SALTBURN WAR HERO EDDIE STRAIGHT DENIED FREEDOM OF BOROUGH WITH NO VALID REASON
BY REDCAR MAYOR
23.11.15: "CROSS PARTY PANEL"
DECEIT & CONFUSION !
"It was a unanimous decision by a cross-party panel" said the Mayor... BUT IT WASN'T ! I now have the minutes of the meeting
when Eddie was rejected (see below) ALL THREE PANEL MEMBERS DID NOT ATTEND! ONLY ONE SENT A STAND IN
Cllrs. Mason (LibDem) Cllr. Cooney (Con) & Hunt (Ind.) all sent their apologies. The Mayor was joined ONLY by a LibDem stand-in, Cllr. Wilson. I have been informed that the Council constitution states that the panel can have a minimum number of two members but in anyone's book one Labour member & one Lib Dem does not constitute a "Cross Party Panel" = The Conservatives & Independents were not represented. What happens if the two members disagree? In this case The Mayor was ALSO the Chair so presumably she would get the casting vote? The Mayor has stated repeatedly that it was a "cross party decision by the panel" knowing it wasn't.
ALSO, I had heard a month ago that Cllr. Lanigan (Ind. rep on the FOTB panel) did not attend the meeting. I asked the Mayor about this, in her office on Oct 29th, and she confirmed it. What she didn't tell me was that the other panel members also didn't attend. Why is Cllr. Lanigan not included in the minutes and Cllr. Hunt (Ind.) is? Why is Cllr. Lanigan not listed on the Council website as a FOTB panel member and Cllr. Hunt is? I asked The Mayor's PA for clarification on who the FOTB panel members are and I was told Cllrs. Forster, Mason, Cooney and Hunt. But Cllr. Hunt told me last week that he had come off the panel last year!
This whole saga has been a complete shambles from start to finish. They seem to be making it up as they go along, they have misinterpreted the criteria, don't know who the panel members are and have been deceitful about the panel itself. It is unacceptable and I am writing to the council to demand that the decision be quashed. In the interests of fairness and democracy, I propose that the matter be settled by opening up the vote to all 59 members at the next full council meeting; and that my film is shown before the vote so that members this time are not deceived by phantom panel decisions and are fully informed. I will not let ineptitude and deceit stand in the way of justice for Eddie, the borough and myself. We deserve better.
MAYOR SHUTS DOWN TALK OF EDDIE
Saltburn Cllr. Craig Hannaway (Lab) congratulates Jackie Taylor on getting the Freedom of the Borough BUT is shut down by Madam Mayor when he mentions EDDIE STRAIGHT! Cllr. Val Halton (Con) also shut down and Cllr. Kay (Ind) calls for review of criteria in light of controversy.
18.11.15: REDCAR REVELATION !
THE MAYOR: "He doesn't meet the criteria. His service was not here in the borough"
ME: "Other boroughs award it to military veterans" THE MAYOR : "That is their business. We have our own criteria"
TONIGHT I DISCOVERED THIS ON THE COUNCIL'S OWN WEBSITE...
from RCBC in 2008
Nov 12th 2015: EDDIE STRAIGHT DENIED FREEDOM OF THE BOROUGH
I regret to announce that yesterday, on Armistice Day of all days, I was informed that my nomination for Freedom of the Borough of esteemed Saltburn war veteran Eddie Straight was REJECTED by The Mayor of Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council.
I nominated Eddie in July with the backing of 6 supporting letters (including 4 from Councillors including the Deputy Leader). I also included a DVD of my documentary "Eddie Straight - To Hell & Back".
The decision to reject Eddie was made by The Mayor, Cllr. Brenda Forster, and the cross party FOTB Panel (one of whom failed to attend) on October 1st and I have spent the past month in correspondence via letters and a meeting with the Mayor imploring that the decision is reconsidered as they had misinterpreted the criteria.
