I WAS pleased to read in your “Issue of the day” today (The Herald, October 29) that Comic Relief is going to stop sending celebrities to Africa to make films about poverty and deprivation. Too often these films have appeared to be more about the white saviour celebrities than the poor unfortunates living – no, surviving – in hunger and squalor.

Someone who definitely wasn’t in the white saviour mould was Bob Geldof who, along with Midge Ure, was the driving force behind Band Aid and Live Aid, the rock concert fundraisers in aid of Ethiopia during its great famine of 1984/5. I was lucky enough to serve as Ops Officer on the military detachment in Addis Ababa in late 1984; a detachment that delivered food, equipment and medical supplies to remote parts of Ethiopia suffering the worst of the famine. An operation, incidentally, that was authorised by Maggie Thatcher; so she wasn’t all bad.

When Bob Geldof came out to visit Ethiopia in December 1984, he had an entourage of journalists and photographers in tow. I organised a day out for them to Assab, the port where grain was arriving, and to a huge famine relief camp in Mekele, which was the stuff of nightmares. Bob made it very clear to his entourage that there were to be no photos taken of him with starving people; an injunction one photographer ignored, and the pictures appeared in the press the next day.

Hence the scene at the airport in Addis the day after, with Bob and his entourage on board a Polish helicopter that was about to take off, but with one photographer on his knees on the tarmac begging to be allowed on board, while Bob told him in his direct, colourful way that he wasn’t travelling. Now that’s the sort of celebrity I respect.

Ethiopia in 1984 had a profound effect on me; it, and the miners’ strike in the same year with its appalling scenes of police on horseback riding down striking workers, cemented my political views. I know we’re in crisis with Covid just now, but there are parts of the world where millions of children are experiencing extreme misery and it’s one of the worst features of this pandemic that they are being forgotten. Back in 1984, there was fear of compassion fatigue; please let’s not give into it now.

Doug Maughan, Dunblane.


I REFER to the plans of the Scottish Government to pardon hundreds of miners convicted during the strike in the 1980s ("Hundreds of miners convicted in 1980s strike to be pardoned", The Herald, October 29). The miners were never going to win that strike. The electricity generating boards of the day had stocked up with coal as much as they could in advance; the miners’ leadership led them out on strike in the spring (not the autumn/winter); not all of the miners went on strike (there had been no national ballot), and the police had been trained to handle full riot equipment. The miners had embarked on a fight with a government, prepared and determined, which they were never going to win, unlike the previous struggle with the Heath Government in the 1970s .

Margaret Thatcher described the miners as the "enemy within", There are many who believe that most of the miners were not our enemies, but rather workers who were deeply concerned about their futures, their livelihoods, families and, indeed, their communities.

Ian W Thomson, Lenzie.


YOU have done well to keep crossword fans happy during this pandemic year. In appreciation I felt I should share this topical clue with you: Ubiquitous public figure requires treatment of large contusion(6,8).

Jim Sheehan, Bridge of Allan.