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Thread: The great English Eccentric is dying out

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    The great English Eccentric is dying out

    The Reverend David Johnson, who died last week, was a member of a vanishingly rare breed, the English eccentric. I met the Vicar at university, and have many vivid recollections of him, most unrepeatable. Johnson, a parish priest, became the unofficial chaplain to the Oxford Union and Conservative association, attending our events and making raucous speeches.

    He offered glimpses of a louche, bohemian world – one of wild pranks and madcap schemes – aeons away from the worthy conformity pervading modern student life. Though an exceptional speaker and fearsome wit, the Vicar’s vices prevented him from realising his potential as a clergyman. Often roaring drunk throughout the day, he once began a funeral he was officiating with the opening lines of the wedding service. He possessed a unique gift for rubbing people up the wrong way. Yet his life was tinged with brilliance.

    Johnson was serving as Cambridge Union president when Benazir Bhutto, his opposite number at Oxford, challenged him to a cricket match. Having coaxed a cadre of blues onside, Bhutto felt assured of victory, until it became clear that Johnson had persuaded half the Australian cricket team, then on a winter tour of England, to play.

    He and a friend once shot out the windows of a love rival’s rooms, only to find they had the wrong man. Friendly with Princess Margaret, he claimed the pair had been enjoying a crafty indoor cigarette at Buckingham Palace one Christmas, when the Queen walked in. Margaret quickly threw her cigarette into a nearby nativity scene, where her sister found it, smouldering in the crib.

    The Vicar was best known as co-author of a series of hoax letters, written under the nom-de-plume Francis Wagstaffe, purely for the fun of teasing Church of England bishops and other Establishment figures. (One begins: “Dear Bishop, Like you, I am a man of little education.”) He later documented his correspondence, including their earnest and sometimes furious replies, in a book. As an Oxford tour guide, he enjoyed fabricating stories for American visitors, explaining that a statue of Queen Caroline of Ansbach was actually Margaret Thatcher.

    Eccentrics may lead more erratic lives than most, but they add greatly to the gaiety of nations. Yet our culture provides terrible conditions for these qualities to thrive. True, money is often an ingredient; hence the tradition of quirky aristocrats such as the Duke of Portland, a Victorian recluse who built a network of subterranean mazes under his estate to avoid human contact, or the delightfully dotty late Marquis of Bath. (The Vicar himself lived in a rough part of Oxford, in a terraced house he nicknamed “Seaview Cottage”).

    But what really drives eccentricity is not wealth, but disdain for public opinion. Today’s dreary PC culture, and the self-obsessions induced by social media, have left this devil-may-care attitude a depressing rarity.

    When we come to commemorate Johnson in proper style, it will feel as if we’re burying not just a friend, but one of a dying breed. Society must treasure its eccentrics. We may not see their like again.




    In our dreary modern culture, the great British eccentric is a vanishing breed

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    Sounds like Reverend Johnson had a great sense of humor.

    My English grandparents were eccentric, but they were not grand people, so their eccentricity was not on such a grand scale. Still, I enjoyed them immensely.

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    Reminds me of John Cleese daring to complain about modern London before he left for good!
    "Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free."

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    Quote Originally Posted by UKSmartypants View Post
    The great English Eccentric is dying out
    A lot of great things in England are [or will be] dying out.

    Already, half the children in all the big cities are not really "English".

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    I agree with you. Such a rare type of person. They have an instant presence. I used to be left wing, very strong UK Labour Party but I saw the eccentric, highly educated, highly intelligent "posh" Conservative with class as people with integrity, true to themselves and I was never jealous but many a leftie would remark with prejudice of such characters.

    “The worst form of inequality is to try to make unequal things equal.” – Aristotle


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    Hasn't been the same since Benny Hill died.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trinnity View Post
    Hasn't been the same since Benny Hill died.

