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Wife of Aunty Jack star didn’t know extent of mental health struggles until shock suicide

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wife of aunty jack star didnt know extent of mental health struggles until shock suicide

The wife of The Aunty Jack Show star has revealed she only learnt about the musician’s battles with mental illness after he committed suicide.

Rory O’Donoghue, best known for playing Thin Arthur in the ABC comedy sketch series, took his own life in December 2017. 

O’Donoghue’s family have lifted the lid on his silent struggle for ABC’s Australian Story

He married Carolyn Bennett in the early 2000s after his relationship with his first wife Bernie and the mother of his four children broke down.

Rory O'Donoghue (left) is pictured with his partner Carolyn before he took his own life

Rory O'Donoghue (left) is pictured with his partner Carolyn before he took his own life

Rory O’Donoghue (left) is pictured with his partner Carolyn before he took his own life

O'Donoghue (centre) was best known for playing Thin Arthur in The Aunty Jack Show

O'Donoghue (centre) was best known for playing Thin Arthur in The Aunty Jack Show

 O’Donoghue (centre) was best known for playing Thin Arthur in The Aunty Jack Show

At the time, O’Donoghue was an athlete competing in marathons and triathalons and Carolyn said he was ‘always happy’.

‘He was funny. He was smart. He adored my kids. I loved him and I never got the sense that there was anything wrong with him,’ she said.

Carolyn didn’t know about his history of ailing mental health, which has been detailed to the ABC by his ex-wife. 

It was when O’Donoghue had a problem with his leg and a cataract in his eyes that his demons returned in 2017.

Carolyn said the first incident she witnessed was ‘extremely distressing’, adding that her husband began to pull away from everyone. 

‘I think Rory was in denial that there was anything wrong, and I think he might have been ashamed that there was something in his past and that’s why he didn’t tell me,’ she said.   

O'Donoghue took his own life in December 2017 after turning his life around

O'Donoghue took his own life in December 2017 after turning his life around

O’Donoghue took his own life in December 2017 after turning his life around

He was admitted to North Shore Hospital with bipolar depression, where he was going to be treated with electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).

The day before his first treatment O’Donoghue was moved to a pre-approved ward because another patient urgently needed a bed in the high security ward. 

O’Donoghue took his own life on December 13.   

The actor married his first wife Bernie in the late 60s and the couple went on to have four children. 

The early days of their 35-year marriage were happy and busy, Bernie said.  

The Aunty Jack Show was commissioned in 1972. Two years later, the hit TV show won a Logie for best comedy.

Carolyn revealed she only learnt about the extent of the musician's battles with mental illness after he committed suicide

Carolyn revealed she only learnt about the extent of the musician's battles with mental illness after he committed suicide

Carolyn revealed she only learnt about the extent of the musician’s battles with mental illness after he committed suicide 

But just a short time later – when the couple’s daughter Madeline was born – O’Donoghue started to withdraw.

Bernie said her ex-husband didn’t want to do anything and didn’t talk about it a lot. 

‘But there were periods when he was quite troubled. Sometimes they would result in a hospital stay or at least psychiatric care,’ she said. 

O’Donoghue’s illness got worse by the time his children were teenagers. He was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder in the 90s.

The musician thought the devil was impacting his ability to play music. 

Bernie admitted she was ‘very unhappy’ as her husband’s life spiralled out of control. She left him in 2000.

O’Donoghue then managed to turn around his life. He started to run marathons, transformed his diet and took himself off medication. It was then he fell in love with Carolyn.

Australian Story’s ‘Keeping Up Appearances’ will air on ABC at 8pm on Monday. 

