, heal rifts, look at the short, medium and long terms and generally negotiate internally and externally.

Compromise is not a dirty word and more than one person can be right when two or more people are saying different things.

Business is business; it should be personable but not necessarily personal and stubborn intransigence will get no one anywhere. Business and politics in my opinion boil down to the art of the possible.

7. I believe I am passionate about certain things, but rarely angry, hopefully never ill-tempered, speak with a degree of confidence in support of what I believe, but never just dismiss the opinion of others. God gave us two ears and one mouth – those proportions were not an accident.

8. I believe that in approaching things you should not always put your own personal interests first. That is just the road to greedy decision-making. We are not allowed to steal, commit murder, or whatever for our own personal gain and in making any decision we should also consider others and what is right as opposed to what suits us personally.
I will not pretend for a moment that this is easy to do, and I know that such an attitude can be looked upon as sanctimonious and even twee. People will always consider what is best for them and their families, but that should never be the only consideration when thinking about Government, social justice and what is best for the country as a whole. And by country, I mean Scotland as well as the rest of the UK.
That is what I believe, and to be frank, if you have a problem with that please feel perfectly free to go and commit an act that should be physically impossible, requires being well endowed, double jointed and extremely supple but which should give you lots of pleasure. Good luck to you in your efforts!

9. Wealth is not solely measured in pounds shillings and pence ( or any other currency you care to mention ). Banks, Big Business, PLC’s, and Companies in general look after the interests of their shareholders. They require to balance the books and pay a dividend as opposed to looking at social welfare, or have any concerns about the civic community as a corporate goal. Of course many companies try to do both and succeed to a greater or lesser extent. Government, is, or at least should be, different. It is not just about money, balance sheets, share prices and figures.

10. Government is about people, systems, rights, powers, checks, balances, representation, accountability and the common good. Banks, Corporations, Companies, Political Parties, Politicians, Statisticians, Clergymen, Fitba Teams, pantomime Dames and every other bugger then operates within that system of Government and then, and only then, can they bring their talents ( or lack of them ) to the fore for the benefit of the people – who in turn give them money – or votes – or abuse – in return for their services and actions.

It is the system of Government and the accountability of Government that comes first and foremost. Abraham Lincoln called it correct at Gettysburg and no one has ever improved upon his “Government of the people, by the people and for the people” philosophy – not in a democracy anyway.

11. Lastly, and most importantly, I am not always right and many people, good people, will have a view that is different to mine and they will be entitled to it. My view carries no more weight than the next man’s ( or woman’s ) and I do not write these words with a view to persuading anyone to my way of thinking, but more towards recording how I came to my own conclusions.

So, with a thousand or so words out of the way, why will I vote YES?

Quite simply because I believe that the system of Government in the UK does not work, and I think that becoming Independent provides the people and the businesses of Scotland with a real opportunity to live and work in a better system.

Further, I think the entire campaign to persuade us to vote no in this debate absolutely highlights all that is wrong in our political system and why our current system of Government does not work.

It does not work for Scotland, England, Wales or Northern Ireland. In fact it doesn’t work for anywhere on the planet – even the city of London itself ( which is to blame for many a thing ) and so it must be changed as staying still and preserving the status quo is a non starter for all of us.

And before anyone shouts “ Devo Max” or any such thing – hey—that is a nonstarter. It has not been offered and in the last days of the campaign the leaders of the Westminster parties have realised that they have made a cod of it and are now offering something, somewhere sometime – they just don’t know what. They offer anything to retain power in Westminster – typical pathetic UK politics.

Back across the border, there are already those among their party rank and file who might just have something to say about what has been offered by the three party leaders and it is pretty plain to me that what the three amigos have allegedly offered will probably not be delivered by their parties in session, or by the Westminster Parliament.

Anyway, to other things.

INDEPENDENCE is no more than a word.

Different people can use the same word and mean many different things.

In this instance I believe that what we are talking about is a degree of political independence that is not at this time available to the Scottish electorate. Although it was previously available to the Scottish Parliament AND within the United Kingdom.

There is no such thing as complete political Independence, nor is there any possibility of complete monetary independence, in the modern world. So if Scotland votes YES what I think we will see and should strive for is greater and fairer INTERDEPENDENCE with our neighbours, with Europe and with the rest of the world.

Independence is an idea and an ideal, and how you make that idea and ideal a practical reality is what really counts.

So, what are we voting for on 18th September?

My answer is that we are voting for the idea of Independence and the RIGHT OF INDEPENDENCE (not the practicalities and the detail – they are to come and to evolve if we vote yes) and to change the existing system of Government.

Most importantly we are voting to completely change the substance and style of Government – not just in Scotland but in the UK as a whole.

We are not voting for any political party or any particular politician, and to vote NO because you don’t like Alex Salmond, The SNP, Wee Nicola, Paddy Harvey, Brian Cox, Tommy Sheridan or whoever is just plain daft.

You don’t decide to not buy a car or a house because you didn’t like the salesman. You might go to another garage, but you buy the model you want.

Equally, it is also daft to vote NO because of the style, tactics, dress sense, singing voice or because of the ugliness of any of these people.

None of that affects the system of Government under consideration.

It would be equally daft to vote yes because you don’t like George Galloway’s hat, David Cameron’s voice or, Alastair Darling’s eyebrows or whatever.

They themselves are an irrelevance as it is the issues and the opportunity which counts.

There are many who argue that you cannot vote YES without knowing the detail, the facts and figures, and a clear note of what we will and will not do, can and cannot do in an Independent Scotland? As a consequence they chose to vote NO with a view to preserving stability as they see it.

I understand the dilemma; appreciate the concerns and the worries when there is no immediate definite answer to fundamental questions. People are afraid of “into infinity and beyond” but I question that approach.

In so doing I have come to examine the evidence and consider the arguments proffered by both the yes and the no camps, and maybe some others that have been mooted by no one.

Since 1945, 142 countries have come into being as Independent states. Not one has sought to reverse the process. Not all of them started out with a definitive idea or road map for getting to where they are now. They evolved, went back to the polls, elected Governments after independence, voted on policies, kicked Governments out and selected new ones.

30 of those countries became Independent following upon referendums, others as a result of internal armed conflict, or war, or some other route.

In the course of history it has quite often been the case that the guys that lead a country to Independence were more or less immediately booted out of power as soon as Independence had been gained as they had served their purpose. Hang on to that notion!

However, all these new nations changed after independence. All eventually morphed into the representative countries we have today. The latest European countries arrived in 2006 when Serbia and Montenegro separated. In 2011 South Sudan was created.

So why shouldn’t Scotland want the “Idea” of Independence and could it work practically?

Well, again I would argue that Scotland has always been a nation. It has a distinct ancient physical geography. A distinct people. A distinct History. A distinct political and social make up when compared to the rest of the UK.

Scotland has a GDP that is greater than that of many Independent countries ( Ireland is an example ). It has an educated and skilful population, a tier of Government that could be extended without too much difficulty, a distinct International and Cultural Identity and a set of resources and assets like no other country of its size which combine in a unique formation making it undoubtedly viable as a stand alone independent country if left to its own devices.

Now, if you are in any doubt about whether Scotland could go it alone in terms of finance there is a whole welter of opinion that says that this is so. Nobel prize winning economists, world bankers, analysts from the Financial Times and other publications, University Professors and leading academics and many industry chiefs all say that Scotland can be, and has the tools to be, a successful financial country.

Then of course there is the McCrone report which, having been prepared for the Westminster Government in 1974, stated that if Scotland were to control all of its oil income and become independent ( politically ) it would be a haven for international investors and would be embarrassingly rich.

Of course the McCrone report was shamelessly hidden away on the orders of Harold Wilson so that no one in the UK could read it and was only released into the public domain after a period of thirty years.

Not that it received the national or international attention that it might have deserved when it was released.

I will come back to that report later.

So, new Independent countries are nothing new. They have emerged pretty regularly over the last 60-70 years and the world has kept spinning on its access and the sky hasn’t fallen in. Further it would appear that Scotland is pretty well equipped to become Independent if it wants to – so what’s the big deal?

Given that it has happened before, and will no doubt happen again elsewhere, surely the question we should be asking surrounding Independence is why not?

I mean in pure democratic terms it must be obvious that a single vote in 5 Million or so is more valuable than a single vote in 70 Million?

Who would not want their vote to be worth more than yesterday on a purely democratic numbers basis?

So, if it can be done, has been done elsewhere, and some pretty clever people say that it could be done successfully, then why not?

For me, the only sensible answer to that question would have to be “ Because you are better not to!” – so off I went to see if it would be better not to become Independent as a point of principle and to look at the pragmatics of implementing the principle should we vote YES.

But before I went too far, the old legal head kicked in and asked a straight forward legal question which every retired and practising court practitioner has faced a thousand times.

On whom does the balance of proof lie? Or in other words is there an onus on someone to persuade me to opt for Independence or is the onus on someone to persuade me to keep the current system and so vote NO to Independence?

After thinking about it, I came to the conclusion that my starting point had to be the current system of Government and whether or not it was worth preserving. As I looked into Government in the UK in 2014, I concluded that it does not work, is a busted flush and has no prospect of recovering from a terminal position without radical surgery. At the bottom of this essay I list the sources I have looked at and relied upon to reach my conclusions. Yes, I know that there are other sources and that some point to an alternative view, but on balance this is the argument I favour and why.

The more I looked into things the more I became convinced that this system of Government is objectionable and simply does not work in principle or in practice and therefore has to be changed and yes is a vote for change. And by the way that change has to come for the benefit of the people of England, Wales and Northern Ireland not just Scotland.

Here is why:

Westminster itself has the lowest council tax in the whole of the UK and is one of the richest areas in Northern Europe. Yet 9 of the 10 poorest areas in Northern Europe are governed by Westminster. 21st century Britain is glaringly unjust and getting worse.

Does that seem like good Government?
Is it Government of the people, for the people, by the people?

The gap between rich and poor in the UK is amongst the greatest in the developed world and it is getting bigger.

Is this acceptable?

Many people in England, Wales and elsewhere all think that the City of London is dangerously over cooked in terms of its economy and that for a long time Westminster Government has meant Government for London, by London, and in the interests of London – and to hell with everyone else.

The other large cities all around England and Wales have all called for an end to London centric Government and are seeking new devolved powers themselves so that they can gain a degree of autonomy for their cities.

Further, some areas of England feel completely overlooked by Westminster Government altogether. Cornwall has its own Independence movement and the areas and cities in the north of England have expressed a desire to forge closer links to an Independent Scotland should we vote yes. They propose a borderlands pact to improve trade and commerce.

Does this smack of good Government? Representative Government from Westminster?

Government from Westminster appears to have become more and more London centric with many areas of England becoming increasingly disenchanted with Westminster Government. Yet the “institutions” do nothing to support social justice and a fair crack of the whip outside London. There have been at least three BBC news pieces over the last few years which have suggested that London itself is so strong financially that it should perhaps become Independent of the rest of the UK.

Increasingly the Westminster Government appears to be a Government from London for London aided and abetted by the role of the Mayor of London – currently Boris Johnson.

Mr Johnson has already revealed plans to have Westminster spend £1.3 Trillion ( the same amount as the entire UK Debt ) on improving the infrastructure for London. This sum is to be spent between now and 2050.

He is also famous for saying that £1 spent in Croydon is worth more to the UK than £1 spent in Strathclyde and that if you want to create jobs in Scotland then invest in Croydon.

Increasingly the politics of Westminster reflects the need to protect the structure and infrastructure of London and the financial interests of the city of London. It is remote from almost everywhere else in the UK and that feeling is very strong in Scotland in my opinion.

The proposed West Cost High Speed Train Line between London and Birmingham will cost £46 Billion approximately and Scotland under the current formula will contribute £4.6 Billion of that cost for absolutely no benefit.

Why? To be part of a union where you feel ignored?

That entire project is designed to get people from Birmingham into London quicker and easier — to go to work. The Government will not spend £46 Billion in and around Birmingham to create jobs, but will spend it to help service the jobs market in London.

London does not create enough graduates and so there is an ever-increasing brain drain of graduates and talented individuals who have to go to London from elsewhere in the UK to find employment and it is not in the interests of the City of London to have the Westminster Government invest in the regions ( including Scotland ) and so stem that flow.

In other words when it comes to Job creation, investment initiatives, and overall Government spend. London is our competitor and not our ally – yet it controls OUR purse strings! Everybody’s purse strings.

Not only that, but the City of London is the only city in the UK who has its own official Westminster officer – The Remembrancer – who sits behind the Speaker in the House of Commons and whose job is to remind the Westminster Parliament and all its officials and members of the interests of the City of London when it comes to any policy or enactment. In other words, in every single piece of legislation, great or small, the interests of the city have to be considered!

No other part of the UK enjoys such Parliamentary privilege.

The City of London is all about profit and loss, gain and financial advantage and it is only superficially interested in Scotland if there is a profit to be made — or not as the case may be.

The City of London is all about the big commercial interests much of which is represented by many household names — Lloyds, Barclays, HSBC, Nat West, The Financial Times, BP, Shell, RBOS, and all the other big BIG companies you can think of – they are all part of, and play a role in, The City of London and its infrastructure and interests.

Traditional industries in Scotland, such as shipbuilding, have diminished or disappeared over the last 30 years. Scotland makes not a single motor car. We have no steel plant, no heavy industry to speak of – when we used to have these skills.

That is a consequence of LONDON Government.

London Government is about the best price for everything and the maximum profit – that is why the latest Navy Tankers are being built in Korea and not on the Clyde or in Belfast or on Tyneside.

London would build it themselves but they don’t have a shipyard! So the Government goes to the cheapest one they can find. No thought is given to the social infrastructure of the rest of the UK it is all about the best price.

That is not Government: That is consumerism: and I don’t vote to elect the winning contestant on the price is right or bargain hunt. I want a Government!

And preferably one that does not regularly, if not constantly, lie through its teeth!

By now everyone has heard it said that Scotland receives a great deal under the Barnett formula and that “England” or Westminster subsidise the standard of living in Scotland.

But when looked at closely, it would appear that this is not the case at all and that the formula itself is skewed and gives a skewed result as a consequence.

Further, Scotland has some really poor standard of living statistics and of course in recent years we have seen the rise and rise of food banks and real poverty. Child poverty, poor life expectancy, and areas of real deprivation are very much in existence in 2014

Is this really the best that wealthy Westminster can do for us?

Yet we are constantly told by wee Eck and others that Scotland could be a seriously rich country, so I had a look at that and found considerable support for that contention.

Not only that, the notion that we were subsidised by England appeared to be the exact opposite of what some economists and commentators were saying.

For the last 32 years, it would appear that the Westminster Government has failed to balance its book and ran at a loss. However, to keep the show on the road, it would appear that the Westminster Government came up with the plan of borrowing against future revenues – especially the oil and gas revenues from the natural resources which were located in Scottish waters.

Now, this may have been a fair enough accounting and fiscal policy if we were all in the UK together on an equal basis, or even a fair basis so to speak, but somehow or other the Westminster parties have allowed the myth to grow that the Scots are subsidised by the other countries in the UK and in calculating our contribution to the whole we are given no credit for any oil and gas taxes. While Westminster practices policies which make London and the South East appear to get ever richer in monetary terms, the further north you come from London the greater the obvious poverty in other areas.

This gap is now so great, so wanton, so obvious that it simply cannot be an accident and simply cannot be allowed to continue.

Now in the course of the debate I read constantly that Oil and Gas is a diminishing resource and that it will eventually run out and so produce no income. In which case the UK as a whole had better balance its books really quickly on a current term basis and reduce its borrowing rapidly thus forcing ever greater austerity on the populace.

Yet others say that there is still oil aplenty, in which case its value should not be squandered by a system which has allowed any previous wealth to result in some getting extremely rich whilst leaving others in obvious abject poverty.

I can either choose to believe there is going to be no oil or believe that there is every chance that there are increased oil and gas reserves in the North Sea and more likely in the Atlantic waters off Shetland.

Fortunately or unfortunately I know some people in the oil industry and they have told me that there is real excitement about the oil and gas discovered near Shetland and BP have indicated that the Clare ridge field is expected to produce 49 Million barrels of oil more than expected. Further, the investment in new exploration over the last few years means that in the coming year there will be an extra 750,000 barrels of oil coming on stream this year.

However, of even greater importance is the advancement in technology which makes the recovery of oil and gas from deeper areas much easier and more viable than before.

But let’s assume for a moment the oil is running out and that there is to be no income from oil and gas.

I am old enough to remember the previous referendum on the question of devolution when the people of Scotland were told by Westminster that the oil would run out within ten years.

Yet that same parliament, the same UK parties, were sitting all the time on the McCrone report which I remind you again said that Scotland would be an embarrassingly rich country if given access to its oil revenues.

Not only were those facts not given to us, the public, but they were also kept from all the potential investors who could have and probably would have chosen to invest in Scotland over the last 40 years!

Scotland lost out on that investment because politicians of all parties in London, together with civil servants who we all pay for, sat on that report and deliberately kept it secret!

Instead, what de facto happened was that Scotland did not get a devolved assembly or Parliament for 20 years or so and in the interim the UK Parliament spent away merrily and mortgaged the very income they chose to keep secret at the time of the last referendum.

To be honest that is just blatant fraud. It is fraudulent representation and fraudulent Government. That kind of Government I can do without.

Now one might argue that this was long ago and that it no longer really matters, but I am left begging the question do I want to be governed by a system which allows and perhaps encourages the decision makers of the day to simply lie to me or at the worst simply decide to withhold all the information from me which would allow me to reach a fully informed decision about anything?

However, a closer examination of current policies and the current campaign shows that this type of fraudulent and dishonest Government is far from untypical and in fact I believe that Westminster is now so self-obsessed, so self-serving, that it has ceased to be a Parliament of the union and instead has become a Parliament for Westminster and the City of London alone.

A couple of years ago, the 30 year rule revealed papers which showed that the then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, had gone to the nation, the public, and even Parliament, and stated that the budget for Scotland was £x. The papers then showed that behind the scenes she was secretly writing to the Scottish Secretary, George Younger, asking that he pass back £60 Million of that money to the UK treasury in secret.

Amazingly, Younger advised that he could not do that without it being noticed, but stated that he could send back £30 Million under the counter and get away with it!

That again is complete and utter fraud. There is no other word for it.

Forget about reneging on election promises, u turns on policy and all the usual things we get in politics, these letters show a crime being committed. If the same thing had happened in private industry whereby people were encouraged to invest on the basis of a major stakeholder saying they will invest £x but secretly having no such intention and then cooking the books to show that it looked like they had, then that is a matter for the police and the procurator fiscal’s office.

However, let’s come forward to the modern day:

According to one former UK Ambassador, Westminster buried the fact that they categorically knew that there were no Weapons of Mass Destruction under the control of Saddam Hussein and the entire decision to embark on the gulf war was based on a race to gain control of ……. Oil!

In a different way this is history repeating itself. It is all about the control of an energy resource and if Westminster has to lie, deceive and even take up arms to get its share of the loot then history shows it will do so. Make no mistake we still have major energy resources in our back yard and there is no prospect of Westminster playing with a straight bat.

However perhaps of even greater concern is the fact that Westminster and the City of London are responsible, unquestionably responsible, for the 2008 banking crisis and the Euro crisis.

Don’t just take my word for it, take the word of someone who is regarded as the most respected EURO MP on financial matters – Sharon Bowles. By the way she is a Lib Dem and has made it clear that London is to blame for the financial crisis and that the Bank of England and the Government has accepted this when dealing with the rest of Europe and their banks. They just don’t want to admit the fact within the earshot of the UK electorate.

London and the City of London is in many respects looked upon and referred to as FRAUD CITY in financial terms.

The City of London hopelessly failed to regulate banks, insurance companies, stockbrokers and any number of other financial institutions and services. Years later, these same institutions are still being fined record sums for mis selling that, misrepresenting this, and generally deceiving customers and shareholders. Yet these are the same institutions who lobby parliament, donate to parliamentary parties and who influence the parties who regularly provide members to that parliament and who regularly form Governments.

MP’s themselves are caught up in the Westminster moneygoround. I could go on and on about the expenses scandals, monetary irregularities, party donors and their connections and so on as they have all been regularly mentioned in the news.

However, if I bring things right up to date, a few weeks ago it was revealed that over 200 MP’s or members of the Lords ( an outdated and relatively useless institution ) had direct contracts with companies who had been awarded contracts related to the NHS as effectively managed through Westminster.

If this is not having your nose in the trough then I don’t know what is?

When you consider all the other areas where contracts may be awarded – defence, utilities, education ( by the way did you know that the company which produces the financial times also produces education books, and operates an education authority which recommends its own books ) etc then the mind boggles about the notion of conflict of interest.

There are any number of examples of where Westminster completely fails in my opinion and so I ask:

Is this the best we can do? Is this the kind of policy and structure that I want my children and grandchildren to live under? Is this a good system of Government? Is this what we should expect from the Mother of all Parliaments?

The answer to all of those questions is no.

And don’t tell me that I can vote at the next election and get rid of Cameron or all the other Westminster MP’s. By this time the main political parties are so closely aligned, so attuned to the Westminster psyche and system, and so beholden to the financial institutions of the City of London that it makes little difference who is elected to Westminster especially if you come from Scotland.

At the start of the current Government’s term we had the farcical situation where 16 members of the cabinet went to the one school!

That is not representation of the people by the people for the people that is a tuck shop reunion! It is farcical.

From the selection process to the election process our Governmental system needs a swift kick in the arse – big style and this referendum is that opportunity.

Westminster is currently bent over like Bishop Brennan with its arse exposed and you are invited to swing your representational leg and give it an almighty boot!

Not only will that make you feel good, you will be better for it and actually Westminster will ultimately be better for it too!

Now lest I am accused of being too facetious about such a serious subject, one of the the best arguments for maintaining the status quo would be the effect of disruption and the consequences of change especially after a global recession.

On that front, I find the No campaign deeply disingenuous and absolutely lacking in any positive argument or thinking which can reasonably expected to persuade the Scottish electorate that the United Kingdom is good for them.

Instead, what we have been fed is a whole series of arguments which proclaim one thing but which when examined more closely really show another.

For example, the point about banks moving office is a complete red herring as it is in potential compliance with an EU regulation which has been around since 1995!

Further many American banks are making similar provisions in respect of the UK potentially leaving the UK – they are going to Dublin!

In any change of system there is going to be a need for change, and when there is change then the so-called “markets” start to get twitchy.

Well guess who controls the markets in this country? I know you will fall down in apoplexy when I say – Westminster and the City of London!

I too would be shitting a brick if I could see the oil & gas revenue I have been using to balance my books disappearing into the ballot box.

Just when would be a good time to talk about the consequences of Independence? At what point in the economic cycle? Top of a boom? Bottom of a bust? When we are recovering? When we are sliding into recession?

In all honesty, there is no right time or wrong time or even easy time to set out the arrangements for a new country but that should not be a reason for voting NO.

Further, the uncertainty is at least aggravated by a Westminster regime which is playing hardball and being obstructive in its own interest.

Now I don’t blame them for that but lets not pretend that market uncertainty is all caused by the right of an electorate to choose to change the system of Government and let’s not pretend that the existing system of Government is a guarantee of stability and promises an easy economic ride.

When you stop and look at Westminster over the last 50 years ( I am 52 ) there have been as many booms as you get from the dearly departed Concorde’s arse and as many busts as you could spot in a Miss World contest.

I was in the head offices of the Bank of Scotland in London in April 2008 when a bank official announced that the Bank could not borrow a penny in the city of London and was a busted flush.

I was a schoolboy who lived through the three-day week when schools closed due to lack of oil and the electricity went off at home at 8pm. I studied by candlelight and recall the streets filled with uncollected garbage and all of that.

I have lived through the Miner’s strikes, Toxteth riots, London riots, Falkland’s War, Gulf war times two, Afghanistan, various recessions and can recount various politicians of various parties all promising to end boom and bust.

As I have said before, the City of London was largely responsible for the financial collapse of 2008 and they have sent their officials around the other financial centres of the world to acknowledge that.

And now we have Boris wanting to buy a few water cannon for some reason? Maybe they are included in his £1.3 Trillion for London — by the way Scotland’s share is a mere £130 Billion.

If Scotland had £130 Billion to spend do you think it would want to spend it in London so that Scotland could be a better place with a more vibrant economy?

London Government does not work – and I haven’t even started on things like the Poll Tax, The Bedroom tax, Hundreds of food banks, Trident ( a weapon which prevented none of the conflicts listed above ) and so on and so forth.

Government from London is out of touch and is particularly out of touch with Scotland. It is rotten and unrepresentative. So why keep it? Why not ditch it altogether?

Well some people say that to change things will cause a destabilising of the whole economy.

Again I ask, what happened with all these other new countries? Are they all on their backside struggling? It doesn’t seem so.

In any event, I believe that Scotland has a unique case to argue.

If Scotland votes Yes, economic stability in any transition period could be, and in fact must be, far smoother in the interests of all of the people in the UK as it makes for common sense. Here is why it should be so at least.

In 1603, the kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland were united in a personal union when James VI, King of Scots, inherited the crowns of England and Ireland and moved his court from Edinburgh to London; each country nevertheless remained a separate political entity and retained its separate political, legal, and religious institutions.

The term Britain is often used as synonym for the United Kingdom. The term Great Britain, by contrast, refers conventionally to the island of Great Britain, or politically to England, Scotland and Wales in combination.

The 1707 Acts of Union declared that the Kingdoms of England and Scotland were “United into One Kingdom by the Name of Great Britain” though the new state is also referred to in the Acts as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and the United Kingdom. The name “United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland” was adopted by the Royal and Parliamentary Titles Act 1927. It reflected the independence of the Irish Free State, and the partition of Ireland, in 1922, which left Northern Ireland as the only part of the island of Ireland within the UK.

So, if I pause there and stop to consider all the loose worded bullshit we have been inaccurately fed by both politicians and the press, the fact of the matter is that:

A – no matter what way Scotland votes it is not ceasing to be part of Great Britain and:

B – following upon the Union of the Crowns there was a United Kingdom, under one monarch, in which Scotland had its own Parliament, legal system and so forth and was politically Independent. That is the History of the British Isles.

Therefore these Islands existed in that fashion and with that political make up for over 100 years.

If it happened before, why should it not happen now?

Oh that is all ancient history I hear someone say and has no relevance at all to modern day Scotland and the current situation.

With respect, I would beg to differ as there are important principles here for all to consider.

For a start, The Bank of England was founded in 1694 although it had been proposed three years before by a Scotsman by the name of William Patterson. Its initial purpose was to raise a loan of £1.2 Million for the English Parliament so that they could completely build a new English Navy following the battle of Beachy Head where the French sank the entire English fleet.

Two important factors come from this history lesson.

The first is that the Bank of England existed prior to the Union of the Parliaments in 1707 and so existed while Scotland enjoyed complete political autonomy.

The second is that The Bank of England remained a completely private concern until it was nationalised by the Atlee Government in 1946. It was only at that time that it became a central bank to the whole of the UK.

The Bank is custodian to the official gold reserves of the United Kingdom and many other countries. Since 1998 it has been the function of the bank to set, look after and advise on the monetary policy of the whole of the UK independent from Government – any Government.

The Bank performs all the functions of a central bank. The most important of these is supposed to be maintaining price stability and supporting the economic policies of the Government ( of the UK ), thus promoting economic growth. There are two main areas which are tackled by the Bank to ensure it carries out these functions efficiently

1. Monetary stability

Stable prices and confidence in the currency are the two main criteria for monetary stability. Stable prices are maintained by making sure price increases meet the Government’s inflation target. The Bank aims to meet this target by adjusting the base interest rate, which is decided by the Monetary Policy Committee, and through its communications strategy, such as publishing yield curves.

Ensuring Financial stability

Maintaining financial stability involves protecting against threats to the whole financial system. Threats are detected by the Bank’s surveillance and market intelligence functions. The threats are then dealt with through financial and other operations, both at home and abroad. In exceptional circumstances, the Bank may act as the lender of last resort by extending credit when no other institution will.

The Bank works together with other institutions to secure both monetary and financial stability, including:

HM Treasury, the Government department responsible for financial and economic policy and other central banks and international organisations, ( including Governments where necessary ) with the aim of improving the international financial system.

The 1997 Memorandum of Understanding describes the terms under which the Bank, the Treasury and the FSA work toward the common aim of increased financial stability. In 2010 the incoming Chancellor announced his intention to merge the FSA back into the Bank.

So, if I pause there, to my mind, The Bank of England has a duty to ensure financial stability in respect of the whole of the UK, independent from Government, and works towards that aim sometimes with other banks, international bodies and occasionally Governments.

Further, as it was nationalised as recently as 1946 by a UK Government, it is a truly UK asset in which we all have a vested interest and share.

Whilst it might be officially named “ Bank of England” it is not England’s bank – it is the UK’s bank.

