THIS MONTH IT’S already three years since the death of dear Dempsey Heiner, who went to his eternal reward on 16 January 2008. Demspey was a real gem of a man: a scholar and a gentleman, capable of relaying brilliant insights easily and who, at least once, exhibited his skill in the art of the gentlest intellectual rebuke of a presumptuous young intellectual fellow-Catholic (i.e.: yours truly), backed up with a remembered citation of François Mauriac.
Dennis Clinton Graham Heiner was born in New York in 1927 to Robert Graham Heiner and Frances Eliot Cassidy, friends and fellow-travellers of Margaret Sanger, the notorious racial eugenicist & founder of Planned Parenthood. Dempsey’s parents enrolled him at St. Bernard’s, where he was in the same year as George Plimpton, the founder of the Paris Review and twentieth-century embodiment of the gilded amateur. Plimpton (who died in 2003) described Dempsey as “the brightest boy in the class, a genius” and remarked that since leaving school he remained something of an enigma. (more…)
The Catholic philosopher and historian Thomas Molnar died last week in Virginia at eighty-nine years of age, just six days short of reaching his ninetieth year. Born Molnár Tamás in Budapest in 1921, the only son of Sandor and Aranka, Molnar was schooled across the Romanian border in the town of Nagyvárad (Rom.: Oradea) in the Körösvidék, a region often included in Transylvania and an integral part of Hungary until the Treaty of Trianon cleaved it a year before. In 1940 he moved to Belgium to begin his higher education in French, and as a leader in the Catholic student movement he was interned by the German occupiers and sent to Dachau. With the end of hostilities, he returned to Brussels before arriving home in Budapest to witness the gradual Communist takeover of Hungary.
Molnar left for the United States, where he earned his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1950. He frequently contributed to the pages of National Review after its foundation by William F. Buckley in 1955, and his periodic writings were often found in Monde et Vie, Commonweal, Modern Age, Triumph, and other journals. From 1957 to 1967 he taught French & World Literature at Brooklyn College before moving on to become Professor of European Intellectual History at Long Island University. In 1969 he was a visiting professor at Potchefstroom University in the Transvaal. In 1983 he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Mendoza in Argentina while he was a guest professor at Yale. After the fall of the Communist regime in Hungary, he taught at the University of Budapest and at the Catholic University (PPKE). In 1995 he was elevated to the Hungarian Academy of Arts.
While his first book, Bernanos: his political thought and prophecy (1960), was well-received, it was Molnar’s second published work that was arguably his best known. The Decline of the Intellectual (1961) was, in Molnar’s own words, “greeted favorably by conservatives, with respectful puzzlement by the left, and was dismissed by the liberal progressives.” Gallimard began discussions to print a French translation as part of its prominent Idées series, before the publisher’s in-house Marxist Dionys Mascolo vetoed it for its treatment of Marxism not as a utopian ideology. The celebrated & notorious Soviet spy Alger Hiss complimented it in a Village Voice review, but Molnar noted that The Decline of the Intellectual‘s harshest criticism came from liberal Catholic circles. “Obviously,” he wrote, “in that moment’s intellectual climate, they would have preferred a breathless outpouring of Teilhardian enthusiasm.”
The book argued, from a deeply conservative European mindset, that the rise of the intelligentsia during the nineteenth century was tied to its capacity as an agent of bourgeois social change. As the intellectual class increasingly shaped the more democratic, more egalitarian (indeed, more bourgeois) world around it, the intelligentsia’s vitality, so tied to its capability to enact social change (Molnar argued), became self-destructive. The “decline” set in as the intelligentsia searched for alternative methods of social redemption in increasingly extreme fashions (such as nationalism, socialism, communism, fascism, &c.) and led to the intellectuals allying themselves with ideology, which is the surest killer of genuine intellectual and philosophical speculation.
The same year Molnar’s The Future of Education was published with a foreword by Russell Kirk, whose study of American conservative thinkers, The Conservative Mind, was admired by Molnar. Among the many works that followed were Utopia, the perennial heresy (1967), The Counter-Revolution (1969), Nationalism in the Space Age (1971), L’éclipse du sacré : discours et réponses in 1986 with Alain Benoist, and the following year The Pagan Temptation refuting Benoist’s neo-paganism, The Church, Pilgrim of Centuries (1990), and in 1996 Archetypes of Thought and Return to Philosophy. From then until his death, the remainder of his new books have been published in his native Hungarian language.
Molnar and his work have become sadly neglected for the very reasons he detailed in his major work: the overwhelming triumph of ideology over the intellectual sphere. While Russell Kirk defined conservatism as the absence of ideology, modern conservatism in America has become almost completely enveloped by ideology, and the Molnar’s deep, traditional way of thinking — influenced by de Maistre and Maurras — is now met more by silence and ignorance than by direct condemnation.
The triumph of ideology (be it on the left or the right) was aided and abetted, Molnar argued, by a culture dominated by media and telecommunications. “Around 1960,” Professor Molnar wrote later in his life, “the power of the media was not yet what it is today.”
Hardly anybody suspected then that the media would soon become more than a new Ceasar, indeed a demiurge creating its own world, the events therein, the prefabricated comments, countercomments—and silence. … The more I saw of universities and campuses, publishers and journals, newspapers and television, the creation of public opinion, of policies and their outcome, the less I believed in the existence of the freedom of expression where this really mattered for the intellectual/professional establishment. For the time being, I saw more of it in Europe, anyway, than in America: over there, institutions still stood guard over certain freedoms and the conflict of ideas was genuine; over here the democratic consensus swept aside those who objected, and banalized their arguments. The difference became minimal in the course of decades.
Needless to say, the world of American conservatism has been silent in responding to the death of Professor Molnar.
Ideology’s enforced forgetfulness aside, Molnar’s native Hungary renewed its appreciation for him just before his death: last year the Sapientia theological college organised the first conference devoted to his works, which was well-attended and much commented-upon in the Hungarian press. Besides his serious corpus of works, Molnar is survived by his wife Ildiko, his son Eric, his stepson Dr. John Nestler, and his seven grandchildren.
IT’S ONE OF those strange things that I always automatically assume that anyone I know or have had dealings with cannot, by any stretch of the mind, be considered famous or well-known. The falseness of this assumption was made apparent to me when I picked up this week’s Economist after it arrived through the mail slot. As usual, there were a number of fascinating and well-informed articles, on the airlines of the Gulf, on the Colombian election, a special report on South Africa, and more. But then I finally reached the end pages and read the full page obituary of “Martin Gardner, man of letters and numbers,” who died on May 22nd at 95 years of age.
I never met Mr. Gardner but interacted with him several times during my New Criterion days by phone, and good old-fashioned post. He was a regular though not a frequent contributor to the magazine and was singular in that he was the only writer with whom the editor did not have the option of contacting via that nebulous mystery called the world-wide web. It was often, I confess, a source of some frustration that one would have all ones eggs in a row regarding pieces edited and signed off, and then there’d be something to do with Martin Gardner’s work and one would think “Blast! You mean I’ve got to stick this in an envelope to get the final OK?” Of course, when The New Criterion was founded, there was no internet, so there was a time when the whole magazine — indeed when every magazine — was put together via what I called the Martin Gardner method.
