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Anthony J.C. Kerr "A Man of Letters"
Chapter One

His mother Lydia holding him after his birth in 1929PERSONAL CONTRIBUTION BY LORD LOTHIAN

Although I was a neighbour of my kinsman Anthony Kerr for a long period of years, because we were both frequently away from home, it was only towards the end of his life that I came to know him more fully. He had been doing important research into our family papers and wrote an excellent and informative short history of Ferniehirst Castle to coincide with its restoration and opening to the public.

The thoroughness of his research, his meticulous and accurate setting out of facts combined with a dry wit and lack of pomposity (which so often surrounds genealogical matters) made me appreciate what a gifted and imaginative man Anthony was, and what a loss we had suffered, as he died before his research was completed.

The many and various activities with which he was involved and which form the subjects and tributes of this volume, bear ample witness to his professionalism, skill and capacity for work. And also how generous he was with his time.

I would like to record a few personal memories of Anthony by way of introduction.

I recall many times seeing his walking purposely up Jedburgh High Street - his hands firmly clasped behind his back - or alternatively in an enormous crash helmet, riding his motor cycle along the Border roads. Or again one remembers the voluminous correspondence with the newspapers generally "The Scotsman". Whether he held the record for letters published I do not know but it is said that it was once asked whether Anthony Kerr was a Committee, as the letters could not have all come from one man!

Much of his correspondence was concerned with the point of view of the Scottish Nationalist Party, of which he was a life-long, loyal and active supporter. Sadly he never achieved his ambition of being elected to Parliament. He would certainly have enlivened the House of Commons. One of the delights of knowing Anthony was that the unexpected or the surprising was apt to happen. A person trying to reach him on the telephone, for instance, might, to his astonishment, find himself listening to the recorded voice of Anthony speaking in fluent French! His political colleagues might have thought this was perhaps some sort of a tribute to the Auld Alliance. But, of course, Anthony as a skilled European translator and interpreter was frequently rung up by people who preferred to leave a message in French. It was also a measure of Anthony's thoughtfulness that he provided this service.

But to me the memory of Anthony which I shall value most is of his reading the lessons in the Catholic Church in Jedburgh. Not for him any need of a microphone or amplifier! Anthony's robust delivery was such that it easily penetrated every corner of the Church. I never heard him speak about his religion, but I suspect it meant a lot to him. Certainly it inspired Anthony who was, I believe, a shy man to proclaim the good news from the house-tops! It was the key to his life. I hope that this book will long keep his memory alive for those who were fortunate enough to know him.

At the age of 7 in the Geneva countryside25th July 1960 - The Times
Letters to the Editor


The R.B.47 incident is one more object lesson in the criminal folly of letting others bear our burdens for us.

For years we have been grabbing from the till of National Defence, the prime purpose of government, in order to finance welfare schemes and all manner of extravagance. As individuals we have encouraged the State to do things for us which we could do for ourselves if necessary; as a nation we have allowed another and more powerful nation to take on our commitments.

It is time we learnt once more to stand on our own feet or - which may be more practical politics to-day - to join in equal partnership with the other nations of Western Europe, rather than continue as the clients of a wealthy, distant and often irresponsible patron.

At the worst it is better to be outnumbered and ill equipped, but independent in spirit, than to rely on the strength of a protector, however generous and well-disposed towards us. History shows that, in the hour of danger, nations that have kept their freedom and their determination acquit themselves better than others with mightier forces but less of virtue in the old Roman sense.

We remain, Sir, your obedient servants,


27th September 1962 – The Southern Reporter


As Hon. Field Organiser (Borders) of the Scottish Plebiscite Appeal Fund, I am writing to invite moral and material support from all those who consider that the people of Scotland should be given an opportunity to vote on the issue of Scottish self-government.

Whether they are for independence (as I am) or for some kind of home rule within the United Kingdom or for continuance of the present system is immaterial so long as they agree that it is something that ought to be voted upon.

The appeal was launched on St. Andrew's Day, 1961, by a committee of 15 distinguished Scots, headed by the Earl of Airlie. Its target is £100, 000, being the sum necessary to conduct a postal poll of the entire Scottish electorate.

It is intended that every Scottish elector shall receive a ballot form together with an envelope on which the Scottish Plebiscite Society will pay the postage if it is used.

One side of the ballot form will give a straight choice between government and continuance of the present system. On the other, those who have opted for self-government will be asked to show preference for one of the following:

(i) Ulster-type Home Rule. - The Scottish Parliament would raise no taxes of its own, but would depend on a grant from Westminster.

(ii] Statehood within a Federal United Kingdom. - The Scottish Parliament would raise it own taxes, but the Federal Parliament in Westminster would retain control over the Customs revenue and would be responsible for Commonwealth and Foreign Affairs and for Defence. The Liberal Party supports this.

