Back in the 1960’s Mac and his friend Brian used to belong to a ship-spotting club in Walpole Bay. They used to cycle there most days during the summer holidays to look out at the vast array of ships steaming up and round North Foreland, many often anchored out in the bay. I guess if you have grown up in Margate, you do tend to see ferries at the bottom of every garden. Watergate, for those of you who remember, had nothing to do with any murky business at sea, but was merely the name of the office complex that Richard Nixon’s men burgled in June 1972. He once famously said, “I admit my men made a sad mistake. They got caught”. Mac said they had touched on it last week whilst sitting overlooking Kingsgate Bay discussing cosmic microwave theories, as his brother was often in Washington in those days and had seen it from close range. The tragic affair was not so much about the bugging and the notorious tapes (for we know that all governments feel they have the right to intercept everything we write or say, in our own best interests naturally) but about the subsequent deception and cover-up. Recordings from the Watergate tapes implicated the president, revealing he had attempted to cover up the questionable (and illegal) goings-on that had taken place after the break-in. So the moral of the tale is very apt for those of us who grew up on the beach with buckets and spades. If you are in a hole, stop digging.
Mac researched Winston Churchill’s speech in Margate at the Conservative Party Conference for his book, although he is not certain about the old boy dropping into the Ruby Lounge for a whisky chaser. When he rang the security services to check the details, some tosser mumbled something about freedom of information or some sort of crap like that, a standard ploy whenever people try to hush things up. Amazingly Winston did though begin his speech with a bit about British Guiana, which is where his cricketer friend Mike was born. Little did Churchill know the whirlwind he was about to unleash, although Margate Cricket Club certainly benefited, as did the UK gambling and brewing industries. What Mac also found was Winnie’s great quote, “they are not fit to run a whelk stall”. Sounds as if it was conceived in a seaside town, doesn’t it? But just what are the standards that we require from public servants? How do we judge (or even spell) words like probity and reputation? Surely any politician, whether local or national, enters dangerous waters in debating such issues, as most of the public believe, along with Groucho Marx, that their principles are as shifting as the Goodwin Sands. Amusingly if you google ‘Vocabulary.com’, you get the wonderful comment that the word ‘probity’ sounds like what you might do with a sharp stick, although they go on to say that it actually means being morally and ethically above reproach, having integrity. Mac thinks he prefers the sharp stick.
In these days of instant media with blogs, tweets and twitters, the media can give us extremely personal details of celebrities or victims. Nothing is sacrosanct. Yet in 1965, when a girl died in Dane Park, the newspapers were much better at allowing families to keep their dignity. Sadly, however, the focus then was on the drugs which were really a new phenomenon for our area. Soldiers from all forces during the war had been given huge quantities of stimulants to combat tiredness and to instill courage, an amazing 72 million tablets used by British troops alone, but we were still learning about the damage that long term addiction could bring. Amphetamines were banned the year before “Quadrophenia” is set, the film inspired by The Who album, much of the story set in Margate. The Who also visited Margate ten days before ‘Julie’ died. She belonged to the Dreamland Rendezvous Club and may well have seen them performing there. She met the group who were residing in the Mad House about the same time, according to her mother, the Birmingham youngsters who would have introduced her to the drugs. At the time Justice Sachs condemned them all, including Julie, but she was just a sixteen year old kid looking to explore life. One of the group certainly introduced her to the drugs and then took advantage, before casting her adrift. His apparent rejection triggered her despair and the sequence of events that led her to be in the park at two o’clock in the morning with a man she knew very little about. She would not have known that he had a criminal record or that he might lash out, breaking her jaw. There is just very little in the records about the type of person Julie was. She deserved a better press. It is the bastards who sucked her in that escaped scot-free. Ain’t it always the same.
On a lighter note Mac has now finished his thesis on the Big Bang and is submitting it for verification. He hopes to be able to reveal how the universe began in his next book which is currently under development and will also largely cover more of the history of Thanet. More to the point he has begun to discover new material, previously unknown to local scholars. For a long period in Garlinge there was a small ruined house on the right hand side as you walk down towards the Hussar, which had been bombed during the war. It became a sort of ‘dumping ground’ and in the rubble Mac had found a small pottery container which is now believed to have been an early Tracy Beaker. One of the Daundelyons had probably been caught short on his way to the public house and tea gardens and the container must have fallen into the bushes when he unstrapped himself. Mac always prefers to use the terminology ‘unleashed’, but we think the existence of a bus pass tends to gainsay that. Incidentally the main reason the noble Daundelyons became extinct was indeed their sexual brevity. Many of them just couldn’t reach their partners, male or female, although clearly that was no barrier if you have been watching ‘Game of Thrones’ and cheering on Tyrion Lannister. The Earl of Thanet had a similar problem, so it is rumoured, despite being a fine cricketer, as we believe he left his cricket box to posterity. The measurements revealed all. It may now be somewhere in the Quex Museum in Birchington (look in the stuffed display section) for all Mac knows, but if it could be found then it would confirm why the Earldom of Thanet ended back in the mid 19th century. Mac seemed to remember a renaissance briefly in the 1960’s with a Duke of Earl, but does not think Gene Chandler had any connection with Thanet. Top of the Pops though in 1961. Anyone who still remembers the song can begin chanting now, although the lyrics are unsophisticated, even if you are a boy from Margate. Just look out for a man with a cape, a top hat, a monocle and a cane. Now there is a man who clearly understands the meaning of probity. Which is almost where we came in.