Simon Courtauld

The radical history of The Spectator

A newspaper – it would be more than 100 years before it became a magazine – calling itself a spectator of events, while consistently standing up for individual freedom, was bound to fall out with its readership from time to time. In the early years, under the editorship of its Scottish founder, Robert Rintoul, The

Trains in Spain

The first railway line in Spain, from Barcelona to Mataro a few miles up the coast towards the French border, was built in 1848 by British workers and with British expertise. I was reflecting on this, and the huge difference today between the services provided by our two countries’ railways, as the train passed through

Towering tree of God

In his biography of Gaudí, published in 2001, Gijs van Hensbergen opined that ‘we should never try to finish the Sagrada Família, otherwise we undo the web of power that is elaborately woven into this mysterious religious spell’. But he now appears to take the view that it should, and will, be finished by 2026,

‘Above all else, fun’

Alexander Chancellor’s ‘Long Life’ is over; but it was not nearly long enough. I was feeling rather gloomy last Friday, having just had our old terrier put down, when I opened The Spectator and was immediately cheered up by the first paragraph of Alexander’s column. It was so typical of the way that he often


Looking at the programme for the feria of San Isidro in Madrid this month (bullfights are being held on 31 consecutive days), it may be hard to believe that there is any threat to the future of the spectacle — it is not a sport — of what in Spain is called la corrida (the

Why Gibraltar needs its hunt back

The British overseas territory of Gibraltar, or, as some would have it, the wart on the bottom of the Iberian peninsula, is not an exciting place for a holiday. You don’t go for the food (mostly English pub grub and pizzas), or the nightlife (there isn’t any) or the beaches (overcrowded, with sand imported from

Verdi’s Don Carlos is the tops

I go to about half a dozen operas a year, mainly by 19th-century Italian and French composers, plus some Mozart, bits of Handel, Richard Strauss and Britten and, most recently, Wagner. Having seen my first Don Carlos — the memorable Luchino Visconti production — more than 50 years ago, I thought then that it had

Art and the raging bull

In these days of growing concern at the methods of factory farming and the welfare of the animals which are raised and killed for our consumption, it is instructive to compare the life of domestic beef cattle with that of a Spanish fighting bull. The cattle may have less than two years of life in

Cherchez la femme

The 22nd Earl of Erroll, Military Secretary in Kenya in the early part of the second world war, was described by two of his fellow peers of the realm as ‘a stoat — one of the great pouncers of all time’ and ‘a dreadful shit who really needed killing’. The 22nd Earl of Erroll, Military

Farewell to a noble figure in Spectator history

Ian Gilmour was not the only proprietor of The Spectator also to be its editor, but he was unquestionably the best. Patrician, wealthy, high-minded, unassuming, the 28-year-old Etonian ex-Grenadier Guardsman raised a number of eyebrows when he bought the magazine in 1954 and took over the editorial reins himself. However, the five years of his

Who wants to buy our old office?

‘A unique opportunity to purchase the home of a famous weekly magazine.’ Thus might an estate agent market No. 56 Doughty Street, London WC1, now up for sale after more than 30 years as the offices of The Spectator. But an estate agent cannot know how des a res is this early-19th-century house in Bloomsbury.

Small is beautiful | 13 January 2007

My grandfather used to enjoy eating ortolans in Biarritz, sometimes in the company of Rudyard Kipling. In London, it amused him to ask for these little birds of the bunting family when dining at the Savoy, though I don’t think they were ever on the menu. Ortolans have always been a French delicacy: la chasse

Talking turkey

There won’t be any wild turkeys eaten in Britain this Christmas. There won’t be any wild turkeys eaten in Britain this Christmas. However, a few of these birds, which are indigenous to north and central America, are being reared in south-west England. It is possible that one or two dark-plumaged turkeys may be seen in

Good hare day

In my early days as editor of the Field, I read an article submitted by one of the magazine’s venerable hunting correspondents In my early days as editor of the Field, I read an article submitted by one of the magazine’s venerable hunting correspondents — the subject was harehunting and a day out with, I

A little snack

The countryside writer Ian Niall, a columnist in these pages some 50 years ago, told in his classic work, The Poacher’s Handbook, of one of the fraternity known as Black Bill who had an affection for partridges and could never bring himself to kill them. ‘The partridge is the one bird I don’t touch,’ says

King of the moor

The red grouse is a resilient little bird. Prone to an unpleasant disease called louping ill which is transmitted by sheep ticks, and vulnerable to attack by nasty, invasive little worms, its population may crash in some moorland areas for several years; and then it will reappear in healthy numbers as if nothing had happened.

Eat your hart out

The Countryside Alliance, through its Game-to-Eat campaign, has been doing some good work in promoting venison. It is higher in protein and lower in fat than other red meat; some supermarkets are now offering venison steaks and sausages, but fewer than 10 per cent of the population buy the meat. Since deer numbers in Britain

Free for now

If, as I was told the other day, much of the frozen chicken and duck meat brought into this country comes from the Far East, it may be that some of us have already been exposed to the risk of contracting avian flu. But I don’t suppose that this will weigh with the government when

Always around

There never seems to be any shortage of pigeons. Whether feeding in a field of corn or rape by day or coming into woodland at dusk, they are always around. Depending on the weather and the time of day, you may have to wait a while for them, but, as William Douglas-Home once wrote in

Crashing boar

While we are all worrying about the threat to poultry from an alien virus which has now reached these shores, there seems to be little concern at the threat to our countryside and livestock from an alien animal now roaming free in England. I am referring to wild boar, hundreds of them, which are inhabiting