Spotted, flying goats over London

By | 18th August 2011

A concerned reader has recently been enquiring after my health after I wrote  about being struck by a goat in Bishop’s Square in Spitalfields – Sheep from goats, Smart e-Discovery blog, 4th Aug, 2011.

This sort of loose language is of course entirely unacceptable and I apologise for causing concern to my reader and can assure anybody I am fit and well and not in any way suffering from a compressed spine as a result of my encounter with said goat.

If I cannot get away with being struck by an object, whether inanimate or animate, I can try and be engaged, amused, entertained, astonished etc.

Having indulged my penchant for ancient legislation in an earlier post this month, I want to mention an Edwardian Act of Parliament which celebrates its centenary this year. Before alert readers point out that by 1911, King Edward had already died, I want to make it clear that the whole period from the turn of the twentieth century to the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 is often referred to as the Edwardian period despite the King’s death in 1910 and the fact the Queen Victoria did not die until 1901!

Consequently, I was fascinated by the recent Radio 4 programme hosted by Peter Hennessey and called One Hundred Years of Secrecy where he discussed the history of the Official Secrets Act, which is 100 years old this year. Apparently there was no such provision prior to 1911 and Hennessey points out that the authorities were sufficiently concerned by the rise in power and naval strength of Germany to consider that His Majesty’s secrets needed protection from people who may or may not turn out to be His Majesty’s enemies.

Not for them the concepts of litigation hold or the technology around e-disclosure with which we are all familiar. I was particularly amused (not to say struck) by the story of the treaty between Turkey and Britain to grant a protectorate to Britain over Cyprus. This was contained in one document whereas the Foreign Office wanted four copies. They paid one shilling per copy for the treaty to be hand copied. Later on they were aggrieved to discover that a journalist had got hold of a copy by dint of a payment of £50 (a huge sum in those days) to a man who had sat in a coffee shop with one of the copies and who had laboriously written out a further copy which he then sold to a newspaper.

They wanted to sue the perpetrator but discovered that he had committed no offence. I do not seek to say that the result was the introduction into the House of Lords by Lord Haldane of the bill to make an offence out of disclosure of anything not specifically permitted to be disclosed, but it was one of the straws in the wind.

A fascinating programme and I was amused (no, not struck) to hear that payment of sums of money by journalists to obtain information to which they might not otherwise have been party was as rampant then as it is today.

Back then of course, flying goats were occasionally white, though rarely spotted!