The intolerance of the ‘tolerant’

The Christmas lights are going up in my home town of Langport.

Well, I call them ‘Christmas lights’, according to the organisers, they are ‘winter festival’ lights.  This is simply a piece of secular bigotry.

Of course, they would argue that the name change is in the name of ‘inclusion,’ but inclusion of whom? Certainly not the inclusion of the majority of people in the world.

Christmas is indeed a Christian festival, but the secularists take delight in disparaging Christian ideas as often as possible, despite the fact that were it not for the Judeo-Christian heritage of the country in which they live, they would not enjoy the freedom of speech that they now take for granted.

The nonsensical claim put forward by those who want to replace ‘Christmas’ with ‘winter festival’, is they are showing sensitivity toward those of other religious traditions. Were it so, they would not seek to take ‘Christ’ out of Christmas.

A second year student in an English secondary school might quickly tell them about the respect felt by Muslims toward Jesus (peace be upon him). Muhammad (peace be upon him) is the final prophet, but Jesus is the prophet who will come as judge at the end of time. Showing disrespect toward Jesus is showing disrespect towards Muslim for whom the Gospels are holy books.

Another student who had studied Hinduism might point out that for Hindus Jesus is a prophet who brings light to the world. One need not be Christian to see Christmas as the coming of light into the world.

The only people who seem to have a problem with the term ‘Christmas’ are the secularists, who with a breathtaking disregard for the wishes of the majority, assume their opinion is normative. ‘Sensitivity’ seems to be a term to cover the imposition of their ideas upon everyone else.

Oddly, one of the arguments that secularists would put forward is that there is a need to safeguard the heritage of local communities.

So what about the heritage of the people of Langport?

I can trace my local lineage back to the 1500s, the Crossmans were in North Petherton in the 1500s, in Middlezoy in the 1600s, and arrived in Langport in the 1700s. Generations of my forebears lie beneath the soil of the local churchyards.

Don’t the traditions of local people matter? Don’t those for whom this place is deep in their identity have a right to be respected?

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A distant investiture

According to the radio, the King of England was seventy-five years old today. Once, when he was a young man, he was the focus of the rapt attention of S.pmerset schoolchildren

Our school television could have been a prop from one of those 1960s science fiction series. There was a rectangle of tubular metal which had a wheel at each of its four corners and from each of the four corners there rose four long legs, each a greyish brown colour similar to the base rectangle. The legs disappeared into a box at the top that was the colour of light wood, although whether it was wood, I never discovered; only initiates were allowed to push it from one room to another.

If Dr Who could travel through time in a blue police telephone, what couldn’t he have done with something on wheels? There always seemed a great sense of ceremony in it being moved; perhaps it was unstable and the funereal pace at which it moved reflected a concern for personal safety, perhaps there was concern that any damage would cost a huge amount of money, perhaps it was simply a matter of fear and trepidation at the possible consequences of not doing as one was told.

Once the manoeuvres had been completed with a solemnity that would grace any ceremony, the double doors at the front of the box were opened and the power was turned on.

Our primary school television was black and white, but for a school of forty pupils in the 1960s, it constituted a major item of expenditure. It had come complete with the stilts on wheels that allowed it to be moved backwards and forwards between our two classrooms.

Both BBC and ITV had excellent schools programmes for television; one of them had a clock that counted down the minute before the programme started. Except for Picture Box, I don’t remember the names of the programmes. There was no question of watching anything else on the television, for the simple fact that there was nothing else to watch. As soon as the schools transmission was over, the channels reverted to the test card.

However, if there were to be a major event, the BBC would cover it and Miss Rabbage would let us watch. On 1st July 1969, we got off lightly with school work, the television was turned on and we watched the investiture of Charles as Prince of Wales live from Carnarfon Castle. None of us knew what an investiture was, but it was a lot better than arithmetic and Charles Kingsley.

Only in 2006 did I see for the first time see pictures of the investiture in colour. A polychromatic Charles looks much younger than the black and white stilt borne images that I remember.

I wonder if, on his seventy-fifth birthday, he remembered that summer of 1969 and had any idea of who might be watching.

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Visiting graves

In June of this year, it was a privilege to visit the graves or memorials to High Ham men on the Western Front. Photographs were taken at each location, but some seem to have been lost.

Bryson Bellot Lieut. N.S.Y

In Memory of


1st/1st, North Somerset Yeomanry

who died age 24

on 27 March 1918

Son of Hugh H. L. Bellot, D.C.L., and Beatrice V. Bellot,

of High Ham, Somerset.

Remembered with honour




Location: Somme, France
Number of casualties: 2004

Cemetery/memorial reference: I. G. 28.

Bryson Bellot was born in Adddlestone, Surrey in 1894 to Beatrice Violette Bellot nee Clarke and Hugh Hale Leigh Bellot. His brother was Hugh Hale Bellot who was born 26th January 1890

Bryson Bellot standing in front of the windmill at High Ham

Francis E Cox Pte. Glouc. Regt.

