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The Savages of Stamford

Stamford in Lincolnshire is the kind of slightly sleepy, out-of-the-way small town that, for the most part, few people will ever hear of. With a population of just under 20,000, it isn’t the biggest town to be found but it does have its highlights however. Those who like cats and dogs will have heard of Stamford as it is the home of Bourne Publishing, responsible for two of the leading magazines catering for those who share their lives with pets. Likewise, aviation fans will know of the town as another high-profile magazine company, Key Publishing, are based there.

Apart from publishing Stamford also has some significant history; largely untouched by the industrial revolution, it has a picture-postcard feel to it with 17th and 18th-century stone buildings, older timber-framed buildings and five medieval parish churches. In 2013, Stamford was even rated as the best place to live in a survey by The Sunday Times.

Hardly the hub of the world then, apart from publishing. Yet there is more - The Stamford Mercury claims to have been published since 1695, and to thus be ‘Britain's oldest newspaper’ (The London Gazette also claims this honour, having been published since the 1660s. However, it is not now a newspaper in the usually accepted sense).

Stamford was the first conservation area to be designated in England and Wales under the Civic Amenities Act 1967 and there are over 600 listed buildings in the town and its surrounding area. The town has also played a part in a little controversy with regard education; in 1333–34, a group of students and tutors from Merton and Brasenose colleges, dissatisfied with conditions at their university, left Oxford to establish a rival college at Stamford. Oxford and Cambridge universities petitioned Edward III, and the King ordered the closure of the college and the return of the students to Oxford. Oxford MA students were obliged to make the following declaration: ‘You shall also swear that you will not read lectures, or hear them read, at Stamford, as in a University study, or college general’, an oath that remained in place until 1827. The site, and limited remains, of the former Brasenose College, Stamford, where the Oxford secessionists lived and studied, now forms part of the Stamford School premises.

Ah. Education. Now – there’s a point for discussion. The present day Stamford School for Boys was founded in 1532 with its opposite number for girls coming along much later in 1877 (yes, really - that long ago). Along with Stamford Junior School, they form the Stamford Endowed Schools and are, needless to say, Grammar Schools. Stamford has just one state secondary school, Stamford Welland Academy (formerly known as Stamford Queen Eleanor School). The population being what it is, there isn’t the demand or the need, one would have thought, for another.

But with just one, another thought that arises is how hard might it be to track down and determine who was responsible for the act of vandalism that befell the Market Deeping Model Railway Club when it tried to hold its annual show at the Welland Academy this past weekend (May 18/19, 2019).

Those who know me well will also know that I am something of a commercial aviation enthusiast and from time to time, make models of the aircraft I am so fond of. I have also taken my models to display at shows like the railway show so destructively ruined last weekend. The usual worry is damage to models when they are picked up by members of the public (without so much as a polite ‘May I?’), a minority of whom seem to think that because they have paid to get in, can handle what they like and how they like. We’ll come back to that aspect in a bit.

Another worry is of the one that was inflicted upon the model railway show; that somebody would break in and smash everything up. Fortunately it has never happened either to me or to any of those shows that I have been to. Actually until this weekend, I’d never heard of a break-in at all. It is those members of the public that are usually the biggest concern, along with inadequately and very badly supervised small children. And I have had models damaged – fortunately only slightly – by the sticky fingers of little kids running around grabbing hold of things.

I don’t really blame the children. I do however blame entirely their parents for not teaching their offspring to have a little respect for the property of others. This is where we come back to those other adults who believe they can pick things up without the merest hint of asking.

If you take anything to a public event, there is a risk that it might be stolen or damaged. Most people who do display things at public events know that and accept, at least to a degree, that the risk is present. What however, is harder to accept is that adults, often of mature age, also subscribe to the view that it is okay to mess about with something that belongs to somebody else.

There is something of a mistaken impression surrounding model railways, aircraft, ships, tanks, whatever, which is that such pursuits are solely the preserve of middle-aged and elderly men or socially insecure older males who still live with their mothers. This is fact is not true, although to be fair, many of those who do build and display such things are older rather than younger. Nevertheless, there is a considerable input from younger people, including teenagers and young adults. Let’s face it, if there wasn’t, these interests would have died out completely years ago. This age question also applies to those who don’t build and display, but to some of those who simply go and have a look, which thus includes some of those who insist on treating what they see as mere things to be picked up as they please - and it is this that brings us to the question of those who vandalised the railway show at Stamford.

Those people who want to pick up items displayed without so much as a by-your-leave are often older rather than younger (small children aside). They are also Grandparents, and very possibly of those small children mentioned. Their parents have not taught that respect also mentioned above because they were not taught it themselves, which also applies to the vandals who struck at the model railway show.

One might think that such a soul-destroying event can only happen in a big city, of which Stamford is the polar opposite. We do know, according to Lincolnshire Police, that ‘four youths’ were found on the school premises and arrested that fateful night at the Welland Academy last weekend. What does ‘four youths’ mean? Youths as in late teens or still of school age or both? And if of school age, what school? There is only one and is there any significance that the destruction took place at that one school?

The four concerned were subsequently released on conditional bail by the police but are not the members of the Market Deeping Model Railway Club are entitled to know what those conditions are? Are they not also entitled to know if any or even all of the four are students at the school? Let’s face it, the first to know of such events in their school hall are the students themselves and these shows are often held in school sports halls – they provide the school with some much-needed extra income.

There is the point – it isn’t just the members of the railway club affected. Although they obviously have been on the end of the greatest impact, now, today, this year, how can they ever trust the Welland Academy again? How can members of similar clubs (of all interests) up and down the country ever trust any school anywhere, in any town, ever again?

Events like the savagery inflicted last weekend are yet another example of the deep social problems the UK has and when they occur – as they do all too often in far too many other areas – they strike at the very soul of UK life.

So what do we do about it? A useful starting point would be an exemplary punishment imposed on those who actually carried out the act and as I said earlier, it can’t be that hard to find out who it was, assuming the four already arrested didn’t do it. But whoever it was, they must be named, indelibly shamed and very severely punished for what they did.

And so should their parents. They brought them up. They seem to have abdicated their responsibility as parents (just as their parents did before them).

So let us not be satisfied with merely bringing the actual perpetrators to book. Extend that to those others who are really to blame - the Parents and Grandparents.

Because that is where the responsibility for the feral youth of today really lies.

© Kevan James 2019.

You can read more of Kevan James’ views on parental responsibility and other areas of life in the UK in his book, ‘Comments of a Common Man’, £9.99, available from Amazon

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