So far so good.

Except that part of the greatest problem with the whole public debate is that there are those who take the view that the Bank of England would have nothing to do with an Independent Scotland and is in essence a “foreign body”.

I do not believe that to be true as it is a national asset, and so has to have regard to the interests of Scotland, at least certainly during the transition period and any negotiations following a Yes vote.

There is also a perfectly good argument to say that an Independent Scotland would be entitled to a share in the Bank of England or at least to its reserves – reserves which could be moved to set up a new Central Bank for Scotland or which could be held separately by the Bank of England for the benefit of Scotland.

However, of even greater importance is the fact that its stated aim is to preserve and maintain fiscal stability – throughout the UK, not just in London – and again that is meant to be Independent of Government – any Government.

Accordingly, it seems to me that one of the big red herrings in this whole debate is about financial stability and the role to be played by the Bank of England in ensuring financial stability in the event of Scotland choosing to return to political independency.

Has there ever been an emergent country which, if independent, starts on day one with either a share in a central bank or which starts out with a situation where a world leading central bank has a duty to bring about financial stability while that nation becomes established?

How many other potentially emergent nations would sign up for that?

However, let’s leave the Bank of England behind and look at Government and the decision to keep it or change it again.

When the Parliaments “merged” to form this union, Scotland was meant to join as a partner. However, it strikes me that it has long been the case that the Westminster Government has ceased to be anything other than a Parliament that looks after the interests of the City of London, and it would appear that I am far from being alone in reaching that conclusion.

Westminster has devolved power to Edinburgh, but only after a prolonged political campaign to re- establish any kind of Scottish Parliament. In the interim, London, Westminster and the City of London has forged ever closer and ever more interdependent links.

In particular London has become spectacularly rich, an ever bigger financial centre, and a metropolitan beast where house prices bear no relation to comparative properties in other areas of the UK. To stay in London companies have to offer greater salaries, bigger bonuses, charge higher rents and so on and so forth and on and on it goes. This has now gotten so crazy that London cannot afford to lose influence, and both the city and the parliament have become fat, arrogant and lazy – so much so that they have, in my opinion, made a fundamental political and economic error.

Much of that fat has been the result of Scottish Economic activity and the issue of potential Scottish Independence has been a real live issue for many years.

Any sensible manager should have seen that if Independence arrived, the desk jockeys in London would lose control over vast money-making assets and money-making potential that is Scottish. The same should have been seen by the Westminster politicians.

In short, if the money men and the politicians in Westminster had been in any way clever at all, they would have bent over backwards to deliver far better Government for the people of Scotland – noticeably better Government—to such an extent that the notion of Independence would be of no interest to the average Scot.

The very fact that we are having a referendum at all shows that Westminster is or was failing and the fact that anything close to 50% of the available electorate would consider ditching Westminster altogether shows that this system has de facto failed – past tense!

Further, when it comes to banking and finance, it appears to me that whenever a new nation emerges the banks and the finance houses are keen to get in the door so as to be part of any opportunity that exists.

Who has ever heard of a country with oil and gas reserves, large hydroelectric capability, and various other resources where the banks and the money men have all stayed away and kept out of the road?

I go back to the McCrone report again which predicted that foreign investors would pile into Scotland with investment. If McCrone was wrong and that the world financiers would not pile into a Scotland with spectacular resources, why hide the report away?

No, for me, Westminster in all its forms has been asleep at the wheel when it comes to Scotland and its potential, and when it woke up all it could do was cry Boo and attempt to scare the living daylights out of anyone contemplating voting YES.

Westminster doesn’t work. It doesn’t work in any shape or form and it should be booted into touch by the Scottish Voters and if it wants it can reinvent itself – Parliament, city, institution in the reality that up the road there is a wee nation that at any given time will say “ Maybe’s Aye, Maybe’s Naw” in response to any situation rather than just sit there and be told what gives by the chaps in the South.

However, let me be very clear about something:

There is no point in voting yes and getting rid of the wastrels at Westminster if all you are going to do is replace it with a similar, smaller, just as useless model in Edinburgh.

That won’t do and if Scotland does become Independent then I am all for booting any YES politician in the arse who is not on their metal and who does not come up to scratch. The same goes when it comes to setting up any new or reformed institutions. Having empowered the people of Scotland, don’t think for a minute that we should go back into our boxes and return to political slumberland. Ordinary folk will want a say in a lot more things from now on and rightly so.

Further, in the event of YES I want to hear how the Labour party, The Conservative Party, The Lib Dems and anyone else would see the way forward for an Independent Scotland.

I would want to see and hear all parties do their utmost to implement the spirit of the Scotland Act which says that not only will the result be accepted but that all parties will do their best to maintain stability in the markets, in Government and in society – all with the view to making the transition to independence work.

A very different debate starts immediately the result is known no matter what the outcome of the vote. That is a discussion which will be every bit as intense as the referendum debate, but which should be geared towards creating a stable, economically stable, socially just and successful Scotland.

A very prosperous Scotland is very possible according to very many experts and commentators and my gut instinct based on listening, reading and researching says that it is achievable. Not only is it achievable and desirable for all the reasons I have set out above, but when I stop thinking like the lawyer, when I stop analysing, arguing and counter arguing and look at things a different way, it just feels right.

Do we have the ability to forge excellent individual, business and cultural relationships with the rest of the UK, Europe and beyond?

Yes we do!

Can we run our own business and forge partnerships with international traders and our fellow inhabitants of the British Isles?

Yes we can.

Do we have the resources, the knowledge, the guile, the savvy, the charm and the common sense to be able to attract investment, manage our business, create jobs, housing, capital projects, better infrastructure, research and development, greater creativity in the arts and so on?

Yes I believe we can.

Can we create a better society where wealth and opportunity here in Scotland is more readily abundant and available to all ages, classes, colours, creeds, backgrounds, areas, sexes and right throughout society? And can we be an inspiration and show that a different and more socially just system of Government is possible in the UK?

Yes we can!

Do I believe that the banks and the financiers will come into an Independent Scotland in droves?

Yes I do because that is what the capitalist marketeers have always done since time immemorial. They more than anyone else will rush to create and be involved in a stable financially successful Scotland because that is how they make money. They would have to be properly regulated of course.

A man from Kuwait said recently that oil exploitation had started in his country in 1951. Before that the country had been poor and the standard of living low. Once the oil was discovered, Kuwait was inundated with Americans, Russians, fellow Arabs, Europeans and most noticeably The British.

All these people brought their banks, diplomats, insurance companies, engineers, road builders, construction companies, hotels, airlines, telecommunications, news reporters and so on.

The man from Kuwait asked a question; “Do you think all these bastards came for the sand?”

Scotland has far more than just oil to attract the very same bastards into doing business directly with us as a nation while maintaining an excellent cultural, social and fiscal relationship with the remainder of the UK. And by the way a proper relationship with the rest of the UK and its people is a must. The Scottish electorate by voting yes can improve the governmental system of the rest of the UK.

So that is my view, my take, on why I will vote YES.

In my head I am a capitalist. I like business things. I enjoy business and it is essential that everything is done to ensure that Scotland is open for business right away.

In my heart, I am a socialist. I want a fairer society, a better society where money is not everything and regard for your fellow-man is paramount. Robert Burns’ a man’s a man is a basic mantra.

In my soul, I am an anarchist. If the system does not work – change the system. Boot it unceremoniously in the arse. Boot the politicos – all of them – who have let us down right in the gonads. Get rid of the system and don’t be afraid to change it and the people who run it for a new system and new people. Don’t accept the perceived wisdom of the establishment because their greatest interest is self-preservation. Challenge the norm and question the existing.

I see those three ideals as living in perfect harmony.

If the proper running of the business of the day ( capitalism ) does not result in the greater creation and sharing of wealth ( socialism ) then tear up the business plan and the system and start again ( anarchy ).

Feck me – sometimes I am deep and profound – other times I am just an arse!

And by the way the press needs a boot in the nuts too! The BBC should look at their licence fee take from Scotland and reassess the allocation of funds to Scottish Broadcasting.

If the licence fee were properly distributed and BBC Scotland were to receive its fair proportion of national income, then there is a great opportunity in the creative industries across Scotland who are completely ignored and underfunded by one and all.

Oh, and if you are wee Eck, Nicola or any other Yesser – if you win then you had better go out and get some of those padded cycle pants because eventually my cowboy boots will connect with your arses too!

Lastly – whoever wins, whoever loses – this is politics. It’s not personal and it’s not worth losing close friendships over nor being rude to anyone about.

Mind you, if you hold any position of power and influence after this referendum is over then I have a message for you:

If you don’t get off your arse and do something for the people of Clydebank, Dalmuir, Old Kilpatrick, Bowling and Dumbarton really quickly ….….. then I hope your legs fall off in the middle of the night and that your arse falls into a puddle of acid!

I leave you with my list of references below but first of all the fantastic and inspiring words of Mr David Hayman who stirs the soul with fiery speech — and i love a good fiery speech!

I have never joined a political party — I have always been —- Of Independent Mind!

http://www.newsnetscotland.com/index.php/scottish-opinion/9527-21st-century-britain-is-glaringly-unjust-and-getting-worse

http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/scotland-blog/2013/aug/21/scotland-northernengland-cooperation

http://www.heraldscotland.com/politics/referendum-news/big-english-cities-seek-closer-ties-with-scots.24166491

http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/35199/BERWICK-ROW-SPILLS-INTO-SEA

http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/aug/10/scotland-land-rights

http://www.maxkeiser.com/2013/04/how-the-legacy-of-thatcher-and-reagan-made-the-2008-financial-crisis-inevitable/

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/economics/9577166/Europe-blames-UK-for-the-eurozone-debt-crisis-says-MEP-Sharon-Bowles.html

http://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/westminster-steals-wandsworths-crown-for-lowest-council-tax-in-uk-8523048.html

http://yes2014.net/2014/05/12/welfare-powers-will-not-be-devolved-if-scotland-votes-no/

http://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/westminster-steals-wandsworths-crown-for-lowest-council-tax-in-uk-8523048.html

http://www.ingeniousbritain.biz/money/mid-sized-cities-looking-to-take-advantage-of-londons-high-prices/

http://www.standard.co.uk/comment/iain-martin-this-referendum-will-change-the-union-for-ever-9355949.html

http://www.businessforscotland.co.uk/5-reasons-why-an-independent-scotland-will-be-one-of-the-worlds-wealthiest-nations/

http://betteroffday1.blogspot.co.uk/

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jun/13/scottish-independence-change-england-more-jk-rowling

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/gordon-macintyrekemp/scottish-independence-bank-bailout_b_4895234.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/20/opinion/sunday/The-Independence-Referendum-Is-a-Test-of-Scotlands-Confidence.html?smid=tw-share&_r=0

http://nationalcollective.com/2014/08/04/11-common-sense-reasons-to-vote-yes/
http://weegingerdug.wordpress.com/2014/07/13/labours-six-unanswered-questions/

http://www.businessforscotland.co.uk/westminster-takes-absurd-position-on-scotlands-oil/

http://www.businessforscotland.co.uk/5-reasons-why-an-independent-scotland-will-be-one-of-the-worlds-wealthiest-nations/

http://www.cityam.com/1406740920/how-13-trillion-needs-be-spent-infrastructure-by-2050-stay-competitive

http://www.businesspost.ie/#

http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/the-staggers/2011/11/scotland-12288-union-public?fb_action_ids=10204643547154501&fb_action_types=og.likes

http://www.neweconomics.org/blog/entry/scottish-independence-uk-dependency

http://www.ucl.ac.uk/constitution-unit/publications/tabs/unit-publications/148.pdf

http://www.newsnetscotland.com/index.php/scottish-news/9713-former-ambassador-reveals-labour-role-in-annexation-of-scottish-waters

http://www.yesscotland.net/news/financial-times-analysis-underlines-independent-scotlands-got-what-it-takes

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/comment/are-the-scots-really-sucking-up-a-massive-subsidy-9723797.html

http://www.rbs.com/news/2014/09/statement-in-response-to-press-speculation-on-re-domicile.html

https://theconversation.com/scotland-will-not-be-offered-devo-max-after-a-no-vote-heres-why-31500

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/14/kevin-mckenna-why-i-am-voting-yes-for-scottish-independence?CMP=twt_gu

http://m.canberratimes.com.au/comment/scotland-must-brave-independence-20140911-10fbir.html

http://www.scotsman.com/business/senior-bankers-dismiss-deutsch-bank-chief-s-claim-1-3540854

http://www.forbes.com/sites/brettarends/2014/09/12/scottish-independence-englands-shameful-secret/

http://www.thedrum.com/news/2014/09/12/balance-failure-bbc-scottish-independence-referendum-coverage-wrong-and-not?desktop=1

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-09-10/deutsche-bank-bubble-must-go-sustain-current-global-financial-system

http://newsnetscotland.com/index.php/referendum/9736-we-will-block-more-powers-warns-tory-mp

http://www.scottishgreens.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2014/09/Energy-independence-Green-Yes-briefing.pdf

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/scottish-independence-ireland-since-1919-is-a-lesson-for-scotland-in-what-a-yes-vote-means-9727596.html

http://metro.co.uk/2014/08/27/uk-is-the-most-financially-unequal-country-in-northern-europe-new-research-reveals-4847533/

http://www.businessforscotland.co.uk/uk-to-get-veto-on-gordon-browns-devo-proposals/

http://www.cnbc.com/id/101994242

http://www.oilandgaspeople.com/news/1057/onshore-oil-and-gas-exploration-boom-predicted/

http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/top-stories/boris-johnson-vows-to-resist-scots-tax-devolution-1-3505113

http://burdzeyeview.wordpress.com/2014/09/15/andy-myles-claiming-my-right-to-reply-to-shock-and-awe/

http://burdzeyeview.wordpress.com/2014/09/07/what-a-panics-in-their-breastie/

http://www.scotlandnow.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/independence-referendum-backing-no-would-4193182

http://www.bp.com/en/global/corporate/press/speeches/the-technical-edge-how-science-and-technology-will-transform.html

http://www.scotsman.com/news/andrew-wilson-no-voters-reflect-on-project-fear-1-3541040#.VBVvMXPyVM0.twitter

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/16/media-shafted-people-scotland-journalists

The Four, The Six, The Seven and the 96 — Government “Havering” In the name of the Law?

16 Jul

 

 

 

 

 

WARNING — THIS PIECE IS ALMOST 20,000 WORDS LONG AND WILL TAKE TIME TO DIGEST.

WHILE IT RETELLS SOME SUPPOSEDLY WELL KNOWN STORIES, IT CONCLUDES WITH OPINIONS.

HOWEVER PLEASE READ AS THESE EVENTS REMAIN AS RELEVANT TODAY AS AT ANY TIME IN THE PAST.

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14th March 1991.

The television picture is the same on virtually every channel. 6 men, all linking arms or raising arms aloft, smiling and celebrating victory. Rows and rows of press photographers all snapping away, television cameras by the score following their every move and microphones straining to pick up their every utterance.

 

The Birmingham Six were free after 16 years of unwarranted and unjustified incarceration.
I just happened to be in a neighbour’s house when the pictures came on to the television screen yet again.

 

We both looked at the TV and I couldn’t help but say “Isn’t it great that they are free at last?”
My neighbour was and still is a nice woman. Older than me, pleasantly middle class, reasonably well educated, English, Christian, a mother, grandmother and someone who enjoys all the benefits and mini vices of a comfortable West of Scotland existence – she is by no means someone who I would regard as either sheltered or a bigot of any kind.

 

“ Yes” she said “ But they must have been guilty of something! Innocent people do not get sent to prison for nothing” she exclaimed.

 

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And she believed what she was saying.

 

I was shocked at her response and if I am honest I am still shocked some 23 years later.

 

Yet, as I now look back at events, I should have been less surprised at her statement than I was.
I came from an Irish Background. My father was an Irishman and held an Irish Passport. My Grandparents were Irish. I had made a point of reading about and researching the cases of the Birmingham six, the Guildford Four, The Maguire seven and various other injustices that befell Irish/British people in particular following the introduction of the Prevention of Terrorism Act. I was also aware of the investigations into and the ultimate disbanding of the notorious West Midlands Serious Crime Squad, the various convictions of British Authorities before the European Court of Human rights – especially those relating to the use of the so called “5 techniques” deployed by the police and security forces in Northern Ireland— and how in fact British Policeman had been found to use torture techniques for years.

 

In addition I was legally qualified. I could look at what a judge said to a jury in his charge at the end of a trial and so could question the fairness or impartiality of what a judge was saying from a knowledgeable and trained perspective.

 

In essence, I was a young man with what I regarded as a healthy disdain for the criminal and judicial system employed by the state and was ready to question it in a methodical and calculated manner – mixed in with a controlled degree of emotion and passion when something reeked of injustice!

 

My neighbour, on the other hand, was a housewife who genuinely believed unquestionably in the courts, the law and the system which allowed her to sleep easily in her bed.
She had always been taught and led to believe that it was the fairest legal system in the world.
I wonder what she thinks now?

 

In England, the judge who is effectively the head judge in all civil courts is known jokingly as “The Head Baker” or to give him his full title “ The Master of the Rolls”.

 

One of the most famous judges to have held that position was The Right Honourable Lord Denning QC who was a man with an excellent legal brain, a lilting West Country accent and an inbuilt, almost genetically programmed, automatic defence mechanism which kicked in when anyone sought to undermine the English Legal System.

 

In dealing with one legal case he famously pronounced “ Whatever is the law of England, I shall take to be the law of Scotland” so demonstrating a complete and utter disregard for the fact that Scotland has a completely separate legal system which is based on an entirely different legal approach to the system in England. If the two were to conflict in Denning’s court, there would only be one winner.

 

To Denning, and many of his colleagues, the English Court and Legal System was the best in the world, it was infallible, it had to be protected from attack and criticism at all costs no matter who or what did the attacking and even if there were an error, the system had to be maintained and protected even if it meant that one or two innocent people spent time in prison.

 

Denning once said this clearly and publicly to the television cameras of the BBC in the course of one of the early Rough Justice programmes and when the programme was broadcast to the nation there was scarcely a ripple at his lordship’s position.

 

That is the way it was in the early 70’s and for literally the next 20 years.

 

To an extent, that is still the way it is today – although subsequent events have brought about some reforms but the belief in the system and the protection of the system is still there.
It is ingrained and automatic.

 

The recent death of Gerry Conlon of the Guildford Four has brought many column inches recalling the events surrounding the imprisonment of the Four – Conlon, Paul Hill, Paddy Armstrong and Carole Richardson – back into focus.

 

Over the years, many books have been written and articles printed by anyone and everyone involved in the campaign to free the four and the Maguire Seven and later the Birmingham Six.
Reading the majority of these together you are faced with wave after wave of accounts of Police beatings together with prosecution tactics and decisions to withhold vital evidence from the court and the defence which would shore up alibis and keep quiet inconvenient facts from “The system’s” point of view. Further, these accounts show unbelievably obvious bias and impartiality, together with cataclysmic failures to understand the rule of law, from the judges on bench.
For a period of certainly a decade and a half at the very least, miscarriages of justice in the English Courts were a regular and common occurrence in a system which far from being the envy of the civilised world was instead an international disgrace.

 

Further, the Mother of all Parliaments can take an equal share of the blame for such a complete failure in the justice systems. Many of the leading figures who played a major part in making a complete mess of people’s lives through the court system were also MP’s, close to or in Government and were to all intents and purposes leading members of “The establishment”.
An establishment that chose repeatedly to protect itself rather than recognise that dozens if not hundreds of innocent people were banged up in jail for no good reason under a system that was, to be frank, rotten!

 

It is no wonder then, that all the obituaries to Gerry Conlon reflect on his emerging from the Old Bailey, angry, with fist clenched, telling the world that he had been imprisoned for 15 years while all the time being an innocent man.

 

It is no wonder, that all the reports tell you that Gerry suffered throughout the rest of his life with drink and drug addiction and that he could never come to terms with what had happened to him and his father who died in custody when he was also an innocent man.

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Giuseppe Conlon

 

Yet in recalling these events, the reports miss both a more general message and at the same time fail to hit home with some hard detailed facts which, I believe, should make any right minded person sit up, take notice and, most importantly, ask questions which are still absolutely vital and applicable to this day.

 

For many people, the story of the Guildford Four and their eventual acquittal is represented by the award winning Hollywood movie In the Name of the Father where Daniel Day Lewis portrays Conlon and the late Pete Postlethwaite gave a marvellous performance as Gerry’s father Giuseppe, who died in prison while wrongly incarcerated as one of the Maguire Seven.

 

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Yet the truth of the matter is that In the Name of the Father is one of the most factually inaccurate movies I have ever seen and completely and utterly misrepresents the events surrounding the Guildford Four and their ordeal.

 

The movie itself went a huge way towards protecting the establishment and the system that so badly failed those who were imprisoned.

 

When the IRA started its mainland bombing campaign in 1973 a very obvious and almost immediate consequence was the swell of anti-Irish sentiment that spread throughout the land.
There were hundreds of thousands of Irish people living in mainland Britain at the time. If you take their children and grandchildren, who were born in mainland Britain, then the number increases considerably.

 

When the bombings started that community of people all started to come under suspicion, suffer prejudice, and found that they were regarded differently by people who had been their neighbours, friends and colleagues for years.

 

After the Birmingham bombs, there were reports of absolutely open fights between Irish and English work colleagues at one of the car factories in the area. This became a real industrial relations problem for the plant with some Englishmen refusing to work with Irish born colleagues with whom they had worked peaceably for years.

 

Throughout the late seventies and well into the eighties, young English born men who came from Irish families had a greater rate of suicide than any other ethnic group. There was huge confusion among such young men about their identity and ethnicity, and many just could not cope with perceived prejudice, lack of opportunity and bias which they were helpless to change.
There is a great TV interview with Patrick Maguire ( one of the Maguire seven ) who was arrested along with his mother at the age of 13 and subsequently sentenced to 5 years imprisonment for supposedly making bombs.

 

His accent is pure London with not a trace of an Irish accent. He reveals that he was born in Belfast but that he left there at the age of 4 weeks old living the rest of his life in England. In the interview he says he has nothing to do with “The troubles” other than that he has family who live in the six counties who are obviously affected by what was happening there. When he is asked “Are you a member of the IRA?” he clearly and automatically says “No” and then adds rather sheepishly “ But I was a member of the Scouts!”

 

Gerry Conlon in interview made the obvious point that during the troubles thousands upon thousands of young men and woman from Northern Ireland left home at the time to get away from the craziness that was to be found on the streets of Derry and Belfast and elsewhere.

 

It is what many sensible parents would have advised at the time, telling their kids to” get the hell out of here” and away to the “peace” of England where, as Conlon described, you could go for a pint in peace, chase girls, and not have to worry about bumping into soldiers, policemen or provos on the stagger home.

 

However, the British Government didn’t think of any of those innocent people when it introduced the Prevention of Terrorism Act after the bombings started.

 

The Prevention of Terrorism Act ( temporary provisions ) were introduced by Home Secretary Roy Jenkins on 28th November 1974 and became law by passing through the entire Parliamentary process in less than 24 hours. The act spent less than 10 minutes being considered by the Lords, and created unprecedented powers in peacetime. Jenkins himself described the measures introduced by the act as Draconian.

 

As a result, Police Officers could now hold a suspect without charge and without access to a solicitor or advising anyone that they had someone in custody for a week.

 

Until that point, a suspect had to be released or charged and processed within 48 hours. The original period of 48 hours was introduced because American studies showed that if you pressurised someone enough within a 48 hour period they were likely to crack under that pressure.

 

The Birmingham Six were arrested on 21st November 1974 and supposedly confessed within the 48 hour period then allowed to the Police for conducting “interviews”.

 

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Paul Hill ( Guildford Four ) was arrested at 11:15 am on Thursday 28th November but within 24 Hours the Police had the power to hold him for a week. Hill became the very first person detained under the new act.

 

Hill, Conlon and Paddy Armstrong would all later claim that they were beaten and as a result supposedly confessed to acts they did not commit —- sure everyone now knows that.
However what is not so widely known is certain details of those beatings.

For example, the beatings were not conducted by any old low level serving Policemen.
Conlon was able to identify that one of the beatings was administered ( not overseen by, but actually administered ) by the Deputy Chief Constable of Surrey Police and by a policeman who was later identified as a leading member of the bomb squad.

 

Further, the treatment of Conlon went beyond just physical beating. It included being stripped naked, told exactly how his mother would be shot in Belfast on her way home from work if he didn’t confess, being taken out to a field ( still naked ) having a gun placed in his mouth and being told he was to be shot unless he confessed and so on.

Hill, Armstrong and others described similar treatment.

 

One person who came forward as no more than a witness but whose statement would support the alibi of one of the accused was subjected to horrific torture and was given a vivid description of how his wheelchair bound mother would die in a fire if he did not change his testimony.
Others who were questioned described having bags placed over their heads, suffocations and various other questioning techniques which were all clearly illegal.

It should also be noted that when the Guildford Four were initially brought in for questioning there were something like a further 40 people detained under the legislation for exactly the same crime and that initially 8 people were charged with the Guildford and Woolwich bombings.

 

The other four ( including Annie Maguire ) had the charges dropped against them some two and half months later despite spending time in custody as a result of being charged. What is frightening about this particular statistic is that as a result of a subsequent inquiry it was established that these people were charged and detained for all that time despite the fact that the police and the DPP did not have a single shred of evidence against any of them.
No confessions, no forensics, no eyewitness accounts as to their whereabouts …. Absolutely nothing.

 

Of course, all of this ignores the fact that the eventual supposed signed confessions extracted from the Guildford Four were pre prepared, pre written, edited, doctored and styled to suit the purposes of the investigating officers rather than reflect the true words of the suspects themselves.

 

At the subsequent trial, Senior Police Officers swore on oath that their notebooks and the signed confessions they prepared were contemporaneous records, yet years later various earlier drafts of the same confessions together with notes of amendments and changes were found in a file marked “Not to be shown to the defence”.

 

At least in this regard the portrayal in the Name of the Father movie was correct although very little else was.

 

However, this was the unacceptable face of the British police force in late 1974.
Yet, the disgraceful and reprehensible conduct of police officers and officials did not stop there or anything like it.

 

Carole Richardson had been 17 at the time. She had been living in a squat with Paddy Armstrong in a hedonistic drug fuelled existence which was about as far away from being an IRA active cell as you could imagine.

 

At the time of her arrest she was high on Barbiturates, a fact later not disputed by the crown, and while in custody she was subjected to violence and injected with Pethidine by a police surgeon immediately prior to making the statements later branded as a confession. For a number of years the Police Surgeon concerned denied that this had ever happened or he just failed to mention it when asked.

 

Without going into any details, someone who is on barbiturates and who is then given Pethidine is likely to be in no fit state to be signing any type of confession that makes any great sense.
However, the key part of the whole scenario as far as Richardson is concerned was that she had an alibi which was spoken to by numerous witnesses as she was out seeing a band at the exact time she was meant to have been planting bombs in Guildford.

 

As mentioned previously, one witness who supported her alibi in considerable detail walked into a police station in Newcastle voluntarily to offer his assistance. His testimony was that he had been in London on the night concerned and had gone to the same concert as Carole Richardson and when there he had talked at length to Carole, her friend and numerous others who were in the company. He was clear about the dates, the times and all the details. He did not see and had never met Conlon, Hill and Armstrong who were meant to have been with her at the time.
As a result of his decision to walk into the Police station he was detained, stripped, placed in a cell and questioned. However he was later released only to be re-arrested a few days later just as he finished work. He was taken all the way from Newcastle to Surrey where he was kept in custody for several days, beaten, had a bag placed over his head and told that he would be charged as an accessory, would be shot dead and his mother murdered if he testified on Richardson’s behalf. He was eventually released in Surrey after several days and given his train fare back to Newcastle.

 

Yet he did testify at the trial and repeated all of the above to the jury.

 

Equally, when it came to the Maguire seven there was detailed forensic evidence to consider.
Much of that evidence came from tests carried out by what was essentially a trainee forensic scientist who had been working for only 9 weeks at the time of carrying out the tests and who reached conclusions about what those tests showed.

 

The defence were able to produce their own forensic scientists with considerable years of experience who in turn poured scorn on the scientific conclusions reached saying that some of these were impossible. Not just capable of another interpretation, but de facto impossible! In addition, the lab which carried out the test was shown to have been absolutely rife with substances which could and probably did produce exactly the same results.

 

Not all of these substances had anything to do with explosives, but even explosive substances were widely found and had contaminated the tests.

 

In the case of the Guildford four the crown offered no forensic evidence whatsoever which linked the accused to the bombs, the pubs concerned, or any type of explosive or bomb making equipment at all. The supposed confessions contained no details of how to make or what went into any kind of bomb or explosive device.