Service Number 202139

Died 10/10/1917

Aged 21

1st/4th Bn.
Gloucestershire Regiment

Son of George and Eliza Sophia Cox, of Berefield Cottage, High Ham, Langport, Somerset.

Commemorated at TYNE COT MEMORIAL

Location: West-Vlaanderen, Belgium
Number of casualties: 34997

Cemetery/memorial reference: Panel 72 to 75.

Guy M Crossman 2nd Lt. Welch Regt.

Second Lieutenant
Died 10/07/1916

Aged 31

13th Bn.
Welsh Regiment

Son of the Rev. Charles Danvers Crossman and Isabella Jane Crossman, of High Ham, Somerset. Joined Public Schools Service Battalion 1914.



Location: Somme, France
Number of casualties: 1152

Cemetery/memorial reference: VI. D. 3.

Guy Danvers Mainwaring Crossman was born in High Ham in 1885 to Isabelle Jane and Charles Danvers Crossman. His brother was Norman Danvers Mainwaring Crossman who was born 1882. He lived at The Rectory, High Ham.

H C (Fred) Cullen Pte. S.L.I.


Service Number 26023

Died 17/02/1917

Aged 39

7th Bn.
Somerset Light Infantry

Husband of Elizabeth Ann Cullen, of High Ham, Langport, Somerset.


Location: Somme, France
Number of casualties: 1219

Cemetery/memorial reference: I. I. 4.

C Victor Frith Pte. S.L.I.

Service Number 3796

Died 09/06/1917

Aged 28

1st Bn.
Honourable Artillery Company

Son of Samuel Stuckey Frith and Mary Frith, of Easton, Wells, Somerset.


Location: Pas de Calais, France
Number of casualties: 3289

Cemetery/memorial reference: IV. J. 6.

Charles Victor Frith was born in Wells, Somerset, United Kingdom in 1888 to Mary and Samuel Stuckey Frith. His siblings were Emily M Frith born in 1869, Alfred George Frith born in 1870, Alice J Frith born in 1871, Edward R Frith born in 1874, Sarah Frith born in 1876, Harold Frith born in 1878, Athel Frith born in 1879, James Roy S Frith born in 1882, Eleana Frith born in 1885. They lived at the family home at Coxley Mill, Wells, Somerset.

In 1911 he lived at 19 Grosvenor Place, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. In 1915 he lived at The Cottage, High Ham, Somerset

Percy T Garland Trpr. D.G.

Service Number 101479

Died 24/03/1918

3rd Dragoon Guards (Prince of Wales’ Own)


Location: Somme, France
Number of casualties: 14708

Cemetery/memorial reference: Panel 1 and 2.

Percy Garland was born in High Ham in 1888.


Maurice Lloyd Gnr. R.G.A.

Service Number 129655

Died 13/05/1917

Aged 19

3rd Army Pool
Royal Garrison Artillery

Son of Joseph and Emma Jane Lloyd, of Fir Tree Farm, Low Ham, Langport, Somerset.


Location: Pas de Calais, France
Number of casualties: 211

Cemetery/memorial reference: II. B. 6.

Maurice Lloyd was born in Henley in 1898 to Joseph and Emma Jane Lloyd. His brothers were Joe V Lloyd born in 1896, Norman Lloyd born in 1901, and George Wallis Lloyd born in 1897. In 1911, he lived at Fir Tree Farm, Low Ham.

James R U Mead Corpl. W.S.Y.

Service Number 27724

Died 05/08/1917

Aged 26

7th Bn.
Somerset Light Infantry

Son of Robert Uttermare Mead and Florence Martha Rose Mead, of “Inglenook,” Low Ham, Langport, Somerset. Six years service; also served at Gallipoli with the West Somerset Yeomanry.


Location: West-Vlaanderen, Belgium
Number of casualties: 54612

Cemetery/memorial reference: Panel 21.

James Robert Uttermare Mead was born in Low Ham in 1891 to Florence Martha Rose and Robert Uttermare Mead.

T Champion D Mead Gnr. R.H.A.

Service Number 176964

Died 29/07/1917

Aged 24

“X” Bty. 17th Bde.
Royal Horse Artillery

Son of Robert Uttermare Mead and Florence Martha Rose Mead, of “Inglenook,” Low Ham, Langport, Somerset.



Location: Pas de Calais, France
Number of casualties: 1124

Cemetery/memorial reference: II. H. 15.

Thomas Champion Denham Mead was born in Low Ham in 1894 to Florence Martha Rose and Robert Uttermare Mead.

Albert E J G Open L.Cpl. S.L.I.

Private OPEN, A E J G
Service Number 32270

Died 02/09/1918

12th (West Somerset Yeomanry) Bn.
Somerset Light Infantry


Location: Somme, France
Number of casualties: 1424

Cemetery/memorial reference: III. D. 34.

Albert Edward Joseph George Open was born in Isle Brewers, Somerset in 1895.


E Charles Rood Ptr. Can. Infy.

