Saturday, 22 October 2016

Britain says "Farewell" to an old soldier called Stan Hilton, the last of its sons who upheld its name fighting fascists in the Spanish Civil War

Stan, who has died at the age of 98 was the last surviving Briton who fought in the legendary International Brigades in the 1930s, during the Spanish Civil War, was born in Newhaven, Sussex, during the First World War on on 31 December 1917.

As a teenager he joined the Merchant Navy and was nineteen when he jumped from his ship, the S.S. Pilson in Alicante in November 1937, after hitting an officer who’d been pushing him around. On his own admission Stan said : "I liked mucking about. I didn’t like being ordered around."

A year before this, the Spanish Civil War had started in July 1936 when General Francisco Franco and other army officers launched a fascist-backed coup against the democratically elected Spanish Republic. Franco’s rebels received overwhelming help from Hitler's Nazi Germany and Mussolini's Fascist Italy in the form of troops, aircraft and armaments. 

It was now that Stan made up his mind to join the War fighting on the side of the Government against the Fascists. He later said : "The Spanish people needed help. It was the right thing to do."  Unfortunately Stan's Government in Britain didn't see it like that and with the other Western democracies enforced an arms embargo on the Spanish Republic, effectively condemning it to defeat :

We know from documents held in London and Moscow that he made his way to Albacete and enlisted with the 'British Battalion' of the 15th International Brigade and, after a period of training, saw action that winter around Teruel. Stan recalled : ‘It was freezing. I was always bloody cold.’  In fact it was the worst Spanish winter in twenty years and the battle was one of the bloodier actions of the War, with the city changing hands several times, first falling to the Republicans and then retaken by the Fascists after heavy artillery and aerial bombardment. With Franco's use of his superiority in men and materials it was to prove be the decisive battle of the War, The writer, Laurie Lee, who also served in the International Brigade said :

'The gift of Teruel at Christmas had become for the Republicans no more than a poisoned toy. It was meant to be victory that would change the War; it was indeed the seal of defeat.'

It is little wonder that, in the spring of 1938, Stan's Battalion was routed as Franco’s forces, aided by troops sent by Mussolini and Hitler’s Condor Legion, swept through Arag√≥n and Catalonia.

With the Republican army in disarray and communications having broken down, Stan was caught up in the chaotic retreat and ended up swimming across the River Ebro to evade being captured by Franco’s soldiers. Stan later reflected that : ‘It was every man for himself.’  David Leach recorded the experiences of other British volunteers at the river for his 2001 film, 'Voices from a Mountain' :

Stan reached Barcelona and in March 1938, with the British Captain’s permission, he boarded the SS Lake Lugano at Barcelona and sailed for home. He was still only 20 years old. At the time of his death he was the last of some 2,500 volunteers from the Britain who joined the International Brigades in a War in which 526 of them, that's 20%, had died before Franco's victory in 1939.

In 1956 at the age of 39 Stan left Britain and emigrated with his family to Australia, where he worked mostly as a tiler in the building trade. He died in a nursing home in Ocean Grove, near Melbourne. 

Announcing the news of Stan's death, the London-based 'International Brigade Memorial Trust' said it marked the end of an era and its Secretary, Jim Jump said that Stan had helped write a "proud chapter in British 20th century history" and added : ‘While their own government looked the other way and refused to go to the aid of a fellow democracy, the men and women from Britain who joined the International Brigades did something to salvage their country’s honour and reputation. Stan and the other volunteers will go down in history as the first British soldiers to confront Hitler and Mussolini on the battlefield. In doing so they also set an unequalled example of international solidarity and anti-fascism.’

Friday, 21 October 2016

Britain is no country for an old gay man called George Montague still looking for an apology before he dies

The Government has announced that gay and bisexual men who are dead and were convicted of the repealed 'Sexual Offences in England and Wales Act' are to receive posthumous pardons. In addition, the 15,000 of old gay men who are still alive of the 65,000 convicted under old sex offence law are also eligible for a pardon.

The Liberal Democrat  peer Lord Sharkey, who proposed the Amendment to the 'Policing and Crimes Bill,' said : "a pardon is probably the best way of acknowledging the real harm done by the unjust and cruel homophobic laws, which thankfully we've now repealed. And I do hope that a lot of people will feel exactly the same way".

