From Jim Crow to George Floyd – a street view of US policing

MARK PATTON takes a personal view of the sad trajectory of US race relations

I was five. It was 1957. My recently divorced father had custody of me for the weekend. What I can recall from such a distant time, is that we had been traveling down a rural state road outside of Toledo, Ohio. It was late, I was sleepy and I had no idea of where we were headed to. Suddenly a white station wagon veered into the road from out of a farmer’s driveway. I woke up quickly as I careened into the dashboard and on to the floor as my father slammed the brakes of his faded navy blue, 1952, Chevy. The station wagon passed across the front of our car, then crashed into the rear quarter of another car that had been heading towards us in the opposite lane — instantly ejecting the operator of this vehicle out onto the roadway.

My father jumped out of our car, as did several other motorists. The station wagon then backed off the roadway to the front of the driveway it had come from. Two young men came out of it and leaned against the hood of their car. My father, as well as other witnesses to the accident, went to the aid of a man who had been injured by being catapulted onto the highway. He was sitting in the middle of the roadway and they attempted to get him up onto his feet. But this didn’t work. He kept falling back onto the ground. I later learned that both of his knees had been broken. There he sat, as my father went about collecting papers blowing about from a snapped open briefcase. I could see, from all of the headlights illuminating the scene, that the man was wearing a suit and he was a negro. I had been recently taught to call black people negroes, though coloured people was also acceptable.

The Ohio State Highway Patrol were soon on the scene, and the accident scene was further illuminated by the twirling red bubblegum lights on top of their cruisers. At this point my father reentered our car and attended to me. He felt that this was all a teachable moment for his young son. I gathered from his instruction that the black man was a businessman and an ambulance was on its way to help him to a hospital. My father then pointed to the two teenage farm boys, “See them?” I nodded compliantly, “They are drunk. Watch, the police will soon arrest them.” I then attentively watched the farm boys as they catcalled to the man sitting on the highway, shouting words that I had been taught never to use. The ambulance arrived, but it did not come for the black man. Instead, the ambulance crew persuaded the drunken farm boys to lie upon some stretchers and be carried into the back of the ambulance. Flummoxed, my father assured me that there was another ambulance coming for the man in the street. The police, who had been questioning the black businessman, now pulled him to his feet. Placing handcuffs on him, they loaded him into the back of one of their cruisers to take him off to jail. Shocked, my father went out to argue with them but was soon sent back to our car. Later on, he testified on behalf of the injured black man at his trial, but this did little good. The man received 90 days for reckless driving. To a boy of five, who hero-worshipped his dad, the most astonishing thing that had happened that night was how wrong my father was.


By 1959 I was living in a newly constructed lower middleclass housing development south of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It neighboured Wendel, a small mining town that had seen better days. From our small yellow brick house, you could see hilltop orchards, steep pasture for beef cattle and a mountainous slag dump that towered over all. Our slag dump view diminished over the years as it was excavated to make ‘red dog’ driveways. Everyone in our neighborhood had one of those driveways made from heated waste coal and shale tailings. Next to the repetitive brick homes, the orange, pink and metallic purple crushed stone made the neighbourhood more interesting, as did the people who were living in those homes. Most of the children with whom I played in the street had fathers who had been combat veterans in World War II. Mr. Fisher, who lived near us, was in two navy vessels that sank in the Pacific. Despite his ordeals of so frequently treading water, he was perhaps the nicest person in the neighbourhood. There were also several Jewish families on the road. Across from us was a Jewish engineer, his wife and four boys. He too had served in the navy and had seen combat. Next to his house was a Jewish family whose matriarch was a concentration camp survivor. She slept all the time due to depression, and her husband would come out and scold the local children for waking her as they played in the street. Oddly, next to their house lived a German family, the Graffins. The local story concerning Mr. Graffin was that he had deserted the German army by stealing a boat and rowing across a lake to Switzerland. Again, befitting the idiosyncratic nature of the mixing in this neighborhood, the Graffins were bookended on their other side by a pretty young Jewish woman. Her rather incomprehensible story was that at age three she was smuggled out of Germany in a wagon driven by her mother, disguised as a Gypsy. As she told it, they were stopped and interrogated by soldiers, but since they pretended to be Gypsies, they were allowed to cross. Somehow, they managed to squeak through the Germans, even though the Germans were in the habit of rounding up Romani as well as Jews.

Several houses up from her house was another Navy man. He was big, doughy and bald and always wore a white T-shirt, sleeve rolled up to house his Camel Cigarettes, and cutoffs. However, the main reason for this excessive display of flesh was not to be comfortable on a hot day. It was to proudly display all of his maritime sexual conquests. He was tattooed all over his legs and arms with Betty Boop-like women, each bearing a name under them. These women had been memorialized in an assembly line production on his skin, all very similar, more like stamps than tattoos. Perhaps during a bout of nostalgia, he had consumed enough beer to dump his savings on having the job done all at once? He was not shy.  Once while I was playing outside with his son, stepped out of his house, and upon my request, he lifted up his shirt and showed me the continuation of his love life, which lay beneath his T-shirt, inked there on his back and his chest for the duration of his life.

Our neighbourhood seemed to coexist rather well. Of course, there were occasional spats between children and housewives. There was no antagonism between ethnic groups, and the men got on quite well — finding time after their mill work to play a movable game of pinochle — going from one front door stoop to the next, up and down the street. However, two things happened to disrupt the quietude. The first was the night when the man at the top of the hill chased his wife down to the bottom of the hill. The chasing came to an end right in front of our house. I was in bed at the time and heard my playmates shouting,” Daddy! Daddy! Don’t shoot Mommy!” Then there was a bang. Daddy had arrived home earlier than expected from his nightshift, and found Mommy in bed with another man. This was my second encounter with law enforcement. The Westmoreland County Sheriff’s Department arrived, and once again, everything was lit up with flashing lights, this time. However, unlike the black man in the accident, Daddy wasn’t seriously prosecuted, if at all. Domestic bliss soon returned between Daddy and Mommy after the shooting. A few months later, as I was walking up the hill, I met Mommy coming down. I was very excited to see her. For a young boy back then, a bullet wound was about as neat a thing that you could have. So, I asked her if I could see it. There must have been some strange compulsion to lift clothing in this family, for she sheepishly complied, raising her skirt to her knee to display the scar.

About a year after the shooting, the second major local event took place. A Jewish engineer, directly across the street, had put his house on the market and sold it quickly. I remember the day the details of this sale got out. You could see all of the street’s menfolk congregating on the hill to the east of our house and also the hill to the west of our house. They soon came marching down from both directions and were very angry. Puzzled, my stepfather went out to find out what was going on. He too became angry. Then there was shouting for our neighbour across the street to come out and join them. He was very brave, for he did come out. Things became highly animated with cursing and shoving, but the demonstration ended almost as quickly as it had erupted. When my stepfather returned, he announced that our neighbour had sold his house to a mixed-race couple, and that property values were going to plummet, which did turn out to be the case.

Mrs. Brown, our new neighbour, was a huge white woman. She towered over all the men in the neighborhood. Her husband was a tall black man who owned and operated an eighteen-wheeler. They had only one child, a son, who also towered over a normal boy his age. Not long after their moving van pulled up, the Ku Klux Klan was summoned to help do something about the street’s ‘predicament’. One night, while the Brown family was enjoying an outing at the local drive-in theatre, the Klan showed up. They painted their garage door “N—-g—- Go Home, KKK”, and then they set up the traditional blazing fiery cross on their front lawn. When Mr. and Mrs. Brown drove into their driveway in their new shiny black Cadillac, stuffed full of their numerous children, they were quite shaken to see what had happened to their home. The sheriff’s department was called and they were puzzled as to the motivation for this crime. Why would a white family from Kentucky, by the name of Brown, be the object of the wrath of the Ku Klux Klan? Apparently, the Klan had gotten it wrong. They had attacked another Brown family house two streets up. After that, things quieted down. The Browns lived in their house for many decades till they passed away from old age. Mrs. Brown became the Sunday school teacher at the local Presbyterian church, and soon began complaining to my mother about my irreligiosity. The neighbourhood remained quiet for the next eight years we lived in it – and we did have a hard time selling our house.


I was 15 in 1967 and visiting my grandfather back in Toledo. At the time, I had a crush on the girl next door to his house. One day I worked up enough nerve to ask her out. To my surprise she said yes.  This was to be the first date for both of us. My grandfather volunteered to drive the two of us to a theatre in downtown Toledo to see the movie Doctor Zhivago. After the picture was over, he was out front in his station wagon waiting to return us home. Initially, it was an uneventful trip. However, as we passed through the black neighborhood on Dorr Street, traffic slowed to a crawl. We had no idea as to what the problem was and assumed that there was a bad accident up ahead. Through the smoke, we saw that there was some kind of road block. The date was July 24th, the evening when the black riots in Detroit spilled over into Toledo. The day before, the Detroit Police had arrested all of the patrons of an after-hours night club welcoming home some Vietnam War veterans. Eighty-four blacks were included in the arrests. The subsequent riot required Michigan’s governor to mobilize nine thousand National Guard. Over 10,000 people participated in this riot, which left 43 people dead. 
At the road block on Dorr Street, a mob of black men was surrounding cars as they tried to pass. Each vehicle was inspected and white men were being pulled out for a beating, before being allowed to move on. I thought we were all goners. We were stuck in line inching our way forward to receive a beating. When we got to where the barricade had been set up, my grandfather was told to roll down his window. A black man then poked his head through. He took a quick look at an old man in his mid-70s and a pair of 15 year-olds in the back seat, and elected not to hand out any beatings. We drove on.


Later that year, my family moved to Cape Cod. After graduating from high school in 1971, I became a member of the Research Vessel Chain. After leaving the Chain in 1973, I was offered a job as a summer police officer. I spent the next year pounding a beat and directing traffic. The political climate was similar to what we have today. Cars slowed down, as they passed me standing in the middle of an intersection – making pig noises, grunting, squealing, oinking, saying pig slowly and occasionally spitting. I had never dreamt of being a cop, but suddenly here I was in a blue suit carrying a gun and with one week’s training. I stayed on at the end of the summer as a provisional police officer. The next year, I enrolled in a degree program at Northeastern University’s College of Criminal Justice, graduating in 1979. I worked my way through school, not only as a cop, but also as a Federal fisheries enforcement officer.

Unfortunately, I was handed my degree during a recession when jobs were scarce. But fortunately, I had taken the Massachusetts Civil Service exam for patrolman back in 1978. The scores were slow to be announced. Consequently, I went to Texas and worked in the oil patch until of the results finally came out. What a strange exam. With police racism in mind, the Commonwealth sought to diversify the racial composition of the state’s police departments. To this end, it came up with an interesting multiple-choice exam. Many of the questions had two right answers. The questions were scored one way or another dependent upon which question the majority of minorities chose. However, this scheme didn’t work; not enough minorities had passed the exam, so the final score for passing was lowered to a 65.

By the late 1980s, the Falmouth Police Department was notified by the Massachusetts Civil Service Commission that it was out of compliance with their racial quotas for the composition of its staff. Officially, we had one black. He was my good friend, Percy Kennedy, who went to high school with me. Unofficially, and in reality, the department was close to one third black. The explanation for this was that when individual black officers took the civil service exam, they did not check the black ethnicity box but filled in a blank space entitled other. For them, the other was Cape Verdean. Cape Cod has a significant Cape Verdean population. They came as sailors or cranberry bog workers in the late 19th century. Being from African Islands off of Mauritania and Senegal, Massachusetts Civil Service had no category for them. So, they were not counted as being of African heritage. So, our black chief, of Cape Verdean ancestry, had to go out and recruit two official civil service blacks for our department to be in compliance. He sent the recruited cadets off to a Massachusetts Criminal Justice Training Council police academy. Upon graduating, they were assigned a training officer for three months of hands-on patrol training. Regrettably, one of the trainees was just not meant for the job. After two years of effort, she was still in training. Our chief became fed up, and fired her. This wasn’t an easy thing to do with both civil service protection and police union protection. But that was not the end of it; she turned around and sued our chief through the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination for discriminating against her due to the fact that she was black. We had a black officer suing a black chief for racial discrimination. She received a settlement. Law suits weren’t uncommon in the Falmouth Police Department, and the Town frequently gave plaintiffs $50,000 to go away. It was cheaper that way.


I was on duty the night Percy’s brother was shot to death by the Yarmouth Police Department. Percy was called out of his sector and sent to the nearby Cape town to identify his brother, Michael. Michael had been allegedly involved in a burglary. He was pursued by two units and lost control when his vehicle hit sand and skidded into a tree.  He was attempting to back out when the two officers who had been pursuing him approached his car on foot. During the inquest, it was articulated that the two white officers felt their lives were threatened — so they unloaded their revolvers into the car, reloaded and fired again.

I went to the police academy with one of these officers. He was a nice personable kid, who knew an awful lot about guns (maybe too much) and had been out of the academy for about a year when this shooting took place. Oddly, of the fourteen cadets in my class, two of my classmates had shot and killed someone during their first year on the road. No one else from this class shot anyone during the remaining years of their careers. Younger and freshly minted officers are the most aggressive. They have frequently had the ambition of joining a police force from an early age and have had a steady diet of police procedural movies and television series to fire their enthusiasm.

Young officers begin to take notice of the long, layered rap sheets with multiple felony convictions and no significant prison time. That’s when going to court becomes a farce.  It dawns on them that only the judges take the courtroom seriously. Police work becomes a job and ceases to be a calling. Most veteran cops have as a goal getting through their shift with the least amount of trouble. Confrontations, racial or otherwise, are the last thing they want during a patrol.

 Police see the best people at their worst and the worst people at their worst. Everyday contact with the meanest of our species eventually leaves its mark. Memories become choked, not with the names and events of great people and noble deeds but with the rap sheets of local felons and their crimes. Officers soon can recite criminal histories the way David Starkey can discuss the life stories of the monarchs of Britain. When the station dispatcher keys his radio microphone, blood pressure rises through all the department’s patrolling units. No one knows who is going to get the next call or what it will be. For those whose number isn’t called, there is relief. For those who receive a serious call, their minds race through possible scenarios and how they have dealt with similar events in the past, in hopes they will be up to the task.


Two years after Officer Kennedy’s brother had been killed, I was on patrol in East Falmouth. The base station microphone was keyed and I got a radio call that kept my blood pressure up for some time. A Golden Gloves boxing champion, who happened to be a black man, was going door to door ringing doorbells and punching out whomever answered. The radio dispatcher said he had fled the scene in a car. He was to be regarded as highly dangerous. My colleagues began piping up on the radio about what a good boxer he was, and that I should be very careful.

I asked the dispatcher for the boxer’s home address and headed there to find him. His mother and sister greeted me at the door, stating he was not there. They asked if they could come with me to look for their relative. Today’s policy and procedures manuals would have forbidden taking civilians for a ride in pursuit of a criminal, but back then you had much more latitude for independent thought. I let the two women into the rear lockdown area of my cruiser. Only a few minutes had past when the station advised me that the man I was looking for was now attacking people at a local supermarket. As we pulled up, the boxer was punching out a tenacious store manager. I took the time to unlock the doors for my passengers, then ran towards him. At this time, an officer in a dispatched backup unit arrived. He did the same thing that I was doing, but then checked himself, and cheerily announced his name while extending his hand. He went down, one two, out cold, with a broken jaw.
I anticipated his throwing a punch. His eyes moved to the right and a right hook came my way. I moved just in time to receive a glancing blow to my head, but still managed to get behind him and place a sleeper hold on his neck. This was a version of what was recently applied to George Floyd – taught in police academies as a way of stopping blood flow to the brain and causing someone to pass out. It is not a choke hold. I had used that hold a lot, with blacks and whites, and it saved me from being the recipient of a beating on many an occasion. However, this time it wasn’t needed. His mother and sister had left my cruiser and were now staring at him in horror.  Suddenly the boxer appeared somewhat sane: “My ladies are here. You got me”. Now subdued, I handcuffed him and then had his ladies transported to the station. He relapsed into delusions as I transported him to the station’s prisoner drive-thru. It was a memorable ride. He was shouting about the devil, and yelling “Michael Kennedy”! Michael Kennedy, my friend Percy Kennedy’s brother. Back then, we had only a cage screen shielding the front seat from the back. The boxer took advantage of this and began spitting through the cage as he kicked at the front driver seat. I still can feel his saliva going down my back.

