21 August 2013

Wilsons


Brilliant Yorkshireman, Harold Wilson was born in Huddersfield in 1916. He died in London on May 24th 1995. He rose through the Labour Party's ranks to become Britain's Prime Minister in 1964. The left bewailed the moderate nature of his socialism and the right - represented by Fleet Street - sought to sully his reputation. There were persistent rumours about an affair with his private secretary Marcia Falkender but throughout it all his wife Mary - mother of his two sons - stood by him. Today he is something of a forgotten man but it is worth remembering that he was the PM in our swinging sixties - a time of significant social change and cultural awakening.

The Wilsons were especially fond of the Scilly Isles and frequently holidayed there. After Harold's death - from colon cancer - his body was taken back to the Scillies where he was buried on the island of St Mary's which perhaps surprisingly was not named after his wife. Mary is still alive as I write this post having achieved the ripe old age of ninety seven. An admired and acccomplished poet, she wrote this heartfelt verse in the weeks following her husband's funeral. It's why I chose to produce this particular blogpost:-

My love you have stumbled slowly
On the quiet way to death
And you lie where the wind blows strongly 
With a salty spray on its breath 
For this men of the island bore you 
Down paths where the branches meet
And the only sounds were the crunching grind
Of the gravel beneath their feet 
And the sighing slide of the ebbing tide
On the beach where the breakers meet.


The Latin line on Harold Wilson's simple headstone is Tempus Imperator Rerum - Time the Commander of All Things.

19 comments:

  1. Harold Wilson was the first politician in concert as it were. He was speaking at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester. For the life of me I can't recall what he said, but I was immediately taken by his rhetoric - whatever it was he was talking about!

    Of course there were far more sinister conspiracy theories than his supposed affair with Marcia.

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    1. Yes but those conspiracies were just balderdash invented by the British establishment. They never brought forward hard evidence to support their insinuations.

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    2. My goodness. I remember Mr. Wilson from when I was young. But I never knew about all the conspiracy theories! Good grief! Now I do. Sounds like all those trying to oust or embarrass or get rid of our President Obama must have taken lessons from those people who tried the same with Mr. Wilson.

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    3. Weren't the Wilson conspiracy theories loosely the basis for A Very British Coup? The original, not the remake.

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  2. I think the only thing you've neglected to add was his love of 'Wincarnis' wine (sp?), and those dreadful raincoats (I've forgotten their name). Other wise, thanks for the laugh.

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    1. If I may say so Monsieur Cro, you have a very strange sense of humour! The British-made coats came from the "Gannex" company. As for the "Wincarnis" link - this satire was dreamt up by "Private Eye". Mr Wilson's favourite tipple was in fact Yorkshire bitter.

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    2. Two more thoughts; both on education. Schooling has never really recovered from his ire, but he was responsible for the wonderful Open University; hardly seems imaginable that it was the same man!

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    3. His "ire"? Much of the pressure for comprehensive education came from thinking Conservatives who - like the left - could see clearly that the old system was responsible for so much wasted talent and the country just couldn't afford this any more if it was going to compete in the modern world. And yes the Open University vision is testament to Lord Wilson of Rievaulx's intellectual doggedness. A giant amongst men - even with his pipe and Gannex mac!

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  3. Oh Cro, you can be so wicked! I rather liked the avuncular Harold Wilson and so what if he was shagging his secretary and cosying up to the Soviets? To me, he was the political equivalent of Norman Wisdom, endlessly entertaining and ultimately harmless. Excpet that he closed more coal mines than Thatcher did.

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    1. The Soviet connection was yet more evidence of the Establishment and its press digging away at the Labour Party's efforts to alter the balance of economic justice in our land. If you read more about Harold Wilson you will see that intellectually he was a very gifted man. Very different from the comic clown you mentioned.

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  4. I have no idea about the politics but Mr. Pudding, you have done a fine job of convincing me he was a good and intelligent man. And his wife thought so too. That speaks volumes in itself.

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    1. Yes David. The tenderness of that little poem speaks volumes about the private life of Mary and Harold. FReveals their humanity and their vulnerability.

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  5. We could do with more politicians like Harold Wilson. When we went to the Scillies in 2000 we saw Mary sitting in her garden reading.

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    1. Gerald I hope you tiptoed by so as not to disturb her. I wonder if she similarly recalls seeing a guy called Gerald in his fluorescent Bermuda shorts and "Kiss Me Quick" hat.

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  6. I loved him, Gannex mac and all. My eccentric grandfather used to wear a Gannex mac, wear a beret and rode a motorbike, he also like Cro was a Tory.

    Have you been to the Scillies Mr YP? It is truly lovely.

    LLX

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  7. Never been to the Scillies your Letticeness. If I was into sailing I think it would be great to sail round those islands. Wonder if Cro wears a beret? If he does it will be a deep blue colour I'm sure.

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    1. Mine was traditional black, but was recently eaten by one of the dogs.

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  8. It was a magical time in left wing politics. George Brown as court jester was head and shoulders above Prescott. Michael Foot, a gentleman and scholar....Harold Wilson was far from infallible but had the humility to recognise the fact. Unlike the Oxbridge clones we have now with not an original thought between them. I'll exclude Boris he's a pompous idiot but amusing in deed, word and speech.

    May I offer a small bit of advice...The Isles he loved are the Isles of Scilly and not the Scilly Isles. You should pay them a visit. A wonderful place, better in winter than summer but great anytime.

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    1. Lord Adrian of Drumnadrochit, I stand humiliated but corrected like an errant youth on the Isle of Man. When I become prime-minister I shall appoint you as my Culture Secretary. What's your shorthand speed?

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Mr Pudding welcomes all genuine comments - even those with which he disagrees. However, puerile or abusive comments from anonymous contributors will continue to be given the short shrift they deserve. Any spam comments that get through Google/Blogger defences will also be quickly deleted.