Ninety-three year old George Monatague does not feel the same way. He has said unequivocally that : "I want an apology ... to accept a pardon means you accept that you were guilty."

George, who was convicted in 1974 of  'gross indecency' with a man has said  : "I have lived my life with a conviction for gross indecency hanging over me. I see now they are giving pardons. I don’t want a pardon. I want my conviction to be squashed, struck off. I was entrapped by police at the time and pleaded guilty to avoid publicity. I just want to end the final days of my life having no criminal conviction and to see the majority of people in the country become gay-friendly.”

After the Second World War, George was still living in Hitcham where he had lived as a boy and now ran an engineering business employing 40 people. In his own words : 'I was a scout commissioner and a pillar of the community.' He had also served King and country in the Royal Navy during the Second World War, and fathered three children to Vera, who he married and shared with the secret of his sexuality.

His life changed when in 1974, when he was 50 and travelled to Slough for the day because there was no one else of his 'persuasion' in Hitcham and he went looking for company. In the absence of either a gay scene or bars, he gravitated to 'cottages', public toilets.

The one he chose was empty, apart from one man in a cubicle, George went into the adjoining cubicle and locked the door. He found a hole in the wall between him and the man which indicated to him that it was : 'a sure sign it was a gay haunt'. He looked through the hole and on finding the man was much older than him, he 'blocked up the hole and waited for him to go, but instead he pushed the paper out and attempted to put his penis through. At that moment there was a scuffling outside and a police officer craned over the top of the door. I was doing nothing; I hadn’t invited any contact from the other man, but the timing was awful. We were both arrested and taken to the police station.'

Under police questioning, a 'queer list' was produced with George's name on it. He believed that the police had 'made it their business to find out the name of anyone locally who was gay. They’d do it by arresting a young gay boy and threatening him until he gave them as many names as possible.' He was charged with 'Gross indecency' and was sent for trial. He employed a solicitor and counsel, which cost a lot of money and pleaded 'not guilty'. George was, however, found guilty of the offence and given the statutory fine. He thus gained a 'criminal record' which has remained with him for the last 42 years even though, in 2004 the 'Sexual Offences Act' repealed the offence of 'Gross Indecency' from statute book.

He found that there was no story in the press about him, despite me being found guilty. He had a few contacts on the local paper because of his community work and they were kind. However, he found that : 'There was suspicion in the scout movement, which made me angry and upset. I know the word “paedophile” was used, and that was humiliating. I resigned, which hurt a great deal.'

George was fearful it would come out and although his wife knew he was gay when she married him and 'was a wonderfully supportive woman',  no one else knew ; 'not friends, not my children. I took it in my stride. I came to terms with it.'

George went on to have several gay relationships subsequently and today lives with his long-term partner of 20 years. He does, however, remain :  "very angry" about what happened to him : "I served my country during the Second World War. I don’t want a pardon because I’m not guilty. I’m angry with the Government and the entire establishment throughout the 20th century. They need to apologise to the gay community on behalf of their predecessors and the police need to apologise for the way they enforced the law. There are many men out there with this stigma hanging around their neck."

He has said : "If I get an apology, I will not need a pardon" and there "never should have been an offence of gross indecency. It didn't apply to heterosexuals. Heterosexuals could do what they liked, in the doorways, in passageways, the back of their car. It only applied to gay men. That's not right, surely?"

George's anger has not stood in his way of acting as a positive force in the Gay Community and his current passion is to see a top of the range care home for older gay people opened and he is presently working on a self financing proposal for gay men with money to commit to the project.

George is still inspired by the lessons he learned as a poor boy living with his family in a tied cottage without either bathroom or toilet on a large estate with a big house owned by Colonel Handbury in Buckinghamshire in the 1920s and where his ex-policeman father was a gardener and his mother, the laundress. It was here that he dug up weeds with the other children to earn some pocket money and : 
'It made our fingers sore, but I think it taught me a lesson that would be with me all of my life : if something needs to be done, then best get on and do it.'


Monday, 17 October 2016

Britain is still a country for and says "Happy Birthday" to an old writer from Cheshire called Alan Garner who gave it 'The Weirdstone of Bisingamen'

Alan Garner, author of children's fantasy novels and reteller of traditional British folk tales, whose work is rooted in the landscape, history and folklore of his native county of Cheshire in the North West of England is 82 years old today.

