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19 January 2007
MEMORIAL TO BRAVEHEARTS.

A MEMORIAL is to be erected to the Scots who died under William Wallace at the Battle of Falkirk.

More than 10,000 Scots lost their lives in the 1298 defeat by the English under Edward I. But Wallace's scorched-earth tactics meant Edward was unable to go on to conquer Scotland.

A7ft cairn will be unveiled at the site near Callendar Park after a march on July 21.


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29 January 2007
RICKY'S FIGHT TO CLEAR HIS NAME

ROYLE Family star Ricky Tomlinson is trying to clear his name - 35 years after he was jailed for strike action.

The actor, a former plasterer, spent two years in prison after being convicted of intimidation and affray during the 1972 national builders' strike.

He was jailed along with fellow union man Des Warren.

But Ricky, 67, has always protested his innocence and wants a public inquiry and pardon for the workers jailed for flying picket activities.

Ricky said: "It is about time that people knew the truth. "The law we were prosecuted under is so old and archaic that it doesn't even appear on the statute books any more.

"We are calling for a public inquiry because we want people to know what we went through - and to clear our names."

His criminal record means Tomlinson is unable to take any film or TV roles in America because he cannot get a visa.

The Shrewsbury Two refused to wear uniforms for long periods in prison, dressing in only blankets.

Now the Shrewsbury Pickets Group have been formed to fight for a public inquiry.

Campaign Secretary Mike Abbott said: "All Ricky and the other lads did in the 70s was to use legitimate means to seek a decent wage."


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Battle of the Somme video report in Windows Media format

 

You might think the most popular film ever to be shown in Britain would be a Hollywood blockbuster like ET or Star Wars, but you would be wrong. In fact, a film made 90 years ago holds the record. The Battle of the Somme  would be seen by an estimated 20 million people - almost half the British population and is set to be re-released on DVD next year.

Battle of the Somme
Battle of the Somme

The first of July 1916 was to prove a momentous day for the British Army. Having spent months training new soldiers and stockpiling ammunition, the mood amongst the men was relaxed and upbeat. They had been told a week long artillery bombardment would cut the barbed wire and destroy the German trenches. The troops moved up to their forward trenches with confidence.


But just hours later, it was evident the plan was going badly wrong. The British suffered 60,000 casualties in the first few hours - the worst single day in the history of the British Army.


All of this was captured on celluloid and released as the three month long battle continued

Battle of the Somme
Battle of the Somme
to rage. It would be seen by an estimated 20 million people - almost half the British population. Whilst some scenes were staged - including troops supposedly going over the top, which was in fact filmed on a rubbish tip in Preston, this film is not a crude work of anti-german propaganda - it shows the wounded of both sides helping each other as well as the filth, squalor and death which both sides endured.  


At the National War Memorial at Edinburgh Castle, those who fell in the Somme, as well as in countless other battles, are remembered.  But is the traditional view of their sacrifice correct?  Were those who served in the trenches really "lions led by donkeys" or is it now
Battle of the Somme
Battle of the Somme
time we looked again at how the war on the Western Front was fought and ultimately won?


The Scot commanding the army was Field Marshal Douglas Haig - a man often depicted as an unfeeling incompetent who cared little for the lives of his men.  But that image is increasingly viewed as unfair by military historians like Trevor Royle, who has just written a book on the contribution of Scots in the Great War.  He said: "In the aftermath of the First World War, when the British got sight of German officers and their papers, they realised the damage they had done to the German Army.  They had worn it down and made it very difficult for the Germans to continue the War over a lengthy period."

Battle of the Somme
Battle of the Somme


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The central role played by Gaelic speakers in the Battle of Culloden is to be recognised in the new £8m visitor centre at the site.

Fought in 1746, the last major battle on British soil not only brought an end to Bonnie Prince Charlie's dreams, it also heralded the darkest days for the Gaelic language. But now the National Trust for Scotland's plans to underline the importance of Gaelic to the story.

According to Alexander Bennett, NTS's project co-ordinator, the new centre will be an exemplar of how Gaelic can be used and promoted as an important and distinctive component of Scotland's cultural heritage.

He said yesterday: "The Battle of Culloden signalled the end of the clan system and the continued repression of the Gaelic language.

"Given the high proportion of Gaelic speakers who fought on both sides at the battle, we felt it was important that Gaelic play a pivotal role in the interpretation of Culloden.

"Plans for the new centre are groundbreaking and will offer both Gaelic and non-Gaelic speaking visitors a unique and stimulating experience and opportunity to engage with the language You'll be able to hear and read it, and Gaelic music will feature strongly throughout the new centre.

"Visitors will also be able to follow the story of Gaelic-speaking characters who were involved in the events of Culloden and take a Gaelic tour of the battlefield."

The plans to promote Gaelic at Culloden also include developing a Gaelic education programme which will be launched with the new centre next year.

The NTS has been working closely with a number of Gaelic organisations to develop a strategy to promote the use of the language at Culloden and has built up a productive relationship with Bord na Gaidhlig, the statutory development agency for the language.

Allan Campbell, chief executive of Bord na Gaidhlig said: "Bord na Gaidhlig has been pleased to be involved with NTS in the planning of the Gaelic content of the new visitor centre at Culloden, and it applauds the recognition that has correctly been accorded to the language in the new visitor experience.

"It is particularly pleasing to welcome the educational resource which the new centre and the exhibition will provide for the benefit of people of all ages."