Pictured: Grahame Bond (left) and Rory O'Donoghue as Aunty Jack and Thin Arthur in The Aunty Jack Show

Pictured: Grahame Bond (left) and Rory O'Donoghue as Aunty Jack and Thin Arthur in The Aunty Jack Show

Pictured: Grahame Bond (left) and Rory O’Donoghue as Aunty Jack and Thin Arthur in The Aunty Jack Show

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Labor is on track to win the Queensland election, poll show

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labor is on track to win the queensland election poll show

Annastacia Palaszczuk is set to win the Queensland election and take Labor into a third consecutive term but the result is likely to be tight and a hung parliament remains possible, the latest Newspoll shows.

The poll for the Weekend Australian puts Labor ahead of the Liberal National Party 51.5 per cent to 48.5 per cent, after preferences.

That would return the government and possibly improve its narrow two-seat majority in the 93-seat parliament.

But with 14 of Labor’s existing 48 seats on margins of less than 4 per cent and the unknown quantity of up to 70 per cent of the electorate voting early the LNP has an outside chance to take minority government.

Annastacia Palaszczuk is set to win the Queensland election and take Labor into a third consecutive term, the latest Newspoll shows

Annastacia Palaszczuk is set to win the Queensland election and take Labor into a third consecutive term, the latest Newspoll shows

Annastacia Palaszczuk is set to win the Queensland election and take Labor into a third consecutive term, the latest Newspoll shows

Satisfaction with Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington dipped two points to 35 per cent over the past two weeks and those dissatisfied with her increased four points to 48 per cent

Satisfaction with Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington dipped two points to 35 per cent over the past two weeks and those dissatisfied with her increased four points to 48 per cent

Satisfaction with Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington dipped two points to 35 per cent over the past two weeks and those dissatisfied with her increased four points to 48 per cent

The poll confirms that both major parties pulled votes from One Nation, which shed 27 per cent of what it secured at the previous state election, down from a vote of 13.7 per cent in 2017 to 10 per cent.

Labor’s primary vote remained steady on 37 per cent through the campaign while the LNP’s slipped one point to 36 per cent.

The Greens are unchanged on 11 per cent while most of the remaining 6 per cent goes to Katter’s Australian Party. Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party has had negligible impact.

The poll shows 62 per cent of voters are satisfied with the premier’s performance and 33 per cent are dissatisfied.

Satisfaction with Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington dipped two points to 35 per cent over the past two weeks and those dissatisfied with her increased four points to 48 per cent.

On who would be the better premier, Ms Palaszczuk scored 56 per cent to 30 per cent over her challenger.

Both leaders are blitzing marginal seats on election day, but 1.65 million voters or half of the electorate have already cast their ballots.

Ms Palaszczuk is on the hustings in Brisbane, while Ms Frecklington has quite an itinerary.

Pictured: Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk (left) and Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington (right) greet each other with their elbows at the debate on Friday

Pictured: Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk (left) and Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington (right) greet each other with their elbows at the debate on Friday

Pictured: Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk (left) and Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington (right) greet each other with their elbows at the debate on Friday

Protesters dressed as the Tin Man and Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz are seen outside the debate between Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington in Brisbane on Friday

Protesters dressed as the Tin Man and Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz are seen outside the debate between Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington in Brisbane on Friday

Protesters dressed as the Tin Man and Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz are seen outside the debate between Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington in Brisbane on Friday

The opposition leader is hitting Townsville early, then voting in her southeast seat of Nanango, before heading to marginal Brisbane seats.

Ms Palaszczuk has campaigned on her health response to COVID-19 and her $11 billion in stimulus to boost the economy.

She warned against changing the government and risking the progress the state has made this year.

‘It’s probably the most important election Queenslanders have ever had to face and it’s a very clear choice,’ the premier told AAP.

‘Now is not the time to risk the LNP, we have been on a clear path this year – we’ve managed the health crisis, we are on the road to economic recovery.

‘Now is not the time to risk all that we’ve achieved together.

