Daily Mail bashers like to trot out the newspaper’s sympathetic line towards the Nazis in the run-up to the Second World War. It seems to me that this is now far too familiar a charge, and that if we are going to delve into history to find sticks with which to beat the paper, some fresh snippet is long overdue. I was pleased, therefore, to find this anecdote about Lord Northcliffe, the founder of the Daily Mail, in Piers Brendon’s Eminent Edwardians (1979):
The campaigner against the use of birds’ feathers to decorate women’s hats once wantonly struck down a seagull with his stick and beat it to death on the sand.
Incidentally, Northcliffe seems to have had a thing about hats. In 1910, he issued a directive to his editorial staff:
It is about time men had a new hat. Why not offer £100 for the best design for a new hat? There is at present only the silk hat, the pot-hat or bowler (what in America is called a Derby), the straw hat, the felt hat of various shapes (usually referred to as the Trilby – I do not know why) and the universal cap. A new-hat-for-men competition would be most amusing . . . Let reference be made to hat monotony.
Northcliffe would probably have been able to answer Peter Blegvad’s questions about hats.
This explains so much about the letters page of the Bognor Regis Observer where seagulls are regularly accused of everything from carrying off small dogs to being responsible for the death of Rasputin.
(I have just noticed something about the name “RasPUTIN”)