 

The Battle of Culloden (April 16, 1746), was the final clash between the French supported Jacobites and the Hanoverians in the 1745 Jacobite Rising. It was the last battle to be fought on mainland Britain, and brought the Jacobite cause—to restore the House of Stuart to the throne of Great Britain—to a decisive defeat from which it never recovered.

The Jacobites—most of them Highland Scots—supported the claim of Charles Edward Stuart (aka "Bonnie Prince Charlie" or "The Young Pretender") to the throne; the British army, under the Duke of Cumberland, younger son of the Hanoverian sovereign, King George II, supported his father's cause.

The aftermath of the battle was brutal and earned the victorious general the name "Butcher" Cumberland. Charles Edward Stuart eventually left Britain and went to Rome, never to attempt to take the throne again. Civil penalties were also severe. New laws dismantled the Highlanders' feudal clan system, and even highland dress was outlawed.

Contents:


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Nicol Stephen condemns dawn raids...
 
Protest at Brand Street
Dawn raids to remove failed asylum seekers have led to protests
Deputy First Minister Nicol Stephen has condemned the use of dawn raids to remove the children of failed asylum seekers from Scotland.

His comments came after the head of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND) in Scotland said his department was still not "fit for purpose".

Robina Qureshi, of support group Positive Action in Housing (PAIH), said the immigration service needed reform.

A Home Office spokeswoman said it would take time to restructure the IND.

Mr Stephen described the dawn raids as "unacceptable and unnecessary".

They have a messed-up asylum system which they are continuing to use to enforce removals against asylum families
Robina Qureshi
Positive Action in Housing

 

He added that he opposed the message coming from the UK Government for a more aggressive approach.

"Clearly where there are failed asylum seekers there has to be a system to remove people from the country but, especially for families with children, dawn raids are not the right approach," Mr Stephen said.

"There has to be a more sensitive integrated approach involving the education authorities, social work departments and the UK agencies and when there are children involved it doesn't have to be at six o'clock in the morning."

A number of failed asylum seekers have already been subject to dawn raids.

There are about 1,500 families, mostly in Glasgow, whose applications for asylum have failed but who still refuse to leave.

Phil Taylor, who is regional director for the Home Office's immigration and nationality department, said it could be another 18 months before it was fully restructured.

Ms Qureshi said the asylum system was in chaos.

New system

"They have a messed-up asylum system which they are continuing to use to enforce removals against asylum families," she said.

"They need to acknowledge that and to allow these long-term families, that have been part of the community, to remain and to sort out whatever structural issues that he's (Phil Taylor) referring to."

Following protests, a new system to deal with the removal of failed applicants has been launched.

A Home Office spokeswoman stressed that the restructuring of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate, which had been ordered by Home Secretary John Reid, was never going to happen overnight.

It was always going to "take time" to work through, she said.

 

Asylum chief's service concerns...
 
A child protesting against dawn raids
Dawn raids have led to numerous protests in Scotland.
The senior civil servant in charge of removing failed asylum seekers from Scotland has conceded his department is still not "fit for purpose".

Phil Taylor said it could be another 18 months before the Home Office's Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND) was fully restructured.

Officials said that from now on there would be much stricter enforced removal of those who remained here illegally.

A number of failed asylum seekers have already been subject to dawn raids.

There are about 1,500 families, mostly in Glasgow, whose applications for asylum have failed but who still refuse to leave.

I'd much rather not have the dawn raids but we're still awaiting somebody giving us a realistic alternative
Ian Davidson
Glasgow MP.

Following protests, a new system to deal with the removal of failed applicants has been launched.

Mr Taylor, who is regional director of the immigration and nationality department, said he was confident that with new resources in place and new rules, his office would be "fit for purpose" within 12 to 18 months, admitting this was not the case currently.

Ian Davidson, Labour MP for Glasgow South West, admitted there was a huge backlog of cases the system was failing to deal with.

'Judicial review'

He said: "I'd much rather not have the dawn raids but we're still awaiting somebody giving us a realistic alternative.

"People, by and large, who have come here claiming asylum falsely have lost their appeals, lost all the way through the process, taken things to judicial review, spent substantial sums of money on legal aid in many of these cases - and they still don't leave at the end.

"In those circumstances it's very difficult to see what other option we have."

Mr Davidson said it must also be recognised that there are substantial numbers of overseas students or visitors who overstay, claim asylum and then prolong that process.

The new system is going to allow lawyers to represent them at the early stages
Simon Hodgeson
Scottish Refugee Council.

Stewart Hosie MP, the Scottish National Party's spokesman on Home Office matters, said: "I have real concerns that the major upheaval which will occur when the Home Office itself is split might add uncertainty to the work under way in the IND.

"The home secretary now must give the people an assurance that progress to make the IND fit for purpose will not be hindered by any future changes in the Home Office"

Simon Hodgeson, head of policy at the Scottish Refugee Council, said people were genuinely scared about being returned to their countries and have felt unfairly treated by the system.

He said: "The new system is going to allow lawyers to represent them at the early stages, that wasn't the case in the past, so people had to present their case themselves."


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Well worth a watch.....


http://news.bbc.co.uk/player/nol/newsid_6340000/newsid_6348500/6348575.stm?bw=bb&mp=wm


 


 



 


A relative of the survivor from Scotland's last duel has retraced the event 180 years after it happened. BBC's James Landale retraces his ancestor in Timewatch.


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Andy Murray
Murray retained the title he first won by beating Lleyton Hewitt last year
Andy Murray battled back from a set down to beat big-serving Croat Ivo Karlovic and retain his SAP Open title in San Jose on Sunday.