Ms Palaszczuk has campaigned on her health response to COVID-19 and her $11 billion in stimulus to boost the economy. She warned against changing the government and risking the progress the state has made this year

Ms Palaszczuk has campaigned on her health response to COVID-19 and her $11 billion in stimulus to boost the economy. She warned against changing the government and risking the progress the state has made this year

Ms Palaszczuk has campaigned on her health response to COVID-19 and her $11 billion in stimulus to boost the economy. She warned against changing the government and risking the progress the state has made this year

‘This election is on a knife-edge, every single vote will count. We’ll be working hard for every single vote right up until the polls close.’

Labor are offering to employ thousands of more teachers, doctors, nurses and police and make TAFE free for all students under the age of 25.

The government has promised billions of dollars to upgrade schools, roads and hospitals, as well as loans to businesses doing it tough.

Ms Frecklington has been making the case for change, pointing to Labor’s record before the pandemic.

The opposition is promising a $300 car registration refund and a subsidy to reduce electricity costs for business.

The LNP will also upgrade hospitals and roads, fund a tropical fish accelerator and install ship lifts in three ports.

Ms Frecklington (left) said the LNP will deliver nation-building infrastructure to secure the state's economic future for a generation

Ms Frecklington (left) said the LNP will deliver nation-building infrastructure to secure the state's economic future for a generation

Ms Frecklington (left) said the LNP will deliver nation-building infrastructure to secure the state’s economic future for a generation

Down the track they want to upgrade major roads, including widening 1450km of the Bruce Highway from two to four lanes.

Ms Frecklington has also promised to build the New Bradfield irrigation and hydropower project.

She said the LNP will deliver nation-building infrastructure to secure the state’s economic future for a generation.

‘Labor has dragged Queensland to the bottom of Australia’s economic ladder and we’ll stay there as long as Labor is in power,’ the LNP leader told AAP.

‘Labor has no plan for economic recovery, but the LNP does.

‘The LNP’s plan will stimulate the economy, create 150,000 jobs and lead Queensland out of recession.

‘I want to make this state an economic powerhouse again, like we used to be, and we won’t get there without the LNP’s plan to create jobs.’

KEY POINTS IN QUEENSLAND STATE ELECTION 

THE BALLPARK

* 93 seats in Queensland’s single-chamber parliament

Labor 48

LNP 38

Greens 1

One Nation 1

Katter’s Australian Party 3

Jason Costigan (ex-LNP, now North Queensland First) 1

Sandy Bolton (independent) 1

SWING NEEDED

* A uniform swing against Labor of 0.7 per cent could put them into minority (if it loses two seats it goes into minority)

* LNP would require a swing of more than three per cent to get a majority

BACKGROUND

* 3.3 million voters

* Record 597 candidates have nominated, from 12 registered political parties and 69 non-endorsed or independent candidates

* It’s expected about 70 per cent of votes would have been cast before election day

* It is the first Queensland state election to be held on a fixed date and will elect the first four-year term government

MAIN PLAYERS

* Premier and Labor leader Annastacia Palaszczuk. She could be the first female political leader to win three elections

* Opposition Leader and Liberal National Party leader Deb Frecklington. The LNP has governed only twice in Queensland since 1989

WHAT DO THE POLLS SAY?

* Roy Morgan poll showed Labor leading the LNP 51-49 per cent (October 21)

* Newspoll showed Labor had overtaken the LNP to lead 52-48 (October 17)

* YouGov poll showed Labor leading the LNP 52-48 (October 8)

KEY ISSUES

* Palaszczuk’s COVID-19 health response, which kept the state’s number of virus deaths to just six

* Economic management and unemployment

* Law and order in Townsville, Cairns and outer Brisbane

* Integrity issues for both the government and the opposition leader

SEATS TO WATCH

LNP targets:

Barron River, Townsville, Thuringowa, Mundingburra, Mackay, Keppel, Aspley, Mansfield, Redlands, Gaven, Mirani, Whitsunday, Hinchinbrook, Noosa

Labor targets:

Pumicestone, Bundaberg, Clayfield, Chatsworth, Currumbin, Burleigh, Bonney

Greens target:

South Brisbane

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BEL MOONEY: Why won’t anyone make a fuss of me on my birthday?

