Obituaries

Glorious invention

Perhaps the most pointless, and most successful, of Poynter’s products was “the little black box”. There were various iterations, but essentially the user activates it by flipping a switch. A small hand then emerges to pull the switch back. That was all: the toy existed solely to turn itself off.

Very English

He had promised the American vendor that he would make the event special, and it was. Having dismissed Grosvenor House and the Dorchester as impractical venues for the sale of “Ten Important Motor Cars’’, he picked up a colleague’s casual remark and hired the Albert Hall for 24 hours. Getting the Bugatti inside and on to a specially built ramp over the stalls was an experience that everyone agreed was suboptimal. At 21ft long, nearly 7ft wide and weighing more than three tonnes, it would not go through the doors.

A frustrated and furious Brooks was persuaded to go home to bed while his team wrestled with the problem. Luckily the night manager announced that he was going to take his break, and he was confident that when he returned there would be no sign that the doorway architrave might have been temporarily removed.

Rules are rules and they must never be noticed to be broken.

Mid-century Olympics

She also recalled that the women were kept strictly apart from the men in the Olympic village, which ensured there were no distractions. She told The Olympian newsletter in 2019. “There was a fence round our part, with sentries on the gates. The only people to have fun were the pole-vaulters.”

Unlikely

McCall, a quietly spoken, expository Scot who was ideologically opposed to the “high-pitched left”, took the IPCS out on strike again in 1981 in an industrial action that effectively stopped the Royal Mint printing money.

The Mint, err, mints coins. The Bank of England – through De La Rue I think?- prints notes.

So the strike could have stopped the Mint minting, the BoE printing, but it’s unlikely to have stopped the Mint printing….

What a gloriously well lived life

…..his school survived coup, rebellion and humanitarian crisis.

Almost single-handedly he grew it from a beaten earth patch shaded by a tree, where he first taught street children in about 1960, to a double campus today offering the full primary curriculum. So good are the results that Asra Hawariat, which means “Footsteps of the Apostles”, routinely tops annual grade tables. In all he was responsible for educating 120,000 pupils.

On the occasions when he was picked up by the security forces, detention rarely lasted long. So numerous are his alumni that he would soon find a friendly official, policeman or community leader to intervene on his behalf.

This was Asfaw’s first encounter with Addis, then the imperial seat of Ras Tafari, better known by his crown name Haile Selassie. The little boy felt he belonged so after briefly returning to Bulga he ran away, back to the capital, surviving on his wits, sleeping for a year among the graves of a city centre cemetery.
….
His life changed when an Armenian woman dropped some of her groceries. Asfaw rushed to pick up the shopping before it spoilt, a good Samaritan gesture rewarded with a domestic job in her household. When not doing chores, he enrolled at school for the first time in his life, cramming eight years of primary syllabus into two.

A scholarship followed, to the General Wingate School, named in honour of Orde Wingate the colourful British officer who helped to drive Italian occupiers out of Ethiopia. Its common room of colonial-era diaspora teachers helped Asfaw to become fluent in English.

Soon he was putting word round the same graveyards and street corners that he used to inhabit, urging waifs to come to him for schooling. After his own school hours were done and still in his teens, he would turn from student to teacher, convening ad hoc classes under a tree between the Wingate campus and the Church of Petros and Paulos. The roll surged, helped in part because Asfaw made sure that all scraps from the refectory at Wingate were not thrown away but offered to his new pupils.

Committed to teaching, he left Wingate without graduating but not before petitioning the emperor for support. With a waft of the imperial hand, the land surrounding the original tree was transferred in perpetuity to the new school.

In the early days the pupils chipped in by building what they could. Often only a fence separated classrooms so a teacher’s voice could carry allowing two classes to be taught at once. Asfaw moved onsite to a shack, living there for years, hardly bothered when the roof let in the rain.

Visitors would find children sleeping on shelves, tumbling to the floor when their classes began. Asfaw was a man of strong Christian faith, praying routinely, and driven in part by nagging self-doubt, fretting whether the students were going to become good citizens, good neighbours. He was a voracious reader and student of contemporary thinking; a friend remembers him being fascinated by a theory of modernising traditional education espoused in the book Deschooling Society.

Self-deprecating almost to a fault, Asfaw courted little publicity. When he was persuaded to attend a ceremony in Sweden to receive the World Children’s’ Prize for the Rights of the Child in 2001, he had to borrow a suit and a pair of shoes.

Late in life he married a former student, Senayet. She survives him along with their two daughters, Liya and Besiem, and a son, Yisihaq. All of them won scholarships to American universities.

Thousands of former students turned out for his funeral, watching solemnly as the coffin bearing their “Gashe” [guide] was interred not far from the tree-shaded spot where he first began teaching.

Asfaw Yemiru, Ethiopian school founder, was born c 1941. He died of pneumonia on May 8, 2021, aged about 80

That’s one reaction to the atomic bombs on Japan

Having been set free by Allied troops, he travelled through Nagasaki a few weeks after its destruction. All he could see was a landscape “completely black. Here and there was a chimney. All the houses were just stone and rubble.” As he looked across it he thought, “good for the Americans”.

Having worked on the Burma railway as slave labour, then sent to the coal mines as slave labour.

Forced to carry back-breaking railway sleepers, Bras witnessed lives being thrown away daily for no reason at all. He had to watch his friends’ executions, knowing that if he intervened he would be executed too. Some 13,000 prisoners of war died during the construction of the railway, as did 100,000 native workers. It is estimated that one died for every sleeper laid.