The shift commander was there to meet us in the drive-thru. He opened my cruiser’s back door and began talking to the boxer. They knew each other, and I could see that now a black officer was there, the raving lunatic went away and the boxer seemingly became normal and complacent.

I was told not to bother to book him but to drive him straight to the Taunton State Mental Hospital, about an hour away. The raving began as soon as I left. When I arrived at admissions, it was nearing 2 AM. The receptionist was in a sour mood. I was incredulous when she told me that, though beds were available, Cape Cod was assigned only five beds, which were all filled. I then had to return to the station, book my devil- talking prisoner, and place him in a cell. By 10 A.M. the next morning, he had been arraigned in court and released on bail.


Melvin Reine

For over three decades the Falmouth Police Department and the Town of Falmouth was terrorized by a short, spindly, Cape Verdean garbage contractor with snaps embedded in his scalp for the attachment of his toupee. Melvin Reine, the owner of Five Star Enterprises Garbage Collection, was not physically imposing, but willing to do anything to maintain people’s fear of him. They knew he’d run the risks, commit whatever crime it took to maintain control over the town. They also knew that no one seemed to care.  Melvin was from a large family living off a small strawberry farm. He did not come from money. But he did do a stint in prison, and when he came out he was loaded.
Shortly after I moved to Falmouth, there were a series of fires reported as being due to arson. Eventually, these fires were attributed to Melvin Reine. He was successfully prosecuted for them and did two years in the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Cedar Junction. Not long after his release, he quarreled with his wife Wanda. She disappeared. No one has ever heard from her since then, including their two boys, which Reine raised. Around this time, Melvin had been frequenting the company of an 18-year-old girlfriend, Shirley Souza. Coincidentally, her boyfriend, 16-year old Jeffrey Flanagan, was found dead in a cranberry bog just across the street from Melvin’s house. Jeffrey had been executed while on his knees by someone using a twelve-gauge shotgun. Melvin was never charged with this murder. I have seen the initial police report; an auto accident investigation would have had more detail.

The fires started up again, but now mostly for insurance fraud. In 1977, a 17-year-old boy, Paul Alwardt, had been implicated in some of these arsons and was to testify against Melvin before the Barnstable County Grand Jury. Then, like Wanda, he went missing, and like Wanda was never heard from again.

In 1979, Patrolman John Busby was on his way to work when a station wagon operated by Melvin’s brother, John Reine, cut him off.  Shirley was in the passenger seat, and Melvin in the back with the window rolled down. A shotgun was again the choice of weapon. Busby was hit in the face, and his jaw was shattered. None of his assailants were ever arrested for this shooting, but Patrolman Busby was given a new identity and went into hiding for the next seven years.

I was not working for the department at this time, but pursing my degree. By October of 1980, I was again working for the Falmouth Police Department. Though I had not been there for the shooting of Officer Busby, I did talk to a lot of officers who were.  Most felt, as with the Flanagan murder, that there was no serious attempt to investigate the crime. One asserted that Melvin was never questioned, though he was considered a prime suspect for threatening John’s life during an altercation a few days before the ambush took place.

Emboldened by shooting a cop and getting away with it, Melvin got into the habit of lighting a match and saying, “I smell smoke”, whenever he was stopped by a cop for a motor vehicle violation. Though I never had the occasion to stop Melvin, I once stopped his son Todd for illegally driving a garbage truck with no plate or proper license. I hadn’t been out of my cruiser for more than five minutes when Melvin appeared out of the blue. Evidently his car had a police scanner, so he heard me radio the station that I was stopping his son. Now that he was conveniently on scene, I decided to cite him, as the owner of the company that had allowed these violations.

Oddly, as I cleared the scene, I couldn’t get the station on my radio. This wasn’t normal, especially for anyone who was in the process of citing Melvin Reine. Five-minute status checks were mandated for all motor vehicle stops. I kept calling in to say that I had cleared my stop, but there was absolute silence. I began to think that my cruiser radio had failed, when an officer in a neighboring unit responded to my radio traffic. He informed me that the desk officer had announced that he was going to the bathroom. I never had heard an officer make such a declaration on the air. Interestingly enough, this officer had recently volunteered to work the desk radio. His desire to get out of his cruiser and behind a desk was due to the fact that he had had a motor vehicle stop involving Melvin and felt his life might be in jeopardy.

That evening, I ignored regulations and did not file my report and citation concerning Melvin with our station’s court officer.  Instead, I and two other officers who had recently written similar citations for Melvin had our citations hand-carried to the court house by a State Police Captain. This State Police Captain was no fan of the garbage magnate, so made sure our paperwork wasn’t thrown in a convenient court waste basket.

Apparently, Melvin laboured under the misapprehension that the fix was in. He ignored the court house paperwork coming to him through the mail.  Three separate cases and he disregarded them all. Subsequently, the court issued an arrest warrant for him. This was the first time since his release from Cedar Junction that Melvin had been arrested. The flabbergasted Reine was arrested at his house, taken to the station and booked (snap-on toupee removed for photographic purposes) and then arraigned at the Barnstable County District Court.

By 1986, I was the head of a division of the department that was responsible for records, gun permit licensing and press releases. Since the statute of limitations was about to expire on the Busby shooting, I thought I might get the press to do a major story about it and the unsolved murders in hopes of getting some new information that might bring about a prosecution. The editor of the Cape Cod Times agreed to do the story and was taken to North Carolina, where John Busby was in hiding by the State Police. We did not have the chief of police’s consent to do this. We did it on the sly. Only a few people knew about it and they were all necessary to make it happen.

The Cape Cod Times did a full length front page Sunday exclusive. This was the first time that the paper had ever used a colour photo. A bearded John Busby (due to the destruction of his jaw) told the Times in detail about the day he was headed to work and shot in the face. However, the result of all of this effort was the silence of crickets. Nothing happened. No one came forward. However, I did get an angry call back from the editor of the paper. Before going down to North Carolina to interview John, he received a death threat concerning going forward with the upcoming interview. Then the tyres to his car were flattened while he was in his office. Someone had alerted Reine.

By July 1990, I was no longer working for the Falmouth Police Department. I had become the director of the Falmouth Department of Natural Resources. Now there wasn’t any reason for me to have contact with Melvin Reine and I was glad of this. For the next ten years, I heard little about him. Then, on the 27th of October 2000, Falmouth Police Department’s Detective Captain Roman Medeiros (younger brother of the missing Wanda Reine) called to discuss a landfill operation off of Old Barnstable Road. I had no idea that there was such a thing, so we went to the site. It was the old strawberry farm that Reine’s parents had willed to their children.  It was now surrounded by a ten-foot-high earthen berm, which totally masked the mounds of garbage within. We approached the land through a neighboring cranberry bog. When we crested the berm, I was amazed. There were acres of trash, a compound built for Melvin’s garbage trucks, and numerous thirty and one hundred cubic yard waste containers. It was such a flagrant violation of state laws that I felt sure that it must have been recently permitted and I just didn’t know about it. So, I pulled out my cellphone and started calling up officials. First, I called the Board of Health. The Board of Health refused to comment but told me to contact the Town’s engineering department. The Engineering staff would not comment due to their boss being away on vacation. The Building Department did comment, stating that the buildings there were for agricultural purposes, like a strawberry farm.

Soon, I learned that Melvin had been in a fight with his neighbour over the use of this land. The neighbour had called a group of town officials to complain. On the 28th of September, 2000, a mysterious 75-gallon drum of oil was dumped on this neighbour’s property. Of course, this criminal act was witnessed by good citizen Reine, who had promptly reported the spill. The Falmouth Fire Department, the Falmouth Health Department, and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection were alerted. Again, no one notified me. Officials assembled at the scene and received a vague description of the vehicle and perpetrator of this ecological disaster. However, there was no way around it; the assembled officials could plainly see the piles of trash on Reine’s property from the site of the oil spill. They decided to work with him. He could be polite and assuaging when he wanted to, and promised to clean it up…but didn’t. And no one did check back on him. As for the woman on whose land the oil was dumped, she was forced to hire an eco-cleanup firm at her own expense. In desperation, another neighbour called the police, who in turn got hold of me. A search warrant was obtained, which discovered a solid mass of garbage to a depth of fourteen feet. The Massachusetts State Police brought their corpse sniffing dogs to the site. No bodies were found.

I called the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, who permitted all of the state’s landfills. They had no permits for the landfill, so they opened an investigation. However, they soon became spooked and sent the hot potato off to the investigation off to the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Environmental Protection Division. I then arranged for several interviews between the AG’s office and Melvin’s two estranged sons in my office. Melvin’s sons were happy to fill them in. They were upset with their father because of a recent argument. After the argument, one of their houses caught fire.

My department then began developing a second case against Reine. Somehow, an industrial scale town dock from Martha’s Vineyard had been transported across Vineyard Sound, and dumped on private property. Guess who collected the disposal fee?

By now, you can imagine that Melvin was getting a bit peeved with us. Yes, death threats began coming in. A detective called me at home one Sunday to say that Melvin Reine was heard boasting that he was going to hire some boys in Boston to come down to put a man in greensix feet under. Melvin was supposed to have strong connections with the Boston Winter Hill Gang.

It should be noted that Whitey Bulger, the head of the Winter Hill Gang, was the brother of Billy Bulger, the then President of the Massachusetts Senate, and also an active informant for the F.B.I. He too was literally getting away with murder as the F.B.I. protected him from prosecution. This threat seemed plausible. I did ask the detective to put it in writing but he never found the time to do it. I found out about a second threat when an officer working a road detail stopped me and inquired about the death threats that were coming in concerning myself and a reporter with whom I was working. Apparently someone had called the Barnstable District Attorney’s Office Crime Prevention and Control Unit and made another threat. I called up the reporter, who told me that she had been recently warned by the District Attorney’s Office. Naturally I called up the District Attorney’s Crime Prevention and Control Unit and asked the state trooper who received the call why he hadn’t bothered to contact me? He said he’d forgotten. He played stupid, but did promise to write a report, which took him six months.

In 2002, all of the drama finally came to a head. A Ryder rental truck had parked in front of a kickboxing club in East Falmouth. The operator had foolishly parked in front of one of Melvin Reine’s dumpsters. When Melvin drove up to empty his dumpster, he became enraged. He expressed his displeasure by lifting the parked rental truck up and down with the lift tines on his garbage truck — slamming it down with each repetition. After his anger had passed, Melvin realized he might be charged with the assault on the truck. He and his lawyer went to the front desk of the Falmouth Police Department to discuss the matter.  The duty sergeant promptly placed him under arrest. The judge presiding over Melvin’s arraignment became alarmed over the defendant’s preoccupation with how hard the courtroom benches were and remanded to the Bridgewater State Mental Hospital for psychiatric evaluation, then off to the Taunton State Mental Hospital. This time they found a bed. Twelve years later, while being held as criminally insane, Melvin died of Pick’s Disease.

The saga continued. In 2005, Shirley was found shot to death, ambushed in her garage. Melvin’s two sons were under investigation for the crime. No one has yet been charged. Around the time of her murder there was this revelation in the Cape Cod Times:

In a 2003 police report, Reine family members say Falmouth police officer Arthur Monteiro, who died in 1990, provided Reine with information about Busby’s routine before the shooting. He also gave Reine updates about the department’s investigation into the shooting, according to the report, which consists of Falmouth and state police interviews with Melvin Reine’s sons, Todd and Melvin Reine Jr., and his brother, John Reine

Arthur Monteiro was called Monty. He was a large Cape Verdean officer, whose eyes had the puffiness of being in the ring. I was told that the reason he was initially hired was that officers were sick of fighting him and wanted him on their side. He was also a Golden Gloves champion and our Cape Verdean chief of police’s brother-in-law.

Falmouth Police Department pays tribute to one undeserving officer

On May 17th, 2020, a commemorative service was held at a newly created memorial garden in front of the Falmouth Police Department. This garden features four monuments celebrating officers who have been singled out for their “Honor”, “Integrity”, “Commitment” and “Dedication”. You can see how things have changed since the night of that accident, when I was five years old and seated in my father’s faded navy blue,1952, Chevy.

Rathfarnham – ‘Big House’ borderlands

“Bottle Tower, Rathfarnham”, by Harry Kernoff, RHA (1940) – built 1742 as a famine relief scheme after 1740/1741’s “Year of the Slaughter”
DERMOT O’SULLIVAN shows the secret history of a Dublin suburb

In university I did a module on Irish Literature which included ‘Big House’ novels. When I first heard the term, I thought it was a generic description of all novels connected to big country houses, whether they be set in Ireland or not. I mistakenly assumed that Castle Rackrent and The Last September were only Irish examples of a genre that included Jane Eyre, some of Austen’s works, perhaps Portrait of a Lady too.

I quickly discovered that this was not the case, that Big House novels are uniquely Irish works of literature concerned with the big houses of the Irish landlords and (usually) their relationship with the surrounding peasantry and politics of the time. In Maria Edgeworth’s Castle Rackrent, we follow the declining fortunes of an incompetent and abusive Anglo-Irish landowning family, the not-so-subtly named Rackrents. The Last September by Elizabeth Bowen focuses on the cultural ambiguity and divided loyalties of an Anglo-Irish family during the Irish War of Independence, as they both hobnob with the members of the British army and demonstrate their sympathy for and connection with the local Irish, including those who are fighting for independence.

Elizabeth Bowen, who wrote of the ambiguities of Anglo-Irishness

These books made me suddenly curious − not about the literary genre itself − but about the social and historical reality that lay behind these works. I became intensely aware of the fact that people had actually lived in big houses, and – more importantly to my mind – around them, ordinary people existing in relation to these houses and what they represented. This may seem mind-numbingly obvious: after all, Irish history and popular culture is chock-full of stories about landlords and their tenants. However, there is a difference between knowing something and knowing something in italics, as the saying goes. And in thinking about the Big House novel and the world it sprang from, I was knowing in italics, for the first time, this strange, strange corner of Irish history.

This excited me, but left me a little disheartened, feeling I’d missed out on something important. It seemed strange and inappropriate for an Irish person not to know anything about a uniquely Irish reality that had given rise to a whole genre of literature. I was not a 18th or 19th Century peasant, nor ever would be. Neither was I the scion of some blue blood family that still spent summers in their crumbling mansion somewhere in rural Offaly or Meath. It was not that I wanted to be either of these people – not at all – but I was hungry to know this part of my country’s history.

I do not know how long this feeling lasted, a number of weeks perhaps. And then one day, while strolling by the enormous chestnut tree in the shadow of the castle, I realised how ridiculous this sense of historical deprivation was. After all, I had actually grown up in the grounds of a Big House!