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bel mooney why wont anyone make a fuss of me on my birthday

Dear Bel,   

Given the problems that people are facing at the moment, mine might seem trivial but it has left me feeling hurt and angry.

For 20 years I have worked in my office, with staff of about 20. Over those years I have contributed to colleagues’ engagements, weddings, and special birthdays. In the past two years there have been three 50th birthdays, two retirements, one engagement, three babies and two weddings.

Thought of the day 

If you remain generous

Time will come good;

And you will find your feet

Again on fresh pastures of promise,

Where the air will be kind…

From Time To be Slow by John Donohue (Irish poet and priest, 1956 -2008)  

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Recently I had my 40th but all I got were texts. During lockdown two colleagues went on maternity leave, laden down with gifts — and they were relatively new employees. I didn’t even get one card. I might have expected a bunch of flowers, since colleagues who turned 50 got expensive jewellery. 

I’m not married and don’t have children so wouldn’t it have been nice if someone had thought, ‘Let’s get Sue a present for a change’?

They are nice people and would be horrified that I’m upset. They’d say, ‘Oh I didn’t think,’ but that’s the problem. They didn’t think of me. 

I live at home caring for my elderly parents and don’t have many friends and my colleagues know this. I spent a lot of my birthday crying in private. In the next few months I will be expected to contribute to gifts for two pregnant colleagues and I don’t want to.

I feel ignored and disregarded. It is the story of my life — expected to assist others while getting nothing in return. I am angry but mainly hurt. Do I wait until I get an email requesting the next contribution? I don’t want anything now because it wouldn’t mean anything. How do I deal with this?

SUE 

This week Bel advises a reader who wonders why nobody makes a fuss of her on her birthday

This week Bel advises a reader who wonders why nobody makes a fuss of her on her birthday

This week Bel advises a reader who wonders why nobody makes a fuss of her on her birthday

From time to time a letter resonates like a powerful sermon or lecture from a genius, or a wise warning from a thinker. Your simple, sad email is such a one.

The problem you regard as small, even trivial (and many people, reading only the surface, might agree), contains depths of pain and longing I consider important. So thank you for writing.

For what does your question say to every single person reading this page? It’s a vital message for all people — two words that stand between civilisation and chaos: Be kind.

Some folk will think I’m making too much of a single lady who got no birthday cards or gifts. Not so. For what it takes is just a moment’s thought (as you so truly say, Sue) and every one of us can make somebody else’s life that bit better.

This is the Golden Rule, of treating others as you would wish to be treated yourself. Don’t behave with carelessness or outright indifference towards a friend, colleague or family member when you know quite well how wounded you would be were it to happen to you. When in doubt, make an effort. Then, you know what? It will come back to you.

You will realise how much I sympathise with your sadness and wish just one of your colleagues had thought to do a whip-round for a bouquet. You’ve worked there 20 years and I imagine you are regarded as fondly as the kettle everybody depended on for a coffee break before lockdown hit.

That kettle is ordinary but essential, yet few people contemplate it in its true glory, even though they’d notice if it were missing.

It’s a rough truth, that mostly people rush on with their individual lives, noticing the noise of other people, but not the quietness.

At the moment you are angry and don’t see why you should fork out for the next whip-round.

But can I suggest, very gently, that you continue as before? Why? Because not to do so would be to give into anger and allow other people’s carelessness to triumph. You, Sue, represent the quiet goodness that’s everywhere — getting on with life, looking after parents, giving endless tenners for the well-being and enjoyment of others.

To cease being that person would only make you more unhappy, as it would betray all you have been up to this point. So try to row back from feeling a bit vengeful.

All those ‘nice people’ who sent you texts thought they were remembering you. They did! I’ve no doubt they reckoned you wouldn’t want a fuss and they got it wrong. But it’s over now. Nothing to be done but plough on, and that’s a painful truth the majority of us have to take on board at some point.

