Poem: Father

When I was small
And you were tall
You held my hand
When I was wed
And words left unsaid
You held my hand
When I was in court
You gave your support
You held my hand
When I fought the big C
You never left me
You held my hand
When I lost my daughters
We sat by still waters
You held my hand
When I faced divorce
You were my guiding force
You held my hand
When you died
By your side I cried
I held your hand

Poem: Roots

It was in another lifetime
When James and Isabella met
The coal dust it was blackening
But their courtship it was set
Their marriage was like thunder
On a bleak October morn
Yet their love endured forever
And two babies they were born
Nicholas and Thomas began a family line
One worked as a coal cutter
The other imported wine
Mary and Catherine bore 14 babies more
Another James and Tom among them
But the Great Depression was their score
A better life along the road
Was all that they did seek
Their backs they turned on mining
For somewhere safe to eat and sleep
And so the war did rage and bombs they did explode
As Ray and Bruce found flights of love
On airplanes and their loads
And so the story comes to pass
That Gill and Nic were born
Their lives became entwined
On a grey September morn
She looked at him and he at her
As the sun shone through the dawn
Come in he said I’ll give you
Shelter from the storm

Dr Filth is in charge of the cyanide hole

During the past three weeks I have republished six of my newspaper articles written while I was working as an investigative journalist in Scotland and North East England. The first looked at the likely governmental conspiracy over the outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease in 2001 another at the secrecy of the Bilderberg organisation, a third was a piece about the top secret Aurora aircraft, the fourth looked at big cats at large in the UK and the fifth was an investigation into the mysterious death of Scottish Nationalist leader Willie McRae. The last piece looked at the extent of 40-year cover-up on exposure of British servicemen to A-bomb tests.
Today I reload a piece I wrote in 1995 about secret dumps of deadly Sarin gas in the sea waters off Scotland.

THOUSANDS of tonnes of the deadly Sarin gas are dumped in corroding drums off the Scottish coast.
Experts and environmentalists last night warned that it is only a matter of time before some of the nerve agent, buried in Scottish waters after the Second World War, could be washed ashore or trawled up by unsuspecting fishermen.
They also warn that the Japanese attack might encourage people to recover some of the nerve agent from its underwater repository for political extortion or terrorist activities.
The Nazis produced at least 300,000 tonnes of the substance during the war but never used it in battle. After the Third Reich fell, most of it was buried, burned or dumped in rivers, lakes, and the Baltic Sea.
Until the early 1980s, the US army had about four million litres of the gas in store in West Germany. It has also been produced in the Middle East.
Inhalation of just 0.5 milligrams of Sarin can kill almost instantly. The gas reduces the level of a key enzyme needed by the nervous system, causing difficulty in breathing, a decline in blood pressure, and contraction of the pupils. Survivors could still suffer nerve, brain, and liver damage.
German scientists said Sarin, 20 times as deadly as potassium cyanide, ranks as probably the world’s second most lethal chemical after a related gas called Soman.
More than 120,000 tonnes of chemical weapons captured from Nazi Germany were dumped by the British Government at sites in the North Channel, North Atlantic, the Skagerrak and the deep channel approaches to the Western Isles between 1945 and 1956.
The deep water repositories contain drums of Sarin, also known as GB, cyanide, the deadly blistering agent phosgene, and large quantities of mustard gas.
Official documents reveal that many of the dumps used to dispose of sarin between 1945 and 1947 are considerably shallower than the 1000 fathoms judged to be safe by 1956.
The Government remains adamant that the sites pose no threat to fish stocks or human life, despite fears raised by Irish politicians in 1986 of a link with an unusual number of birth defects.
Hundreds of dead birds and sea mammals have also been found, some of which displayed burns similar to those caused by nerve gases.
Two months ago, Greenpeace condemned plans by Highlands and Islands Enterprise to undertake exploratory fishing trials in deep waters off the Western Isles close to one of the dump sites.
Dr Rune Eriksen, a Swedish expert who sits on the Helsinki Committee for Chemical Weapons, said there had been more than 400 cases of Scandinavian fishermen trawling up pieces of solid mustard gas and other chemicals in the Baltic, where weapons were dumped by the Russians.
Many fishermen have been hospitalised and there have also been fatalities.
Dr Paul Johnston of Exeter University said it would only be a matter of time before Scottish fishermen suffer that same fate.
”These weapons are still active and potentially lethal,” he said, ”The drums are corroding and some may have punctured.”
He said chemical changes which may have occurred make Sarin ”even more corrosive and dangerous.
”It would be a triumph of hope over experience if there was not an accident before too long.”
However, he said of greater concern was that yesterday’s attack could give people the impetus to search for the drums of gas.
”It would be a highly dangerous enterprise but the gas could be used on the black market or for terrorist activities,” he warned.
Western Isles MP, Mr Calum MacDonald, said the Government must remain fully aware of the potential danger of the dump sites to fishermen and the general public.
He said he was also extremely concerned that members of the public might be tempted to search for the dumps. ”After what happened in Japan, there is quite an alarming prospect for the future lying off our coast,” he added.
A Greenpeace spokesman said: ”This tragedy in Japan proves how dangerous the gases are. We repeat our call made in January for the Government to conduct an urgent investigation into what exactly has been dumped and then to do something about cleaning it up or making it safe.”

