Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Cyril Smith Doctoring With Intent!

N.V. finds new witness to 'Sins of Cyril' at Boys' Home in 1960s

'WHEN you were ill at Cambridge House,' Edward Shorrock told Northern Voices (NV), 'Cyril was round like a shot.'  He was  speaking to me last week about Cyril Smith, the former Liberal M.P. for Rochdale who died just over two years ago, and who Eddie said had 'abused his powers' while he was the Secretary of the association that ran Cambridge House boys' hostel in the early 1960s.  In May 1979, the Rochdale Alternative Paper (RAP) exposed how Smith indulged himself in strange power-play interactions with some of the young lads resident at Cambridge House:  enacting sexually flavoured punishments, spanking bare bums and administering curious medical examinations on some of the youngest inmates.

Northern Voices has seen a list of names of his victims, lads in their mid-teens between 1962 and 1964, who told RAP in the late 1970s that Cyril made advances to them, and subjected them to spankings and degrading medical inspections.  All of this was published in the May 1979 issue of RAP.  Yet, within 3 hours of this story being distributed to then Rochdale newsagents, Cyril got his solicitor to issue a writ on the editors of RAP.  As John Walker, a former editor of RAP, told me in 2011:  'Cyril slapped a writ on us 3 hours after publication... this would be regarded by lawyers as a "gagging writ",' and 'it was a legal ploy used by Smith's solicitors to frighten off main stream media interest, allowing Cyril to say that the allegations by the lads were untrue, and that he was instigating libel proceedings.'  In the end only Private Eye and the New Statesman covered the story.  This 'gagging writ' against RAP was never followed through by Cyril's solicitors (see Northern Voices No.12); John Walker told me:  'Eventually we challenged the lawyers (of Cyril) to sue or drop the writ (and) they quietly did so and made a small token payment to our almost negligible costs.'  In 2011, John Walker told N.V.:  'I stand by every word that we wrote then,' John also added 'He (Smith) used his position of authority to further his own rather selfish and unpleasant ends... but more seriously, he took advantage of some downtrodden, disadvantaged people in society whose fate had been put in his hands, and further damaged them.'

Edward Shorrock who spoke out for the first time this week, was one of those vulnerable lads who had been arrested as a bicycle thief in Bury at about 16 years-old and sentenced to two years probation, only later to be sent by the probation service to Cambridge House, on Castlemere Street, Rochdale.  Journalists including the Rochdale Observer have seen three sworn statement from three of the former Cambridge House residents, but Eddie did not give a statement to RAP's solicitors in the 1979 because he had moved to Bristol in 1977.  Today both he and another lad, Barry Fitton, have gone public and have given their accounts to the lobby journalist, Paul Waugh (a Rochdale lad himself) on his site at www.politicshome.com .  Eddie told me last week that he was more troubled by Cyril's 'abuse of power' at Cambridge House, than the actual strange 'voyeuristic' sexual nature of his curious encounters alone with Cyril which involved undressing;  it was a kind of 'doctoring with intent', a peculiar exercise in power-play. 

Cyril, then a Rochdale Labour Councillor, Alderman and eventually to be Liberal M.P. for Rochdale, had a kind of charismatic chemistry that dominated those around him and enabled him to manipulate situations through a method that would now be called 'networking'.  Such has been his influence in the town as a local hero that last year he was blessed by having a blue plaque erected to him on our famous Gothic-revival Town Hall, an award agreed in haste by the Rochdale Township committee.  That must be something of a record given that it breaches the strict criteria guidelines recommended by English Heritage, a kind of extraordinary networking beyond the grave to overcome political opposition and the rule of 20-years after death.  Immense power indeed, for a Rochdale lad who says of himself in his autobiography 'BIG CYRIL''As a ragged-arsed kid, dressed in second hand clothes I knew the grinding poverty of a mill town in the thirties'.  To this day with his blue plaque anointing our most famous and adored Gothic revival building, one that even Adolf Hitler reputably praised, Cyril seems to be truly a giant among pygmies.

Will Edward Shorrock now become 'Eddie the Giant-Killer'?  Will our great British media at long last dare to take on the might of the now deceased Sir Cyril Smith and his supporters?  Is today's news the beginning of the end of a great legend in our town?   It fair takes your breath away pondering the possibilities of how the Rochdale political establishment and the Rochdale Observer will react to a fallen hero; a fallen hero indeed, because it was on Armistice Day, last Sunday, that Eddie gave his own unvarnished account of the goings-on at Cambridge House in the 1960s to Paul Waugh.  On the day he left Cambridge House, Eddie had always had the parting words of Cyril ringing in his ears and it was something like: 'nobody crosses me!'

No comments: