Gazette letters: Lost song, Sgt Peter Fitzpatrick, scooting, TfL, TV Licence fee, vaccinations, NRPF and Covid safety

The crash site of a Wellington bomber, shot down over Shiefbahn in 1942. Picture: supplied by Christ

The crash site of a Wellington bomber, shot down over Shiefbahn in 1942. Picture: supplied by Christoph Heyes. - Credit: Archant

Recently I had occasion to contact the British Library with the simple need to identify the singer/songwriter of an old English song, writes Walter Roberts, Brecknock Road, Tufnell Park.

I failed in my quest to do so despite the fact that their sound archive has millions of sound recordings inclusive of popular music. I tried in vain to use the search tool but came up with nothing.

My query however merited an email response for which I am grateful as it nudged me in the direction of a few websites like Lyric Finder which I promptly tried without success. To my knowledge only holds some promise for those seeking information on vintage songs. It’s either that or having to listen to Sunset Melodies on a Sunday evening which I have now resorted to doing in the fond hope that my song turns up.

The irony is that with most of these songs gradually and inexorably being consigned to oblivion the music industry must inevitably find itself in somewhat of the doldrums and scraping the bottom of the barrel for truly evocative harmonies and vocals; the bulk of which I suspect have already been discovered using simple chord progressions aided by the advent of magnetic tape recording devices for spontaneous recording.

If this is becoming obvious, then efforts should perforce be redoubled to collect and archive such of those very old English songs in the genre of folk and pop that can be discovered in the original manner of their recording not least for posterity but also to forestall the unearthing of such songs for grotesque variations to ensue if the copyrights have expired or been relinquished rendering them in the public domain.

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It may well be that only nonagenarians in full command of their faculties with prodigious memories and a good ear for music who can prove useful in recalling those memorable songs or even perhaps their progeny who had the privilege to share in their experience.

Most of them were memorised without having to make a conscious effort to do so as their tempos correlated with lower beats per minute rendering the lyrics easy to remember, unlike the confoundingly giddy tempos of 120 beats per minute which is becoming the norm in pop music today.

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The particular song I was trying to trace was called Mother and some of the lyrics extracted from an old songbook scribed by my dear old mother over 60 years ago went like this:

There’s a little old lady with silvery hair

Who sits by herself in an old rocking chair

She’s had plenty of troubles and plenty of strife

But she’s worked very hard to give me a good life...

I last heard it play over the radio in the late 50s and it will give me the greatest pleasure to discover who the singer/songwriter of this beautiful song was.

It has a haunting melody to it and like it there are many, many more waiting for the British Library’s Sound Archive to capture for posterity before being erased from living memory which will indeed be a Sisyphean but commendable task for them to undertake if they choose to do so.

On April 15, 1942, 78 years ago, a Wellington bomber of the RAF, on its way back from a bomb raid on Dortmund, was shot down over the German town of Schiefbahn, writes Christoph Heyes, Schiefbahn, Germany.

The five crew members died, including Sergeant Peter Fitzpatrick Vane Winkle from Islington.

For a study on local history, I (living in Germany only a few hundred metres from the crash site) turned to Mark Aston, manager of the Islington Museum, and Cllr Dave Poyser, a former mayor of Islington, to learn more about Sergeant Winkle.

What is known so far: Peter Fitzpatrick Vane Winkle was born in Islington, where he lived with his family on Green Lanes before moving to Audley Road in Barnet.

I am now looking for people, maybe relatives or former neighbours, who remember Peter Winkle and can tell more about him and his life.

Dave Poyser and I would be very happy, if the story of that nearly forgotten plane crash could bring our two countries closer together.

You can contact me at

Nicola Baird waxes lyrical about the benefits of cycling, walking and scooting..., writes Mrs J Barton, Bevan Street, Islington.

All well and good, but I cannot agree that scooting is beneficial in terms of exercise (unless you count walking to and from the hire station) - one is, after all, just standing still...

She does not mention the limitations on users, either - a helmet is required, and a provisional driving licence, if one is hiring and riding on roads.

Riding on pavements or walkways, of course, is illegal.