But there is a lesson here. It reminds me of a key speech in Arthur Miller’s play, Death Of A Salesman. The ‘hero’ Willy Loman is, in the eyes of the world and himself, a failure and reaching a crisis.

This is what his wife Linda says: ‘I don’t say he’s a great man. Willy Loman never made a lot of money. His name was never in the paper. He’s not the finest character that ever lived. But he’s a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid. Attention, attention must be finally paid to such a person.’

That is a lesson for us all — to pay attention. And Sue, try to flip your take on this so you can see yourself not as their victim, but the one with right on her side. Happy (late) birthday, and onwards to a better 2021.

I long to heal rift with my grandchild 

Dear Bel,

In 1994, I divorced. My two boys were in their late teens and I continued to see them as much as possible, travelling 600 miles (round trip) every six weeks.

My youngest son had two children, in 1994 and 1999, by two different girlfriends. My wife and two sons kept the elder grandchild, a boy, secret from me for 17 years.

Though it was a shock to find out, I was eventually able to make contact with David and we have a good ‘friendship’.

After my granddaughter Anna’s mother died in 2002, my ex-wife adopted her. She’s now 21 and still lives with her nan. Anna had holidays with me every year, sometimes abroad.

But around 2013 I was informed by my ex’s husband that I would no longer be allowed to see her. I tried writing to my ex, tried mediation, and eventually had a court hearing — unaware that my ex was being treated for breast cancer. Had I known, I wouldn’t have proceeded with the case. The court found in my favour, and I had access to Anna again.

In 2014, when she was 15, the visits stopped. She was of an age to decide for herself, but living in a house where my ex, her husband and also my eldest son live, I believe she was influenced. I text her, and when I visit her city we meet.

Our communications are not as they were: she seems quite distant. I thought her father’s death from cancer might have brought us closer together.

Anna stands to inherit a substantial amount of money from me one day. How can I make the situation better, and have my granddaughter as friendly as she was toward me?

PETER 

With regret I must plunge in and tell you sadly that your relationship with your granddaughter will probably never be what you wish.

People change, feelings corrode, circumstances disappoint. It would be wrong for anybody to pretend to you that this young woman from a very mixed up background could now go back in time and be the little girl who was happy to have fun times with her grandfather. We have to work with change and sometimes that means rolling with the punches, I’m afraid.

Your uncut letter tells me you have remarried, but nothing about what your wife thinks about this issue, or your will. I’d also be curious about the reasons for your divorce, because it will have affected your ex’s attitude to you.

Crucially, you also give no detail about why your ex’s husband suddenly told you you could no longer see Anna, precipitating the stressful court case.

   

More from Bel Mooney for the Daily Mail…

All the while, we must not forget, a vulnerable teenager was watching her nan struggle with cancer and (assuredly) hearing the adults say hostile things about you. That included her uncle, your elder son — which is another relationship you are silent about.

This is clearly very complicated, yet you have reached a stage where you do in fact see Anna every so often, when you find yourself in her city. Is there anything stopping you making that a tad more frequent? Restrictions permitting, you could institute a bi-monthly slap-up meal at a place of her choice? Building on your knowledge of her as an adult is key.

She is now 21 and presumably working or learning or both, with her own set of friends who will be much more important to her than you are. That’s a reality you must accept.

Does she know about your will? I’m not suggesting she should, because affection can’t be bought. But she might like an indication that she can one day have a degree of freedom. Then, what about David? I’m assuming that any money will be left equally to both grandchildren.

I study your longer email and recognise an ‘ordinary’ family, a story of every day people marked by dissent, divorce, irresponsibility (your younger son’s), shame, damaging secrecy, and anger.

What’s to be done? Nothing, other than keeping up warm, regular contact with both Anna and David, aware that feelings can always ease and wrongs be put right. Because those two hopes are as real as all the negatives. But you have to accept you can’t go backwards.  

