Monday, 20 January 2020

Ramblings Of A Silly Old Man - CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE


Are you a member of The National Trust ?  If you are then jump into your car and take a trip to its jewel in the crown, to Stowe Gardens near Buckingham. This was the first major project undertaken by Lancelot Capability Brown in what was the home of The Duke of Buckingham. Well worth a visit.

When you are at Stowe seek out one particular monument the Temple Of The British Worthies. Consider carefully who the individual busts represent. Some you will recognise, some you will never have heard of. As you look at the monument and the lives of The British Worthies it celebrates think who you would put into a modern day Temple Of The British Worthies.  Your choice and my choice will be different, it is a matter of opinion. The only stipulation I would make is that to qualify as a Modern British Worthy the title holder must have been born on or after 1st January 1900. They can be alive or they can be dead and gone, just so long as they were born after that date. Try to put ten names on your list and be able to say why you they think they should be so honoured and celebrated.

Right then, who appears on my list ?  Who are the ten modern-day British Worthies in the opinion of this silly old man.

First on my list is a gentleman who was born in Coventry on 1st June 1907. He left us on 9th August 1996. His name is Air Commodore Sir Frank Whittle OM KBE.  He single handedly invented the turbo jet engine. No long-haul aircraft flying today would be in the air today if it were not for Frank Whittle.

There are a number of British writers I would have liked to include on my list but all were born before 1900. Ian Flemming, however, made it into the world on 28th May 1908. Before he left us he gave us all the James Bond novels. In 1964 he also wrote Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang which was turned into a great children and family film.

Flemming had himself been a spy, he was a naval intelligence officer.

The first Bond film I ever saw was Thunderball and it remains my favourite. In the early 1960's when I was at school I remember so clearly a teacher, Mr Holborn,  saying James Bond was just a flash in the pan.The novels, the films and the fame would never last. 

Wrong !

So my first two British Worthies come from the worlds of science and of literature. Now for someone from the world of music, the world of popular music but from so far back she even pre-dates retro pop.

On Wednesday 20th March 1907 a little baby girl was born in East Ham, London.  I am writing this ramble on Sunday 19th January 2020, in two months time that little girl will celebrate her one hundred and third birthday. She is, of course, Vera Lynn. 

Vera Lynn had a number one hit on the day of my fourth birthday, 3rd November 1954 with My Son. A friend once joked with me saying Vera Lynn had started World war Two, after all it was as The Forces Favourite she found fame and fortune. Vera Lynn probably, no certainly, did more during World War Two than any other person, including Prime Minister Winston Churchill and The King, to boost national morale. 

Vera Lynn gave us  A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square, this features in my novel The Bridge House. As I wrote the song into the book I went to Berkeley Square to soak up the atmosphere. Vera's character and the song are stamped on Berkeley Square by the numerous lovers benches around the park.

Sir Frank Whittle, Ian Flemming and Dame Vera Lynn - who is my fourth British Worthy ?

I am going to stick with the world of music and name Freddie Mercury. As the lead singer of Queen he was a musical genius.

Born in Tazania on 5th September 1946 as Frederick Bulsara he was British. Tragically he left us at the early age of forty-five on 24th November 1991. Screen and stage legend Sir Laurence Olivier was a fan and admirer.

I have not included Sir Laurence in my list of British Worthies, I have to confess i do not know his work well enough. I did know his nephew who was a pupil of mine in my very first teaching position.

For number five in my list, half way through my declaration of British Worthies I am going to name someone from the world of technology who is five years younger than I am. Sir Tim Berners-Lee the inventor of The World Wide Webb.As

I can not including Sir Tim without having in my list of British Worthies Alan Turing of Bletchley Park.  Alan, born 23rd June 1912 and died on on 7th June 1954.  Breaking the German Enigma Code in Bletchley Park, Alan gave us the the world's first computer.

In the early 1970's I lived for three years in Bletchley park where I attended a teacher training college. The wartime activities of the park were still semi-secret but in my daily life I now know I walked the same area of ground as did Alan Turing.

Since those days I have always lived close to Bletchley Park although where my home is would have been farmland in Alan's day.  I am a member of the local council which includes Bletchley Park and the wartime  home of Alan Turning.

As you have read through my rambles you will have picked up on the fact that I am no lover of politicians. In general the world would be a better place without them. I hasten to say that as a local councillor I am not a politician. I am a independent member of our council with absolutely no political affiliations, I am there only to represent and care for real people. 


There have been exceptions to the rule that politicians are not the best representatives of society and its needs, Winston Churchill being the number one exception and universally acknowledged as the greatest Englishman ever to have lived. Churchill was born on 30th November 1874 so that excludes him from my personal list of British Worthies. Born on 19th June 1964 I hope that when I write an update of this book in say one hundred years time I may be able to include Boris in a future list of British Worthies but first he has to negotiate a pathway through the dunderheads that surround him.

Margaret Hilda Roberts was born on Tuesday 13th October 1925 and went on to become the longest serving British Prime Minister in modern times. She was by then married to Dennis so was Margaret Thatcher. She died on 8th April 2013 aged eighty-seven.

Like her or hate her, I happen to like her, she rescued Britain from becoming a third world nation.  Her methods were ruthless and alienated many but without her where would we be today ?

She was instrumental in moving The Soviet Union to tear down the Iron Curtain and it is generally understood that American President Ronald Regan took all of is orders from Margaret Thatcher.

Another dip into music and Andrew Lloyd Webber, I stand corrected Lord Lloyd Webber.

He was born into a musical family on Monday 22nd March 1948. He has become the most commercially successful composer of all time. I love his works Joseph And His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita and Phantom Of The Opera. Not so keen on the rest.

That's eight of my ten British Worthies. For my ninth worthy I am going into a totally different world, the world of nature.

As a kid I used to watch TV shows presented by Gerald Durrell but my choice of worthy goes to Sir Dabid Attenborough who was born on 8th May 1926. I love the words he said: I wish the world was twice as big and half of it was still unexplored.  He has done so much to tell the world about the world. We need many more of his kind, particularly now so many of us living in this world are racing to destroy our world.

One more place. While the first nine are in a random order, no ranking I have saved the best British Worthy until last.  Born on Wednesday 21st April 1926 the Greatest British Worth of not just our modern age but of all time is Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the longest serving and the greatest ever British Monarch.

So to conclude this ramble my ten Modern Day British Worthies are;

HM Queen Elizabeth II
Time Berners-Lee
Margaret Thatcher
Freddie Mercury
David Attenborough
Alan Turing
Vera Lynn
Andrew Lloyd Webber
Frank Whittle
Ian Flemming

Now who are your ten worthies ?

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