Tag Archives: The Daily Mail

The Ultimate Showman: Freddie Mercury’s untold relationship with the UK press

By James Garbett, Gale Ambassador at the University of Exeter
I’m a third year English student at the University of Exeter.  I’m a huge fan of all things film, theatre and journalism, whilst also continuing to examine the changing forms of masculinity within Gender Studies. When not attempting to play drums, you can find me interviewing various individuals of the music and film world and working for the student newspaper, radio and television station.

When Freddie Mercury, lead singer of Queen, passed away tragically in November 1991, many newspapers mourned the passing of one of the greatest musical legends of all time. Much has already been written of the lavish and decadent parties that Mr Mercury had in his too-short lifetime, however utilising the vast wealth of archives in Gale Primary Sources, such as The Times, Archive of Sexuality & Gender and others, a new perspective can be found regarding the incredible showman and his relationship with the press.

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‘An artist who can get away with this’: The Press Response to Yves Klein’s 1957 London Exhibition

Yves Klein calls his pictures “Propositions.” He very carefully roughens the surfaces so as to express his sensibility. Then he invites the spectator to share the artist’s sensibility by “allowing the mind to plunge into the heart of the colour.”[1]

The debate around modern art versus representational art had begun by the 1950s. The pages of The Listener had followed the debates, as a subject that had “often led to controversy”[2]. Modern art was perceived as an area where “execution determines design instead of design determining execution”, and the modern artist “has done away with the rational meaning of the subject-matter required in traditional art and allows unconscious phantasy to express itself more clearly”[3]. Klein, as the emerging face of modern art, represented this, arguing “that our primary ocular sensation is that of colour, and that he, as an artist, wishes to free this sensation of colour from all extraneous or limiting circumstances.”[4]

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One Man in Wangaratta

The town of Wangaratta in the north of Victoria, Australia, has a population of approximately 19,000, but little does that population realise that one amongst their number is a man who, but for an accident of history, could today be the King of England. This matter was originally researched by the British historian, Dr. Michael Jones, in 2003, and it can be updated with the help of Gale Primary Sources.

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Inside the BNP: Being a Mole in the British Far-Right

By Rebecca Bowden, Associate Acquisitions Editor
Having joined Gale in December 2017 with a background in business to business publishing, I am enjoying learning more about the world of digital archives. I love the diversity of Gale’s archives, and discovering the unique stories hidden within them. In my spare time I like doing a variety of unusual sports, a lot of baking, and curling up with a good book.

On 29 March 1984, at 10:25pm, Channel 4 aired ‘The Other Face of Terror’. According to Elizabeth Cowley, writing for the Daily Mail, ‘if I didn’t know this documentary was fact and that the people we see and hear…were real, I’d swear it was an over-the-top political thriller.’ The hour and a half film, by Dutch director Ludi Boeken, exposed a ‘vast neo-Nazi network of terrorists, arms dealers and theorists’; it also exposed one of the key figures in the British National Party (BNP) and the British Movement  as a mole for anti-fascist investigative organisation Searchlight. That man was Ray Hill. Using Gale Primary Sources, we explore his experience with the far-right.

Other Face of Terror

Cowley, Elizabeth. “The Other Face of Terror.” Daily Mail, 29 Mar. 1984, p. 22. Daily Mail Historical Archive, 1896-2004, http://tinyurl.galegroup.com/tinyurl/745mX0. Accessed 19 Sept. 2018.

Ray Hill was born in Mossley in 1939. He joined the army at seventeen, following in the footsteps of his father. Writing for The Times, he describes how he left the army in the early sixties and was living in Leicester when he came across an anti-immigration advert. It was the first time he had been interested in politics, but he quickly became involved in the anti-immigration movement. In an interview, available in Gale’s Political Extremism & Radicalism archive, Hill describes this first encounter with the British far-right:

‘I picked up some literature from an outfit calling themselves the “Racial Preservation Society.” And it was right at the sort of beginning of the influx of immigrants here. Particularly into Leicester. Leicester was sort of a favourite settling place for many of them. And this Racial Preservation Society was active, as was an outfit calling themselves the “NDP” the National Democratic Party…And I took an interest in it.’

Attracted by the strong anti-immigration stance of the Racial Preservation Society, Hill found himself drawn into the world of the far-right.

Ray Hill

“British National Party Launched after Months of Nazi Unity Talks.” Searchlight Magazine, May 1982, p. 3+. Political Extremism & Radicalism, http://tinyurl.galegroup.com/tinyurl/747zr9. Accessed 19 Sept. 2018.

How then, does a far-right supporter become a mole, reporting on the people he had once seen eye-to-eye with? In 1969, Hill moved to South Africa, which was in the midst of apartheid at the time, and it was this that radically changed his mind. As he puts it:

‘nobody with much humanity about them can stay in South Africa for ten years and not come to dislike apartheid. It’s just so horrible, you know. Just horrible. I mean people being arrested for falling in love, you know. That sort of thing. Bloody awful.’

