Magazines offer valuable social history

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From: Margaret Woodhead Whitaker, Harswell, East Yorkshire.

I WAS very interested in the recent article and letters about parish magazines. In the 1940s there were treasures to be found in second hand bookshops for a few pence, and one of mine is a bound volume of the Clun Valley parochial magazine The Sign. It covers the year 1916 from January until “Day of National Prayer December 31”. I feel there must be some library or repository where it would be of interest, it contains so much social history, with photographs and articles about people and buildings long gone.

There is even a lengthy biography with photo entitled Walter Farquhar Hook: A Great Victorian Churchman. He became Vicar of Leeds at the age of 39. He found this Northern town in “an appalling state of spiritual destitution with the mass of the people lapsed into Heathenism”. He ministered there for 22 years, though at first he had strong opposition from “the rough, independent Yorkshiremen”. But he won them over.

Once Hook tried to get a man to take the pledge by offering to do so himself. The man argued: “How will one of us know if the other keeps it?” The Vicar replied: “Oh, that’s easy, I’ll ask your missus, and you ask mine.”

The effect of his weekday services received the unique testimony of a poor woman who declared: “They are lamb and salad to my soul.”

On the whole, however, the pages of this book concern the people and events relative to the Clun Valley in that year of warfare and loss.

Cemetery needs more attention

From: Chris Giddings, Springwood Drive, Copley Lane, Halifax.

I READ with interest the article (Yorkshire Post, February 12) which referred to Lawnswood Cemetery yielding its historic information regarding those lost in the Great War.

The accompanying picture shows researcher Andrea Hetherington walking through part of what appears to be an older section of Lawnswood and also depicts many of the graves in a state of disrepair.

On several occasions over the years, I have written to the Yorkshire Post regarding the disgraceful appearance of the grounds, especially the older parts which seem to be neglected by the current owners, Leeds City Council. Cost may well be an issue in the present economic times but this is not a recent happening, as the deterioration has been on going for a long time.

Anyone reading the article and considering a visit to Lawnswood to look at historic memorials should be prepared for a disappointing view, offering smashed and broken graves and a very untidy appearance, this in particular in the area surrounding the chapel and the immediate vicinity behind it.

Visit the new sections of the cemetery and the picture is entirely different, an immaculately laid out area and well-maintained. Perhaps a little more effort should be put into restoring the sections near the chapel. After all, this is the main entrance to Lawnswood and creates the first and lasting impression.

Importance of personal choice

From: Roger A Bell, Skipton Road, Gargrave, North Yorkshire.

POLITICIANS should have to have good scientific evidence before they curtail the behaviour of autonomous adults, if the reason for doing so is that the behaviour is damaging to others (Philip Davies, Yorkshire Post, February 12).

Though many studies have been done to examine correlations between secondary smoke inhalation and the development of lung cancer etc, there has never been shown to be any link.

It is commendable to educate people about the serious conditions they risk, as this enables them to make an informed decision on how they wish to conduct their lives. It is, however, incorrect to use a psychological campaign to make them feel responsible for harming those around them when there is no evidence to support this.

People are free to make choices, in this case on the use of a product which is not classed as illegal, by weighing up the risks, in the same way that a hockey player, mountain climber or rally driver does without being subjected to a witch-hunt – a baseless, ignorant medieval practice.

I am a non-smoker, yet I defend the right to exercise personal choice in this matter, without baseless psychological pressure being applied by government.

Children should enjoy reading

From: Donna Thomson, Coombe Shute, Stoke Gabriel, Totnes, Devon.

CATHERINE Scott is absolutely right in her assessment of the drawbacks of teaching children to read through use of synthetic phonics: ‘Sounding out arguments over learning to read’ (Yorkshire Post, January 30).

I was particularly interested in her observation that her youngest child, confronted with a complex word, tends to get obsessed with the sound rather than the meaning of words.

Young children must be taught to understand – and enjoy – what they read rather than simply ‘decode’ words, which is 
what phonics teaches them 
to do.

If we want our children’s literacy to improve and for reading to become a pleasure, we need to give them the skills that support a whole reading experience from the start.

Children who understand what they’re reading acquire the skills to problem solve, understand other people’s point of view, express themselves articulately and develop curiosity, which is the bedrock of meaningful learning.

These are the type of skills employers are crying out for, yet we are giving our children a diet of synthetic phonics that alone cannot produce the independent readers or learners we are led to believe it can develop.