You’ve got a lot of nerve

SteveHouston
Let me introduce you to Steven Houston, or Steve as he likes to be called. Steve is the sort of guy you really don’t want to meet and certainly not trust with your money or possessions. He is a conman.
Six years ago a dear friend of mine was duped by him for over £1,200 plus personal items including a Laptop, half a freezer of her home produced lamb and two expensive sheep skins.
What follows is a piece I wrote for my newspaper in December 2008, but was never allowed to publish. I was told by an inexperienced boss that the story was ‘unsafe’.
That didn’t stop either the Scottish national The Sunday Mail or the Macclesfield Express from publishing it the following week. So this reload has been a long time coming!

A TOP brass RAF officer who stood side by side with veterans at a Remembrance Day service in Wrexham last month is an imposter with a long string of similar deceptions.
Self-proclaimed Air Commodore Steven Houston, 49, donned a UN blue beret, and badges which suggested he served in Afghanistan, and read the service and took the salute at the Remembrance Service in Coedpoeth on Sunday 10 November.
He also lay a poppy wreath with a UN logo at the village’s war memorial.
But, Houston is a confidence trickster who has been sacked from a number of positions in the catering industry and quit a similar job at Chester Zoo just prior to the service.
Houston, who has a home address in West Yorkshire, had been staying in lodgings in Coedpoeth during October and November, where he conned his landlady out of more than £1,200.
A year ago he was sacked as general manager of the Moorpark House Hotel in Kilbirnie, Ayshire in Scotland.
Scottish veterans were suspicious when he turned up to take the salute at the war memorial in Stevenston on Sunday 11 November, 2007. A year earlier he had pulled the same trick at his home village of South Kirkby.
Houston’s phoney medals at Stevenston, South Kirkby and Coedpoeth included the V-shaped Legion badge commemorating the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II.
He also sported a little enamel wing on his jacket, but the proper RAF emblem is an eagle with a crown.
Houston wore a UN beret with a cloth badge worn by officers. He also sported an ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) badge suggesting he had served with NATO in Afghanistan.
Houston bragged openly that he had served in the Falklands, both Gulf Wars, Afghanistan, Northern Ireland and Bosnia and claimed he was also part of an elite group who accompanied Princess Diana’s body back from Paris in 1997.
He even handed out bogus business cards with a UN logo and his fake rank of Air Commodore upon them.
But Houston only served a short stint in the RAF in the 1980s and never progressed beyond the ordinary ranks in the catering corps.
Ian Evans, landlord of the Golden Lion in Coedpoeth and a former soldier with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, said a dozen ex-servicemen accompanied Houston back to his pub for “a few drinks” following this year’s service.
“He wasted no time in boasting about who he was, what he’d done and where he’d been, even before we had our first drink,” said Ian.
“But we immediately became suspicious and started asking him questions he could not answer and then we realised he was an imposter.
“It is an absolute disgrace that someone like him can impersonate a senior officer when we are remembering so many genuine servicemen who lost their lives.”
Sean Griffiths, a former Regimental Sergeant Major with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers was also at the Remembrance Service.
“I didn’t speak with him, but knew he wasn’t ex RAF immediately when I saw the condition of his shoes,” he said.
“The RAF are notoriously well groomed and this guy wasn’t, he was like a tramp.
“I am disgusted he conned the British Legion in this way.”
Mark Edmonds, landlord of the New Inn in Coedpoeth, said Houston befriended him and his regulars for the six weeks he lived near the village.
“On the surface he was a nice chap, but we soon saw through him and underneath he was a deceitful, conniving and scheming man. He even started paying his tab with meat and sheep skins he had stolen from his landlady,” he said. “He needs sorting out and stopping.”
Back in his home village Eddie Robinson, president of the South Kirkby British Legion, said: “I didn’t know he was an imposter until last week. It was quite a shock because he seemed very genuine. He has been into the club since playing pool. He said he had been away on UN business.”
The RAF confirmed that following an investigation, no-one by the name of Steven Houston had ever reached Air Commodore or any similar rank.
A spokeswoman for the UN also confirmed that Houston has no right to wear the uniform or a blue officer’s beret, and that impersonating a UN officer is a serious criminal offence.
A spokesman for the British Legion said: “He is an imposter and his sheer presence at Remembrance services throughout the UK is an insult to all those who gave their lives for us and who we remember.”
When door-stepped at his home by a reporter, a man in dressing gown answered, looked away and said: “Mr Houston doesn’t live here,” before slamming the door closed.