He was born in 1934 into a working-class family in the front room of his grandmother's house in Congleton and grew up around the
nearby town of Alderley Edge and spent much of his youth in the wooded area known locally as 'The Edge' and gained an early interest in the folklore of the region from his grandfather, Joseph.

The Garner family had been connected to 'The Edge' since the 1500's with a lineage back to the death of William Garner in 1598 and one with an oral tradition which taught him folk tales about the area which included a description of a king and his army of knights who slept under it, guarded by a wizard and and said the story became "deeply embedded in my psyche" and heavily influenced his later novels.

Alan learnt that in the mid 1800's, his great-great grandfather, Robert, a stonemason : had carved the face of a bearded wizard onto the rock of a cliff next to a well that was known in local folklore as the 'Wizard's Well' :

As a child growing up in the 1930s he faced three life-threatening illnesses : diphtheria, meningitis and pneumonia which he later believed were crucial to him becoming a writer :  and in addition, attending the local village school, he found that, despite being praised for his intelligence, he was punished for speaking in his native Cheshire dialect.

Having passed the 11+ exam he studied at Manchester Grammar School and after National Service in the Armed Forces, enrolled as an undergraduate studying 'classics' at Magdalen College, Oxford. As the first member of the Garner family to receive anything more than a basic education he became removed from his background and something of a schism opened up with other members of the family. He said that they "could not cope with me, and I could not cope with them".

In 1957 he moved to the village of Blackden, near Alderley Edge, where he bought for £500 and slowly renovated the late medieval 'Toad Hall' : and three years later at the age of 26, had his first novel published,
'The Weirdstone of Bisingamen' was a children's fantasy novel set in the Edge which revolved around two children, sent to live in the area with their mother's old nursemaid, Bess and her husband, Gowther Mossock, who discover a race of malevolent creatures, the 'svart alfar', who seem intent on capturing them. They are rescued by the wizard
Cadellin' who reveals that the forces of darkness are amassing at the Edge in search of the titular 'Weirdstone of Brisingamen'.

Alan was interviewed at the Edge 50 years later ; h

Before publication he had sent his book to the publishing company, Collins, where it was picked up by the company's head, Sir William Collins, on the look out for new fantasy novels following the recent commercial and critical success of J.R.R. Tolkien's, 'The Lord of the Rings' and as Alan later said that "Billy Collins saw a title with funny-looking words in it on the stockpile, and he decided to publish it."

After the critical and commercial success of his first book, he produced a sequel, 'The Moon of Gomrath' in 1963, also revolving around the adventures of the two children, Colin and Susan, with the latter being possessed by a malevolent creature called the 'Brollachan' who, with the help of the wizard Cadellin, is exorcised. Her soul, however, also leaves her body, being sent to another dimension, leaving Colin to find a way to bring it back.

Alan wrote a string of further fantasy novels starting with 'Elidor', which he set in contemporary Manchester with four children who enter into a broken down Victorian church, only to find a portal to the magical realm of Elidor and later said in preparation : "I had to read extensively textbooks on physics, Celtic symbolism, unicorns, medieval watermarks, megalithic archaeology; study the writings of Jung; brush up my Plato; visit Avebury, Silbury and Coventry Cathedral; spend a lot of time with demolition gangs on slum clearance sites; and listen to the whole of Britten's 'War Requiem' nearly every day."

He set 'The Owl Service' set in Wales and based on a medieval Welsh epic, 'The Mabinogion' and saw it televised in episodes in 1969 :,&t=0m34s

He published 'Red Shift' in 1973, before turning away from fantasy genre to produce 'The Stone Book Quartet' in 1979, a series of four short novellas detailing a day in the life of four generations of his family and a series of British folk tales rewritten in 'Alan Garner's Fairy Tales of Gold' in 1979 and 'A Bag of Moonshine' ten years later.

His collection of essays and public talks, 'The Voice That Thunders', contains much autobiographical material, including an account of his life with bipolar disorder, as well as critical reflection upon folklore and language, literature and education, the nature of myth and time.

After the further novels of  'Strandloper' and 'Thursbitch', he finally published his third book in the Weirdstone trilogy, 'Boneland', 52 years after the first.

