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    BRAMA News and Community Press

    BRAMA, Jul 30, 2003, 9:00 am ET

    Malcolm Muggeridge Centenary
    by Tony Leliw

    © S.Muggeridge
    From left to right, Sally Muggeridge, niece of Malcolm Muggeridge, Leonard, eldest son of Malcolm Muggeridge, Malcolm Muggeridge and his wife Kitty, standing outside Park Cottage, Robertsbridge, East Sussex, where they lived for a while.

    Actor Peter Stockbridge was in fine fettle, on stage, entertaining around a 100 Muggeridge fans and family with his one-man show Mugg Shots.

    © Anna Batoryk
    100 years - a wreath
    © Anna Batoryk
    Grave where Malcolm and his wife Kitty are buried, at the Parish Church of St Mary Magdalene, Whatlington, East Sussex.
    © Anna Batoryk
    Leonard Muggeridge, eldest son of Malcolm, outside the church.
    © Anna Batoryk
    St Mary Magdalene church, Whatlington.
    © Anna Batoryk
    Mill House, Whatlington, where the Muggeridge family lived.

    Stalin was the most ruthless dictator of the 20th century, he said gazing into the audience. And the Five Year Industrialization Plans had been financed by the seizure and the sale of agricultural crops of the Caucasus and Ukraine.

    They are the peasants in whose name the revolution had been bought, and left with no food for themselves and no money, he said stirringly.

    As a woman chomped on her canaps and a man gulped his tea, he added: More than 7 million starved to death in Ukraine in the man-made famine of 1932-33. I went to Ukraine as a journalist. I witnessed the horrors and I reported them to the world.

    Malcoms eldest son Leonard, a sprightly 75-year-old, sitting at the top table, was mesmerized, almost watching as if dad had miraculously reappeared, just for one night.

    Mr Shaw (meaning Bernard Shaw) and the Webbs (Beatrice and Sidney) left-wing intellectuals wrote to the newspapers, denying it, as they denied the facts of the show trials of Russian dissidents, said Stockbridge, giving a highly polished performance. These travesties of justice were every bit real as the starvation.

    I left the appalling tragedy of Russia with a lasting hatred and distrust of communism and of intellectuals, gifted with intelligence, but without simple common sense, he went on, teasing each word out.

    Muggeridge had been Moscow correspondent for the Manchester Guardian during the early 1930s, and had written articles about the Ukrainian famine, which according to Muggeridges first biographer, Ian Hunter, had eventually cost him his job.

    He was sacked, then vilified, slandered, and abused, wrote Hunter, not least in the pages of the Manchester Guardian, whose sympathy to what was called the great Soviet experiment was de rigeur.

    Back to present time, Sunday, July 20, 2003, and an hour before the one-man show had begun, the day, organised by Muggeridges niece Sally and her late father Jack, had begun with a memorial service at St Mary Magdalene Church, Whatlington.

    It was one of many events planned for the centenary of her famous uncle, born on Monday, March 24, 1903.

    Standing in the pulpit, on the site where King Harold heard mass before The Battle of Hastings in 1066, Sally observed that Malcolm had frequently regarded himself like St Augustine, a vendor of words.

    It is all recorded in his unique style of prose based on the very wide vocabulary that is always clear and lively, she said.

    His images and descriptions were always accompanied by humour and wit brash and self-deprecating the result is pure Muggeridge.

    Far from being the cynical journalist observing from a detached distance with a job to do, he admitted to being incredibly moved by much of the experiences he encountered.

    Malcolm articulated the only thing that really teaches what life is really about - suffering and not success.

    Leonard, who spent his childhood in Whatlington and nearby Robertsbridge and now lives in Dunstable, read a lesson (Job XIX Vs 21-27) at the service. He also held aloft a prayer book, which his father read with him as a child.

    With the last echoes of the hymn Jerusalem ringing in our ears, the congregation started to file out and make the short distance to where Malcolm and his wife Kitty are buried.

    I asked Leonard, a retired teacher, whether his father had expressed any views over the demise of the Soviet Union. He smiled, saying: When Communism collapsed he was sadly not able to understand because he had gone a bit senile.

    If he had heard it, that would have thrilled him as it was something he prophesised.

    Returning to the village hall, past the Mill House, where the Muggeridges had lived, the actor was getting ready to tread the village boards.

    Although he never knew Muggeridge, Stockbridge has taken his show across the country and to the United States.

    Yes, the unmistakable voice and welcome grimace of Malcolm Muggeridge was again taking the rolling hills of Sussex by storm.


    Tony Leliw is a London-based journalist whose articles have appeared in respected publications such as the London Evening Standard and The Times, as well as news services in Ukraine and the U.S. Other features by Mr. Leliw that have appeared on Brama include Christian fundamentalism and corruption: a member of the British House of Lords offers her views on the Iraq war and Ukraine (Mar 24 03), Voting, for a song (May 27 03), and The road from Ukraine to Westminster and back (Jan 1 03). Email: tony@youwhat.fsnet.co.uk


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