Bringing The House Down –
A Family Memoir by David Profumo,
John Murray, £20.
ISBN 13 978-0-7195-6608-0.
The Profumo Affair was a tragedy at many
levels. It ended the political career of the
central figure John Profumo; other members
of the ill-starred cast suffered humiliation –
and, in the case of Stephen Ward, death at
his own hand.
The Conservative Government never
recovered and lost the next General
Election. To the surprise of many, given
the extreme pressure which she must have
been under, Profumo’s wife, the actress
Valerie Hobson, stood by him.
So much has been written about the
scandal that held the nation’s attention
in a rare way that it is questionable whether
there is need for more. But in Bringing
The House Down, their son David does
indeed provide an angle that is insightful
without being disloyal.
Almost incredibly, the Great Fall, as it
was known to the family, was never broken
to him by his parents. Some five years later
the folly of this became clear when, at the
start of his Eton career, an older boy cruelly
disclosed the ‘secret’.
There is far more to this book than
the re-telling of what has been described as
‘the nation’s favourite bedtime story’. An
accomplished novelist, David Profumo acts
as the biographer of his parents. Jack – as
John Profumo was known – served with
distinction during World War Two, was a
highly respected MP and, after his disgrace,
made Toynbee Hall his mission in life,
besides his family and friends.
Valerie was already a leading light
on the London stage when she fell in love
with Profumo (she was in a failing
marriage at the time) and her dignity,
courage and loyalty to him was greatly
admired. In this commendably objective
study, David produces enough evidence
to persuade the reader that theirs remained
an enviable marriage despite everything.
Tempting The Fates – A Memoir
by Major General Dare Wilson,
Pen & Sword, £19.99.
ISBN 1 84415 435 1.
If you fought throughout the Second
World War you must be in your mideighties.
The chances are that you would
have written your memoirs about a couple
of decades ago, as a retirement occupation.
It may have taken Wilson rather over long
to find the time to tell his story, but thank
goodness he has.
An undergraduate at Cambridge whose
studies were rudely interrupted by Hitler’s
ambitions, Dare Wilson joined the Royal
Northumberland Fusiliers and served with
the British Expeditionary Force before
being evacuated at Dunkirk. He later
saw service in the Middle East, Italy and
Bitten by the military bug, he served
on and in short order found himself in
Palestine, a messy affair, and amid the
horrors of Korea, without any features.
Later he saw action against the Mau Mau
in Kenya and was one of the last to leave
Aden in 1967.
He was one of the few British officers
to witness America’s nemesis in Vietnam.
That is by no means the end of Wilson’s
story as he commanded 22 SAS and led
the regimental team that set the new world
Free Fall Altitude record, but not without
one member dying in the process. A truly
If you overlook that he learnt to fly
helicopters in his fifties and skied, did
the Cresta Run, shot and parachuted
competitively at high level, then nothing
much else happened during his truly
‘Boys Only’ career.
Too busy to get married while serving,
he put this omission right when he returned
to St John’s College, before becoming
the first Exmoor National Park Officer.
If you only ever read one military memoir,
why not make it this one.
The Insider – The Private Diaries
of a Scandalous Decade by
Piers Morgan, Ebury Press. £7.99.
ISBN 0091908 493.
You cannot always judge by first
appearances. The Insider looks poor.
The type is too small and the page too
busy. These factors, along with the fact
that the author Piers Morgan may very
possibly be your bête-noir, makes an
Morgan was the thoroughly in-yourface,
sensation-seeking editor of, first,
The News of the World and then The Daily
Mirror, who finally departed after publishing
forged photographs of our troops
mistreating Iraqis. His enforced leisure
time has been well spent writing up his
more sensational experiences during the
years he held these jobs.
Adopting a diary approach, his style
is highly readable and he combines
a mischievous sense of humour with
mature insight. I was as surprised as
he was to discover the lengths to which
he was courted by the powerful, rich
If you don’t want to hear about cosy
lunches with Princess Diana and William,
numerous meetings with Tony Blair
(approximately 60) and Gordon Brown
(not together!), and encounters with
a vast cast of A, B and C list ‘celebrities’
and their scrapes, this is probably not the
book for you.
Morgan was ‘fortunate’ to be where
he was when New Labour were in the
ascendancy, spinning like tops. He was
assiduously courted by Alastair Campbell’s
smoothly oiled machine.
Their expectations of Morgan’s Mirror
were sky high so their anger knew no limits
when his paper adopted an extreme anti-
Iraq war stance. Under intense attack, he
held his ground even when sales suffered,
which indicates that this ‘enfant terrible’
has principles as well as guts.
Probably the best way to enjoy this
classic piece of gossip is by dipping into
it liberally. To my chagrin I found it a
Making Light: A Handbook
for Freemasons by Julian Rees,
Lewis Masonic. £14.99.
ISBN 9 780 85318 253 5.
This is a handy, step-by-step guide, taking
the reader through every facet of the three
Degrees of Craft Masonry in an interesting
and revealing way which will delight both
new and experienced Masons alike.
Julian Rees has provided simple
explanations for much of the symbolism
of the three Degrees, producing a book
which brings alive that old Masonic saying
that we need more Masonry in men rather
than more men in Masonry.
There is a great deal to explain in the
three Degrees, and the author has made
a good job of the task without becoming
long-winded. The book is timely, as for
too long there has been too much emphasis
on getting the ritual right, rather than the
important messages contained in them.
Knowing the ritual is one thing –
understanding it quite another. Even longstanding
Masons often find the meaning
of the ceremonies bewildering, despite
watching them many times over many years.
Here they will find most of the answers.
There is a useful glossary at the end of
each Degree chapter and suggestions for
further reading. Here is a book which
Lodges might like to give to the newly raised
Master Mason to help him in that quest for
a daily advancement in Masonic knowledge.
Web site created by Mark Griffin