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Home > Culture and Society

Foul Play In Fair Oak

27 January 2004

David Snugge, the vicar at St. Thomas Church in the Hampshire village of Fair Oak, is sleeping uneasily in his bed tonight. Around the vicarage, angry villagers gather, with pitchforks and bricks and raised fists.

We know what you're thinking, but no, David Snugge, despite being a young rural priest, is not (to our knowledge) a paedophile. Quite the opposite: the fury of his parishioners is his reward for trying to keep his beloved village free from child molesters. And how did try and do that? By chopping down the 140-yr-old yew tree that stood next to his church.

The Daily Express explains:

...the church council has had it chopped down without permission - because paedophiles might hide behind it.

And the parishoners are furious. Not - we should stress - because they're all paedophiles, who used to enjoy hiding behind the yew tree but who have had that simple pleasure snatched away from them by an unsympathetic clergyman. They are angry because they loved their tree.

And fair enough. It was a lovely tree. This photograph hardly does it justice...


Joan Owen, 81, a longtime Fair Oak resident, says: "The idea that paedophiles might hide behind the tree is ludicrous" - and we agree with her. The Rev Snugge might very well not be a paedophile, but he is certainly an idiot.

However, the remarkable thing about this whole sorry saga is not the idiocy of David Snugge, it is the idiocy of The Daily Express.

The Express presents this story as just another example of political-correctness-gone-mad:

The tree, which was planted as a sapling when St Thomas Church was built in 1864, simply became a victim of 21st century correctness.

Simple as that.

But completely false. The tree wasn't a victim of "21st century correctness" it was the victim of paedophile paranoia: a relatively modern madness, the primary cause of which is the constant tabloid fear-mongering about child molesters. They're out there. They want your children. Be afraid, be very afraid.

And the Daily Express is perhaps the worst offender when it comes to whipping up the terror. They love fear at the Express. Fear of paedos, fear of disease, fear of gypsies, fear of terrorists, fear fear fear fear fear.

Note: the headline of today's paper:


It is the most breathtaking piece of hypocrisy for the Express to go on and bloody on about the threat of paedophiles lurking behind every corner and in every dark bush (if they can find a bush which isn't full of asylum seekers, that is) - and for them to then criticise the fruits of their terror campaign as "21st century correctness."

More than anyone - more than the tree surgeon who did the chopping, or the idiot vicar David Snugge - it is the Daily Express which is responsible for the loss of that lovely old yew tree. The parishioners should take their bricks and pitchforks and hurry along to Ludgate House. See if Richard Desmond is home.

Put the fear up him, good and proper.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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