Rathfarnham Castle (Photo:

Remarkably this had completely slipped my mind as I mulled over the Big House novel. Rathfarnham Castle was of course a landlord’s Big House – arguably from its construction by Adam Loftus in the late 1500s and definitely from its refurbishment in the 18th Century – and the house in which I grew up in Rathfarnham Wood estate had been built on an old patch of the demesne gardens. I had spent my childhood playing in the woodlands of this Big House, climbing the exotic trees, sitting on the ornamental stone lions that flank its main entrance, hearing stories about its ghosts (including that of a girl bricked up in its walls), driving past its former entry gates, one by the village and the other down by the Dodder some distance away. Our “village” – with its newsagents, charity shops, pubs and takeaways − was the village that grew up around and serviced this house and castle.

How exciting and bizarre to think that a once powerful family’s garden was now occupied by dozens and dozens of individual families, squatting commoners far below the social and economic status of the historic Loftuses, but who nonetheless lived in a state of technological sophistication that the Loftuses could only have dreamed of. I briefly imagined I caught a glimpse of how Henry – the 18th century owner − may have viewed the sleepy (soporifically so) middle class housing estate where I grew up: a strange cyberpunk colony of unlanded plebeians who lacked even a simple chambermaid and yet, as a matter of course, rode mechanical horses fed by internal fires, ate for breakfast the foreign fruits that only he could afford or access in his time, and flew across and between continents in a matter of hours while casually watching probe footage from nearby planets on their handheld library-cum-galleries.   

I’d not only grown up on a former landlord estate (which is obviously extremely common anywhere in Ireland or indeed Europe), but within a stone’s throw of the house itself (which is also quite common, if less so). And, to top it all off, this was so unremarkable to me that I’d completely forgotten about it to the point of feeling sorry for myself, when it should have been the first thing I thought of on reading Edgeworth or Bowen. This now seemed to me far more interesting than any Big House reality from centuries ago.    

This realisation of course made history alive and immediate for me. It was not the first time I’d taken an interest in local history, or in history in general, topics that I’d always felt drawn to. But it certainly added more texture and impetus to this curiosity.

I had always adored – and still do – the nature of Rathfarnham Wood. And it was curious to know that where I had picked up my love of the natural world had been in the decadent and overgrown gardens of some long-departed landowning family. There was (and to a lesser extent still is) a sort of natural gothic to Rathfarnham Wood, with its shattered ruins and superabundance of ivy. It’s no doubt a common aesthetic taste, but I am sure that my obsession with ruins and overgrowth, and – the jackpot – overgrown ruins, was influenced by growing up in an environment that abounded in them.

Archbishop Loftus, constructor (or reconstructor) of Rathfarnham Castle

A short history of Rathfarnham I read many years ago, shortly after the events recounted above, described the area as a “waste village” in the early 1580s when Adam Loftus took possession and began the construction (or reconstruction) of Rathfarnham Castle. This simple phrase – with its hints of violence and war − stirred my curiosity and led to another novel insight into Irish history for me. I went on to read more about how Rathfarnham had been the frequent victim of Gaelic plundering. I had vaguely known about the raids of the O’Byrnes and O’Tooles before, and I’d of course heard ad nauseam in school about the Pale, the small area of Ireland surrounding Dublin that was still under the control of the English Crown in the 1300s. But it was only reading about Rathfarnham on this occasion that these facts really hit home.

It now seemed remarkable to me that the Wicklow highlands, so close to the centre of English power in the country, had remained Irish for so long. It took 400 years for English power to reach the hills and mountains that I could see out the window of my childhood home – and a further 200 for that control to be complete and uncontested. That’s 600 years total, more than the time that has elapsed since significant numbers of Europeans first set foot in the Americas. What’s more, these highlands are clearly visible from the city centre, and with good traffic, just 30 minutes away by car. Even back in medieval times they could only have been a few hours march distant at most. This was fascinating – the fact that two worlds co-existed side by side for so many centuries, the fact that in medieval times guards on the walls of Dublin Castle could have looked south at the hills and known that there lay another country: different language, different culture, different law.

That Rathfarnham was to some degree a borderland between these two realities, and would have witnessed these raids, was utterly engrossing to me. And the realisation that the expression “Beyond the Pale” literally applied to my neighbourhood (which straddled the Pale in fact, my house being inside it), that I could see “beyond the Pale” out the window of my redbrick suburban home, this was the icing on the historical cake.

Ticknock Forest, all too near Rathfarnham

Rathfarnham is a middle-class suburb located on the southern extremity of Dublin city, where the land begins to crumple into green hills that eventually give onto the granite Wicklow uplands and their rolling moors and peaks. At first glance it is an entirely unremarkable district. And at closer glance it is still quite unremarkable: suburban housing estates, main roads, shopping centres and parks. That’s basically it.

The parks – such as Rathfarnham Wood mentioned above – are the keys to understanding the neighbourhood’s history, as most of them are not recently developed urban parks, but the remains of the demesne gardens of wealthy, almost exclusively Protestant landowners. From the time of the English Reformation until Ireland’s Independence in 1922, the country was divided from its colonial overlords by religion, in addition to political and cultural questions. In essence, Ireland was ruled by a wealthy, landowning Protestant elite, much like in Britain, except in Ireland the vast majority of the population was Catholic (and extremely impoverished). Being close to the seat of English power in Dublin, Rathfarnham was greatly sought after by members of this class, and so the suburb boasts a high density of their mansions, giving the area an uncommon level of historical continuity when compared to many other areas of the city.

But all that comes much later: the history of Rathfarnham begins thousands of years before even Catholicism – not to mentioned Anglicanism – were even dreamed of. In the suburb − and particularly in its hilly, rural sections − are many millennia-old megaliths: cairns, tombs, dolmens, all left scattered by peoples whose languages, cultures and beliefs are utterly lost to the great bog of history. A Neolithic passage tomb recently excavated on Montpellier Hill probably dates back more than 5,000 years. Flint lithics, a polished stone axe head and a bone pin were found at the site. Another passage tomb cairn known as Fairy Castle is not actually in Rathfarnham, but is visible from the area as a grey nipple on the rounded summit of Two Rock mountain. The portion of Rathfarnham’s history that we can speak about with any degree of certainty – less than 1,000 years – pales in comparison to these deep stretches of time.  

There is not much to say about Rathfarnham before the arrival of the Anglo-Normans in the 12th Century, but we can safely assume that this fertile country, close to the River Liffey and Ireland’s east coast, would have been inhabited. There were early Christian monasteries nearby, with one possibly being located on the site of the old churchyard in Rathfarnham village. From the founding of Viking Dublin in the 9th Century, there was probably extensive Scandinavian presence in the area. But it is only after the Anglo-Norman invasion that we begin to have a solid written record of Rathfarnham. Incidentally, Diarmaid Mac Murchadha – the Irish king who brought the Anglo-Normans to the island in order to try regain his lost kingdom – led the invaders through the Rathfarnham area on the final leg of their march to attack Dublin, the most prosperous settlement in Ireland at the time. Ironically, seeing as it would take the English settlers hundreds of years to subdue the Wicklow mountains, it was through these uplands that they first entered the Dublin region, choosing this difficult route in order to surprise the city’s defenders. So in one of those strange rhyming reversals of history, the hills that for several centuries afterwards would be a thorn in the side of English Dublin, the vulnerable southern flank of the Pale from which would descend raiders and armies; these very same hills that would become their nemesis in the centuries ahead, are what allowed the Anglo-Normans to invade and occupy the city of Dublin in the first place.

Just five years later in 1175, Rathfarnham was granted by Henry II to Walter the goldsmith (aurifaber). Then in 1199, Milo le Bret was given Rathfarnham and constructed a motte and bailey fort in the area. This marked the beginning of the Pale period of Rathfarnham’s history mentioned above, when the district’s position at the edge of Dublin, right on the foothills of the Wicklow mountains, made it a cultural and military borderland for centuries. The precarious situation of Rathfarnham (and all the Pale’s southern border) became much more severe in the 1300s when Europe-wide famine and the Black Death, among other factors, led to a weakening of English power in Ireland, subjecting Dublin’s hinterland to ever more frequent and vicious raids from the O’Byrne and O’Toole clans from the mountains. Violence also went in the other direction, with the medieval records of Dublin showing the levying of forces to carry out attacks on the Gaelic kingdoms.

This cultural fault line was plagued by violence for another 200 years. Only in the 1580s was the power of the Gaelic lords finally broken. It was at this time that Rathfarnham was described as a “waste village” and that the original Loftus − Adam – was granted the lands and built the Castle that still exists today. Adam Loftus was a Yorkshire clergyman who managed to secure extensive wealth while in colonial service in Ireland. As well as being the man who built Rathfarnham Castle, he was Archbishop of Dublin and the first provost of Trinity College Dublin, which he helped to found and which was named after his alma-mater in Cambridge. He had a reputation for being a self-serving opportunist and apparently opposed the foundation of Trinity College in St Patrick’s Cathedral as it would have deprived him of a lucrative source of income. In any case, the fortified house that he built – and the village that grew to serve it – has remained the central historical feature of Rathfarnham to this day. And, of course, it is in the lands of this castle that the red-brick 1980s housing estate that I grew up in would be built, almost exactly 400 years later.  

In 1600, in an act of nostalgic violence, the Wicklow clans, taking advantage of the Nine Years’ War, attacked the castle. Letters of Adam Loftus from the time lament the loss of his cattle, sheep and other goods to the raiders. During the Irish Confederate Wars and Cromwellian invasion of the 1640s the castle changed hands many times and was occupied by both Royalists and Roundheads. There is a tradition that Cromwell himself stayed in the castle but no one knows if this is true.  

Cromwellian agitprop – the English warrior slays the Irish dragon

After peace came to Ireland in the late 1600s, a “golden era” (at least for some) began in Rathfarnham. The 18th Century was the height of the power and influence of the Protestant Ascendancy in Ireland, a period when wealthy Protestants (some recent arrivals from England, others not) consolidated their control over the island. These landlords owned vast estates across the entire country, while Catholics had their rights restricted under various, ever-changing Penal Laws. It was from this landowning class that came the writers Maria Edgeworth and Elizabeth Bowen, and it was from the social reality of this elite’s status in Irish society that came the Big House novel genre. In Rathfarnham this contrast would probably have been less fraught, as ordinary peasants living close to Dublin would have been less obviously impoverished and less obviously “Irish” than those elsewhere in the country.

In any case, it is at this time that were built most of the large, extant and historically relevant structures in Rathfarnham: Rathfarnham House, The Hermitage, the Church of Ireland church in the village, Eden House (now a pub), Marlay House, the Priory (later demolished) and other less extravagant homes.

Just as significant was the refurbishment by Lord Ely (Henry Loftus) of Rathfarnham Castle, which converted the 16th Century fortified house into a luxurious modern home, complete with rococo ceilings, painted glass windows and other decorative features. Perhaps most tellingly, the Castle’s windows were enlarged to a size that would have been unthinkable in the era of the Wicklow clans’ incursions. But this was a new era for Rathfarnham, when security was no longer a great concern.

Lord Ely’s Gate, formerly the main entrance to the Rathfarnham Castle demesne

Funnily enough, approximately 250 years later an “attack” by another group of outsiders – probably some drunken roughs from another area of the city that had gate-crashed a party nearby –would result in some of these windows being smashed and a return to a state of  high vigilance at the castle. Motion sensors and cameras were installed to defend the place, instead of the more traditional armed watchmen of centuries past.

With increased freedom for the majority of Irish following Catholic Emancipation in 1829, Rathfarnham underwent another interesting shift that mirrored the social and political changes taking place across the country. From this time until Irish independence in 1922, the big structures of Rathfarnham were increasingly occupied by Catholic institutions as the power of the Protestant Ascendancy began to wane. Rathfarnham House became the Loreto convent (where Mother Teresa of Calcutta trained). The Hermitage became St Enda’s School, or Scoil Éanna, a bilingual Catholic school under the direction of Pádraig Pearse, the man who later led the 1916 Rising, which though a military failure led to the conflict that eventually saw Ireland gain independence from Britain. And the Castle itself became a Jesuit college and retreat centre. During this period the Church of the Annunciation Catholic church was built, there having been only a small mass house before.

Rathfarnham’s final transformation (and probably its last for the foreseeable future) came in the mid to late 20th century, when Dublin’s suburban sprawl spread to what had been a populated but still largely rural district. Many housing estates were built, including the one I grew up in. Shopping centres, schools, pubs and other services sprung up to attend to the needs of the new inhabitants. And now that is what Rathfarnham is: an area of suburban housing estates scattered with old Ascendancy mansions, or perhaps an area of stately Ascendancy parklands now occupied by suburban homes. It all depends on your perspective.           

So where does this leave us? Ultimately, for most of its residents, with a suburb that they can live in and its local parks that they can jog in, or play football in, or drink in at night when they are still underage. Rathfarnham is a place that holds a lot of physical history: there are few places in the whole country with such a high density of old buildings and ruins, particularly from relatively recent times, but also from extremely distant eras. However, buildings do not have memory, people do, and in this way Rathfarnham is a paradox, as while many old structures have persisted through the ages here, its people have not. In recent decades, this has been due to the explosion of suburban growth: the residents of the housing estates of Rathfarnham are mostly not from the area and a huge number are not from Dublin at all. As such there is little of the folk memory and interrelations that exist in parts of rural Ireland. And none of the big houses are occupied by their original residents.

Before this, Rathfarnham had its cultural continuity disrupted by the Viking and Anglo-Norman invasions and subsequent settlement. One thinks of the late, great Tim Robinson’s exceptional books on the Aran Islands and Connemara (Stones of Aran – Pilgrimage, Stones of Aran – Labyrinth, and the Connemara Trilogy – Listening to the Wind, The Last Pool of Darkness and A Little Gaelic Kingdom) how − though these were disappearing even as he recorded them – names existed for individual rocks and hummocks in the land; and how there were folk tales and traditions associated with individual cliff faces and bogs and bays. In Rathfarnham, this is almost non-existent, and entirely so for the vast majority of residents these days. One thinks of the local names and stories and traditions that must have existed here over the centuries, in English more recently, and further back in the Irish language itself.

This cultural dislocation is perhaps illustrated most clearly in the name of the place: no one knows exactly where the name Rathfarnham comes from. All that is certain is that it originates in a time when Gaelic culture would have been ascendant in the area. The Irish Ráth Fearnáin is usually translated as Fearnán’s ringfort, but even this is debated. And, even assuming this is correct, no one knows who Fearnán was or – though there are educated guesses − exactly where his ráth lay. The English form obviously alters the last syllable to make it similar to British place names such as Birmingham or Nottingham. This would be like renaming Castledermot in county Kildare, “Castledertown.” And if we translate ráth loosely as “castle” (on the logic that both were the central defensive structures of their respective cultures), the strange disjunction of this cultural forgetting becomes even clearer, as it would mean that Rathfarnham Castle, the central point of the neighbourhood, can be construed as the tautological “The Castle of the Castle of Fearnán,” which makes zero sense, or all the sense in the world. Again, it all depends of your perspective.

Study for the Head of Samuel Beckett, by Louis de Broquy – the Anglo-Irish analyst of states of mind depicted like a Celtic warrior

Exploring the history of Rathfarnham (or anywhere perhaps) is akin to psychoanalysis, insofar as what is most interesting and revelatory is usually not the discovery of something completely unknown, but rather the coming to awareness of things that were clearly there all along. In the case of Ireland, one theme is the ambiguity of our attachment to the relics of a colonial past, animosity towards which – for lack of other things, much of our native culture having been destroyed – is a fundamental part of the country’s national identity. For all the reasons outlined above, Rathfarnham embodies this starkly, it being a seat of both Protestant ascendancy and nationalist revolution. With its completely obliterated Gaelic past, and its colonial history remaining only in the repurposed or ruined shells of old buildings, Rathfarnham is ultimately the unremarkable embodiment of a clash of cultures that began 850 years ago and which continues to this day.

