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EditorialsUpFront 04/19

UpFront 04/19

I’ve always looked forward to April. There is a general feeling of anticipation and hope—winter is behind us, and we can look forward to growth again. But I’m not sure about this April. We live in such confusion that it’s hard to anticipate the general atmosphere after March 29th. However, my brother reminded me of a story from April 1934 that briefly side-lined that question. It is about an event in my Grandfather’s life. Back in the early thirties, my Grandfather was a local County Councillor during a time when farmers were refusing to pay controversial land annuities that had dated back to the 1800s. When refusing to pay, some farmers had their livestock confiscated to be auctioned off to pay the fine. On this particular day, five head of seized cattle were due to be auctioned to pay the fine levied on a local farmer. However, due to the presence of protesting farmers supporting the man whose animals had been seized, the sale was aborted—there were no bids. With yelps of delight, some of the protesters then broke the cattle out of the pens, and, pursued by the local constabulary, drove them down the side streets of the town. The bemused animals were soon joined by an excited crowd cheering them on. It was all a great laugh until they turned a corner to face a line of police with batons drawn. Even the cattle participated in the ensuing standoff, and, concerned that things might get nasty, the police asked my Grandfather—a man described as a, ‘very influential man in the county’—to calm the crowd. This he did, stressing the fact that the police were, as he put it, ‘the custodians of the public peace, and should not be molested’. The crowd dispersed and no doubt many of them made their way to nearby hostelries to discuss the day’s events, and maybe even the price of cattle. The story might have ended there, except the following week; in a dawn raid that might have looked more at home in an episode of Line of Duty, my Grandfather, along with eight other members of the community, was arrested and thrown in jail for public order offences. The constabulary’s case was eventually thrown out but not before hysterical testimony that included descriptions of the crowd as ‘possessed with hysteria’ and ‘maddened and infuriated’ and even a suggestion that men were ‘frothing at the mouth’. This was, of course, all cobblers, as the barrister for the defence was later to prove. But I couldn’t help thinking that the descriptions might easily have applied to recent activity in Westminster.

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