Arran Banner Letters – week 28, 2020

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Lessons from the past


I write in response to Cicely Gills letter about her experiences when she visited Brodick castle and was appalled at the display of Beckford silver that had been purchased from the profits of slavery.

These artifacts produced such a strong reaction she felt compelled to write and state her case. Surely this is the point of preserving relics and artifacts, large and small, from history to promote dialogue and debate and inspire change.

Humanity’s past, good and bad, must be preserved for future generations, how can they learn about the bloodshed, torture and conflict committed in the name of religion and intolerance if there is not reminders to provide the catalyst for discussion and learning?

We are a species who deal in inhumanity to fellow humans and animals and have been that way since time out of mind but we must be wary of looking at history through modern eyes.

Much of history fills us with horror when we read of children being hanged for stealing bread or sent up chimneys and down mines. We read that from Roman times public executions, burnings and torture were seen in times past as a day out with hundreds in attendance.

As to the slave trade it is little known that slavery was banned by English law in 1102. In 1700 a Lord Chief Justice ruled that as ‘soon as man sets foot on English soil he is free.’

African slaves brought into this country could not be seen as English because there was no naturalisation. One slave, a James Somerset, escaped his master and was eventually recaptured to be shipped to Jamaica. He had gained supporters however who said he had been on English soil, baptised and therefore a free man, he won his case and was released. Slaves only accompanied their masters.

Slaves were not kept in Scotland. 10 to 15 thousand were freed in England. From the 17th century onwards the Quaker and Christian settlers in America fought to abolish slavery. The movement eventually became the Clapham Sect and went on until 1807 when William Wilberforce made the buying and selling of slaves illegal. Profit was made on the backs of many with the trade in sugar, tobacco and cotton but the driving force was the divisions in the class society of the time. The rich got richer and the poor remained poor.

We must preserve our past. We have as yet learnt little, we are still divided, intolerant and in conflict. We need to be reminded of the past in order to go forward.


Jennifer Williams,



School risks statistics


Richard Henderson (Education fears, Banner 3/7/2020) states that the risk from Covid-19 to schoolchildren is trivially low, but not zero. Perhaps parents will be reassured by the following metrics.

According to the UK statistical guru, Sir David Spiegelhalter, in the 10 weeks up to June 5th there has been three Covid deaths in the 5 to 14 age group, out of a UK population of 7,159,102.

That’s one death per 2,386,367.

Your odds on being struck by lightning are 1 in 1.2 million.


Douglas Templeton

Whiting Bay

Housing shortages


Having recently read about the mythical hordes of second home owners descending on Arran during lockdown, it appears they are now being accused of ‘artificially’ high house prices on the island, It is generally accepted that house prices in desirable locations influence the cost, especially in rural areas and towns (eg Glasgow West End one bed flat £200K), but not to the extent stated. House prices in Scotland have risen dramatically in the last 20 years, by over 170%. This increase has been largely caused by escalating land value and the Blair/Brown (mal)administration, handing out mortgages like sweeties with unrealistic terms.

I have been coming to Arran since the 1950’s (even earlier as a baby). Tourism has always been the main contribution to the island economy. Local businesses (and CalMac, with RET) also benefit from the home owners, highlighted in previous letters. Perhaps David Phillips (19 June) can clarify his statement about economic instability being partly down to recycling of funds through local businesses being throttled by second home owners going back to their own homes in the winter. Sounds more like a murder in Maryhill!

Successive Scottish and UK governments have failed to tackle the affordable homes shortage, especially in rural areas, and this major problem will continue until a firm financial commitment is made, allowing private development on sites (even existing green belt), provided a proportion of the houses are ‘affordable’, is not the answer


Robin Gardner

Lamlash and Milton of Campsie