Service Number 186322

Died 03/05/1917

Aged 24

27th Bn.
Canadian Infantry

Son of George and Elizabeth Ann Rood, of Henley, High Ham, Langport, Somerset, England.

Commemorated at VIMY MEMORIAL

Location: Pas de Calais, France
Number of casualties: 11242

Ernest Charles Rood was born in High Ham on 24th December 1892 to Elizabeth Ann and George Rood. His siblings were Albion Rood born in 1891, Hubert Rood born in 1897, Edith Rood born in 1900, and Lucy Ann Rood born in 1904. In 1911 they lived at Henley Corner, High Ham.

Walter H Townsend Pte. R.E.

Service Number 166786

Died 19/10/1917

Aged 20

233rd Field Coy.
Royal Engineers

Youngest son of the late John and Clara Townsend, of King St., Swindon. Carpenter and Wheelwright.

Buried at Coxyde Military Cemetery

Walter Townsend was born in Swindon, Wiltshire in 1897.


Augustus Wilkins Pte. Can. Infy.

Private WILKINS, A
Service Number 255104

Died 02/09/1918

Aged 26

46th Bn.
Canadian Infantry

Son of William Dewdney Wilkins and Sarah Wilkins, of White House Farm, Henley, High Ham, Langport, Somerset, England.


Location: Pas de Calais, France
Number of casualties: 292

Cemetery/memorial reference: III. C. 22.

Augustus Wilkins was born in High Ham in 1894.


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No need for statements

He seemed to need to make a statement. Someone had mocked him for being suburban, from Camberley or some such place, and he had assumed it to be an implication that he had come from somewhere that was not significant.

At that time, at the end of the 1970s, one of the punk bands had recorded a song called The Sound of the Suburbs.  The song was a caricature of suburban life, but he had used it as inspiration to compile a list of all the bands at that time which came from the London suburbs. He had written, ‘The Sound of the Suburbs’ across the top of a piece of paper, and below the title had written the names of each of the suburban bands, and had then stuck the piece of paper to the wall of his room.

It was an odd statement to make: who was worried about from where he had come? Who would be impressed by a handwritten list of pop groups of which most people had not even heard?

In those days before the advent of multi-channel television, and long before the arrival of the internet, it was possible for people or places famous in their own locality to be completely unknown in the neighbouring county, even fashions moved from city to city gradually rather than there being uniform shifts across the country.

But did it matter whether one came from a place regarded as significant?

Growing up in the land of Arthur and Alfred, there was always the sense of coming from somewhere special, but special to whom? There were few people from outside Somerset who regarded it as a significant place (and many more who regarded it as a place of rustic yokels!).

If people did not think our place as somewhere important, as somewhere from which kudos might be derived, then we had little regard for other places. Just because somewhere had been the site of historical events, or the birthplace of major historical figures, or was the home of people whose pictures might fill the pages of the newspapers, did not mean it was any better than our place.

There were moments when conversations seemed at the level of sticking lists of pop bands on a bedroom wall; attempts to assert the importance of one’s own place, demonstrating a need to make a statement.

Few people now have heard of Alfred or Arthur, or all the other stuff that was important in those teenage years, and even fewer care. Decades past, much youthful angst may have been avoided if there had been an awareness that it did not matter from where one came, what mattered was the person one was – a reality that writing lists of names could do nothing to change.

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Two smoking barrels

Darkness had fallen around the isolated farmhouse and the young single woman who lived there felt a sense of menace. Already there had been a prowler and the headlights she saw stopped outside created a growing sense of anxiety. When would the intruder step from the car? What would happen next? The music had that familiar ominous mood that one associates with thrillers.

In the shadows, the woman peered through one of the sash windows that she had opened.

Why had she opened the window? The answer became apparent as she discharged both barrels of a twelve bore shotgun at the prowler’s car, which sped away.

Of course, it was fiction, an episode of the crime series Vera, but at last there was a character with whom I could identify.

The women among whom I grew up would have responded in such a way. When my mother was grabbed by a man on the way home from a dance, my aunt did not scream for help, instead she took off one of her stilletto shoes and struck the man on the top of the head with the heel. It became apparent that they were not called ‘stillettos’ without reason. When the police arrived, the man, who was very drunk, pleaded with them not to tell the police what had happened. Were it to happen seventy years later, the man would be making a complaint of assault against my aunt.

With the legal system so stacked against the victim, there must often be the temptation to act similarly to the character in Vera, not that most of us would have 12 bore shotgun to hand.

Criminals always pick on vulnerable people, the isolated, the elderly, the defenceless. Crime is highest in the poorest areas because people have not the resources to protect themselves or their property.

Robberies have become frequent in my small home village, two robberies in a week from the vacant house down the road which has been undergoing renovation. The items stolen are usually tools or farm machinery, but the stories create a mood of fear among older people. Who knows when thieves, already noted for their brazenness, might decide that there are people’s homes that would offer opportunity of profit?

When will it stop? Perhaps when those who steal find they have no market for their goods,  when people stop buying goods they must know to be stolen. Perhaps when people are inspired by Vera and fire a shotgun out into the darkness.


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