This aspect notwithstanding, it was always a pleasure working with Mr. Gardner, who was unfailingly polite over the phone when he would call in with his changes to our edits. It’s one of those inevitable aspects of death that one often discovers more interesting facts about the deceased than one ever knew while he was alive. In Martin Gardner’s case, it’s that this science maven published a number of annotated editions of works by G. K. Chesterton.
Roger Kimball writes of his last contact with Martin Gardner just a short time ago:
I wrote to tell him about the coincidence that a good friend now occupies the house he lived in for decades on Euclid Avenue (how’s that for an appropriate name?) in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York. I discovered this quite by accident. My wife and I were having dinner with a few other people at our friends’ house. I can’t remember Gardner’s name came up, but when it did I mentioned that he had lived for many years in Hastings-on-Hudson. “Yes,” said my friend, “and he lived in this very house.” One of the other couples present also knew Gardner. They recalled the time he invited them, shortly after they had moved to the neighborhood, to his house for drinks. Would it be alright if they brought their young children along, since no baby-sitter was available? Of course, nothing could be more agreeable! They arrived and Gardner proceeded to entertain the children with magic tricks for two hours.
My favourite story, however, is that he once wrote a devastating review of one of his own books and got it published under a pseudonym in the New York Review of Books. While he was a noted contributor to numerous sceptical reviews, he did come to a belief in God late in his life. “His declaration,” The Economist writes, “of this belief caused, he admitted, profound shock to those who knew him only as a sceptic. But there was too much playfulness in Mr Gardner to make him yield entirely to reason. His faith, he said, was based on an “emotional turning of the will”, unsupported by logic or science. It was his way, perhaps, of recognising that mind and man are not synonyms.”
Requiescat in pace.
FREDERIK VAN ZYL SLABBERT, former South African parliamentarian, politician, and briefly chancellor of Stellenbosch university, died last week in Cape Town. ‘Van’, as he was known, was convinced after a night of heavy drinking to stand as a parliamentary candidate for the Progressive Party in 1974 and won a surprise victory in the Rondebosch constituency against the United Party incumbent by 1,600 votes. Within three years he became head of the merged Progressive Federal Party, and became Leader of the Opposition in the House of Assembly in 1979.
Koos van der Merwe, currently Chief Whip of the Inkatha Freedom Party, served in parliament alongside the liberal van Zyl Slabbert while the former was still a member of the Conservative Party. “He was a parliamentarian par excellence,” van der Merwe said after Van’s death, “and I remember how once, in a mere three-minute speech, he practically annihilated P. W. Botha.”
Despite wide acclaim as one of the finest debaters in parliament, van Zyl Slabbert shocked the political establishment in 1986 by resigning because he was convinced that parliament had become irrelevant to the running of the country. His resignation nearly ruined the PFP and frayed van Zyl Slabbert’s relationship with his fellow MP, the late Dame Helen Suzman.
Just a year later he organised the first meetings between members of the banned African National Congress and a group of National Party politicians, Afrikaner academics, and businessmen. In later years he co-founded a black investment trust, was appointed chairman of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, sat on the boards of a number of South African corporations, and worked for the Open Society Foundation. Van Zyl Slabbert was appointed Chancellor of the University of Stellenbosch — for whom he had played rugby as an undergraduate — in 2008 but resigned for health reasons a year later, and was succeeded by Johann Rupert.
Mr. van der Merwe continued:
What amazed me about Van Zyl Slabbert was the depth of his political knowledge and his wisdom. He knew and understood the policies of each political party better than they did themselves. On one occasion, at a seminar in Williamsburg in the U.S.A., I represented the Conservative Party and was confronted with questions I could not answer. I asked to be excused for a few minutes and went to van Van Zyl Slabbert and asked him how I, as a Conservative MP, should answer. He immediately gave me the right answers because he fully understood the views and beliefs of the Conservatives. And for that matter, each and every political party. He was in fact a mobile political library.
When the late Dr Treurnicht’s daughter approached Van Zyl Slabbert for assistance to move to the U.S.A. to marry a black man, Van Zyl Slabbert did not use that information against Treurnicht. At that stage, it was unthinkable for a white Conservative to marry a black man. News of Treurnicht’s daughter marrying a black man would have led to the end of Treurnicht’s political career. Van Zyl Slabbert confidentially told me the story but it never made the headlines. What an honourable man!
His part in the struggle for Afrikaans at Stellenbosch was indeed an eye opener. Where were the Verkramptes? The old Conservatives of which I was a member? Nowhere. The fight for Afrikaans was led by the “liberal jingoes” such as Van Zyl Slabbert, Hermann Giliomee, and Breyten Breytenbach. …
I also never once saw him angry.
Mooi loop, Van Zyl. Koos gaan jou mis.
Requiescat in pace.
Yesterday, in a beautiful sung requiem at St. Agnes, we paid our final respects to our friend Joyce Linton. I had known Joyce for quite some time before I ever actually met her because we tended to sit in the same neighborhood of pews (in the back of the church towards the left) at the 11 o’clock Mass at St Agnes every Sunday. While a schoolteacher by profession, she was also a trained vocal musician, and her voice carried as the congregation belted out our Credos and Glorias. She became known to me as “the Lady with the Voice”, and every so often I would see her making her way towards the church just before 11:00 and, without knowing her name, I would say to myself “That’s the Lady with the Voice”.
Eventually, I got to know Joyce well, and joined the regular tea-drinking crowd of which she was a devoted and prominent member. Vim. Moxie. Determination. Those are the words that come to mind when I think about Joyce, a spirited lady if ever there was one. But she was, also, a woman with a certain style. Think of 1950s New York, swanky, bright, and modern, but still traditional, and never out of date. That was Joyce.
Now, if there was one thing that undoubtedly went along with Joyce’s vim, moxie, and determination, it was that she had an opinion. She enjoyed a vibrant discussion and the interaction of ideas, but she made certain that even if you didn’t happen to share her opinion, you would at least be familiar with it. As it happens, Joyce and I were lucky enough to agree with one another on many things, but by no means all things. More than once did I attempt to refute her position on this, that, or another thing. After the back-and-forth had exhausted itself, she would say, “Well, I don’t think it’s quite as simple as that”, I would shrug my shoulders and say “Perhaps”, and we would sip our tea and rejoin the larger conversation.
She was a woman who was grateful for the graces in her life. She was grateful for the blessings of her family, though it was not without hardships. She was grateful for the magnificent inheritance of centuries of art and culture she was born on the receiving end of. She was a patriot if ever there was one — a proud American, but one with a devoted filial love of Europe, and especially of Italy.
I think the first time Joyce visited Italy was when she did her voice studies in Florence in the 1970s, and she never stopped going back. She had a devotion to Padre Pio and paid her respects to the great saint by pilgrimming to San Giovanni Rotondo. Towards the later years of her life she had a special love and appreciation for summer days spent at Gardone on the shores of Lake Garda, enjoying the intellectual stimulation of the annual summer symposium organized by the Roman Forum. The Italian airs invigorated her Celtic blood and she would return to New York in late summer rejuvenated and refreshed.
