ISSUE 17, April 2006
Editorial
Historic: The Brother who designed the Spitfire
Travel: The charm of Kerala
Grand Lodge: Pro Grand Master's speech and Quarterly Communication
Public Relations: Hottest spot in town
International: Emulation in Bulgaria and Mauritius takes a leap forward and Hungary's Royal Arch library
Library & Museum: Recent acquisitions
Masonic Bibles: Lodges and their Bibles
    Royal Masonic Girls' School: My thanks to the Freemasons
Holocaust: The Count of Auschwitz
Education: International conference on the history of Freemasonry and Events
Specialist Lodges: Masonry universal - via radio
Masonic Charities: Grand Charity continues to help those in need and New Masonic Samaritan Fund and Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution and Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys
Grand Charity: The Tsunami - one year on and Important Gift Aid information
Letters, Book Reviews, and Gardening

 Previous Page 
PLEASE USE THE LINKS ABOVE - OR ON THIS LINE - TO MOVE BETWEEN PAGES
 Next Page 







Britain’s Last Tommies by Richard Van Emden, Pen & Sword, £19.99. ISBN 1844153150
    Only a few of the six million men who served in the Great War are still alive. Soon the tragic events of 1914–1918 will cease to be classed as living history and will become past history. This book is a timely reminder of the experiences these men faced some 90 years ago. Britain’s Last Tommies is not unique in using the stories of those few remaining veterans, and of their recently deceased comrades, but it certainly does justice to their remarkable lives and to the war in general.
    Richard van Emden, one of Britain’s foremost oral First World War historians, places the veterans’ reminiscences in chronological order, and interlaces them with historical context at each stage of the war. Interestingly, he also includes his own memories and observations about the men he interviewed: Richard Hawkins, who could never quite manage to disguise his enjoyment of battle; Ted Francis, who started out with an idealised picture of the war and ended with a deep hatred of all the bloodshed that it involved; ‘Smiler’ Marshall, always ready with a song, along with many other veterans that the author met over many years.
    The author powerfully documents the suffering, courage, humour and friendships that these veterans experienced during the Great War. The inclusion of events in 1919 is welcome, as we learn how they managed to get on with their lives after the conflict. The book has an excellent collection of black and white pictures of the men in the war, together with more recent images of the same men at home, revisiting the Western Front and at the various veterans’ reunions.
    I thoroughly recommend this book as a splendid reference and fitting tribute to the remarkable lives of the Great War veterans.



The Google Story by David Vise, Macmillan, £14.99. ISBN 1405053712
    In 1998 two young, poor but very clever students dropped out of graduate school at Stanford University to, in their own words, ‘change the world.’ Their idea was to set up an internet search engine that would organise every bit of information on the Web for free.
    Whilst far too complicated to understand let alone explain, Larry Page and Sergey Brin somehow downloaded the entire content of the internet by buying up lots of bargain computers and linking them up with cables in an old garage. Google was born.
    Based on scrupulous research, David Vise takes the reader on an extraordinary rags to riches story. We learn about the venture that turned an academic project to an explosive Wall Street IPO in 2004, and transformed Brin and Page into billionaires.
    The different Silicon Valley firms that refused to buy the search engine for $1million must still be kicking themselves as Google rapidly overtook all existing players like AltaVista and Ask Jeeves.
    Such is the power of the technology that apparently the CIA even uses Google to track terrorist groups. Not surprisingly, the days of working in a garage have long since gone and the company is now based in new futuristic offices ‘Googleplex’.
    Vise is clearly taken in by Google’s promotion of modern idealism in the work place. Examples include the fact that there is a free canteen serving organic food, and that 20 per cent of employees’ time can be spent on research that is personal and has no obvious benefit to Google.
    Stories and anecdotes about the extraordinary growth of this ‘upstart’ company, and of its unconventional founders, abound. Indeed the strength of Vise’s book comes from its command of the many small details, and its focus on the human side of the Google story, as opposed to the merely academic one.



Teacher Man by Frank McCourt, Fourth Estate, £18.99. ISBN 100007173989
    Fans of Frank McCourt’s previous books, Angela’s Ashes and ‘Tis, will no doubt enjoy his reminiscences of a career as an English teacher in the public high schools of New York City.
    A book about teaching may not sound enthralling, but McCourt’s background as an impoverished, illiterate and idealistic Irish teenager, combined with his ability to tell a good story, make his reminiscences of thirty years in a classroom highly entertaining.
    Indeed, the lilting style and phonetic writing style that so marked out his last two books, continues to be ever-present in this third, and most likely, final memoir.
    The story of how he became a teacher is more impressive than his experiences as a teacher, but the latter nonetheless makes good reading. After talking his way into New York University and gaining a literature degree, McCourt embarks on a career in which he estimates he probably taught 12,000 pupils.
    He was an unconventional teacher and this led to his removal from a number of schools – most notably it seems for talking about himself rather than the subjects in the syllabus. Indeed, thanks to this third memoir, we now know how often he rehearsed and refined the stories about his Irish childhood prior to Angela’s Ashes being written.
    McCourt’s oratory and energy was, however, for the most part popular and inspiring with the pupils. Less imaginative colleagues frowned on his teaching style and he was often not far away from trouble.
    One incident he still regrets was when, following an argument with his wife at home, he brought his temper into a lesson and slapped a troubled boy who had defied him.
    His views on education make interesting reading and he vehemently argues against a system intent on attaining grades and going to college. There is certainly a lot of selfcongratulation about his lessons, along with some mitigating self-depreciation, but it is hard to begrudge a man whose effortless prose and fascinating life make one want to read on.


 Previous Page 
PLEASE USE THE LINKS ABOVE - OR ON THIS LINE - TO MOVE BETWEEN PAGES
 Next Page