These people should run RSPCA policy
Is it my imagination or do blood sport supporters live in some kind of parallel universe? For in his latest "investigation" Philip Bowern ("History repeats itself in RSPCA battle" Daily Press January 8) appears to find it incomprehensible that people who oppose cruelty to domestic animals should also feel the same about wild animals.
So maybe it is time to revert to the good old days when the RSPCA knew its place and understood the rules concerning what was considered cruel and what was not, who donated the finances and who set the agenda. A good place to start would be at the Devon and Somerset Staghounds annual meeting at the Castle Hotel, Taunton, on the May 24, 1930, when Fred Beadle proposed the formation of an organisation to defend blood sports as the result of an anti-stag hunting Bill that was going through Parliament at the time. In a speech that would ultimately lead to the creation of the British Field Sports Society/Countryside Alliance Beadle stated, after pointing out that the RSPCA had be taken over by "anti-sport fanatics" that: "It was hardly to be expected that the RSPCA, whose income was largely derived from sportsmen who subscribed the money for the prevention of wilful and deliberate cruelty, would admit that they used those funds for the suppression of the sport of the very people who found the money, and it is not until they came out into the open by promoting Bills for the suppression of stag hunting that it could be proved what was the policy of the RSPCA."
Or we could fast forward to 1958 when Mrs Cicely Norman, chairman of the Ilfracombe branch of the RSPCA was ordered to resign after taking part in a peaceful poster protest against stag hunting.
In a letter from Lady Williams, wife of Sir William Williams, chairman of the RSPCA's North Devon branch, she was told that her actions "may antagonise supporters of the RSPCA who are not opposed to stag hunting". A few weeks after this Mrs Norman would be sacked from her job running an animal clinic in Ilfracombe, and the branch closed down.
Then again we could visit the June 26, 1968, RSPCA annual meeting when uproar broke out during attempts to pass a resolution which stated that the RSPCA "is opposed to all hunting for sport of foxes, deer, hares and otters…" was defeated by the hunting lobby that had infiltrated the membership following a concerted campaign orchestrated by the BFSS. It was this meeting that forced some members to form the RSPCA Reform Group and attempt to wrest control from blood sport interests. One of their first targets was vice-president of the South Somerset branch of the RSPCA, Lady Brook-Popham, who found herself seriously compromised when her other role as chairman of the Quantock Staghounds became known.
It would take many years, until the late 1970s, to finally free the RSPCA from domination by blood sport interests and make it an organisation that cares for all animals, domestic and wild and now, 14 years into the 21st century in a scenario worthy of the movie Groundhog Day, we are again hearing from blood sport types that the RSPCA has been taken over by "animal rights fanatics" and has become a "sinister and nasty" organisation merely because it attempts to enforce the law of the land, albeit the virtually unenforceable Hunting Act 2004.
So let there be no mistake about the issues at stake here and stress to every individual who genuinely cares about real animal welfare to make absolutely certain that there is no way people like Barney White-Spunner, or groups of self-appointed "animal welfare experts" such as the Countryside Alliance, must ever again be allowed to dictate policy, practice or procedure within the RSPCA.
In different ways they made life better
Last year we famously said goodbye to Nelson Mandela, our former prime minister Margaret Thatcher, ITV greats Alan Whicker and David Frost and film legend Peter O'Toole, plus The Good Life's Richard Briers. But we also lost some who were no longer in the limelight.The last surviving Andrews sister, Patty, died in January aged 94. With Maxene and Levene she sold 75 million records in an amazing career.
Also in January we lost film star swimmer Esther Williams, aged 91. The gorgeous ex-Olympic champion was a 1950s box office smash hit performing elaborate water ballets – although her hapless co-stars were often held up underwater by a secret platform as their swimming skills didn't match hers!
At home we flocked to the cinema, post-war, to escape into Gainsborough's melodramas – most of them starring feisty Jean Kent, who died at the beginning of December aged 92. We also said goodbye to a member of soap royalty, Anna Wing, who played matriarch Lou Beale in EastEnders for four years from the 1985 launch. Already 71 when she got the part, she died aged 98, having played an East End gangster in a music video as late as 2012!
We also lost, far too soon, singer actress but above all devoted mum Bernie Nolan at just 42, to cancer in July. Her ashes are buried alongside those of her stillborn daughter.
A little bit of telly magic disappeared for good with Hi-de-Hi's Paul Shane; Dad's Army's Bill Pertwee; Are You Being Served's Frank Thornton and Milo O'Shea from seventies sitcom Me Mammy.
Which did you fancy Bodie or Doyle in cult seventies series The Professionals, men loved the cars and the stunts but women watched for curly-haired Martin Shaw or tough guy Lewis Collins aka Bodie. Sadly he lost his life to cancer aged just 67 at the end of November.
We've all got songs that take us back to our youth. For trad jazz fans it may well be Midnight in Moscow, played by the ebullient Kenny Ball, who has died aged 82. While you may not be able to picture Eydie Gorme, who died aged 83, I bet you can immediately sing her trademark 1963 hit Blame it On The Bossa Nova. Did you ever play air guitar to The Troggs' Wild Thing written by lead singer Reg Presley (real surname Ball)? Sadly he was dogged by ill health and died aged just 71. Wild Thing was played at his funeral.
All, in their different ways, brightened our lives and helped us on our way.
D F Courtney
Wringing our hands over the flooding
For Whom the Bells Toll
All have hands akin to bells
Not in church towers but nicely wrung
They seem to have a hymn sheet
And the same old words are always dung
Silence would be almost golden
There is too much talking me thinks
Actions speak louder than words
Man the life boats as Somerset sinks
Some souls have holes in wellies
To go with their much furrowed brows
Nature, is not playing ball, as yet
There are not any aquamarine cows
Here hear roar the ministers
A chamber is awash with old flowers
Few decisions come to light
Those hands will be wrung for hours
Castle Cary, Somerset