It will be some time before we are all living in Paradise!

It is very welcome that the council is making Islington more people and cyclist friendly. It is a real shame that TfL is not co-operating, writes Andrew Willett, Islington, full address supplied.

The changes at Highbury Corner have already caused misery for Islington residents.

It beggars belief that TfL then waited until lockdown ended, and traffic volumes “recovered”, before reducing Holloway Road to two lanes outside Highbury and Islington Station until September.

This simply encourages even more cars to pollute residential roads, while TfL claims air quality at the roundabout is improving.

The council should call TfL’s bluff, re-direct cars onto main roads and make TfL confront its mistakes.

The BBC plans to make most over-75s pay the TV licence fee but will continue to provide TV licences to over-75s who claim pension credit, writes June Bennett, Benefit Answers.

Four out of 10 households that could receive pension credit are not claiming the benefit. So, if you have ever wondered if you could be eligible for pension credit now is the time to find out if only to save the cost of the TV licence!

Even if you have claimed before and been refused you may be entitled now. Benefit Answers offer a free check which will tell you if you could be entitled to pension credit. For your free check telephone 0330 223 4773.

GPs have innovated rapidly in London to provide vaccinations in ways that are designed to protect children and their families during this pandemic, writes Dr Vin Diwakar, medical director, NHS in London.

NHS teams are here to help - I’m urging parents to continue to attend appointments.

Young babies are vulnerable and need protection from a range of diseases. Social distancing will not protect young children from the risks of diseases such as meningitis.

London already has lower vaccination rates compared to elsewhere in the UK, meaning we cannot afford to go backwards. The good news is that if we act now, it’s not too late for us to catch up with the effects of the pandemic and protect children.

The government cannot afford to ignore the growing chorus of calls from politicians and charities to abolish No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF), writes Jennette Arnold OBE, London Assembly member, Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest.

Blocking access to welfare support for those with the wrong immigration status has plunged families into an underclass of our society. It is particularly galling that this condition has not been lifted during this pandemic, which has hit the most vulnerable and disadvantaged the hardest.

NRPF has tied the hands of local authorities and mutual aid groups seeking to lend a helping hand to those in need during lockdown.

So, it was astounding to see the prime minister recently admit to not knowing anything about it.

His government must now get to grips with the bleak reality that hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom are children, are facing with NRPF. It’s vital they are given the state support they desperately need.

Londoners and London businesses have worked really hard to suppress the spread of coronavirus, but I’m worried that there is a risk of a second wave of cases, writes Caroline Russell, London Assembly member.

I asked at City Hall last week if London is ready for a second lockdown if necessary. It is, but let’s keep working together, even as more businesses open up, to stay safe by wearing a face covering in shops and on public transport, walking and cycling if you can and keep on keeping our distance.

G320 London is supporting Homes at the Heart, a campaign and coalition calling on the government to put social homes at the heart of its plan for recovery from the coronavirus crisis, writes Karen Cooper, chair G320 London, which represents more than 70 smaller London housing associations.

The crisis is highlighting the need for secure, high quality, affordable homes and, for many people, support to live in them. Some of the worst affected by the crisis include low-paid key workers living in homes they can’t afford, rough sleepers, homeless families in temporary accommodation, older people in unsupported homes, and families in overcrowded conditions.

Investing in social housing will help the country recover by boosting the economy, creating jobs and improving people’s lives. Without action, we are likely to see many people’s housing situations get much worse.

The housing crisis is especially acute in London, where council waiting lists are large, families continue to be made homeless and social housing is difficult and expensive to develop. Many NHS and key workers are unable to afford to live in many London boroughs.

Recovering from the crisis presents the government with an opportunity to take real action in solving the housing crisis by making a once-in-a-generation investment in social housing and help prevent London from becoming a polarised city, defined by vast inequality.

g320 calls on Londoners, MPs and Assembly Members to support this campaign, which is a partnership between Chartered Institute of Housing, Crisis, National Federation of ALMOs, Association of Retained Council Housing and National Housing Federation; along with over 60 supporters from across different sectors – from Carers UK to NatWest.

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