In 2010, at the age of 78, he delivered a brilliant account of the Legend of Alderley at the Oxford Literary Festival :

Mindful of his craftsman ancestors he said in 2010 :
" I had to get aback to familial ways of doing things, by using skills that had been denied to my ancestors : but I had nothing that they would have called 'worthwhile'. My ability was in language and languages. I had to use that, somehow, and writing was a manual craft, but what did I know that I could write about ? I knew the land".

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Britain is no country for an old soldier called Field Marshal Edwin Bramall

Edwin Bramall, who is 92 years old, was twenty when he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the King's Royal Rifle Corps in 1943 during the Second World War and twenty-one when he took part in the Normandy landings a year later and went on to serve with his of his regiment in Northwest Europe during the later stages of the War. In March 1945 he received the Military Cross from Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery for his 'act or acts of exemplary gallantry during active operations against the enemy on land.'

In his post-war army career he served in the occupation of Japan from 1946, was promoted to 'captain' in 1950, 'major' in 1957 and went on to be Commander-in-Chief, UK Land Forces in 1976, was promoted to Field Marshal and appointed Chief of the Defence Staff in 1983 before retirement in 1985. He was was created a life peer as Baron Bramall of Bushfield in the County of Hampshire in 1987 and spoke out in the House of Lords against the involvement of the United Kingdom in the Second Iraq War warning that "unlike naked aggression, terrorism cannot be defeated by massive military means" but by "competent protection and positive diplomacy".

On November 14 2014, Scotland Yard launched 'Operation Midland' to examine claims made by a sole complainant called 'Nick', into an alleged VIP paedophile ring. A month later the Met Police announced three possible murders being investigated and appealed for information about events at the Dolphin Square in London. Detective Superintendent Kenny McDonald described Nick’s claims as “credible and true.”

Edwin's life and that of his wife changed dramatically for the worse on March 4, 2015 when 20 'Operation Midland' officers interrupted their breakfast and spent 10 hours searching their home. Edwin's wife of 66 years, Dorothy, was suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease and was frightened an confused and kept on saying : “What are they doing here?” and “Have I done something wrong?" Edwin did his best to reassure his wife, taking her from room to room, comforting her.

Details of the search were subsequently leaked to now-discredited news website 'Exaro' and on April 30, Edwin was interviewed, under caution, about paedophile allegations against him at a local police station.

Dorothy died four months after the police raid at the age of 93. Then on September 22, 2015, Scotland Yard said it should never have described Nick’s untested claims as and 'credible and true' and on January 15, 2016, Edwin was told he faced no further action. Apparently, the police knew he was innocent from ‘very early on’ but continued to investigate him because they didn’t want to be accused of giving him ‘preferential treatment’. However, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner refused to give Edwin an apology for the trauma caused to him and his wife by the raid on their home based on the false paedophile allegations.

Now, at long last, 20 months after the raid, on Wednesday, Edwin received, in person, an apology from Hogan-Howe, who admitted his force was wrong to raid Edwin's home over those false allegations and also said that he was sorry for the length of time it took to drop the investigation into the alleged VIP paedophile ring,

Edwin, with great grace said : "As someone, among others, who has suffered great distress and whose reputation and integrity has been questioned as a result of the misguided Operation Midland, I am very pleased to have received this apology."

He has also said that : “I have never complained about their right to investigate me but about the stupid, inept, and possibly improper way they carried out the investigation” and has been less magnanimous when it came to the distress caused to Beverly and said :"It didn’t come into their consideration that my wife was dying."

Edwin said Sir Bernard had requested Wednesday’s meeting after being made aware of the 'tenor’ of the Henriques Report into 'Operation Midland' and said : "As I understand it Sir Richard Henriques in his independent report will severely criticise the Metropolitan police although I have not seen that report.” In fact sources have suggested it will condemn Operation Midland as 'more or less a disaster'.

Edwin has said that he believes it was the pressure placed on the Home Office and the police by the Jimmy Savile scandal which produced a witch-hunt culture, "in which child abuse, particularly historic child abuse came to be dealt with entirely differently to other criminal offences" and added : "However, the police, more concerned with their own public relations, should not have succumbed to that pressure." He said : "I hope that Sir Richard’s Report will ensure that in future totally innocent people are not allowed to suffer in the way I and my family, as well as many others, have been forced to do."