The British number one came through 6-7 (3-7) 6-4 7-6 (7-2) to claim the second ATP Tour title of his career.

The 6ft 10in Karlovic saved an early break point before taking the tie-break and breaking early in the second set.

But Murray recovered superbly with two breaks of his own to level before dominating the final set tie-break.

Karlovic came into the match having hit 87 aces and put out James Blake, and it was no surprise that his serve was the key shot for much of the match.

The Croat fired another 26 aces in the final and won 84% of the points on his first serve, but found in Murray an opponent who could do damage on the second serve.

After Murray wasted an early break point in game five by missing a makeable backhand, the set moved seemingly inevitably to a tie-break.

I've been in two finals now this year so it's going well

Andy Murray

At 3-3 in the breaker, Murray was incensed with a line call that saw him drop serve and Karlovic powered through to take the set.

A visibly angry Murray lost his composure, and his serve, at the start of the second and the writing appeared to be on the wall.

Karlovic had dropped serve just once in the tournament before the final but Murray found his range, breaking back immediately and upping the pressure in game 10 to level.

606 DEBATE: Give your thoughts on Murray's performance

The Scot has been working hard on his fitness and looked the more energetic of the two in the closing stages as he fended off three break points.

And with the match hanging on the outcome of another tie-break, this time Murray was the more composed.

A superb scrambling lob helped him to a mini-break at 2-1 before Karlovic made his first double fault of the night to go 5-2 down, and Murray went on to seal victory with an ace.

You do have to strike the ball pretty well to win an ATP tournament and I think I did that this week

Andy Murray

"I'd like to thank Brad (Gilbert, his coach) and Mark Grabow, my fitness trainer," the 19-year-old said.

"We have done a lot of work in seven months, and it hasn't always been fun, but I've been in two finals now this year so it's going well."

The Scot said he had to be patient and wait for his chances against the giant Croat, who served 26 aces.

"For three sets he was so confident you just have to hang in there and try to keep it tight," he said. "When I got the chances, I just had to take them.

"It's the little things you can pick up on as the match goes on. I was able to pick up the ball from my backhand. I've never played anyone like that before.

"Brad told me to put a high percentage of first serves in and try to be patient on the second.

"You do have to strike the ball pretty well to win an ATP tournament and I think I did that this week."


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22 February 2007
FOUR OAPS WIN £4BN PENSIONS VICTORY. 

FOUR pensioners won a "David and Goliath" court victory yesterday which could cost the Government £4billion.

The ruling put Tony Blair under intense pressure to pay compensation to victims of collapsed company pension schemes.

The four - Henry Bradley, Bob Duncan, Andrew Parr and Thomas Waugh - led the fight on behalf of up to 85,000 workers who lost their nest eggs when the firms they worked for went bust between 1997 and 2005.

They claim they were misled by Government literature suggesting company pensions were completely safe.

Ministers rejected their case, despite an investigation by the Parliamentary Ombudsman, Ann Abraham, which found the Government guilty of maladministration and said they should pay up.

But at the High Court in London, Mr Justice Bean supported Abraham's findings that official information was "sometimes inaccurate, often incomplete, largely inconsistent and therefore potentially misleading".

Liberal Democrat work and pensions secretary David Laws MP said: "This is a fantastic David versus Goliath victory for the pensioners."

Challenged by Tory leader David Cameron, Blair said it was a "terrible situation" but stressed that any rescue package must be "affordable"

The Government have claimed the cost could run to £15billion.

But Tom McPhail, head of pensions research at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: "The true cost is likely to be nearer to £3billion to £4billion.

"If ministers fail to act now, then the conclusion is clear - when it comes to pensions, you simply can't trust the Government."

Three of the pensioners could have faced crippling legal costs if they lost.

An engineer in the steel industry, Andrew Parr, 63, said he was expecting a pension of £15,500 but would receive just £7000.

He added: "The Ombudsman has found in our favour, the select committee has too, the European Court has said pensions in this country are not sufficiently protected and now this court has found for us.

"Three strikes and you are out is normal. That's four strikes. Surely the Government should admit liability."

Pensions Secretary John Hutton said the Government had to give "very careful consideration" to the report.

He added: "It's simply not true to say that we have act callously or indifferently."


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Gail Sheridan wife of Tommy Sheridan Picture...

Gail Sheridan wife of Tommy Sheridan
Picture: Robert Perry

 

How Gail Sheridan coped with the accusations against her husband...

CATHERINE DEVENEY

YEARS ago, when Gail Sheridan and I first met, she told this story about how she had fancied being a nun when she was a teenager. She gave the tale her best performance - she can be very funny, very theatrical, very loud - describing a school trip to a convent. Oh, the Mother Superior was so beautiful! Calm and serene. (She was, of course, fully aware of the comedic impact of choosing attributes utterly opposite to her own. Gail, wife of Scottish socialist Tommy Sheridan, is a very glamorous woman, but in Hollywood terms more Chicago than The Nun's Story.) Anyway, she's such a performer that you would never be sure where even half a grain of truth lay, but more likely the story was just a vehicle for the punchline. Forget it, Gail, her parish priest told her on the bus home, these women take a vow of silence.

It has, of course, taken on an even more ironic twist since the would-be nun became embroiled in one of Scotland's most notorious sex scandals. She certainly didn't take it quietly. In her own words, she "screamed like a banshee" for her husband to sue the Rupert Murdoch media empire, News International, after the News of the World published stories of Tommy quaffing champagne, having three-in-a-bed sex romps and indulging in cocaine and Ecstasy.