Unremarkable as, in the final analysis, this story is repeated all over the island, and is simply another way of defining the idea of Ireland itself, whether one lives on the grounds of a literal Big House or not. And as much as battles and rebellions, this clash is equally well represented by a modern, health-conscious suburbanite jogging in an ornamental parkland planted by a colonial landlord long, long ago.

The forgotten Levels

FAITH MOULIN helped rewild an overlooked corner of Somerset

My part of Somerset hides its age well.  When the Romans came to Yatton and Congresbury, they inherited an Iron Age salt-panning industry, set up the first systematic drainage system, and established an industrial-scale pottery at Congresbury, using the estuarine clay. A Roman temple has been unearthed on nearby Cadbury Hill next to an Iron Age settlement, and a cemetery was excavated there in the 1950s. Lead and other minerals from the Mendip Hills passed close by on a direct route to their slave-powered boats on the Severn estuary. Over 2,000 years ago, the chieftain buried on Cadbury Hill enjoyed luxury imports from much of the known world, including wine and jewellery from Byzantium. Now, people also appreciate more natural treasures.

William Stukeley’s painting of Cadbury Hill

Yatton has a peat moor on one side of the village, leading onto the Tickenham, Nailsea and Kenn Moors Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a clay moor on the other side, Biddle Street SSSI, which is mainly in the parish of Congresbury. The wetlands are bisected by Yatton High Street, a natural limestone ridge, and the archaeological survey for hundreds of new houses in 2019 provided new information showing that Yatton village’s ridgeway had been an important route for thousands of years – not only to those escaping traffic jams when there is an accident on the M5!

Yatton and Congresbury are linked by two great wildlife features. One is Cadbury Hill, the Iron Age hill-fort owned jointly by our two parish councils. Both Yatton and Congresbury people have access to the hill from their own sides, as it straddles the parish boundary. The second is the Strawberry Line – a disused railway now a heritage trail, part of the National Cycle Network and a nature reserve owned by North Somerset Council.

In 1998 a local farmer was selling a field next to the Strawberry Line for £25,000, and a group of local residents decided to save it for the environment. To apply for grant funding, the group had to be a registered charity and thus the Yatton and Congresbury Wildlife Action Group (YACWAG) was born. The farmer was willing to wait a year while we raised the money. After an initial award from the Heritage Lottery Fund, YACWAG successfully gained grants elsewhere and increased our landholding. In our first seven years, we bought ten fields and a small woodland, with over £250,000 raised from outside sources. It is no longer so easy. Most land around Yatton and Congresbury is marketed as ‘Investment Land’ and is snapped up by developers.

YACWAG grew out of other local initiatives going back decades, including the multi-agency ‘Forgotten Levels’ local campaign of the 1990s.  North Somerset includes the Cinderella Levels, up to five metres above sea level, step-sister to the better known Somerset Levels, who gets invited to all the balls.  By that time, we had run a children’s environmental group for 13 years, a Wildlife Trust group for five years, a Friends group for two, and we had gained a lot of experience and knowledge about local wildlife as well as a network of keen volunteers and others more expert in their field.

When naming the charity, the word ‘action’ was a deliberate inclusion. We aimed to create and maintain nature reserves in an area that was rapidly developing into commuter belt – to provide a refuge for the wildlife that was denied habitat by modern farming methods, increased disturbance and pollution. Our second objective was, and is, to raise awareness of nature conservation and natural history.

This natural history is entwined intimately with our own. In 2000, we funded a project to increase wetland habitat in a small field owned by the council. The digger turned up stones and pottery sherds, including Samian ware, coins and metal buckles; it was a previously unknown Roman occupation site! (We worked with the local school to make a mosaic seat in celebration.) 

We also obtained a grant to link our communities along the Strawberry Line with activities for all ages. With the relevant local MPs at each former station site, simultaneously blowing the whistle and waving a flag to kick the event off, crowds of local people were led from one village to the other, exploring the natural wonders of the disused railway corridor. The local museum service showcased Roman artefacts and we provided hands-on activities at intervals. On both the station sites we offered a booth where retired railwaymen could record their memories of working life before the closure of the Strawberry Line. (These later formed the basis of a book, which we sell to raise funds for our work.)

Due to more relaxed management, our fields look very different from neighbouring land and their character has been continuously changing. Close your ears to traffic and planes, and half-close your eyes to exclude the neighbours’ unnaturally green ‘improved’ short grass, and you could be in the 18th century before the Enclosure Acts. We haven’t planted wild flowers; we have just allowed them. When farmers complained about thistles, we smiled and watched the butterflies on them and the flocks of finches in the winter. In nature there is waxing and waning and we saw that as soil fertility declined a balance arrived. A few years ago a beautiful green-eyed fly was photographed. Professional verification was required and an entomologist visited the following year to see our Four-lined Horsefly. It is a rare wetland species, the nearest site being 30 miles away. People don’t like horseflies but this one is very docile and hundreds of them peacefully sip nectar from thistles in July.

In a couple of our fields we do have ‘proper’ wild flowers. In 2002 and 2003 we held ‘Field Days’ on Congresbury Moor with farmers bringing horses and vintage tractors to demonstrate their skills with old machinery, cutting and turning our hay. One local farming family restored an old hay cart for the event and staged a show for the crowds, tossing the hay about for hours in the bright sunshine.  I remember our excitement when we first saw a knapweed plant in that field displaying its feathery purple stars. Now to see the drifts of them in this ancient hay meadow, first enclosed from Congresbury Moor in the seventeenth century, is a taste of how life could be. In the surrounding fields the grass is never long; if the plants do exist they never get the chance to flower.  

In 2006 we were offered an opportunity to buy two fields off a busy street on the north side of Yatton.  These are our other wild flower meadows. They are within 500 metres of the primary school – ideal for educational visits. This time we went to the community for help and were supported by Yatton Parish Council, Yeo Valley Lions, local businesses and many individuals as well as bigger funders. Last year we held a bank holiday event in the fields, offering local people the chance to explore “Nature as Your Neighbour”. Local families enjoyed pond-dipping, spider-hunting, owl pellet dissection and hands-on interaction with wildlife. In the evening we led a bat walk along the road for 25 local people, opening their eyes to the secret world of bats.

North Somerset is a bat hotspot, with Greater Horseshoe Bat roosts on our doorstep. We have engaged young adults through the exciting mix of technology and cute little furry animals. It led to new discoveries – even on a national scale as we found the first evidence of a Nathusius pipistrelle bat migrating across the North Sea – and raised awareness of bats’ protected status. We were able to support the council when they developed technical guidance for planning applications. As we are mainly self-taught, YACWAG loves citizen science projects. We get people involved in surveys and facilitate national initiatives locally, like the Big Schools Bird Watch, National Moth Night and a BTO Christmas bird survey, as well as four walks for the National Bat Monitoring Programme.

In the two fields near the school we could see a remnant of the damp pasture that used to surround the village. The previous owner had managed the fields as a private nature reserve, just cutting hay once a year for the past 17 years. Marsh marigolds grew in the open field and there were swathes of pink ragged robin. Along the ditch edges was the regal purple loosestrife and its rarer relative, yellow loosestrife.

Yellow loosestrife Photo: YACWAG

This lockdown year, having heard that among 250 species of bee there is something called the Yellow Loosestrife Bee, with more time to look and gorgeous weather, we went looking for it – and found it! This little bee has a complex association with its namesake plant, collecting pollen on its brush-like legs and manufacturing oil from the pollen to waterproof its underground nest chambers. I was moved to tears by this discovery, which was newsworthy enough for Radio Bristol and the BBC website. If YACWAG hadn’t bought the fields – if a traditional farmer had bought it, or a pony owner – the yellow loosestrife would have been grazed out or cut down, and the bees would have been lost. We simply don’t know what’s there and what is important. Wildlife is so fragile and we casually lose precious species that have survived centuries in our rural landscapes. With them can go whole networks of other species that depend on them, and we don’t even know what we have lost. We have  proved you don’t have to do much to reverse this trend, except wait and watch.

When we bought our first field we had a visit from Chris Sperring MBE of the Hawk and Owl Trust. He advised us rookies to grow our grass long – basically to “farm voles” and put up a barn owl box. “The owls will come”, he said, drawing on his experience on the Somerset Levels, from where young owls were dispersing to new territories and finding nowhere to nest. The boxes on our poles are easily seen from the Strawberry Line and local people love to watch the ghostly white owls drifting over the fields on late summer evenings. YACWAG boxes have raised 60 chicks to colonise elsewhere. One year we had three pairs breeding on our tiny landholding. We have regular breeding kestrels too, thanks to the fecundity of the short-tailed field vole.

There are unexpected spin-offs. A local widow who enjoyed walking her dog on the Strawberry Line liked the barn owls so much she decided to leave YACWAG money in her will. We didn’t know her but she spoke to our Secretary, who said a polite thank you and thought no more about it. This lady has now died. We haven’t received the bequest yet but it may be enough to allow us to buy more land, even at today’s prices. Our 300 members want us to buy more land. It is the way to keep it safe for nature, ‘in perpetuity’ as the legal documents say.

An earlier bequest gave us “Harry’s Plot”, one-seventh of a field bought by residents behind their houses to save their views from development. It is very small but includes a magnificent oak tree and the residents have let us plant another oak tree in the field this winter.

YACWAG’s work has been varied and evolving, rooted in the community and wholly voluntary. When someone comes along wanting to do something, we go with the flow, so when the North Somerset Otter Group was homeless, we provided an umbrella. When someone wanted to learn about small mammals we encouraged him to go on a course, started surveys, and bought a trail camera. We have since found in our fields all three types of shrew, both species of voles and the tiny harvest mouse. We have several moth traps which members can use in their gardens and then a few keen amateurs try to identify the catch.

Over the 20 years we have seen a decline in local wildlife, mirroring the national and global picture. But in our fields, at least, biodiversity is increasing. The local farmers who once thought we were mad now talk to us with a lot more respect and understanding. Some help us with management of our land, and one even wants to plant more trees on his own farm. 

It isn’t hard work to get the results we have – give Nature a chance and it will reward you richly. Just try to imagine the impact if every parish set aside just one field for Nature…

Come back, Mrs. May – all is forgiven!

STUART MILLSON says the much-maligned Theresa had Brexit about right

The ousting of Boris Johnson’s close political adviser, Dominic Cummings – architect of the Vote Leave victory in 2016, and (at the time of writing) the continued impasse over a final Brexit deal, have brought our relations with the EU into sharp focus once again.

Since the referendum, a moment in our history which confirmed an end to one of the most significant parts of the post-war consensus – that Britain should root itself within a European sphere of influence – the defeated pro-Remain side in Britain has tried, time and again, to reverse, or dilute, the result. Their efforts reached a zenith during the days of Theresa May’s premiership: her Government’s small majority in the House of Commons (reinforced by Unionist votes, which in the end dematerialised) making it impossible to bring EU exit legislation successfully through its many stages.

Unable to enact the will of the people as expressed in the Vote Leave result, Mrs May’s position became untenable – the only way forward for Brexit being a bonfire of the vanities: a General Election which would sweep away the entrenched Remainish majority in the Commons – removing all those MPs who famously put their own eloquence and ideology before Brexit. And it should not be forgotten that one of those MPs, in those uneasy days, was none other than Boris Johnson: a figure who could be counted upon to vote against his Prime Minister and party. As one backbencher smirkingly remarked, it was indeed strange to see the Brexit purists marching through the same Division lobbies as the SNP and the second-referendum brigade, leaving Mrs. May with just the tatters of her policy.

Yet the former Prime Minister – whose instinct was always to strike a compromise – did set out with the highest hopes for Brexit – and a final settlement which whilst not, perhaps, embodying everything for which we Brexiteers had hoped, nonetheless set our country on a course of independence – but sustaining immediate economic contacts with the bloc to which we formerly belonged as a political member. Put very simply, Mrs. May’s idea was that United Kingdom should leave the political institutions of the European Union (institutions which no longer serve any European citizen) but remain within, or alongside, all the practical economic arrangements, which allow life to continue as normal: lorries and coaches driving on and off ferries or Eurotunnel services; goods and services freely flowing – and the English middle class still able to visit and settle in Normandy at the drop of a three-cornered hat. But more than that, Mrs. May – the pragmatist, the careful Whitehall moderator – saw her deal in more than just ‘foreign policy’ terms. For this Prime Minister, an heir to Chamberlainite ideals of a united, social-democratic, communitarian Tory Britain, her Brexit deal was a visionary attempt to honour the entire result of the referendum, in a fusion of moderate-Leave and moderate-Remain ideals. The result: social cohesion, acceptance, domestic harmony.

She reasoned as follows: the majority of Remain voters, though obviously believing that we should stay within the Euro-club, were by no means part of the much-mocked ‘Remainiac’ rump, which seemed – each day, to parade itself across the news bulletins, with Euro-banner demonstrations outside Parliament and yet more legal and parliamentary challenges to the Government’s legislation. (Readers will recall international businesswoman, Gina Miller and her offshore backers’ resolve to stop ministerial invocation of Article 50 – the EU treaty’s leaving mechanism – in the Supreme Court.)

Furthermore, went the thinking, that most ‘Remain’ supporters also tended to take the view that, (a) Britain had been a member of the European project for over 40 years, and (b) that much of our trade is conducted with our continental partners, so why ‘rock the boat’ – why unravel complicated arrangements beneficial to industries and workers, just for the sake of a political point? Sharing also, perhaps, the tabloids’ and Telegraph suspicion, or dislike of the ‘Brussels bureaucrats’ (rather than the European Community itself), the middle-of-the-road Remainers, nevertheless constituted a large segment of the British electorate – an electoral element Mrs May did not wish to alienate. If the May  Government could appeal to this part of middle-England, counting on their sense of fair play to respect the majority Brexit vote, then the extreme and influential pro-EU faction could be isolated – portrayed as anti-democrats whose instincts were simply unreasonable, even hostile to the nation-state, yet adulatory of foreign banners and bureaucrats.

With a consensus achieved, the country could then begin to repair the divisions which flared up and began to cast a gloomy atmosphere over Britain in the months following the referendum: Brexit would be generous and consensual – and pro-Europeans would still have some of the cultural links they craved. But the ideal – first propounded by Mrs May in her famous Chatham House speech, setting out the aim of a sovereign Britain linked to many international bodies – was not to be. With a Corbynite Labour Party (excited about another election) scenting fear – and blood – from its Tory opponents; and with a ‘Brexit party’ at work on the Tory backbenches, tripping up the Government at every opportunity, the consensus Prime Minister could no longer continue her mission.

As we survey the Brexit landscape at the end of our transition year to full independence, we might ponder the notion that Mrs. May did, in fact, get it right: with a path that would have steered us away from over-dependence upon either the United States or Europe – a sensible insurance policy, given the change of administration now underway in Washington and a less sympathetic view of Brexit from the new President-Elect. And with Britain now demoralised through Covid,  fragmenting at the edges, too, as devolved UK assemblies chart their own path through the crisis, Mrs. May’s hope for a re-uniting of people of goodwill – non-ideological Brexiteers and realistic Remainers – could have given us the cohesion required to take us on the next step of our national journey.

Has the National Trust lost its way?

MAURICE GEORGE fears the heritage institution is forgetting its origins and aims

The National Trust is 125 years old, has a membership approaching 10% of the population and exists to preserve things. How can such a body lose its way? To answer that question, we have to look at the context within which it operates and its sensitivity to current trends and fashionable ideas.

