Letters, Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Have your say

Nick’s reference was not correct

NICK Clegg was clearly unaware of the irony in his recent rant over what he calls medieval attitudes towards women.

 Perhaps medieval studies did not figure on the syllabus of any of the three universities he attended, otherwise he would know that attitudes toward women were never more liberal than during the middle ages.

 Indeed, women then enjoyed a freedom and empowerment that they had not known in the ancient world and that came to be progressively eroded in the post Renaissance world.

 Medieval women founded hospitals and monasteries and ran monastery and town schools, where girls, no less than boys, were educated. The oldest book on education, written in the ninth century, was the work of a woman, Dhuoda.

 Medieval women read more than men. They engaged in commerce and were prominent in the professions and the medieval guilds.

 There were women physicians, bankers, shop owners and inn keepers. Some trades, notably brewing, were done almost entirely by women.

 Women owned property and administered large estates employing staff. Some received feudal homage as to a Lord. The French archivist and medievalist, Regine Pernoud tells of the religious order of Fontevrault in France, to which 5,000 monks and nuns owed allegiance. It was ruled, not by an abbot, but by an abbess. St Hilda served a similar function at Whitby.

 And it was not in the 20th century that women first gained the vote. Rather they regained what had once been theirs and had been taken from them. Women voted on an equal footing with men in all medieval assemblies.

 Sadly, ignorance of the middle ages,which appears to be pandemic, has led, not only Nick Clegg, but many an ignoramus to stigmatise as medieval attitudes and beliefs which he does not understand or which he happens to dislike.

PJ McPartland,


Political suicide

IRONICALLY the left wing biased, pro-EU BBC proved to be an exquisite platform for Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, to commit political suicide, in the debate on April 3. It may be some time before the obituaries are published but make no mistake about it he proved himself to be a mean-spirited, mealy-mouthed, sniping and utterly disingenuous overgrown schoolboy, who is on the way out of Westminster.

 He was almost entirely to blame for his own demise. Nigel Farage’s role was merely to provide enough rope by insisting that Brits should govern Britain and pointing out that currently we don’t – the EU does.

 Adding insult to injury, Angelica Schnieder, a young German lady, who incidentally had the temerity to do a Clegg by deliberately misconstruing Nigel Farage’s comments regarding the import of luxury German cars, is also the LIB DEM MEP candidate for the North East of England.

 While she is entitled to criticise Farage on that point, she should not, in my opinion, qualify to represent the UK at Brussels because she is not a British citizen.

 It beggar’s belief that while our destiny is already decided by a distillation of opinion from 28 countries of widely varying cultures, that anyone would dream of electing a young woman from another EU country to represent England.

 When Clegg says that you can have an in/out referendum if the EU claws more power away from the UK – horses and stable doors come to mind.

Denis Gillon,


We all need books

WHAT a coincidence? The Echo published Mr Manning’s letter about prisoners’ privileges (March 29) just as a row breaks out over the new ban on inmates receiving books from family and friends.

 Straight away I thought of the daft plot of The Shawshank Redemption, where a convict keeps a hollowed-out Bible in his cell concealing a tool he uses to chisel a hole in the wall.

 Is this what the Minister of Justice is afraid of? He’d better ban cream cakes too – there’s bound to be a file hidden inside.

 Another coincidence perhaps is that in the same edition there was an item on John O’Shea and the National Literacy Trust. Well, it’s not just children who need to improve their literacy.

 Books are important to everyone for obvious reasons. Prisoners have a lot of time to kill and I suppose if you’re locked up in a cell you need authors to fire your imagination and take you on journeys to faraway places.

 Rehabilitation of criminals is vital. Surely, we need them to become better people than they were at the start of their sentences, otherwise there’s no point in taxpayers funding an expensive prison system.

 Some day most of them are going to be released into the real world. Books will help them become more civilised human beings.

Henry Whipple,


Hope for families

THE Government’s introduction of a new fast-track system for medicines for people with life-limiting health conditions offers real hope for many families affected by muscular dystrophy.

 After a six-month inquiry last year, the all-party Parliamentary Group for Muscular Dystrophy emphasised the need for just such a scheme, stressing the urgency of treating children with severe muscle-wasting conditions, before irreversible muscle damage occurs and life-threatening health complications manifest.

 As a result of the fast-track scheme, children who are not already involved in clinical trials could receive access to potential treatments that appear to be safe and effective.

 We could also potentially see a shorter journey for such drugs to a full licence for prescription by the NHS.

 This means there is now even greater urgency for the Department of Health to act on allocating funding specifically for high-cost treatments for rare conditions like muscular dystrophy.

 I lost my own brother and sister to a muscle-wasting condition – I understand the weight of each day waiting for any form of treatment to become available.

 We need to act now and establish a ring-fenced fund for these medicines, or we risk the tragic consequences of delays to treating those in desperate need.

Dave Anderson,

MP for Blaydon and Chairman of the all-party Parliamentary Group for Muscular Dystrophy

Looking for Tigger

MY granddaughter’s cat Tigger went missing two weeks ago from Red House.

 His collar had been taken off the day he went missing as it was irritating him.

 We are hoping some kind person may have thought he was lost.

 We have searched everywhere we can think of.

 One of the worst things is not knowing what’s happened to him, and that he may be lying somewhere in need of help. If anyone has any information, please get in touch. It will be really appreciated.

 I can be reached on 07961866232.

Jean Bramham

Information plea

I AM researching military and civil aircraft crashes in County Durham or anywhere south of the River Tyne for a book I am writing.

 During the Second World War three RAF Hawker Hurricane fighters came down near Washington, two Hurricanes came down near Penshaw and an RAF Mustang came down near Offerton.

 In 1941, two RAF Miles Master training aircraft collided over Felstead Crescent on Ford Estate.

 I would be interested in any information no matter how small in detail. I would also be interested in any photographs people might have of the crashed aircraft around RAF Usworth, which became Sunderland Airport.

 Any photos sent would be copied and returned.

 I can be contacted on 0191 488 3654 after 3pm or write to me at 13 Sunnidale, Fellside Park, Whickham, Newcastle NE16 5TT or email philip.smith322@btinternet.com.

 I am the founder member of the 55 Aircraft Accidents Research Group.

Philip Smith