In November 2004, Tommy unexpectedly resigned as leader of the Scottish Socialist Party. Gail was newly pregnant, and Tommy claimed he wanted to spend more time at home. But rumour had it that he was soon to be exposed as the Scottish MP who had visited sex clubs with Anvar Khan, a News of the World journalist. When the headlines exploded, Tommy sued, and in July last year the case finally came to court. The newspaper put up 18 witnesses to back its story, including three MSPs from Tommy's own party - Rosie Kane, Carolyn Leckie and new leader Colin Fox. Tommy, as he had done all his life, challenged the establishment by sacking his entire legal team and taking over his own case. He won.

There is no doubt that Gail played a major part in that victory. She was his top-of-the-bill star witness, the final performer in court. She had the audience laughing, as she always does. What would she have done if she thought Tommy had done it? Put him at the bottom of the Clyde, she told the court, with a concrete slab tied to his neck.

I saw my wedding photo right in the middle of all this filth, these filthy women, all this filthy talk

We have grown used to MPs' wives wearily standing by their men. Usually, we remember the husband's name rather than the wife's. David Mellor, Tim Yeo, Cecil Parkinson, John Prescott, Paddy Ashdown, Mark Oaten... The women, even the 'fragrant' Mary Archer, end up with gritted teeth and a halo of humiliation. But Gail, a British Airways steward, is a more spirited political wife than we are used to, running the gauntlet of media attention outside the Court of Session each day with the composure of Posh Spice. Still, we were never in any doubt that we were watching a bravura performance. And most of us wondered what, behind the broad smile and big sunglasses, Gail was actually thinking. Did she really believe Tommy? Really, really?

FROM behind her bedroom curtains, Gail peeped down on Glasgow's Paisley Road West. It was Sunday morning, and there were journalists all round her house and up the hill opposite, where her sister Gillian lives. As soon as Tommy closed the door behind him, they swarmed after him. He hadn't seen the headlines yet. He had told Gail to stay upstairs, and he would pick up the paper and get some rolls. Then he was going for a sunbed. "See when I think about it," she laughs. "I just said, 'Aye, all right then.'"

For most of the day before, Gail had been in bed at home, an immaculate terraced house overlooking the busy main road. It was like Sauchiehall Street up in her room, chairs all round the bed. Her parents. Gillian. Tommy's mother. Tommy's sisters. Their husbands. Gail was ill and still in shock about the pregnancy. She and Tommy had wanted children, but nothing had happened, and Gail had given up. "I was 40 and I thought, 'Well, that'll be that... Too old, left it too late.' But I wasn't getting into this thing that I've watched loads of people get into, IVF and total obsession, because I thought if I went down that road I could get dead obsessed with it, you know. I had seen too many lassies do that."

She felt constantly nauseous in those early weeks and months. That's why, when Tommy resigned as party leader, she knew nothing of what was about to unfold. Politics? The party? She couldn't have cared less. But surely she knew that something was afoot when he resigned? She shakes her head. "Remember," she says, "you phoned at that time asking for an interview?" She had promised she would do it eventually, but not then because she was feeling so ill. She was preoccupied and vulnerable. If you told her she looked nice, she would cry. If you told her she looked a mess, she would cry too. "You couldn't say anything to me. So God knows what he must have been feeling. God knows."

A News of the World reporter was hanging round all that Saturday. At night, Tommy and his brother-in-law walked to the all-night garage to get the first edition. It had a story about Boris Johnson on the front page. They didn't realise that this was the English edition. Now, behind the curtain, waiting for Tommy to bring the Scottish edition, Gail watched a car pull up. It was Mrs Torretti from church. She had brought Gail a statue of St Gerard, patron saint of unborn children. Still in her pyjamas, Gail knew that she couldn't open the door. Mrs Torretti knew nothing of what was going on. Gail doubted that she even knew a paper called the News of the World existed. "I just didn't know what to do. I cry every time I think about that, because I left her standing chapping the door. She's a lovely, wonderful, pure wee woman, and that filth were looking at her. It made me feel sick. The only thing that made me cry an awful lot that day was Mrs Torretti at the door."

But not the allegations. When Tommy returned, Gail watched him run up and down the stairs with a phone in his hand, organising television appearances. He was trying not to show it, but he was like a raging bull, Gail recalls, and had gone purple. By this time, family and friends were on their way. "Don't let her read it," Tommy was told. Gail rebelled. She was a grown-up. She could handle it. But afterwards, she did fear she would miscarry. The front page drew her like a magnet. "I had my back to the wall and I just remember realising I was on the floor and thinking, 'Oh my God, have I fainted?' But I think I just slumped down against the wall. I was crouched on the floor... I can't really remember... but I saw my wedding photo right in the middle of all this filth, these filthy women, all this filthy talk."

Gail is on the sofa opposite me in her sitting-room, a light, spacious room with polished wooden floors. She meets my gaze head on when I say there must have been a time - even just a few minutes - when she believed it. "Nope," she says. Oh, come on - she reads nine pages about her husband's supposed affairs and she doesn't have one single doubt? "Never for one solitary second." She repeats the words slowly, with emphasis, her voice hard and adamant and her eyes completely unflinching. "Not for one solitary second." She must have. "Do you know, when I opened it up, the headline was... I can't remember, but something like, 'I walked on him with high heels'. And I just remember thinking, 'Pish! Ab-so-lute pish!' See him? Tommy can't stand pain. I don't think a lot of men have a high pain threshold, compared to women. And you know what your man kind of likes. Do you know what I mean? Maybe I'm Mrs Boring here, but no... I swear on the face of Jesus, I looked at it, looked at her, looked at the headlines and thought, 'Pish.'"