He said it was now important police took onboard the lessons of Operation Midland. It is vital, he said, that in seeking to ensure “genuine victims” of child abuse “obtain speedy justice” that police are not allowed “to cast aside the basic principals of justice itself”.

How ironical that Edwin, who fought with valour and earned his Military Cross fighting against the injustice exercised by Britain's enemies in the Second World War, should himself fall victim to the injustice wrought upon him by his own Police Force in Britain seventy years later.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Britain is a country for and says "Congratualtions" to an old knight called Rod Stewart, born a humble lad from Highgate

Rod Stewart, who is 71 years old and in a career in music has sold over 100 million records worldwide and is one of the best selling artists of all time, yesterday received his knighthood for 'services to music and charity', at the hand of Prince William. He said : "I just wish Mum and Dad had been here to see it."

The mum and dad in question were responsible for the conception of Rod in the spring of 1944, the last year of the Second World War and in his own words, he was 'obviously a mistake', since his mother at 39 and his father, 42, already had four children with the youngest at 10.

While being 'carried' by his mother before he was born, he was taken into the family air raid shelter, which was embedded in the ground in the garden and used during German bombing raids in the early hours of the morning. It was here the family slept in narrow bunk beds. 

Rod was born in a small bedroom on the top floor of the rented terraced house in Archway Road in Highgate, half an hour after a German V-2 missile fell on the local police station. In fact, the windows of the room had been boarded up by his father after repeated German bomb blasts had blown in the glass.

On the day he was born in January 1945, the wind was blowing gently from the southwest and the weather became cold with sleet and snow and towards the end of his first month, cold and frosty with some freezing fog.

Rod's Dad, who was a Scot from Leith, north of Edinburgh, was born before the First World War and after a spell in the Merchant Navy, had followed his bothers to London for work and met his mother, Elsie, from Holloway, in the 1920s at a dance in Tufnell Park and in 1945 was working as a plumber.

Elsie, who occasionally with Rod's older brother, Don, played on a baby grand piano in the dining room while his father organised a weekend football club, 'Highgate Redwing' in which Rod's two brothers, and eventually he, would play. At about the age of  9 in 1954, Rod was taken to see Bill Haley and the Comets at the Gaumont Cinema in Kilburn High Road where 'the rhythm, the brightness of the clothes and the reactions of the crowd' all affected him and "maybe a seed was sown.'' 

Al Jolson, an American baritone, popular in the 1930s, became his favourite singer when the family would gather round the piano and sing his hits. When he was older, Rod read books about him, collected his records and hi performing style remained a lasting influence on him.

At the age of 11 in 1956, Rod failed his 'eleven plus' exam at school and went to the William Grimshaw Secondary Modern School in Hornsey and 'football mad' and a strong supporter of Arsenal Football Club, became captain of the school football and cricket teams and played for 'Middlesex Schoolboys'. These were the years he went on family holidays to Ramsgate on the Kent coast and remembered : 'all of us Stewarts on the beach in the freezing cold in the traditional British way.'

Here he is with Mum and Dad and brothers and sisters in 1957.

He couldn't get on with 'music' at school where Mr Wainwright made him sing in front of the class and recalled in his Autobiography that 'he would haul me up to sing a few lines of a song, with him on the piano at the front and I would quail and quiver and grope for the notes and feel more uncomfortable than I had ever felt, anywhere, in any circumstance.'

The first record he bought was Eddie Cochran's "C'mon Everybody" when he was 13 in 1958 : and 1950, for his 15th birthday, he was disappointed when his father gave him a Spanish guitar when he wanted a Triang model railway station to complement his model making hobby which was inspired by the view from his house of the steam engines running in the marshalling yards and on the Euston line. 

In his teens he went on Aldermaston 'Ban the Bomb' marches with his guitar and busked playing scraps of American folk music from Dylan, Ramblin' Jack Elliott and Woodie Guthrie and enjoyed intimacy with girls engendered by a sleeping bag at night and said in his autobiography : 'Those marches were really the beginning for me, of performing, of taking what I had learned in the backyard when I should have been minding the shop and making it public', referring to the family newsagents shop in Archway Road.