 

Of course when it came to the Birmingham Six the roll of forensics was even more vital because even if it were accepted that the accused had been beaten, that still did not explain away the traces of nitro-glycerine which were found on the hands of some of the accused, and the prosecution were able to produce and rely on the testimony of Dr Frank Skuse whose position and authority were used to convince the jury that the tests carried out on the accused could only have produced the results they did if they had been handling the explosive.

 

The truth of the matter was that from the outset, there were home office forensic scientists who knew fine well that the same results could be obtained from touching many everyday items and that the forensic evidence for the crown was vastly over stated, misinterpreted, misleading and on occasion down right wrong.

 

By the time the Birmingham Six were released much was made of the fact that Skuse had been retired forcibly and was in disgrace, as other cases where he had given evidence had also been incorrectly decided and overturned by the court of appeal.

 

So, there we have it. A series of prosecution cases with forced confessions, bent coppers, badly beaten and drugged up accused, intimidated witnesses, poor forensics and a paranoid and prejudiced public from which to choose a jury.

 

Oh and judges who could barely conceal their prejudice and who poured scorn on the notion that police officers might be corrupt, have used violence, told lies and fabricated confessions.
No wonder the Guildford four, the Birmingham Six and the Maguire seven were all wrongly convicted.

 

However, all of that is too neat, too convenient, too much of a nice parcel and a suitable explanation as to why this treasured and much vaunted system failed, and it doesn’t in any way deal with the real reason behind the eventual acquittals nor the reaction of Government or the judiciary to such acquittals.

 

In the case of the Guildford Four and the Maguire Seven, the prosecution was led and indeed dominated by the not inconsiderable figure of Sir Michael Havers QC MP.

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Havers was the very epitome of the legal establishment and the wheel of government. He was the son of a knighted High Court Judge, had been a QC since 1964 and the Conservative Member of Parliament for Wimbledon since 1970. He had served as the solicitor general from 1972 to 1974 and only left that position after the general election of February 1974 which resulted in a hung Parliament. When the Labour Party won the second general election of 1974, Havers was still at the heart of the legal establishment and a big cheese within the Department of Public Prosecution whom he would represent at the trials.

 

Further, it later became clear that the seemingly rushed Prevention of Terrorism Act which sailed through Parliament in a day, had been under secret discussion and draft for a period of at least a year and clearly could not have been considered without the expert input of the solicitor general – Michael Havers.

 

He became a member of the Privy Council in 1977. He served as Attorney-General for England and Wales and Northern Ireland from 1979 to 1987 under Margaret Thatcher, and in June 1987 he was appointed Lord Chancellor and consequently became a life peer as Baron Havers, of St Edmundsbury in the County of Suffolk.

 

In short, Michael Havers career at the heart of the legal, judicial, and government bodies spanned the entire period of the bombings all the way through to not long before the Guildford Four were released.

 

So Havers prosecuted both the Guildford Four and the Maguire Seven. Both trials were presided over by Mr Justice Donaldson who personally requested that he be appointed to the bench for the Maguire case having heard the evidence in the Guildford Four case.
Why this request was granted is a mystery.

 

“Black Jack” Donaldson was the youngest High Court Judge in the land when he was appointed to the bench at the age of just 45 in 1966. His legal career was based on an expertise on contract and torts as opposed to any detailed knowledge and practice of the criminal law. In 1979 Margaret Thatcher appointed him as a Lord Justice of Appeal ( on the recommendation of the new Attorney General ( Sir Michael Havers ) and the Lord Chancellor ( Lord Hailsham ) , and so he was automatically appointed to the Privy Council. He replaced Lord Denning as Master of the Rolls in 1982, becoming the presiding officer of the civil division of the Court of Appeal of England and Wales.

 

Donaldson would court controversy with his handling of the Guildford Four and Maguire cases especially with his sentencing and his closing remarks in the Guildford case where he told the accused that it was his personal wish that the four had been charged with treason the penalty for which was still death.

 

Later, and in different circumstances, Sir Nigel Bridge QC would echo these sentiments when sentencing the Birmingham Six.

 

Donaldson would later face the wrath of members of Parliament when 181 MP’s signed a motion to have him removed from the judiciary because of his anti trade union and right wing leanings – he openly stated that he had always wanted to be a conservative MP.
I won’t go through all of the facets of the trial but for the purpose of this piece it is worth noting a few things.

 

First, the following facts should be considered:

 

There were over 100 separate and plain inconsistencies between the so called confessions made by the four accused of the Guildford bombings. Forget for the moment how those confessions were obtained, as a cumulative body of evidence read together they contradicted one another from start to finish on minor and major details. If you accepted one confession as the truth from start to finish it had to mean that the other three confessions were inaccurate in material aspects.

 

All suggestions that the accused had been beaten, threatened, drugged, or in any other way abused were rejected out of hand by the crown who insisted that the accused gave their statements voluntarily and freely. To this day that position has never changed.
Any alibis put forward by the accused were rubbished by the prosecution ( Havers ) in front of the jury.

 

Yet there were no eyewitnesses who put the accused in either of the pubs who were bombed – in fact there was no eyewitness accounts at all placing the accused in the general area making any supposed alibi evidence absolutely critical.

 

There was no forensic evidence linking the accused to the bombs , or the premises or to any type of explosive device or substance at all, and there was no evidence to link any of the accused with a supposed IRA cell.

 

However, the most important aspect of all is that in his opening remarks to the jury which were delivered in front of a public gallery which was filled with the nation’s press, Sir Michael Havers stood before the court and told the jury members and the judge that he would be producing eye witnesses, forensics and a whole host of other witnesses who would prove beyond all reasonable doubt that the four accused were the bombers.

 

Yet, Sir Michael Havers QC MP knew all along that he had no such witnesses to call and no such evidence to lead.

 

In short, from the very outset of the Guildford Four case – before any evidence at all was heard – the man at the top of the legal tree completely lied and misled the jury as to the evidence………. And at no time later in the proceedings did the judge ask him to explain himself for reasons which will become obvious.

 

The second thing to consider was that in his closing statements Justice Donaldson made it plain to the jury that for the defence allegations to be true there would have to have been the most astonishing, concerted and corrupt conspiracy by British Police officers the like of which had never been seen. Whilst he allowed the jury to decide for themselves on the veracity of the defence allegations, he made it perfectly plain that in his opinion what the defence was saying was practically impossible as it would mean that the Police had embarked on virtually unheard of criminal conduct.

Such a position would rock “The system” to the core.

 

There were various other actions of the judge which later came in for severe criticism but we will leave them for now.

 

In the end this entire trial was absolutely centred and focused on the confessions by the accused, how they were obtained, the veracity of the police against the allegations of the accused, and on those confessions alone the case turned.

 

Many years later, following an independent enquiry conducted by Sir Peter May, Both Sir Michael Havers and Lord Donaldson were severely criticised for their conduct in this trial despite the fact that many saw the May enquiry as no more than a Government cover up. The conduct of Havers and Donaldson was so out of order that they could not escape criticism even in a cover up.
Havers, merely dismissed the discrepancies between the confessions as the deliberate misleading tactics of a trained IRA cell – yet he offered no evidence to support this contention and throughout this was merely an allegation made by him with nothing to back it up. Further, Sir Michael offered no previous examples of such tactics in operation and offered no evidence linking any of the accused to the IRA—nothing.

 

Further, the prosecution and Havers in particular were criticised for not disclosing key evidence to the defence. This was evidence that related to the alibis of the accused and which supported the accused’s contention that they had been elsewhere at the time.

 

Basically, the four were convicted on the basis of confessions which were beaten out of them, which contradicted one another and in the absence of evidence which proved that they were elsewhere at the time. Yet that same evidence was in the hands of the prosecution. When added to the charge given by the judge where he implied that the defence contentions were scarcely credible, the process and conduct of the trial was improperly stacked against the accused from the outset.

So here is a question or two:

 

At what point should Michael Havers have started to investigate whether there was any possibility of what the accused was saying was true?

 

Is there any possibility that he knew that what the accused were saying re beatings and so forth were true?

 

How could he not know about the alibi witnesses which the prosecution failed to disclose?

 

Having lied to the jury at the very outset of the trial about what evidence he would and could produce, how far would Michael Havers go to conceal evidence or mislead the court and the defence as to what evidence the crown had?

 

 

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The Guildford Four trial had started on 16th September 1975 and it would be another four months before the Maguire Seven would be brought to court to be prosecuted by Havers.
Yet while the Guildford four had been in custody the IRA bombings had continued.
On 27th August another bomb went off in a Soldier’s pub in Surrey.

 

On November 12th a bomb was thrown into Scott’s Oyster Bar in the West End of London killing one victim.

 

On December 6th, The IRA active service unit returned to Scott’s but were spotted and ultimately chased through London with the situation ending in what became known as the Balcombe Street siege.

 

After 5 days the IRA unit were captured.

 

Crucially this was before the Maguires went on trial.

 

Even more crucially one member of the active service unit had been captured in July 1975 whilst in Manchester and it later came to light that the security forces had discovered the unit’s safe house as far back as February 1975 and were monitoring it. They had gained fingerprints and all sorts of other forensic evidence as a result. None of the forensics could be linked to The Guildford Four or the Maguire seven who were later said to be part of this same cell.
All of this was known to the Crown and Michael Havers and none of it was disclosed to the defence.

 

It would be January 1977 before the Balcombe Street gang came before a court but crucially from the moment they were taken into custody they began to provide hitherto unknown details about the Guildford and Woolwich bombings which the Guildford Four had just been convicted of.
Much of the interrogation of the Balcombe street gang was conducted by a senior figure from the Bomb Squad called Peter Imbert who would later go on to become the Commissioner of the Metroplitan Police.

 

 

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Imbert was able to get information from the IRA gang about the Guildford and Woolwich bombings which only the perpetrators could know. These facts could and indeed were verified by forensic scientists working for the prosecution and the home office.

 

Crucially, Havers’ office did not reveal any of this to the Maguire’s defence team and such information was deliberately withheld from them. Worse still, Home Office Pathologist Douglas Higgs was consulted and produced a report which said that the type of devices used by the Balcombe Street Gang matched exactly the type of bomb that had been used in the Woolwich bombing for which the Guildford four had already been convicted and sentenced. It was Higgs original evidence that the forensic information gathered after the Balcombe Street siege showed quite clearly that this gang were responsible for the Woolwich Bombing at least and probably Guildford too.

 

However Higgs later revealed that he was asked to take out all reference to the Woolwich bomb , was asked to radically change his statement and alter his opinion at the behest of the DPP, and when that series of correspondence and telephone calls were looked into it showed that one of the people who took the decision to request that the evidence be changed was Sir Michael Havers himself.

 

In short, within 3 months of the Guildford four being convicted senior British police and legal officers were in possession of information that cast a huge doubt on the conviction of Conlon, Hill, Armstrong and Richardson, and which would have played a huge factor in assisting the defence of the Maguires – remembering always that the Maguires were originally named by some of the Guildford Four allegedly under torture and that Annie Maguire had originally been charged with the bombings with the crown accepting ( eventually ) that they had had no evidence to base that charge on whatsoever.

 

If the Guildford Four were innocent then the Maguires could hardly be guilty, but worst of all if the Guildford Four were innocent then how did they come to confess? There was only one answer and that would be that as Lord Justice Donaldson had said there had been one of the greatest conspiracies in the history of English Criminal Justice.

 

And clearly there was.

 

However that conspiracy and cover up was now going to take an even more sinister turn because senior legal officers – the very bastions and protectors of the system swung into action and deliberately withheld that vital information from the defence teams of the Guildford Four and the Maguires.

 

As Lord Denning said, if it means that a few innocents had to go to prison to protect the system then so be it.

 

The Maguires were convicted.

 

 

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When the Balcombe Street Gang came to trial in January 1977 their charge sheets had been reduced from 144 charges to 100 charges – with all references to the charges relating to the period from August to December 1974, before the Guildford Four arrests, being dropped.
Yet when they came to court, the Balcombe Street gang stood in the dock and spoke openly about their involvement in the Guildford and Woolwich Pub Bombings and Douglas Higgs, who had examined the pattern of throw-bomb attacks, admitted under oath that he had changed his original statement at the request of the police and the DPP so as to exclude the Woolwich Bomb in particular.

 

James Nevill, commander of the Scotland Yard Bomb Squad, admitted that the police had been instructed by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Sir Norman Skelhorn ( working with Havers ), to tell the scientists to remove from their evidence all references to Woolwich and Guildford. As soon as that evidence was brought out by the defence, the judge, Mr. Justice Cantley, barred all further questioning about the Guildford bombing as being irrelevant.

 

However, now that the Balcombe Street gang had spoken up in Court, the legal team for the Guildford Four had sensational new evidence to go to the Court of Appeal and ask that the conviction be quashed or at the very worst be sent for retrial.

 

However, if the trial of the four had been a disgrace on the part of the legal officers and the judge, the appearance before the appeal court would mark a new chapter as to how far the establishment would go to cover up a sordid and sorry judicial mess.

 

Once again Sir Michael Havers would appear for the Crown and this time there would be a bench of three judges lead by Lord Roskill.

 

Amazingly, Roskill and his fellow judges did not quash any conviction as being unsafe, nor did they order a retrial. Nor even did they deem the new evidence – The evidence of the Balcombe Street Gang, The Forensic scientists, the alibi witnesses and so on – as irrelevant. Instead, without hearing any of the evidence of the original trial, without hearing any evidence from anyone at all in person, they simply decided that the Balcombe Street Gang were lying and that throughout they had acted in concert with and alongside the Guildford Four and so the appeal was dismissed.

 

There were two things about this decision that are noteworthy above all others.
First it was a complete usurpation of the appeal court function and such an odd legal step to take that it was breath-taking in its arrogance. An appeal court normally does not judge on evidence at all and if there is new evidence to be considered then it refers the matter to a new trial. Either that or they deem that there is no new evidence at all worthy of consideration and so the appeal is dismissed. What they don’t do is actually “try” the evidence.

 

Yet in this case that is exactly what they did.

 

The second major thing to note is that the idea that the Balcombe Street Bombers had been acting with the Guildford Four and consequently the Maguires had not even been suggested by the crown when the Balcombe Street gang went to trial. It had also not been suggested at the trial of the Four or the Seven! This was a completely new idea, suggested by Havers in the court of Appeal with yet again not a single shred of evidence to back it up nor was anyone going to be given the chance to come to court and refute it by way of evidence.

 

Yet again, Sir Michael had simply stood and literally given evidence himself and backed up none of his allegations with any facts, witnesses or whatever. Nor did he provide any explanation as to why the crown had withheld the Balcombe Steet Gang’s evidence in the first place, nor an explanation for the order to the forensic scientists to alter their evidence to suit.

 

Appeal dismissed in the most unusual circumstances and without a by your leave.
However it would take more than a decade for the Government or any Legal figures to come along and criticise this situation and in the interim, The Guildford Four, The Maguires, The Birmingham Six and others remained in custody as a result of wrongful convictions.

 

With no further legal redress to follow, those who believed that the Guildford Four and others were innocent now had to rely on the media to stir up the issue as the legal system and those who ran it could not have cared less.

 

The system had been protected, had been seen to have worked. No police officers were shown to have lied, no beatings were admitted to have taken place ( in one of the court hearings- I forget which – one judge remarked that the alleged beatings suffered by the accused amounted to no more than what was to be expected when a prisoner was in custody- go figure that out ), no statements were seen to have been coerced or fabricated and all in the garden was rosy.
There was no further right of appeal. The verdicts stood. The legal system allowed no further means of investigation or review. The Four were banged up as were the Maguires and the Birmingham Six, and the key had been thrown away.

 

Then came the television.

However, before we get to the role played by the TV I want to go back to In the Name of the Father.

 

As I have said it is a movie which is as inaccurate as could be in depicting what happened in many respects to and on behalf of the Guildford Four. Despite its seven Oscar nominations, In the name of the father is one of the poorest bio pics it has been my misfortune to pay to see.
There are many reasons for my holding that opinion but chief among those reasons is the complete and utter absence from the movie of any portrayal of the significant role played by one Alistair Logan.

 

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For those who do not know, Logan was a local solicitor in Guildford. An ordinary man with a mixed practice covering all areas of the law.

 

He first heard of the Guildford Four when he received a call from the legal aid clerk at Guildford Crown Court who informed him that he had been allocated to one of the “Guildford Bombers” under the legal aid scheme.

 

According to Logan, even the legal aid clerk had determined the guilt of the accused from the outset.

 

Logan did not want the case and advised the clerk accordingly suggesting that she ring round the other duty solicitors and have one of them appointed. Eventually, the clerk rang back to advise that there was no solicitor in the jurisdiction who wanted to touch the case and that she could not get anyone to represent the accused concerned.

 

Logan, felt awkward about this and so reluctantly agreed to represent the first accused. Top of the pile, in alphabetical order, was A for Armstrong – and that was how Alistair Logan became the solicitor to Paddy Armstrong the Guildford Bomber. He would also represent Carole Richardson.
Logan would remain the solicitor to Paddy Armstrong throughout his imprisonment and long after.
Alistair Logan came to believe in his clients’ innocence very quickly and was tireless in working on their behalf despite the severe adversity that the appointment would bring.

 

That adversity would include:

Having his office broken into by security forces.

 

Having staff members and colleagues leave as a result of intimidation and harassment- by the public and security forces.

 

Having his car covered in acid by a serving policeman.

 

Having a file kept on him by MI6 and being the subject of Government memos and e-mails which ensured that he would never be given any type of judicial position if he applied.

 

In return for representing Armstrong throughout he was threatened, lost friends and colleagues, lost clients, lost income, his health suffered, and was barely paid any kind of reasonable fee.
You may recall that when Paddy Armstrong was arrested he had been homeless and living in a squat. When he was released he was immediately homeless again – and was taken in by Alistair Logan and his family.

 

By the time the Guildford Four came to the appeal Court in 1977 Alistair Logan was not only convinced that they had been beaten, abused, tortured and fitted up, he was also convinced that “the system” and those who ran it were absolutely determined to keep these people in jail innocent or not.

 

Talking of the decision of Lord Roskiff and his colleagues in the appeal court in 1977, Logan said “The Appeal Court was a legal charade. The judges could not bring themselves to believe that terrorists ( The Balcombe Street Gang ) could tell the truth and the police could tell lies. I got the distinct impression that the final judgement was written beforehand. The answer was no, and the judges worked back to find how they could get there. It was such an intellectually dishonest exercise I do not believe anyone reading it today could believe it was an honest judgement.”
Accordingly with no further appeal or legal route available, Logan and others sought out the press and tried to get them to agitate on behalf of the four. This would be a long hard road.
It is hard to believe what happened next and with all due respect to Hollywood they missed a trick by not doing their research or revealing the whole truth.

 

There was a small department in the Home Office whose job it was to investigate suspected miscarriages of justice. A considerable amount of their work, it is said, was devoted to parking offences. However Sir David Napley, a past president of the Law Society, at one point gave evidence to a Commons Select Committee, to the effect that this department had never once ‘as a result of its own investigations felt able to recommend a pardon’.

Not once!

 

After the 1977 appeal, Logan went to the media and as a result a few media voices took the matter up – David Martin in The Leveller, Gavin Esler and Chris Mullin in the New Statesman and David McKittrick in the Belfast Telegraph – but the four were scarcely mainstream news.
Then in 1980 the BBC Northern Ireland programme, Spotlight, featured the death in prison of Gerry Conlon’s father Giuseppe. Giuseppe Conlon was convicted with the Maguire family in the explosives case linked to Guildford, another case for which the evidence has always been seriously suspect.

The BBC’s Panorama devoted part of a programme to the shortcomings of forensic evidence and linked poor forensics to the doubts hanging over the Maguire case. But it was not until 1984 – almost 10 years after the original convictions – that the first networked TV documentary to consider any of the cases was transmitted. It was made by Grant McKee for Yorkshire Television’s First Tuesday and considered the Maguire/Conlon case in full.
The programme was called Aunt Annie’s Bomb factory.

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During the making of ‘Aunt Annie’s Bomb Factory’ on the Maguire case, the conviction grew among the YTV production team that Guildford had been an appalling miscarriage of justice. Logan and a journalist called Tom McGurk in particular lobbied for another programme to be made about the Guildford Four and the shocking way “the system” had treated them.
First Tuesday went on to produce a film about Guildford: ‘Guildford Time Bomb'(ITV July 1986). It made no claim to present new evidence as all of the facts spoke for themselves. The day after transmission the Home Secretary, Douglas Hurd, called for an internal inquiry which was to be a “private” as opposed to “public” exercise: it was back to the Home Office.

For whatever reason everything went quiet.

 

And the Attorney General at the time was………….. Sir Michael Havers.

 

However, pressure was now growing for an open enquiry as clearly things were not right here.
In the wake of the Yorkshire TV film and of Robert Kee’s book Trial and Error that followed it, the 1974 Northern Ireland Secretary Merlyn Rees, the 1974 Home Secretary, Roy Jenkins ( who of course had introduced the Prevention of Terrorism Act which had allowed the prolonged detention of the four ), Law Lords Devlin and Scarman joined forces with Cardinal Hume and together, they persistently lobbied for a review of the case. Lords Scarman and Devlin were very critical of the court processes that had been followed especially in the appeal court.
By this time other miscarriages of justice had come to light and the judiciary was under severe pressure as case after case was referred to them as being potential miscarriages within the system.

One case in particular is worthy of inclusion at this juncture.

 

Anthony Mycock had been convicted of a robbery in Manchester which the BBC television programme Rough Justice argued had never occurred at all. The Rough Justice programme had begun to highlight fatal flaws in the system and was looking at hundreds of cases many of which alleged police brutality.

 

On December 5, 1985 Mycock’s appeal came before the appeal court which was being presided over by Lord Lane.

 

Lane had been appointed to the appellate bench shortly after the election of Margaret Thatcher in 1979, and just as Lord Donaldson , his appointment came upon the recommendation of the Lord Chancellor Lord Hailsham and the Attorney General and future Lord Chancellor Sir Michael Havers.

 

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Lane would go on to become the Lord Chief Justice for England and Wales in due course.
In the case of Mycock, Lane quashed his conviction based on the evidence adduced by the BBC reporters saying that the evidence showed that the conviction was not safe. However, speaking from the bench Lord Lane delivered a broadside to the BBC, the producer of the programme and the programme’s chief reporter declaring the programme to be meddlesome, and one that employed dreadful bullying and underhand tactics in getting the evidence in the first place.
The message was clear, TV journalists were a pest, a threat to the system and pressure should be brought on the BBC to get rid of this type of “entertainment”.

 

The BBC capitulated and the producer and reporter were sacked.

 

TV evidence was not to be welcomed in the appeal court.

 

After the Yorkshire TV broadcast, pressure continued on the Government to look at the cases of the Guildford Four, The Maguire seven and the Birmingham Six.

 

In January 1987 Douglas Hurd announced that the case of the Birmingham six would be reopened, but that for whatever reason Guildford case and that of the Maguires would not.
Yorkshire TV then went into overdrive and In March 1987 First Tuesday transmitted a second programme, A Case that Won’t Go Away. They had found and interviewed a new alibi witness for Paul Hill, and unearthed expert opinions that threw doubt on the confessions of Carole Richardson.

 

The most shocking thing about the expert opinions concerned was that they had been commissioned some considerable time before……….. by the Home Office itself ( the very department that had never issued a pardon as a result of its own efforts ) and crucially someone had determined that their contents should never be revealed or published!
Once again an internal inquiry was ordered but eventually this was changed to a full blown Police investigation to be conducted by the Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset Police.
It was this police investigation that unearthed the fact that a whole duty roster for Guildford Police station had been fabricated complete with false signatures and entries. The same investigation uncovered the real rosters, the draft confessions that supposedly didn’t exist and a whole host of other evidence which showed that very senior police officers had lied and conspired to fit up the Guildford Four and that numerous officers of the law had lied under oath and committed perjury.
According to Alistair Logan, between 38 and 45 different police officers were involved in committing perjury in the Guildford case alone.

 

Of greatest importance was the fact that the Avon and Somerset force were able to reveal that the confession of Paddy Armstrong was a complete fabrication made up by the Surrey police. The handwritten ”contemporaneous notes” that British police must take during interrogations turned out to be copied from a typescript that had been distributed to several officers as a model or style.

 

In 1985, the first of several World in Action programmes casting doubt on the convictions of the Birmingham Six was broadcast. In 1986, Chris Mullin, who would later go on to be a Labour MP and minister, published his book entitled Error of Judgment: The Truth About the Birmingham Pub Bombings. Mullins set out a detailed case supporting the men’s claims that they were innocent. It included his claim to have met some of those who were actually responsible for the bombings, claiming the forensics evidence to be faulty and questionable and of course alleged that any confessions were beaten out of the accused by police officers from the West Midlands Serious Crime Squad — a police department who had started to come under ever increasing scrutiny.

 

Once again, The Home Secretary, Douglas Hurd MP, referred the case back to the Court of Appeal.

 

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Lord Chief Justice Lord Lane presided over what was (at six weeks) the longest criminal appeal in English legal history. The Appeal Court judgment on the Birmingham Six, given on January 28, 1988, adopted all the key parts of the Crown case, dismissed defence witnesses as unreliable, and upheld the convictions. Lane concluded by sending a message to the Home Secretary: “As has happened before in References by the Home Secretary to this court, the longer this hearing has gone on the more convinced this court has become that the verdict of the jury was correct.” This implied rebuke and invitation not to refer any more questioned cases was criticised by campaigners. Lane initially refused leave to appeal to Winston Silcott, convicted of the murder of Keith Blakelock in the midst of a strong campaign of vilification from tabloid newspapers. In his findings he concluded that there was “no lurking doubt” in spite of the flimsiness of the prosecution case. Silcott’s conviction for the Blakelock murder was ultimately quashed in 1991.
It was against this background and following upon the findings of Avon and Somerset Police in the case of the Guildford Four that the appeal court convened once again to consider the legal appeal of four people jailed for the Guildford and Woolwich Pub Bombings.

 

Many will recall the dramatization in the name of the father movie which again was wholly inaccurate.

 

The truth of what happened that day, and the truth that remains is far more shocking.
To this day it has never been accepted by the crown or by any Government department that the accused were beaten, threatened, stripped naked, held at gunpoint or in any way tortured.
It has never been accepted that alibi witnesses were similarly treated or had their family members threatened.

 

The evidence of the accused and other witnesses as to what happened within Guildford Police station and elsewhere has never been accepted by any court or by the prosecution.
When the court convened on 20th October 1989, Alistair Logan said that Lord Lane took his seat wearing an expression which suggested that there was a bad smell or something distasteful in the room.

 

This time, there would be no appeal hearing as such, because at the last minute the crown had decided to capitulate and chose not to oppose the appeals of the Guildford Four.
Having been faced with the findings of the Avon and Somerset Police they had no option but to accept that the convictions were unsafe. Yet by collapsing their opposition, they also avoided the possibility of even more damning evidence coming before the court and worse still being made public.

 

Further, the tactic of collapsing the crown case prevented the findings of the Avon and Somerset Force being used to support the allegations of the accused about the where and when of the beatings that were administered.

 

Lord Lane’s Judgement offers no apology to the accused for wrongful imprisonment, the consequences of fabricating evidence or the failure of the system, or for anything that may have happened to them.

 

I produce it in full at the end of this article for the reader to make of it what they will.
As we have seen The Birmingham Six were granted a further appeal (their third) in March 1991, when more evidence established that the police evidence at their trial had been fabricated. The Director of Public Prosecutions announced before the appeal was held that he no longer considered their convictions safe and satisfactory. Lane did not preside over the appeal which formally cleared them. Their successful appeal led to calls for Lane to resign, including a hostile editorial in The Times and a motion in the House of Commons signed by 140 Members of Parliament. These, and other cases where convictions were overturned, blighted the end of Lane’s tenure as Lord Chief Justice.

 

When The Guildford Four were released Gerry Conlon burst out the front door and was determined to speak to the press.

 

 

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Paul Hill was to remain in custody in connection with a murder he had been convicted of in Belfast, however this conviction was also quashed on the basis that it had been secured on fabricated evidence.

 

Carole Richardson could not face coming out before the media. Her prison ordeal was over and she just wanted to disappear.

 

Paddy Armstrong would have loved to have gone out the front door with Gerry but he didn’t. He had been Carole Richardson’s boyfriend when they had been arrested and he felt obliged to help her through the final moments as she left court. Accordingly the two young lovers who had been arrested and wrongly imprisoned together 16 years before both left by the back door with Paddy supporting Carole until she got away in a taxi

 

As mentioned above, Paddy had no relatives, was homeless and spent the night in the home of his solicitor.

 

Gerry Conlon was given the princely sum of £34.90 before he left the court and was told simply by a court officer to “go”.

 

There was no counselling, no medical help, nothing.

 

Later Gerry would admit to dreadful hallucinations saying he saw Giuseppe sitting on the couch wearing prison pyjamas.