But as the case unfolded, as more and more women came forward, did she not start to have doubts then? "You know," she says thoughtfully, "it's funny you saying that, because it was the opposite. And the opposite of the public view that I came across. Loads of people said that as more of these women came forward, the more they realised it was just farcical. If it had just been Fiona McGuire, that would have been worse. But they couldn't have it just Fiona McGuire - the lassie was not right." McGuire, it transpired in court, had a history of mental-health problems. "She had terrible problems. He says God help her [she often refers to Tommy simply as 'he', like a deity], and he feels sorry for her, but I don't. I don't have that kind of compassion in me. I don't feel sorry for her."

Tommy's fellow MSPs, then - did she not find it hard to believe they would lie when the future of their whole party was at stake? "But they meant nothing to me. They were Tommy's work colleagues." So they lied? "In politics?" she demands incredulously. "I thought that was a prerequisite for politicians - that you can stand up, be convincing and lie. That is what you've got to be able to do. And he was warned about people like Carolyn Leckie for years. They were constantly pulling him down, slagging him off. That didn't come as a shock to me. Politicians stabbing each other in the back? Commonplace in that game."

But didn't she believe her own politician was lying? This, she says, "is probably making me sound like a diddy. And I'm not really." That much is obvious. Beneath the gallus Glasgow humour, Gail has more than her fair share of steel and determination. But there were practical reasons why she believed Tommy.

Cabin crew are used to keeping detailed diaries. She was given work schedules a month in advance and marked everything, including days off, in her diary. She doesn't understand why nobody in the case could pin down dates, but the closest was Anvar Khan, claiming that Tommy was in a Manchester sex club one Friday or Saturday night in October, November or December of 2001. "I got my diary out and I could tell you where I was and what time I was in on every one of those nights. They obviously must have thought, 'Air hostess - she's away all the time.' But I'm Glasgow-based. We don't really do night stops, certainly not at the weekend. And if we do, I swap them. If I do have to do them, it's usually in Edinburgh, and Tommy usually came and stayed with me."

The Anvar Khan night, she says, Tommy is meant to have met Khan at the airport, had sex in a flat in Ibrox, then driven to a Manchester sex club. "Tommy must have got bored with all that, because then he supposedly speaks to some woman behind the bar and says, 'We'll go back to your house,' so they all go back to a flat in Manchester, and then they all come back up the road. How long is that going to take? I take it he's supposed to come back at eight in the morning or something, and I'm supposed to say, 'Did you have a nice wee day?' Aye, right."

Fidelity is a bigger issue for some people than others, but Gail insists it is a huge one for her. If Tommy was unfaithful? I'd be interviewing her in Cornton Vale prison. And all this stuff about cocaine and Ecstasy - Tommy's too frightened to take a paracetemol, she says. You know, she says to me, about Tommy and alcohol. True, I interviewed him back in 2000, long before any of these allegation arose. He was teetotal then. If Gail has a glass of wine after work, Tommy invariably raises an eyebrow. "It's only a glass," she tells him. "It's only Tuesday," he says. "See if I found out after all these years of having to listen to that about drink that he was knocking back the champagne... If I found out he'd had three affairs in four years, that he was going to sex clubs when he knows my opinion on stuff like that..." Her voice hardens. "I wouldn't even miss a blink."

The News of the World had been after him for years, she says. Why? Because he is a socialist and it is anti-trade-union. Lots of people - some famous - warned them not to take on News International. It was too powerful. Win or lose, they would be destroyed. But she never wanted to back down. Not even that day when black cloaks were swirling round the Court of Session in chaos because Tommy had sacked his legal team. Her eyes filled with tears when Tommy told her, but he was happy. It was a Friday afternoon, and it was like being let out of school early for the weekend. Come on, he told Gail, they could pick up their baby daughter Gabrielle early.

In the car on the way to Glasgow, she kept turning to look at him. "He was a new person. He looked totally different." He had been frustrated by his legal team's refusal to ask the questions he wanted them to. Now he had control. "He just looked relieved. It was like, right, the trial begins now." She watched him getting organised at top speed. "I looked at him as he was driving and I thought, 'I am so proud of you,' to the extent that I welled up - in fact, I could well up right now thinking about it. It took my breath away. Took my breath away, the balls that he had. I just thought, 'You are so brave.'"

She didn't want to cry. "It was a bit frivolous - what was I greetin' for? But in between the 90 million phone calls, I said it to him. I said, 'Jesus, I'm dead proud of you. I really am dead proud of you.' And that kind of threw him, because we don't really talk to each other like that. 'Whatever you do,' I told him, 'I'm behind you.'" Later, she would say in court how proud she was. But this was the private moment. "It probably sums up the whole trial for me: never been more proud of Tommy, never been more in love with him."

they met at school, Lourdes Secondary, just along the road. He was called Tam back then, and what she remembers is the white streak in his hair. People thought he had dyed it blonde, but it was a birthmark. They were in the same modern studies class, but their teacher considered Gail the more dominant. Lots of girls fancied Tommy, but she didn't. He was in the football team, and she thought he was a bit cheeky. He thought she was a bit stuck up.

Once, when she was 18, he gave her a lift home from work and kissed her. But she had a long-term boyfriend. They split up briefly when she was 23, and Gail went out with Tommy, but by then he was into all that politics stuff, she says dismissively. When they were in their late 20s, she heard about Tommy being imprisoned for not paying his poll tax and started sending him cards from exotic locations. 'Hope you're having a nice time,' she wrote. The next thing she knew - and now she can't remember how it really happened - they were an item.

