Letters to local newspapers

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This is the first in a series of articles, these are actual published letters to the editors of local newspapers in the UK. We start the ball rolling with the Skegness News and an outspoken attack from someone signing himself Lord Barrington Scaine (The voice of sanity). Names and addresses have been changed or omitted to protect the innocent, though anyone with access to newspaper archives can look the originals up, and look out for a twist at the end!

Skegness News, February 11 1998. Page 26:

EDITOR - I have recently, not through my own choice, moved into this rather dreary seaside resort that the whole country seems to love to hate.
The highlight of my miserable existence in this grey town is reading your excellent newspaper. It has one problem though, its somewhat bland and sometimes nonexistent letters page. Do your readers have opinions worthy of putting to paper? I, over the next few weeks, will express some of mine, and look forward to hearing some intelligent response.
Hands up all gardeners. That’s it, let’s see your green fingers, stained with the blood of Mother Nature. You really annoy me with your carefully planned row of gladioli, all exactly six inches apart, with your vegetable patch here and flower bed there. The word nature comes from natural, and what's natural about that strategical, accurate plot of land outside the back door of your grotty terraced house? What’s the difference between a weed and a flower? You obviously have some God given talent to recognise what should be kept and what should be sent to the council tip in a green bag. There should be a law passed to make it a criminal offence to remove any natural thing from the ground, like in the countryside.
This subject was brought to my attention last week, with a news story about ignorant gardeners, who are diminishing this country’s supply of natural limestone pathways by using it for their rockeries, how considerate! The garden of my estate in Hampshire has not been touched since I dismissed my gardener in 1962, and it’s now a thriving jungle (which, incidentally, the public pay me a fortune to view).
In my experience, it seems that those responsible for gardening are mainly pensioners, bored old folk with nothing to do in their empty lives. Then, when they fall over a carelessly placed rake, I have to subsidise their hip replacement operation with my taxes. Let me put this to you. At the age of seventy, everyone, by law, should have to pay a visit to their GP, where, for a small charge (let’s say ten pounds), they will be given a pill that puts an end to their miserable lives. I myself am a man of senior years and would take the pill tomorrow to take the strain off the government purse.
I hope I have given you something to think about.
LORD BARRINGTON SCAINE (The voice of sanity)

Skegness News, February 18 1998. Page 22:

Skegness woman Carrol has written a poem in response to the letter from Lord Barrington Scaine published in last week’s News entitled “Letters” hear from you!”.
In his letter Lord Scaine wanted to drum up more response for our letters page. He commented on gardeners who carefully plan their gardens and said it should be a “criminal offence to remove any natural thing from the ground”. He also wrote that gardeners are mostly “pensioners, bored old folk with nothing else to do in their empty lives”.
He concluded by saying that people over 70 years should take a pill to “put an end to their miserable lives” and “take the strain of the government purse”.
This is Carrol’s response to that letter:

In reply to the Lord,
Who sounded rather bored,
When he wrote to the News,
Expressing his views.

It must be stressed,
He’s feeling depressed,
He complains Skeggy’s grey,
On a sunny winters day.

I’ll raise my hand,
To desecrating the land,
Cos, we mow our lawn,
And the hedges are shawn.

Ah, but there’s a loverly nettle,
And a charming rusty kettle,
So if M’Lord calls round,
It’s his for a pound.

So it’s out with all the weeds,
And, in with the seeds,
They’ll be grown in a while,
That should bring a smile.

The gardening I won’t shirk,
It isn’t such hard work,
Don’t give me the axe,
I’ve paid my tax.

So when I grow old,
And start to feel the cold,
Don’t give me the pill,
There’ll be life in me still.

If a tumble I should take,
Or my bones I should break,
I’ll sit quietly for hours,
Admiring the flowers.

So Lord Barrington Scaine,
The voice of the sane?
Just call me ‘Calamity,’
Mother of insanity.
CARROL (Name and Address Supplied)

EDITOR - on reading the letters page this week I had to double-check the date, surely it wasn’t April 1 already. No it seems the silly season has arrived early in the guise of “Lord” Barrington Scaine. I can only assume that he is a figment of someone’s fertile imagination. I know the east coast is quiet at this time of year before the masses arrive from the East Midlands, but surely we do not need people of this nature to have a death wish and a great lack of imagination.
If “Lord” Barrington Scaine is a real person can I suggest he offers his boundless energy to the many local voluntary organisations who will willingly find him plenty to do.
He may then leave the rest of us to enjoy our resort and our gardens.
Yes you have provoked response.
A MAD GARDENER (Name and Address Supplied)