    Benny Hill was a perfect example of someone killed by political correctness. His style of humour was what has been referred to a Seaside Postcard humour, rude and cheeky, but not obscene or offensive, a throwback to the 1950's.

    this sort of thing:



    Its all perfectly harmless schoolboy humour, but it was dispised by the PC looney lefties who took over the BBC and ITV tv channels in the early 1980's, they preferred the Politically Correct banalities of people like Ben Elton. So despite Benny Hill pulling in audiences of 10-15m, numbers TV programs can only dream of today, it was axed, and it broke Benny Hills' heart, because he loved what he did and lived only to make people laugh. He died shortly after.

    The same fate befell several other popular programs, Political correctness killed Variety shows and comedy alike, no matter how popular theywere. Father Ted suffered the same fate some years later when Channel 4 decided taking the piss out of the irish was 'racist', and axed it after only 3 series, despite being one of the most popular TV show in Irish TV history, winning BAFTAS and British Comedy Awards. Dermot Morgan, who played Father Ted, rose to stardom from obscurity on the back of the role, it was his big break and his moment of glory. He also died shortly after, some say of a broken heart, having had fame and sucess snatched away from him.

    Dermot Morgan

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    No the English eccentric is alive and well.

    Clearly Harry is gay and he has found a non-complicit associate.
    With more Islamic/Muslim immigration we can become the United S**tholes of America too.

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    Quote Originally Posted by UKSmartypants View Post
    The Reverend David Johnson, who died last week, was a member of a vanishingly rare breed, the English eccentric. I met the Vicar at university, and have many vivid recollections of him, most unrepeatable. Johnson, a parish priest, became the unofficial chaplain to the Oxford Union and Conservative association, attending our events and making raucous speeches.

    He offered glimpses of a louche, bohemian world – one of wild pranks and madcap schemes – aeons away from the worthy conformity pervading modern student life. Though an exceptional speaker and fearsome wit, the Vicar’s vices prevented him from realising his potential as a clergyman. Often roaring drunk throughout the day, he once began a funeral he was officiating with the opening lines of the wedding service. He possessed a unique gift for rubbing people up the wrong way. Yet his life was tinged with brilliance.

    Johnson was serving as Cambridge Union president when Benazir Bhutto, his opposite number at Oxford, challenged him to a cricket match. Having coaxed a cadre of blues onside, Bhutto felt assured of victory, until it became clear that Johnson had persuaded half the Australian cricket team, then on a winter tour of England, to play.

    He and a friend once shot out the windows of a love rival’s rooms, only to find they had the wrong man. Friendly with Princess Margaret, he claimed the pair had been enjoying a crafty indoor cigarette at Buckingham Palace one Christmas, when the Queen walked in. Margaret quickly threw her cigarette into a nearby nativity scene, where her sister found it, smouldering in the crib.

    The Vicar was best known as co-author of a series of hoax letters, written under the nom-de-plume Francis Wagstaffe, purely for the fun of teasing Church of England bishops and other Establishment figures. (One begins: “Dear Bishop, Like you, I am a man of little education.”) He later documented his correspondence, including their earnest and sometimes furious replies, in a book. As an Oxford tour guide, he enjoyed fabricating stories for American visitors, explaining that a statue of Queen Caroline of Ansbach was actually Margaret Thatcher.

    Eccentrics may lead more erratic lives than most, but they add greatly to the gaiety of nations. Yet our culture provides terrible conditions for these qualities to thrive. True, money is often an ingredient; hence the tradition of quirky aristocrats such as the Duke of Portland, a Victorian recluse who built a network of subterranean mazes under his estate to avoid human contact, or the delightfully dotty late Marquis of Bath. (The Vicar himself lived in a rough part of Oxford, in a terraced house he nicknamed “Seaview Cottage”).

    But what really drives eccentricity is not wealth, but disdain for public opinion. Today’s dreary PC culture, and the self-obsessions induced by social media, have left this devil-may-care attitude a depressing rarity.

    When we come to commemorate Johnson in proper style, it will feel as if we’re burying not just a friend, but one of a dying breed. Society must treasure its eccentrics. We may not see their like again.




    In our dreary modern culture, the great British eccentric is a vanishing breed
    I agree. There is a certain honesty and integrity about them. They add to the spice of life.

    “The worst form of inequality is to try to make unequal things equal.” – Aristotle


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    Anne Widdecombe?

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