 

For years Conlon claimed that there was a whispering campaign conducted from Westminster saying that although the conviction had been quashed the four had still been guilty.
This seemed to be confirmed by Armstrong who says he was questioned about his movements for several years afterwards and in 1994 he was denied a US visa to take a group of inner-city children to the World Cup. The visa was granted later, following intervention by a friend of Paddy’s with contacts in the embassy and threats of going to the press. Not long after their release, Paddy went to see Gerry for a weekend and ended up staying with him for a year. The pair later travelled around the world, making up for lost time and “getting the prison out of them.”
Paul Hill of course went to the states and married one of the Kennedy’s while Carole Richardson eventually married, had a daughter, lived away from the limelight in complete obscurity but sadly died in 2013 from Cancer.

 

Paddy Armstrong only found out about her death after she had been buried and says he remains guilty about Carole to this day.

 

Armstrong now lives in Dublin with his wife and two children. He apparently bears no grudges against anyone about his time in prison which is remarkable. However, in interview he has said that for years he was wary of everyone and anyone. In a pub he would always sit facing the door so that he could see everyone and anyone who came in or left.

 

Writing in 1986 from her prison cell Carole Richardson wrote, ‘I think that is what hurts most .. nothing is different now to what it was 10 or 12 years ago. The evidence, or should I say lack of it, is still the same. All that’s changed is the people telling it. I don’t know. Unfair isn’t a strong enough word for what I feel about it all, but I can’t think of another one.’

 

Her sense of complete and utter futility is self evident.

 

As a consequence of the release of the Guildford Four a criminal investigation was launched into the activities of the Surrey Police. A judicial inquiry into the whole affair was ordered and this was headed by Sir John May – a retired Appeal Court Judge. Given that he was in part investigating what had occurred before the very same appeal court he sat in, legal scholars and editorial commentators urged and suggested at the time that a substantial reform of the British legal system – meaning The English legal system — should take place: at the least they called for a new, more independent Court of Appeal and if possible, the adoption of a Bill of Rights to safeguard individual liberties.

 

On 3rd October 1992 Sir John May issued the second part of his report into the cases of the Guildford Four and the Maguire seven the first part having been delivered in 1989.
To say that some of it is shocking is an understatement.

 

It was a mixed bag which pleased no one as it reached some conclusions that were hard to fathom.

 

However, what it does show, is that even after the Avon and Somerset Police inquiry and all of the pieces of evidence gathered by May and others the DPP and the Court of Appeal were never going to accept that certain things did indeed happen.

 

May alleged that the Maguire case should go back to the Court of Appeal and that the convictions should be quashed on four quite different grounds, including scientific grounds re the forensic evidence presented at the original trial and at least two grounds regarding the conduct of the trial itself.

 

The DPP effectively rejected the majority of May’s findings and continued to oppose the quashing of the convictions until the very last minute.

 

The appeal hearing did not commence until 7th May 1991 and only once they were in court did the DPP announce that they were not seeking to have the convictions sustained and even then they only did so on one of the grounds suggested by Sir John May – and that ground was that the crown had not disproved that the hands of the accused concerned had innocently been contaminated with Nitro Glycerine. Basically the crown accepted that the traces of Nitro found on the hands could have been caused by their washing their hands on a lab towel!

 

The significance of this of course was that the Crown was maintaining that the accused did show positive traces of Nitro Glycerine on their hands and did not accept that the same results could have been caused by various other substances. In other words the original charges and trial had been justified even if it now turned out that the convictions had to be quashed because of accidental contamination.

 

May was scathing in his report saying he could not reconcile the findings of the court at all and went on to suggest that had the Attorney General’s office had before them all the information that he had before him then he had no doubt that the Maguires would never have been charged with anything at all in his opinion.

 

The problem with that conclusion is that in many respects the Solicitor General’s office , as it was called at the time, did have all that evidence and still proceeded with a prosecution while hiding that evidence from the court and the defence!

 

Further, he recommended that an independent body be set up to look into alleged miscarriages of justice. As has been mentioned before, this function had been the responsibility of a Home Office department who had never once recommended a pardon for anything.

 

However, May would go on to deliver his final report in July 1994 by which time all the accused had been released. In the final report he stated that whilst there had been individual errors on the part of Policemen and certain unnamed officials, he did not think the system was fundamentally flawed and then went on to reject any suggestion of any deliberate suppression of evidence despite documents being found marked “do not show to the defence” and various versions of what can only be described as falsified confessions.

 

May added that in his opinion there had been widespread criticism of the criminal justice system over recent miscarriages of justice including these cases and that such criticism was ‘undesirable’. He also attacked the ‘mythology’ surrounding the case, which had led to ‘significant misrepresentation’, and singles out the film In the Name of the Father as ‘misleading’.
Without saying that any of the Guildford Four or the Maguire Seven had been beaten, threatened or in any way mal treated, May suggested that jurors should be warned that people in custody can make false confessions and that police are often tempted to force confessions out of those against whom they have intelligence but no other evidence.

 

However, the most controversial finding of the former appeal court judge came when he stated there was no evidence of a conspiracy by anyone to convict the Guildford Four. The report said it was impossible to determine after such a time, whether police used violence or falsified their confessions. Sir John May then added that given the circumstances of bombings in Guildford, Woolwich and Birmingham, he would have been surprised if the police had not adopted a “hostile approach”.

 

Considering the fabrication by the Surrey police officers of the confessions and the falsifying of records together with clear acts of perjury which led to the quashing of the convictions by the Court of Appeal, May’s conclusions are incredible. However, if that was not bad enough for some reason Sir John May chose to add the following statement into the body of his report.

 

“A jury’s verdict of not guilty is not a positive declaration of factual innocence. Similarly, a judgement of the Court of Appeal quashing a conviction does not constitute a finding that the appellant did not commit the offence,’

 

The report largely exonerated the Metropolitan police of accusations that they failed to investigate the claims by two of the IRA gang arrested after the 1977 Balcombe Street siege that they were involved in the Woolwich bombings.

 

Yet the report strongly criticised the decision by the prosecution ( Michael Havers ) at the Guildford trial not to disclose to the defence a statement supporting Mr Conlon’s alibi and the failure by Crown lawyers and officials in the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to disclose forensic evidence linking the Woolwich bombing with other bombings that occurred after the arrest of the Four. You will recall that this was specifically suppressed at the request of Havers and the Deputy Director of the DPP.

 

Further, May went on to speak directly about the threat to the witness who came forward to support Carole Richardson’s alibi at the very outset. Surrey police were castigated for twice arresting a man who came forward to support the alibi of Ms Richardson. May specifically finds that police tried to destroy the alibi, rather than investigate its truth.

 

Alistair Logan said at the time ‘Four people spent 15 years in jail for an offence they didn’t commit and no one really knows after reading that report why that happened.’ Chris Mullin, by then the MP for Sunderland South, who had campaigned on behalf of the four was blunt in his opinion when he said: ‘It is a report that will satisfy only those responsible for creating this mess in the first place.’

 

The Late Gerry Conlon was always the most vociferous of the Guildford Four.

 

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Until his death he was quite plain about what had happened to him and the effects of the threats, beatings, imprisonment and torture.

 

He was described as being visibly haunted by terrible memories that wouldn’t stay in the past and injustices which he felt continued even into the present.

 

A few years ago he gave an interview to the Guardian where he explained that he was angry that nobody was ever punished for their wrongful imprisonment.

 

Three retired Surrey detectives were accused of attempting to pervert the course of justice as a result of the Guildford Four case – all three were acquitted with the judge delivering a closing address to the jury that had to be heard to be believed.

 

No serving officer of the Surrey force was disciplined or demoted despite the findings of the Avon and Somerset force.

 

Conlon was also convinced that it was not just the police that had lied in an attempt to get him and the others convicted. He believes the conspiracy to jail innocent people went right to the top.
“The Government knew, right from the start, that we were innocent. They knew we had nothing to do with the IRA, but they didn’t care. That’s why they have a 75-year immunity order on our case. Because they want all the people involved to be dead before they release our files.”

 

Despite the conviction being quashed on the grounds that it was unsafe, and despite all the writings about the case ( both official and unofficial ) Conlon believed that the cloud of suspicion was allowed to remain as a result of the words of Sir John May and others, and as a consequence he was denied access to psychiatric treatment. It was not until 2007 that he began getting regular therapy, and even then only one hour a week. That undoubtedly helped, but it was far too little, coming far too late, for someone who suffered trauma on the level that he had.
Gerry Conlon explained to the Guardian:

 

“I have what they call a disassociation problem: something comes in to my head and I’m back in prison. I’m back in Wakefield, being tortured… hands behind my back, gun in my mouth, it doesn’t go away.

 

“The reason I took drugs and alcohol was because I couldn’t deal with what my mind was projecting. To get some relief from the nightmares, day and night.

 

“But then the nightmares started breaking through with a sledge hammer, and once that happened it was a question of giving up the drugs and fighting to get professional help.”
“I’d spent months in solitary, in the dark. I’d been beaten, had people defecating in my food, putting glass in my food. I’d seen people murdered. Yet I had to tell my family they were treating me well.

 

“When you come out you find the relationship with your family during your time inside was built on falsehoods. I didn’t know that my mother and my sisters were being strip searched and abused when they came to see me. You can’t calculate the devastating effect it has on your family.”
In 2005 the Guildford Four and the Maguire Seven finally got a personal apology from Tony Blair. Conlon told the then Prime Minister that the apology would only mean something if it came with more help for the victims.

 

Paddy Hill of the Birmingham Six has said that the appeal court and the Government do not know how to spell the word justice.

 

Hill described how the six were “tortured and framed” on arrest, beaten, subjected to mock executions, threatened with being thrown from a high building or a car on the motorway, and burnt with cigarettes; All by the West Midland Serious Crime Squad.

 

The men’s homes were the targets of petrol bombs, and nooses were hung on their gates; their families fled, some changed their names, one wife had to move 17 times, and put her children into care for their own safety.

 

By the time they were released, the arguments and claims of the Birmingham Six had been considered by no less than 18 different judges all of whom said that the decision of the original jury must stand and any new evidence should be rejected.

 

In 1985, a series of complaints about the West Midlands crime squad prompted an inquiry by the Metropolitan Police force. It was decided that the subsequent report, called the Hay report, should never be made public.

 

Nonetheless, the report criticised the squad’s interviewing techniques, failure to properly use pocket books and the inordinate amount of time that officers were allowed to remain with the elite unit.

 

Despite the report nothing was done and the unit remained intact and unchecked.
The complaints continued and a succession of the squad’s cases was thrown out of court amid allegations of fabricated confessions. Many of these were exposed because of the coincidental emergence of a vital new forensic technique, the Esda (Electrostatic Document Analysis) test which revealed that officers were making up statements.

 

Up until 1986 at least, members of the 25-strong squad would write out false confessions and force the suspects to sign them.

 

On 14 August 1989, the force’s Chief Constable, Geoffrey Dear, disbanded the squad, and an investigation was set up by the independent Police Complaints Authority and conducted by West Yorkshire Police. The PCA investigation looked at 97 complaints against the squad made between January 1986 and August 1989. Ethnic minority complaints were disproportionately high, with 35 registered by African-Caribbeans and eight by Asians. Many of the earlier complaints were made by people of an Irish Background.

 

Between March 1990 and October 1991 the inquiry passed a succession of files to the Crown Prosecution Service to consider criminal charges against some of the officers concerned.
As mentioned above, The Birmingham Six were released on 14th March 1991 when their convictions were deemed unsafe.

 

In May 1992, Dame Barbara Mills, Director of Public Prosecutions at the time, decided that there was “insufficient evidence to prosecute” a single officer from the squad.

 

The Police Complaints Authority’s final report was published in January 1993.

 

The official report made no mention of the “plastic bagging” and other torture techniques referred to by the many victims of the squad whose convictions have since been quashed by the Court of Appeal. Nor did it highlight the repeated appearance in interview notes of key “confessional” phrases such as “That bastard’s really put me in it” and “You’re spot on”.

 

The PCA recommended disciplinary charges against only seven officers. A further 10 officers would have faced charges but they had already retired, it was announced.

 

In the event, just four of the squad’s officers – Detective Superintendent John Brown, Detective Constable Colin Abbotts, Detective Chief Inspector Bob Goodchild and Detective Constable Tony Adams – were punished for minor disciplinary offences.

 

At the time of writing 62 appeals against conviction in which it has been claimed that the West Midland serious Crime Squad fabricated evidence and essentially tortured the accused have been successful. All 62 had spent time in Prison.

 

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The case of Martin Foran, an Irishman, who was jailed in 1978 and again in 1985 in relation to separate crimes he has always said he did not commit was remitted to the Court of Appeal in January of this year. Foran has always claimed that in both cases he was “fitted up” by police officers of the West Midland Serious Crime Squad.

 

On April 15th 1989, prior to the disbanding of the West Midlands Serious Crime Squad, 96 people lost their lives in what became known as the Hillsborough Disaster.
Subsequently, the investigation into what happened at Hillsborough that day was handed to …. The West Midlands Police Force.

 

According to the account on one of the websites which seeks to uncover the truth about what really happened at Hillsborough, one West Midlands officer commented that they had been sent in to “do a job” and to “restore confidence in the Police”.

 

One of the key players in the enquiry was Detective Superintendent Stan Beechey who was constantly by the side of the South Yorkshire Coroner, Dr Stefan Popper throughout the course of the inquests.

 

Stan Beechey was the former head of the West Midlands Serious Crime Squad. It was under his leadership that a culture of fabricating evidence, altering notebooks and committing perjury was allowed to flourish. When he became involved in the Hillsborough case he had de facto been suspended from operational duties by the Chief Constable of the West Midlands force who later admitted that Beechey should have been nowhere near the Hillsborough investigations.
A complaint about Beechey had been made to the then Police Complaints Authority by George Tomkins, who alleged he had been “fitted up” by West Midlands police for an armed robbery he did not commit. Tomkins spent 17 months on remand in Birmingham’s Winson Green prison before he was acquitted.

 

In April 1993, Tomkins took out a private prosecution against Beechey, three other police officers and a DPP lawyer, accusing them of perverting the course of justice. The police officers’ cases were committed to the crown court.

 

In 1995 the DPP discontinued the prosecutions.

 

Tomkins took out a civil claim, suing the West Midlands police for malicious prosecution. On 18 March 1996, the force agreed, without admitting any wrongdoing by any officer, to pay Tomkins £40,000 compensation, and £70,000 for his legal costs.

 

In August 1989 Beechey’s official title was Deputy Head of The West Midlands CID. It should be noted that Beechey was never charged with any offence or disciplined in any way in relation to the activities of the West Midlands Serious Crime squad. He has since retired.

 

In 1990, the official inquiry into the Hillsborough disaster, the Taylor Report, concluded that “the main reason for the disaster was the failure of police control.” The findings of the report resulted in the elimination of standing terraces at all major football stadiums in England, Wales and Scotland.

 

On the 20th anniversary of the disaster, government minister Andy Burnham called for the police, ambulance and all other public agencies to release documents that had not been made available to Lord Justice Taylor in 1989.

 

What strikes me as odd about even this step is that there should have been any documents or statements that had not been made available to Taylor in the first place. No matter how it arose, or why, the very fact that Government seemed to “know” of the existence of documents which had not been made available to a judicial inquiry is disconcerting and does not suggest that we should have unfettered confidence in the inquiry system.

 

As Gerry Conlon pointed out, the papers surrounding the trial of the Guildford Four and the Maguire Seven have been deemed unfit for public scrutiny for 75 years. Should it eventually prove to be the case that when those papers are made public they are shown to contain material which was not made available to the defence, the courts and even Sir John May – what exactly is the point of courts, tribunals, judicial inquiries and the rule of law?

 

Following the call for all Hillsborough papers to be made available the Government also set up The Hillsborough Independent Panel to investigate the Hillsborough disaster itself and gave the panel the remit to oversee the disclosure of thousands of documents about the disaster and its aftermath.

 

The Panel’s eventual findings concluded that 164 material witness statements had been altered. Of those, 116 were amended to remove or change negative comments about the involvement of South Yorkshire Police. It also discovered that South Yorkshire Police had performed blood alcohol tests on the victims, some of them children, and ran computer checks on the national police database in an attempt to “impugn their reputation”. Various civilian witnesses and even certain police officers would reveal that they had felt “leant on” by the police officers conducting the original investigation.

 

These matters, including the altered statements, were referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission who then found that a further 55 Police Officers had altered their statements.

 

All of the inquest verdicts into the death of the victims were ultimately quashed by the court of appeal due to the presentation of false and altered evidence by police officers and on the basis that there had been a series of mini inquests where police officers had summarised the evidence of eye witnesses rather than those witnesses concerned giving evidence in person. New inquests began on 31st March this year.

 

At the end of the proceedings the coroner who issued the original verdicts publicly thanked the officers from the West Midlands Police Force in helping to gather evidence and for their assistance in the inquests in general.

 

The independent Police Complaints Commission has been given a separate and specific remit to investigate the conduct of the West Midlands Police Officers in the whole affair.
That investigation continues.

 

A private prosecution was brought against Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield of the South Yorkshire Police Force and another officer, Bernard Murray. Prosecutor Alun Jones QC told the court that Duckenfield gave the order to open the gates so that hundreds of fans could be herded on to the already crowded terraces at the stadium. Mr Jones stated that minutes after the disaster, Duckenfield “deceitfully and dishonestly” told senior FA officials that the supporters had forced the gate open. Duckenfield admitted he had lied in certain statements regarding the causes of the disaster. Other officers, including Norman Bettison, were accused of manipulating evidence. Bettison was later appointed Chief Constable of Merseyside in controversial circumstances. The prosecution ended on 24 July 2000, when Murray was acquitted and the jury was unable to reach a verdict in the case of Duckenfield.

 

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On 26 July 2000, the judge refused the prosecution’s application for a re-trial of Duckenfield.
Police disciplinary charges against Duckenfield were abandoned when he retired on health grounds and because he was unavailable, it was decided it would be unfair to proceed with disciplinary charges against Bernard Murray. Duckenfield took medical retirement on a full police pension.

 

CONCLUSION

 

There are many good and honest people who work in the areas of law enforcement, crown prosecution and within the court system in general. In many respects they are under resourced, under paid and under a great deal of stress and pressure not least the pressure brought by the politicians who sit above them in the chain of command and who can and have manipulated the operation of the system, and the people who work within it, for their own ends..
In particular there are many good police men and women who perform the job of policing honestly, fairly and with integrity. Equally, there is clear evidence of bad policing, political policing and policing which serves to further the particular interests of the police force rather than the public or the enforcement of the law itself. In this article, such policing has been shown to be evident in the mass actions of police forces in Surrey, The West Midlands and Yorkshire — three geographically disparate areas under completely different commanders and controllers.

All are supposedly answerable to the Met and it can only be assumed that over the years the Met, under various commanders, completely failed in any overseeing function.

 

However, no matter what force a constable, Sargent or inspector serves with, the notion that simply because a human being is a member of the police force then his or her word given in evidence should carry any more weight than that of say a bricklayer, a nurse, an insurance clerk or someone who is unemployed is nonsense.
Yet that is the point of view expressed previously by a whole series of judges.

 

Further, there are those like Denning who have gone on to state that the preservation of the system of justice is effectively more important than the odd rogue result.

 

Well, how many rogue results does it take to establish that de facto the system, as currently operated, is not worth defending and preserving at all?

 

Since the days of the Guildford Four and the Maguire seven there have been considerable reforms in relation to the running of the appeal court and the arrival of the criminal case review boards in Scotland and England have been a major step forward. Further, there has been the adoption of the European Convention on Human Rights although there are those within the Westminster Parliament who would seek to remove the convention, and the safeguards it supposedly brings, from the law of the land.

 

Of course the very setting up of the case review bodies, and the fact that the home office had never once been able to recommend a pardon to anyone proclaiming a miscarriage of justice, actually tells you that the system of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s just did not work.

 

However, that only takes matters so far because again any such board and its officers are wholly dependent on being able to have clear access to all of the evidence, all of the notes and all of the records held by bodies such as the police. If it is the case that the police continue to withhold and doctor the evidence such as at Hillsborough and the the trials mentioned above, then all the boards, inquiries and trials are effectively neutered, usurped and completely pointless.

 

Even beyond the histories discussed above ( think plebgate, Levinson, etc etc ) there seems to be a culture within policing ( In England at least ) whereby it has been acceptable for police officers to determine what records and what evidence will be made available to the courts, the inquiries, and the legal representatives of those who are directly involved and effected by this “system”. Further, if necessary that evidence will be doctored, rehearsed, amended or falsified.

 

Worse still, is that when officers of the law are shown to have completely usurped the system, there is very little evidence that they are held to account, brought before the courts and tried like any other normal citizen. There is even very little to suggest that they have in the past been properly disciplined by the police themselves or the independent bodies set up to ensure that complaints are dealt with properly and fairly.

 

This too, is a complete failure of the much vaunted system.

 

People in every walk of life will make errors in the course of their job, and whilst I would be first to condemn anything approaching a witch hunt, the fact remains that many have no faith in “the system” and as can be seen above there may well be good reason for that.

 

 

When it comes to the legal profession, again many have a jaundiced view of lawyers of all sorts whether they be criminal practitioners, corporate lawyers or even country practitioners. Many view judges to be aloof, detached and essentially part of the “establishment” with an inherent bias towards supporting the police in any conflict with the public.

 

The justification for that view has been repeatedly enforced by judicial decisions and reports which make no sense to the man on the Clapham omnibus to use another of Lord Denning’s most famous sayings. The inquiries and appeal decisions in the Birmingham Six, Guildford Four and Maguire cases made no sense to the ordinary man and many lawyers including retired Law Lords openly cried “fix” when reading them.

 

There are many hard working lawyers in all fields of the law and in the criminal courts they can be found working for both prosecution and defence. Many are not as handsomely rewarded as the public would think.

 

However, when such people are trained, have practised and are experienced in the law, the public would like to think that they bring that experience and expertise into the court in every case and that the court, through the judge or judges, will allow them to use their skills, preparation and knowledge in a fair and proper fashion. However, when judges and government departments fail in their duties, when they deliberately go out of their way to influence and and bend the proceedings immorally and improperly, then all the effort training and skill of the genuine legal practitioner is completely and utter wasted.

 

People like Alistair Logan and Gareth Pierce should be considered as national treasures rather than have their offices broken into, their phones bugged, and their cars damaged by those who simply seek to use the law for their own ends with a view to getting the “desired result” as opposed to seeing that justice is actually done.
With the court system it is necessary to have judges. Thankfully they are no longer simply appointed on the whim of Government but there is still an air of being part of the club to become a judge or once you become one. As can be seen from the tone of the judgement freeing the Guildford Four, which is repeated below, the language used by a judge when conveying a decision which says the law is on your side can seem to say one thing on the face of it but convey another message altogether. Judges are not there to appease public opinion or further government policy or to be part of any club or legal clique, they are there to apply the law for  good or bad. They are most certainly not there to opine ” I wish you had been prosecuted for this or that so that I could sentence you differently” — that is clear evidence of judicial, legal and personal arrogance.

 

Lord Lane released the Guildford Four with great reluctance indeed.

 

Lastly, I started to write this article because of news coverage of recent events.

 

Newspapers, the internet and the television is awash with rumour and stories concerning the potential suppression of evidence concerning a paedophile ring which ran at the very heart of Government in the 80’s. Any search on the internet will lead you to allegations which name very well known people who have been said to be involved. The allegations include the names of ministers of state, MP’s, celebrities and so on.

 

The Government has, in time honoured fashion, called for a judicial inquiry to investigate whether it is just possible that the DPP, the then Attorney General Sir Michael Havers, and other government “people” could have covered up the existence of a whole series of crimes, suppressed evidence, and failed to bring the perpetrators of crime to book simply because they were part of “the establishment” or “ the system”. I predict that all sorts of information will come out of the woodwork in the coming weeks as there is political mileage in the issue and we are none too far away from a general election. Yet again, memos, minutes, notes and reports will surface despite having been hidden away and kept secret for years by people in positions of responsibility who supposedly act in the public interest.

 

It is very hard to accept that in other incidences Sir Michael Havers did not withhold documents and evidence whilst serving as a government officer and acting as crown counsel. It is very hard to accept that in other cases he did not usurp his position as an officer of court and as a government minister. It is very hard to accept that he did not, on occasion, use his position to further a purpose which had nothing to do with the proper practice of the law and the preservation of justice.

 

While I know nothing of the details of the crimes or the people supposedly involved, I think history now shows that the suppression of such evidence in the 1980’s is entirely possible as it has been shown to have happened before — time and time again.

 

No doubt someone with a well known name will be fed to the wolves and there will be a flurry of activity to produce some headline grabbing action or revelation which will be intended to deflect anyone from asking any awkward questions about whether “the system” has let us down yet again?

 

This is not something new or anything that the enquiring mind should be surprised at. Only this morning, The BBC is carrying a report featuring a retired police officer who served with the Met who says he was removed from office when he began to investigate these claims. Other revelations from civil servants, former MP’s and goodness knows who else will follow.

 

Unlike my neighbour from all those years ago, I will never have an unfettered faith in the governmental/legal/ judicial process because innocent people do get sent to prison for nothing and the authorities do and have suppressed evidence to suit those in power and position and the political agenda that is prevalent at the time. I remain a legal doubting Thomas.

 

Also do not believe that this could not happen in Scotland because it has and it will again.
There have been many miscarriages of justice in the Scottish Courts none more disgraceful than the tale of Oscar Slater…………….. but Oscar’s story is best left for another day.

 

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The release of the Guildford Four

R. v. Richardson, Conlon, Armstrong and Hill EWCA Crim

20 October 1989 – Court of Appeal (Criminal Division)

LORD LANE CJ (reading the Judgment of the court)
This is a reference by the Secretary of State for Home Affairs to the Court of Appeal, Criminal Division under the provision of section 17 of the Criminal Appeal Act 1968, which enables the Secretary of State, where a person has been convicted on indictment, to refer the whole case to the Court of Appeal. The case thereupon is to be treated for all purposes as an appeal to that court. The reference was made on 16 January 1989, that is to say some 9 months ago.

 

The facts of the case, in necessarily brief outline, are as follows. On 22 October 1975 the 4 appellants Armstrong, Conlon, Hill and Carole Richardson were convicted before Mr Justice Donaldson and a jury of conspiracy to cause explosions and of the five murders arising from the bombing on 5th October 1974 of the Horse and Groom public house at Guildford, and also of causing an explosion likely to endanger life on the same day at the Seven Stars public house in the same town. In addition, Armstrong and Hill were convicted of the two murders arising from the bombing on 7th November 1974 of a public house in Woolwich called the King’s Arms. Armstrong was, in addition, convicted of conspiracy to murder.

 

The appellants Armstrong, Conlon and Hill were sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum recommendation of 35 years for Armstrong and 30 years for Conlon. Other sentences which are immaterial for the present purposes were imposed in respect of the conspiracy. In the case of Hill the trial judge said that, although he could not formally recommend that he never be released, life should mean life, release only being on account of great age or infirmity. Carole Richardson was ordered to be detained during Her Majesty’s pleasure for the murder counts and to life imprisonment for causing an explosion.

 

Whilst awaiting trial for these offences Hill was convicted outside this jurisdiction, namely, at the Belfast City Court, on 26th June 1975 of the murder of Brian Shaw, an ex-soldier. He was sentenced by that court to life imprisonment. These proceedings today are of course not concerned with that conviction or sentence and they must stand regardless of the decision of this court.

 

So far as the trial in this country was concerned, the applications of the appellants for leave to appeal against their conviction were refused by the full Court of Appeal, Criminal Division on 28 October 1977 after a lengthy hearing lasting some 12 days. Richardson’s alibi was considered, but most of the appeal was taken up with the confessions to these bombings by what has come to be known as the Balcombe Street gang and assertions by that gang that these appellants were not concerned in the Guildford or the Woolwich explosion. No suggestion of course was made of the evidence which has now come to light from the Avon and Somerset inquiry.

 

On 20 January 1987, almost exactly 2 years before the present reference, the Home Secretary had declined to make any reference under section 17 to this court. Representation however continued to be made to him by various individuals and by various bodies to refer the matter and the grounds upon which he did so in January of this year were as follows:

 

First of all as to Carole Richardson’s alibi.

 

Subsequent to the trial a witness by the name of Maura Kelly, who in 1974 was employed in a baker’s shop, had come forward and was able to give some evidence in relation to Carole Richardson’s alibi. Attempts had been made to secure her attendance at court during the actual trial before Justice Donaldson, but she had gone to Ireland and she did not appear at the trial. The Secretary of State felt that that evidence should be considered by the court which by that time had become available.