My perspective of the National Trust is based on my experience of visiting properties, reading the magazine, and press coverage when things go significantly right or wrong.  A matter of particular concern has been the publicly expressed disquiet among the volunteers, upon whom the Trust is implicitly dependent to be able to open its properties to the public. At one point in the last couple of years I was getting so annoyed at the way the Trust was being run that, had I not been a life member, I might have resigned my membership in protest. In my 60 years as a member of the Trust, membership has increased five-fold and with increasing emphasis on attracting yet more visitors to its properties, I have the impression that the Trust may be losing contact with its origin and fundamental purpose.

I have a special interest in the Lake District, where an essential element in the motivation for what became the National Trust, originated. My first visit to the Lakes as a teenager was for me, a Londoner, a life-changing experience and I have devoted much time since to exploring it and studying its history and culture.  For the past 25 years I have been an active supporter of the Armitt Collection held in the museum and library at Ambleside in the Lake District and for 11 years I was Chair of the Friends.  This year marks 100 years since the death of Canon Hardwicke Drummond Rawnsley (one of the three co-founders of the National Trust – see and I have spent the past two months helping to prepare an exhibition celebrating his work as ‘Defender of the Lakes’.

It was Rawnsley whom we have to thank for really starting the movement to protect the English Lake District for access and enjoyment by future generations and for enabling the creation of the National Trust. Others, including Wordsworth, had raised their voices against perceived threats, but to little effect. Most importantly, Rawnsley recognised that to succeed, his movement needed to be on a national basis and it was the coalescence of his vision and energy with the desire of Octavia Hill and Robert Hunter for a national organisation to protect open spaces that led to the foundation of the National Trust. This year is the 125th anniversary of that event and for the first 25 years of its existence, Rawnsley was the Trust’s honorary secretary.

The National Trust was set up originally to preserve the scenic value of open spaces and access to them for the inhabitants of over-crowded towns and cities. The preservation of buildings followed, with the realisation that there was also an architectural heritage that needed to be saved from neglect or destruction. The National Trust now represents around a tenth of the population of England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is remarkable, that since the passing of the first National Trust Act in 1907, the governance of so large an organisation has only once been subject to significant public scrutiny, following the controversy in 1966 over the management of Enterprise Neptune, the coastal protection initiative.

Running the coastal project, which aimed to protect as much of the coastline as possible from development and loss of access, placed too much of a burden upon the existing management of the Trust and it was decided to appoint an appeals director.  Conrad Rawnsley, grandson of the founder, was, with some reluctance on the part of the Trust, engaged for the post and thus to run what he called Enterprise Neptune.  Rawnsley had radical views as to how the Trust as a whole should be run, and the organisation he set up engaged young people, a group somewhat neglected by the Trust. It also exposed the weakness in the Trust’s management to an extent that the tail (Enterprise Neptune) was wagging the dog. In an attempt to regain control of the situation, Rawnsley’s contract was terminated. At the next AGM, Rawnsley’s Reform Group failed to get any of their members elected to the Trust Council and he requisitioned an Extraordinary General Meeting, at which 4,000 members filled Church House, Westminster. My wife and I were active supporters of Rawnsley and the Neptune project and we were among the noisy hecklers who shouted down the chairman when he tried to use procedure to thwart the protest over Rawnsley’s dismissal. The Trust were forced to put a critical resolution to a poll of all members, who rejected it by a margin of two to one. At the next AGM, Rawnsley publicly tore up his membership card and walked out of the meeting.

As a result of this furore the Trust convened an advisory committee, chaired by an eminent accountant, Sir Henry Benson. The ensuing Report reviewed the constitution, organisation and responsibilities of the Trust and recommended changes, which were subsequently largely implemented. The major organisational change was for the management of properties to be devolved within a new regional organisation – a change that had been recommended in an earlier management review but not implemented.  There have been various reorganisations since the Benson Committee report but no objective review of the Trust’s purpose and function, despite the fact that the committee had recommended that the Trust should review its workings every ten years or so.  Is it perhaps now time for another such review?

There have been other moments of controversy in the life of the National Trust but nothing on the scale of the Neptune affair. However, recently we have seen significant adverse comment in newspaper articles and letters, concerning how the Trust is meeting its declared objectives and the extent to which it should pay attention to current trends of thinking. It is therefore timely to ask whether the National Trust may indeed have lost its way.

The current issue capturing the attention and evoking responses from Arts and Heritage organisations is the extent to which the profits from the slave trade enabled the philanthropy, from which we all benefit today. Attention to issues such as slavery may be inescapable, if we agree with the Director of the National Gallery that silence is construed as denial or disagreement. The fundamental issue here is the attainment of equality of opportunity for all groups in our society, and slavery is being used as an emotive element to gain popular support for the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement. The enslavement of black Africans in America is the social focus, which has been carried forward to the present day, notwithstanding a civil war and the passage of time. If however we can detach ourselves from the American situation, and look at how societies have operated over several millennia, we have to acknowledge that slavery, in one form or another, has been an integral element of social organisation and, regretfully, still is, in the sex industry and other forms of exploitation.

However, to focus on one aspect of enslavement without reference to the wider historical perspective leads to self-indulgent attitudes of apology for the acts of our ancestors. Unfortunately, the National Trust and other cultural bodies have been drawn into seeking out historical connections to slavery, but we may ask what useful purpose does this form of navel-gazing actually serve? I believe it is an intellectual dead-end which simply diverts attention away from the object of preservation, into a discussion of the acts of our forbears, and the passing of judgement on their actions according to the standards of our own time.

Being wise after the event is prudent in respect of avoiding the repetition of potentially harmful errors, but for little else. Do we really want theoretically to punish swathes of royalty, chieftains, and religious leaders for acts of oppression, bigotry, or greed, carried out at a time when such actions were a normal aspect of society? We should surely always look forward to providing a better living environment for our successors and preserving for them the cultural wealth of our times.

Even before the current obsession with slavery, we had the Trust applying a common theme across all its properties. Examples were the emancipation of women and gay pride, which were a distortion of the perspective for viewing all those places. This was taken to extremes in some cases, for example with depictions of wartime conditions. Was it rational to store all the artworks and furniture in order to show a house in its wartime condition as the home of a bank, albeit the one of which the property’s owner was Chairman? For a whole year, anyone wishing to see any of the very fine artworks or to view the porcelain collection, the usual reasons for wanting to visit the house, was denied the opportunity to do so.

The Trust has also attracted criticism for amalgamating some of the Lake District farms bequeathed by Beatrix Potter, with the instruction that they should be maintained as she had left them. They also defeated a group of farmers seeking to purchase and maintain other Lake District farms in the traditional way. Hardwicke Rawnsley and Beatrix Potter sought to preserve land, traditional farming practice and Lakeland culture, and that should remain the objective of the National Trust today.

Rawnsley’s final book, published in the year of his death, was a valedictory tour of National Trust properties in the west of England. Only a quarter of these properties comprised buildings as well as open spaces.  How much has changed since then, and how wonderful are many of the buildings in the care of the Trust, but do we really understand the purpose of this national archive of natural and constructed beauty and interest? Moreover, the guardianship of properties that have not come into the ownership of the Trust but are deemed to be of value to the nation’s heritage, has passed from government department to public charitable support with English Heritage. All of these places attract visitors from overseas and contribute to export earnings, yet we have no overall cultural policy for this nation.  Culture matters too.

There is though some hope that common sense and rationality will ultimately prevail. The Director General has indicated that there will in future be more emphasis on the open spaces in the Trust’s care. However, she is thinking of closing some smaller properties to the public and presumably members too, and maybe in this electronic age, we will have to make do with virtual tours. She is also saying that the report on connections with slavery was an investigation and has opened the way for discussion on what should be done with its findings. There is clearly a need for a genuinely objective review of the status and function of the National Trust and what its future conservation policy should be. History is a mixture of fact and hindsight, but it is open to subjective analysis, from which this article is not exempt, but that should not be allowed to spoil the average day out at a Trust property.

Finally, here are some suggestions that might help to bring about some beneficial changes in National Trust policy. For domestic buildings, there should be a clear understanding that they represent an encapsulation of social, and often, architectural history, for the period when they came into Trust ownership. Their history should be presented in an accessible, scholarly, and unprejudiced way. Public buildings no longer fulfilling their original purpose may offer scope for exhibiting material not necessarily connected with that purpose, and which would not be easily accommodated in domestic properties, unless those properties have much unused space.

Open spaces should retain their original character wherever possible unless the pressure of public access demands changes, such as the strengthening of mountain paths to prevent more widespread damage. Grazing of upland areas should be commensurate with maintaining the character of the landscape as near to its original state as possible. Areas that were not wild when they came into the Trust’s care should remain as they were at that time, and not now be allowed to go wild. Traditional farming practice should be maintained, with as little change as possible even if uneconomic by current standards, since that practice is part of what is being preserved. Appropriate subsidy from within the Trust’s huge estate should not be an impossible burden. Tree planting and clearance should take account of the distant views that might be lost or restored. Preservation should be the driving force in decision-making.

The National Trust does not have a remit to modernise its properties in any way, other than providing satisfactory facilities for visitors. However, the use of digital aids supported by good scholarship should of course be employed to enhance the experience of visitors. At the same time, the historical perspective and the reason why properties came into the care of the Trust must not be forgotten or obscured by subjective contemporary ideas.

Orpheans of the fringes

STUART MILLSON celebrates Celtic composers

We tend to think of British music, and the landscape of the British repertoire, as belonging to English composers such as Elgar, Vaughan Williams and Britten. But it is not just bucolic, visionary southern English landscapes that have inspired great music.

The Welsh landscape is just as much a place of legend, poetry and long thoughts, and here another school of British music may be found and appreciated, of 20th-century romantics and romantic-modernists – Alun Hoddinott, William Mathias, Daniel Jones, Grace Williams, and Arwel Hughes. For Hoddinott, the Welsh landscape and Welsh lore provided huge sources of inspiration, although his work also included pieces that stood alone from ‘Welshness’ and demonstrated a pure, contemporary appeal, such as The Sun, the Great Luminary of the Universe. Mathias and Jones are known for their symphonies (Jones also achieving note as a prolific writer of string quartets), and Grace Williams for her Sea Sketches and Fantasia on Welsh Nursery Rhymes, but Arwel Hughes might be less familiar to music-lovers, certainly to an English audience. The time has now come to rediscover British music, to understand it through its Welsh, Scottish and Irish voices, beginning with the magnificent, and largely unknown, music of Arwel Hughes.

Arwel Hughes

Hughes was born in 1909, in the mining village of Rhosllannerchrugog, near Wrexham. Hughes’s background was shaped by family, by the kindness of a very musical elder brother, and by local nonconformist (Baptist) traditions. Yet self-containment need not be inward-looking, and it was clear that the young Arwel’s talents would propel him toward an academic musical career of the highest quality. His son, the conductor Owain Arwel Hughes, wrote of those early years:

My father was a highly-gifted keyboard player from a very young age, quite astonishing when one thinks of his upbringing as the tenth and youngest child of a mining family with no musical heritage whatsoever. He went to the Royal College of Music to study composition and organ, a courageous decision, not to say a huge financial burden considering his background

And what a step it proved to be for the young Welshman alone in London, as Owain Arwel explained:

My father studied composition under that musical giant Ralph Vaughan Williams, whose influence was profound not only as an inspiring teacher but also as a gentle, caring father figure…

Vaughan Williams was not the only luminary to influence Hughes; other tutors included Gordon Jacob (who arranged Vaughan Williams’s English Folk-Song Suite), and Gustav Holst. It was not long before the student from North Wales was absorbed into the English High Church musical tradition, as an organist and choirmaster at the Church of SS. Philip and James, Oxford. In 1935, the chance came to return to Wales in a role for the BBC, that of Studio Assistant at the Corporation’s offices in Cardiff – the prelude to a successful career that was to last until 1971, when Hughes retired from the post of Head of Music.

During that long span, Hughes devoted much time to championing his fellow Welsh composers, and this generosity of spirit may have interrupted his own progress as a writer of symphonic works. However, time was found in the evening to compose, and there is no doubting the natural inspiration and gift for momentum, mood and melody at the heart of Hughes’s wide output. It is also worth noting that this quiet and unassuming administrator (alongside his Welsh BBC colleague, the conductor, Mansel Thomas) gave us one of the country’s much-loved television institutions. Dechrau Canu, Dechrau Canmol was a Welsh programme devoted to community hymn-singing, and it was always Hughes’s desire to see music – religious, or otherwise – actively touch the hearts and daily lives of ordinary people. The formula was taken up by the English BBC and entitled Songs of Praise; it was fitting that the show should have been presented by that great Welshman, Sir Harry Secombe.

Possibly Hughes’s best-known piece is the highly-accessible oratorio, Dewi Sant (Saint David), commissioned as a Welsh contribution to the 1951 Festival of Britain. For soprano, tenor, baritone, chorus and large orchestra, the work begins with a flourish – “Praise the Lord for all of His saints/Praise the Lord for David our Patron…” Straightforward and a showpiece for a Welsh choir, the opening section then gives way to a meditative pastoralism, every bit as touching as the English masses and impressionism of Vaughan Williams or Howells:

Who’ll bring his sickle to the yellowing wheat and his scythe to the meadow at morn?
Who’ll come to burn the tares that choketh the rip’ning corn?

But there are also some blood-stirring lines for chapel-going Welsh patriots:

In Cymru’s vineyard the tree was planted; 
Fed were its roots with the blood of the martyrs, / Beneath its bloody branch is shelter, 
Find refuge and rest in the arms of the Saviour, 
For on this precious tree doth grow 
The leaves to heal the nation’s woe

The words for Dewi Sant were written by Hughes’s fellow countryman, the poet Aneurin Talfan Davies, and the work was first performed at that great shrine to Celtic Christendom, St. David’s Cathedral, Pembroke, in the July of that momentous Festival of Britain year.

Another well worked-out piece – finely-structured, again accessible yet with a deep saying – is the comparatively early Fantasia in A minor, for strings (1936). It is a piece of “absolute music” – music for music’s sake, although the Welshness is one of impressionism and shadow. The composition is immediately appealing: a quiet, slow introduction, and the gradual gathering of energy, to achieve the soaring, intense statement on strings to be found in Vaughan Williams’s Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, in parts of Herbert Howell’s Elegy for Viola and Strings – or in the introspection of Britten’s Lachrymae for viola and strings.

More obviously Welsh themes appear in Hughes’s Owain Glyndwr (1979), Anatiomaros (“Great Soul”) (1943), his Prelude “To the Youth of Wales” from 1945, and an opera, inspired by folk legends, entitled Menna – a spirit in operatic writing, reminiscent of the English composer Rutland Boughton’s ancient Arthurian and mystical dramas, or of Delius’s Irmelin. Apart from the whole of Menna (which has received at least one studio performance by the BBC Concert Orchestra), all of the Hughes works mentioned in this article have been recorded under the baton of the composer’s son, conducting Camerata Wales and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, thanks to the innovative Swedish record label, BIS.

There is one stirring piece that has not, as yet, been recorded for posterity. Written especially for the Welsh Proms at St. David’s Hall, Cardiff (a concert series founded in 1986 by Owain Arwel Hughes), it is that national favourite – God Bless the Prince of Wales. A magnificent arrangement of a traditional hymn of praise to Wales and its Prince, Hughes conceived the work as a Welsh version of Jerusalem – something noble and heroic for a Celtic audience to sing at the end of their promenade concerts. With its evocations of “ancient mountains and lovely dales”, and the spirit of the people who dwell there, a nostalgia – or sense of hiraeth – fills the concert-hall. It is difficult to understand why the works of this pupil of Vaughan Williams and master in his own right should be so unfamiliar.