And finally…Treasures that give us all hope

Do you watch BBC1’s unexpected hit series The Repair Shop? Like the people on the show, I love to cherish old objects and their memories. If something breaks, I mend it. The rooms of our home are crammed with knick-knacks or maybe it’s treasure. . .

My love of ‘stuff’ goes back to when my parents, older brother and I were all living in my grandparents’ small, rented semi in Liverpool. My childish mind took in gleaming brass objects, framed embroidered mottos, china ornaments and so on.

Contact Bel 

Bel answers readers’ questions on emotional and relationship problems each week.

Write to Bel Mooney, Daily Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT, or email bel.mooney@dailymail.co.uk.

A pseudonym will be used if you wish.

Bel reads all letters but regrets she cannot enter into personal correspondence.

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My nan cleaned other people’s houses for a living and kept her own immaculate. She dusted the objects possessed by the rich and created her own home in a humbler image.

Many people had a ‘best’ front room containing a three-piece-suite and ornament-filled display cabinet. Nan had crockery marked ‘foreign’ (which meant made in China), shell souvenirs (bought in Blackpool), and treasures such as the little ‘pearlised’ cruet (donkey, flower-cart and girl) on which my 12-year-old father had spent his savings (a whopping 2s/6d) in 1934 as a gift for Mam. I still have it.

In my childhood (1940s and 1950s), hard-working folk took immense pride in their homes; every single object was a sign that you had laboured, saved, chosen, displayed.

The city council might own your home, but the possessions inside it were yours. Those horse-brasses shining in the light of the coal fire and flying ducks on the wall announced your presence.

In this changing world, full of anxiety, millions have been forced to withdraw and cherish what’s familiar. Perhaps the contemplation of treasured family souvenirs can remind us of the good times and the normality that will return.

Experts say we mustn’t be defined by our possessions. Pah! I love mine and they keep me going. They speak of beauty, family, history, humour, art, nature, nostalgia and a deep sense of belonging. Oh, and a wealth of love, of course.  

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Royals can’t sing national anthem at Westminster Abbey Armistice Day service due to Covid-19 rules 

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royals cant sing national anthem at westminster abbey armistice day service due to covid 19 rules

Members of the Royal Family, the Government and the Armed Forces will not be allowed to sing hymns or even the national anthem when they gather at Westminster Abbey on Armistice Day.

This year, November 11 marks 100 years since London came to a halt for the two events which have defined the way Britain honours its war dead – the unveiling of the Cenotaph on Whitehall and the Funeral of the Unknown Warrior at the Abbey.

A special Abbey service to mark that day in 1920 will be attended by an invited VIP congregation of 80, while proceedings are also televised live on BBC1.

However, Government rules on Covid-19 mean even the royal guests cannot sing God Save The Queen, or anything else, ‘because of the potential for increased risk of transmission from aerosol and droplets’. 

(L-R) Prince William, Prince Harry, Meghan Duchess of Sussex and Catherine Duchess of Cambridge attend the annual Armistice Day ceremony in Westminster Abbey in 2018 [File photo]

(L-R) Prince William, Prince Harry, Meghan Duchess of Sussex and Catherine Duchess of Cambridge attend the annual Armistice Day ceremony in Westminster Abbey in 2018 [File photo]

(L-R) Prince William, Prince Harry, Meghan Duchess of Sussex and Catherine Duchess of Cambridge attend the annual Armistice Day ceremony in Westminster Abbey in 2018 [File photo]

An Abbey spokesman confirmed that the only voices which can break in to song are those of the socially-distanced choir.

The ruling follows a Government ban on ‘communal singing’, one of several restrictions which were branded ‘farcical’ by veterans’ groups last night. 

Former Conservative leader Sir Iain Duncan-Smith said: ‘If the Government and the British Legion limit Remembrance Sunday to the point that it becomes pointless, then we have to ask ourselves: what did they die for?’