 

The second ground was again in respect of Carole Richardson and was medical evidence which Mr Carman today has emphasized in his short remarks to us at the conclusion of Mr Amlot’s submission. While Carole Richardson was being detained by the Surrey Constabulary she was seen by a police surgeon, Dr Makos, because she was apparently in an hysterical state. In 1974 Dr Makos had said that he gave her one tablet of Tuinal in order to try to restore her calm. Much later in 1987, Dr Makos indicated he had given Carole an intra-muscular injection of 50 mg of Pethidine. In December 1988 the doctor withdrew that statement with regard to Pethidine, but the Home Secretary had obtained medical information to the effect that the use of Pethidine was plainly suffering from barbiturate withdrawal might have had some effect upon her ability properly to rationalize when she was making her statement. That was another ground upon which the Home Secretary sought to refer the matter to this court.

 

The third point upon which the matter was referred related to Paul Hill with regard to the Woolwich public house bombing. There was a further witness named Mrs Fox who provided some possible support for Hill’s alibi. She had made a statement in July 1987 which was placed before the Home Secretary. The identity of Mrs Fox had been known at the trial. It was decided not to call her, but the Secretary of State nevertheless felt that it would be proper for the appellant to be given a further chance to have that evidence considered and that was the third and final ground upon which the matter was referred to this court.

 

The start of the hearing of this reference upon which we are now embarked today had originally been arranged for this month at the beginning of the legal term, but at the request of the appellants the matter was postponed and the new starting date was 15 January 1990. There had been a pre-trial review before us earlier this year and the court had requested that the grounds of appeal should be submitted by the end of October.

 

However, earlier this week the court was informed that the Crown would no longer seek to uphold these convictions. The grounds upon which the matter had been referred to this court by the Secretary of State were not the basis of that decision, as of course we have now all learnt. Indeed we are told by Mr Amlot that had those grounds remained the sole points of the appeal – the sole points in issue in the case – the appeal would have been hotly contested by the Crown.
The nature of this change of attitude by the Crown led us to believe that the whole of this matter should be aired at the very first opportunity, hence the very brief gap of two days or so before today’s hearing.

 

The reasons now put forward by Mr Amlet, which we have heard this morning, arise out of the fact that the prosecution case depended upon confessions which were allegedly make by these appellants to the police during the course of those police inquiries. True there was alibi evidence as already indicated, but it would, I think, perhaps be fair to say that, save in Carole Richardson’s case, the alibis were not at the centre of the defence submissions. The alleged confessions of the appellants were the subject of the closest examination during the trial before Mr Justice Donaldson.

 

The prosecution case so far as the appellant Armstrong was concerned was, again in necessarily brief form, as follows. Armstrong made two statements which he signed. They amounted to confessions that he had taken part in the Guildford bombing. According to him, three of the appellants, that is to say Armstrong, a man called Paul (who was the driver of the motor car), Carole Richardson and Conlon, drove to Guildford in a car which was probably a Ford Capri, and there played their respective parts in the bombing of the two public houses. He later made another statement saying that it was he and Carole who had planted the bomb in the Horse and Groom and he marked the place where the bomb had been placed on a plan, and that did in fact coincide with the place where it seemed that the bomb had exploded. He later confirmed his complicity in the Guildford affair, but he added these words, “I am not admitting the Woolwich job. I didn’t do it, so why should I admit it”.

 

The defence case put forward by Armstrong was as follows. First of all he had no part in either the Guildford or the Woolwich bombing. The statements that he made to the police were untrue except for the personal details he had given and other immaterial matters. He signed the false statements, he said, because he had been high on drugs when he was arrested and when the effects of the drugs had worn off he was induced to sign these statements because he was frightened of the police officers. He said he had been treated with brutality by the police at the Guildford Police Station. As to the first statement, he asserted it was done by question and answer in such a way that the answer was suggested and he simply agreed to it. Some answers were untrue, such as the answer that he joined the IRA in 1969, and others were beyond his knowledge, for example, the place which he was alleged to have indicated, that is to say the place where the IRA training was done.

 

As to the second statement, according to him the officer started making it in the form in which it was eventually written and he simply answered questions. He put forward an alibi.
Turning now to Carole Richardson, the prosecution case against her was that she was an IRA sympathiser and was Armstrong’s girlfriend. She, it was alleged, voluntarily played a key part in planting the bomb in the Horse and Groom. So far as the attack on the other Guildford public house was concerned, the Seven Stars, although she did not plant the bomb, she knew that the trip to Guildford involved the bombing of two public houses. She made 4 statements to the police – two, I think, in her own handwriting. They amounted in effect to a confession of her complicity.
She did not give evidence herself. She made a statement from the dock, which at that time was permissible. She said she played no part in the Guildford bombings. The statements which it was alleged she had made to the police were, she asserted, dictated to her by the police. She had only signed them because she was frightened.

 

As to the second statement which gave details of the trip to Guildford and the planting of the bomb, she said that she, too, was subjected to police brutality and that the answers were dictated to her. She also gave evidence of an alibi which it will be remembered, was part of the grounds upon which the Secretary of State referred this matter to the court. She called witnesses in support of her alibi and the Crown called rebutting evidence, as Mr Amlot has told us this morning.

 

She also asserted in relation to the proposed medical evidence which Mr Carman has mentioned this morning that she had been taking barbiturates and was affected by the fact that the drugs were wearing off. She was suffering from withdrawal symptons and consequently was in no fit state to make proper considered statements.

 

Now I turn to the case against Hill. The Crown alleged that Hill was sent over from Ireland to carry out bombings. It was alleged that he went to Guildford as part of the team of bombers and he acted there as look-out, that he went on to Woolwich and there he passed the bomb to the person who actually threw it. He was arrested at Southampton at the end of November 1974.
He made a number of statements into which it is not necessary to go into detail. He described how he had been concerned with Armstrong in a bombing plot. He described how Armstrong had given his explosives; how he had gone to Guildford with Armstrong and Conlon; how he had arranged a false alibi.

 

The fifth statement was a summary of all the previous admissions about Guildford: how it was arranged by Armstrong that Conlon and another would attack the Horse and Groom public house and Carole Richardson and another would attack the Seven Stars. He then described how the operation was in fact carried out. Afterwards he said it was alleged that they drove back to London very fast and he was dropped off in Waterloo when he caught the train to Southampton.
Hill’s evidence was to the effect that he took no part in either bombing. On 5th October he was in Southampton, having left London at three o’clock in the afternoon. Consequently he could not have taken part in the alleged activities in Guildford. On 7 November he was staying with some people called Keenan, although he did go out to telephone his girlfriend at one stage during the evening. The Keenans, we heard this morning, were in fact called to give evidence. He made the statements to the police because they had said they were going to charge his girlfriend Gina Clarke, and he eventually made a statement, he said, in order to prevent Gina from being involved in the proceedings. He had never been told that public houses would be blown up. The police had suggested what he should write down. The Woolwich account that he was said to have given was not true. He was not there. He did not know if Armstrong had been there or not. The statement he made with regard to other matters had been made to stop the police pestering him. The idea that there were two teams of bombers came from the way the police had directed their questioning. As to the final statement, he put it down the way the police wanted it put down. It was not true.

 

Finally, the case against Conlon was that he was part of the Guildford bombing team. He and the girl called Annie had planted the bomb in the Seven Stars. The allegation was that he knew what they were going to do but that the girl it was who carried the bomb, and he knew that another public house was to be bombed.

 

He also was alleged to have made a number of statements. In those statements he was alleged to have said that Hill had asked him to do “a little job” and there was a suggestion that he, Conlon, would be killed if he did not help Hill in the enterprise.

 

A few nights later he was taken to a flat where he saw what appeared to be a bomb either already manufactured or in the course of being manufactured. He was an unwilling passenger in the car which took the bombers to Guildford. He read about the Guildford explosion in the newspapers the next day and did not realize that was the place to which he had been taken.

 

In his second statement he referred to a bomb factory. Once again he described how he had gone to a place the name of which he did not know, how he went off with Carole Richardson, who took him to a public house, and afterwards how the two of them joined Hill. They drove back to London where he was told not to breathe a word about this to anybody.

 

He too gave evidence in his own defence. He had not been to Guildford at all. At the time he had been in London with a gentleman called Paul Kelly, but Kelly did not in fact give evidence. Conlon said that he had been assaulted by the police at Guildford. He said that threats were made against his family to try to persuade him to confess and that the police tore up his first statement in which he had declined to make any admissions about the bombings. Eventually he wrote the material statement but it was written with a lot of help from the police who in effect dictated it and the admissions he made were not true.

 

From that necessarily brief precis of the way in which the case proceeded it will be seen that, in reality, everything depended upon whether the jury were satisfied so as to feel sure that the police evidence in relation to the various interviews, and consequently the statements which came afterwards, was to be relied upon or not.

 

It follows that any evidence which casts a real doubt upon the reliability or veracity of the officers who were responsible for the various interrogations must mean that the whole foundation of the prosecution case disappears and that the convictions will in those circumstances be obviously unsafe.

 

In this case, as Mr Amlot has meticulously described in his opening address this morning, evidence has come to light, thanks to the efforts of the Avon and Somerset Police – evidence which shows quite clearly, as is accepted by the Crown, that the so-called contemporaneous records of some of the interviews conducted by the Surrey police officers with Armstrong and relied upon by those officers as they gave evidence were not contemporaneous records at all. What exactly they were may never be known, but it is accepted, and rightly accepted, by the Crown, if I may say so, that the manuscript notes produced at the trial were not what the Surrey police officers said on oath they were. The officers, to use Mr Amlot’s somewhat anodyne expression, seriously misled the court. In fact they must have lied.

 

Armstrong was the first on the indictment and once again, as Mr Amlot has indicated quite correctly, his case was crucial to the whole of the Crown’s allegations against these appellants. It seems to us – and I hasten to add that it is necessarily speculation – that there are two possible explanations for the Armstrong typescripts and the amendments made to them, if I can use that comprehensive expression to describe the documents which Mr Amlot has been through so meticulously this morning.

 

The first possible explanation is that the typescripts are a fabrication by the police from start to finish, invented by some fertile Constabulary mind; that they were amended to make them more effective and were then written out in manuscript so as to enable the police to produce them as though they were a contemporaneous note of the interrogation. The second possibility is that there was a contemporaneous manuscript note; that it was reduced into typewritten form by someone as a fair copy for some reason or other – perhaps legibility; one does not know – and that it was then amended here and there in order to improve it; and, finally, that it was reconverted into manuscript by the various Surrey officers involved so that it could be produced as a contemporaneous note.

 

It may be that it was a mixture of those two possibilities, but for the purposes of this appeal it is immaterial which of the two versions is true. In any event the police were not telling the truth about this crucial document in the case against Armstrong. If they were prepared to tell this sort of lie, then the whole of their evidence becomes suspect and, I repeat, on their evidence depended the prosecution case.

 

As to Hill, still further matters were to come to light as a result of the investigation of the Avon and Somerset Police. These took the shape of a series of manuscript notes relating to an interview with Hill, and once again Mr Amlot has helpfully been through this matter in detail this morning and there is no need for us to repeat those details here. But the contents of those notes were significant. They were never disclosed to the director of Public Prosecutions. They were never disclosed to prosecution counsel before or at the trial. Indeed they had not seen the light of day until the Avon and Somerset Police discovered them sometime earlier this year.
If they had been disclosed prior to the trial or at the trial, they would almost certainly have shown that Hill’s fifth statement – one of the greatest importance – was taken in breach of the Judges’ Rules and might very well have been ruled inadmissible if the true circumstances of it had been known. Moreover, the Surrey officers on oath, as it is conceded by the Crown, denied that there had been any such interview.

 

The detention sheets, which are the third and final broad matter raised and discovered by the Avon and Somerset Police support that discrepancy. There is no need perhaps for us to set out in this judgment the other matters which have now come to light upon an examination of the detention sheets. There is before us, and again helpfully explained by Mr Amlot, a schedule showing the discrepancies between the detention sheets and the record of interviews which were made by the Surrey investigating officers. Mr Amlot has pointed out in detail where the detention records do in fact conflict with the officers’ evidence as to the time and duration of those various interviews, and there is no doubt that those are material discrepancies which, had they been known at the trial, might on their own, let alone in conjunction with those other matters, have made a grave difference to the outcome.

 

Those matters deal primarily with the cases of Armstrong on the one hand and Hill on the other. The cases against Conlon and Richardson are obviously intimately bound up with these events. We of course do not know what the jury would have made of the matter. Our task is to determine whether we think the convictions of Conlon and Richardson are made unsafe by what we have heard. We have no doubt that these events make the convictions of all of these 4 appellants in respect of the Guildford and the Woolwich events unsafe, even though the latest revelations have no direct bearing on the evidence relating to the Woolwich bombing.

 

It is some comfort to know that these matters are now in the hands of the Director of Public Prosecutions with a view to criminal proceedings being brought. We earnestly express the hope that nothing will be allowed to stand in the way of a speedy progress of those proceedings. It seems that by about May 1989 these papers had come to light having been discovered by the Avon and Somerset Constabulary. No doubt it was necessary thereafter to conduct meticulous enquiries as to their provenance. We are told that the various writings and typings have been identified, namely, that the authors of them are known and can be proved or are the subject of admission. We hope that those enquiries may have paved the way for expeditious criminal proceedings.

 

Whatever may now happen, the painstaking and perspicacious efforts of the Avon and Somerset Police have salvaged something from this unhappy matter.

 

This morning each of the appellants through their learned counsel has addressed us. They have indicated that there were other arguments and other pieces of evidence that they would have advanced in support of their appeals and had the matter been, so to speak, pre-empted by the latest revelations explained by Mr Amlot. We note what they say, but so far as this court is concerned these appeals are allowed and convictions are quashed.

 

 

 

 

 

The boy from the Streets, the man with the moustache and the King of the Court jesters

11 Jul

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The security guard turned one of the corners within the complex and came upon an opened door. It was a door that he knew should have been closed.

Silently, he approached the door and investigated further, only to discover a small boy who was focused on hitting a ball. Just as the door should not have been open, so the boy should not have been there.

The boy was so fixed on what he was doing that he did not notice the guard approaching until it was too late. Suddenly the guard was upon him and his game had to stop.
For a brief second, the boy stood still, wide eyed with fear.

Then the guard started to beat him. He beat the boy relentlessly, cruelly, with considerable force knocking him down repeatedly. Finally, the beating stopped, and the boy, battered bruised and bloodied, was allowed to return to his family who stayed not far away.

The boy’s father, was a tribesman from the hills. He was a simple man who had gained a job as a gardener in the sports centre and as a result his son also became familiar with all of the ways in and out of the complex which was reserved solely for the country’s rich and elite.

The child son of a gardener was not allowed to play there, and the beating was designed to drive the point home. There would be no complaint from his father for fear of losing his job.

The boy was being told he was not to come back and that the game he was playing was not for the son of a tribesman from the hills.

This was the reality of living in Persia under the Shah of Iran. Tribesmen from the hills had their place, and the county’s elite tennis complex on the outskirts of Tehran was prepared to put up with such a tribesman working as a gardener, but those in charge would not put up with the son of a tribesman sneaking on to one of the courts and hitting a ball against a wall.

However, despite the beating, the boy did not stay away. The guard had broken the old tennis racquet he had been using and it would be several years before the child would get his hands on another. In the interim, the boy kept coming to the club and acted as ball boy when those who were allowed to play there did so.

When not acting as ball boy, the child could be seen knocking a tennis ball around – sometimes with his bare hands, sometimes with a stick, sometimes with an old rusted frying pan. He was a natural athlete, seemingly good at any sport, but it was with a tennis ball that he seemed to excel.

Eventually, at the age of 13, he was approached by one of the coaches at the complex, given two second hand racquets, and at long last he was allowed to play.

Very quickly, the coaches saw that he was a natural, a real talent, a prodigious find and something that perhaps came along only once in a lifetime.

Within 3 years, his talent was such that he found himself being asked to play in Persia’s Davis Cup team. His opening match was against Britain’s Roger Taylor and he was soundly beaten in straight sets winning only two games in the entire match.

However, the boy learned quickly and when he turned out for another Davis Cup match shortly thereafter he won. In fact he won 9 out of his next 11 matches.

He was a tennis professional at the age of just 16 – albeit he was still poor and the opportunities for a young tennis professional in Persia were not great.

However, he was recognised for his sheer natural talent and someone who the tennis world should look out for in the future.

Then, in 1979 the Shah was overthrown, Persia ceased to exist and suddenly, the country of Iran was under the control of the Ayatollah Khomeini who ruled that tennis was a western decadent pastime and so must be banned. All the tennis courts were closed as part of the Cultural Revolution.

And that was the end of a young tennis professional’s career at the tender age of 22.

Or so it seemed.

For a period, the young man in his twenties concentrated on something else entirely in the Ayatollah’s Iran. The first was staying out of trouble, and the second was playing backgammon for money.

That was how he earned an income and put bread on the table. By playing backgammon against anyone who would play him for money.

Then, in 1981 there came news of a one off solitary tennis tournament in Iran. The Revolution Cup.

The boy who had been beaten by the security guard all those years before decided to enter at the age of 24.

Perhaps it was the nature of the first prize that spurred him on to victory, as the winner did not receive a sum of money and a big trophy. No, instead the winner of the tournament was to be given…….. an air ticket to Athens or in other words an escape route away from the Ayatollah and his regime.

On winning, the 24 year old unselfishly gave the ticket to his then girlfriend and encouraged her to get out of Iran, but within 24 hours the same girl handed the ticket back to him and then threw in some additional advice. She told him to go, but instead of going to Athens, she suggested scraping together some extra money to extend the range of the ticket and she advised him to go to France.

In the end, he made a heart rending and difficult decision. He took the ticket, left his friends, family and girlfriend behind and flew to Nice in the south of France – away from Iran and away from the Ayatollah.

He was now 25 years old, poor, alone and in France.

He very quickly realised that the cost of living in France was much greater than it had been back home in Iran. He had brought his life savings with him but they were clearly never going to be enough to sustain him.

He made his way to Paris and in an attempt to boost his income he took to the casinos hoping to win additional funds.

Unfortunately, his luck did not hold and he lost his money. He was now even poorer, destitute and living rough on the streets in Paris.

Over the next months and years, the young man from Iran lived an existence that is hard to fathom. In part he played backgammon for money, gained some friends but also had to live below the radar because his visa had run out. He was now an illegal immigrant and any time he saw a policeman coming he simply turned on his heel and walked the other way as had he been stopped and asked for his papers he would surely have been deported as an illegal immigrant.

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Further, he dared not leave France. Had he left to go anywhere else he would have been fearful of discovery and deportation and who knew what would await him back in Iran? Prison? Or perhaps even worse!

Eventually, when it was clear that he needed to do something other than just play backgammon, he admitted to some friends that he could play a bit of tennis. Money was gathered to find the entrance fee to some small local tournaments and after a prolonged absence from a tennis court he began to play again and win.

These were not big tournaments with any kind of national news coverage; they were small local tournaments with small cheques which still did not sometimes cover his living expenses. There were times when he was still sleeping in doorways and making a single baguette last a few days. It was a regime which was far from comfortable, full of dangers and nothing like the right preparation for a competing athlete.

He could have claimed political asylum but deliberately chose not to. He still had family in Tehran and a claim for political asylum would not have been good for them. Further, if he claimed political asylum and somehow still ended up back in Iran then he knew for certain he would have been beheaded if forcibly returned to his homeland. Besides he swore that he was, and always would be, an Iranian or a Persian no matter what.

So, he kept to the streets, avoiding authority and trying to fashion a living from playing in mini tennis tournaments.

However, eventually he began to progress to bigger and better tournaments where the prize money was greater and the earnings would potentially move him off the streets and into some kind of normal existence.

Then the decision was taken to play the qualifying tournaments for the French open, and amazingly the tennis player from the streets won through and found himself playing with the big boys at Roland Garros.

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This was a big step up in class from those mini tournaments and surely a step to far?

However, the boy from Iran made it through to the second round losing in four sets to big hitting Mel Purcell of America…… which was both a good thing and a bad thing. Good in the sense that he had progressed and made some money, bad in the sense that his success made some of the sports journalists and others sit up and ask “who in the name of God is this?”.

As a result, newspapers like L’Equipe and Le Figaro started to ask questions about his identity and status and when the truth became known they started to press the French authorities to renew the young man’s visa and to make him at least legal in France.
Eventually he was granted an extended visa and several years after playing local mini tournaments with some success, he was admitted to the full ATP Tour. However, he was by now over 30 years old and had little chance of making any real impact in the world of international tennis.

He did make the top two hundred in the world at one time, and he was sufficiently talented to worry many players who ranked above him.

He was thirty two when he managed to reach the men’s doubles final at the French Open in 1989, although he and his partner did not take the title losing to Jim Grab and Patrick McEnroe in four sets. In fact he had more notable success in doubles than singles and eventually reached a total of twelve main tour doubles finals of which he won two – namely the Geneva open and the Toulouse Grand Prix. In the course of a relatively short pro career at this level he partnered guys like Thomas Smid, Yannick Noah and Guy Forget amongst others.

In 1989 he was granted dual citizenship of France and Iran and at long last he could travel back to Iran, and go elsewhere in safety as both a French and Iranian citizen.
He appeared in his last ATP final in 1991 at the age of 35.

It had been some journey for the small boy who had been beaten by the security guard for sneaking on to the tennis court in Tehran, yet it was a journey which had really yet not begun in so many ways.

Last week, that young boy was at Wimbledon at the tender age of 58. Crowds gathered to see him play as the Wimbledon authorities new they would.

In fact, the organisers of every major tennis tournament in the world know that the crowds will come to see the French Iranian play as it is fair argument that he has been the major individual draw in men’s tennis for several years now.

He is, in short, a unique tennis player.

Unique because of all the players who participated at SW19 last week he is the only one who has lived on the streets, slept in doorways for weeks at a time, kept going on a baguette for days at a time, spent months and years constantly avoiding arrest and deportation and so on.

He is unique because John McEnroe has described him as “Simply a genius with a tennis racquet”. Bjorn Borg says he is a “Legend” and Rod Laver has said of him that he is undoubtedly the most gifted human being ever to have lifted a tennis racquet. Roger Federer has publicly urged every single tennis fan to go and see him play ……… in his 50’s.

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He is also unique because he is the only tennis professional from the country of Iran and because of all the tennis players in the world — Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Murray, Venus Williams, Serena Williams, Sharipova and everyone else you can think of — he is the only player to whom the organisers of any and all tennis tournaments in the world will pay a substantial sum to just to have him turn up and play with and against anyone!

If you are not familiar with the name of this phenomenon as yet, his name is Mansour Bahrami.

Bahrami’s own website asks the question “ Is he the greatest tennis player you have never heard of not to win Wimbledon?”

And the same website on another page more or less gives you the answer.

No – Mansour undoubtedly had the talent to win a major title but he was never going to, because he had one major flaw in his game that he has never been able to overcome and yet that same flaw that became his greatest asset.

You see there is no doubt that Mansour Bahrami can do things with a tennis ball and racquet which many of the top top players could never do, but he was never going to be of the temperament to win a major singles title……. Because no matter what the event, occasion, or tournament, as soon as you put Mansour Bahrami in front of a crowd he is absolutely compelled to make them laugh!

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He openly admits that there were serious tournament games that he should have won had he not started to play shots between his legs or serve under arm or whatever. There were games where he did win, but felt unhappy because he sensed that those watching could simply have had a better tennis experience had they seen something amazing and had a laugh.

With a doubles partner, he had a duty to his partner not to clown around too much. Hence the success he achieved in doubles over a three year period.

But when it came to singles, as often as not Mansour the clown came out to play.

So when the seniors’ exhibition tour was started in 1993 with guys like Nastase, Connors and so on Mansour Bahrami decided to join – partly to play seriously but mostly to bring the house down with his astonishing play and, to be frank. comedic genius.
Over the years, Bahrami has now played with all the greats and impersonates many of them on court to great effect and hilarity. Borg, Becker, McEnroe, Nastasi, Lendl, Laver, Wilander, Navratilova – you name them – THEY – have wanted to play with Bahrami because Bahrami is just a sports and entertainment genius.

If you haven’t seen him play then do so. Check out the video clips on You Tube where he serves with Six Balls in his hands ( apparently he can hold 21 at a push ), deliberately misses the ball with his serve only to whip the racquet round so quickly he hits the ball on the second revolution, plays shots which bounce on one side of the net only to bounce back over to his side leaving his opponents and ball boys mesmerised as to where the ball has gone and so on.

 

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He has been known to catch tennis balls in the pocket of his shorts during play, play every point while sitting in a chair, play a shot only to jump over the net and play it back from the other side, and simply play every shot whilst talking, singing, clowning, wearing a hat, with the wrong end of the racquet and everything in between.

He has even perfected the technique of playing an entire point in slow motion with no ball, going through all of the actions, facial expressions and gesticulations involved in real time tennis — and amazingly over the years he has persuaded the McEnroes, Le Conte’s and others to join in the slow motion pantomime to the delight of the crowd.

Yet all the time he plays some absolutely top drawer tennis shots.

Most of all he will play fantastic passing drive shots from between his legs and execute serves and smashes which have to be seen to be believed while ensuring that his fellow players, the umpires and everyone watching does so with a huge grin on their faces.

It would be easy to dismiss Bahrami as an instantly recognisable moustachioed clown – but that would be missing the point entirely.

Bahrami, now lives in Paris with his wife and family. He enjoys a very comfortable living and spends 40 weeks of the year travelling throughout the world playing tennis and putting bums on seats and smiles on faces.

 

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He will tell you he is an Iranian and proud of it.

To perform the way he does and at his age takes complete dedication, gym work and a fitness regime that many younger tennis players clearly do not follow or adhere to. His skills have not diminished with age because he works on them – that would be his tennis skills and his comedic skills. His natural good nature, humour and bonhomie are God given.

He enjoys hitting a golf ball with some precision. He smokes more than the occasional torpedo cigar and he will stop and chat to most tennis fans in and around a tournament. His book signings and talks draw huge crowds.

However, Mansour Bahrami remembers the beating that was handed to him as a child. He recalls not being able to afford a racquet and has described himself as the greatest tennis player ever to wield a kitchen utensil (frying pan). He remembers living on the street, avoiding policemen, being afraid, being hungry, being homeless, being away from his family and his country, and simply not being able to play the sport he loved and so clearly had the ability to excel at.

No other professional tennis player comes from such a background or has experienced such a life – or anything close to it.

He remembers all of the dark days of his past yet he has not only endured and followed the dream of being a tennis professional, he has excelled as an athlete and as a man beyond all imagination so creating a remarkable story.

In the course of a three hour car journey he once told his life story to Bjorn Borg’s manager who, at the end, proclaimed “ That is not a life story – That is an adventure picture!”.

Accordingly for me the story of Mansour Bahrami is all about inspiration. Here is someone who makes the sport of tennis fun. He makes you want to pick up a racquet and hit a ball whether you are a child of 6 years old or a child of 60 years old. This is sport with a smile, sport triumphing over extreme adversity and an acknowledgement that you do not have to be a tournament winner or superstar to be able to feed yourself and your family by playing the sport you love.

 

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It is also a reminder that in the heavily sponsored multi billion dollar world of televised sport of any kind – there is always room for the clown, the entertainer and the guy or gal who makes you laugh and who provides entertainment and escapism away from the daily job and toil.

Most of all, the story of Mansour Bahrami is a testament to one man’s incredible will to be a tennis player and to follow a dream that someone tried to beat out of him and which his Government tried to ban.

In the end Bahrami beat them all………. By winning nothing whatsoever but by simply being himself, hitting a tennis ball like no one else on earth and by making other people smile and laugh uncontrollably in the process.

He is the king of the court jesters, the man with the moustache and someone everyone in tennis – and every other sport should look up to simply for being Mansour Bahrami.

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I had started writing this tale last week when a friend of mine, Siobhan Hewitt said on facebook that she had been crying with laughter at the antics of Henri LeConte in the seniors doubles at Wimbledon.

When I later asked if he had been playing with Bahrami she replied that indeed he had been.

For a number of years now Bahrami and LeConte have been the equivalent of Tennis’ Morcambe and Wise.

Bahrami is older yet far fitter — but here is why Mansour Bahrami is such a great attraction.

Enjoy

The King, The Baron, The House painter and Boris!

14 Jun

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On the afternoon of 7th July 1985 it finally happened and in truth it was a little unexpected. Late that afternoon, a 17 year old boy from Lieman in North West Germany became the first German to be crowned Champion of Wimbledon.

Boris Becker had just blown away Kevin Curran in 4 sets of tennis and in so doing he had broken all sorts of records. He had become the youngest ever grand slam finalist that day, became the youngest grand slam winner, was the first German to win the title and had won it from an unseeded position in the rankings.

A fortnight before, Becker had won his first ever major title at Queens Club in London and the back to back wins really did announce the emergence of a major force in tennis.