EDITOR - Dear Lord Muck - reading your letter last week really made me feel quite sick.
Let me tell you my husband and I came to live in sunny Skeggy 14 years ago and life is only what you make it. In your case you are nothing but a pathetic creature badly in need of manners. I myself have suffered ten years of pain and surgery, the last one lasting seven hours, but no way would I take a pill for £1000 let alone ten. Why don’t you just donate your money to our hospital and get on your broomstick back home. Smile and the world smiles with you, cry and you cry alone.
Go and take a long walk off our short pier before you go.
DOROTHY (Name and Address Supplied)

Skegness News, February 25 1998. Page 26:

EDITOR - It really warms my heart (yes, I do have one) to hear people standing up for what they believe in. Thankyou Carrol for that delicious poem, don’t you feel so much better now?
Orange badge holders. I notice that you have touched lightly upon the subject over the past few weeks, so I know that I have support at least on this subject. Why do these people find it necessary to park dangerously on double yellow lines when they are allocated ample free space in car parks? I had to chuckle to myself last week when a fit looking chap parked his R reg car (they all seem to have brand new cars don’t they? That’s how much one can save when one doesn’t have to pay to park and never receives a parking ticket) on Lumley Avenue, on double yellows. He hopped out and began to run until a traffic warden rounded the corner, whereupon he began to stage the most convincing limp I have ever seen. I thought if anyone deserved an orange accolade in his windscreen, it was he for such a staggering performance. We could use the soon to be redundant Festival Pavilion to hold an orange badge talent contest in the summer, one badge per day could be issued free to the able bodied contestant with the most ridiculous limp.
Thankyou Dorothy for bringing to my attention your fantastic pier. It’s such an embarrassment to the town. When we have investors in the area willing to put millions into a giant pyramid shaped greenhouse, why can’t someone chuck in a few quid to have it either rebuilt, or preferably, pulled down. I’ve got it! Let’s build a giant bronze Jolly Fisherman on the end as Skegness’ contribution to the Millennium (you could probably even get a grant for it) and call it “The Angel of the East Coast”. Fantastic. Someone have a word with Leisure and Tourism! You see, I’m not all doom and gloom.
I hope I am not crying alone, speak to you soon.

Skegness News, February 25 1998. Page 26:

LORD BARRINGTON SCAINE - I have come to the conclusion that you have nothing better to do than to go interfering into other people’s everyday lives.
What’s wrong with our pier? So it got accidentally burnt down a few years ago around bonfire night minus a Guy Fawkes - pity you weren’t here then.
Have you ever seen the little children having fun when they come here on a day trip or a holiday with their families - their little eyes light up like stars.
Also my brother walked miles for guide dogs for the blind, he enjoyed every minute of it and you never heard him groan. Sadly he passed away at Christmas but at least he did something worthwhile unlike you. Why don’t you walk around blindfolded for a week, then you would perhaps appreciate what is in front of you.
You are a cross between Victor Meldrew and Alf Garnett!

EDITOR - In answer to Lord Barrington Scaine’s sarcasm over Orange Badge holders, I would like to point out that I had to obtain a letter from my specialist and doctor to qualify. I also had to fill in a form at the Social Services. I then had to have a passport photograph taken to go on the Orange Badge.
I only hope Lord Barrington never gets arthritis of any form all over his body. Not one night’s sleep without pain, being drugged up with pain killers, counting the hours ‘til morning.
Being disabled in Skegness is getting worse. Many shops are making efforts to make life easier for the wheelchair holders but to no avail if the system clamps down preventing parking outside. There are only six parking spaces at Somerfield for the disabled.
A lot of people are dependent on people such as Mr B. to take them shopping and to the doctors and yet he was criticised and fined for doing so.
So think on and reflect on the plight of the real Orange Badge holders in Skegness. Justice for Orange Badge Holders!
MRS M. H., Burgh Le Marsh

Those two letters and his five responses was all that was ever heard of Lord Barrington Scaine in the Skegness News, and elsewhere. Now the twist. The guilt has been weighing heavily on my shoulders for the past two years, and it’s now time to come clean. I am (was) Lord Barrington Scaine and I’m sorry! Letters in the local press can be fascinating though and if anyone has some good examples, I would receive them gratefully (please include publication name and dates). Once again, I am sorry, but you understand it was only for the purpose of research. ;-)

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