This, combined with the fact he had made Jewish friends, meant he left his earlier views behind him. It was not a ‘Damascene Conversion,’ he emphasises in The Times, but ‘a gradual change in [his] attitudes caused by the people [he] was mixing with.’

So, when the National Front of South Africa came into existence, Hill found himself re-joining; this time, however, it was at the request of a Jewish friend, who asked him to report back on what he saw and heard. Ray Hill had become a mole.

Hill attended around two-dozen meetings, even becoming chairman, before he returned to the UK and was put in touch with Gerry Gable, founder of Searchlight. It was Gerry’s idea for him to infiltrate the far-right in the UK on behalf of Searchlight, and ‘in no time at all [Hill] was Deputy Leader of the BNP.’


In 1982, John Tyndall founded the BNP, following a previous failed attempt to break away from the National Front. Ray Hill is seen on the left of the picture.
“British National Party Launched after Months of Nazi Unity Talks.” Searchlight Magazine, May 1982, p. 3+. Political Extremism & Radicalism, http://tinyurl.galegroup.com/tinyurl/747zr9. Accessed 19 Sept. 2018.

Hill publicly exposed himself as an infiltrator when he left the BNP five years later and has continued to talk about his experiences since. It is these discussions, including the audio interview featured in Gale’s Political Extremism & Radicalism archive, that provide the researcher with a different angle on the far-right at the time.

Firstly, let us look at Nicky Crane. Nicola Vicenzio Crane was active in the British Movement, was jailed multiple times for racist attacks and was one of the founders of neo-nazi group Blood and Honour (see sources in both Political Extremism and Archives of Sexuality & Gender). Somewhat oxymoronically, in 1992, Crane came out as homosexual, a year before he died of AIDS (see source 1; source 2). It is difficult to find a positive description of him in Gale Primary Sources. Searchlight Magazine describes him as ‘one of the foulest and most violent nazi thugs’, and a ‘psychotic lump of trash’. An audio interview with anti-fascist activist Anna Sullivan in Political Extremism states:

“You couldn’t miss him, either. Physically, he certainly stood out…he’d been imprisoned at least once or twice for a GBH attack, because, you know, he was really vicious. And I never really met him face to face. I saw him when we did the march past his house…we got so many of the local Asian community involved, and, you know, that’s the key, really. And all these wonderful women, you know, in their saris and headscarves were carrying placards saying, “We will not be bullied by these racists.”

Nicky Crane

“Not so Gentle but Certainly Touched.” Searchlight Magazine, Sept. 1986, p. 6+. Political Extremism & Radicalism, http://tinyurl.galegroup.com/tinyurl/759oe3. Accessed 19 Sept. 2018.

That same rally, in which nearly 300 anti-fascists, led by then local-MP Jeremy Corbyn, marched to the home of Nicky Crane and other known Nazis, was also covered by Searchlight magazine.

Hill’s interview in the Searchlight Oral Histories Collection is the only instance to paint a different picture:

“I liked Nicky. I always thought he was a likeable, kind-hearted, but misguided young man. Obviously, with a massive chip on his shoulder, but good at heart.”

Here we see a more personable side to Nicky Crane, something that would be lacking were it not for these first-hand testimonies featured in Political Extremism & Radicalism. It is an insight into how Hill could have stomached being a part of the far-right for those five years he was a mole. As he puts it:

‘Some of the kids that were pulled in were genuine people who wanted a better world for themselves and their offspring…Well, you can’t condemn them for that.’

This reminds us that there are multiple facets to every personality, even those whose ideologies many would class as unpleasant. It also enables researchers to look beyond the movement as whole, and instead begin to understand the individuals involved.

Hill’s testimony also reveals what happens after the mole has been outed: the repercussions. This part of his story is corroborated by news reporting of the time. The Sunday Telegraph, for instance, offers an article titled ‘Nazi threat of death for author’, detailing how ‘the most dangerous nazi group in Europe…plans to kill him in revenge’ and that he even has a panic button to the police station in his house. In The Times, we hear of vandalised cars and threatened children. One Searchlight Magazine story reported that ‘police in rural areas of England…have launched a round-the-clock watch on his house’ after a hit team turned up at his door, while another tells how his home was ‘attacked by a nazi firebomb squad over the May bank holiday’ of 1988, with the words ‘Kill Hill’ daubed on his front door. Similarly, in his interview, Hill discusses having his caravan set on fire while his children slept inside and having bricks repeatedly thrown through windows. He jokes that he ‘must have been the only man in England to pay a f****** glazier by banker’s order’. Jokes aside, his disgust and anger are obvious, describing it as ‘utter, utter evil.’ Again, we get the opportunity to understand the personal side of the story, alongside the more formal reporting.