They still live in the same area they did as children, close to parents and siblings. Family is Gail's priority. She talks about politics with a slightly scathing indulgence. She has always admired Tommy's principles, even shares most of them. But whenever the subject of Tommy giving half his salary to the party came up, Gail always said she would prefer the money, thanks. When making tea, she pulls out a mug with Che Guevara on it. When Gabrielle sees it, she says, "Daddy!" "And I say, no," says Gail, "he just thinks he is."

She doesn't get it when people say the court case must have been the most awful thing in the world. That first day, when she and Tommy drove to Edinburgh for the trial, he said this was all going to be quite heavy, but she wouldn't listen. "Awful and terrible was when my mum was diagnosed with breast cancer a few months before my wedding. That was pure fling-yourself-in-the-Clyde. That was unbearable. When Tommy's mum was diagnosed with cancer, that was awful. I go to my work and there are young lassies who have breast cancer. That is horrible. People who are dealing with their parents dying or parents who are not well... And I can't even enter into the subject of weans. People whose weans are dying... See a court case with daft lassies coming in and saying this and that and the other, I'm afraid that's just a circus. It doesn't compare."

Maybe that's a lesson she learned before Tommy, now leader of his new party, Solidarity, did. I read her a quote from his interview with me in 2000, an interview in which he said he didn't really believe in marriage, but that he was getting married in a Catholic church for Gail's sake. Politics, he said then, would always come first, Gail knew that. Even if he had children, it would come first. "If I experienced personal tragedy in terms of my family," he continued, "I'd be extremely upset, but I feel I'd have something to hold on to in my politics. It's the constant in my life." He must surely have discovered that family, not politics, provided the rock when he needed it?

His wife, in particular. She smiled every morning for the press, deposited Tommy in court like a child in a classroom, then went into the toilet, locked the door, crouched on the floor and cried. Whatever she thought behind closed doors, the world wasn't going to know about it. Did that change Tommy? Gail considers his words from 2000. "I don't think he would totally dismiss what he said then, but I think he would say he has different priorities in the form of Gabrielle. I would say he has been dealt a blow in his politics, but not really in his beliefs. In fact, if anything, it has strengthened them, because fighting injustice was always what Tommy was about - and that's what he was doing, fighting against a conglomerate that thinks it can say what it likes about people. And you know, it can."

But not about Tommy Sheridan. The News of the World was ordered to pay £200,000 compensation. Its lawyers have appealed, but the case won't be heard until December. (The perjury investigation, too, remains ongoing.) The Sheridans haven't seen a penny, and Gail suspects News International will appeal forever rather than pay. "We never get money like that, our type." But there are few credit cards she would rather use than Rupert Murdoch's. Earlier on, in her kitchen, she had explained plans for an extension at the back of the house. If she ever does get any of that money, she's going to put a plaque up. "It will say that this extension was kindly donated by the News of the World. Gaun yersel'."

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28 February 2007
MAN, 100 FIGHTS OFF MUGGERS.
 
Buster Martin

Busted: Despite their best efforts to subdue him, the Second World War veteran launched a counterattack.

A 100-YEAR-OLD man fought off three teenage muggers after being surrounded at a bus stop.

Buster Martin, who still works five days a week as a car washer and mechanic, was followed by the gang when he left a pub.

He said: "They pushed me against a wall and tried to take my money from me.

"I went mad. I was lashing out on the floor and then I stood up and was kicking them all.

"I pushed one and kung-fu kicked the other one between the legs.

"They ran off scared after I did that and I still had all my money.

"They thought I was an easy target but they didn't realise what a fighter I can be."

After the attack in Camberwell, south London, Buster staggered into hospital for treatment for a bruised rib and a bump on his head.

But his boss at Pimlico Plumbers, Charlie Mullins, said Buster still turned up for work the next day.

A police spokesman said he had been interviewed and patrols in the area had been stepped up.


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Jamaican Maroons wait to ambush an approaching British military column circa 1795 (image: picture by J. Bourgoin, courtesy of The Virginia Foundation for the Humanities)

 

Niomi Daley, the British hip-hop star better known as Ms Dynamite, travelled to her ancestral land Jamaica to make a documentary about slaves who fought back, as part of the BBC's season marking Britain's abolition of the slave trade.

Here she speaks to the BBC News website about why the Maroons, and especially their revered woman leader Nanny, matter today.

That they could stand up and face death rather than be oppressed is a lesson for anyone, but particularly for black people.

A lot of the people I've learnt about in black history are African-Americans, like Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks, whereas with Nanny, she was straight from Africa to the West Indies.

JAMAICA'S MAROON WARS
Historical name given to runaway slaves in the West Indies and Americas
Jamaican Maroons fought two wars against the British in the 18th Century
The 1730s Maroon War cost several hundred British casualties while Maroon losses are believed to have been light
Maroons were skilled guerrilla fighters, adept at using foliage as camouflage
Nanny was active in the Blue Mountains in the 1730s

What I learnt in Jamaica made me feel really empowered as a woman. You can put the blackness aside - I think it is important for any woman to read or learn the story of this woman and leader.

If you go just a few years back, a woman's role in the war was to be a nurse or something nurturing as opposed to being on the front line and firing at people. That's something that Nanny took on herself and actually led men. I find that really, really overwhelming and empowering as a woman.

