Report by Nick Green, 25th April, 2002.
Most of you will have heard of Melvyn Bragg. Melvyn studied at Oxford University and now earns his living in films, television and writing. Some of you may not know that he was born in Wigton, Cumberland. He works in London but still spends about three months a year at home. He has written many novels; some I have read.
On of my hobbies is collecting old books, particularly mountaineering books and those concerned with a local content and England. On days off I can often be found ferreting through the piles of second hand books in Appleby and occasionally elsewhere in the County. Often I will purchase modern books of interest, read them and then hand them to The Rotary Book Shop where they are sold on for charity. Everyone is a winner; the bookshop makes a little money, I buy and read a good book cheaply and Rotary are able to sell on to raise money for charity! I wish all of our economy worked so simplistically!
About a year ago, just before FMD hit us, I bought a book authored by Melvyn Bragg and titled SPEAK FOR ENGLAND. It was first published in 1976 and is An essay on England: 1900-1975 based on interviews with inhabitants of Wigton Cumberland.
I have now read the book; a great read, and as I sadly read the Postscript some of the last few lines entranced me. If I may, I would like to note those lines here.
And yet if one point struck me more than any other about those I interviewed, it would be their differences from each other and the evidence of a wish to be distinctive and have freedom to do what pleased them and what impressed them as the best thing to do. In short there is definitely, love of liberty all around and it is the reinstating of that passion which could re-establish England as a place where life was added unto. Power to the people indeed.
If this seems a grandiose claim then look back on some of the matters revealed in this book. Modest, perhaps; unheroic, possibly, but again and again we met with that stubborn resistance to the arbitrary imposition of authority which has been the best boast of the England that rose and can rise again.
In almost every contribution there is an idea of self-dependence and an ambition for independence something inherited, embraced and cherished and something which, at this moment in world history, could not be more valuable. And inside the grand notions of freedom and liberty which come from this country and can still come from this country, there is the simple stubbornness and fair-mindedness of the individual English man or woman. Not to be put on, not to be pushed around these are the colloquial expressions which are the foundations of those large ideas of free man in a free society which need re-stating now as loudly and firmly as ever.
In this I believe we are unique as a country. It is not fashionable and it is not headline news but it is vital and can only be increasingly important as the world seems to swing to authoritarian solutions of the Left, of the Right and of the Big.
If we have a role then that is it not only the guardians of liberty but the spokesmen for it and fighters for it.
The need may be greater than ever!
London and Cumberland 1971-1976.
Melvyn Bragg finished this book in 1976, when Cumberland and Westmorland remained unique, when farming thrived and people were generally happy. What did Melvyn know that we didnt? Not to be put on, not to be pushed around - at this moment in world history - which need re-stating now as loudly and firmly as ever -
not only the guardians of liberty but the spokesmen for it and fighters for it. The need may be greater than ever!
These last few lines, written by a great Cumbrian, sent shivers down my spine! The need may never be greater! The spirit of Cumbria has changed little over the years since 1976. As the Cumbria Inquiry grows ever nearer Mr Blair, you may find to your ultimate cost, the spirit of Cumbria lives on and will haunt you for some time to come! You may well regret the actions you imposed on us!