Bowalean Rhapsody

Is this the Rhyl life?
Is this just Rhos on Sea?
Caught on Hay Bluff side,
No escape from Llanfair PG.

Open your eyes,
Look up to Flint skies and see,
I’m just a poor boy, from Abergele,
Because I’m easy come, easy go,
A little high in Ewloe,
Anyway the shit floats from Talacre to the sea, the sea…

Mama, just killed Ifan,
Put him on a train to Holyhead,
Pulled my trigger, now he’s dead.
Mama, he was Alltami scum,
But now I’ve gone and blown his leeks away.

Mama, ooh,
Didn’t mean to take you to Llay,
If I’m not back again this time tomorrow,
Carry on, carry on as if nothing really matters.

Too late, I’m off to Cwm,
Sends shivers down my spine,
Body’s aching all the time.
Goodbye, everybody, I’ve got to go,
Gotta leave you all behind and face Llanwrst.

Mama, ooh (anyway the shit floats),
I really hate Menai
I sometimes wish I’d never been born at all.

I see a little silhouetto of Ifan,
Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you go to Cefn Lido?

In Deeside, storms of lightning
Shotton’s fucking frightening!
(Llandeilo) Llandeilo.
(Llandeilo) Llandeilo,
Llandeilo Llanidloes
Llandudno.

I’m just a poor boy, I went to Llangefni.
He’s just a poor boy from a house in Caerphilly,
Spare him his life from Abergavenny.

Easy come, easy go, will you let me go?
Tredegar! No, we will not let you go. (Let him go!)
Tredegar! We will not let you go. (Let him go!)
Tredegar! We will not let you go. (Let me go!)
Will not let you go. (Let me go!)
Never, never let you go
Never let me go, oh.
No, no, no, no, no, no, no.
Oh, Ystalyfera, Ystalyfera (Ystalyfera, let me go.)
Blaenau Ffestiniog has a devil put aside for me, for me, for me.

So you think you can stone me and take me to Llay?
So you think you can love me and leave me to die?
Oh, Barry, can’t leave me in Buckley,
Just gotta get out, just gotta get right outta here.

(Oh, yeah, oh yeah)

Nothing really matters,
Anyone can see,
Nothing really matters,
Nothing really matters in Kidwelly.

Anyway the shit floats.