(iii) Independence within the Commonwealth with freedom to opt out of it. The Scottish National Party supports this.

I should be glad to hear from anyone who is willing to help with collecting or with the organisation of fund-raising activities and from anyone who would like to place a collecting box in his shop or cafe or home.

Donations may be sent to the Scottish Plebiscite Appeal at 39 St. Vincent Crescent, Glasgow, C.2. or c/o The British Linen Bank, Forfar.


22 September I962 -The Scots Independent

Schools of Scotland

May I comment briefly on your generous review of "Schools of Scotland" (4th August), which I have only seen recently as I have been abroad for some time?

My experience of Scottish Education was gained (i) at Jedburgh Grammar School, a Junior Secondary School with a Senior Secondary stream in the first two years.

(ii) At Kingsridge School. Glasgow, a very large comprehensive school with many pupils taking French but none taking Latin (two-language pupils in that area are sent straight to Knightswood, to which the best Kingsridge pupils are also transferred later);

(iii) At Biggar High School, a Senior Secondary School, but with a large majority of "non-academic" pupils leaving at 15.

But I have relied mainly on the wisdom and experience of men far more highly qua1ified than myself, men such as Sir James Robertson, Mr Harry Bell and Mr William Dewar, among many others whose names appear at the end of the Introduction.

Regarding my fifth charge, that of indecision as to the real purpose of the school, I have plenty of support. The point is that our educational budget and time-table of our school are adequate only to their limited and traditional aims.

If more has to be done - which is probably the case in Central Scotland - ampler means must be found and more time made available. Since these essentials are lacking, many schools have an ineffective shot at character-building and culture-building while others on the whole more successful, talk about these things and get on with the old job in the old way.

A further difficulty is this: If a school is purely Junior Secondary - and this generally happens only in the cities and a few large burghs - it can put on all sorts of interesting and worthwhile projects but it will have some trouble in recruiting and retaining able and enthusiastic staff – or indeed any staff at all. The desperate teacher shortage in and around Glasgow has much to do with this problem.

If on the other hand it is organised like Jedburgh G.S. or Biggar H.S., both more typical of Scotland outwith the industrial belt, it may have fewer staffing problems but nearly all its teachers have to take "academic", classes and many or most are appointed essentially for that purpose. This tends to limit the scope of what can be done for the "non-academic" majority.

Finally, it is, of course, quite true that three of my suggested reforms were lifted without acknowledgement from S.N.P. policy direct: though your presence, and Gordon Wilson's in my list of "names" is intended as some sort of indirect acknowledgement that Nationalist opinion had been taken and seriously considered.

But all three reforms are very strongly supported, and indeed advocated, by people who have no connection with the Party and in putting them forward I was expressing what appeared to be the consensus of educated opinion in this country.


Kerr on his bicycle29th May 1963 – The Glasgow Herald
Letter to the Editor


I have read Sir Russell Kettle and Mr Morrison and think Scotland well rid of them both. Unfortunately their attitude of submission is not rare among those who have remained here, and it is the greatest single obstacle to our progress as a nation. We must make up our minds whether we prefer to be an effective third-class power in our own right, comparable with Norway or Switzerland, or the struggling, ill-considered tail end of a second class power.

A Government, under modern conditions, can spread the butter very much where it likes, and the present Government has no vital interest in spreading it here. Directly, it can help by placing contracts of all kinds. On the basis of its population and of the taxation which it pays, Scotland should have about 100,000 to 120,000 of the jobs financed by the Defence Budget. In fact our share is under 30,000. Indirectly, a Scottish Government could do much else: for instance it could and would introduce a flat rate for freight by road and rail, a sliding scale of passenger fares (return for one and a half times the single fare, 200 miles for one and a half times the cost of 100 miles, as in several Continental countries), and some fuel tax relief in remote areas.

Another important advantage is that we would deal directly with other countries. Scottish commercial attaches abroad, and air services from Prestwick, Abbotsinch, and Turnhouse to 20-25 other countries, would go a tremendous way to help Scottish industry and the Scottish tourist trade. Foreign embassies here would also help.

Scottish education, housing and health would all make giant strides with a Government of our own, responsible to the people of Scotland, and to nobody else. Politicians of whatever Party have one thing in common, love of office and prestige. The present set of politicians do not depend on us, the people of Scotland, except in so far as they happen to represent Scottish constituencies. Even then any really significant man on either side, if he lost his seat would soon enough be found another in England. The Ministers in a Scottish Cabinet, on the other hand, would depend on us for their living and for their continuance in the public eye. This alone would ensure their doing something to justify their existence and whatever salary we may choose to pay them.