Might not be a wholly empathic reaction but……

When the Japanese invaded the Dutch East Indies, Bras’s father was taken captive and killed. Soldiers put a tube down his throat and filled it with water until his stomach burst.

Even with all that, a highly perceptive man:

He liked the British, finding the Welsh and Scots pleasingly direct and the English less sincere but very amusing. Dad’s Army made him weep with laughter.

Catherine Bennett is vile

Lovely eulogies to Fleet Street’s John Kay, but they overlook one important fact
Catherine Bennett

Why did so few think it necessary to point out that the Sun reporter killed his wife?

Well, actually, The Times subhead:

Chief reporter on The Sun known for his string of scoops as well as for killing his wife while suffering a nervous breakdown

Ms. Bennett:

Without wishing to distort his story, the relevant editors must have considered it superfluous that, prior to being tragically victimised by Starmer, Kay was convicted of Harue’s manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility. He was depressed, a court heard, due to professional anxieties. According to a contemporaneous Guardian report (“‘Torment’ of reporter who killed wife”): “He, thinking it would be better to end it all, pushed her head under the water. Naturally she struggled, but by tightening the hold he held her down by the throat.”

With the Sun paying for an eminent barrister and promising to take Kay back, the sentence was psychiatric treatment. Once restored, the greatest wife-drowning journalist of his generation did not shrink from exposing imperfections in others.

And:

And so the subject has demonstrably remained, even amid greater awareness of women’s deaths from domestic violence and even in places not owned by Rupert Murdoch. Is this exemplary tact, some partner-killers must be wondering, something reserved for hapless senior journalists or can we expect to see, say, Oscar Pistorius routinely described as an Olympic legend who, before falling victim to his demons, was always kind to a fault? Similarly, in a spirit of fairness, their supporters await the posthumous rehabilitation of Louis Althusser (“Brilliant Paris philosopher famed for his effortless mastery of Marxist-speak”), of the only occasionally femicidal Phil Spector (“Died a broken man”), of the tormented but always exquisitely accessorised Lord Lucan (“Swashbuckling peer engulfed by personal catastrophe”).

The Times again:

In fact, Kay’s demons had never been far beneath the surface. In 1977, as newly appointed industrial reporter at The Sun, he was dispatched to cover the TUC Congress in Blackpool. “Suddenly gripped by the responsibility of the job, Kay essentially had a nervous breakdown and locked himself in his hotel room,” Peter Chippendale and Chris Horrie wrote in Stick it up Your Punter (1990), a history of The Sun.

Back home he told his Japanese wife Harue (née Nonaka), whom he had married the previous year, that the pressure of the job was too much. He could not resign, because that would end his progress up the career ladder; instead, he would kill himself. Harue, who had been disowned by her family after marrying a westerner, said that she would be left alone in the world.

According to Chippendale and Horrie: “Kay, by this time temporarily deranged, saw the depth of her problem and decided that it would be better if she died with him.” As they shared a bath, he throttled and drowned her. He then made six attempts to kill himself, cutting his wrists, putting his head in a gas oven, hanging himself and jumping out of a window, though his fall was broken by dustbins. He staggered to his car and drove away, cannoning off parked cars, before crashing into a bridge at 80mph. He was found naked and covered in blood.

From which I conclude that Catherine Bennett is a vile, vile, woman.

Good line

By way of consolation, Peacock had his lengthy relationship with MacLaine, who later commented: “I thought as long as he is minister for foreign affairs, I might as well give him one that he’ll never forget.”

And this might be better:

MacLaine noted that Peacock was the first man she had ever met who had a Gucci toothbrush, to which Peacock quipped that perhaps he was the only politician she had dated who still had his own teeth.

Unfair of me really

Seen several news stories that Ramsey Clark has died. Didn’t read any of them.

Just pondered that that Wade in the Water was pretty good.

Quite why an Attorney General would have had a parallel career in a popular beat combo I’m not sure but full marks to the man for having done so.

A missed opportunity

There were occasions when Philip straightforwardly set out to be rude; because he could. When he met the Labour MP Parmjit Dhanda in 2002, he asked him what he had done before entering parliament. He had been a student and a trade union official, he replied. “You didn’t do anything then,” Philip said.

True, but, when Dhanda tried to turn the tables and ask, well, what did you do before you became the consort?

“Oh, I fought in the Second World War.”

Not including that part is indeed a missed opportunity.

Not a bad ending

In the end, it happened exactly as the Iron Duke would have wanted it – as ever, with his beloved wife by his side.

Determined to die at home rather than in hospital, Prince Philip was able to pass away “peacefully” at Windsor Castle, where he was Ranger for more than half a century, very much on his own terms.

As his frail condition worsened overnight on Thursday, with insiders warning that he was “gravely ill”, any talk of whisking the 99-year-old back to hospital was quickly dismissed by the Queen.

According to one well-placed source: “He spent most of the four weeks he was in hospital trying to get home. They operated on his heart in a bid to give him a little longer, maybe with the 100th birthday in mind. But he didn’t really care about that. He just wanted to be back in his own bed. There is no way he would have wanted to die in hospital.”

Aged 99, in your own bed, in your own palace, with wife by your side?

There are worse endings…..

Hmmm

Hans Küng obituary
Rebellious and controversial theologian censured by Pope John Paul II and regarded as the enfant terrible of Roman Catholicism

Interesting:

An inveterate rattler of cages, Hans Küng spent more than half a century calling for a grass-roots revolution in the Catholic Church. Even his last book, Can We Save the Catholic Church? (2013) published when Küng was 85, exhorted the faithful to rebel against papal authority.

Right about now he’ll be finding out who was right then….