Alun Hoddinott

The inspiration for Wales’s other 20th century composers came from many different sources. For Alun Hoddinott (1929-2008), there was the lyricism of Welsh folk-music – idioms and archetypes incorporated into his sets of Welsh Dances (similar in spirit to Sir Malcolm Arnold’s English and Cornish Dances of the 1960s). He also set out to commemorate specific events in Welsh life, such as the Investiture of HRH The Prince of Wales in 1969. Three Investiture Dances were the result – a suite most definitely in the native style, but with a surprisingly dark-in-tone, slow central movement – which seems to take us into a strange, craggy region of mountains, Neolithic stones, and skies ruled by birds of prey.

Another composer from west of the Severn is Daniel Jones (1912-93), a remarkable man – friend of Dylan Thomas, wartime cryptographer, and the composer of 13 symphonies and eight string quartets. Jones did not self-consciously promote Welshness in his music, but rather produced his work as an artist who just happened to be born in Wales. An orchestral item of his was performed at the 1982 Proms, his Dance Fantasy, and I was able to obtain the composer’s autograph on the concert programme – Jones standing by the artists’ entrance, quite informally, at the end of the evening, genial, friendly and quite ‘everyday’ in his manner. Jones’s string quartets belong to the same sound-world as the chamber music of Britten or Tippett. They are brilliantly well-crafted, and yet seem to evoke mind’s-eye images of sea or landscapes in Pembrokeshire and west Wales.

Sir Edward German

One piece of music that is self-consciously Cambrian is Welsh Rhapsody by Sir Edward German, a composer born in England – but with Welsh blood in his veins – and originally known as Edward German Jones. He is, perhaps, best known for his lyrical light opera, Merrie England, but also gained considerable acclaim in his lifetime with music for many other plays; for coronation music for George V, and symphonies (one subtitled, The Norwich).

Now to the wild domains of Scotland, and Victorian and Edwardian high-romanticism. It fell to a Scottish composer, Hamish MacCunn (1868-1916), to create a musical world of drama and legend – MacCunn being, perhaps, the Sir Walter Scott of orchestral works and opera. MacCunn was one of the first students at the new Royal College of Music, which was founded by the future Edward VII, and opened in 1882, and his best-known work is The Land of the Mountain and the Flood, a piece of great melody, atmosphere and power. Just like Mendelssohn’s Fingal’s Cave, MacCunn’s scene-painting has an immediate fresh-air, open-air quality; with the drama and overwhelming presence of majestic natural forces flowing through his rich score. Scottish moorland, mountains, rivers, and shifting weather conditions are all felt in the overture, with a sense of Scottish clans, border raids, blood feuds and ancient folklore never far away.

Cecil Coles

Then there was Cecil Coles, who entered the Royal College of Music in 1907. Coles was influenced by Highland themes and landscape, and a number of years ago at the Proms, the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland performed his bright, energetic The Comedy of Errors. Coles served in the Great War, and actually became bandmaster of his regiment, but, like his English contemporaries George Butterworth and Ernest Farrar, he was killed, in his case whilst helping retrieve injured comrades by dragging them back to the British lines. Who knows where British music might have gone, and what works might have been created, had not the war cut down such talents?

Sir Hamilton Harty

Similar inspirations – landscape, longing, memory, history – but this time in the landscape of the island of Ireland, can be enjoyed in the Irish Symphony and tone-poems, With the Wild Geese and The Children of Lir by Sir Hamilton Harty, a charismatic conductor and composer, born in County Down in 1879. Again, the name – Hamilton Harty – is unfamiliar to modern concert audiences, although recordings by the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, and the Ulster Orchestra, have at least maintained his presence on CD. The muscular, immediately impressive styles of Berlioz or Tchaikovsky come to mind in the Irish composer’s assertive, call-to-arms, yet occasionally dreamy music. With the Wild Geese is especially intriguing, Harty’s wild spirits being the Irish soldiers who fought with the French at the Battle of Fontenoy in 1745, but whose spirits returned to the skies and lands of Ireland in the form of a flock of birds.

The great wealth of music and musical inspiration from across the British Isles is to be treasured and cherished, and yet it seems that apart from a few specialist music festivals, BBC Radio 3 and the occasional outing for one or two of the works mentioned, our composers and their works are largely unknown. Modern society’s obsessions with dissolving the past, living only for the moment, and our general, gradual journey into a malaise of self-doubt are all taking us away from the bedrock of our culture. Now, more than ever, we need to find again our national voices in art and music – to re-anchor and rediscover the music of the isles.

Stuff and nonsense

The Culture of My Stuff

Adam Crothers, Carcanet, 2020, 84 pps, £10.99

DEREK TURNER finds a celebrated poet’s latest collection dazzling but lightweight

This slender assemblage comes weighted with prestige – Adam Crothers’ prize-winning history (Shine/Strong and Seamus Heaney Centre in 2017), and endorsements of his latest offering by equally well-regarded contemporaries. But any potential ponderousness is undercut even before opening. These are “political nonsense rhymes”, says the back cover. It is “a joybomb of wit, play, sass and Heideggerian thinginess”, Caoilinn Hughes enthuses – “linguistic pirouetting”, smiles Susannah Dickey – while for Thomas McCarthy, Crowther’s unmistakable Ulsterness has been given “a metallic spray-job in some garage near the English fens” (Crothers lives in Cambridge).

“Sass” has probably never been applied to anything truly substantial, and “linguistic pirouetting” sounds ominously like riddling for riddling’s sake. The terms are therefore unfortunately applicable to this corpus, notwithstanding many excellent qualities. McCarthy’s motoring metaphor may get closest of all, because these poems feel full of restless discontent – and below their pearlescent pigments you can see a running-to-rust cultural chassis. Crothers’ work glisters with novel imagery, unlikely rhymes, and humorous self-awareness, but all these painterly effects take priority over the bits of the vehicle that need to touch the ground.

The poems feel oddly evanescent, although they mask an ostensibly rational materialist philosophy. “Stuff” and “culture” in this worldview are almost-equivalents, as if culture derives ultimately from possessions. Clothes mostly make the man according to this outlook, culture is contextual and life transactional, and poetry is more about musicality than meaningfulness. The most irreducible ideas, identities, and issues are seen through a reductive prism, as if Brexit, colonialism, nationalism, Protestantism, the Troubles, Trump, the ‘male gaze’ and other conventional talking points are mostly traceable to the murky operations of markets, and Western moral bankruptcy. To go back to the back cover, Crothers is “unable to transcend the consumerist violence of the world”.

This is a glittering sports car being driven at speed across broken country; you admire, and sometimes wince, as you watch. And the poet may half-know, in ‘Cernunnos’ lamenting the

vocabularies of being away. 
Vocabularies of an absent god. 


Hell is other people having one hell of a year 
Heaven is a half rhyme. God is queer

Is he avaunting the Void with his vast cleverness?

It feels difficult to care about archly-evoked STDs –

“Well excuse me while I feng-shui the universe 
To accommodate your double-parked aura! 
There’s something impolite behind your arras”.

It is tempting to flick past the rhyming dictionary-reminiscent

“dead mirrorballs throwing shades like it’s panties 
Over my ruckus, I can scarcely hear Dante”

or the improbable pairings of blink, skink, mink, kink, stink and plinks in ‘Parrhasius’.

Yet there are fine moments when the playfulness is put away, as in ‘Muntjac’, a cold camera-trap snap of ultra-alertness –

“The night’s stick
Snaps beneath a beautiful frigid hoof. 
Faith, frighted, yields what little ground was gained.”

It feels like genuine tenderness in ‘Goldfinch’ –

“Of the two finches glimpsed in the garden 
I can filch no vocab to farewell the gone one”

But then the showing off comes surging back, like the wit-for-wit’s-sake ‘Deriding a horse’ –

“Slag nag. It’s nigh ridiculous that you’re 
The gal in gallop and the can’t in canter 
The sad in saddle-sores on the Infanta 
Persisting in your grand vainglory. Lor”

To quote his ‘Nugget’, such touches make the reader want to “Make like the sheepdog and get the flock out of there”.

And this is a shame, because behind all the flourishes there is feeling, beyond the artifice a sense of a likeable man astutely alive in our too often nonsensical world.

Is there a future for ‘Trumpism’?

PETER B. GEMMA says ‘Trumpism’ was always more about attitude than ideas

The future of “Trumpism,” (geez, I hate that term on so many levels as you will find out), is really a two-part question: American politics with or without Donald Trump. The quick answer is of course, President Donald Trump (he still is as I write; and, no, after January I will not be saying “Biden? He’s not my President”, as the Clintonites have done for four years) will long have an impact on politics.

This writer has never had a legitimate job; political campaigns and issue advocacy is all I know. I read every word of political junk mail, hold my breath when campaign commercials come on, and I ingest the writings of commentators, no matter what the axe they may be grinding. One of my favorites is Andrew Sullivan, the British-born American author, blogger, and former editor of The New Republic. He is a left-wing pundit full of common sense. In his essay, “Trump Is Gone. Trumpism Just Arrived,”[1] Sullivan says it best:

His impact, however, is undeniable. Neoconservatism is over; globalization as some kind of conservative principle is over; a conservatism that allows for or looks away from unrestrained mass immigration is over. What was cemented in place this week is a new GOP, not unlike the new Tories in the UK. They’re nationalist, culturally conservative, geared toward the losers of capitalism as well as its winners, and mildly protectionist and isolationist. It is a natural response to the unintended consequences of neoliberalism’s success under a conservative banner. And it speaks in a language that working class Americans understand, devoid of the woke neologisms of the educated elite. It seems to me that this formula is a far more settled and electorally potent coalition than what we now see among the deeply divided Democrats.

Barry Goldwater on the campaign trail

A quick glance back: I do not have time to tell the story of 1964, when the conservative icon Barry Goldwater was defeated by Lyndon Johnson in a landslide, and whose most ardent supporters rallied to the cry, “26,000,000 Americans can’t be wrong!” They went on to create the Reagan era. Goldwater’s movement ain’t got nothin’ on what the Trump loyalists could do if they believe 74,000,000 Americans can’t be wrong.

Of course, it’s not that easy an equation, given the political/philosophical/social mish-mash of followers Trump attracted and the current wailing and gnashing of teeth about a ‘stolen’ election, but you get the drift: if we take our loses, learn some lessons, we can lurch forward.

Before we look at what might be next in politics, it’s time to address the what the current election fuss is all about. Did Trump really lose? After all, there is plenty of circumstantial evidence to call into question Biden’s winning margin in swing states. In the final months of the campaign, the ground rules of the election changed in a way that helped Democrats and stymied Republicans. In Pennsylvania, where ballots received after the election were counted (not kosher in any previous election), 63% of the mail-in ballot requests came from Democrats, and 25% from Republicans. In North Carolina, 46 % of mail-in ballots were from Democrats, and just 20% were from Republicans. In a contest with an historic turnout, President-elect Joe Biden apparently topped President Donald Trump by nearly seven million votes, and 74 votes in the Electoral College, but his victory really was stitched together with narrow margins in a handful of states with . As National Public Radio pointed out,

just 44,000 votes in Georgia, Arizona and Wisconsin separated Biden and Trump from a tie in the Electoral College. Of course, Trump is no stranger to narrow victories. He won the 2016 election thanks to just under 80,000 combined votes in three of six key states [2]

Does the American democratic election process work? Yes. Is there a factor of fraud and honest mistakes in every count? Yes. Is a stolen election easy to prove? Not very often, and most likely in local races. Will the entire 2020 election results be overthrown? Nope.

The election-was-stolen-and-all-is-lost hysteria among some conservatives reminds this writer of the Obama birth certificate hoopla. Sure, there may have been some reasons to doubt Barack Hussein Obama was born in the United States, thus making him ineligible to serve, but time marched on. There certainly wasn’t enough solid legal evidence, so reality had to be faced. Once conservatives got out of the mode of ‘he’s not my President’ and hunkered down for guerilla warfare against the Democrats, Donald Trump sensed there was a movement to lead and he triumphed.

“Donald Trump sensed there was a movement to lead…”

What the hell happened?

Again, I turn to Andrew Sullivan:

This was far from the Biden landslide I had been dreaming about a few weeks back. It was rather the moment that the American people surgically removed an unhinged leader and re-endorsed the gist of his politics. It was the moment that Trump’s core message was seared into one of our major political parties for the foreseeable future, and realigned American politics.

Trump was deliberately bellicose and belligerent, eliciting cheers from his supporters for his chutzpah and gasps from everyone else, including swing voters.

NBC political analysts described the election happened this way:

Heading into the election, Democrats dreamed it would go something like Star Wars, with rebel forces blowing up the Death Star and celebrating in the streets as a blue wave swept them into power in Washington and state capitals across the country, but President-Elect Joe Biden’s victory ended up looking more like the horror movie Alien, with the last bedraggled survivor kicking the monster out the airlock and then drifting off to an uncertain fate in deep dark space. And wherever they ended up, there would probably be another alien…the results were brutal down the ballot for Democrats in ways that could haunt them for years [3]

So, what really happened? Trump lost. He pushed the envelope of civility and consistency off the edge. As conservative commentator Tucker Carlson tells it,

Donald Trump is a talker, a boaster, a booster, a compulsive self-promoter. At times, he’s a full-blown BS artist

The appearance of boldness and defiance was a two-edged sword, with one side, explainable as a self-made New York tough guy, but the other was a bit sharper: inconsistent, incompetent, and uncaring.

Trump did instigate a (nascent) movement, which is hard to assess this early, but something is shaking the ground. In an amazing showing, Trump supporters squared off against powerful special interests, from the media to Wall Street moguls, and they are still standing. About 98% of political contributions from internet companies this cycle went to Democrats, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The CEOs of Asana, Twilio, and Netflix were among the biggest contributors, and they all targeted Democratic groups and candidates.

One interesting sidebar: the media’s censorship of negative stories about Joe Biden may have cost Trump the election, according to a poll published by the Media Research Center (MRC). Among those surveyed, one in six Biden voters said they would not have voted for the president-elect if they had been aware of one or more of negative news stories presented to them, the poll found. MRC’s poll, conducted by The Polling Company, asked voters about eight news stories that “the liberal news media had failed to cover properly,” a press release from MRC stated. “A shift of this magnitude would have changed the outcome in all six of the swing states won by Joe Biden,” the MRC determined.[4]

New York Post columnist Karol Marcowicz noted,

The big takeaway from the Trump years for conservatives should be that the era of politeness when dealing with an impossibly biased, and agenda-driven, legacy media has ended and should never return. Republicans in general, and conservatives in particular, had come to expect that they would never be treated fairly by the news media. To the legacy media, Republicans fell into two categories: Hitler or worse than Hitler. Republicans considered avoidance better than confrontation. Donald Trump didn’t. Supporters made Trump’s willingness to fight a key refrain. He does not take things in stride. He punches back. Even for conservatives who opposed him, such as me, it was fun to watch. He called out everything and everyone [5]

The Democrats were caught by surprise in November. After four long years of demonizing Donald Trump (and he made it soooo easy), they reached deep into their pockets to fund a blue wave: states were targeted to flip local legislatures; overturning the Republican majority in the Senate was a glorious crusade, and strengthening the edge Democrats held in the Congress was an easy win. Democrats ran the first billion-dollar presidential campaign, outraising Trump by about 60%. However …

  • In key U.S. Senate races, Democrats outspent Republicans: in Maine, it was $70 million to $24 million, but they lost by nine points; Republican majority leader Senator Mitch McConnell was re-elected in a landslide despite falling $40 million short of what his opponent raised; Republicans won the Alaska Senate seat although the Democrats spent twice as much money; and in North Carolina, the Democrat vs. Republican spending ratio was nearly three-to-one but they were defeated. The two Senate seats in Georgia are still in play in a run-off, however, historically Republicans are favored there.
  • Democrats now have the narrowest margin in the House of Representatives since World War II – not a single Republican incumbent, all tightly tied by their opponents to President Trump, was defeated. With their dramatic gains this year, the House is, by historical political measure, headed for a party flip in 2022.
  • The blue wave of 2018 left Democrats just a few seats away from a majority in a dozen state chambers. They lost across the board, with Republicans actually flipping control of two state legislatures in states that Biden won. Republicans will have control next year of 20 state governments that will collectively draw 188 new congressional districts, while the Democrats will control 73 districts; the number of Republican governors increased to a 27-23 margin.