2nd July 1963 – The Glasgow Herald


Provost Thompson of Callander makes several excellent points in his letter to-day. May I add a few more:

(1) Centralisation will reduce the number of responsible people in society at large and will add to the powers of a faceless few. Both these things are evils in themselves even if, which is doubtful, they produce greater "efficiency".

(2) By destroying the self-respect of small towns and by limiting the opportunities available there, it will aggravate the problem of depopulation, and as always the best will be the first to go.

(3) Local authorities in Switzerland, The Netherlands and Norway have greater powers than in Scotland; yet nobody denies these countries are well run.

(4) The main cause of inefficiency is the remoteness of the central power. The whole relationship between Scotland as a whole and London should be reconsidered before there is any attempt to destroy institutions which have attracted a lot of goodwill over the ages, and still work quite well as the security services, on recent showing.

(5) Boundary problems can be solved without abolishing or redrawing the boundaries themselves. The Secretary of State already has powers to make local authorities co-operate over such matters as the education of children living close to a school in another county. Those powers could be used more frequently, and no doubt would be if education were centrally financed though locally administered.

Delenda est Carthago: the first step is to end English domination over Scotland and have a Parliament and Government entirely of our own, able to solve Scottish problems in a manner appropriate to Scotland. Our other difficulties will not disappear forthwith but they will then fall into their proper perspective.


20th August 1963 – The Glasgow Herald


May I congratulate Mr J .M. Reid upon his very impressive letter today? In the light of what he says, and of my own knowledge of Switzerland and several other relatively small countries, I would regard the following reforms as necessary: -

(1) Scotland must resume her independence. "Devolution" is not enough because it will not give us complete control of all taxation raised in this country or freedom to pursue our economic policies based upon Scottish rather than British needs, or the power to reconstruct our administrative arrangements to the extent that may be desirable.

(2) The countries and cities must enjoy greater autonomy than at present. In my opinion they should have, like the Swiss cantons, an elected, part-time, and unpaid legislature, corresponding to the existing County Councils but generally larger, together with a smaller executive, consisting of seven to fifteen persons, also elected, paid and working full time, or possibly half-time in a few of the smaller authorities.

The counties and cities should have a guaranteed slice of the income tax revenue. In fact they could have primary responsibility for levying income tax, together with a tax on property, shares and other assets, replacing rates in their present form, and for remitting the central Government's slice to the Scottish Exchequer.

In this way taxes and rates - or what would replace rates - would in the first instance be collected by the same officials, who might be county employees, or municipal employees where it was more convenient to devolve this duty upon them.

(3) Every place in Scotland should form part of some municipality, in some cases a purely urban burgh, in others a burgh with its landward areas, in others a civil parish.

Municipalities, whatever their nature, would be taxing as well as "rating" bodies - that is, there would be a municipal income tax and property tax collected by whoever collected the county taxes. Some municipalities might choose to provide more services than other, as they do in Switzerland, and taxes would therefore be unequal as rates are at present. This is not undemocratic provided the people of each municipality are directly consulted - through a citizens’ meeting or a referendum - whenever there are new projects likely to involve borrowing or an increase in taxation. People who want to pay less tax (and are prepared to put up with fewer services) or wish more swimming pools, more attractive houses, etc, and are prepared to pay higher taxes, would after all be free to move.

(4) Counties, cities and municipalities (burghs, or parishes) should be free to engage in commercial undertakings, subject to the same safeguards as in Switzerland - i.e. a poll to be taken if borrowing or increased taxation will be necessary. Thus a county or several counties, together with municipalities, firms, and private individuals, might operate a branch railway line, and small burgh might very well own a hotel or two.

(5) As education is relatively most expensive in the areas with the fewest resources, it should be wholly financed out of national taxation but administered by local bodies - viz. county or city education authorities, elected for that purpose alone. This again is not undemocratic; the people who pay national taxes are also those who elect the local bodies. Nevertheless the Scottish Ministry of Education should retain some measure of overall control, possibly greater than the Scottish Education Department has at present. It would still be open to counties, cities and municipalities to provide educational fringe benefits - subsidised trips abroad or youth centres with various cultural activities.


2nd October 1987
Letter from W F Petrie

Dear Andrew,

I was a postman in Jedburgh when your father, Anthony, carried out a plebiscite. I assisted him in delivering envelopes up in the new housing scheme. The idea being that they filled in their answer and we went back for the answers which were in a sealed envelope.

I was later approached by the police, accused of collecting money round the doors. But in actual fact supporters of the S.N.P. had put money in the envelopes as a donation to the party. We were never charged but it was just one of the many projects Mr. Kerr did for the S.N.P.



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