Pre-judging a generous, kind man

Though I do not support the honours system in general and regard Freedom of the Borough awards as especially worthless (particularly for a dead man), I nonetheless find the decision of pygmy politicians to deprive Sir Jimmy Savile of the honour they themselves bestowed on him with such self-regarding pomp just a few years ago both churlish and childish.

I also find that policy of featuring ‘Sir Jimmy this’ and ‘Sir Jimmy that’ stories to one of just ‘Savile’ to be nothing more than a discourteous attempt to distance yourself from a man who obliged you so much.

He is still Sir Jimmy until the Queen decrees otherwise.

It is an axiom of English law that a man is innocent until proven guilty. That cannot happen now as the object of all this synthetic and hysterical rage is dead, but you and Scarborough’s mealy-mouthed councillors might at least have had the decency to wait for the outcome of the pending enquiry before indulging in your venom.

I have no idea if Sir Jimmy was a paedophile or not though I knew him for 25 years. He certainly liked young women, as most heterosexual men seem to do - though unlike most, his celebrity meant he could attract them - but never once in all those years did I see him behave inappropriately to a minor. But what do I know? The sheer volume of allegations suddenly released from collective amnesia suggests there may be something in the charge.

But we need to bear in mind that the quality of many of these witnesses is flawed and it is easy to see that some are motivated by malice, money and a yearning for a bit of celebrity of their own. I note that the former headmistress of the school which a number of the alleged victims attended has stated publicly that they knew exactly what they were about and probably still do. And it’s odd that some say they were ‘groped’ in his Rolls Royce not once but many times. Why on earth did they go back for more if it was all so traumatic? None of this excuses Jimmy or makes these activities any less illegal, but the willingness of some of the participants does at least serve in mitigation.

We are now at the stage, of course, where everything Jimmy did is put down to an ulterior motive rather than an altruistic one. But how many pre-pubescent girls are there in Broadmoor? None. And how many in Stoke Mandeville? Very few. If he was picking his causes to slake his lust he was certainly very inefficient about it for so intelligent a man.

It also intrigues me how the media is stoking up the issue in a manner that would normally be reserved for a serial killer. And yet all the while it seems that they always ‘knew’. Fleet Street editors and BBC broadcasters are now telling us in unison that in all the years when they lionised Jimmy they ‘knew’ all along. And yet they published nothing and said nothing; on the contrary, they built Jimmy up as the nation’s sainted charity giver. Are they not as guilty of these crimes through their complicity and silence as he is alleged to be?

If Jimmy committed even a fraction of the crimes alleged then he may well have damaged dozens of young lives. But he also gave huge benefit to thousands of young lives through personal intervention, generous donations to charity and relentless fundraising. By any objective measure the pleasure he gave and the good he did far outweighs the harm.

Everything Jimmy touched seems now to be deemed tainted, to the extent that plaques, street signs and even his headstone have been removed. But this taint does not seem to stretch to his money! Why are the charities and institutions he so generously supported not returning the money to his estate so it can be distributed among those clamouring for compensation?

I found Sir Jimmy to be kind, considerate and generous with time and money. He turned away no-one who approached him and he showed many kindnesses to a great many people with no expectation of return.

To Scarborough he was particularly generous and the town seized what he offered with both hands. What we need to do now rather than hysterically join in the condemnation is to wait for the findings of the enquiry, and then balance his virtues and vices before reaching a considered and rational judgement. He was loyal to Scarborough; Scarborough should now be loyal to him.

Eric Flounders (a Scarborian)

Bow Road