Back in Berlin, a crowd had gathered to watch the Wimbledon final in the famous Rot-Weiss Club ( or to give it its full name The Lawn Tennis Turnier Club Rot-Weiß ) on the outskirts of the city. With its sixteen clay courts, the Rot- Weiss — or Red and White — ranks amongst one of the elite tennis clubs in the world. There was a huge cheer when the winning point was made and the announcement of “Game set and match, Becker” sparked huge celebrations and the champagne began to flow.

Only when the newly crowned boy champion made an innocent remark in a celebratory interview was there a slight murmur which marked a dampening of the celebrations. When asked what his win meant for tennis in Germany Becker had somewhat innocently said “in Germany, we never had an idol before in tennis.”

The crowd in the Rot-Weiss fell a little silent at the remark, and one man in particular was seen to shake his head just a little. Wolfgang  Hofer raised his glass for the umpteenth time since the winning point and turned to one of the many portraits on the wall. He drained his glass and said “ We have a winner my friend, a bright new star! Yet like most other tennis players and most other men, I doubt he is fit to string your racquets!” He refilled his glass, and added “Anyway – happy birthday. It is appropriate that the boy should win on this of all days!”

The portrait on the wall didn’t reply. It showed a handsome man in white tennis slacks and the red and white blazer of the Rot-Weiss Club. The same figure could be seen in numerous photographs around the club, many of which were taken with an older, taller, upright man who always seemed to be sporting a white hat.

“What do you think Mr G?”

Wolfgang knew the answer to his own question. Mr G also did not answer but Wolfgang knew that he agreed. No matter what Becker might go on to achieve he would never be the man in the portrait  and in truth Wolfgang would never want him to have to consider coming close.

The game of tennis has always had eras. In the modern game there was the Borg era, the era of McEnroe and Lendl, Sampras and Agassi, the Federer years, followed by the era of the hard hitting big four Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and our own Andy Murray. Tennis has always had eras.

Back in the 1920’s, Tennis was dominated by Big Bill Tilden of the United States who won 6 consecutive US Opens and three Wimbledon titles.

However Tilden could never master the clay of Roland Garros and despite being a beaten finalist twice, the French clay courts were dominated by the four musketeers from France who give their name to the modern trophy that is presented to the winner of the French Open each year – and which is then placed straight back in the cabinet immediately after the presentation.

This year Rafael Nadal lifted that trophy for a record ninth time and held aloft the Coupe des Mousquetaires, named after Jean Borotra, Jacques Brugnon, Henri Cochet, and René Lacoste – The Four Musketeers who laid siege to clay court tennis for the decade between 1922  and 1932 and who shut everyone else out at Roland Garros year after year.

It is often said that the era of the Frenchmen was followed by the era of Fred Perry – and we in Britain, in particular, are very apt to ignore everyone else from the world of tennis at that time.

Yet, it is in this era we find that the record books contain the name of possibly the bravest, most gallant, most stylish, most controversial, and one of the most forgotten about players in the history of the game. So forgotten, that even the newly crowned Wimbledon champion of 1985 did not know of his existence despite his sharing Becker’s nationality.

Yet his is a story which should never be forgotten by anyone.

The name of this mystery man?

Gottfried Von Cramm – or to be more precise Baron Gottfried Alexander Maximilian Walter Kurt Freiherr von Cramm , Son of a German Nobleman, groomed as a future diplomat, member of the aristocracy, and a tennis champion like no other in history.

Von Cramm took up the game of tennis in his teens playing on the manicured court that was to be found on the grounds of his considerable family estate. The family’s Arian nobility could be traced back to the twelfth century, but throughout his career Von Cramm would go out of his way to distance himself from any suggestion of snobbishness, being privileged,  being upper class or superior to anyone else in any way.

In fact he refused to be addressed as Baron, never used his full name and even dropped the Von part of his name introducing himself in perfect English as simply Gottfried Cramm.

By the age of 20 ( 1929 ) he had come to Berlin supposedly to study law but in truth to further his tennis career, and it was in the capital city he came to know and love The Rot-Weiss Tennis Club.

At the time, Berlin was the decadence capital of Europe with there being nightclubs of every type and catering for every taste. Berlin was party city, but whilst young Von Cramm could be seen out on the town, come midnight he always made his excuses and left any party as the following day he had to train and practice, practice and train.

It was during this period he first shared a tennis court with the slightly eccentric Mr G who appeared to travel throughout Europe playing in Tennis tournaments by invitation—despite being far too old to have any chance whatsoever of actually winning anything. Mr G was simply an eccentric tennis fixture across Europe.

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In 1931 Cramm, having gained his Law Degree, turned his back on the law and the diplomatic service and opted to become a full time tennis player joining the amateur tour.

By 1932 he had won a place in the German Davis Cup team, and in the same year he won the first of four consecutive German titles.

However, it was not just what Cram won which made him stand out. It was his very appearance, his demeanour, his humility and simple presence that made Gottfried Von Cramm a true world star like no other before or since.

Tennis at the time was mostly an amateur sport with all the participants wearing white.

However, standing at just less than six feet, with dark blonde hair, Cramm always appeared with razor sharp pressed slacks and wearing the red and white blazer of his beloved Rot-Weiss club. He was instantly recognisable for his sense of style, panache, charm and wit.

Cramm also had an excellent tennis game and was recognised amongst his peers for having classic long ground strokes and a wickedly kicking serve making him among the very best players on the planet.

However, even beyond his classy play and spectacular appearance, Gottfried Von Cramm was known for his scrupulous fairness, absolute manners, complete and open integrity, and his gentlemanly conduct — so much so that others were said to be in awe of his very presence simply because he was such a gentleman.

Personally, he was funny, supremely loyal, generous to a fault and was regarded as one of the circuits truly nice guys, if not absolutely the nicest of all players.

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Yet despite all of these traits he was fiercely competitive and by 1933 he served notice of his intention to win at tennis by picking up the mixed doubles title at Wimbledon when he triumphed with Hilde Krahwinkel  in an all German team.

The following year he entered the world’s greatest clay court championships at Roland Garros with a degree of confidence.

Le Stade Roland Garros (“Roland Garros Stadium”)  was constructed in 1928 to host France’s first defence of the Davis Cup and is named after Roland Garros, a pioneer aviator who completed the first solo flight across the Mediterranean and was the inventor of the first forward-firing aircraft machine gun. Garros was a World War I hero (the first pilot to shoot down five enemy aircraft, and to be called an “ace” for doing so) who was killed in aerial combat in 1918.

In 1933 the Australian Jack Crawford had brought to an end the dominance of the four musketeers in the French open. Prior to then the Frenchmen had shared the spoils for over a decade, and having lost to the Australian the year before, the Paris crowd knew there would be a stiff challenge from a new set of local heroes from France in an attempt to reclaim the title.

Also competing would be a strong British contingent including Fred Perry, Bunny Austin, Patrick Hughes ( The only Britain ever to be crowned Italian champion ) Mohammed Sleem ( who was technically Indian but who played under the Union Jack ) and Daniel Prenn, who until the emergence of Cramm had been the predominant player in Germany.

Added to these there was a strong international field.

Yet by the end of the tournament Crawford would be in the final once again and standing across the other side of the net was the slim, elegant figure of Gottfried Von Cramm who had simply played blistering tennis throughout.

In what was one of the most thrilling finals of all time, the reigning champion was defeated by the little fancied German over 5 sets 6–4, 7–9, 3–6, 7–5, 6–3.

Von Cramm was the King of Clay and was hailed as a hero back in Germany.

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Thus began what may well have become the era of Gottfried Von Cramm – yet it was not to be despite his remaining at the very top of the tennis tree in terms of sheer talent for years to come.

Von Cramm’s victory at Roland Garros put German tennis on the map far more than Becker’s much later win at Wimbledon, and along with other great German players Herman Henkel and Kai Lund, Germany were seen as a real force in the Davis Cup which was considered far more prestigious than any of the four individual Grand Slam tournaments at the time. However, in the eyes of Gottfried Cramm there was one name missing from the German line up and that was the name of Daniel Prenn.

Prenn had been a mainstay of German tennis for a number of years and was only replaced by Von Cramm as the best player in Germany. Not only that, Prenn had represented Germany at Table tennis and was a noted amateur boxer and runner as well. He had represented the country on many occasions in the Davis Cup and had achieved a very handsome winning record. However, by 1933 Prenn was banned from representing his country in any sport on the simple grounds that he was a Jew.

For Gottfried Von Cramm, Prenn’s exclusion was to be the first cause celebre which lead him into immediate conflict with someone who took a direct and personal interest in everything that Cramm did – Adolf Hitler.

Hitler had come to power in Germany in 1933 and he openly rejoiced when Von Cramm won at Roland Garros in 1934 but very quickly realised that the new Tennis star was about to be a constant thorn in the Fuherer’s flesh.

1935 saw Von Cramm reach the finals at Roland Garros once again only this time he faced England’s best – Fred Perry. Perry won in 4 sets, much to the annoyance of Adolf Hitler, taking the game 6–3, 3–6, 6–1, 6–3.

Three weeks later, the two met in the finals of the Wimbledon Championships and once again Perry triumphed, this time making short work of the German who was all at sea on grass. Fred was champion after three sets -6–2, 6–4, 6–4 and English tennis was seen to crow from the rafters that Perry was the best tennis player in the world. This was something that did not please Herr Hitler.

However, these defeats did not diminish Von Cramm’s hero status at home amongst the German populace as it was recognised that suddenly Germany had a tennis player who would be in and around the business end of the major tournaments on a regular basis – even if Hitler did have private concerns about the Baron.

Later in the same year, the German people, Adolf Hitler and indeed the whole world of tennis would be amazed by the actions of Gottfried Von Cramm and his single minded and controversial devotion to personal integrity the spirit of fair play in tennis.

Germany had drawn the United States in the Davis Cup and of course Hitler and his Reich wanted to show the world that they were the superior race in all matters.

The teams were even after the opening-day singles competition,  Donald Budge having defeated Henner Henkel in a marathon, 7-5, 11-9, 6-8, 6-1 match and Von Cramm having beaten Wilmer Allison in straight sets. In the doubles the next day Allison and John Van Ryn faced Von Cramm and Kai Lund, and the match went to five sets. At match point for the Germans, Von Cramm and Lund both lunged for a shot hit down the middle of the court. The Baron fell short, but Lund got to the ball and drove it home for an apparent winner.

“Game, set and match to Germany,” the umpire called.

At that point, The Baron lifted his hand in protest and called a foul on himself to the astonishment of all. The ball had ticked his racket before Lund had hit his shot, he told the astonished official, and therefore, the point should go to the Americans. It was one of five match points the Germans would lose en route to a disheartening 8-6 defeat in the final set. The U.S. would go on to win the tie four matches to one and then lose to Great Britain in the shape of Fred Perry in the final Challenge Round.

Once again, Hitler in particular was furious – especially with Von Cramm.

Kleinschroth, the German captain, was apoplectic after the doubles defeat. Germany had never won the Davis Cup, and Von Cramm’s sportsmanship had cost the fatherland a golden opportunity. The Baron had apparently disgraced both his country and his team-mates. Kleinschroth sputtered with complete and utter rage. At this, the normally affable Von Cramm levelled his captain with a frigid stare.

“When I chose tennis as a young man,” the Baron said, “I chose it because it was a gentleman’s game, and that’s the way I’ve played it ever since I picked up my first racket. Do you think that I would sleep tonight knowing that the ball had touched my racket without my saying so? Never, because I would be violating every principle I think this game stands for. On the contrary, I don’t think I’m letting the German people down. As a matter of fact, I think I’m doing them credit.”

However, the Germany of 1935 was not the country Von Cramm and his kind had grown up believing in, and in his heart he knew it, which makes his stand all the more impressive. This was a Germany controlled by a brutal dictator whose idea of fair play was to murder political opponents, persecute ethnic groups and bully neighbouring countries. Back home, the Baron found himself on increasingly shaky ground.

He had already angered the Nazi regime by protesting about the banishment from Davis Cup play of Daniel Prenn but his popularity was such that Hitler’s regime were reluctant to move against him. Now, however, his actions had cost his country a victory and that popularity was slipping. Hitler started to step up the pressure on the gentleman tennis player.

Von Cramm was politely asked to join the Nazi Party by Herman Goring. Equally politely, Gottfried simply refused. Over months the pressure increased with Goring meeting Cramm again and again at times pleading with him to join the party and show support for Hitler and at the same time warning him that it would not be good for him or his family if he refused. Again, the tennis player rejected the proposals from Goring. Eventually, despite these repeated previous “invitations” from Göring being refused, The Field Marshall stood in front of Von Cramm and ostentatiously ripped up all the mortgages held on Von Cramm’s castles and estates by Jewish bankers. “Now,” the portly field marshal announced with a mixture of pride and menace, “you are free.”

Gottfried Von Cramm’s reaction to this gesture was to simply stare at the shredded documents and say icily, “All the more reason for me not to join your party.”

And with those words,the die was cast. Von Cramm knew exactly what he was doing by refusing to join the party. He came from an aristocratic and influential background which now meant little in Germany but which still held influence abroad. Besides on the international tennis circuit he was adored for his manners, easy wit, his charm, his absolute sense of fair play and for truly great tennis.

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But he was a real problem for Adolf Hitler and knew that Adolf Hitler was a real problem for him – and he had no intention of playing the shrinking violet or the political puppet. He was now a citizen of the world, as one commentator put it, and on the tennis court there was only one who was his equal in terms of play and as long as he remained at the top he might just be safe. Maybe!

However by so clearly refusing Goring’s repeated proposals and advances Cramm knew that every time he walked on to a Tennis court he was literally playing for his life. If he kept winning in the main he might escape censure, if he lost then there would be consequences.

For the third year in a row he made it through to the finals at Roland Garros on his favoured clay court surface, and once again across the other side of the net stood Britain’s Fred Perry.

The Era of the Four Musketeers was gone; the equivalent of the modern Coupe des Mousquetaires was to be fought over by a German and an Englishman in an ever heightening political cauldron.

When play started on the afternoon of the first of June the crowd could barely believe what they were seeing. Von Cramm blasted through the first set without the famous Fred Perry winning a single game.

Perry rallied in the second set and took it 6-2 before Von Cramm regained the ascendancy by winning the third set by the same score. Once again, Perry came back and triumphed in the fourth set by six games to two and so the greatest clay championships in the world would come down to the final set with both men preparing to slug it out for the title.

Except the gentleman German showed sheer grit, style and absolute tennis class and once again blew Fred Perry away without letting him win a single game in the set. He was the official King of Clay for the second time – twice in three years – and his popularity once again soared – except perhaps with Adolf Hitler.

Three weeks later, Perry and Von Cramm met again on the green lawns of the Wimbledon centre court in the men’s singles final. Once again both had shown that there was no one in the tennis world who could stand in their way as the pair battled for the title for the second year in a row.

In the quarter finals and semis Von Cramm had disposed of Britain’s Bunny Austin and Australia’s Jack Crawford, while Perry had dispatched the up and coming Don Budge and Adrian Quist of Australia.

However, luck deserted Gottfried Von Cramm even before the match had started. On his way to the Wimbledon final he was injured in a car crash but insisted on playing even though he was clearly in pain and noticeably limping on an injured leg. On the grass and in front of a home crowd Perry was imperious and won in straight sets but once again Von Cramm had shown he was amongst the very best and noblest in the world despite his injuries.Perry deliberately played to his injured side throughout and won easily as the Baron was no match for him in that condition.

Afterwards Von Cramm refused to accept that the car crash had robbed him of the chance of wining and merely stated that Fred had been better on the day despite it being obvious that he could never have won following the accident.

Throughout these years Von Cramm always took to the court in the Red and White Rot-Weiss blazer making it clear that was his uniform rather than the swastika and the flag of Hitler. He was a man of Tennis – not persecution or war.

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1937 saw Gottfried Von Cramm at his zenith in every way. He had started to speak out publicly against the Hitler regime and had openly referred to the Fuherer  as  “The Little House Painter” in a newspaper article.

As a result, The Third Reich banned him from defending his French Open singles Title at Roland Garros after a furious row in which Cramm once again refused to buckle under the weight of the Nazi party. Instead the cup was claimed by his German team mate Herman Henkel who had not been able to stand up to Von Cramm as he won his fourth successive German title only weeks before Paris.

Had he been allowed to play in the French Open singles there is little doubt that Von Cramm would have claimed his third Roland Garros win in four years thus furthering his reputation in the record books.

He was however allowed to play in the doubles with Henkel – who was a confirmed Nazi – and the pair waltzed off with the title proving that Germany was the greatest tennis nation on earth at the time.

Perry had retired to the professional circuit leaving the world of tennis in the hands of the gentleman Baron and the emerging athlete that was Donald Budge of the USA, and so it was that Gottfried Von Cramm faced Budge in his third consecutive Wimbledon final only a few weeks after Roland Garros.

Budge was a new kind of tennis player. At 6 ft 1 he was taller than Cramm. He trained extensively and one might say “professionally” and used a more modern racquet which was heavier and more tightly strung. As a consequence Budge hit the ball harder than anyone before including the experienced German.

In the Wimbledon tournaments of 1937 and 1938, Budge would sweep the board with his style of tennis winning the singles, the doubles and the mixed doubles. He would perform the same feat at the US Championships of 1938.

The son of a Glaswegian who had played for Rangers, Don Budge would become the first man and the only American to date to win the grand slam of tennis holding all the major singles titles at the same time.

However, by 1937 he had won something else, and that was the unending friendship and admiration of Gottfried Von Cramm – and the friendship and admiration was totally reciprocal.

At the Wimbledon final of 1937, Budge defeated Von Cramm in straight sets winning 6-3, 6-4, 6-2. However, it is the match that the two played exactly a fortnight later that has etched its place in tennis history as arguably the greatest tennis match ever played.

The setting was once again the Wimbledon Centre Court and the occasion was the interzone final of the Davis Cup with the winner going on to meet the British team in the final. However, it was recognised by all concerned that this match was the real final as Britain, without Perry who had turned professional the year before, would be no match for the Germans or the Americans.

What happened before, during and after this tennis match is one of the great stories of sport with there being two distinct and different versions of the most significant of events.

The backdrop of course was the rising political tension between Germany and The United States, Britain and the other soon to be allies.

Max Schmeling had unexpectedly defeated Joe Louis in 1936  in a bout which had been hijacked by both the American and German Governments for propaganda purposes, and of course the Fuherer had witnessed the remarkable feats of Jesse Owens that same year. 1937 saw the two nations square up on the tennis court and Hitler was not keen on the Baron repeating any of his famed sportsmanship at the expense of the Fatherland.

Hitler had severe doubts about Cramm but was determined that Germany would win if at all possible and was determined to use any means to ensure victory.

Accordingly, the tension was such that the centre court at Wimbledon was packed to capacity with even Queen Mary being present for the match. In New York the tie was carried by ticker tape into the stock exchange and the radios of millions of Americans were switched on to hear the news from SW19 as it happened.

Both men were dressed in cream flannels, with Von Cramm in his Rot-Weiss blazer, as they were escorted from the players’ quarters by Ted Tinling of the All England Club. As well as Queen Mary, among the nearly 15,000 spectators were the German ambassador to Great Britain, Joachim von Ribbentrop, and the German minister of sport, Hans von Tschammer und Osten. Among the U.S. rooters were comedian Jack Benny and newspaper columnist Ed Sullivan, who would become better known in the television era as a variety-show host. Also present were journalist Alistair Cooke and the novelist and commentator James Thurber.

Yet with all of this interference, pressure and politics, nothing could shake the friendship of the two protagonists. “Gottfried,” Budge said, “was always a joy to be with. Anyone who ever really knew him could not help but feel close to him.”

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Later, Budge would tell the story that just as the two players were about to enter the Centre Court arena, Von Cramm was told that there was a telephone call for him which he took there and then in the presence of Budge. Whilst Budge states that he did not hear the voice of the person who was on the other end of the phone, nor was told who the caller was, he has gone on record as stating that he is certain Von Cramm addressed the caller as “Mein Fuherer” and that once the call had finished the normally calm and immaculate Von Cramm looked ashen.

For his part, Von Cramm always denied that there had been a phone call of any kind and that he did not speak to Adolf Hitler on that day or prior to the match itself.

No matter what happened before the players emerged before the crowd, the two friends walked on to the famous court and served up one of the greatest matches of all time. If Budge had dominated two weeks before, he would certainly not dominate this match in anything like the same way.

What occurred on court that day was described by the great Bill Tilden as “The most beautiful tennis I have ever seen!” and Walter Pate, the U.S. Davis Cup captain of 1937 said “No other player—living or dead—could have beaten either man that day.”

Later, Alistair Cooke would write “The two white figures began to set the rhythms of something that looked more like ballet than a game where you hit a ball. People stopped asking other people to sit down. The umpire gave up stopping the game to beg for silence during rallies.” James Thurber reflected on the end of the match that it had been “something so close to art that at the end it was more as if a concert had ended than a tennis match. The shouts of `Bravo!’ when it was over came out of an emotion usually reserved for something more important.”

In the first set, the game moved with serve with both men playing out of their skin. Then Budge broke serve to lead 5-4 but unbelievably Von Cramm produced miracle tennis in the next game serving up four consecutive blistering returns to break back immediately. Eventually, the German closed out a thrilling first set taking it by eight games to six.

Surely they could not keep up this standard?

In the second set, Budge raised his game but Von Cramm raised his higher still and eventually he won another marathon set by seven games to five.

Budge would later say that during this game he played the best tennis of his life but added “the fewer mistakes I made, Gottfried made fewer still!”.

Budge narrowly won the third set 6-4 to stay in the match, which seemed to knock Cramm of his stride as the fourth set was the easiest of the day with Budge winning 6-2.

And so the crowd were set for a 5th and deciding set.

The Baron raced out to a 4-1 lead and things were looking good for Germany at that point but Budge then staged a remarkable comeback.

After holding serve to make the score 4-2, Budge decided he must gamble to pull himself back from the abyss. The Baron’s serve, particularly his second delivery, tended to kick high off the grass and at a tricky angle. To nullify that high hopper, Budge moved a step closer to the net, hoping to catch the ball on the rise with his superb backhand, which may have been the best the game has ever known. Luck was also with Budge, for Von Cramm, in his eagerness to close out the match, began missing his first service. Only once in the critical seventh game did the Baron get his first serve in, and that was the only point he won. Budge took each second serve on the rise and drove Von Cramm deep, setting up a volley.

The momentum had shifted, and Budge held serve to tie the score at four games apiece. But Von Cramm regained his composure and held his service as the score moved to 6-6. Budge broke the baron’s service in the 13th game and was now serving for the match. On match point Von Cramm drove Budge back with a serve return and hit a winning volley for deuce. The game had gone five minutes by the time Budge reached his fifth match point, and, wrote Budge, “five minutes under circumstances like these are like a month of 3-2 counts in baseball.”

“The brilliance of the tennis was almost unbelievable,” wrote Allison Danzig of The New York Times in his book Budge on Tennis. “The gallery…looked on spellbound as two great players, taking their inspiration from each other, worked miracles of redemption and riposte in rallies of breakneck pace that ranged all over the court. Shots that would have stood out vividly in the average match were commonplace in the cascade of electrifying strokes.”

Budge’s 175th first serve of the day was a lightning bolt, but Von Cramm hit an equally crisp return. The two traded ground strokes until Von Cramm finally hit what appeared to be a perfect cross-court forehand. Budge chased the shot on a dead run and was pitching forward onto the grass when he finally caught up with the ball. Miraculously, he hit a solid shot as he fell, the ball slipping past Von Cramm’s outstretched racket at the net and landing less than six inches from the corner. Budge heard the roar of the crowd as he lay facedown on the turf. He knew then he had hit “the one possible winning shot,” he said.

The Baron was a loser in this the most important match of his life, yet he approached the net smiling with great pleasure, looking for all the world as if he, not his opponent, had hit that impossible shot. “Don,” he said, extending his hand, “this was absolutely the finest match I have ever played in my life. I’m very happy that I could have played it against you, whom I like so much. Congratulations.”

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Budge embraced the vanquished Baron. “I think,” he said later, “we both wanted to cry.”

Von Cramm’s graciousness in defeat only added to his renown as the game’s premier sportsman in an age when sportsmanship was considered a prime virtue. But he had once more angered his Führer, a man who had little use for a gracious loser. The Baron could not have known it at the time, but his downfall from the world of tennis was already being planned and prepared.

One month later, Von Cramm and Henkel would win the US Doubles title at the Longwood Cricket Club in Boston again advancing the notion that Germany was the greatest tennis nation. Shortly after that, the US Singles final took place at Forrest Hills and once again Budge and Von Cramm served up a 5 set thriller which the American won 6–1, 7–9, 6–1, 3–6, 6–1 .

By now we were deep into 1937 and everyone could sense that war was coming and that Germany was a very dangerous place to be—especially for Jews.

After their doubles success in America, Von Cramm and Henkel toured the world playing tennis as the all conquering German doubles team. During the tour the players travelled to Chicago and then on to Los Angeles for the Pacific Southwest tournament where they were met with an anti German protest from a celebrity group which was headed by Groucho Marx. The demonstrators intended to protest against the Nazi regime by interrupting the match with the plan being to stand up as one and walk out of the arena the minute Von Cramm walked onto the court for the first game. Yet when the Baron appeared, the protesters stayed rooted to their seats as if Von Cramm’s mere presence, gentleness and gentlemanly conduct  held them fast. Afterwards Groucho himself admitted that upon seeing Von Cramm, “I felt ashamed of what I had planned to do.”

From Los Angeles, Von Cramm and Henkel sailed aboard the Japanese ship Tayo Maro for the Far East. When the Baron was asked to give a speech in Tokyo, he pointedly did not mention Hitler at all and praised the German people instead. And in Australia, where Von Cramm played Budge in exhibitions in Sydney and Melbourne, he spoke critically of his government but praised Germany and its people once again. “He was an honest man,” says Budge, “and he offered what he thought was constructive criticism.”

However, word of Von Cramm’s betrayal quickly reached Berlin, possibly through Henkel, who was by then an ardent Nazi. The players returned to Germany on March 4, 1938 only to find that a proposed banquet in their honour as the reigning US Doubles Champions had been cancelled.

Instead, when Von Cramm went to visit his mother on 5th March, he received an unexpected visit from two members of the Gestapo who immediately arrested him and took him to Moabit Prison in Berlin.

Hitler had finally ran out of patience with the tennis star and Baron, and he now decided to effectively bring his career to an end when he was at the very height of his powers on the court.

On 1 September 1930 Gottfried Von Cramm had married  Baroness Elisabeth “Lisa” von Dobeneck, a daughter of Robert, Baron heirevon Dobeneck and his wife, the former Maria Hagen, and a granddaughter of the Jewish banker Louis Hagen. However, the couple had divorced in 1937 and this gave Hitler his opportunity to bring Cramm down.

Apparently Von Cramm had collapsed after his arrest for some reason and as a result he had to be hospitalised. However by 14th March he had apparently signed a confession admitting to homosexual acts of indecency with a young actor called Manasse Herbst, and he further admitted sending money to Herbst allegedly when the former had tried to blackmail him about their clandestine relationship.

There is little doubt that Von Cramm had indeed had a relationship with Herbst however the exact status of Von Cramm’s sexuality remains the subject of a little conjecture as he later married Barbara Hutton, the American socialite and heiress to the Woolworth five-and-dime fortune. The couple married in 1955 and divorced in 1960 with Von Cramm saying to friends that he had only really married her in order to “help her through substance abuse and depression but was unable to help her in the end.”

What is clear, is that at the time of his first marriage, the night life in Berlin had a very laissez faire and promiscuous tinge to it. Berlin was awash with gay night clubs, lesbian only night clubs, bisexual night clubs and night clubs where all sorts of sexual partners of both sexes were ten a penny.

Unlike Bill Tilden, who was always overtly gay and who surrounded himself with numerous young men ( something that would bring him into trouble with the law in later years ) Von Cramm kept his private life and whatever sex life he had extremely private and under wraps. Many believed him to be homosexual, yet many young women fell at his feet too. The Baron simply said nothing and kept such things to himself.

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Accordingly, it is somewhat suspicious that he should be arrested by the Gestapo in 1937 in connection with homosexual acts which occurred between 1931 and 1934 especially when you consider that Herbst had lived in Palestine from 1936 onwards and that the Nazi Party only came to power in 1933 and so were not in a position to delve into Von Cramm’s life prior to that date.

Notwithstanding all of this, Von Cramm had signed a confession which admitted sending money to Herbst as a result of him being blackmailed by the latter in regard to sexual acts which they had performed together and which acts were illegal in the eyes of the law in Hitler’s Germany.

However, this was really no more than a device to silence a well thought of, respected and popular pure Arian critic and tennis star who could trace his family back through the centuries.

Hitler had wanted to stop Von Cramm’s criticism and so he decided to shut him up with the charges referred to above.