(with apologies to Freddie Mercury and Queen)

Brief Encounter #14

Ken Dodd
ken-dodd
ONE of my most pleasant brief encounters tickled my emotions in a way that was totally unexpected.
Exactly 24 years ago, while working as a news reporter for a weekly newspaper in North Wales, I was asked to attend the opening of a new charity shop in Llandudno.
It was also a labour of love because I had been working as a media advisor for the charity concerned: the St David’s Hospice Appeal.
The new shop was being opened by the king of Notty Ash, veteran comedian, singer and entertainer Ken Dodd.
Until that day I never had much time for the buck toothed comic.
The year previously he had been charged with Tax evasion. The subsequent trial revealed that he had very little money in his bank account, having £336,000 in cash stashed in suitcases in his attic. When asked by the judge, “What does a hundred thousand pounds in a suitcase feel like?”, Ken Dodd made his now famous reply: “The notes are very light, M’Lord.”
Dodd was represented by the top QC George Carmen, who in court famously quipped: “Some accountants are comedians, but comedians are never accountants.” The trial lasted three weeks and Ken Dodd was acquitted.
So when he opened the charity shop in North Wales he was rebuilding his reputation at the age of 62.
He had made his career on quick one liners and his bizarre appearance. By 1990 his 1960s stage act was already dated and his humour appeared constantly childish.
So I puzzled why he had been chosen to open the shop. I then discovered that he had recently lost his long-time partner to cancer. He had personally nursed her until the end.
So larger than life, the tatty haired comic appeared. The shop was mobbed by charity workers, fans and local shoppers.
Ken Dodd was impressive. Talking without any notes he held the audience spellbound with quips about his court case and a secret suitcase he has stashed at the back of the shop. Soon ripples of giggles turned to belly laughter before he moved on to the seriousness of the occasion: the need for a dedicated hospice for the terminally ill and dying in North Wales. His demeanour changed as he talked about love and loss and the initial task of raising £300,000.
At the end of his 15 minute talk I found myself applauding with the rest.
Next I asked for a five minute interview for my paper. With a faint smile he agreed immediately and we moved to the back of the shop to talk.
He was modest, gentle and deadly serious as he answered my questions, maintaining eye contact throughout. At the end of the interview he shook my hand warmly and gave me a personally signed copy of his single Footprints in the Sand.
It remains with me today as a memory of thoroughly nice man.

A hard rain’s a gonna fall

During the past three weeks I have republished five of my newspaper articles written while I was working as an investigative journalist in Scotland and North East England. The first looked at the likely governmental conspiracy over the outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease in 2001 another at the secrecy of the Bilderberg organisation, a third was a piece about the top secret Aurora aircraft, the fourth looked at big cats at large in the UK and the last was an investigation into the mysterious death of Scottish Nationalist leader Willie McRae.
Today I reload a piece I wrote in early 1995 about the extent of 40-year cover-up on exposure of British servicemen to A-bomb tests

THE extent of a 40-year cover-up of the radiation exposure suffered by 22,000 servicemen who witnessed Britain’s atom bomb tests in the 1950s has been revealed in a file of de-classified and secret Government documents.
They demonstrate a willingness to ignore or conceal the impact of 21 British nuclear tests between 1952 and 1958 on the part of then Prime Minister Anthony Eden.
When asked to consider the genetic effects of nuclear radiation, Mr Eden says, in a memo dated November 16, 1955: ”A pity, but we cannot help it.”
The documents were passed to The Herald just two days after an English nuclear test victim won his 25-year battle with defence chiefs for a pension following intervention by the High Court, two months after three Scottish victims won a legal breakthrough in the European courts.
Last Friday, the Rev Laurence Deverall, 60 — who was exposed to radiation in the 1956 Maralinga tests in South Australia — won his case for a disability war pension.
Mr Deverall developed cancer in his right leg as a result of the radiation exposure. His leg was amputated in 1970.
Mr Ken McGinley, chairman of the Johnstone-based British Nuclear Test Veterans’ Association, said the case was the first major breakthrough on Government liability.
On January 27, Scots-born US advocate, Mr Ian Anderson, won the first stage regarding admissibility of evidence in a test case before the European Court of Human Rights on behalf of two nuclear test veterans and the 27-year-old daughter of a third Glaswegian victim — all members of the veterans’ association.
Now the file of more than 40 secret and de-classified memorandums passed to The Herald could add weight to hundreds of compensation cases being fought by the veterans’ association on behalf of its 3500 members.

