On Being Winston Smith

  John Hurt as Winston Smith in the film adaptation of 1984  Winston Smith, the antihero of George Orwell’s 1984, works in the Ministry of Truth where his job is to rewrite old newspaper reports in order to create a government approved record of events. He also has to remove “unpersons” from photographs when they have fallen out of favour with the all-controlling Party. So successful is the Party in creating the false narrative that even Winston is shocked when he discovers newspaper evidence which contradicts the confessions of three members of the Inner Party convicted of treasonable activity. Gradually Winston turns against the Party and grows to distrust it - something which means he falls foul of the Thought Police and ultimately ends up in Room 101 where he learns, in an exchange with a Party official, that 2 + 2 is not always 4 in spite of the evidence of his own eyes: "How can I help it? How can I help but see what is in front of my eyes? Two

The Week Before Christmas

Going Home for Christmas George Arthur’s   wife was packing suitcases on the night of 17th December 1974. The couple were due to fly to Ghana where they were to spend three weeks visiting relatives over Christmas. As she was doing so news came through that her husband, a 34 year old telephonist, had been killed in a bomb attack on Bloomsbury telephone exchange on Tottenham Court Road. Other bombs exploded the same night at telephone exchanges in Chelsea and the West End. Mr Arthur worked night shifts. His inquest in April 1975 heard that staff had been evacuated when a duffle bag with a battery and wires was found. Seven minutes later it exploded. It was believed that Mr Arthur was on his way to the toilet at the time. Belfast Telegraph report on the London bombings (click to enlarge) Rodney Fenton   also had thoughts of getting home for Christmas when his life was suddenly cut short on 20th December 1973. The 22 year old bank clerk rented a room in Belfast

Some Worthwhile Books

I am sometimes asked where I draw the material for my tweets from. Most of the photographs of victims come from the Human Face project on CAIN. The “On This Day” feature on the CAIN website has proved invaluable in terms of cutting down time on looking through books to discover who died on any given day. A drawback of CAIN is that it seriously underestimates the number of people murdered by the PIRA. For example, it does not attribute Kingsmill to the Provisionals even through they clearly were responsible. That said, it’s a remarkable resources and a wonderful idea very well executed, particularly given the limitations of its time. I have also used The British Newspaper Archive . A major gap in this otherwise excellent online resource which is easily searchable is the absence of Northern Ireland papers covering the post 1969 period so while it has proved very useful for checking details of soldiers from Great Britain it has been of limited use in other cases. Th