She always knew lots of things about New York. You can get great freshly baked bread here. They do a good brunch there. If you really want to do X, then you’ve got to Y at Z on Nth Street. I remember one drizzly November Sunday afternoon Joyce showed me “the best way to cut through Saks” as she and I made our way to the annual Choral Evensong & Flag Service for the Patriotic, Historical, and Hereditary Societies at the Church of St. Thomas, Fifth Avenue.
Joyce loved her job as a high school teacher at Manhattan Center on the Harlem River, just a few doors away from Our Lady of Mount Carmel on 115th Street. Any and all bureaucratic encroachments upon the teaching profession were vociferously opposed by her, and she had an enormous pride when her students did well (especially her girls). Latin was another excuse to spend time in Italy, where she studied the language under the famous Fr. Reggie Foster in Rome. She taught English as well, and was adamant that her students learn important lessons from writers like Orwell and Wilde, rather than a rote set of facts or ideas or quotes. She was always on the lookout for a new way of explaining the old truths to the students in her charge. She loved them, but she also loved her colleagues, and more than once had us praying for this one or that one.
When she was first diagnosed with cancer, many of us prepared ourselves mentally for The End. I think Joyce said to herself “Well I’m not having any of that.” She beat it the first time round (remember what I said about vim, moxie, determination?) to the surprise of many, probably her devoted doctor most of all. She went back to work, and her own hair grew back, allowing her to dispense with the peppy wig she had specially styled. Life, it seemed, returned to normal, for one last Halcyon day before the Hour approached. When the time did appear on the horizon, her descent was rapid. I’m glad I had a chance to see her one last time, surrounded as she was by friends in Lenox Hill Hospital.
Joyce would have loved her requiem, the priest in mournful black trimmed by resplendent gold, acolytes and torch-bearers aiding in the sanctuary, the Dies Irae rising from the choir loft, and those who knew and loved her pleading God’s mercy and quick remission of her earthly transgressions. It was beautiful — as the most beautiful things are — because it pointed towards that Heavenly place from whence our only glories come, where we pray “the Lady with the Voice” will enjoy perpetual light and rest eternal.
In the weekly South African edition of the Telegraph, I came across a brief note marking the death of England’s oldest publican, Flossie Lane of ancient Leintwardine in Herefordshire. From the internet, I find the full version of her obituary, which is reproduced below. The Sun Inn, with its “Aldermen of the Red-Brick Bar” sounds like a splendid haven.
For 74 years she had kept the tiny Sun Inn, the pub where she was born in the pre-Roman village of Leintwardine on the Shropshire-Herefordshire border.
As the area’s last remaining parlour pub, and one of only a handful left in Britain, the Sun is as resolutely old-fashioned and unreconstructed today as it was in the mid-1930s when she and her brother took it over.
According to beer connoisseurs, Flossie Lane’s parlour pub is one of the last five remaining “Classic Pubs” in England, listed by English Heritage for its historical interest, and the only one with five stars, awarded by the Classic Basic Unspoilt Pubs of Great Britain.
She held a licence to sell only beer – there was no hard liquor – and was only recently persuaded to serve wine as a gesture towards modern drinking habits.
With its wooden trestle tables, pictures of whiskery past locals on the walls, alcoves and a roaring open fire, the Sun is listed in the CAMRA Good Beer Guide as “a pub of outstanding national interest”. Although acclaimed as “a proper pub”, it is actually Flossie Lane’s 18th-century vernacular stone cottage, tucked away in a side road opposite the village fire station.
There is no conventional bar, and no counter. Customers sit on hard wooden benches in her unadorned quarry-tiled front room. Beer – formerly Ansell’s, latterly Hobson’s Best at £2 a pint – is served from barrels on Flossie Lane’s kitchen floor. (more…)
RAÚL ALFONSÍN WAS often a stumbling, bumbling leader when he served as President of the Argentine Republic but, in a country of rampant corruption and abuse, his personal integrity was unassailable. It was probably for that reason that Argentines came on to the streets of Buenos Aires in April to mourn the loss of, certainly not the greatest statesman of the country’s history, but at least something simple: an honest man. For more on the late president, see my piece over at InsideCatholic.com. (more…)
Some good Christian soul was kind enough to put most of our friend David Lumsden‘s funeral at St. Mary’s (Catholic) Cathedral in Edinburgh on YouTube. It was the first Latin requiem in the extraordinary form of the Mass held in the Cathedral for many decades — a fact which David would have particularly enjoyed. Of note is the address given by Robin Angus, embedded below, and of course Gerald Warner’s previously mentioned report should not be missed either.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
To Edinburgh yesterday, for a melancholy but magnificent and uplifting occasion: the funeral of David Lumsden of Cushnie, Garioch Pursuivant of Arms, restorer of ancient castles and Jacobite romantic. It was held in the Catholic cathedral where, for the first time since Vatican II, the Latin Tridentine Mass was sung, thanks to the permissive rules of Benedict XVI in his motuproprio Summorum Pontificum.
The coffin was draped in the banners of the Order of Malta and the deceased’s arms, with an heraldic hatchment and the decorations of the orders of chivalry to which he belonged. Knights of Malta and of the Constantinian Order processed behind their banner in mediaeval robes. The congregation was filled with peers, chieftains, lairds and splendid eccentrics, the pews awash with tartan. One of the tail-coated ushers was the grandson of a papal marquis. Robin Angus, whose day job is venture capitalist, dressed in the uniform of a papal Knight of St Sylvester, delivered a moving panegyric.
This occasion was a potent reminder of an alternative Scotland, a different pulse from the vulgar, mean-minded, politically correct clones in the abysmal Scottish parliament at Holyrood. It was shamelessly feudal, aristocratic and colourful. Evelyn Waugh would have loved it; Harriet Harridan would have burst her stays. It was reminiscent of the scene in Waugh’s Sword of Honour when, at the funeral of old Mr Crouchback, the members of ancient Catholic Recusant families murmur their sonorous names while the narrator, parodying a wartime poster, concludes: “Their journey was really necessary.”
At the subsequent reception, Lady Mar, whose personal herald David was and who came top of the ballot for the 92 surviving hereditary peers in the House of Lords, was pointedly addressed by Jacobites as “Your Grace”. This was because, although the British state recognises her as 30th Countess of Mar, her ancestor who led the Jacobite Rising of 1715 was created Duke of Mar by the exiled Stuart King James VIII.
Only a few of these Jacobite peerages created by the Stuarts in exile have heirs today. Now that such hereditary peerages no longer bestow an automatic seat in Parliament, it would be a gracious gesture for the Crown to recognise them and so heal old historical wounds. There is a precedent: Spain has recognised the titles of nobility created by the Carlist claimants in exile – Carlism being the Spanish equivalent of Jacobitism.
The dry-as-dust forms issued by government departments are normally very boring; but the most romantic document available online is issued by the Spanish Ministry of Justice, entitled Solicitud de Titulo Nobiliario por: Rehabilitacion/Reconocimiento de Titulo Carlista. It is the formal application for recognition of a title of nobility conferred by the Carlist kings in exile from 1833 to 1936. David Lumsden of Cushnie (RIP) would have appreciated it.
