Monthly Archives: May 2013

Ainsley Harriott – our Patron – his Career

ainsley_smrAinsley Harriott trained at the Westminster College of Catering. For our cricketing enthusiasts’ information, Ainsley was Head Chef at Lord’s Cricket Ground’s Long Room. On the London scene he has been associated with the Dorchester, Brown’s, the Hilton, the Westbury, Café Pelican and Quaglino’s. 

In 2000 he had his own television show in the USA. This ran for 100 episodes. However, many of us have been fans of the long-running BBC television show Ready Steady Cook which he presented. One of the regular chefs featuring successfully on this programme with Ainsley was Lesley Waters, who is resident here in Dorset running her own cookery school near Bridport. Apparently Lesley is a fan of Thomas Hardy’s novels! 

When looking for a Society patron, our Secretary approached Ainsley Harriott, as she recalled his 2008 appearance on the TV programme, Who do you think you are? Ainsley had set out on the genealogy trail knowing that he had slave ancestors. What this programme revealed was that he also had a white sugar baron ancestor who had recognised the child and handed on the family name of Harriott.

 We are grateful for Ainsley letting us use his name as our patron and for his good will message to the Society: “Thank you for bringing important history to people’s attention…we still all need to know”.

The Mayor Making Ceremony at Weymouth, 2013 – and a little History


Cllr Ray Banham, Mayor of Weymouth and Hon. President of the Thomas Fowell Buxton Society

On Thursday, my wife and I, were invited to attend the ‘Mayor making Ceremony’ at the Pavilion Theatre Weymouth, when Councillor Ray Banham was elected as this year’s Mayor of Weymouth. The Thomas Fowell buxton society has a special interest because all the Mayors since the Society was inaugurated in 2010 have consented to be our Honorary President.

As deputy Mayor, Ray had attended our AGM in February and kindly took the Chair for the afternoon.

In Mayor Banham’s inaugural speech, he mentioned that the office of Mayor was instituted in 1571 by Queen Elizabeth. As I was not taking notes, I wanted to make sure that I had heard correctly, and therefore decided to do some googling about Weymouth’s history. Sure enough, google found a book by an Nineteenth Century Antiquarian “The History and antiquities of the Borough and Town of Weymouth” by George Alfred Ellis 1829, and I was able to scan through the pages and locate the event 1st June 1571.

The boroughs of Weymouth and Melcombe Regis facing each other across the harbour had been so long at loggerheads, complaining to Parliament that the Queen decided to sort it all out by combining them into a single unit. Bernard Maior, was the first Mayor and Cllr Ray Banham is his 430th successor!

In this same history book, there is an account of our hero TFB and his election to Parliament in 1826. (Recall that he had first been elected in 1818 and by 1823 he was leading the anti-slavery movement. This election was important to him and the cause.) This was a stormy election – with armed mobs roaming the town and the  Military called out to keep the King’s peace. The account states:

The military conducted themselves with great degree of forbearance, though provoked by repeated acts of imprudence; the chief magistrate was knocked down, the hall taken by storm, polling books destroyed, and the poll closed by force and arms. The town itself though protected by the military who scoured the streets, and by an extra number of the posse commitatus  hired at 5s. per day, was a scene of wild anarchy riot and confusion, for such were the horrid contests that ensued that nearly betokened a civil war; neither did the close of the poll arrest the irascibility of the malevolent passions excited! Legal proceedings were instituted at the County hall, pecuniary compensations were awarded and several of the most active were incarcerated in the county gaol.” 

After everything had settled down the votes for the candidates were as follows:

T. F. Buxton, Esq.                   248

Colonel Gordon                      189

Rt. Hon. Thos. Wallace           177

Masterton Ure Esq.                 170

J. W. Farrer, Esq.                    153

So Buxton and Gordon, Wallace and Ure were returned as members for Weymouth. This was before the parliamentary reform act when Weymouth returned 4 members to Parliament.



The Agony of the Bangladesh Garment Workers and their Families

The horror of the collapsed building in Bangladesh, with now over 700 dead (and the death toll possibly rising to 1400), has brought into sharp focus the plight of workers in the Far East, who supply the goods that are on sale in the West  at rock bottom prices. Primark and Matalan retail these goods in the UK.

Some years ago, I was invited to Odense Shipyard in Denmark to witness the launch (or the Scandinavians say – ‘Christening’) of a very large container carrier, the Svend Maersk. Glenys Kinnock, then MEP was the lady sponsor and in her speech she praised the technology that enabled cheap ocean transport, to the benefit as she said of workers in the Far East as their products could be delivered to market at a competitive rate.

In the conversations at the after launch luncheon, it was mentioned that the trainers (the footwear of choice in people of all ages except fogies like myself) could be produced in the Far East for pennies yet sold in the UK at £60-£70.

I accepted the hype that this was good for the workers without thinking too deeply about it, but of course this all depends on the good will of the owners to pay fair wages and provide safe working conditions. .

This tragedy brings home that in the developing world, there are few checks and balances to curb rapacious owners. Governments promise change but it proceeds at glacial pace. It seems that only if the retailers in the West who buy the products and sell them at a profit take steps to demand better working conditions and wages, will there be any possibility of change.

Thomas Fowell Buxton would have recognised this incident as not far removed from slavery and would have used his influence and authority to bring about change.

How we need more Thomas Fowell Buxtons today!



St Wulfstan, the Bishop who fought Slavery

St Wulfstan became Bishop of Worcester in 1062, just before the Norman conquest. He was the only English Bishop to keep his job after the conquest. (Most of the Bishoprics went to William’s Norman friends or relatives)

Wulfstan campaigned vigorously against the slave trade based in the city of Bristol. At that time, people who could not pay their debts were sold into slavery in Ireland. (A few hundred years earlier, St Patrick, a Briton, had been sold as a slave in Ireland, but that’s another story).

As a result of Wulfstan’s impassioned sermons against the trade, many slaves were released. During his time as Bishop, Wulfstan cared for the poor, and struggled to alleviate the harsh decrees of the Normans upon the vanquished English.

crypt_worcesterWulfstan was a great church builder and laid the foundations for Worcester Cathedral. The crypt that he built is still in use, and it is worth a visit to admire the stark Norman architecture.

Wulfstan died in 1095 while engaged in the daily ritual of washing the feet of a dozen poor men. He was canonized in 1203 by Pope Innocent III.

King John has a bad reputation but must have had some good points as he was a great supporter of Worcester Cathedral and had a devotion to St Wulfstan. He asked to be buried at Worcester, and to this day still lies at the foot of the high altar..

St Wulfstan’s feast day is January 19.