Sir: I refute Charles Moore’s assertions (‘Broken Trust’, 5 June) that the National Trust frowns on local expertise, ignores its members and is prone to ideological zealotry. National Trust houses are historic treasures of national importance and we are very proud to care for them. Before the pandemic, the Trust was spending three times more on its houses than on coast and countryside. Covid has caused regrettable staff reductions, but we still have more curatorial posts than we did several years ago. This is hardly an organisation ‘attacking the very idea of country houses’.
The report looking at links with slavery and colonialism was not driven by ideology, our intention was simply to acknowledge factually these aspects of history. In a 2020 Policy Exchange survey, 76 per cent of respondents said we should do more to educate the public about such connections. There is no truth in the allegation that we are pursuing a political agenda.
The National Trust is a charity built on local knowledge, including that of many thousands of brilliant volunteers. Members are the Trust’s lifeblood and are consulted through correspondence and surveys all the time. Right now, I am delighted that our membership numbers are back in growth and am focused on making sure that every single member and visitor enjoys everything the National Trust can offer after this most challenging of years.
Director-general, National Trust Swindon, Wiltshire
Sir: Charles Moore articulates perfectly the current malaise in the National Trust. For a conservation charity founded to preserve the historical landscape and houses of this country, it seems that it is constantly apologising for this, and its mantra ‘we are for everyone for ever’ is only for those who subscribe to its agenda. The higher echelons appear to believe that signing up to a movement revelling in its neo-Marxist identity is the correct way to encourage rational debate regarding Britain’s cultural history. Let us hope that under new leadership the National Trust can remember its real purpose.
Meat of the matter
Sir: Anthony Browne writes: ‘Whether it comes from a bioreactor or animal, the meat is the same’ (‘Golden nuggets’, 5 June). To that I ask, what about the crackling? The flavour relies on the rendering of an animal’s naturally occurring fats. The quality of the meat, fat and skin depends on an animal’s environment and diet. Will the whole tasty package be cultured too, or might confit du canard and crackling fall from grace? Can the taste of a corn-fed chicken be replicated by these laboratories? It seems Monsieur Denormandie thinks not.
Daniel J. Tinson
Forays across the Firth
Sir: Craig Raine is wide of the mark in asserting that George Mackay Brown never left Orkney (Books, 29 May). He studied at Edinburgh University and later at Newbattle Abbey under the guidance of the Orcadian poet Edwin Muir, and later he made occasional trips across the Firth. Maggie Fergusson has written that he visited England once. That was presumably the trip to Oxford in the early 1990s when he was interviewed on Radio Oxford and, in a good-natured exchange, admitted he should have come south sooner. He was in Berwick on occasion, though — but said it didn’t count as it was really Scottish anyway. Awarded a travel scholarship, he had to designate a foreign country to visit. He chose England, but that wasn’t allowed.
What the people wanted
Sir: Lionel Shriver says, with some irony, that we should give the people what they want, i.e. let Scotland and Northern Ireland have their ‘freedom’ and see how they like it (‘Give the people what they think they want’, 5 June). I know it’s old hat to say so, but reading it did remind me that that is how plenty of Remainers as well as many within the EU came to view Brexit, too.
Sir: I was delighted to read the review of Jennifer Lucy Allan’s book about foghorns (Books, 29 May). I was brought up in the 1950s and 1960s on the seafront at Hoylake on the Wirral. My bedroom was at the front of the house and I vividly remember the haunting lament from the foghorns of the ships entering and leaving the Mersey. It was highly evocative. At that time, of course, there were far more ships.
Many years later, on a holiday in Galicia, a fisherman took us in his small boat from Malpica to Sisarga Grande on the aptly named Costa da Morte. We walked up to the old lighthouse and saw enormous early 20th-century steam-powered foghorns, long abandoned, with the coal bunkers and boiler house. The fisherman recalled hearing them in his youth, and said the modern automated ones were louder but didn’t have ‘la bella’ of the old ones’ sound.
Sir: Regarding rules of etiquette relating to gifts from guests invited to a virtual wedding, Mary soundly recommends that wedding presents should indeed be sent to the happy couple (Dear Mary, 22 May). If invitations to virtual weddings continue to be issued once the Covid-19 emergency is behind us, I would suggest it is only fair that those generous enough to send presents should be rewarded with food vouchers to compensate for their having missed out on a slap-up meal. These are available from all major firms specialising in home deliveries.
Dr Andrew Mason
Norton, Bury St Edmunds
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