Rod left school at the age of 15 in 1960, joined a skiffle group called the 'Kool Kats', playing Lonnie Donegan and Chas McDevitt hits, He worked briefly as a silk screen printer and then signed on as a football apprentice with Brentford Football Club, but left after a couple of months saying later : "I had the skill but not the enthusiasm. Well, a musician's life is a lot easier and I can also get drunk and make music, and I can't do that and play football. I plumped for music."

Over the next few years Rod began busking at Leicester Square and other London spots with folk singer Wizz Jones and took up playing the harmonica.  They took their act to Brighton and then to Paris, sleeping under bridges over the River Seine and then to Barcelona and were deported from Spain for vagrancy. In 1963, Rod adopted the 'Mod' lifestyle, saw Otis Redding perform in concert, began listening to Sam Cooke records and he became fascinated by rhythm and blues and soul music.

Rod's big break came when Long John Baldry invited him to sit in with the 'Hoochie Coochie Men' and offered him a job for £35 a week after securing the approval of Rod's mother.

'Good Morning Little Schoolgirl' came when he was 19 in 1964 and his long 52 year career had begun :

Friday, 7 October 2016

Britain is no longer a country for and says "Farewell" to its Grand Old Man of Paleopathology, Don Brothwell

Don, who has died at the age of 83, was born and raised in unpropitious circumstances, yet blossomed as a polymath and pioneer who was one of the first to see and apply the potential of combining a plethora of scientific approaches to the discipline of archaeology.

Born Don Reginald Brothwell he began life as a traumatised baby and only child of George and Constance in Basford, a suburb in northern Nottingham in the spring of 1933. His father had served in the Royal  Flying Corps during the First World War and worked for an electronics firm in Beeston, another suburb of Nottingham, where Don attended Beeston Fields Junior School during the first years of the Second World War.

Having failed his 11+ exam in 1943, Don began life at Beeston Fields Secondary School for Boys in 1944. It was a new school, but a tough one with a working class catchment, where discipline was severe and such grave misdemeanours as 'sulking', 'purposely forgetting gas masks', and 'mutinous muttering' received up to four strokes of the cane and were duly recorded in the headmaster's punishment book. In addition, it was one where pupils suffered from cases of diphtheria, scabies, bronchitis and pneumonia, scarlet fever and poliomyelitis, to say nothing of nits and verrucas. In 1947 the school took 9 boys from 'Silverwood Hostel for Maladjusted Boys', eight of whom were placed in Don's year.

Don, who had an early interest in natural history, spent hours observing and collecting specimens and used the kitchen stove to boil up corpses of guinea pigs and small animals in order to add their skulls to his bedroom-based museum.

His life changed at the end of the Second World War in 1945, when he recalled at the age of 12 or 13 he : "was shown material being recovered from the Trent Gravel Works consisting of fossil mammoth teeth and human bones, stone tools and neolithic pottery" and "became captivated by this and used to visit the local gravel works to see the office manager to see what they’d got. That was the first thing that whetted my appetite."

Fortunately, he lived relatively near an Iron Age fort at Breedon-on-the-Hill in Leicestershire which was excavated by Dame Kathleen Kenyon. He recalled : "Part of the hill on which the hillfort stood had already been blasted away for road metal. I saw where she’d been digging and had taken sections through the Iron Age ramparts, but she had also explored a cemetery inside the Iron Age fort."

Picture the young Dom, with his school friends, (probably with some in this school photo from 1946, where he stands, bespectacled and 4th in on the back row from the left), seeing the remains of skeletons at the base of the quarry and asking the one-legged manager if they could dig them out and being told “Yes, yes, you can dig up there, no archaeologist ever falls to his death from the top of the quarry face”. Apparently they saved quite a few skeletons or parts of skeletons, which found there way to the Royal College of Surgeons in London which provided "another boost" to his interests.

Still at school and in his teens, he "got drawn into an excavation at Thurgarton in Nottingham. It was a medieval site with burials coming out, so I was involved in excavating them." Apart from learning "an interesting lesson an interesting lesson about geology in relation to archaeological sites", Don met the brilliant Australian-born archaeologist and Director of the Institute of Archaeology, London. He recalled : "this funny blue-nosed gangling character who was introduced as Professor Childe, so I met Gordon Childe for the first time in the field."