The governing implications for Joe Biden and the Democrats are stark: getting any sort of partisan measure through the House will require near-unanimity inside their party, forcing negotiations with various factions of lawmakers resulting in fewer aspirational “messaging” bills and radical legislation. Meanwhile, an emboldened Republican minority will look to wreak havoc and magnify internal disputes ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.

Trump lost, but did Trumpism win?

I don’t really know, but some people think so. Here’s Andrew Sullivan’s take:

This mass secret vote revealed that the New York Times’ woke narrative of America – the centuries-long suffocating oppression of minorities and women by cis white straight men – is simply a niche elite belief, invented in a bubble academy, and imposed by bullying, shaming and if possible, firing dissenters. Some of us who refused to cower can gain real satisfaction from knowing we were not mad, not evil, not bigots, and that a huge swathe of our fellow citizens agrees

J.D. Scholten, a promising but losing Democratic congressional candidate in Iowa, put it this way: “There’s something culturally that is working for Republicans and it’s definitely not for Democrats,” noting that his campaign message faulting Trump’s handling of the coronavirus didn’t resonate with voters. He called the election a “Trump tidal wave” in rural areas, places where Democrats had made some progress in the state in the 2018 midterm election: “We got smoked. There’s no sugarcoating it.”[6]

A Democrat campaign manager for a local candidate in Pennsylvania said,

There’s a significant difference between a referendum on a clown show, which is what we had at the top of the ticket, and embracing the values of the Democratic ticket…People bought into Joe Biden to stop the insanity in the White House. They did not suddenly become Democrats

So, the Democrats lost, Republicans did far better than expected, but did Trumpism as a movement win?

Peering through the smoke that follows the 2020 election battle, there seems to be a new coalition forging so perhaps it is true that there is a Trump movement, but it looks like people, not an “ism.”

Biden and Trump represent starkly different Americas, according to the Associated Press VoteCast survey of more than 110,000 voters in all 50 states. Trump voters in the survey were overwhelmingly white—about 86% nationally—compared with 62% of Biden voters. Only a fourth of Biden supporters come from small towns or rural areas. Nearly half of Trump voters live in those areas. More white women voted for President Donald Trump in 2020 (55%) compared to the 52% who voted for him in 2016, according to a New York Times exit poll. Trump solidified his base; he even pulled out more voters in New York City, where he cut his home ties and moved to Florida, than he did four years ago.

Biden was the beneficiary of a anyone-but-Trump constituency. Among Trump voters, 90% say they voted for the president, while just eight percent said they were voting against Biden. Among Democrats, only 56% said they were voting for Biden. Twenty-nine percent revealed they were voting against Trump, while a surprisingly high 15% were not sure.[7]

Andrew Sullivan dug into other statistics:

For the past five years, Democrats have been telling us that Trump and his supporters were white supremacists, that he was indeed the “First White President,” that all minorities were under assault by the modern day equivalent of the KKK. And yet, the GOP got the highest proportion of the minority vote since 1960!

Sullivan goes on to use another exclamation point:

Twenty-eight percent of the gay, lesbian and transgender population also went for Trump. The gay vote for Trump may have doubled! White women still voted for Trump by 55%. Among white women with no college education, arguably those most vulnerable to the predations of men [like Trump] gave him 60% support.

Sullivan could use another exclamation point: Trump increased support from Black voters by 50%, the largest share of that constituency any Republican has garnered in a half century! (He also carried a majority of the Native American vote.) The Democrats’ rejection among white, working-class voters (not poor people), particularly in rural areas and small towns, helped lead to their disappointments and a demographic description of a Trump movement.

Democrats have largely abandoned the working and middle class. Trump won three-quarters of the white working-class vote, down only slightly from 2016. He did best with those who work with their hands, in factories, the logistics industry and energy, notes a recent study by CityLab. Some 10,000 small businesses have closed because of Draconian edicts overwhelmingly put in place by Democrats. The residual effect, politically, has just begun.

Let me be clear at this point: Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump. The Democrats identified, motivated, and got out a record-breaking number of supporters, albeit on what seems to be an anti-Trump message. Indeed, Biden (according to exit polls) still won nearly three-quarters of nonwhite voters, a majority of union members, and a majority of those making under $100,000.

In politics and public policy debates, change happens mainly on the margin. Small riders – issue ornaments – to big bills, can make or break whole legislative agendas. Slight shifts in demographics and small inroads into key constituencies can change the outcome of an election and help define a movement. 

A postcard from the Spanish-American War, when Americans helped Cubans throw off Spanish rule

Currently, the face of Trumpism is not quite in focus. Donald Trump lost the presidency but showed Republicans a way to win the culture wars with working-class Hispanics by not talking to them as Hispanics. Trump earned 28% of Latino votes in 2016 and approximately 32% in 2020. Despite four years of being defined as a racist for his rhetoric and immigration policies, Trump improved his margins in 78 of the nation’s 100 majority-Hispanic counties.

“We can’t even fathom that there are a lot of Mexicans who love Donald Trump,” said Chuck Rocha, a Texas-raised Democratic strategist who runs Nuestro PAC, a super PAC focused on Latino outreach. “Biden won, and that’s great, but everything underneath Biden was a huge catastrophe.” Congressman Henry Cuellar (D-TX) explained the phenomenon this way: “What Trump did is understand the basic values of Hispanics.”

As Biden forces ran the usual Spanish-language ads, Donald Trump, Jr. visited a Hispanic Pentecostal church to campaign for his father – far more visible. A 2017 Pew Research study concluded,

Most Latinos see religion as a moral compass to guide their own political thinking, and they expect the same of their political leader [and] most Latinos view the pulpit as an appropriate place to address social and political issues. Latinos who are evangelicals are twice as likely as those who are Catholics to identify with the Republican Party [8]

The President launched “Evangelicals for Trump” in January by visiting El Rey Jesús Global, a megachurch in Miami led by Pastor Guillermo Maldonado.

Miami-Dade is Florida’s largest county with the largest Latino population. Trump lost there by almost 30 %age points in 2016. He lost it by just seven points in November. Florida Congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who was defeated in her re-election bid, said the Democratic Party “thinks racial identity is how we vote.”

For years, Democrats expressed confidence that the country’s increasingly diverse, less-white electorate would give them an edge long-term over Republicans. Identity politics of the Democrats, “what’s in it for us,” lost. Trump’s version “it’s us versus them,” won.

“What’s in it for us” even took a beating in California where there is a majority-minority population: voters defeated an attempt to revoke a 1996 binding referendum that banned the use of race, national origin, or sex by state universities and other agencies. The left has spent almost a quarter-century trying to reverse that policy, but its latest attempt lost handily despite a 14-to-one margin in campaign spending.

There was a discernible (even remarkable) shift on the margins according to election results data, and the media elite are noticing. Axios CEO Jim VandeHei conceded,

The media remains fairly clueless about the America that exists outside of the big cities, where most political writers and editors live. The coverage missed badly the surge in Trump voters in places obvious (rural America) and less obvious (Hispanic-heavy border towns in Texas)

He chides his fellow elites too:

Let’s be honest: Many of us under-appreciated the appeal of Trump’s anti-socialism message and the backlash against the defund-the-police rhetoric on the left. The media (and many Democrats) are clueless about the needs, wants and trends of Hispanic voters. Top Latinos warned about overlooking and misreading the fastest-growing population in America, but most didn’t listen. Hispanics will shape huge chunks of America’s political future

The future of something called Trumpism is in the hands of grass roots Trump supporters, and they may have momentum as fissures between traditional liberal Democrats and far-left progressives are cracking. Writer and left-wing activist Lauren Martinchek notes,

There is no Donald Trump the boogeyman for them [mainstream Democrats] to hide behind anymore. Whether they like it or not, especially with Trump out of the way, the left is not through with the Democratic party. While the liberals go back to brunch, we’ll gladly be getting ready for primaries. We don’t have the time, nor the patience to sit here and listen while loyal liberal voters inevitably tell us to pipe down because midterms are on the way. You had 2020. We’ll take it from here [9]

The Democrats seem likely to give Trump (as a shadow President who doesn’t know how to whisper) the opportunity to represent a large portion of the American middle and working classes over the next four years. He will embolden his supporters to be active and, frankly, a pain in the ass for Democrats and Republicans. The Biden agenda will be tweaked, stymied, compromised, and come under fire by the left and right in Congress.[10] David Shor, a Democratic polling and data expert who advised liberal political action committees this cycle, observed,

It is mathematically almost impossible for our current coalition to wield electoral power…There’s a lot of people in the party who are uncomfortable with the implications of the idea that we really have to adopt a maximalist attempt to appeal to (white) working-class voters

These conditions look very promising for a Trumpism movement. Save for one thing: Donald Trump.

The real question is, what is Trumpism?

If you string together all the data and observations above, the answer looks like there is a movement afoot, a new coalition of voters that have the political elites worried. However, movements, especially those led by charismatic leaders, come and go.

Congressman Ron Paul’s Republican presidential crusades of 1992 and 1996 raised buckets of money, attracted thousands to rallies, and scored far better than pollsters predicted. Without Ron Paul as the active figurehead, they have become one influence within the Republican Party (I was a paid consultant for the Paul campaign in those races). Senator Bernie Sanders, Paul’s mirror image in the Democrat Party, started a movement via his campaigns of 2016 and 2020 which is having great impact on the political process – that movement may last beyond Sanders himself as new socialist firebrands arise, namely Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

It’s hard to define Trump’s following as a movement because there is no ideological definition of “Trumpism.” Trump wrote red-ink annual budgets. He’s no fiscal conservative but he converted the formerly tightwad Republicans into supporting more national debt. He is a progressive when it comes to gay rights and inclusion, something that doesn’t mix well with his ardent pro-life and Evangelical base. Trump tends to shy away from international military excursions, angst for the heart and soul of traditional Republican war hawks and their moneyed arms industry friends. What unites the wide variety of constituencies that was hammered together over the past four years is Donald Trump himself. His machismo attitude, anti-establishment rhetoric, and something for everyone agenda (ill-defined populism) added up to a remarkable political statement in 2020, albeit he lost the presidency. At any given time, Trump was a moderate, conservative, populist, nationalist, or almost any combination thereof.

The famous ‘King-Emperor’ meme

Donald Trump is Donald Trump. Unlike Franklin D. Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan, whose names one can associate with a particular world vision, the thought of Donald Trump brings his style to mind: authoritarian, pugnacious, and contrarian, which in turn can be applied to positions on guns, immigration, foreign trade, etc. In fact, the Trump style, can at any time give emphasis to look nationalist, populist, or traditionally Republican in appearance. That inconsistency actually turned into a magnet because of Donald Trump playing Donald Trump; the glue to his particular coalition is in his blood.

Joel Kotkin, Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University: noted,

Trump’s challenge to the establishmentarian worldview will resonate, even after the election. His willingness to stand up to China’s trade policies violated the interests of the corporate elite, tech, Hollywood, and the mainstream media, all of whom almost without exception backed his opponent

Donald Trump is an anti-establishment personality, but does not represent a philosophy or an ideology, the why of Trumpism. It isn’t even about the how Trumpism works, since Donald Trump’s way of business and government is chaotic.

I’m afraid the essence of Trumpism is Donald Trump. Most of his issues have been on the agenda of conservatives and Republicans for generations: a robust economy via low taxes, minimal government regulation; very shy of international entanglements, always uphold law and order. Those platforms made political conservatives moderately successful in recent years, with some emphasis or exemptions. Different shades of traditional issues, often itself shaded by political figureheads, actually define populist, nationalist, socialist, etc. What brought Republicans into the White House was the very personality of Donald Trump. His narrow loss in 2020 was remarkable in that the issues he originally campaigned on – seasoned by the way he actually served as President (and as perceived by the media) – resulted in 12 million more supporters (significant considering a small segment of Republicans had walked away.) They didn’t flock to the polls because we needed a strong China policy, or easier/cheaper ways to produce oil, or even the promise of a wall between Mexico and America, it was because Donald Trump was promising those things which brought out 74,000,000 voters.

As Pat Buchanan observed,

The American electorate failed to perform its designated role in the establishment’s morality play. Nor was it repudiated by the people if, by Trumpism, one means ‘America First’ nationalism, securing our borders, using tariffs to bring back our manufacturing base, bidding goodbye to globalism, staying out of unnecessary wars and swearing off ideological crusades [11] 

For better or worse, because of Donald Trump, there will have to be a personality attached to a platform so it can be interpreted as populist, nationalist, conservative, and moderate as needed (Joe Biden was the anti-personality personality attached to a neo-socialist platform doing the same thing). If not Donald Trump, then it will have to be a candidate whose technique and can give a shine of vibrant hues to the party platform. Trumpism without Trump will have to be a different “ism,” because the real legacy of Donald Trump isn’t a movement but a style.






[6] “2020 Election Lesson: Trump’s Coalition Proved Durable,” byJoshua Jamerson, Julie Bykowicz, andChad Day, Wall Street Journal, November 4, 2020 




[10] Politically, what’s ahead does not frighten this writer. The late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, in a short statement to Congress, explained why a divided American government, with the three branches split among differing parties and ideologies, works best for the Republic: things move slowly, ensuring no radical transformation, alteration, or reversal that ultimately will not change the basic framework set out by the Founding Fathers (


From iconoclasm to ruins

All paintings by the author
ALEXANDER ADAMS surveys the story of deliberate destruction

We are familiar with the folly and – from the Baroque period onward – the purposefully constructed ruin used to enhance the pathos of a place, most especially a view of a country estate. This would be a view that could be controlled, protected and secluded, reserved for the delectation of initiates, guests, devotees and – crudely – the owners of the land. For if wildness can be fabricated as easily as order, then ersatz history can also be generated to meet the expectations of the cultivated observer. The frisson of melancholy, the stimulation of imagination and the contentment of viewing destruction from a position of comfort are experiences the ruin can provide. Whether or not that ruin is ‘real’ is a matter of degree. After all, a building as a habitable residence and as a blasted ruin are separated by less than a human lifespan and can be produced through merely absence of funds or care. It can be cultivated by purposeful neglect as well as it can be forged by purposeful intent.  

Ruins as an aesthetic

The Romantic relic is generated through defacement plus time, one encountered in a time of tranquillity by a traveller, for it is the curious traveller or pilgrim who fully sees the artefacts in a way that inhabitants of the region cannot. Consider Piranesi’s views of Rome. Among the ruins – greatly enlarged by the artist – the Romans of the day continue their quotidian lives heedless of the grandeur their squalid lives animate. They cannibalise palaces and bath houses to build their meagre abodes. These Romans are portrayed in a way to contrast them with the nobility, purpose and polity of their Roman ancestors. Where the elder Romans were capable of epic achievements unmatched, the latter-day Romans can only rob and scavenge their ancestors’ ruins. Thus, the Romans of Piranesi’s day were little better than parasites or termites eroding their habitat to eek out their paltry existences. In Piranesi’s Rome, Man (brought low from his high estate) is no more or less than a mean function of Nature, like wind, rain or the roots of plants, destined to topple even the sturdiest of towers. Piranesi’s Romans are little different from animals which graze under the pinnacles of an abandoned cathedral spire. It is surely their very indifference which makes them animals; it is the traveller, pilgrim and connoisseur (one who can afford and appreciate the prints of an artist such as Piranesi) who is the moral being because he responds to art and comprehends history, thus elevating himself above the animals of the field and wood.