The situation is even more extreme in Scotland where all ceremonies at all local war memorials have been cancelled, by order of the Scottish Government.

Until this week, the general rules against singing had extended to next weekend’s main act of commemoration at the Cenotaph, where the Queen will attend the traditional service along with members of the Royal Family, party leaders and Commonwealth diplomats. 

Only 30 veterans will be admitted while all members of the public are excluded and the Metropolitan Police plan to erect giant screens at either end of Whitehall to deter sightseers.

Singing will go ahead at the Cenotaph ceremony, which is held outdoors. Pictured: The Queen lays a wreath at the Cenotaph memorial in 2015 [File photo]

Singing will go ahead at the Cenotaph ceremony, which is held outdoors. Pictured: The Queen lays a wreath at the Cenotaph memorial in 2015 [File photo]

Singing will go ahead at the Cenotaph ceremony, which is held outdoors. Pictured: The Queen lays a wreath at the Cenotaph memorial in 2015 [File photo]

Acting on advice from Public Health England, the Department of Culture, which organises the service, had ruled that only the Choir of the Chapel Royal would be permitted to sing the national anthem and the traditional hymn, O God Our Help In Ages Past.

However, the Government has granted an exemption for this event rather than risk a backlash for preventing the Prince of Wales and the rest of the Royal Family from singing God Save The Queen in front of the Queen herself, live on television.

The situation remains unclear, however, for ceremonies at war memorials around the country. 

In England, these are a matter for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. 

Officials there have been unable to explain why the ban on singing has been lifted at the Cenotaph but not elsewhere.

Veterans are becoming increasingly critical of this year’s arrangements, and many are dismayed by the Government’s decision to shrink the national commemorations at the Cenotaph to a token presence. 

Vivien Foster, president of the Merchant Navy Association, has been laying the organisation’s familiar wreath – in the shape of an anchor – every year for the past two decades. ‘The whole situation is farcical,’ she said yesterday.  

 Last post for common sense: A ban on singing the national anthem at remembrance events is the latest example of how Covid threatens our sanity, writes ROBERT HARDMAN 

As if this week’s threats of police raids on over-sized Christmas Day gatherings were not barmy enough, then along comes something even sillier: a ban on singing the national anthem.

Even the Welsh Government’s comedy order prohibiting the sale of kettles does not come close to the absurdity of forbidding loyal ex-servicemen and women and even members of the Royal Family from singing God Save The Queen in the days ahead.

It is merely the latest example of how coronavirus does not merely threaten the health of the vulnerable, but the sanity of us all.

Tomorrow week – Remembrance Sunday – is the most sacred date in the national calendar. By all means, feel free to head for a supermarket that day – as well as the pub, the gym and even the golf club in many parts of Britain.

However, if you are planning to turn up at a war memorial for the traditional service and two-minute silence at 11am, hold your horses. Because special rules apply. Not only must numbers be ‘minimised’, there is a ban on ‘communal singing’. In many places, ceremonies have simply been cancelled. In others, they are closed to all but a few local representatives.

The Queen is pictured with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier at a National Service to mark the centenary of the Armistice in 2018 [File photo]

The Queen is pictured with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier at a National Service to mark the centenary of the Armistice in 2018 [File photo]

The Queen is pictured with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier at a National Service to mark the centenary of the Armistice in 2018 [File photo]

To read the new rules for next weekend, you sense that officialdom regards Remembrance Sunday like Cup Final day or Halloween – just another irksome, public order issue that needs some tight controls. Astonishingly, it turns out the Government has not even drafted its own legislation correctly.

The latest Health Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020 bolted on to the 1984 Public Health Act dictate what commemorative events may take place and how. Legally, councils can authorise a ceremony only if ‘the gathering takes place to commemorate Remembrance Sunday’.

