Happy New Year!
Hogmanay in Scotland is a time for traditions. First-footing, coal, whisky, Auld Lang Syne, steak pie (apparently), black bun, and all the rest. When I lived in America, New Year’s Eve was the hardest time of year to be away from the country of my birth.
But there’s another tradition that covers all of Scotland, England, Wales, and Northern Ireland that I didn’t miss so much – the New Year’s Honours List.
Each year, New Year’s Day is marked by naming new members of orders of chivalry and recipients of other official honours. It’s mostly fairly dull stuff. However, this year the Queen’s traditional activities were curtailed when her annual festive trip to Sandringham was delayed for a day due and transferred from royal train to helicopter due to “a heavy cold”.
She then missed attending the local Christmas and New Year’s church services, and Buckingham Palace was moved to deny rumours of her death. Such an event might jazz up the honours system. Apparently when James Blunt recently and jokingly asked to be knighted at some dumb party, Princess Beatrice took a bit a big swing with a handy ceremonial sword and slashed a nearby Ed Sheerin in the face.
This year was the usual sort of stuff, though. Andy Murray was knighted for services to sport (and repelling an invasion by alien blancmanges). A bunch of hard-working people received honours for work in their local communities. Ken Dodd, who seems like a decent bloke in interviews, was knighted some 27 years after being acquitted of tax fraud in a three-week case during which it was revealed that his sidekicks The Diddy Men “were often played by local children from stage schools, and were… never… paid.”
As such, he was able to join other stars of ‘seventies and ‘eighties television like Sir Jimmy Savile, OBE, KCSG and Rolf Harris, OA, CBE, in being recognized by the honours system.
One would understand if Doddy had declined to be honoured in such a fashion, given the sort of company that would involve keeping. Surely one would be better off in the company of such luminous refuseniks as John Lennon and Ronnie Babbs.
Another ‘eighties television presenter – and campaigner – Lynne Faulds Wood, who has “changed laws and saved lives” declined an MBE, objecting to the word “Empire” in the designation, and condemning the honours system as unfair. Unlike Doddy, she’s in good company.
Hillsborough disaster justice campaigner and academic Phil Scraton turned down an OBE with the following words:
I could not receive an honour on the recommendation of those who remained unresponsive to the determined efforts of bereaved families and survivors to secure truth and justice.
Maybe his honourable approach to the honours system will see him offered a knighthood and a chance to be recognized in the same light as those who have previously received knighthoods. Philip Green, say, Fred Goodwin, Robert Mugabe, Benito Mussolini, and Nicolae Ceaucescu.
On Hogmanay, I asked a buddy in the future (or, New Zealand) how the future looked. He said
In the future, no heroes have died yet and so far, Obama is still president. But the weather sucks.
Well, I hope you all have a personally awesome 2017 – I know that on that level, I’m looking forward to it. But the first twenty-four hours suggest that the news isn’t going to be much better than it was in 2016. Kudos to Lynne Faulds Woods and Phil Scraton for doing what they can to encourage better times ahead.
They deserve a… round of applause.