It was with great sadness that I learned this morning of the death of David Lumsden. He was an exceptionally genial and affable man, and was relied on to provide good company at many events, from balls to Sunday lunches and everything in between. But David was generous not only with his good company but with his patronage, as is attested to by the countless organizations he helped and guided. Here was a man who was generous of spirit. David’s death came very suddenly yesterday afternoon in his hotel room at the annual conference of the 1745 Association, of which he was president. Just last Sunday he had attended the traditional Mass at St. Andrew’s, Ravelston in Edinburgh, where a friend described him as “looking as hale and hearty as ever”.
David Gordon Allen d’Aldecamb Lumsden of Cushnie, sometime Baron of Cushnie-Lumsden, was born on 25 May in 1933 in Quetta, Baluchistan in the Empire of India. He was the son of Henry Gordon Strange Lumsden, a Major in the Royal Scots, of Nocton Hall, Lincolnshire and Sydney Mary, only child of Brigadier-General Charles Allen Elliot.
He was educated at Allhallows, Devon, Bedford School, and at Jesus College, Cambridge before serving in the Territorial Army with the London Scottish while working at British American Tobacco. He was a Knight of the Order of Malta, as well as of the Constantinian Order, and was Patron of the Aboyne Highland Games. David enthusiastically served as Garioch Pursuivant to the Chief of the Name and Arms of Mar (presently Margaret of Mar, the 30th Countess of Mar), one of the four surviving private officers of arms in Scotland recognised by the Court of the Lord Lyon.
Lumsden with friends, at the Aboyne Highland Games.
David co-founded the Castles of Scotland Preservation Trust and the Scottish Historic Organs Trust and was President of the Scottish Military History Society. In addition to his Magister Artium from Cambridge, he was a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. He was on the council of The Admiral the Viscount Keppel Association and was one of the patrons of the famous Russian Summer Ball in London. He was Convenor of the Monarchist League of Scotland and was on the council of the Royal Stuart Society.
In the realm of sport, he was a keen shot and had rowed at Cambridge, in addition to his interest in sailing and riding.
Left: Representing the Royal Stuart Society at the Henry IX commemoration at the Royal Hospital Chelsea. Right: In his capacity as Garioch Pursuivant of Arms, at the XXVIIth International Congress of Genealogical and Heraldic Sciences in 2006.
David had a passion for architecture, and especially that of his native Scotland. Returning in 1970 after a spell in Africa, he undertook the restoration of two family properties: Cushnie House, built in 1688 by Alexander Lumsden and Tillycairn Castle, built in 1540 by Matthew Lumsden. He later went on to restore Leithen Lodge at Innerleithen, an 1880s shooting lodge built in a distinctly Scottish take on the Arts & Crafts tradition. Under the auspices of the Castles of Scotland Preservation Trust, in 1994 he oversaw the restoration of Liberton Tower just south of the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh.
“David was a unique man possessed of an insatiable love of life and learning,” his friend Rafe Heydel-Mankoo said. “He will be deeply missed and fondly remembered by those fortunate enough to have met him.”
“David was at the centre of so many things, and brought together so many different people,” said Lorna Angus, the wife of Robin Angus. “He could bring life to any gathering and he made so many good things possible.”
Robin Angus, meanwhile, said that David Lumsden “personified a world of precious things — things which are imperilled, but which never seemed imperilled when he was there.”
“David no longer visibly with us is unimaginable,” Robin continued. “What his friends must now do is keep the flame, and — as he did — pass it on to others with the same generous wisdom. He was the soul of old Scotland. I hope that, in Heaven, Raeburn will make amends for what the centuries did not allow, and paint his portrait.”
While I wholeheartedly agree with Robin, it must be said that those who were blessed to know David are left with a portrait of him in our hearts and minds far greater than even the brush of Raeburn could achieve.
David Gordon Allen d’Aldecamb Lumsden
“… hold fast to that which is good.”
— 1.Thess 5:21
Requiem aeternum dona eis Domine:
et lux perpetua luceat eis.
Requiescat in pace.
Alexander Isayevich Solzhenitsyn, the most famous Russian writer and historian of our age, has died at eighty-nine years of age. Solzhenitsyn was the earliest to bring first-hand knowledge of the Gulag, the Soviet system of prison colonies and labour camps, to wider Western attention. For this noble task, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1970 and expelled from the Soviet Union four years later, returning in 1994. After the fall of the Soviet regime, he despised Boris Yeltsin’s incompetence, identifying 1998 as the low point of Russia’s recent history. “Yeltsin decreed I be honored the highest state order,” Solzhenitsyn explained. “I replied that I was unable to receive an award from a government that had led Russia into such dire straits.”
He gave cautious support to the presidency of Vladimir Putin, and was pleased that while, in his words, “Moscow is still communist”, there was a growing readiness under Putin to admit (and even broadcast on state television) the crimes and outrages of the Soviet regime.
“Putin inherited a ransacked and bewildered country, with a poor and demoralized people. And he started to do what was possible — a slow and gradual restoration. These efforts were not noticed, nor appreciated, immediately. In any case, one is hard pressed to find examples in history when steps by one country to restore its strength were met favorably by other governments.”
Influenced by his experience in exile in both Switzerland and New England, Solzhenitsyn insisted on the need for local self-government in Russia. “Today I continue to be extremely worried by the slow and inefficient development of local self-government. But it has finally started to take place. In Yeltsin’s time, local self-government was actually barred on the regulatory level, whereas the state’s ‘vertical of power’ (i.e. Putin’s centralized and top-down administration) is delegating more and more decisions to the local population. Unfortunately, this process is still not systematic in character.”
Solzhenitsyn expressed further disappointment with the new Western imperialism being waged against Russia, embodied in the 1999 War against Serbia which turned so many Russian minds against the Western powers they had previously been quite friendly to.
In a recent interview with Der Spiegel, Solzhenitsyn was asked whether he was afraid of death:
“No, I am not afraid of death any more. When I was young the early death of my father cast a shadow over me — he died at the age of 27 — and I was afraid to die before all my literary plans came true. But between 30 and 40 years of age my attitude to death became quite calm and balanced. I feel it is a natural, but no means the final, milestone of one’s existence.”
When the interviewer from Der Spiegel wished him many more years of “creative life”, Solzhenitsyn calmly responded “No, no. Don’t. It’s enough.”
What can one say about Fred Henzer? Fred was a man of some contradictions. The very first time I ever met him, back in high school (it seems eons ago), he tried to beat the living daylights out of me because I had mistaken him for a particular enemy of his. Luckily for me he was restrained by his friends (indeed, my friends) who vouched for me and urged him to forget such an innocent error. I didn’t think much of him and made a mental note not to get involved with such a character. But of course it was hard not to come across Fred often if you were born in 1984 and hung around Bronxville. Our introductory incident was quickly forgotten and we soon became friends (though admittedly never close), mostly because we had friends in common.
Fred was charming without being a cad. It was no doubt why and how, despite his many flaws, he managed in those days to have a girlfriend as pretty and immediately endearing as Alana (who flew across the country to attend his funeral today — her birthday). And while his friends were his friends (and indeed being his friend was something that mattered to Fred), he did have his enemies as well — more out of pride and anger, I think, than out of a genuine hate.