In the West Indian culture, the grandmother is the person you can always count on. She's hardworking and she will do whatever a man will do but she's still also got the loving, nurturing side as well. So I can only presume that that's originally where her name came from.

Painful journey

I went through such a rollercoaster of emotions in Jamaica. There'd be some days where I was really happy and felt quite proud of the things that I was learning but then I went to a museum and saw the shackles and things used on the slaves as forms of torture or punishment.

Ms Dynamite in a Jamaican jungle
Ms Dynamite visited the jungles where the Maroons found cover

There were some children's shackles there and that just cut me up. The fact that I'm now a mother just means that when I see anything to do with any child, instantly it gets related in my head to my own child and that was probably the most horrific experience for me.

We stayed the night on a plantation and it was a very weird experience. A working plantation. It's still there. I think it is used as a heritage site. That was really hard because it was really beautiful but I was there with my brother [Kingslee Daley, the rapper Akala] and we just found it really difficult to sleep at night, to even just feel at ease because we were obviously aware of the things that had taken place there.

Hundreds of people had been there, used as slaves, been tortured, killed - lived and died in that area and you could feel it. The landscape, the design of the place was beautiful but then the feeling and emotion was horrible.

There are black people that would rather forget about slavery and actually are in denial, especially the older generation like my grandparents' age.

I think personally there's nothing at all shameful about the fact that my ancestors were slaves. To know that we suffered that type of slavery for so long and to know that we are where we're at now, is a huge achievement.

Racism

When I went to school, all we were ever told about black history was "You were slaves, that's the end of it, it's over now".

Ms Dynamite looks up references to Nanny Maroon with the help of Jamaican historian Cecil Gutzmore
Many myths surround Nanny - but records show she did exist

We did maybe two lessons about black history throughout my entire secondary schooling and I don't think any in primary schools whereas I remember doing two terms on the Holocaust and learnt the ins and outs and every aspect of it.

Personally I don't really feel you can compare the Holocaust and slavery. I feel the Holocaust is the Holocaust and stands on its own but slavery also deserves its own place.

[Jamaican reggae singer] Bob Marley wrote about waiting "until the colour of a man's skin is of no more significance than the colour of his eyes" [in the song War]. I feel that sentence is still as relevant as the day he wrote it.

I can only speak from a London point of view but basically I feel that although racism isn't as in your face as it definitely was, it's still very, very vibrant - it's still everywhere at all times. I feel in terms of the system and the institutions, it's as bad as it ever was.

I definitely think England should make some compensation for descendants of slaves. It's not amends but it's holding your hands up and saying, you totally acknowledge what took place.

I'm not making excuses but the fact that so many, or the majority, of black people in England are born straight into poverty, to me is a direct result of slavery and I do feel that something should be done.

If you look at London and all the amazing buildings, the banks, it's all built on slavery. We wouldn't have what we've got if it wasn't for this - so let's give a bit back.

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Reply with quote  #72 

Born black in 'post-slavery' society...
 
 

As a 14-year-old black British male, Reece Gittens is vulnerable.

Reece believes that his generation still face pressures
Reece believes his generation still face pressures

School exclusions, gang culture, knife and gun crime, and mental illness all disproportionately affect black boys in their early to late teens.

Reece's grandparents came to England in the mid-1960s from the West Indies. In his family he is the second generation of black children born in the UK.

"It's different growing up in England for me than it was for my grandparents, we don't have it hard like they did, they paved the way for us," says Reece.

Although he realises the struggles his grandparents went through, Reece is well aware of pressures that surround him.

"We're going through different things now, you hear all this stuff about young black boys and you feel like you've got to fight harder just to get a chance out there because people are judging you before they even see you," he says.

Lee Jasper believes racism is affecting the black community
The legacy of slavery impacts negatively upon black communities
Lee Jasper
Equality advisor to London mayor Ken Livingstone

"Then on the streets it's all about respect and who you are, you're building a name for yourself. Sometimes it's hard to do the right thing - you feel like you're always proving yourself.

"But then you do think about your family and what black people have gone through and that makes you want to do better - but it's not always easy to make that decision."

Lee Jasper, equality advisor to London mayor Ken Livingstone, describes what Reece is experiencing as the result of being born into a post-slavery society.

"The legacy of racism is strong and I think the legacy of slavery impacts negatively upon black communities", he says.

Looking at present day black descendents in Britain shows us how the generations that followed slavery rebuilt their communities.

This has been especially difficult when they live in the country that was heavily involved in the trading of their ancestors.

Young Britons give their views

A recent BBC News survey suggested half of the British public believed Britain to be a racist society.

Where does this leave black Britain in their view of the only home that most of them have known?

"The institution has long been abolished but the legacy of it remains. It's imperative for young black British people to have an understanding of their history," says Lee Jasper.

"It is critical to young black people going forward and to where they are in the world."

Many black leaders and artists are now focusing on young black Britain to help eradicate the problems.

They are working with groups such as the From Boyhood to Manhood Foundation in South London. These movements work alongside the community dealing with the young person's self worth helping them to recognise their potential.

Dynamite MC DJ with Kiss FM released 'Young Gifted and Black'
I think some young black people can be quite down
Dynamite MC

One person involved in this movement is Dynamite MC. A DJ with the radio station Kiss FM and a rapper, he recently released a track Young Gifted And Black, which implores the young black person to recognise their talents and reach for their goals.

"I was the only person of colour in school so I got teased, I got racist jibes and abuse," Dynamite says.

"I think some young black people can be quite down. They are dealing with certain situations, poverty, not the best surroundings, or the best things to start their lives with."