This is nonsense. We do not gather to ‘commemorate Remembrance Sunday’. We gather on Remembrance Sunday to commemorate our war dead, not the day itself. This is just sloppy legislation. If the Government can’t even word its own rules accurately, then how the hell can they expect the rest of us to observe them?

The official ministerial guidance to local authorities is blunt and wholly negative. Organisers are repeatedly ordered to ‘keep numbers to a minimum’, to ‘take reasonable steps to ensure the public attend alone’ and to take everyone’s details.

We all accept these are exceptional times. But this is not just another annual tradition.

For millions, Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day are hallowed days of obligation, occasions when we make an effort to honour those who gave their all for our freedoms. For many, who are still mourning loved ones killed in the line of duty, it is a day of great sadness and pride. The Government has urged people to stay at home and switch on the telly. But for countless people, that is simply not going to suffice.

Where is the common sense here? Everyone accepts the need for social distancing. And the sort of people who turn up at remembrance events do not behave like people piling out of bars at a 10pm curfew or protesters in Trafalgar Square. They come in the quiet expectation of dignity and solemnity. Above all, most services of commemoration are outside. It is why many veterans are dismayed that the traditional open-air Royal British Legion parade at the Cenotaph has virtually disappeared.

Veterans attending the annual Remembrance Sunday Service at the Cenotaph memorial in Whitehall in 2016 [File photo]

Veterans attending the annual Remembrance Sunday Service at the Cenotaph memorial in Whitehall in 2016 [File photo]

Veterans attending the annual Remembrance Sunday Service at the Cenotaph memorial in Whitehall in 2016 [File photo]

The turnout of politicians will be the same but that eternally poignant march-past of ex-servicemen and women is off. Obviously, a parade of 10,000 veterans – watched by huge crowds – is out of the question.

However, the Legion had been planning a Covid-compliant alternative. Last month, charities such as Blind Veterans UK were offered ten socially distanced places in a much-reduced parade. All representatives would have to be ‘physically fit’ and ‘have the ability to march for 45 minutes’ without escorts or wheelchairs. There would be no room for carers. But at least it was something. The Legion had worked out it could accommodate about 2,000 veterans at well-regulated intervals.

Then Public Health England weighed in. That number has now been reduced to just 30 able-bodied veterans. Everyone else wishing to lay a wreath at the Cenotaph can do so online or by mail order.

Meanwhile, the Met Police are preparing rigorous counter-measures to deter any passers-by from dawdling. Large white screens are to be erected at either end of Whitehall to block the view. ‘Move along now, nothing to see here. Just the Queen on her balcony…’

Quite apart from the oppressive sense of overkill, has anyone paused to contemplate what sort of message all these restrictions are sending out? From the outset, the official mindset has got it all wrong. Rather than finding constructive ways to help people commemorate safely and sensibly, the priority has been to shoo them elsewhere. Let them go shopping or drinking instead.

At the same time, people are still banned from ‘communal singing’ in line with the edict from the Ministry of Housing and Communities.

Following the Government’s latest U-turn allowing VIPs to sing at the Cenotaph, officials have hinted that the rules may now be changed for outdoor – but not indoor – ceremonies. As of last night, however, the blanket singing ban remained in place on the Government website.

The ruling has hit other major events. All the Armed Forces taking part in next Saturday’s Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall – which will be screened on BBC1 – must remain mute. ‘There is no singing by anyone other than the choir and the individual artists,’ a Legion spokesperson explained.

Speaking for millions of veterans and their families, no doubt, the President of the Merchant Navy Association, Vivien Foster, sums it all up in one word: ‘Ridiculous’.

Elsewhere, the public are left wondering where and how they are allowed to pay their respects.

Truro in Cornwall will have a small invitation-only ceremony at the cathedral. Coventry is among many places holding its official ceremony online. Many towns and villages have taken their lead from the Government and simply cancelled their ceremonies.

Not so much the Last Post as the last straw. 

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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