Chair’s Blog 2016

Each month for the past year, the Chairman of Eiriol has highlighted a person of significance to either himself or the community, writing a small piece of the work they did or are still currently doing. 2016’s volume of blogs have been collected together into one document for easy reading (See to the left for the full document). Each month for 2017 the process will be repeated, there will be new people of significance highlighted and given a small piece here on this blog page.


Chair’s Blog 2017

Baiba Skride

Eight years ago 10 members of Lashkar-e-Taiba, an Islamic militant organisation based in Pakistan, carried out a series of 12 coordinated shooting and bombing attacks lasting four days across Mumbai. The attacks, which drew widespread global condemnation, began on Wednesday, 26 November and lasted until Saturday, 29 November 2008, killing 164 people and wounding at least 308.

We have lived through the World Trade Centre, the London Bombings, the Madrid Bombings, the Bali Bombings, the Moscow Theatre, the Balkans, numerous assassinations, Dunblane, President Kennedy and John Lennon – I could go on – all triggering profound emotions , feelings of helplessness and powerlessness, thoughts which lie too deep for tears.  Civilisation does not deserve the title until it has managed to redress the balance. Is there any hope or is despair the terminus of life’s journey?

On the day the last of the Mumbai terrorists was liquidated I attended a concert in Birmingham.  Baiba Skride, 26, from Latvia ( when she was born her country was a second rate satellite of the Soviet Union), in a long shimmering blue dress walked diffidently into centre stage, borrowed Stradivarius in hand. 2,500 people clapped before she played a note. Andris Nelsons, also from Latvia, lifted his baton and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra introduced us, not for the first time in our lives, to Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto. By the end of the first movement the Brummies could not restrain themselves and we had to pause for the applause to die down ( it’s not ‘done’ to applaud before the end of a concerto, I am told). Out of downtrodden Latvia has emerged a wonderful virtuoso, not to mention a marvellous conductor. At the end they would not let Baiba go until she had played again , this time unaccompanied, the orchestra, many career-hardened veterans, joining in the applause. I should add that her performance of the Tchaikovsky illuminated the soul of the concerto which has eluded many older and more famous names.

What a privilege to have been there. What joy that civilisation can produce a Baiba and an Andris. What a counter-weight to the inhumanity of Mumbai. It has been going on for years and we must not ignore either  as one will help the other. Let’s remember the Prague Spring, the West-Eastern Divan orchestra, Germany’s reunification, the Good Friday Agreement and the dignity of Mandela. The death  of Jorn Utzon who designed the Sydney Opera House reminds us of man’s potential for brilliance. This life-enhancing use of our minds provides the hope that atrocities are not the inevitable consequence of our collective and individual strivings. Thank-you, Baiba.

Marshall Grange

59 years ago aged 10 I transferred from the Junior to the senior school of Leeds Grammar School on its old site at the junction of University Road and Clarendon Road. Today the building is Leeds University Business School. The form master of 1A was Mr Grange known as Charlie by the boys. A cricketer, graduate of Keble College, Oxford, he was also to become housemaster of Barry House of which I was a member. He was master in charge of the 1st XI. He taught geography. I perhaps ought to have started this series of reflective blogs with Charlie as he was the first adult outside the family to make a lasting impact on me.

For eight years of my life he was a huge figure. We don’t treat our teachers well.  After I left school  he took on university entrance and paid a visit to Oxford where he found me playing cricket. We had a natter and parted. That was the last time I spoke to him and now he is no longer with us I regret not making more of an effort to maintain contact and to tell him how much his words of advice had meant to me aged 10.

Now 60 years later I clearly remember his words on our first day in Class 1A. He must have said other things which I have forgotten. I cannot recall what he said when I got out on 96 with the whole school watching, clean bowled going for a big hit against Giggleswick. But on that first day …

“Set your stall out now”

Here we were at the start of our secondary school career and this master with a fearsome reputation was telling us to plan our school career to ensure we left and went on to the university of our choice. To him like many of his colleagues  – see Dudley Scott last year – this meant Oxbridge. It was what I wanted to hear and I  never looked back. His commitment and confidence rubbed off on me and by the time I reach sixth form I was conditioned and very willing to do the extra work necessary. The four happy years which followed at Oxford  I owe to Marshall Grange and his dedicated  colleagues. Marshall RIP.

Barbara Dockar Drysdale

From 1974 to 1979 I was a teacher/therapist at the Cotswold Community, a therapeutic community for 50 adolescent boys in Wiltshire. They arrived there having been taken into care owing to family or school breakdown and in many cases a long list of serious offences. They were lucky as the route for most lads like this was approved school, borstal and secure unit/prison with no help available to address their problems. What lay behind their anti-social behaviour was profound emotional deprivation which could traced back to their earliest years. The Cotswold Community’s task was to find ways of enabling them to contain their emotions and move on from their stuck, often violent, primitive state.

The Cotswold Community benefited from the services of some very gifted consultants who today would be in the vanguard of the non medical psychiatric movement. Barbara (Pip) Dockar Drysdale, a psychotherapist trained with Donald Winnicott (see last Year), had established the Mulberry Bush school in Oxfordshire initially to care for wartime evacuees. She developed a method for assessing children’s emotional needs and for providing for them in ways which made up for the missing early primary care.

Pip was a consultant at the Cotswold and we met her every week in staff groups or individually. Five years of this changed the way I thought about children and young people. It was like having psycho-analysis without the fee or the couch. She was able to explain the meaning of behaviour, especially the more frightening sort, and offer methods and techniques for groups of symptoms. The frozen child, the archipelago child, the false self and the caretaker were not labels but signposts to help determine a child’s needs. Much came  from  Winnicott and she translated his and her own insights into treatment initiatives which often for very damaged boys involved symbolic provision with stunning success. Start with her two  books “Therapy in Child Care” and “Consultation  in Child Care”. They opened my eyes into a world where the needs of the children were paramount and careers, hierarchies and personal egos were obstructions.

At the end of March I attended a conference entitled “Compassionate Mental Health”. Personal narratives of psychological trauma were aired by facilitators and delegates alike which reminded me  that over 40 years later Pip would have been relaxed in this company and would have had some very helpful therapeutic insights and  practical steps towards recovery.