CONSPIRACY theories are easy to wrap around any secret Government activity, and easier for those adversely affected to accept.
But for a Government to conspire knowingly to cause physical harm to 22,000 of its own citizens in the name of science is a more difficult scenario to believe.

The extent of a 40-year cover-up of the radiation exposure suffered by 22,000 servicemen who witnessed Britain’s atom bomb tests between 1952 and 1958, is now being revealed.
A file of secret and declassified official documents has been passed to me just two days after an English nuclear test victim won a 25-year pension battle with defence chiefs, and two months since three Scottish victims won a legal breakthrough in the European courts.
Mr Ken McGinley, the chairman of Johnstone-based British Nuclear Tests Veterans’ Association is damning: ”There has been a cover-up on a massive scale — it is more to do with personal sensitivity than anything else, as many of the Government scientists involved in the tests are still alive, while many of our members who served their country loyally have died or are dying from incurable cancers and other life-threatening diseases.”
The documents speak for themselves:
”We think it likely that the Australians will ask us for filters which have been flown at Mosaic and Buffalo,” said British Government scientist Sir William Penney in a secret memo to Sir Frederick Brundrett at the MoD on December 22, 1955 — five months before the first of the code-named A-Bomb tests took place in the Monte Bello Islands and Maralinga Desert.
”While I am not very keen on giving them samples, I do not see how we can refuse,” continued Sir William. ”I am recommending that, if they ask us, we give them a little piece of the filters, but we wait a few days so that some of the short-lived isotopes have decayed a good deal.”
The extent of the cover-up becomes more apparent in a wired memo from Admiral Brooking at the British Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston to the Australian Government in May 1957.
”May we please have your authority to include the following sentence about Buffalo in the openly published report 1956/57 of the UKAEA: The Australian Safety Committee made a careful check of conditions before and after the firing of every round, and was satisfied that no hazard to the people or stock of Australia was caused by any of the explosions at Monte Bello or Maralinga.”
In 1993, the British Government finally agreed to pay the Australian Government #20m as the first instalment to clean up the radioactive pollution at Maralinga.
A letter from Sir William Penney to Sir Edwin Plowden, of October 1, 1955, refers to the planned tests at Monte Bello the following summer, and says health and safety precautions were fixed for a 25 kiloton blast for ”the first shot” and 80 kilotons at the second.
He adds: ”We do not know exactly what the yield is going to be because the assembly is very different from anything we have tried before.”
As it turned out, the ”first shot” on May 16, 1956, gave a yield of just 15 kilotons, but the second a massive 98 kilotons and, with the winds drifting the fall-out cloud, it was virtually uncontrolled.
Another top-secret memo to the Chiefs of Staff Committee, dated May 20 — seven months after the first atom bomb test at Monte Bello and five months before the second at Emu Field, South Australia — gives evidence of the official intention.
It says: ”The Army must discover the detailed effects of the various types of explosion on equipment, stores, and men with and without various types of protection.”
The complicity is pivotal in one memo dated November 16, 1955, from British Prime Minister Anthony Eden.
Asked to consider the genetic effects of nuclear radiation, Mr Eden says: ”A pity, but we cannot help it.”
Yet the risks to health from radiation exposure were known at the highest level.
In minutes from the Government’s Advisory Council in 1947 on Scientific Policy, Sir Ernest Rock Carling said that resulting injuries from exposure to radiation ”were frequently not traced to radiation since there might be a lag of months or years before the effects were manifest.
”Carelessness might also have serious genetic effects on the population, resulting in sterility or mutations.”
In 1951, the Government warned that: ”Casualties may not become apparent at once. There are at present only two forms of protection against radiation, viz distance and/or some form of shielding.”
The first British nuclear test at Monte Bello took place a year later. For that and 20 further tests, British service personnel stood part-naked or wearing flimsy cotton overalls on beaches and ship decks between five and 11 miles from each blast.