He was an inveterate moocher. Of course the man whom he mooched off of the most was Frank Powers. Frank, without a doubt the most respected and admired man of those our age in Westchester, was probably the best friend he ever had, but as Frank said when once asked of Fred, there’s only so much you can do for a friend.
Fred found some of the slight restrictions the rest of us take for granted quite irritating, and sometimes he in turn became an irritation to others because of it. I remember once driving back from some party or gathering at 2:00 in the morning when we stopped at a red light. Sitting in the passenger seat, he found the red light unbearable and begged me to pass through it, there was no one behind us, nor in front of us, not a single car in sight, he pleaded. No one would notice, it wouldn’t hurt a fly, just run this light! But I was as stubborn as he, and it was not long before it turned green anyhow and he shut up.
But his flaws were always excused, weren’t they? He was Fred after all. In hindsight, there is an obvious and quick temptation to call ourselves to account for his ultimate downfall. Could we have done more for him? Were we too tolerant? Too forgiving? Couldn’t we have somehow intervened? I doubt it. Fred was his own master. He made his own decisions; he made good ones and he made poor ones, but they were his. As Frank (who would know more than anyone else) said, there’s only so much you can do.
His end did not come as a surprise to those who knew him, but this does not negate the tragedy of his death, and indeed his life. We must restrain ourselves from romanticizing the life and death of an addict. It was undignified. Fred was a human being — a son, a brother, a friend — he deserved better. It is saddening that someone as vivacious and lively and indeed loving as Fred did not have enough of that most necessary love, the love of life, to keep himself in order and his bad habits in check.
What has he left us in this world? Bits of laughter and hilarity, some very amusing times, moments of lightness and indeed even wit, too many to even attempt to record here. These may sound like light and ephemeral things, but there was an underlying goodness to Fred that animated them, and it is that underlying goodness that I hope we will all recall in years to come when our minds turn back to the man we used to know, Fred Henzer.
We will remember him.
Requiem aeternum dona eis Domine:
et lux perpetua luceat eis.
Requiescat in pace.
Philipp Freiherr (Baron) von Boeselager, the last surviving member of the conspiracy of anti-Nazi German officers, has died at 90 years of age. The freiherr‘s background and upbringing were distinctly Catholic. The Boeselagers are a Rhenish family with Saxon origins in Magdeburg. Philipp was the fourth of eight children and was educated by the Jesuits at Bad Godesborg. His grandfather had been officially censured by the Imperial German goverment for publically taking part in a Catholic religious procession.
Boeselager had most intimately been involved in the March 1943 plot to assasinate Hitler and Himmler when the the Fuhrer and the SS head were visiting Field Marshal Günther von Kluge on the Eastern Front. Boeselager, then a 25-year-old cavalry lieutenant under the Field Marshal’s command, was to shoot both Hitler and Himmler in the officers mess with a Walther PP. Himmler, however, neglected to accompany Hitler and so the Field Marshal ordered Boeselager to abort the attempt fearing that Himmler would take over in the event of Hitler’s death, changing nothing.
«It was clear that these orders came from the top: I realised I lived in a criminal state. It was horrible. We wanted to end the war and free the concentration camps.»
Boeselager later procured the explosives for the famous July 1944 plot (the subject of the upcoming film “Valkyrie“), under the cover of being part of an explosives research team. He handed a suitcase with the explosives on to another conspirator. When the bomb exploded in Hitler’s conference room, Boeselager and his 1,000-man cavalry unit made an astonishing 120-mile retreat in under 36 hours to reach an airfield in western Russia from where the aristocrat would fly to Berlin to join the other conspirators.
At the airfield, however, he received a message from his brother (Georg von Boeselager, a fellow cavalry officer who was repeatedly awarded for his consistent bravery on the battlefield) saying “All back into the old holes”, the code signifying the failure of the coup. Even more astonishingly than his swift retreat was his return, with his unit, to the front quickly enough not to raise any eyebrows. As a result, he was not known to be part of the conspiracy and escaped the gruesome tortures and executions dealt to many of his fellow conspirators.
After the war, his role in the plot was revealed and Philipp von Boeselager was awarded the Legion d’honneur by France and the Great Cross of Merit by West Germany. He joined the Order of Malta in 1946, eventually co-founding Malteser Hilfdienst, the medical operation of the German knights of the Order, and helping coordinate German pilgrimages to Lourdes.
The greater part of his post-war years was spent in forestry, and Boeselager served as head of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Deutscher Waldbesitzerverbände (the coordinating body of private and cooperative forest-owners) from 1968 to 1988. Coincidentally, he was succeeded in that post by Franz Ludwig Schenk Count von Stauffenberg, the son of the July ’44 plot mastermind.
The Rt. Hon. Ian Douglas Smith, who died on November 20 (the same day as Franco), was born on April 8, 1919 in the farming and mining town of Selukwe, Rhodesia. The youngest of three children, his father was a Scottish butcher who moved to Rhodesia and became a cattle rancher and horse breeder. Smith attended the Chaplin School in Gwelo from 1930 to 1937, becoming Head Boy, as well as Captain of Rugby, Cricket, Athletics, Tennis, and Boxing.
In 1939, Great Britain declared war on Germany, and Ian Smith left the family farm to join the Royal Air Force. Commissioned a Lieutenant in 237 (Rhodesia) Squadron, a crash in North Africa in 1943 injured him so gravely that his face had to be reconstructed, giving him a very fixed look on one side of his face. In July 1944, he was shot down over Italy and evaded capture, linking up with Italian partisan guerrillas and eventually escaping to England to rejoin the RAF.
He returned to Rhodesia after the war, and in 1948 married Janet Watt, a widow with two children, Robert and Jean, with their own son Alex born a year later. In 1948, Smith also ran in the general election for the Legislative Assembly as a candidate for the Liberal Party (a party that was, as Lord Blake wrote in his History of Rhodesia, “in accordance with the Rhodesian tradition of adopting the most misleading political nomenclature possible”).
“I was the youngest person ever to go into the Rhodesian parliament. I was twenty-nine years old. It so happened that in my little home town of Selukwe, which is a big mining camp, there were people who said ‘Look, surely you don’t expect us to vote for this chap Ian Smith. We remember him when he was in junior school here! And now you’re asking me to accept him as my Member of Parliament?’ Well it so happened that a few of my colleagues in the pub at the same time when the nominations had gone forward said ‘You know, when he decided to go to fight the war for Britain, and that was a number of years ago, you didn’t complain then, did you? What’s your case now?’ Well obviously they did not have a case and that pretty quickly scotched that one!”
In 1964, Prime Minister Winston Field resigned after the members of his party, the Rhodesian Front, felt he was unwilling to take on Britain in the fight for Rhodesian independence. (The British government was unwilling to grant Rhodesia dominion status unless a system of one-man, one-vote was instituted, a prospect considered anathema to Rhodesia’s property-based electorate). Ian Smith, a member of the Rhodesian Front, was chosen to succeed Field as Prime Minister. A year later, in November 1965, Prime Minister Smith and the cabinet declared independence from Great Britain. “We have struck a blow,” Smith told Rhodesia that day, “for the preservation of justice, civilization, and Christianity.” The Declaration of Independence was signed and enacted at 11:00 London time, on November 11 — Remembrance Day — a time particularly chosen to remind Britain of the great sacrifices the people of Rhodesia had made to preserve Britain’s independence in two world wars.
