This week there's a wee exhibition about James Leatham on at Turriff library - it moves to The Town House for our Saturday event. Get along to one (or both) of these if you can..
To give you a taste of what's to come - and of what will be coming up in the online Gateway (commemorative issue out now) we thought we'd post up something which might amuse the residents (especially the postal workers) of Turra! It dates from the 30's or 40's so of course we're all too young to remember, but it might make you smile.
PROVOST LEATHAM ON THE POST OFFICE
Presenting medal-bars and certificates to members of Turriff Post Office staff for a year’s immunity from car or cycle accidents, Provost Leatham, speaking in the sorting hall on 20th May, said that was the fourth time he had come there on the same errand, and he had great pleasure in coming, first because of the occasion itself, and secondly, because of the admiration he had for the Post Office as an institution.
They received these decorations for obeying in the course of their work the Sixth Commandment, ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ There were thousands of death on the roads in a year, but nobody had had to put on mourning or even be taken to hospital for any act of omission of theirs. This was the very opposite reason for which a military decoration was given. Most of them were ex-Service men who had been trained in the bayonet exercise, and they knew that when instruction was given, the Sixth Commandment was not in the picture except in reverse. In war, evil became good and good evil; but to Post Office motormen and cyclists the old rule still held good, and they had once again been successful in complying with it. To save life and property was a natural instinct, and, necessary as it might be to ‘straddle a ship with a stick of bombs and leave it in a sinking condition,’ it was against human nature. Thomas Carlyle had added to the Eighth Commandment, ‘Thou shalt not steal, the natural corollary, ‘Thou shalt not be stolen from.’ A similar addendum was necessary in the Sixth Commandment. It would be ‘Thou shalt not be killed.’ The breach of the commandment lay with the aggressor.
There was great complaint as to the hold-ups practised by bureaucrats, Government officials who interfered in other people’s business; but the Post Office had its own workmen, and the surveyors who came around were practical men, servants of the Department, who knew what was wanted, not outside inspectors all of them with different views. Eighty-one years ago William Ewart Gladstone had started the only State Bank we had, the Post Office Banks, which now had over £400.000,000 of accumulated assets, and not a penny of it went in directors fees or dividends to share-holders. Those were the lines on which he wished to see all business conducted.
There were complaints also about the rise in postal rates. But they evidently hadn’t yet been raised in proportion to the rise in working costs, for the annual surplus used to be £12 ¾ million, but now it was down to £10,000,000. It was still the cheapest service in the community, with no overlapping duplication, competition, advertising or commercial travellers.
Provost Leatham was presented with a smoker’s outfit – pipes, tobacco, and matches – the local postmaster, Mr J.B.Clark, handing over the gift in name of the staff.
During his lifetime, supporters, followers and friends of printer/publisher/social pioneer James Leatham were known as Leatham’s Lambs. Well, this is a big week for latter day Leatham Lambs. Today, 14th December marks 70 years since his death. A small exhibition about his life and works is running in Turriff Library from Monday to Friday.
In the virtual world, today sees the commemorative edition of The Gateway Journal go live. From January a New Gateway will be available every month, but to commemorate Leatham’s passing, the last edition of Volume 30 has been put together The commemorative edition gives the spirit and flavour of the original with editorial and Leatham's views on Banking, Copyright and culture. It's a good taste of what's to come in 2016 when we will bring more of Leatham's own writing, and selections of other public domain works to a new readership on a monthly basis. Check it out today, there's enough to keep you reading all month.
The first publications from the new Deveron Press are Leatham’s ‘Daavit’ and William Alexander’s ‘Sketches of Life Among My Ain Folk,’ with many more to come in 2016, including Leatham’s previously unpublished (and unfinished) autobiography ‘Sixty Years of World Mending,’ his political/philosophical treatise ‘Socialism and Character,’ a new edition of ‘William Morris: A Master of Many Crafts,’ and a new edition of Bob Duncan’s biography of James Leatham.
'Empires and systems may rise and decay, but so long as a single copy of a great piece of literature remains it can be reproduced and perpetuated to a life beyond life.' James Leatham 1864-1945.
There are two most important dates in all our lives - our birth and our death. For writers (and readers) there's another one - the date their work comes into the public domain.
For James Leatham, most of whose writing has been out of print for the last 70 years since his death, 14th December is a day to celebrate. It's the day the gag comes off and once again you can read his work. Actually, having just checked copyright law again this isn't strictly true. Copyright passes on the END OF THE YEAR in which an author dies, so we'll have to wait till 31st December to be strictly legal and above board!
That won't slow us down however. We are working hard at Deveron Press to bring Leatham's work back into the public domain and will be hosting an exhibition at Turriff Library from 14th -18th December prior to our 150th Birthday Celebration on 19th December.
At the moment, with 10 days to go, we are putting the finishing touches to the commemorative edition of The New Gateway, which will be available online from 14th December. Its content will fall under 'fair usage' to keep us straight with copyright.
But the Public Domain Party will have to wait till Hogamany!
We think that coming into the Public Domain is something to write home about.
We would really like to thank the good folk at Turriff and District Heritage Society, The Aberdeenshire Library Services and Turriff Community Council for support thus far.