Sir: In his defence of Christianity (‘Losing our religion’, 10 August), Greg Sheridan writes as if Christianity and religion are interchangeable terms. His claim that the vast majority of people who have ever lived have believed in God may be true, but most of them were or are not Christians. And when he mentions that Christianity is the most persecuted religion, he fails to observe that much of this persecution is from adherents of other religions.
As a non-believer, I look at the harm done by followers of different religions fighting each other — and at the years of sexual and emotional abuse of children by religious orders. I cannot feel that all this is outweighed by the few virtues claimed by Mr Sheridan. Treating others as you would wish to be treated yourself is a virtue that can be exhibited just as easily by those without religious belief.
Sir: Richard Madeley extols the charm of Cornwall’s Talland Bay (‘My favourite beach’, 10 August) but omits to mention that it has long been a favourite haven of smugglers. As recently as 1979 a drugs gang was caught red-handed by police and customs officers. But in the 18th century it was a regular landing place for large quantities of contraband goods shipped in from Guernsey and hidden in the churchyard above, where many of the smugglers — including some of my ancestors — now lie buried.
Jeremy Rowett Johns
Sir: Martin Vander Weyer chooses Bridlington as his favourite beach, but it is slightly unfair to call it ‘faded, verging on melancholy’. On a fine day, park up at South Cliff car park and walk along the prom with its excellent facilities, or on the sandy beach to the harbour for fish and chips or go a boat ride around the beautiful bay.
Harrogate, North Yorkshire
Sir: I enjoyed the contributions on favourite beaches in last week’s issue. I was particularly pleased that no one mentioned my own favourite.
Bearsden, East Dunbartonshire
Sir: Carole Ford (Letters, 10 August) highlights the many issues arising from the implementation of the Curriculum for Excellence in Scotland and the resultant dramatic fall in standards in Scottish schools. A similar disaster is unfolding in Wales where the Welsh government has adopted in full the report by Professor Graham Donaldson, Successful Futures.
This report has come in for widespread criticism, not least from the Welsh Local Government Association and the Association of Directors of Education in Wales. Many experts are saying it is poorly defined and leaves pupil learning to chance, with an over-emphasis on project-based learning. Professor Donaldson wants to get rid of conventional subjects, amalgamating them into ‘Areas of learning’ such as ‘Health and wellbeing’, ‘Humanities’ and ‘Science and technology’. It is worth adding that he was also involved in the Scottish reforms. The Welsh government would do well to note the Scottish experience, before they harm a generation of Welsh children.
Back on track
Sir: Following on from Ross Clark’s article on re-opening the Great Central Railway (‘An alternative route’, 3 August), there remains a possibility that this may happen. GB Freight Route (GBFR) is developing plans for a 500-mile spinal freight and passenger railway route between Glasgow and the Channel Tunnel, serving key destinations and motorway hubs. The route builds on the work done by Central Railway plc and mainly comprises existing, underused railways which need upgrading in places. It includes sections of the Great Central Railway main line which can be relatively inexpensively reinstated, as Mr Clark explained. And all this for a fraction of the cost of new construction.
Director, GB Freight Route
Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire
Sir: It was snotty of Melanie McDonagh to call Desert Island Discs host Lauren Laverne ‘lightweight and uncerebral’ (‘Cast Astray’, 10 August). She thinks Michael Berkeley, from Radio 3’s Private Passions would be a better choice. But Desert Island Discs is a very different format — much more about getting at the interviewee through their musical choices than about the music per se. Lauren Laverne is an intelligent and likeable interviewer. If she sometimes has a run of rather worthy-sounding guests, that’s presumably someone else’s decision.
A letter about letters
Sir: I enjoyed Dot Wordsworth’s article on post-nominal letters (‘Esquire’, 3 August) but regret she didn’t mention the military versions. I seem to remember from my days at Sandhurst many years ago that while RN and RAF can be used by those entitled, the only army regiments and corps that can use them are the Royal Artillery (RA) and the Royal Engineers (RE).
Major (Retd) W.C. Gore RE
The art of criticism
Sir: How is it that I learned more from the brilliant review of Helene Schjerfbeck’s exhibition by Martin Gayford (3 August) than from the entire Royal Academy catalogue?