ISSUE 15, October 2005
Historic: Nelson and Freemasonry
Grand Lodge: Pro Grand Master's Speech
Grand Lodge: Quarterly Communication
Hurricane Katrina: Grand Charity Relief Chest
Royal Arch: John Knight
Masonic Embroidery: A stitch in time...
Travel: Walzing along the Danube
Specialist Lodges: Martial arts
Library & Museum: The two Freemasons' Halls
    Anniversary: Jersey's Liberation
Anniversary: Dorset's 225 years
Obituaries: Lord Swansea OSM
Pro Grand Master: Whither directing our course?
Charmian Hussey: A Mason's wife on Masonry
International: The Grand Lodge of Israel
Education: Sheffield's big plans
Education: Forthcoming events
Education: The Second Degree
Masonic Charities
Letters, Book Reviews, Gardening

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    MAO: The Unknown Story by Jung Chang & Jon Halliday, Jonathan Cape, £25. ISBN 0224071262

To the outside world, Mao was another charismatic, ideological leader. The truth is far more complicated and appalling. In this compelling work, Jung Chang and Jon Halliday combine to expose Mao as even more corrupt and power-hungry than his fellow murderous despots.
     This is certainly no hagiography, and from start to finish, Mao’s leadership and character are exposed in a less than favourable light. Unlike the other dictators, Mao is shown to have no real interest or belief in the ideology he espoused when he seized power from Chiang Kai-Shek’s Nationalists. His interest simply lay in cementing his position as leader of the Chinese Communist Party and the country as a whole. A further difference between the dictators was that Mao performed his terror crimes in public to act as a deterrent to the whole population. There was little fear the outside world would find out since all forms of media were strictly censored, and the rare visits by foreigners were tightly controlled in order to ensure no word of his murderous ways could escape.
     More important to Mao was the dream that China would become a nuclear power one day. He achieved this aim by cunningly manipulating Stalin into handing him the treasured knowledge of how to cultivate his own nuclear weapons.
     In this fascinating work, the authors portray Mao as a uniquely single-minded man, whose strength was his utter disregard for others, his capacity for deception and his ability to exploit frailty.

    The Gamblers by John Pearson, Century, £17.99. ISBN 1844132056

For decades, John Pearson has presented literary exposures of some of the world’s most enigmatic people and clandestine organisations, yet in this fixating and shocking work, he may well have reached the pinnacle in terms of sheer revulsion.
     The Gamblers is a riveting portrait of the notorious Clermont Set, the most notable figures being John Aspinall, James Goldsmith and Lord Lucan, all of whom demonstrate repellent arrogance, lust for material wealth, and chilling brutality.
     The ultra-fashionable Clermont Club was founded in 1962 by John Aspinall, a man who understood that the easiest way to make money was to exploit the rich. He achieved this through this ‘exclusive’ gambling club, a breeding ground for luxuriant aristocratic decadence. In a single evening, Lord Derby lost £200,000 to Gianni Agnelli, the head of Fiat.
     One of the most interesting aspects of the book is Pearson’s analysis of the central characters. Aspinall appears a particularly unattractive character. He seems to have had considerably more time for his pet tigers than his numerous wives, despite the fact that one severely disfigured his friend Mark Birley’s child.
     James Goldsmith comes across as little better. Initially seen at that time as a romantic and even tragic figure after his wife Isabel’s death, he had a naked greed and a propensity to turn vicious if opposed. Another of Aspinall’s many titled patrons was Richard John Bingham, the seventh earl of Lucan. His nickname ‘Lucky’ deserted him at the chemin de fer table, where he lost his family fortune.
     After his subsequent divorce from his wife Veronica, his resolution to kill her to regain his children was no secret. Pearson advances a new and interesting theory on Lucan after his failed attempt to kill Veronica in 1974.
     Could it be, as Pearson purports, that Aspinall put him in touch with a ‘Mr X’, an international smuggler of both money and people? Whatever the true solution, the book has an ability to hold the reader in its fascinating yet repulsive grip, as Pearson lays out the mystery of these suave and scandalous millionaires.

    From War to Westminster by Stefan Terlezki CBE, Pen & Sword, £19.99. ISBN 11844152650

Stefan Terlezki has an extraordinary story to tell. From War to Westminster is a remarkable tale of one man’s battle against unimaginable hardships and trials.
     Born in the Ukraine, his pre-war childhood was blighted by the arrests and imprisonment of his father – a courageous citizen leader in a very poor but proud community.
     Worse was to come after the Soviet Union’s annexation in 1939, and subsequent Nazi invasion, when the 14-year old Stefan was deported by the Germans and sold into slavery on an Austrian farm.
     His relationship with his new owner’s family makes fascinating reading as does his period of imprisonment by the Gestapo. Within three years he found himself liberated by the Red Army and appointed within its ranks as a lieutenant to fight against the Japanese, but managed a perilous escape back into the British-occupied zone of Austria where he became a stateless political refugee for three years.
     In 1948 Britain decided to accept Ukrainians who had refused transfer to the Soviet Union. Terlezki volunteered to train as a miner in Wales, believing the mountains could provide a good training ground for guerrilla warfare against the Russians.
     Before long, however, he had managed to make his way into employment in the catering services of the British army and went on to successfully work in the hotel industry. He also began to develop an interest in local and national politics, becoming Conservative MP for Cardiff West in 1983 and later winning the friendship of Margaret Thatcher and other leading members of the party.
     Perhaps the most dramatic moment of Stefan Terlezki’s turbulent but extraordinary tale comes when he is reunited with his father at Heathrow Airport after 42 years.

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