Note that tranquillity is prerequisite for the appreciation of nature and the ruin. Not only is measured contemplation in a time turbulence or movement impossible, but for a ruin to have stately gravity, erosion must be halted (or slowed) to a state where it is not perceptible to the mortal. For a ruin to have a timeless quality, time cannot be seen to be changing its subject visibly in “human time”. A sand castle being washed away by the waves is not noble. However, if the castle were large enough (or, conversely, the spectator small enough) and the waves slowed to a nearly imperceptible speed, then nobility would be achieved. Bears fighting is awe-inspiring; sparrows fighting is comic. Again, if those sparrows were large enough and fought more slowly, then they would inspire awe. The essential material conditions of sand castles and sparrows do not preclude grandeur; it is the framing of these beings that determines their emotional impact upon the viewer. It is our perception – not our comprehension or the material attributes of that which we contemplate – which imbues a subject with emotional weight and determines the amount of significance we attribute to it.

What separates the Romantic ruin from evidence of atrocity? How does shock and anger shade into estimable melancholy and detached contemplation? Time is surely one factor. When I painted the ruins of Berlin photographed in 1945, I was fascinated by their visual correlation to ruined abbeys and castles and yet the historical immediacy impinged upon my understanding of them. Captured photographically in 1945, they were too raw, too fresh, too soused in newly spilled blood to be Romantic. Did, I wondered, my translations of these images into paint take away their sting? When I painted from photographs of battlefields, I was unsure as to whether I was just playing in the mud of Flanders, turning soil, fetid water and shattered tree trunks into brush strokes that were dainty and earnest, slashed with élan or arbitrarily revised. Who was to say that I was not more selfish, cavalier and flippant than any Georgian poet or Victorian historian, considering my (comparably) much greater appreciation of the atrocities connected to these battle fields compared to any comprehension they might have had about the subjects of their contemplation?

Ignorance numbs. To the uninitiated, the crofters’ cottages of the Scottish Highlands have a tragic timelessness. Yet once one understands that crofters were sometimes forcibly evicted from their inherited homesteads, these buildings seem more a marker of political and socio-economic forces than simple tides of time. Lady Butler could take as her subject the Irish crofter departing her home for the final time as a contemporary subject, pointed in its political commentary. Over one century later, her painting and the ruined cottage carry emotional charges, if one has the basic information that allows the subject to become legible. The information needs to be recorded and imparted through conscious will.

Sometimes the landscape remembers for us. In dry summers, when water demand is high, the levels of a reservoir in mountainous North Wales sink low and, for a few days, the ruins of the village of Capel Celyn are revealed. The stone walls of houses and chapels are upright and dry under the hot sun, standing over pools of drying mud. Former residents can see the lost streets of their home village, lost when the valley was flooded in 1965 to provide the expanding thirsty conurbations of north-east England with potable water. Disgruntled Welsh nationalists paint anti-English slogans on the walls in white paint. No one paints on the slag heaps of the Rhondda Valley despoiled by miners; instead, their artificial outlines are abraded by foliage and erosion.

Sometimes we ourselves become ghosts – walking ruins. When a Cockney visits the back streets of Stepney to be surrounded by Bangladeshis and Somalis, is he any different from a Canarse Indian viewing the first palisades of Fort Amsterdam erected on the tip of Manhattan island? It is the visitor returning to his homeland who is the relic, the last fragment of the past washed up on a shore made newly unfamiliar. It is he who is out of time, like the Flying Dutchman drifting the oceans. He is the ruin, looked at by native eyes as a curiosity of history, a temporal aberration. In time, his mortal remains will mimic the ruin. His bones will imitate the exposed beams and the vacant eye sockets of his skull will be the glassless windows of the abandoned house. 

Decay is demonstrative of the passage of time. Time is difficult to measure visually, especially in a momentary encounter or a static record (a work of art or photograph), so visual evidence of decay – staining, erosion, cracking, weathering, lichen – forms the tangible mark of the passage of time. As for statues, we incorporate insults into their meaning. The hammer marks of statue defilers become the patina of our antiquities, absorbed into the meaning of the statue read backwards. A form of teleology, if you like. The statue was made to be defiled, lost, unearthed, traded and placed in an art museum for our momentary diversion. Art + time = pathos.

Buildings as their own memorials

This idea of decay spawning pathos is connected to the idea of a building as its own memorial. The building’s full potential is only realised in its ravaged, ruined form, when it can symbolise of the loss of a civilisation, religion or people. Only once it has served its first stage of utility can it enter its second stage of utility – as a former building.

When Albert Speer and Adolf Hitler discussed the grand architectural projects of the Third Reich, they referred to their projected buildings’ afterlife as ruins. Strange as it may seem for a regime which expressed a desire to last a thousand years (matching that of Rome), the planners of the regime had half an eye on the debris of their country as a failed civilisation, which was to manifest itself as ruins at which travellers would marvel. Thus, one component of the functionality of Nazi-created boulevards, memorials, triumphal arches, concert halls and ministries was to awe not only the inhabitants of Germania (as Berlin was to be called) but the inhabitants of the former Germania. For Speer and Hitler, the glories of Rome and Greece were a template for imperial greatness and architectural perfection. It therefore follows that for Nazi Germania to be the salutary example of cultural achievement it was intended to be, it had to be encountered in a defeated, fragmentary and partially erased by the people who would replace the German titans of old. The wonder and melancholy produced in contemplation of the ruin was a suitable spur to dreaming heroic figures of later ages who would strive to emulate their lost ancestors. A sensation of loss, temporal distance and incomplete comprehension were integral to the Romantic response to the ruin and for the architects of Nazi Germany.

It was this aspect that Anselm Kiefer admitted in his richly patinated giant paintings of Nazi buildings brought to ruin. The irony was that by the time Kiefer began his paintings in the late 1970s, the Nazi buildings had to be ruined in his imagination because the more significant Nazi buildings – especially the Neue Reichskanzlei – had been utterly erased. Kiefer had to consult publicity photographs of the buildings in pristine condition before he could summon the apocalyptic aftermath in his imagination. Generally, nothing so ambiguous or evocative as a state of ruin is permitted to Nazi buildings. They are either in use or completely erased. Exceptions are: coastal defences (abandoned, unusable and on liminal land), the Berlin and Vienna Flakturm (hugely expensive to dismantle) and the concentration and death camps (in a state of suspended animation, semi-preserved as historical reminders).     

Not one trace

Modern iconoclasts have no intention of allowing anything as material as ruins to survive. They call for the destruction of material they deem offensive, to be marked by open space or replaced with new icons of the religion of social justice. The warriors of social justice take an old-fashioned absolutist view of cultural material. Produced by the exploitation of ‘black bodies’, facilitated by ‘white colonialism’, set in service of Christianisation of foreign lands, the relics of the past are infused with the toxins of social injustice at an atomic level. The utterly unparalleled evil of white, European, colonialist, Christian, patriarchal systems of barbarism which sustained society and produced its monuments transferred its evil to the very matter of its manifestation.

The statue must be toppled, the plinth must be dismantled, the plaque must be removed, the street name must be erased, the books recording the subject’s deeds must be deaccessioned from every public library. Once the subject is eradicated, his ghost can take any form his detractors wish, unimpeded by material evidence. Just as the graves of holy men were opened during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, to allow the smashing of bones, so today’s iconoclasts pursue their own forms of ritual shaming. Not only was the Bristol statue of Edward Colston toppled and submerged in June 2020, stained glass windows dedicated to him were dismantled, his name was removed from the concert hall and from the school founded in his name. The society commemorating his beneficence was dissolved. He was unpersoned during an orgy of revisionist righteousness, designed to allow Bristolians to forget, to rest easy now their historical debt had been paid.  

Perhaps these new zealots intuit from their atavistic instincts that when material remains exist they can accrue mystery, significance and power in the minds of men. Colston’s statue may be permitted to live on in a museum, but only in its damaged state, to be surrounded by demeaning contextualisation intended to perpetuate the public humiliation. It is a trophy. Perhaps in future, no evidence of the supposed miscreants of history will remain except as trophies in displays intended to subvert lasting glory into endless infamy in stocks of the public space. Damnatio memoriae, as the Romans would have recognised. There will be no ruins to linger among and no fallen colossi to contemplate. Will the masked rioters of Europe mimic the masked iconoclasts of ISIS in Nineveh by reducing statues to stones, stones to pebbles, stopping only when the no trace of the subject remains identifiable?

The fury of today’s destroyers comes from the fact that the sins they condemn (colonialism, racism, capitalism, ecological exploitation) are diffused into every particle of their life. Pennies that flow through their bank accounts are residues of slavery. Houses they live in contain bricks made by the exploited. In their pockets, they have iPhones with components of cobalt and cadmium, mined by slaves in Africa. Their clothes are made in conditions they themselves have called ‘sweatshop’. Their pension providers invest in tobacco, munitions, genetically modified crops, oil drilling, polluting airlines, ‘big pharma’ and all manner of enterprises which have yet to be condemned by the pure. The very substance of the rioters’ lives cries out with injustice. So, they target scapegoats. They deflect and they project. Snagged in a trap of irresolvable contradictions, they lash out and their fury is strategically directed by politicians, educators, lobbyists and agitators. The Christian destroys the pagan idol; the Muslim destroys the infidel’s false image; the warrior for social justice destroys the statue of his ancestor. Each seeks to expiate guilt and protect the next generation from encountering the false authority. Some leave ruins, others leave none.

Classical Kent

Peter Warlock
STUART MILLSON searches for unjustly overlooked Kent composers

A recent release on an innovative recording label – with the somewhat obscure title, Heracleitus – brings a mysterious figure from 20th century music in this country into view. The CD from the recording arm of the English Music Festival, an organisation dedicated to the rediscovery of the musical traditions of this island, owes its name to an almost forgotten song by Peter Warlock, which receives its world-premiere recording in the disc (Heracleitus – songs by Warlock, Gurney and Butterworth, EMR CD036).

Peter Warlock (1894-1930) was perhaps one of the first English minimalists – or at least, a composer able to concentrate profound sensitivity and emotion into sparse and sparing spans of music.

Warlock is best known for his Suite, Capriol – based upon 16th-century airs and dances – and the slanting light of desolate marshland in the melancholic song-cycle, The Curlew; but in the song, Heracleitus, the listener encounters a timeless whisper from classical antiquity, set in an English mist, and reverently delivered by tenor, Charles Daniels:

‘They told me, Heracleitus, they told 
Me you were dead; 
They brought me bitter news to hear 
And bitter tears to shed; 
I wept, as I remembered, how often you and I 
Had tired the sun with talking and sent him down the sky.’
(W J Cory, 1823-92, after Callimachus (3rd century BC)

Warlock lived for a time in the north Kent village of Eynsford, which even today (despite traffic) is a reassuringly old-fashioned place, standing beside and fording the clear stream of the River Darent, overlooked by downland and willows. By a stroke of good luck, the M25 – which planners wanted to build through the Shoreham and Eynsford valley – went elsewhere, saving an idyllic landscape from noise and destruction.

E J Moeran, Warlock’s fellow composer and boon-companion

A blue plaque at the Eynsford High Street cottage which he shared between 1925 and 1928 with fellow composer, E.J. Moeran commemorates his time there – and by all accounts (“with the kitchen swimming in beer”) it was a jolly, bohemian existence, or perhaps too dissolute to sustain. Moeran – a man who seemed as Irish as he was English – even earned the name, “Jolly Jack”, and when not composing his Violin Concerto or landscape-inspired rhapsodies, shared his composer-friend’s propensity for ale-drinking. Legends abound of the Eynsford sojourn: a naked Peter Warlock, no doubt under the influence of the local brew, even rode a motorcycle back and forth through the village – to the amusement of fellow bohemians, no doubt, but probably to the consternation of the natives. When returning from London on the train, the Eynsford station-master was always ready to bang on the window of the carriage in which Warlock was travelling – thus waking the slumbering composer from his stupor.

Another of the composer’s north Kent circle was the curious figure of one Hal Collins. As Michael Trend noted in his 1985 book, The Music MakersThe English Musical Renaissance from Elgar to Britten:

… Hal Collins – also known as Te Akau – a part-Maori, who boasted a cannibal grandmother. Collins was an interesting man in his own right: he was an effective artist, as his woodcuts show, and also, it seems, a self-taught musician who once played a whole act of an opera from Tristram Shandy which he had in his head.

Yet a purity is found in Warlock’s music, at odds with the excesses – and darkness of his character (a darkness, emphasised by his strange, untimely, lonely death in a Chelsea flat in 1930): wistful phrases, beautiful and touching, yet slipping away into a feeling that the composer is longing for something unattainable. (Warlock wasn’t the musician’s real name – the composer abandoning his familial name, Heseltine, for a persona far more tantalising and provocative.) It was, perhaps, a natural thing for Warlock to have come to this Kentish valley. Neighbouring Shoreham was the home of the early 19th-century mystical and pastoral painter, Samuel Palmer. He and his followers loved the countryside and described themselves as “the Ancients”, often dressing in the mediaeval costume. The paintings – oddly modern, in their style – or at least, not entirely what one would expect of the early half of the 19th century – depict a mediaeval world of corn, twilights, harvest, rural-dwellers. A photograph exists of smiling Peter Warlock, tankard in hand, standing alongside members of the Shoreham Dramatic Society – the members in their rustic Robin Hood costumes.

English music is so often associated with scenes of rural Britain. As the inter-war Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin, said: “England is the country, and the country is England.” Vaughan Williams wrote a Pastoral Symphony, in part, a response to the Great War; and a composer called Ernest Farrar (who was born in Lewisham in 1885 – some 10 miles from Eynsford) which in those days was a rural village by the River Ravensbourne) composed a suite of English Pastoral Impressions, the first movement of which suggests bells chiming in the distance, and a gentle dance on the village green – the music then subsiding into a dream sequence, as distant, watchful horn-calls evoke longing and memory. Farrar served in The Great War, his life ending on the Western Front in the last year of the conflict.

In the search for Warlock, other forgotten figures have emerged from the north-west Kent… Who, for example, has heard of John Veale (1922-2006)?  Veale was born in the suburb of Shortlands (famous for its 19th-century ragstone-constructed water pumping station, built in the style of a chateau) and a part of Bromley – once a Kent market town, but now known as the London Borough of Bromley. He composed symphonic works, and his Violin Concerto (which is reminiscent of William Walton) has been recorded by the Chandos label. Yet, just like the Cornishman, George Lloyd, Veale sank into complete obscurity during the time of the Second Viennese School takeover at the BBC during the 1960s and ‘70s; and was quite surprised in the early 1980s to have received a telephone call: “Is that the composer, John Veale?”

Just a couple of miles away in equally built-up Beckenham (although there are still village almshouses by St. George’s church), emerged another composer: Carey Blyton (a relative of the famous children’s author). Many will be surprised to know that Blyton wrote much of the early incidental music to the classic television sci-fi series, Dr. Who – haunting, abstract minimalist pieces, including a brief march-like interlude for the character of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, an accomplice of the Doctor. In complete contrast is the composer’s Song of the Goldfish – a strange evocation of the fish’s existence in a living room bowl – and an adventure-tale Overture, The Hobbit (recorded on a British Light Overtures series by the Royal Ballet Sinfonia).

Villages just beyond the M25 – suburbs which were once villages themselves. Look carefully through the neat hedges and fragments of still-wild woodland that has managed to cling to life in our congested age: a legacy of music created by some of England’s most unusual artistic personalities remains…