One: The Grandfather
“Even though meritocracy is their reliable cover, social stratification was always the Fabians’ real trump suit. Entitlements are another Fabian insertion into the social fabric, even though the idea antedates them, of course.”
— John Taylor Gatto, Underground History of American Education
This present work all started while I was finishing a memoir in movies which, despite its confessional nature, started out as a relatively light, accessible work. For the last couple of chapters, however, I chose to focus on my brother; as might have been expected, it took a sudden dive into darker waters, pertaining for example to Jimmy Savile and the implications of his activities for those of us who grew up in the UK with “Uncle Jimmy” as our cultural benefactor. In retrospect, I’d only been waiting for the opportunity, or rather, the impetus, to start dredging these waters for bodies, and it was inevitable that sooner or later I would get around to it. The Savile affair marked the intersection for me of a lifetime’s interests and concerns: pop culture, conspiracy, crime, madness, occultism, psy-ops, child abuse, trauma, and, because Savile’s influence on my own psyche goes back to that time, childhood memories—or the absence of them.
The first thing that stood out about my family history was my brother’s relationship to the Glasgow mobster, Jimmy Boyle. My brother first met Boyle at Stevenson’s College, where Boyle was doing a “Training for Freedom” course, working two days a week at the local community center then returning to Saughton prison at night. I knew he’d met Boyle via our paternal grandfather, so that was the next logical place to focus, in terms of seeking the root of the rot that eventually felled the tree. My brother was the eldest son of the eldest son of my grandfather, so back to the paternal ancestors I would go.
I finished up the movie memoir with a feeling of uncertainty about including all of this darker material. I wondered if I was going out on a limb by talking about it at all. I’d uncovered a toe-bone buried in the family backyard. What if it turned out to be part of a full-blown body?
There isn’t much online about Alec Horsley, but luckily, a cousin, who was also interested in our family background, sent me a PDF of a short memoir Alec wrote in 1987, as a foreword to a collection of poems by a prisoner he’d befriended in his seventies (a convicted rapist, and one of the poems is allegedly about rape). Alec’s short memoir provided me with some names and dates that allowed for a whole latticework of associations to be uncovered.
My grandfather was born in 1902 and went to Oxford, Worcester College, probably in 1922. By his own account, he won a scholarship that almost entirely paid his way there. I don’t know who he met there or what his involvement was, if any, in the notorious Oxford secret societies and hazing rituals. My initial guess was that, since my grandfather (apparently) wasn’t from the aristocracy, it was here he made the connections that sent him on the road to “Bilderberg” thereafter. As he writes in his memoir: “My family progressed from working class to lower middle. And as for me, thanks to Oxford, country sport, and colonial appointment, I was busy scaling the class ladder, without being aware of my own drives” (emphasis added). There is some reason to question Alec’s account of things, however. His father, George Horsley, drove a Rolls Royce some of the time (a habit my brother unconsciously copied in his early twenties), apparently alternating between wealth and poverty depending how well his enterprises were going. But a Rolls Royce is not a well-known perk for the “lower middle.”
After Oxford, Alec worked in Nigeria from 1925 to 1932, either as assistant to District Officer or as District Officer, depending on the source (Alec himself claimed the former, so it’s most likely accurate). After he returned to the UK, got married, had children, and founded Northern Dairies, World War II broke out and my grandparents established their family home Talbot Lodge, in Hessle. “From the start,” he writes, “we gained a reputation for holding ‘open house’ and encouraged and of course enjoyed the visits of our many friends . . . They came from all over Britain and several far off and sometimes exotic places abroad.”
In the early 1950s, Alec was invited to visit the USSR as part of a British team for an “East-West trade conference.” In Moscow he met Lord Boyd Orr, who became president of Northern Foods. Alec then traveled to Siberia, Outer Mongolia, and China on unspecified business. What was he doing there? These were not the sorts of places one went for holidays back then (or even now), nor is it obvious how or why running a dairy would require visiting Communist countries. I am not sure how easy it was to get into these countries at that time either, and, at least to visit the Soviet Union in 1954, Alec required special invitation.
Orr is an interesting character. He was born in Scotland and studied at Glasgow University. Like Alec’s slightly spurious claim for himself, Orr apparently worked his way up from working class roots to the pinnacle of wealth and power.
“In the years following the Second World War, Boyd Orr was associated with virtually every organization that has agitated for world government, in many instances devoting his considerable administrative and propagandistic skills to the cause. ‘The most important question today,’ he says in his autobiography, ‘is whether man has attained the wisdom to adjust the old systems to suit the new powers of science and to realize that we are now one world in which all nations will ultimately share the same fate.’”[i]
Soon after Alec’s various sojourns, at the very start of the Suez Crisis, Lord Piercy and John Kinross of Industrial & Commercial Finance Corporation (formed by the Bank of England) approved Northern Dairies as a public firm. Then, in 1954, my grandfather was “approached by the Orthodox Church of Russia to organize a group of British churchmen to go to the USSR to visit their churches, without any strings. The visit proved most useful.” (He wrote a booklet about it.)
In passing, I note that Lord Piercy became a full-time undergraduate student at the Fabian-created London School of Economics in 1910. He worked for Inland Revenue during World War One, as well as being a Minister of Food. During World War Two, he was head of the British Petroleum Mission in Washington D.C., principal assistant secretary in the Ministry of Supply and the Ministry of Aircraft Production, and personal assistant to the Deputy Prime Minister Clement Attlee. From 1945 to 1964, Piercy served as Chairman of the Industrial & Commercial Finance Corporation which was set up to provide means to smaller businesses in the United Kingdom. He was also a director of the Bank of England from 1946 to 1956. That’s a total of two directors of the Bank of England (the B of E helped found the National Socialist Party in Germany during the 1930s) whom my “socialist” grandfather chose to single out in his several-page memoir.
During this same period (the mid-to-late-1950s), Northern Dairies became affiliated with Mackintosh (Quality Streets) and Terry’s chocolate companies. My grandfather also mentions a trip to Dublin—Northern Ireland being the first place which Alec’s company extended its business to: “The Irish gave me . . . a better understanding of the men of history and conviction who will fight to the end and achieve little. So often such men are better at dying than living. They will not even consider that it is possible to be good at both.”
In 1962, the year my brother was born, Alec received a letter from Errol Barrow, the Premier of Barbados, inviting him to bring dairy trade there. As it happens, Barrow also studied at the London School of Economics. Jumping ahead several decades, my father spent the last years of his life in Barbados, having moved there after he left Northern Foods. He ran an ice cream business during his retirement years. It was a return to his roots, since his first major success as director of Northern Dairies was to acquire a stake in Mr. Whippy ice cream company, and then sell it at a large profit two years later.
In the 1980s, while my father was going from success to success as the chairman of Northern Foods, my grandfather, in his late seventies, entered into “very active voluntary work both with Hull’s top security prison and Age Concern.” (Age Concern was the banner title used by a number of charitable organizations concerned with the needs of older people and based chiefly in the four countries of the United Kingdom.) It was presumably the former activity that led to Alec’s involvement with Jimmy Boyle. I don’t know much about his work with Age Concern, but I do know that he was involved with some sort of scandal in his later years concerning a bicycle business by which Alec allegedly embezzled money by stealing old people’s pensions.
I also know that my father disliked Alec for his entire life. Even after Alec had died, he appeared to bear ill feelings for him. He never went into the specifics of why.