Nazi Threat

Porter, Robert. “Nazi threat of death for author.” Sunday Telegraph, 7 Feb. 1988, p. 5. The Telegraph Historical Archive, http://tinyurl.galegroup.com/tinyurl/745Vz5. Accessed 19 Sept. 2018.

The political life of Ray Hill then, is full of drama and intrigue. He has since devoted the rest of his life to anti-fascist work, giving talks that highlight the dangers of the far-right. He suggests he will continue to do so whether he is 75, or 95. The press tells of a far-right BNP leader who revealed himself to be a mole, and of the difficult aftermath that followed. It is only through Hill’s own testimony that we get a true sense of the man, his journey and the personal side of the story; of the people he was interacting with and the emotional struggles he had to overcome.

Across the Gale Primary Sources platform researchers can view a variety of content from political ephemera and oral history interviews in Political Extremism & Radicalism to newspaper articles in The Telegraph, The Times and The Daily Mail thus providing scholars with a broad and in-depth view of this episode of history, from multiple angles.

Not on the Ball: England’s Top Three World Cup Blunders

By Megan Murphy
I’m a third year History student at the University of Liverpool, a Gale Student Ambassador, and a self-proclaimed Jane Austen fanatic. As a modern historian, my main research interests revolve around the development of Victorian cities – particularly the crime and deviance that took place within them. Outside of my studies, in the rare time I spend without my head in a nineteenth-century newspaper, I specialise in binge-watching Louis Theroux documentaries.

With excitement for the World Cup 2018 building, I’ve been looking back to some of the most memorable moments from World Cups throughout the years. From England’s infamous victory in 1966, to their disastrous loss against West Germany in Italy 1990, Gale’s newspaper archives provide an invaluable tool for exploring these unforgettable (although sometimes we may wish they were) moments. I’ve featured my favourite three below… Continue reading

‘Sporadic riots’ and ‘false reports’ – British Reporting of the 1929 Igbo Women’s War

By Tom Henderson, Gale Ambassador at Durham University
I am a second-year Durham historian, research scholar and Treasurer of Durham University History Society. I use Gale’s archives to enhance my work and interrogate historiography, as well as browsing for fun in newspapers and advertisements (yes, really). My main interests include intellectual history, religion, feminism and music. In the world outside the library I enjoy choral singing, football, and excessive quantities of tea.

In December 1929, British newspapers reported on ‘sporadic riots’ taking place in the British colony of Nigeria, targeting Warrant Chiefs and Native Courts across several districts. This was the Ogu Umunwaanyi or ‘Women’s War’: a coordinated insurrection of Igbo women against British colonial rule, ignited by a fear of taxation.

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Waugh in Print

By Daniel Mercieca, Gale Ambassador at Durham University
Daniel Mercieca is an English Literature finalist and President of both the English Literature Society and Bede Film Society at Durham University. His main research interests are imagined spaces in film and screen adaptation, with further interests in memory and motion in twentieth-century and Romantic poetry. Dan enjoys the independence of thought, interdisciplinary and experimental aspects of studying English and aims to achieve an MA in Film and/or Literature. Dan enjoys lyricism and landscapes in the works of Thomas Hardy, Virginia Woolf, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Charlotte Smith and Sylvia Plath. His favourite directors include Alfred Hitchcock, Darren Aranofsky, Martin Scorsese and Christopher Nolan for their suspense, soundtracks and cinematography. If he is not reading books or watching films then he is probably writing, running or trying something new.

Evelyn Waugh is best known today for his delicately crafted satirical novels of the 1930s including Decline and Fall, Vile Bodies and Scoop. Only in Waugh do you find such precise comic timing and snappy diction: “Who’s that dear, dim, drunk little man?’ ‘That is the person who shot my son.’ ‘My dear, how too shattering for you. Not dead, I hope?” (Decline and Fall).

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The Death of George V – As Reported First in The Times

When King George V died on 20 January 1936 the world was led to believe that he had died entirely of natural causes. Little did people know at the time that his death had been hastened by his physician in order to ensure that the news was reported first in The Times rather than the afternoon newspapers. It is a matter that can be explored with the help of Gale Primary Sources.

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Tales for the ‘Every-day Reader’: Winston Churchill and the ‘War in the Indian Highlands’

When the name ‘Winston Churchill’ is mentioned, images of a heroic war leader with cigar in mouth and face set in steely determination are usually the first to come to mind. His wartime speeches became iconic in symbolising gung-ho British determination to battle on through endless bloodshed, helping steer Britain through the turmoil of a cataclysmic conflict. Yet, with perhaps less well-known flair, the former Prime Minister proved equally adept on paper. This is evident in his first published material: a series of war letters commissioned for British newspaper The Daily Telegraph. Continue reading