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.