Dom left school at the age of 16 in 1949 and enrolled at Art College in Nottingham, but instead, in his words, became "an art school dropout," because he had started to "read around archaeology and anthropology in general and I got bitten by this bug, so I dropped out and abandoned the idea of being an art teacher." He maintained that art and painting and not archaeology always remained his first love.

It was now that he "had to start studying geology, biology and chemistry from scratch, having abandoned art." To help support himself financially while he studied for 'A' Levels, he worked in the chemistry lab of Nottingham Technical College which was an experience which would later help him "understand all the work in archaeological chemistry."

As a student he had been deferred from National Service in the Armed Forces and at the age of 19, applied for a place to study a Bachelor of Science Degree in Anthropology with Geology and Zoology at University College, London but, as he recalled, "as soon as I’d finished my A-levels I got a letter saying : 'Her Majesty wants you in the Army,' so I had to tell Her Majesty that I wasn’t prepared to go in, and thus I finished up in Lincoln Prison for a while, which was an extremely formative period of my life, I must confess."

It was Dom's pacifist beliefs, spurred by his father's experience in the First World War and an interest in Quakerism and the ideas of Tolstoy and Gandhi that had put him in a prison, which he found to be : " A nice old Victorian building where the food wasn't too bad" and which was "quite good fun." On the other hand, he shared his spartan Victorian-style cell with inmates "who were certified as ‘defective’ and so on, and we were all crowded together." Which he found to be "an absurd state of affairs."

Don didn't waste his two months in prison and continued to collect animal skulls and and came out, "I’m pleased to say, with another skull, this time of a bulldog that I’d picked up in the prison grounds on one of my exercises." Initially, he had been refused permission to take it out because : "on the way out, as on the way in, you strip down starkers and you move from one part of the prison to the other, so off came my prison greys and so on, and I put on my other clothes. As I was leaving the prison, I felt in my pocket and there was this skull. One of my friends in prison had obviously put it there." Dom's time in prison was relatively short-lived since "in court they knew that I had been offered a place at UCL so they let me out in time to take it up, which was kind of them."

On discharge from prison in 1955 he began life as an undergraduate at University College which would prove to be the second formative phase in his life, with his introduction to geology, zoology, archaeology and anthropology, which would influence the shape and scale of his future career in research.

Don found himself in Aladdin's Cave and was reaching out in all directions to 'vertebrate zoology' and "Sir Peter Medawar who was a Nobel Prize winner for some of his early tissue transplant work" (left) ; "Professor Hans Gruneberg who was a geneticist working on mammal skeletal variation" (right) and "attended the human genetics lectures of Professor Lionel Penrose." He later confessed : "The problem was that really, I had bitten off more than I could easily chew; there was far too much laboratory work and so on. I do know that, in anthropology, they were a bit anxious about me because I was being tugged in too many directions. Anyway, I survived. Just about."

He had also come into contact with the the Institute of Archaeology and, once again, Gordon Childe and found that he "could cover archaeology with anthropology and quite a few of us did. I did a course on prehistoric European archaeology and a special paper on British prehistoric archaeology, as well as my anthropology subjects."

Having graduated in 1956, he undertook an MA in Anthropology at Cambridge University and was then two years into his doctorate in Physical Anthropology and a programme of research involving one of the earliest explorations of human skeletal material, when he was offered and accepted, a five year contract as a 'Demonstrator' in the Faculty of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University.

Still in his twenties, with time and energy, he worked on a cast of the skull of Robert the Bruce in 1958; the identification of a Down Syndrome skull in his Saxon Cemetery Collection in 1959; changes associated with leprosy in medieval skulls from Scarborough; a discussion of the evidence of cannibalism in Prehistoric Britain; the potential of studying human dental remains; a comparative study of the evidence of trepanning undertaken with the British Museum Natural History Department.

In all this, he laid the foundations of his career in paleopathology and for the first synthesis of available paleopathologic evidence of early British remains, he won the the 'Curl Bequest Prize Essay Award' and not surprisingly, in 1961 at the age of 28, was offered the position of 'Senior Scientific Office at British Museum. Natural History' with special responsibility for the growing human skeletal collections which he referred to in  the early days as the "human bones desert."