They claim that Eddie is not eligible because his service was not within the borough/community. This is nonsense because the criteria clearly states "nominees must be a person of distinction and/or that has rendered eminent services to the borough / made a significant contribution to the locality". Eddie is absolutely eligible. His service was for the preservation of the freedom and democracy of this country - of which this borough and community are part - and ironically the fact that the Mayor and panel are able to enjoy the privilege of being democratically elected to office and able to make such an award is a direct consequence! And he served with distinction - he must have because The Mayor also suggested that a national award such as an OBE would be more appropriate. If he is worthy enough for a national award then how can he not be for a local one?
I put this to the Mayor when I met her two weeks ago. Her response was wholly inadequate, contradictory and some of her comments left me in a state of disbelief.
I reeled off Eddie's epic service history to which she said that he should get a knighthood or an OBE but not the Freedom of the Borough. When I pressed her why she contradicted herself saying that lots of men were shot in the war, that Eddie didn't liberate Belsen by himself and that she didn't want to open the floodgates to applicants. I explained there weren't enough veterans left in the borough to cause a flood let alone veterans as eminent as Eddie.
I explained how the award originated as a military honour dating back centuries and cited a number of examples from other boroughs where it has recently been awarded to military personnel: The 3rd Battalion Rifles in Hartlepool, The Royal Engineers at Stockton, a Lance Corporal from Rochdale and even an army dog in Tamworth! The Mayor's reaction was that they were for Afghanistan which was recent whereas what Eddie did was "a long time ago and it was too late". I was astounded again and asked her why bother with Remembrance Day then? She said because they had died and I said Eddie came within millimetres several times of being on the cenotaph as he was shot six times, wounded twice by bayonets and hospitalised by a Japanese mortar bomb. I said I made the film as well the nomination because not enough recognition was given to those who came back and quietly got on with life albeit haunted by what they had been through as my film testifies graphically in Eddie's case. She then said she would inform the panel about the points raised and get back to me. I thought reasoned argument versus no argument may yet win the day but I was sadly mistaken.
As the nation prepared for the two minute silence, news that the decision was final came in. This was 3 days after Eddie had laid a wreath at the local cenotaph with supporting local Councillor Stuart Smith. It was signed "on behalf of the Mayor and the borough".
I offered the Mayor a unique opportunity to thank an esteemed war hero, unknown before my film, on behalf of the borough whilst he is still alive to appreciate it. I offered a unique opportunity for the mayor to make the presentation at a special screening event at the Cineworld multiplex in Middlesbrough. (I am still going to arrange the screening regardless). I offered a good news story on a plate and Redcar could certainly do with one of them in light of recent times but to no avail. They have simply rejected all of it and still given no valid reason; And adding insult to injury - on Armistice day. It is a woeful, unconscionable decision and a poor performance all round. The panel should hang their heads in shame and the Mayor in my opinion should not be in the job.
I would however like to thank Cllrs. David Walsh (Deputy Leader), Sue Jeffrey (Leader) & Saltburn Ward Councillors Stuart Smith, Philip Thomson and Craig Hannaway for their help and support of the nomination.
REMEMBRANCE SUNDAY - 8th NOV 2015: EDDIE LAYS THE MAYOR'S WREATH
Cllr. Stuart Smith was joined by former Co. Sgt. Major Eddie Straight to lay the wreath of the Mayor of Redcar & Cleveland Borough at the Saltburn Cenotaph to mark Remembrance Sunday.
Cllr. Smith said "It is a great honour to lay the wreath of behalf of the borough but it was extra poignant this year to do so with a veteran and one as esteemed as Eddie".
The veteran of D-Day, Burma and the liberation of Belsen, now 95, said "I lost a lot of friends, I'll never forget. Twelve of us trained together. Only two of us came out of it alive".
Craig Hornby, who told Eddie's story in an acclaimed documentary 'Eddie Straight-To Hell and Back' and who filmed today's ceremony, said "Eddie came within millimetres of becoming another name of the cenotaph but he was lucky. He was only wounded by several bullets, bayonets and a mortar bomb; and got to come home and quietly get on with life albeit haunted by what he had been through. He deserves more recognition which is why I made the film and why I have also nominated him for the Freedom of the Borough to the Mayor of Redcar & Cleveland. I am hoping his epic service to the cause of freedom will be recognised soon".