Homosexuals were the second most persecuted group in Germany after the Jews, yet as mentioned before homosexuality was very very common in the swinging Berlin scene of the 1920’s and ‘30’s.

As a result of his conviction, Von Cramm was sentenced to 1 year in prison in May 1937 and so, thought Hitler, a nuisance and a critic had been silenced at least for a while.

However, almost immediately the international tennis and sporting world began to lobby for his release. Don Budge organised a petition and a movement for Cramm’s release and he secured the support of 25 of the leading sportsmen in the world who all stated that Von Cramm’s imprisonment was an outrage.

The Nazis had simply needed an excuse to punish him publicly. It could well be that if he had beaten Budge and brought the Davis Cup to Germany, the Baron would have been such a national hero that not even Hitler would have dared bring him down. Budge often speculated on how different his friend’s life might have been if he had won their famous match.

However, the man that really came to Von Cramm’s aid was his elderly, white hatted, playing partner of a few years back—the tall and willowy Mr G.

As mentioned before, this elderly gentleman was a tennis nut who was allowed to participate in competitions although he had absolutely no chance of winning. The G stood for Gustav and Gustav just happened to The King of Sweden! – although no one on the tennis circuit mentioned his royal title, as on court he was just plain Mr G.

King Gustav now lobbied Hitler with regard to Von Cramm, just as he had lobbied years before in relation to another friend — Daniel Prenn.

Hitler had ambitions for Sweden, and whilst he could not invade the country unlike Poland or France, he could make alliances and gain access to their naval ports.

Gustav, in retrospect was not nearly anti Nazi enough, but at the same time he was not pro Nazi and did not roll over when Adolph Hitler asked. However, when it came to Gottfried Von Cramm, Gustav was relentless and used his friend’s imprisonment as a bargaining chip saying that he might be inclined to accede to German requests in certain areas but only when Von Cramm had been released.

So it came to pass that the German tennis champion spent only six months in prison – a dramatic six months admittedly – before being reluctantly released from jail and effectively into the custody of King Gustav of Sweden.

Von Cramm missed virtually all of the 1938 season leaving the tennis world to be ruled over by the unchallenged Budge, but returned to competitive tennis after his enforced break in May 1939.

He could not compete in the French Open where he had triumphed so spectacularly before and so his return was destined to be on the grass of Queen’s club, London.

By this time, Budge had turned professional and was no longer on the main amateur circuit. The French Open had been won by American Don McNeill who had beaten the up and coming Bobby Riggs of America in the final at Roland Garros, and at Queens it was Riggs who made it through to the final to face the now veteran Von Cramm.

Despite all his talent, new equipment and modern training methods, Bobby Riggs found that he was not anywhere near the same league as the German master and Von Cramm took no time at all in lifting the silver cup at Queens with a 6-0, 6-1 Victory.

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It looked as if he at long last would get his hands on the Wimbledon Crown, but it was not to be. To their eternal shame, The All England Club refused to allow Cramm to play at Wimbledon on the basis that he was a convicted felon. Later it was claimed that he had not applied to enter the competition but that was a cover up to save the face of those based at SW19.

In the end, Bobby Riggs became Wimbledon Champion, but everyone in London and elsewhere knew that his victory was somewhat hollow as there was a far better tennis player who was not allowed to compete under shameful circumstances.

Yet, far worse was to come in so many ways: The United States now refused to grant Von Cramm a visa to enter the country on the grounds that he had been convicted on moral charges and so he was prevented from competing in the US Open either in the singles or the doubles. Riggs went on to win at Flushing Meadows in the absence of Von Cramm and was hailed as a home grown American champion. It seemed that although Hitler had not succeeded in banishing Cramm from the world tennis stage, unbelievably the various tennis authorities themselves and the allied Governments would do the job for him.

However, Von Cramm’s victory at Queens ( supposedly under a Swedish Flag ) had further embarrassed The Fuherer and his ideology, and the following year Hitler’s anguish was shown in full.

Von Cramm was due to play at a tournament in Rome where he would come into direct competition with the likes of Henkel and other German players.  Pressure was put on Von Cramm not to play and he was effectively withdrawn from the tournament against his will by the Third Reich. The New York Times reported that his abrupt departure “was attributed to the German authorities’ desire to prevent the former champion from meeting Henner Henkel, Rolf Goepffert, and other German players … Berlin decided it would be embarrassing if Cramm beat his compatriots…”.

It seemed that various Governments were determined to simply prevent Gottfried Von Cramm from playing tennis for their own purposes.

In the end, Adolph Hitler was left with only one way to prevent Von Cramm from playing tennis and so in May of 1940 the Baron  was conscripted into the German army and sent to the Russian front. Deprived by his criminal record of his reserve commission, he served as an ordinary private  in the heart of the action and in all likelihood his despatch to the front was seen as a death sentence. In the winter of 1942, he fought as a machine gunner in the gruesome battle raging outside Moscow where many in his company died.

According to his German biographer, Egon Steinkamp, the Baron, by then a sergeant, anticipated a Russian victory, and so he urged the eastern Germans, Poles and others in his company to seek refuge after the war at his Bodenburg Castle in western Germany where he assured them they would be given refuge and would be safe from the consequences of the Nazi regime.

Von Cramm suffered frostbite in both legs that winter in Russia and was taken to a hospital in Warsaw. Amazingly, he was awarded the Iron Cross for outstanding bravery and then promptly given a dishonourable discharge from the army on the instructions of Herr Hitler. It appears that it would not be good to have ordinary German soldiers mixing with the likes of Gottfried Von Cramm the decorated war hero!

An aura of mystery remains about his unexpected release. His nephew, Burghard von Cramm, believes that Gottfried was let go because he was suspected of conspiring with the enemy.

“My uncle was one of 500 aristocrats dishonourably discharged by Hitler in 1942,” says Burghard, who later inherited the title Baron von Cramm. “It was common knowledge he was against the Nazi regime. It was known that he had been in touch with underground leaders. And it was suspected that he was at least on the periphery of the group plotting against Hitler’s life. He knew about some of those assassination attempts before they took place. I think the only thing that saved his life was his friendship with the king of Sweden. Hitler wanted to do business with Sweden, and my uncle knew all the important people there.”

Von Cramm hated the Nazi regime and he spent the rest of the war commuting between Bodenburg Castle and Sweden, where, his nephew says, he conspired with underground leaders to do as much damage to the Reich as possible.

Once, at Bodenburg, he rescued a U.S. pilot who had been shot down nearby.

“Why are you helping me?” the American asked.

“Because,” the Baron replied, “I once played tennis with Don Budge.”

“Oh,” said the pilot, “then you must be Gottfried von Cramm.”

Such was his fame.

When the allies eventually won the war effort they did indeed find dozens and dozens of German and other soldiers who had all found their way to Bodenburg at the suggestion of the Baron who had reminded them throughout the war “You are a German – not a Nazi!”

While the war and the regime of the Third Reich had robbed Cramm of some of his best years for tennis, he astounded everyone after the conflict when he won the German national championship in 1948 and was 40 years old when he repeated the victory in 1949.

Eventually,in, 1951, Von Cramm returned to the centre court at Wimbledon after a gap of some 14 years. He was no longer a contender for the title and was paired in the first round against Jaroslav Drobny, the beaten finalist in 1949 and who had recently won the French Open at Roland Garros.

Once again, Von Cramm walked onto the centre court in the immaculate white slacks and the Red and White blazer of the Rot-Weiss club which had been completely destroyed during the war. It is reported that the younger Drobny held back and allowed the Baron to enter just a fraction in front of him. Maybe Gottfried was nervous about how he would be received as an ex German soldier by a British Crowd? However, he need not have feared as when he walked out into the court the entire Wimbledon centre court stood to applaud him. This was not a soldier, or a German, or a veteran – This was Gottfried Von Cram who had been a finalist three times – starting 19 years previously. He had been wrongly imprisoned, discriminated against, shunned, been used a political tennis ball and had survived the war ——- and here he was back doing what he did best. Playing Tennis, with impeccable sportsmanship and cutting a dash with his good looks and charm.

He would never beat Drobny of course, but in that first set the crowd wondered if a miracle was on the cards as Von Cramm pushed the French champion all the way only losing the set 9-7. It was thrilling stuff yet again from the German.

However, the younger man prevailed and at the end the German Baron bowed to the crowd one final time and left the Wimbledon stage for good.

Yet, he continued to play Davis Cup tennis until retiring after the 1953 season and still holds the record to this day for most wins by any German team member winning 82 out of 101 rubbers.

“He was an incredible player in his 40’s,” says Dick Savitt, the 1951 Wimbledon and Australian champion, who played Von Cramm in a tournament in Cairo in the spring of ’51, “and he dressed so well that I hated to walk out on the court with him. The other thing was, my being Jewish, I wasn’t sure how he’d react to me. I needn’t have worried, because he went out of his way for me. In fact, he sent me a telegram when I won Wimbledon. The Baron didn’t care what a person’s background was. He just cared how people acted.”

One thing that Von Cramm had been determined to do after the war was to rebuild his beloved Rot-Weiss club from the rubble he found when he returned to Berlin. He and his friend Hofer, who had been a prisoner of the Russians during the war, they set about rebuilding the demolished club. “We started with nothing,” says Hofer. “Gottfried was amazing. He seemed absolutely untouched by the war. He never talked about the horrors of the Russian winter. He never talked about being in jail or the Gestapo. To do so would have been out of character for him.”

Hofer did the work and Von Cram raised the money to restore the club to its former Glory. They rebuilt the courts, erected a 7,000 seater stadia( now expanded and called the Steffi Graf Arena ), and generally brought the old club back from the dead. Today it hosts the German woman’s championships and plays host to many international matches.

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“Gottfried was an angelic man,” says Hofer. “He wanted to help all of his fiends. When Kai Lund, his old doubles partner, came back from the war missing an arm and a leg, Gottfried bought him a small hotel near Baden-Baden. The Baron constantly gave money to former servants to get them started in business. He opened up his castle to those East Germans and Polish soldiers. I think he really believed he could help Barbara Hutton by marrying her. Some people would say he married her for her money, but that’s not true.”

Von Cramm became Hutton’s sixth husband on Nov. 8, 1955. He was her first Baron, following two princes, a count, Cary Grant and the notorious Dominican playboy Porfirio Rubirosa. (She had one more prince to come, her seventh husband, Raymond Doan Vinh of Laos.)

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Once acquired, the Baron, of course, quickly lost his allure for Hutton. She divorced him in January 1960, leaving him $600,000 as a going-away gift. Von Cramm had little use for the Hutton fortune. His Cotton business was prospering, and he divided his time between his office in Hamburg and his suppliers in Cairo and Alexandria. A bit paunchy now in middle age,  Von Cramm still cut a dashing figure on the court. He also served as an administrator for the German Tennis Federation for many years.

On Nov. 9, 1976, Gottfried arranged for a car and driver to take him from Cairo to Alexandria on business. He planned to leave at one in the afternoon, but another driver appeared at 11:30 a.m. and offered to make the trip. The Baron agreed to the earlier start and, as always, joined the driver in the front seat. Sitting in the back was unnecessary ostentation, he thought. Besides, he enjoyed talking with his drivers.

The two-lane blacktop road was as straight as an arrow, with very few intersections. It was also never busy; a driver could go miles without seeing another car. On this day, though, a military truck coming from the opposite direction suddenly swerved out of control into the wrong lane, apparently after turning too late toward a gas station, and collided with Von Cramm’s car. The driver was killed instantly. Von Cramm who hated hospitals, true to his long held wishes, died not in a hospital but in an ambulance taking him to one.

“His death,” says his nephew, “hit the family like a stroke from hell.”

Don budge is of the view that Von Cramm was the unluckiest player in the History of tennis. He argues that there were few his equal on the court and that events far removed from tennis unfairly restricted his mention in the record books. In his opinion he would have won many Grand Slam titles were it not for the politics of the time.

Perry said he had the classiest of tennis swings.  “The Baron played textbook tennis. If you wanted to learn how to make elegant strokes, he was your man. He had those long European swings. We had some great battles.”

In his 1979 autobiography, Jack Kramer, the long-time tennis promoter and great player himself, included Gottfried von Cramm in his list of the 21 greatest players of all time.

What is certain is that no other tennis player in the history of the sport to date ever played under such personal pressure and threat. None have been imprisoned at the height of their career or have been threatened by a monster such as Adolph Hitler. That Von Cramm was able to reach the top of his chosen profession was remarkable, that he drew such huge loyalty from virtually all who met him was even more remarkable, and that amongst leading sports stars of the time he was so open about his criticism of Hitler was astonishing.

The question remains however, did he receive a phonecall from Hitler before the famous Davis Cup match with Budge in 1937. Budge says yes, Von Cramm  always said no.

The refusal of Von Cramm to acknowledge that the call was made was typical of him however. He never discussed his imprisonment, The Russian Front or any other threat or hardship he experienced. He was always at great pains to be as sporting as possible and never sought out any excuse for being beaten—even being injured in a car crash immediately before a Wimbledon final. To admit that the German chancellor had threatened him before that famous match would have been to perhaps diminish the quality of the tennis and the achievement of Budge in winning – and that he simply would not do.

Of course there is only one salient and indisputable fact that points to the call being made – and that is the fact that the very next time Gottfried Von Cramm set foot on German soil after that match he was arrested and imprisoned by the Gestapo without warning – and that is a fact.

More than half a decade on however he has almost been forgotten—except at the Rot-Weiss where Hofer made sure that his friend will always have a place in history.

Photographs of him adorn the walls of the clubhouse. His memorabilia are preserved there. A plaque donated by Perry celebrates a memorable Davis Cup tie between Britain and Germany at the Rot-Weiss in 1932—won by the Germans. The short street leading past stately homes to the club’s entrance gate is not called Boris Becker Way or Steffi Graf Strasse – It is called Gottfried-von-Cramm-Weg.  “We perpetuate his name here,” Hofer says. “This, you see, is Gottfried’s club. It always will be.”

However, despite all of the testimonials and praise mentioned above there has recently been a suggestion that Von Cramm did something that makes his stature even more remarkable, even more magnificent.

He confessed to sending 20,000 marks per month to Manasse Herbst and his family supposedly on the basis that he was being blackmailed about their homosexual affair. Recently, it has been suggested that when asked about this Von Cramm simply said that in Hitler’s Germany of 1937 it was better and safer to admit to homosexuality and blackmail than to financially supporting a Jew and his family in exile!

In 1985 the 17 year old Boris said that Germany had never had a tennis idol like him before, and at the Rot-Weiss they looked at the portraits on the wall and silently agreed. No matter how well he swung a racquet and whatever success he achieved, Boris would never be fit to carry or string the racquets of Baron Gottfried Alexander Maximilian Walter Kurt Freiherr von Cramm. Boris might be a tennis idol — but he would never be a hero in the Von Cramm mould or anything like it.

Gottfried Cramm, of course, would have disagreed with them. He would simply have rejoiced at the 17 year olds victory as he never thought himself superior to anyone regardless of rank, station, religion or birth and did not compare himself to anyone living or dead.

He was just plain Gottfried — the tennis player.

No matter who triumphs in the coming three weeks in the 2014 tennis championships held in South London at SW19, none will be as brave, sporting or truly magnificent a human being as Gottfried Von Cramm — the forgotten superstar.

Footnote:

The International Tennis federation award the Von Cramm Cup  to the best international team for the men’s 60 and over age category. The cup was donated by the German Tennis Federation (DTB) in 1989.

In 2013, the Von Cramm Cup was held on 9-14 September in Poertschach, Austria. The USA successfully defended their title defeating France in the final

The year after his death, Von Cramm was posthumously inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame as one of the world’s all time leading master players.

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The Stranger, The Queen and the Glasgow Garden Festival

22 May

The Stranger, The Queen and the Glasgow Garden Festival.

The tale of Fabulous Harry — Never kid a kidder — part deux!

18 Apr

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NEVER KID A KIDDER — PART DEUX

Sometime towards the summer of 1985 I was sitting in my office in Glasgow’s George Square, minding my own business and trying not to think about the day ahead. As a second year legal trainee I had been tasked with the tedious job of writing up the company books of the numerous companies that used our office as its registered base.

Admittedly, it was a change from drafting wills, buying council houses, taking divorce affidavits and any number of other things which can make a legal trainee’s day about as exciting as standing at a bus stop for hours on end on a wet night.

I had come in early in the hope that I could get all of the dreaded books done on the one day rather than face two days of corporeal tedium.

About 8:30am the bell over the front door sounded signifying that someone had entered the office, and I automatically presumed it would be one of the partners or another member of staff.

How wrong I was!

I wasn’t really paying attention but somewhere in the back of my mind I registered that the entrant to the office was clearly female as I could hear what sounded like high heels walking up the corridor that passed my door which was slightly open. Sure enough, a smartly dressed woman walked clean past my door towards the reception desk which, of course, she found unmanned.

After maybe ten seconds or so, the heels started clicking again and this time they stopped at my door which was pushed open after the heel wearer had given it a gentle knock.

And there, for the first time, I came face to face with the absolutely gorgeous Annette. Of course I didn’t know she was called Annette – all I saw was a stunningly good looking woman in her mid to late thirties, dressed in a very classy looking pin striped suit, dark blue blouse with what appeared to be matching leather shoes with, sure enough, a fairly high heel.

She had shoulder length dark hair, stood about 5’7 in the heels, mesmeric eyes, great legs, a stunning figure and an awesome smile. My morning had just gotten a great deal more interesting than any 25 year old could have imagined.

Then, Annette spoke – revealing that not only was she drop dead gorgeous but that she was also French making her all the more interesting.

Within the space of her first few words it was obvious that she was in state of panic! However, within seconds it became clear that she needed someone to come with her immediately to provide some form of legal representation for     “ ‘Arry” who I gathered was just around the corner somewhere in his office which had received an unexpected and unannounced visit from some kind of unwanted official.

I had no hesitation at all in dumping the boring corporate files, throwing some note books and a couple of pens into a briefcase, before  following “La Magnifique Derriere “ out of the door and onto George Square.

When Annette said literally round the corner, she was neither joking nor exaggerating as she immediately lead me into the offices at No 5 St Vincent Place which more or less stood above Murray Frame the tobacconist at the corner of Queen Street and St Vincent Street.

For anyone who has never been inside that particular office building, I would forever describe it as the nearest Glasgow ever came to having the type of building where a Scottish Sam Spade would ply his trade.

There were corridors with various doors leading off to individual offices and suites, and after turning a corner or two, Annette finally opened a half glass door which boasted the name H.M. Enterprises Ltd. Inside, the door opened onto a small hallway off which there were three further doors, and Annette immediately made her way to the furthest away of the three which she opened without knocking and ushered me inside.

When I walked into the room I found three men sitting around a rather large and ornate desk. Two of these had their back to me and both immediately turned to face me as soon as the door opened, and it was obvious that these were the “unwanted visitors” who had descended on the premises unannounced.

Behind the desk and facing me was the man who was clearly the owner of the premises. I had never seen him before, but in the few short yards between George Square and 5 St Vincent Place I had figured out that this must be one of the firm’s most famous – or should that be infamous – clients, the semi legendary Harry Maguire.

Before any of the room’s occupants could say anything, I strode strongly into the room and said confidently “Good Morning, Mr Maguire, I didn’t expect to see you today. I gather you wanted to see me urgently?”.

A somewhat bemused Harry quickly recovered from the surprise at seeing me saying “ Oh Hello son, sorry to drag you over here but these gentlemen have suddenly turned up to ask some questions, and I thought it best if you were here so that they couldn’t  ask me any tricky ones or to be honest write down a load of cobblers that I never said in the first place!”

This drew an instant protest from a small bespectacled man who was seated nearest the door, but silence from his rather more laid back colleague who merely raised his eyes to the ceiling.

I quickly introduced myself as Mr James, gave them the name of my firm and in turn found myself being introduced to Mr Robert Wilson of Her Majesty’s Inland Revenue ( the small intense chap with the glasses ) and Superintendent John Carmichael – the altogether taller and more laid back representative from Strathclyde Police – both of whom, it appeared, had a substantial interest in whatever the fabulous Harry was up to.

However, as yet, I had no idea what that interest was, or what Harry actually did, or had done, to merit any sort of enquiry.

“ So – what do you want with my client?” I asked trying not to show either nerves or any lack of experience.

It was the neat and precise Mr Wilson who provided the answer.

“ Well, we at the Inland Revenue have reason to believe that Mr Maguire here has under declared his income for several years with the net result that he owes the Inland Revenue a substantial sum of money – a VERY substantial sum of money. In cases where the sum is large enough, we contact the Police just in case there is some kind of illegal activity taking place, and in this case Superintendent Carmichael is here to investigate the possibility of your client being involved in a fraudulent activity. However, before you protest, he will not be asking any questions as he is merely a witness to my civil enquiries at the moment, and depending on the answers that your client provides in response to my enquiries, Superintendent Carmichael and his colleagues can then decide whether or not to pursue a criminal enquiry.”

I started to explain that perhaps my client would not be answering any questions at all when the bold Harry decided to take control of the entire proceedings.

“……. Eh Gents, before we go any further here, I want to have a word with my boy here in private if you don’t mind. So, in the interim, can I offer you gentlemen a cup of tea or coffee – it is uncivilised to go through the morning without a cup of something – it is no good for the bowels!”

This last remark brought a rather stunned silence before both Wilson and Carmichael opted for coffee which they were assured would be provided by the gorgeous Annette within moments.

With refreshments organised, Harry Maguire and I excused ourselves from the room and had our first ever direct conversation.

As soon as we were far enough away from his office door, Maguire turned to me and asked in his lightly high pitched and rasping voice:

“ So – who are you? Where is wee John?”

The Wee John concerned was the senior partner of my firm, my boss, and Harry’s lawyer.

“ Sorry Mr Maguire, but when the young lady came into the office and explained that you needed someone here urgently there was no one else in so I thought I had better come over and see if I could be of any assistance rather than send her back saying no one was there to help. If we keep them waiting or just refuse to answer the questions for the moment, no doubt one of the partners will come in soon enough and we can get them to come over here and relieve me. Unfortunately, Mr Quigley ( Wee John ) is in Kilmarnock this morning so he won’t be available all morning.”

“ Is that so?” said Harry eyeing me up and down before bursting into a bit of a smile.

For those who never met the fabulous Maguire during his lifetime, by this date he was in his early fifties, had a slightly broken nose, a mane of silver hair and looked not unlike Jack Palance the movie star.

On this particular morning, he was dressed in a very classy looking (but slightly dated to my eye) herring bone pin stripped suit, white shirt, blue tie and sported black patent leather slip on shoes. He wore no watch or any other kind of jewellery, and appeared completely unfazed by the fact that he had received an unexpected visit from a Policeman and a man from the Inland Revenue alleging substantial back taxes and potentially fraud.

“ So what’s your name. son?”

“ James”

“ James what?”

“ James” I replied with a smile.

“ What? “ asked Harry with his rasp reaching a new high in terms of pitch.

“My name – Its James James! You know? As in Jimmy James, the comedian? My dad – who is called Charlie – was a big fan and so thought it would be fun to name me after the comedian, Jimmy James. However, Jimmy doesn’t sound very professional so here I am…. James James!”

It was an explanation which I had given many times, and I felt I was now quite good at it.

I waited for Harry’s reply and when it came it was somewhat surprising.

“ Ach well son, it could be worse, yer da could have been a fan of Dick Richards the film director in which case you could have been Dick Dick!” and at that he burst out laughing at his own joke.

After a few seconds I again suggested that we should try and delay things so that someone more senior could come and take my place at any interview but by this time Harry was having none of it.

“ No son, I am happy with you here. I wondered what the hell you were on about with all that Hello Mr Maguire nice to see you stuff when you walked in but I get it now. Did the lovely Annette tell you my name? She is a good girl – I’d be lost without her you know?”

“ Actually, no she didn’t give me your name, I just knew it from files in the office and knew you had an office at this address so….”

“ Clever boy! You’ll go far! Right—let me do most of the talking when we go back in here and if I need your help I will give you the signal to jump in…”

“ Eh I am really not sure that is a good idea Mr Maguire – I am not sure you are obliged to answer any questions and I will be up front with you I am a trainee and you would be far better off with someone else here!”

“ Listen, Dick Dick, I am not afraid of these guys and have nothing to hide at all, besides I like you—I think we will get on famously!”

And that is how it came to be that I found myself a few minutes later sitting side by side with the fabulous Harry facing the questions from the diminutive Wilson with the languid Superintendent looking on.

“ So, gentlemen, fire away, how can I brighten your day?” asked Harry to get the ball rolling.

“ Well” said Mr Wilson delving into his brief case and pulling out a folder containing various papers, “ As you are aware Mr Maguire, over the past several years some of my colleagues have been trying to resolve matters with regard to our enquiries into your declared income.”

“ I thought that had all been settled?” said Harry

“ No Mr Maguire it has not been settled as you very well know!” replied Wilson somewhat agitated.

“ Well I haven’t heard from anyone from the revenue in ages! I used to speak to….. oh what was his name?” mused Harry

Wilson looked up from his papers and seemed very determined to get something off his chest:

“ The case officer before me, Mr Maguire, was my colleague Mr Standing, and before him it was Mr Wyper – both of whom have now retired, leaving me to take up the cudgels so to speak.”

“ Oh – they have retired?” said Harry.

“ Yes, Mr Maguire – both have taken early retirement on health grounds, and to be honest Mr Maguire both cited dealing with you as something that materially contributed to the deterioration of their mental well being!” responded Wilson with clear resentment.

He continued:

“ But you will find me a very different kettle of fish Mr Maguire and I will not be put off or in any way distracted by the tricks and procedures you have used previously!”

At this Harry, who had been leaning back in his chair while Wilson was making this speech, suddenly perched forward, rested his elbows on the desk, cupped his chin in his hands and said rather softy:

“ Are you saying, Mr Wilson, that your ex colleagues had lost the plot? Gone mad? Are now in need of medical treatment? And that you are here, as sane as sane can be, to pursue a case which these poor deranged fellows prepared whilst in some state of work related madness? That doesn’t seem like a very good plan to me!”

Superintendent Carmichael let out an involuntary snort at this tongue in cheek rebuke which only resulted in Harry rounding on him with a smile: “ And you Superman, did you know you were here on the back of case papers prepared by two men who are deemed semi lunatics by their own department? Is that not wasting Police time?…… I am only asking you understand!”

Carmichael went to open his mouth but quickly closed it when Wilson’s hand shot up indicating that his silence was preferred if not demanded.

Instead, Wilson fixed Harry with a stare:

“ Mr Maguire, there is nothing wrong with my colleagues’ sanity, they have merely retired and have indicated that they found the job stressful—and that one of the causes of that stress was you. That is all!”

“ Me? I caused stress? I have no idea what you mean? How on earth did I cause stress?” protested Harry with an overshow of dramatics worthy of James Cagney.

“ Well, for a start, Mr Maguire they found it impossible to contact you as you repeatedly misled them as to your whereabouts and the address of your business premises. You refused to disclose that this is your place of business, the true nature of your business, the contact details – namely telephone number of your business – and any details whatsoever which allowed them to conclude their legitimate enquiries. Is that not so?”

At this point I interjected:

“ I am sorry but Mr Maguire is not going to answer any questions like that as you are asking him to admit to misleading government officials and he is not obliged to make any such admission or even comment on such an allegation. So why don’t you get on with why you are here as opposed to what happened or supposedly happened to your colleagues?”

Harry burst out laughing:

“ See Mr Wilson! That is why I wanted the boy here—cause he is smart. Knows his stuff! Knows when you are trying to back me into a naughty corner!” he said smiling “ But, notwithstanding his warning and indeed his advice – I have no idea whatsoever what you are on about so why don’t you explain it to me?”

Harry waved away any concerns I had about this and so gave Wilson full reign to ask whatever he wanted – I just hoped that Harry had good answers—ones which would not get him in trouble.

Wilson continued:

“ Mr Maguire, not once in over three years worth of trying have my colleagues ever been able to reach you on the telephone!”

“ I spoke to them often” said Harry

“ Yes, you did speak to them but always by way of a call which you made to them, and which calls were always interrupted by your having to hang up because something extraordinary happened which meant that you had to terminate the call! I have notes here which indicate that you had to end various calls because you had suddenly been bitten by a stray dog, had received an electric shock from the telephone, were suddenly overcome with Diahorrea, were calling from a telephone box where you were suddenly overcome as a result of something foul smelling or had ran out of money, and on more than one occasion when you seemed to think you had somehow got a cross line and that there were various parties on the line who, according to you, were ordering a new tyre, or half a dozen hot pies, or asking for the speaking clock or directions to Culloden! In short, Mr Maguire, all your calls were nonsense calls and have been noted as such!”

“ That is not true!” said Harry ever so calmly.

However, Mr Wilson was on a roll and so ignored him.