What followed, was a very productive period during which he "got to know this archaeologist who many students were attracted to, a bit of a rogue really, but he was also very nice and certainly a very stimulating colleague; Eric Higgs. In fact we got together in the early 60s and produced the first edition of 'Science and Archaeology'" which was published in 1963. In the same year he also published his 'Dental Anthropology' which, in the opinion of Professor Keith Dobney of the Department of Archaeology at Aberdeen, led to 'the paradigm shift in the discipline' and the first International Dental Morphology Meeting.

In addition, he later recalled : "At the time I was also writing 'Digging up Bones'which I was doing because I couldn’t find anything which advised archaeologists on what to do with their bones. There were all these sites producing skeletal material and there seemed to be no handbook which people could go to, so I got a bit locked in on that as well." It would be his major contribution to the field of bioarchaeology.

He worked with Andrew Sandison, Senior Pathologist at the Western Infirmary, Glasgow to write 'Diseases in Antiquity' in 1967, which was based on their examination of ancient literature, art and skeletal remains. In the 1970s he was instrumental in seeing the Museum's anthropological section, a small sub department in Paleontology become a centre for excellence for the study of human remains, health and disease and patronised by the likes of Louis Leakey and Bill Hales.

On return to Britain, after acting as a visiting lecturer in Berkeley University in the USA in 1966, he was promoted form 'Senior to Principal Scientific Officer' at the British Museum, a position he held before taking up the post 'Senior Lecturer', then 'Reader, in Zooarchaeology' in  the Department of Human Environment, Institute of Archaeology, University of London at the age of 41 in 1974.

His growing interest in zooarchaeology took him back to the non human skeletal remains of his youth : domesticated guinea pigs, Amerindian dogs, seaweed eating sheep and pest species like the house mouse. It was, however, with human remains that he achieved prominence when he convened a team of diverse experts to study the remains of 'Lindow Man' in Cheshire which examined evidence of trauma, stomach contents, fingernails and beard hair revealed to the public in 'The Bog Man and the Archaeology of People' in 1986.

In 1993, at the age of 60, after 20 years work at the Institute and still not a full professor, he took early retirement and began life as Professor of Human Palaeoecology at the University of York with the brief to drive forward the new archaeological science and palaeocology focus in the Department of Archaeology. He later recalled : 'So I came up, and I was rather lumbered, I must confess, with all the science teaching. I did an introductory course on archaeological science, and you name it, I did it, but I must say that I read a lot about archaeological chemistry and so forth that I didn’t know about before, so it was a most stimulating time.' 

On his retirement at the age of 66 in 1999, Don, known for his self-effacement, had to be tricked into attending his own celebration with an invitation to be keynote speaker at a meeting with a fictitious programme. Since then he produced a 'Handbook of Archaeological Sciences', dealing with the application of radiology to mummies and fossils and in 2010 gained five year funding for research into the chemistry and fossilisation of bone and soft tissue. His fear that, if he died before it was completed, any outstanding money would have to be returned, was not realised.

His memoir, published earlier this year, 'A Faith in Archaeological Science Reflections on a Life,' laid out the extraordinary geography of his life and breadth of his achievement, which ranged from 'Forensic Interludes': 'Kosovo', to 'Bog People and Other Friends' which included  : 'Bog Bodies'; 'The Neolithic Iceman'; 'Ancient Yemenis'; 'Salted People'; 'Egyptian Mummies and Dried Bodies' to 'In search of syphilis' in 'The Nature and antiquity of Disease' to 'People and Places' which swept up : 'Vikings', 'Avebury', the 'Islamic World', 'Greenland', 'Mongolia' and 'the Americas', to his more recent preoccupations with 'My doubtful place in human culture' and 'Aspects of the Emotions' which dwelt on : 'Evolving Beyond Religions'. 'Love, the Ultimate Chimera' and 'The identification of Humour' and finally his 'Traversing the mindfield which is life' which covered his interest in 'Psychology archaeology', 'mind and reality', 'mind and conflict' and his conclusion with : 'On the Possible Scenario for my Descendants Long in the Future'.

Keith Dobney recognised Don as a 'giant in the field' who had been 'single-handedly responsible for both the creation and directions of entire new disciplines and new ways of thinking' and thought that 'his lasting legacy is best seen not in the publication and accolades, but in the generations of young scholars he taught, mentored and inspired.'

Unlikely to be fulfilled, is Don's self-effacing wish that :

    "When I go, just put me out with the bins”