The nomination was backed by all three Saltburn ward councillors, Cllrs. Smith, Thomson and Hannaway plus the Deputy Leader of the Council David Walsh.
Craig is currently arranging a special one off screening event at the Cineworld multiplex in Middlesbrough for either December or January. Eddie's film will be shown along with another that he made last year in association with the Friends of Redcar Cemetery entitled "Redcar Remembers The First World War".
Sad to report the death of another musician mate, exactly a week after Mike (below). Dickie H was a gifted guitarist and songwriter from Sunderland. He played his heart out for over 30 years in a dozen bands. I met him in a Gateshead social club in 1986. He was in his first band, HDQ (Hung, Drawn & Quartered), and was playing his guitar like his life depended on it. We clicked from the off. He was a frenzy of heart-on-sleeve passion, blistering power and distinctive hooks and melodies. That latter made him stand out. There was vibrancy and music in the man, lots of it. I ended up driving HDQ 6,000 miles round Europe in '88 and was back in the van in '92 when he was with his most successful band, the mighty LEATHERFACE. We did a staggering 39 cities in about 45 nights from Oslo to Barcelona, to Budapest and everywhere in between. When you spend months on the road with a band playing some of the seediest corners of Europe, there are lots of ups, downs and scrapes; and you get to know a person very well. He was happy go lucky to the core..."Haway it'll be alright man - put your faith in blind optimism son c'maaaan!!!" He was a big lad and a big kid. Always comical. Not a bad bone in him and no pretence. The fans loved him, people loved him and he loved a drink with all of em. And that became his life and what cut it short. He died just shy of 50 ravaged by alcohol and penniless. That's not so uncommon in the North East but how many do it playing in bands, writing songs, making records and touring Europe, America, Canada, Australia and Japan with only the cash in their arse pocket? And get to play Glastonbury and Reading? And record Peel sessions? And one of greatest punk albums ever made? And then get obituaries in THE GUARDIAN and the NEW YORK TIMES??? Only the talented and tragic DICKIE HAMMOND.
MIKE FRANKLAND RIP Musician, Composer, Recording Engineer
Sad to report Mike, composer of the A Century in Stone Score has died suddenly of a brain haemorrhage aged just 47. In the summer of 2003, we spent weeks and weeks locked in his recording studio as we put together the music for the film. It was one of the most inspiring creative collaborations I have ever known. His contribution was immense. This big lug of a bloke creating the most delicate, beautiful music as if out of thin air. It turned up the emotional impact of the film 1000%. We turned to each other several times with tears in our eyes - especially the sequence with the miners walking home across the moor. I was so fortunate to find him. Sadly he was a tortured genius. He suffered terrible anxiety, ended up with a heart condition and a pacemaker and also had a car crash a couple of years ago. The respect across the Teesside music scene for his musical talent and skills as a recording engineer was immense. Gone way too soon. RIP Mike.
A good rant on the radio...a perfect way to start the day!
12th October 2015:
THE END OF
TEESSIDE IRON & STEEL
The news no one wanted but everyone expected. No buyers had come forward. The Redcar Blast Furnace and Coke Ovens will now be blown out. 2,200 direct jobs will be lost with upwards of 8,000 including contractors and supply chain. This final act comes exactly 175 years after Bolckow & Vaughan were building their first plant on the Tees at Vulcan Street in Middlesbrough in 1840.
One hundred years ago today, my Great Great Uncle Henry Mates of South Bank & the Royal Navy Reserve celebrated the new year aboard HMS Formidable as it prepared to ferry hundreds of troops across to France. Within just a few hours, Formidable was hit by two torpedoes from a German U-Boat and sunk. My Great Great Uncle Henry and 546 others lost their lives. He was the first of three Mates brothers who lost their lives in WW1. My Great Grandfather, William was killed at Arras in 1917 and my Great Great Uncle James died in France a month before the end of the war in 1918...