“ Further, Mr Maguire, you have often given my colleagues various telephone numbers on which they could call you back. Unfortunately, as you well know, none of those numbers had anything to do with you and were completely false.”

Harry started to protest, but the little be-spectacled man just kept on going:

“ Over the years you have represented to my colleagues that they could call you at telephone numbers which, when dialled, put them through to Calderpark Zoo, The BBC,  The Scottish National Orchestra, Cotters Tours, The Gay Switchboard, The Samaritans, The Save the Whale Campaign and various others including the fan club for a Brighton based pop group called “ Micky and the Tax Inspectors”! – In short Mr Maguire I am here to ensure you cannot and will not muck us about any further!” announced Mr Wilson in triumph.

At this juncture I will confess to stifling some laughter. I had absolutely no idea what the hell was going on here but the idea of two tax inspectors making all these daft phone calls inwardly had me in stitches, but at the same time I was trying to keep a degree of decorum although the more strident wee Mr Wilson became the more difficult that was.

As for Harry, he was absolutely deadpan.

“ Those numbers were all correct” he said matter of factly “ I have no idea what you are on about!”

“ All correct? “ spat Wilson “ Are you seriously telling me that you were at any of these places?”

“All of them!” said Harry

“ So what were you doing at The gay switchboard or the Scottish National Orchestra?” sneered Mr Wilson

For the first time Harry showed a little temper- although on looking back now I have no idea if it was faked temper or not.

“ It is none of your bloody business what I was doing at The Gay Switchboard or why I was there, you stupid little man, but I was there. And as for the SNO I was there helping them out after an audition!”

“ I am sorry but that is sheer nonsense Mr Maguire, I don’t believe you, and there is nothing to suggest that you have ever worked for The Gay Switchboard in any capacity, or ever been part of the SNO! You are nothing but a liar!”

I was about to jump in but instead Harry jumped up abruptly and suddenly marched over to a cupboard—as he did so he more or less shouted at the tax man:

“ Have you ever heard of the parable of the Good Samaritan?” he didn’t wait for an answer “ I never worked at the Gay switchboard—I was a volunteer helping them out—for a fortnight!”

As he spoke he opened the cupboard door and without warning he suddenly produced a violin and a bow. He propped the violin under his chin and began playing the instrument with a degree of seeming expertise which was so unexpected it was jaw dropping.

After about 90 seconds of his impersonation of Nicolo Paganini he stopped and simply said “ At the request of a friend who is an arranger for not only the SNO but also the BBC symphony orchestra – I have gone on the fiddle so to speak for both of those organisations – again as a volunteer! So stick that in your file and wipe your arse with it! – if you pardon the expression!”

The look on the tax inspectors face was a picture.

Superintendent Carmichael had covered his face with his rather large hand and was clearly hiding a huge smile.

I could barely believe what I had just seen and the gorgeous Annette merely remained in the corner pouting for all the world like something straight out of Les Folies Bergère.

However, if I thought that this remarkable show of virtuosity on the violin had brought the meeting to an end I was very mistaken.

Mr Wilson was very quick to move on.

“ How much money do you have in the bank Mr Maguire?”

Again I started to interject but Harry ignored me and simply sat down once again in his seat.

“ I have no idea Mr Wilson – I haven’t been round to the bank today to check!”

“ Well how much did you have there yesterday?” asked Wilson

“ Which Bank?” mocked Harry

“ You have more than one?” said Wilson apparently intrigued

“ I have four different banks” said Harry again catching Wilson by surprise          “ and I don’t add up all the balances to the penny and so can’t tell you exactly how much I have in there”

“OK – so how much did you have in the Bank of Scotland across the road on George Square when you checked yesterday”

“ About two hundred thousand pounds” said Harry matter of factly.

“ Actually, as at yesterday, the balance was £215, 467.98 Mr Maguire!” said Wilson showing that he was very much on top of Harry’s finances.

“ Aye well I was near enough” was the only reply.

“ You also have an account in the Nationwide Building Society do you not?”

“ You tell me” said Harry “ I suspect you know the colour of my underpants!”

Wilson ignored the remark

“ Your Nationwide account yesterday stood in credit in the sum of £412,762.08 Mr Maguire is that not so?”

“Yes that will be about right I think. Is that about right Annette? You know I would be lost without her—she does all the bank reconciliation thing as I am rubbish with numbers. Sure I am rubbish with numbers Annette?”

For the first time the four males in the room all focused on the stunning Annette who simply shrugged in a film star sort of way and said “’Arry is terrible with numbers – he can barely count to ten!” all in a French accent.

Wilson immediately rounded on Harry:

“ I am sorry but I am not going to accept that, Mr Maguire, you are clearly proficient with numbers and finance if you can earn that sort of money and more.”

“ Oh” said Harry “ I never earned any of it, I won it!”

“ Ah now we are getting somewhere Mr Maguire, are you seriously telling me that you have won something like £600, 000 or so!”

“ Oh no” said Harry “ I have won nearer £2Million—maybe more! And before you ask or complain – you don’t pay any tax on money you have won do you? And I suspect that is why you have your knickers in a twist, Mr Wilson, because you think I have earned the money when in fact I won it fairly and squarely—in which case it has nothing whatsoever to do with you!”

Now we were into the nub of the reason for the sudden appearance of the tax man and the policeman. Harry Maguire clearly had amassed huge sums of unexplained money and the tax man was coming after him for it and looking for unpaid tax, while the policeman found the whole thing suspicious.

As I sat there, the only thing I was certain of was that I knew squat all about tax law and that someone else should be here instead of me – someone who knew the law and someone who could shut Harry up for his own good.

However, that was not to be, and Mr Wilson pressed on.

“Are you telling me, seriously, that you have earned all that money from gambling?” he asked derisively.

“Absolutely!” Said Harry with a huge grin “ Mind you it has taken me the best part of 20 years”

“ I have your tax returns for at least a decade, Mr Maguire, and it shows no evidence or declarations saying that you have earned any huge sums of money, or declared interest on huge sums of money or anything like that. In fact your returns say that you earn something like £20,000 per annum and does not disclose any substantial assets at all.”

“ That is correct” replied Harry “but it does declare the interest earned from the sums in the bank, and shows no business expenses other than some petrol etc. Currently, I am getting a very low rate of interest because the manager at the Nationwide is a clown—I intend to fix that which should mean more money for me and more tax for you! Won’t that be nice?”

“ Yes, I will give you that it shows sums by way of interest, Mr Maguire, but are you saying that you live off the interest from the bank? And I don’t get the point you are making about business expenses at all.”

“ OK Mr Wilson, let me explain.” And with that Harry opened a drawer and produced four sets of bank accounts and a calculator. “ I have four bank accounts, and if I add up all the sums in the various bank accounts I think I have just over £2m in cash there.”

Wilson nearly choked and the police superintendent suddenly sat up in his chair and paid attention.

“ Every year I get a statement of the interest paid on whatever I have in the bank and that makes up the vast majority of my declared income—and that is entered on my tax return. You will find it is all perfectly above board.”

“ So you are saying you have no other income?”

“ No, I do have other income, some of which I declare and some of which is just not taxable.”

“ Over and above the interest I earn a further £2,000- £5,000 per year which I declare and pay tax on”

“ And what is this non-declarable income you claim to have?” asked Wilson with more than a hint of scepticism.

“ It is money I earn from gambling” said Harry as a matter of fact.

“ And just how much is that?” asked Wilson

“ Don’t answer that Harry” I said suddenly. “ Mr Wilson are you here to make an accusation against my client or are you just here on a fishing exercise? To be honest, Mr Maguire has given you a considerable amount of his time, told you his tax returns are correct and up to date, and to be honest if you think that is not the case then go back to your office and  put that in writing together with the reasons why you think that is the case. Do not, simply start fishing around when you have been told what the position is!”.

To be honest, I was only trying to stop the irrepressible Harry from saying something that he might later regret or which might cause him some trouble, but even if I say so myself, I sounded pretty convincing.

Except, Wilson was not for budging and my outburst seemed to only annoy him and make him more intransigent if anything.

He turned to me:

“ Mr James, with all due respect to you, the position here is that your client declares a certain amount of income each year. The sums declared do not explain vast sums of money which are held on deposit in the name of your client, or how that money came to be there, where it came from and so on and so forth. Notwithstanding the virtuoso violin performance we saw earlier on, your client has avoided and evaded all reasonable and proper lines of enquiry from my office and has deliberately avoided proper telephone contact, answered no written enquiry and has not volunteered any explanation as to how he obtained the money in the bank. I am now asking for that information and upon receiving any explanation I will make a decision on behalf of my department. However, until I receive that explanation, the department is looking upon the funds as undeclared income and is of the view that your client owes something like £450,000 in back taxes plus interest and penalties!”

“ Ach you are off your head” said Harry bemusedly “ But I will tell you what. I wouldn’t mind if you sent me a letter stating that you think I am due £450,000 in tax in respect of undeclared income.”

“ Why would you want such a letter?” asked Wilson suspiciously.

“ Because I want to use it as a bank reference!” said Harry with a mischievous grin “ The Bank manager doesn’t recognise gambling winnings as income and so won’t give me a loan based on that money and won’t give me a proper rate of interest. However, a letter from you, Mr Wilson, might just do the trick!”

One again Superintendent Carmichael stifled a laugh.

I thought Wilson was going to explode.

“ Look, you are a tax cheat and a fraud!” he bellowed  “ it would be up to you to prove that the money came from gambling, if you cannot do that the money is deemed to be taxable. So – how much money do you say you earn by way of gambling and do you have the betting slips to back up whatever figure you are about to declare?”

“ Harry, you do not have to answer any of this now” I advised

“ Yes you do” Wilson almost screamed.

Harry simply smiled and waved my objection away.

“ Mr Wilson, I earn approximately £120,000 to £150,000 a year from gambling – but I have not one single betting slip to prove that. In fact I do not bet – or very rarely bet – on anything!”

It seemed to me that the rest of the room was stunned—apart from the gorgeous Annette who simply remained silent and from where I was sitting seemed absolutely unfazed by the entire situation.

“ Well in that case, Mr Maguire, all the money in the bank must be deemed as income. Tax , penalties and interest  must be paid and it is up to Superintendent  Carmichael here to determine whether or not this amounts to an attempted fraud on the revenue and whether a report should go to the procurator fiscal. In the interim, unless you make a substantial payment to account, I have no option but to leave here and freeze your bank accounts!”

Wilson was all business and deadly serious, but so too was Harry who suddenly switched his tone and started out on another extraordinary virtuoso performance – one which I would remember for the rest of my life.

“ The problem with you, Mr Wilson, is that you are stupid! I will not be paying any money to account and you will not be arresting my bank account. If you even attempt to do so I will get Dick Dick here to sue your ass off. In fact your department will be sued so badly that they will have no option but to pension you off and hope that no one ever mentions your name again.”

Wilson was clearly outraged and went to speak but Harry steam road rollered right over him!

“ Come with me and let me explain why you are being stupid.”

At that Harry walked out from behind his desk but never stopped talking.

“ Not only are YOU stupid Mr Wilson, but the Government is stupid, the public are stupid and to be frank damn near everyone is stupid. The only people that I know who are not stupid are me, Annette and young Dick Dick there!”

I was glad to have been excluded from the stupid class but had no idea what I had done to demonstrate this lack of stupidity.

Harry was by now out in the hall with everyone following on.

“ Let me give you a guided tour” he continued and with that he opened the middle door of the three and walked inside.

Once inside I saw a larger room than the one we had just left and immediately noticed that the walls were completely covered by blackboards. Each blackboard was written on with a series of vertical columns showing names at the extreme left hand side of the board and each board had about 30 names written in this way. I couldn’t count the boards quickly enough.

Beside the names there were 5 boxes, and each box seemed to have a different name to the one on the left hand side.

That was all I had time to take in before Harry started speaking again.

“ Have a look at this.” Said Harry producing a copy of the sporting life which was opened at an advert which someone had circled with a pen.

I craned my neck to read the advert which read:

“ BETTING CONSORTIUM: Join our betting and tips consortium and be guaranteed daily winners at race tracks throughout Britain, Ireland and Europe.

Entry Fee £50 non returnable. In return you will receive expert advice on how to gamble successfully each and every day with guaranteed winners and guaranteed winnings. Send your cheque for £50 to register to PO Box 861 Glasgow. Established since 1965.”

Printed over the advert in huge block capitals were the words “ NO VACANCIES”.

Wilson, Carmichael and I read this simultaneously and more or less at the one time looked up to Harry for a further explanation:

He continued:

“ I have ran that advert every week since 1965, though back then it was only £10 to join” He explained.

Wilson jumped in “ So Mr Maguire, you charge people £50 per head to join your consortium, if that is what it is, and that income is taxable!” he said triumphantly.

“ Go to the top of the class Mr Wilson, it is absolutely taxable and I declare all the money gained that way in my tax return” said Harry.

Wilson was slightly crestfallen I thought.

Harry continued.

“ Now, you will see that the advert is marked clearly as saying “No Vacancies” so I am clearly not asking for the £50 and I am saying that the consortium has precisely that—“ No vacancies”.”

“ So you are not getting any £50 subscriptions?” asked Wilson

“ Only when I take the no Vacancies sign off the advert, which I do about three times per year. And when I do Mr Wilson I get between 50 and 100 cheques for £50 and that is my extra income of between say £2,000 and £5,000 which I declare. Capice?”

Wilson nodded.

Harry then turned to the Blackboards.

“ The names on the extreme left of each board are the current consortium members who have paid their subscriptions. Some paid over a decade ago, some will be only this year. They are only asked to pay the £50 once and in return I give them the tips which they then use or don’t use as they see fit.”

I thought this was beginning to make some sense.

Wilson picked up the paper again and his old self confidence seemed to return.

“ So, you are allegedly an expert on horses Mr Maguire, and you would have me believe that you are so expert that you can pick winners so regularly that you can make over £100,000 per year from this……. racket? – and all without any insider information and with no jiggery pokery at all? I am sure Superintendent Carmichael will want to know just how you do this?” he said smiling.

Fabulous Harry pulled at the cuffs of his jacket, raised his eyes to the heavens, fixed Wilson with a stare and replied.

“ God, you are stupid! On the contrary, Mr Wilson, I know nothing about horses at all – I barely know the arse from the head, and I know no horse trainers, jockeys, owners or anyone connected to horse racing whatsoever!”

Wilson was again beside himself.

“ Well in that case you are clearly defrauding these people – your advert says that they will get expert advice on horses and that you guarantee winners!”

“ Well done Mr Wilson, you can read – almost! Nowhere in that advert does it say that I am an expert on horses. It says “expert advice” but it does say guaranteed winners – and that is what the members of the consortium get – guaranteed winners!”

“ How is that then?” asked Wilson

“ OK look at the boards – I have precisely 250 names in the left hand column. Sometimes it is less than that but there is never any more than 250. Beside each name there are 5 columns. Each day I supply each of those names with the names of 5 horses and at least some of those horses will win or be placed. Guaranteed!”

“ How do you know that?” asked Wilson

“ Because each of the horses given comes from a race where there are no more than 5 or 6 runners. and every one of those runners is given to someone on the board and so as a matter of fact a large percentage of the people named on the board will be allocated the winner of the race as a matter of practice. An even larger percentage will have the winner or a placed horse. If you follow that practice through a total of 5 races per day, it is virtually impossible for each of the names on the board not to have been given  the name of a winning horse. In fact the odds – and don’t ask me to work out the odds as I am rubbish with numbers as I said – the odds are that each of the names will have been given the names of three horses who will have won or been placed. Further, you can almost always guarantee that in a five or six horse race, one of the horses concerned is an absolute donkey, and so you can discount that one from the selection process so increasing your chances of picking the winner from the remainder. The odds might be short, but I do not promise big odds, I promise winners and placed horses. ”

There was a silence in the room as everyone stared at the Blackboards.

Harry moved to a filing cabinet and pulled out some typewritten sheets of paper and handed one each to myself, Carmichael and a dumbfounded Wilson.

“ When you pay the £50, we will send a copy of these terms and conditions by return. It states there that by accepting the terms and conditions, the consortium member agrees to “share” their winnings with me. It further states that they will send me a cheque once per week with my share of the winnings from all the races they had a bet on that week but in the event I do not receive a cheque for a three week consecutive period or for six weeks in any one year then the consortium member has been deemed to leave the consortium and that I am free to sell the space to a new member. That covers people going on holiday or being in the hospital and things like that. However, if I don’t get a cheque for a month then they are out!”

I caught a glimpse of Annette who smiled knowingly back at me as she knew that ‘Arry was running rings round Mr Wilson who at that point piped up with a question.

“ How do you check that these members are not fiddling you?” He asked.

“ What do you mean?” replied Harry?

“ What percentage of the bet are they meant to give you and how do you check up on them?” replied Wilson

“ Well, I don’t really” replied Harry “ but if you look at the terms and conditions again you will see that in the bottom paragraph it states “ This consortium is operated for the benefit of serious stakeholders and those interested in horse racing. If you are addicted to gambling in any way you should not participate in the consortium and should seek professional advice. For those who do participate and bet on each of the tips provided either by way of single or multiple bets, we would expect winnings to be such that a reasonable average weekly share to be sent back to the consortium administrator to be around £10. If any member consistently sends the exact sum of £10 then their membership shall be terminated automatically as they shall be deemed to be acting outwith the spirit of the consortium. Further, the administrator reserves the right to “spot check” the bets of any member by asking to see the member’s betting slips for any one or more weeks. In the event that the member concerned refuses to produce the requested betting slips then they shall be automatically ejected from the consortium and their place in the consortium shall be taken by the next person on the waiting list.” So you see gentlemen, I don’t really check but I know that on average these guys will send me £10 per week no matter what!  Now, my maths is sufficiently good to know that 250 x £10 x 48 weeks comes to £120,000 a year minimum in my share of bets successfully placed. And all of it, Mr Wilson, is free of tax as it is the proceeds of gambling!”

Wilson was absolutely dumbfounded. His mouth was open but no noise came out at all until he finally said

“ But this must take ages to administer?”

Which set Harry off again with a wicked grin and a glint in his eye.

“Well, that is where Annette comes in. You see we look at the race card the day before, pick out the races we want to focus on, then allocate the horses on the board, and then we used to call each and every consortium member by telephone to give them the tips. Nowadays we simplify things by sending them by fax via the two machines you see over there. Some people still prefer a phone call as they don’t have a fax but most do and we try and persuade them to invest in one.”

Harry Continued:

“ Annette also opens the mail and so receives the cheques logging them against the names of the senders. That way we keep tabs on who has or who has not sent cheques. We then just bank the cheques, every day – unless we are on holiday in which case we just repeat the tipping process using a ledger instead of the blackboards and we leave the banking part until we come back. I would add that all of this is very hard work and that by lunchtime most days we are always very tired and so at that stage we go for a wee lie down!”

And with that he opened a connecting door to the third room which everyone could see was fitted out as a bedroom complete with an ensuite shower!

I thought Mr Wilson was going to have apoplexy, whereas Superintendent Carmichael merely blushed a crimson red whilst the gorgeous Annette merely pouted some more and feigned a very poor excuse for mock embarrassment.

I just felt my face wearing a huge grin which I could not disguise at all!

Five minutes later, we were all back in the main room with Harry behind his desk. It was still only mid morning and Harry asked Annette to fetch everyone a coffee and a scone.

Mr Wilson, checked and rechecked his papers, and mumbled on about undeclared income but you could see that his heart was no longer in it and that he knew he was wasting his time. Harry’s scheme, whilst very clever, could never be called illegal and sure enough the money appeared to come from gambling which was not taxable.

I thought all was going swimmingly well until the big policeman found his voice and asked an innocent enough question:

“ Mr Maguire, that is one of the cleverest ways of making money I have ever heard of – not that I necessarily approve you understand—but can I ask how you thought it up and what you did before this?”

Mr Wilson was not paying much attention to this as he was busy writing something on a sheet of paper when Harry began to answer.

“ Well, Superintendent, it’s like this. I started out doing this in 1965 after someone else did the dirty on me in relation to something else. Something else which just showed me how stupid people were.”

“ What was that?”

“ Oh I am not sure I should tell you that, Superintendent, you might disapprove of what I was up to then.”

“ Go on try me!” said the Policeman jovially “ what were you up to?”

Harry looked him straight in the eye and said “ I robbed trains!”

I spilt my coffee all over myself and shouted “ Harry!”

Mr Wilson immediately looked up and the Superintendent nearly jumped out of his seat!

“ What did you just say Mr Maguire?” asked the Policeman purposefully

And again Harry was off.

“ I robbed trains Superman, or to be more precise I robbed a train!”

The room was silent for a moment.

“When was this?” asked the no longer languid Carmichael

“ 1963” replied Harry.

I immediately tried to interject as the two men were now just staring at one another with the tone altogether different after the levity of Harry’s betting scheme being explained.

“ I am not sure I believe you Mr Maguire” said the Superintendent “ but go on satisfy my policeman’s curiosity: What kind of train?”

“ Oh a mail train” said Harry in an absolutely deadpan voice.

Carmichael now spoke very slowly and purposefully.

“ Be very careful Mr Maguire, listen to what Mr James there said earlier before replying, are you voluntarily telling me, knowing that I am a serving policeman, that you were involved in the robbing of a mail train in 1963?”

“ Absolutely” said Harry draining his cup “ I was that soldier—March 1963!”

Carmichael couldn’t help himself:

“ So you are saying that you took part in the great train robbery in 1963?”

Harry looked straight back at him and burst into a huge grin.

“ Oh Superintendent!  Don’t be so silly! Why would I admit to that? No that took place in August 1963 – I said March 1963 which is obviously several months before and this was on the Inverness to Aberdeen line.”

“ Go on” said the policeman sceptically.

Before proceeding Harry looked at me and said “ It is ok Dick Dick I know what I am doing so don’t be alarmed” and then he turned back to the Superintendent.

“ In 1963 I was 30 years old and had been drinking far too heavily for quite some time. I was working up north and had occasion to get the night mail train from Inverness to Aberdeen. I boarded the train drunk and once on it I proceeded to get even more drunk in the company of the man who was in charge of the mail van. When he got more than a little the worse for wear I helped him back to his van where he promptly fell asleep leaving me with two big sacks full of mail. I’m afraid drink and temptation got the better of me and I took the mad notion to jump off the train with the two mail bags which I did – with some difficulty.”

“ However, I did manage to jump off with the bags and simply lay on the ground as I watched the train speed away with no one any the wiser that I was off with the mail bags. And that was that I’m afraid”

“ Did you get caught?” asked the Carmichael.

“ No” said Harry “ I got sober! The following day I realised I was in trouble and did the only thing I could think of – I hid the mail bags in a field, managed to get a lift to Aberdeen, got myself rested and spruced up, got a work colleague to take me back towards Inverness in a car, recovered the mail bags which I said I had found when going for a pee in the field and promptly handed them back to the GPO who had not even noticed they were missing by that point. They were most grateful and never reported the incident. In turn I got the fright of my life and vowed never be to so stupid again and to cut down on the bevvy as they say! I managed the latter if not the former!”

You could see the relief on Superintendent Carmichael’s eyes when he realised that he did not have an escaped great train robber on his hands.

“ Well that is a great story Mr Maguire but technically still an unreported crime – until now!” said Carmichael sternly

“ Ha ha never kid a kidder Superman, sure I might just be pulling your leg?”

“True” said the Policeman laughing nervously.

5 minutes later the policeman and the tax inspector were gone and Annette was in the room next door hurriedly marking up the names of horses against the names of people.

I was left with Harry whom I had met only a few hours before.

“ Well that was an interesting morning” he said with a huge grin.

“ Sure was!”  I replied.

“ Are you really called Jimmy James?” he asked

“ Did you really rob a mail train?” I replied

“ Yes that really happened” he said philosophically “ The worst decision I made in my life!” he added.

“ Well you sorted it out in the end!”

“Yea sort of.”

I looked at him and despite myself I asked the question;

“ What do you mean sort of?”

By this time I was at the door heading back out into the common corridor of No 5 St Vincent Place.

Fabulous Harry looked at me in his fabulous suit and with his broken nose and took a deep breath.

“ Well after the incident in Inverness I went to London for a change of scene and a new start. I didn’t stop drinking immediately and one night in the pub when I had had a few I told a some guys  about what had happened on the mail train to Aberdeen – about jumping off the train with the mail bags. I said it was so easy that it was not true and I even suggested that if it was that easy on the train to Aberdeen then it must be that easy on every other mail train and of course pointed out that the biggest mail train was the one which ran from Glasgow to London. To me , it was just a good story about something that had happened to a daft laddie.”

“ A few months later and the Glasgow to London mail train was robbed and low and behold two of the guys who had been in that pub were involved. I stress, I knew nothing about it, wasn’t involved at all but I did give them the idea.”

I stood there with my jaw open while Harry continued.

“ Of course the rest is history, they botched the whole job, the guard was unfortunately killed, Biggs escaped and went on the run—as did others—but they all got caught in the end. But I was very annoyed. I felt used and angry as they were a shower of dirty dogs for taking my story and turning it into a crime that cost a man’s life and so in some small way I  determined to get my own back  somehow.”

“ And how did you do that?” I asked knowing that I was perhaps playing the straight man.

Harry looked at me with a straight glare but with a glint in his eye and replied in a phoney Irish accent:

“ If you look up the Great Train Robbery anywhere you will see a story that says that the whole idea was the brainchild of an Irishman who thought up and planned the whole thing. He was never caught and got away with one sixteenth of the money – precisely £164,480 and a few pence! Well that was all cobblers – there was no Irishman. The two guys in the pub just made him up and told the others that was his share for thinking up the plan and that he had to be paid. Within days of the Robbery the actual money was laundered through pawn shops and bookmakers in the area that was local to me and I saw some of that happening. The truth was that the so called Irishman’s share was split between the wives of these two crooks – both of whom subsequently spent many years in Jail while that daft bastard Biggs ran about all over the world with Jack Slipper chasing him and ignoring what was right under his nose! Coppers and tax men are stupid you know?”

“ So” I asked “ what did that have to do with you? And how did you get your own back so to speak?”

As he was closing the door Harry looked at me and said “ Sure, with the two guys in the jail someone had to keep their women warm of a cold night and help them spend the money! Didn’t they?”

And with a wink, the door was closed and he was gone!

In due course I became great friends with fabulous Harry Maguire and we had many a laugh. I never did quite get to the point where I knew what he would do next or what was absolutely true and what was not.

He continued to amass ever greater sums of money and eventually bought property abroad including a house in Portugal which was once let out to the American Ambassador! He even at one time bought a share in a race horse or two.

Eventually, he and the gorgeous Annette sailed off into the sunset and lived in various houses around Europe.

About a year ago, Annette suddenly appeared without warning at my office and brought the news that Harry had passed away. I was very sad at the news as he was a great character and I was very fond of him.

She also told me that she had brought me a gift – something that Harry had instructed her to bring to me once he had passed away. When I asked what it was, she left my room briefly, went to reception and brought back a worn leather violin case which was locked shut by two hasps.

I felt tears as she simply placed the case on my desk and all I could do was look at it. Eventually, I explained that I didn’t play the violin – and didn’t know anyone who did so said that I was not sure what I would do with it.

Annette simply said “Arry wanted you to have it for old times sake” and so I kept it and gave it pride of place on top of a book case in my room.

Annette and I said our goodbyes and I have never seen her from that day to this.

In the intervening time, no one really mentioned the violin case or made any comment on it. It merely sat in plain view on top of the book case.

Further,I never even thought of opening the violin case – not until three weeks ago when the office had a bit of a party as I had decided to retire and this was my farewell bash.

There was a lot of good wishes and laughter in my rather large room and at one point someone suggested that I have my photograph taken with the violin that the gorgeous Annette had brought in for me and which had just sat on the book case ever since.

Reluctantly, I was persuaded to take the case down and open it, and there inside lay the violin and the bow. Despite my not being able to play it, I was cajoled into picking it up and posing with it for a photo.

So I picked up the bow and then took the violin out of the case. I clumsily placed the head under my chin with a great lack of expertise and put my hand down the neck of the instrument as I thought you should.

I had never even looked at the instrument, never thought to look at the make or if there was any inscription or anything. Up close, I saw a small sticker affixed to the stock which had read “ For Harry” but the Harry had been scored out and “ Dick Dick” written in pen in its place.

I was so focused on this sticker that I had not noticed that one of my fingers had accidently touched a tiny button which was disguised as part of the violin and was barely noticeable. The Minute I touched it, the instrument burst into life without me doing anything and for the next 90 seconds produced the most gorgeous violin sound – a sound that I had not heard in decades – and of course all who saw this were amazed that even without using the bow I had somehow made this instrument sound like Nicolo Paganini at his best.

They laughed, I cried.

Mr Wilson and Superintendent Carmichael – if you are still around I hope you are reading this!

Never Kid a Kidder!

Ordinary Miracles

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