Smith led Rhodesia as Prime Minister for the next fifteen years, continuing the battle against the Communist terrorists whose ferocity only grew with each passing year. The economic sanctions leveled against Rhodesia by the United Nations had the reverse effect of encouraging internal investment and sparking a boom in the Rhodesian economy. The sanctions-busting smuggling of oil was the most difficult aspect of sanctions economically. But the governments of South Africa (then under apartheid) and Portuguese Moçambique (ruled by the Catholic dictator Antonio Salazar), while refusing to officially recognize Rhodesia were helpful in ensuring that the sanctions and embargo could be ignored.
For over ten years Rhodesia prospered, but towards the end of the 1970s, things began to change. Portugal’s Salazar, who had been on such friendly terms with Smith, died in 1970, and Moçambique became independent in 1975 and immediately became a one-party state ruled by the Soviet-backed FRELIMO. While Rhodesia, South Africa, and the United States backed the RENAMO resistance movement in Moçambique, the Communist control of the important port of Lourenço Marques (now Maputo) made breaking the oil embargo much more difficult. Furthermore, South African Prime Minister John Vorster started a policy of engagement with that country’s independent black-ruled neighbors in contrast to the previous policy of isolation. Wooing these countries, however, meant giving the cold shoulder to Rhodesia, and South African economic help trailed off.
Smith soon saw that the only way to prevent Rhodesia falling into the hands of the Communists was to compromise with the country’s non-violent Black moderates, chief among them Methodist Bishop Abel Muzorewa. An agreement was worked out whereby power, once held by the overwhelmingly (but not completely) white property-qualified electorate, would now be shared by white and black Rhodesians alike. There would be an Assembly of 100 members: 72 elected by the non-racial common roll (i.e. universal adult suffrage), 20 elected from the non-racial property role (previously the only electorate, in which voters had to own a certain level of property), and the remaining 8 reserved for white members who would be selected by 92 elected members. A Senate would exist as an upper house: 10 members elected by the lower house, 5 members elected by the Mashonaland council of chiefs, 5 members elected by the Matabeleland council of chiefs, and the remaining members appointed by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister.
In 1979, under the new settlement, a general election was held which international observers had confirmed as free and fair. Bishop Muzorewa and his moderate nationalist UANC party gained a majority of seats in the Assembly and so formed the government. Muzorewa became Prime Minister, and changed the name of the country to Zimbabwe-Rhodesia. Out of respect for the old leader and to include whites in the new government, Ian Smith was included in the Cabinet, though only as a Minister-without-portfolio.
The war against the Communists continued, albeit now under black leadership, but remarkably the international community refused to accept the compromise settlement and declined to recognize the new Republic of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia. Neither sanctions nor the oil embargo were lifted and thus the country still suffered an energy crisis. The British government under Thatcher forced Muzorewa to the bargaining table. Thatcher invited both Muzorewa and the Communist guerrillas (the Patriotic Front under Robert Mugabe) to participate in roundtable talks in London at Lancaster House.
It was agreed that Zimbabwe-Rhodesia would revert to its previous role as a British colony while elections could be held which were not restricted to non-violent parties. In exchange for being allowed to participate in these elections, the Patriotic Front agreed to abide by a cease-fire agreement, to renounce the use of force for political ends, to campaign peacefully and without intimidation, and to accept the outcome of the election. The black moderates and whites were assured that, should any party violate these strictures the Governor was bound to forbid them from standing in the elections. Predictably, Mugabe’s guerrillas did not abide by a cease-fire, but engaged upon an active campaign of violent intimidation of the electorate. The British turned a blind eye, hoping to hold the elections and then “get out of Dodge” as soon as possible, handing over power to the victor.
Mugabe was declared the victor by a landslide and the rest is history.
THE DEATH OF Ian Smith struck me in particular as he was always a sort of hero to me. (I will always remember having his picture on my wall during my university days). He steered Rhodesia clear of both the stagnant racialist waters of South African-style apartheid as well as the destructive materialist waters of Communism and embraced a common-sense approach the chief aim of which was the preservation and advancement of peace and prosperity for the greatest number of Rhodesians. His deep love of his country was obvious, as he devoted his entire life to its service. But most of all, from all quarters, Ian Smith is continually hailed as a gentleman, and gentlemen are fewer and fewer in the realm of politics these days.
May God in His mercy grant eternal rest to the soul of Ian Douglas Smith, and may perpetual light shine upon him. Amen.
THE FOLLOWING ARE remembrances of Ian Smith which had been left on various internet sites and Facebook groups dedicated to him. I think these words speak for themselves.
“Gosh it was only yesterday that my friend visited us in Salisbury/Harare from England and wanting to impress her I drove up to the Smiths’ house and knocked at the door. Janet answered and asked us in and when Ian arrived home my friend almost choked on her apple pie! They made us so welcome and even let us take photographs which, alas, I do not have copies of any more. Our afternoon tea turned into dinner too and Ian promised to look up my friend in London if he was ever in the country. Unfortunately, it never happened, and my dear friend passed away three years ago, but she retold the story of her visit to all who would listen and was one of Mr. Smith’s strongest U.K. supporters. She wrote many a letter to the Times telling all and sundry what a lovely man he was and how he really cared for his countrymen and women — no matter their colour. Rest in peace, Mr. Smith, you fought the good fight and deserve to be remembered.” — Stephanie Murphy
“When I was little, my dad ran State House in Bulawayo and we lived in a lovely cottage in the grounds. Whenever Ian Smith was visiting my dad would let me go over to say hello and he would sit me on his lap in the lounge called the Blue Room and read me stories. I still remember my dad on a mad hunt for his precious ‘Parker Pen’. Turned out I had wrapped it in toilet paper and gave it to Mr. Smith as a present. I was only about five years old, so of course I was forgiven and Mr. Smith got to keep the pen. He was an amazing man and will be mourned by anyone who knew him or wished they had. May he rest in peace.” — Lynda Taylan
“R.I.P. – and thank you for always making the time to speak to my dad at various cattle sales. It meant so much to him.” — Elizabeth Thomas
“What a legend. During the talks on HMS Tiger & HMS Fearless in Gibraltar, Harold Wilson tried to humiliate and degrade Ian Smith, by billeting him with the ‘lowest form of life’ onboard ship: the seamen. As the Senior Petty Officer said to Ian Smith in their wardroom when making a toast to him before dinner one night, ‘There are 265 officers and crew onboard ship – including you, sir, 264 support you, sir.‘ That sums up the man. Africa is poorer without you. Rest In peace ‘Uncle Ian’.” — George Parkes
“It was because of Ian Smith that guys like me joined the army, we were proud to fight and die for him and given the chance would do it again without thinking. One of my proudest moments was meeting Ian Smith whilst serving in Rhodesian Light Infantry. We will never forget the man.” — ‘gombie’
“As a child I met Ian and Janet a few times, and they both made a great impression on me. My parents and I spent time with them during a visit to Portugal and I remember what a gentleman Ian Smith was. I won’t forget his kindness to my mother and I when my Dad died so many years ago. May he rest in peace.” — Tracy Chittenden (née Burt)
“I met him personally at New Sarum many years later and then in more recent years enjoyed chats with him at the RAFA in Harare. He always remembered me. He was the most honourable politician in modern history and I was proud to serve in his armed forces. … We will never forget him.” — Dave MacKay
“In the mid-1990s I came across Mr. Smith in the Newlands Bookstore and had a short chat with him. Upon leaving he was recognised and the whole square filled with people cheering him. There were a few whites, but over a hundred black folk were leading this genuine, impromptu display of affection and appreciation. Businessmen and shop workers left the buildings and banks, joining the garage attendants, waiters, policemen, and others. Business stopped as people came together to join the excitement. Mr. Smith waved, thanked everyone and humbly walked around to his car. Even at that time in Zimbabwe, he was able to inspire hope and respect from all there; as well as a sense of loss. These are the kinds of memories and feelings we will keep in his memory. He will always inspire the best in us.” — ‘DanaDonn’
“A Prime Minister who was so down to earth that he stopped, saluted, and then spoke to my little boy, who was waiting at the airfield in Gwelo with his father one day many years ago. … That little boy is now 38 and, though only about four years old at the time, recalls that day with great pride and remembers that the Hon. Ian Douglas Smith, Prime Minister of Rhodesia, had saluted him as he was wearing a little jacket with his father’s old rank stripes sewn on the sleeve.” — Margaret Roberts
“I had the honor to meet with Ian and Janet Smith at their home in Harare and here in the United States. Janet walked my legs off in Washington D.C.! She was such an exuberant woman and so vivacious. I loved her immediately and have great memories of her. I remember having to show her how to order Room Service while Mr. Smith sat chuckling in the next room.
