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The passings.... - Wemyss's Appalling Hobby:
From the Party Guilty of Committing 'Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn'
The passings....

What a dreadful week or so it has been.


You mayn’t be aware, but three very important people have left us.  (Actually, many very important people have done, including Dominque de Grunne, but let me confine this to these three.)


Johnny – the duke of Buccleuch – was one of those (some would say, one of the few) of the Great and the Good who deserved the accolade.  He served as an Ordinary Seaman on destroyers in the Hitler War, and that was something of a template for his life: heir to the greatest of Scottish dukedoms, Johnny Dalkeith (as he was known before his accession to the dukedom), product of Eton and the House, served as a county councillor and was thirteen years MP for Edinburgh North, a master of the hard work and thankless tasks of actual public service.  In his last parliamentary term before his removal to the Upper House, he suffered an accident that left him paralysed from the waist down, and from 1971 on was wheelchair-bound.  Naturally, he turned some of his expansive energies to becoming an informed advocate and worker for the disabled: being a figurehead was never in the cards for Johnny.  And as a campaigner for and steward of the countryside and the forest, he had no peer, even amongst his fellow peers.


I fear we may be ‘lang in seein’’ his like again.


The same is true in his own sphere of the late Michael Jackson, ‘the Beer Hunter’, who did more than any other figure to raise and train public taste in what was swift becoming – and despite his efforts, in many ways yet remains – a nation of lager louts.  It was his passion to elevate and inform, and to correct taste and promote craft, and it happened to be beers and whiskies that were his topic.  He also was a steward, of a tradition deep-rooted in the country and the past.  But he will be remembered, and the memory cherished, for two things above all: an insistence on craftsmanship and the real, applicable to far more than drink, and his superb craftsmanship and engagement with the real as a master of clean and uncluttered prose.  He was not simply a ‘beer writer’, he was a brilliant writer whose most frequent topic happened to be beer and whisky.


The spare, uncluttered purity of line and of tone, the resurrection and celebration of craft, was the lodestar of the third of our late losses, Stephen Bicknell.  The English organ, as a wrought object, a musical instrument, a symbol, and a synecdoche for its music and the English sacred music tradition, was Bicknell’s lifelong passion – and one with which he wrestled as did Jacob with the angel.  Against fierce opposition, he transformed the modern tendency in organ-building and restored the ancient glories of the English tradition; and did so sufficiently thoroughly that his assault upon the entrenched heresy of modernism without soul has become the new orthodoxy.  He was the celebrant of the marriage of the best of new technique with the ancientry of craft and tradition.  His loss is to us all a greater blow than you may realise.  It is the loss of another steward.


Peace to the faithful souls at rest.  May new stewards arise to defend the permanent things.

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sgt_majorette From: sgt_majorette Date: September 5th, 2007 09:00 pm (UTC) (Link)

the late Michael Jackson, ‘the Beer Hunter’

Reading the obit, I was surprised to find out he was one of yours. I thought he was a New Yorker; a higher compliment I cannot offer.
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