Dynamite says things are changing, though.

"When I grew up it wasn't cool to be black - you heard the word 'nigger' every day. Now black people are in the charts, sports, producers, a lot of white kids want to be black.

"The more you want to be like someone, the more you try and understand them.

"In that way, you're breaking down any barriers which separate you, then there's no reason why you should have these walls and this ignorance, which is racism."

Martin Luther King Jr was the civil rights movement leader in America
Martin Luther King Jr was the civil rights movement leader in America

Although the young black British person has not experienced the same journey as their ancestors, they have taken their own journey to find their place in today's British society.

Many black people remain positive about that journey and are hopeful about what the future holds too.

"The reality is we've only been here for a short period of time in comparison with African Americans who've had hundreds of years to secure their position," says Lee Jasper.

"So when we're looking at where we've come from and what we've achieved I think it's a case of quoting Martin Luther King.

"When asked, 'How long have we got, how far have we come?', his response was, 'We're not where we want to be - but, thank God, we're not where we used to be'."


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Reply with quote  #73 

just thinking about the mcann family in portugal whos young lass maddy, whos gone missing,they must be going through hell at this moment,these people have so much got the fighting spirit,i hope and pray like the rest of us all that they will get her back,god bless them,they are in my prayers every day.

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A very tragic case indeed frankie...
 
Public fund to aid Madeleine hunt...
 
Madeleine's family hope her distinctive right eye will help identify her


 
A "fighting fund" to which members of the public can donate to help in the search for missing Madeleine McCann is being set up by her family's lawyers.

The legal team, which has flown out to Portugal, will reveal details of the fund within the next few days.

The lawyers will help with liaison and will not interfere with the inquiry, Madeleine's uncle John McCann has said.

Rewards of £2.5m have been offered to anyone with information leading to the four-year-old's safe return.

Madeleine, from Rothley, Leicestershire, disappeared from an apartment in the Algarve resort of Praia da Luz on 3 May.

A spokesman for the International Family Law Group, the legal company helping the McCanns, said: "Gerry and Kate are very grateful for all the support and generous offers of help that they are receiving.

"Details of how contributions can be made to help get Madeleine back to the safety of her own family will be made available in the next couple of days."

REWARD CONTRIBUTORS
JK Rowling
Sir Philip Green
Richard Branson
Bill Kenwright
Eggert Magnusson
John Madejski
Jacqueline Gold
Simon Cowell
Wayne Rooney
Michael Vaughan
Sir Tom Hunter
Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou
John Hargreaves

Meanwhile, a group of about 10 British people, including the McCanns and their friends, have been reinterviewed to clarify their statements.

They are expected to record video evidence in court this week for any future trial.

Local lawyer Artur Rego said the procedure was only used in exceptional circumstances when a large number of witnesses were foreigners.

On Sunday, Madeleine's grandmother Susan Healy made an appeal for the return of her granddaughter.

She told BBC News people should look out for her granddaughter's distinctive "black flash" in her eye, where her pupil runs into her iris.

"If the people who have got Madeleine realise that she has this distinctive marking, take her somewhere safe. Leave her, you can run off, we don't care whether you get caught, that doesn't matter. We just want Madeleine back," she said.

Madeleine McCann in a Everton FC shirt

 

Businessman Sir Richard Branson, footballer Wayne Rooney and children's author JK Rowling are among those who have contributed to rewards totalling £2.5m for the safe return of Madeleine.

The official ground search for Madeleine in the Algarve has ended, but police say they still have significant leads to follow up.

They have formally interviewed a 12th person as part of their investigations, but say no individual is being considered a suspect.

The focus has shifted from a local search for Madeleine to an international child abduction inquiry, amid suggestions she may have been taken out of Portugal.

Detectives are also continuing to cross-check CCTV footage of several cars with witness statements in their efforts to identify a possible abductor.

Police have declined to confirm or deny reports about any possible leads, citing Portuguese law.

The international number for Crime stoppers is +44 1883 731 336. People with information about Madeleine can call anonymously.

Map of Luz Ocean complex


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New light on Dad's Army.

In the drama, at least, the heroes of the Home Guard were a ragtag of volunteers, thrown together to defend the country at a time of its greatest need.

The reality appears to have been quite different. According to new research, the real Dad's Army was based on stringent selective practices that weeded out chaps who were not One Of Us.

Penny Summerfield, professor of modern history at the University of Manchester, suggests that the bureaucrats of the Home Guard did not like oddities up 'em any more than enemies of Corporal Jones liked cold steel."The official establishment line portrayed the Home Guard as an all- inclusive body in which anyone could volunteer their services just as the Dad's Army characters did," she said.

But after checking the oral histories of men and women who served in the force for a book she has co-researched with Corinna Peniston-Bird, lecturer in cultural history at Lancaster University, Professor Summerfield concluded that the outfit's leaders were clear who they would and would not accept.

"In reality, recruitment practices were much more selective and were heavily criticised by some of those who weren't allowed to join," she added. Excluded leftwingers, inspired by international anti-fascist movements, trained Home Guards in unauthorised guerrilla techniques. Women, also officially excluded, formed their own armed organisation, sometimes helped by defiant Home Guard commanders.

"Many saw the Home Guard as a questionable military organisation which failed to turn civilian men into effective soldiers," she said. "Others - including Winston Churchill - saw it as a pillar of the British war effort. Others still, like George Orwell, thought it was a people's army and a harbinger of radical change. Our research shows why it was understood to be all these different things."


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