“Their humor was quite unexpected and totally captivating. When I first arrived at their home in Harare, they both made a great big deal about me having my first African meal and how they had made it so special for me. I had visions of crocodile, or elephant on a splendid tray… After we were seated at the table, a large covered tray was brought in and I braced myself to exclaim with delight at whatever it may be. With a flourish, Mr. Smith whipped off the cover and low and behold there was… a pizza!
“Such humble, real, absolutely great people. Mr. Smith actually taught me how to brew tea ‘the proper way’ when he visited us. I am so blessed and honored to have spent time with them.” — ‘cathi575′
“My family and I had the privilege of having lunch with Ian Smith. What a man: every word he spoke, you could tell he was a man of serious consequence and a natural leader. … I will never forget the day. R.I.P. Sir.” — Daniel Russell
“Ndimi mukuruwemauto. Ndimi mutungamire wedu waiva ne moyo mukuru, pfungwa dzaishamisa chose, ne njere kutonga vanhu venyika nerudo rakakosha. // You are a supreme warrior. You are our leader who had a big heart, amazing insight, and wisdom to lead the people of the country with loving compassion” — Bud Jackson
“A man who was tough but fair. He will be missed by many people around the world, but mostly by a huge number of people in Zimbabwe. Remembered with love and respect. R.I.P.” — Penny Campbell-Myhill
“I never actually met Ian Smith but I feel like he was a father to all of us in some way, thats the way he made every one feel. He was a good man and he will be missed by all. I write this with a lump in my throat cause I miss home. May you rest in peace, father of our nation.” — Dean Evans
“I had the opportunity to meet Smith when I represented Australia as part of the Commonwealth Observer Group for the Zimbabwean elections in 2000. I found his address in Harare, caught a taxi and found the gate wide open. He came to the door himself, made some tea and we chatted for an hour about his life and his leadership of the Rhodesian Front (where clearly some elements were much more reactionary than he was), his dealings with British prime minister Harold Wilson, and his relationship with Mugabe which, early on, had been unexpectedly productive.
“When I shook his hand, I felt I had touched the hand of history _ a modest, intelligent man, a farmer, a reluctant politician, a shot-down World War II fighter pilot, and a person who had done his duty and left his little country in marvelous shape.
“I caution against being harsh on Ian Smith. I feel privileged to have met him, and my view was backed by the respect given him by many black Africans. That is why his safety was secure while all around him, Mugabe and his cronies trashed a country.” — Australian Senator Sandy Macdonald
“Hamba Kuhle Baba, I never knew you, I don’t agree with all that you did, but you have helped shape me, and who I am, and, like any Ndebele, I admire a person who stands for what they believe in, even if it is to the ire of others. Rest in Peace, I only wish I could have met you.” — P.J. Mitchell
“Rest In Peace, Mr. Smith. And please pray for your country from up there. It still needs you…” — Matt Du Sart
From the Australian and the Sunday Times of London, I decided to excerpt these two articles to give our readers a better glimpse at Ian Smith, the man. (All boldface is mine).
From Graham Davis, writing in the Australian, 22 November 2007.
A few streets away at the palatial State House, where Smith used to live, his old nemesis, ‘Comrade President’ Robert Mugabe, was obliged to surround himself with tanks for protection against a seething populace. Yet here was the ageing warhorse of the outvoted white minority not only undefended but totally open to anyone passing by. And come in they did. […]
‘Every day, people come to me because things are so bad and they’ve nowhere to turn,’ he said. ‘I do what I can, which is unfortunately not much.’ […]
Later, I called on a senior veteran of the independence struggle, James Chikerema, to ask him why so many blacks I’d met agreed with Smith that their lives were better under his regime than under Mugabe.
‘To a certain extent, he’s right,’ said Chikerema, who fell out with the regime when Mugabe sooled his North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade on his political opponents in Matabeleland in the early 1980s. Perhaps 35,000 people were massacred.
‘During Smith’s time, the police did their work professionally but now they’re totally corrupt. It’s a terrible indictment of Mugabe that ordinary people felt safer under Smith than they do now,’ Chikerama ventured. […]
His home happened to be next door to the Cuban embassy and I wondered how he got on with his revolutionary neighbours. Cuba, after all, had sent thousands of troops to Africa to help in the liberation struggle and time was when Fidel Castro’s lieutenants would have seen it as their patriotic duty to eliminate Smith.
“I get on very well with my Cuban friends,” said the old man. “From time to time, they actually pass me cigars through the fence.”
“So the old saying about the only good commie being a dead commie doesn’t apply when they live next door?” I joked.
“Well I know some communists who are better than a lot of so-called capitalists in this free world, so let’s treat people on merit,” Smith replied.”
From R.W. Johnson, writing in the Sunday Times of London, 25 November 2007.
As Mugabe’s regime became steeped in blood and violence, Africans of all persuasions flocked to Smith’s house to consult him. The (all black) student body of Zimbabwe University gave him a standing ovation for his ringing condemnation of “the gangsters”, as he always called Mugabe’s corrupt ruling mafia.
Visiting him at his house in Harare (next to the Cuban embassy, the hammer and sickle flying) I marvelled at the fact that, after the death of his wife Janet, he lived alone with just a cook and minimal security. When he walked the streets of Harare, Africans would almost queue up to grasp his hand and wish him well. How could this be? […]
Paul Themba Nyathi, a leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, who had fought Smith’s regime tooth and nail, told me that in retrospect Smith’s Rhodesia had been “a paradise”.
In material terms that was certainly true: everything then was better for Africans than it is now – education, healthcare, standard of living, life expectancy and employment. But as people saw Mugabe cloistered behind high walls and Kalashnik-ov-toting guards, venturing out only in armoured cars and vast militarised motorcades, they also remembered how Smith had lived a simple, unguarded life.
When he needed to travel abroad he drove himself unescorted to the airport, parked his car and carried his own bag. Just before the last presidential election in 2002, Smith said to me: “If Mugabe and I walk together into a black township, only one of us will come out alive. I’m ready to put that to the test right now. He’s not.”
I never understood the Smith phenomenon properly until I attended the launch of his book, The Great Betrayal, in Durban in 1997. I’d been unsure about going, not wanting to be taken for someone applauding an old white supremacist, but I needn’t have worried. It was a family occasion for old Rhodies and I wasn’t part of the family.
Transparently, they all loved him, hung on his words as he talked about what a fine country Rhodesia had been, how it had been fully worth the fight. As people queued for him to sign their copies you could see big men shaking with tears. “They’re stateless, you see,” an old Rhodie said. “They belong to a country which no longer exists. They’re lost. We all are.”
I was left wondering, why do no South Africans feel like that? For the strange fact is that even people who were hidebound Afrikaner nationalists evince no nostalgia for their old leaders or for the apartheid period, which is now seen as having led the country into a disastrous cul-de-sac.
A month ago I had to meet a high-ranking Afrikaner policeman, a man of the old regime if ever there was one. He insisted we meet in his new home, an ex-serviceman’s “shell-hole”. There on the walls were pictures of the motorcycle escort for the 1947 royal visit, of a youthful Ian Smith, of Hurricanes, Spitfires, Lan-casters and of Jan Smuts.
Amazed, I asked what of Malan, Strijdom, Verwoerd? His opinions were unprintable. But why Smuts? Afrikaner nationalists always saw him as a sellout to the English. “He was a fighter, he was a general. In the backroom we’ve got the other Boer generals, De La Rey, Louis Botha and Kruger. All fighters, like Ian Smith. Not sellouts like De Klerk.”
Thus is collective memory reformulated. For black and white alike, Smith is now seen as someone who fought in the last ditch for “white civilisation” and, given how things have turned out, it’s difficult not to respect his fight. […]
His time with the partisans meant he spoke fluent Italian, loved opera and could quote great reams of Shakespeare. […]
When Mugabe gained power in 1980, Smith abandoned all his previous feelings about the man and rolled up every day at Government House to offer his help. He had, after all, run the country and economy surprisingly well in the face of tough international sanctions. He was incorruptible, the country he handed over was in good shape. The only thing that mattered now, he said, was to make a success of the new Zimbabwe.
Mugabe was delighted to accept his help and the two men worked happily together for some time until one day Mugabe announced plans for sweeping nationalisation. Smith told him bluntly he thought this a mistake. Their cooperation ended on the spot. Mugabe, furious at being contradicted, never spoke to him again. From time to time Mugabe made threatening noises, suggesting Smith ought to be locked up and “punished” for his opposition, but Smith’s attitude was contemptuous: “I’d like to see him try.” He never did.
When Smith’s delegation met Harold Wilson’s in their long and fruitless talks, observers were struck by the fact that the white Rhodesians were all older men who had fought for Britain in the war, tough guys who thought their opposite numbers naive. Wilson was taken aback and railed at him as a “tinpot dictator”.
Smith turned his back on him in a long silence before replying: “Look here, Harold, if you and I are to get on you can’t talk to me like that.” It was Wilson who had to retreat. […]
Interviewing Smith in the sitting room of his Harare home a few years ago, I was reminded of how the French left-wing intellectual Régis Debray described being sent by François Mitterrand on a mission to Hanoi. The communist leaders welcomed him with open arms and poured out their devotion to France – but, to his embarrassment, it was the France of Jean Jaurès and Victor Hugo, bearing almost no relationship to the urbane Paris of the 1980s that he had just left.
It was the same with Smith. He had, he told me, been bitterly disappointed by the Britain he had encountered in the permissive 1960s, but he’d just been to London for an RAF reunion and he’d been to the last night of the Proms. “And, my goodness, to see some of those young people sing Land of Hope and Glory – why, I think they have the spirit I thought was gone. Such fine young people, it will all come again, they’ll carry it on,” his bony old hands making emphatic gestures of enthusiasm as he spoke.
I was very saddened to hear this morning of the sudden death of our good and loyal friend, Walter Phelan of Brooklyn. Walter was a good man, with a heart of gold, and a brilliant mind. He taught himself the law, and passed the New York bar exams in the years before at least a year in law school was required (a development which Walter would’ve been the first to tell you was an outright racket). I have no doubt that Walter will be remembered for his numerous small kindnesses. Proud of his favorite Italian bakery, he would hand out loaves of bread from there every Sunday on the sidewalk outside St. Agnes after the 11:00 Tridentine mass. Having a gift for languages, he would often exchange a few kind words with the Polish waitress in her native tongue whenever we had lunch at Bloom’s on Lexington, and he made sure to tutor his young nephew in Latin when he discovered it wasn’t offered at school.
One of the things I liked most about Walter is that he was never afraid to have a good argument. More often than not, he and I found ourselves in agreement, but it was sometimes otherwise, such as with his firm contention that Shakespeare’s plays were actually written by the Earl of Oxford. Nonetheless, he was polite and gracious in dispute, even if outspoken. Still, he was a private man, and as a friend said of him tonight, it would probably take five of his friends who’d never known eachother to piece together the story of his life. Walter heard mass three times a day, and could often be found attending masses at St. Agnes on 43rd Street, at St. Vincent de Paul’s on 24th, and at St. George’s Ukrainian Catholic Church down on 7th Street. Earnest in his desire for the salvation of souls and their eternal repose, he never missed the monthly mass of the New York Purgatorial Society. His friends will miss him very much.
Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis.
Requiescat in pace. Amen.
Oriana Fallaci, that indomitable and cantankerous Italian, has finally succumbed to cancer in her native land. When she first learnt of her cancer years ago, she kept smoking and refused to treat it because she had “too much writing to do”. Later, when it became difficult to eat solid foods, she drank champagne instead. Her 1972 interview with Henry Kissinger was described by him as “the single most disastrous conversation I have ever had with any member of the press”.
While an ardent leftist, she was an unrepentant foe of what she saw as the Islamic colonization of Europe. Her diatribes against the Muslim immigrants who habitually pissed on the walls of Florence cathedral earned her the ire of many, and legal proceedings were initiated against her in France. The liberal commentator Christopher Hitchens described her work as “an example of how not to write about Islam”. She began writing her infamous The Rage and the Pride, a book teeming with passion and righteous indignation, on September 11, 2001 at her home in New York.
Fallaci said she felt encouraged when Cardinal Ratzinger, another thinker who warned against Western self-loathing, was elected pope. “I feel less alone when I read the books of Ratzinger,” she wrote. The Telegraph reports that the Holy Father granted her a private audience a number of months ago, on the condition that never disclose its contents.
Oriana Fallaci will be buried tommorrow in the family tomb in the Protestant Cemetery in Florence. There will be no funeral; I hope a priest will say a mass for the repose of her soul.