Persecution of a Young Girl    
    Ian Buckley looks at the novels of Helen Forrester    

Writer Helen Forrester's works, though much praised by discerning critics, are best known and most read in Liverpool and Merseyside. Her chef-d'oeuvre is the autobiographical tetralogy set in Liverpool during the depression and early years of World War II: Twopence to Cross the Mersey, Liverpool Miss, By the Waters of Liverpool and Lime Street at Two.

Helen Forrester came from an initially prosperous background, with a public school-educated businessman father, who became bankrupt just after the Wall Street Crash. What really toppled the family over the edge into penury was the fact that there were seven Forrester children; large families were out of fashion.

Helen's father was unable to find any work in Depression Liverpool; as his coat became more tattered, the ex-public schoolboy feared arrest for vagrancy, and generally only ventured out very early on Sunday mornings. An old warehouseman joked with him: "If you can live long enough, there just might be a job for you one morning." Nor did Helen's mother fare any better; applying to become a maid, she was told that her educated accent made potential employers very uneasy.

No Swiss bank accounts or Old Master paintings in the hallway for the Forresters! Judging by the standards applied elsewhere in the years since, many British people during the 1930s were victims of persecution. This economic persecution was to be senselessly inflicted for years on end by a disgusting financial system and its compliant governmental apparatus.

As Miss Forrester comments: "Father began to realise that unless help came the younger children would probably die from the first germ that infected them. The death rate in Liverpool at that time was one of the highest in the country, and the infant mortality rate was correspondingly horrifying." What kind of a country had we become then, when a hungry young girl had to gaze longingly at a penny cheese roll?

A truly malodorous milieu, when the noble fell by the wayside while the malicious bureaucrats and cringing conformists prospered. The same types are with us again today - in the legions of media twisters and government-hired fakers of statistics, all earnestly engaged in watching their own backs as they busily polish the handrails of the Titanic.

The experience of reading the books is deepened if one has a little knowledge of secret history. Other readers may see a family's desperate struggle in unfortunate circumstances, but I, with A. K. Chesterton, see the Great Depression as "a wickedness deliberately plotted by the lending houses of the United States and Europe."

And what prime, loathsome wickedness it was: "Several of the children" Helen wrote, "had sores which took a long time to heal. These were sometimes caused by normal cuts and abrasions, going septic; and sometimes from their scratching at their vermin-ridden bodies. We nearly all suffered from toothache from time to time, and mother's teeth began to loosen. Brian suffered torture from gumboils."

War a relief

Ironically, the outbreak of the Second World War came as a great relief to the Forrester family and, as Helen says: "By 1940, however, we had begun to climb out of the pit into which we had fallen, though we were still very poor."

However, Helen's sole leisure activity of writing to a German pen-friend got her into trouble during the ludicrously jittery summer of 1940. She was questioned over this in Liverpool by two plain-clothes men, probably from British Intelligence - using both words in the loosest possible context:-

‘I had been put in touch with Ursel when I had replied to a letter in the Sunday Observer, which Father had once bought. The letter offered to put children in touch with pen-friends in Germany. I had asked for a girl-friend. The detective told me that my letter of so many years ago had been found by the police in the file of the man who wrote the letter to the Observer, a known Fascist.’

Sadly, since Twopence to Cross The Mersey was published in 1974, Liverpool has lurched backwards towards the conditions described so ably and movingly in the book. Today, we too may gaze across the Mersey at the empty Cammell Laird ship-yard, just as the young Helen did. The city seems to have shrunk away, to have become tattered, torn and tired, an emaciated giant in a country that has lost its way.

The caravan moves on

To use the contemptuous words of the Bank of England Governor and high-ranking Freemason Montagu Norman, who embarked on a giant bank-rebuilding project during the depths of the Depression: "The dogs bark, but the caravan moves on." Surely in that short but telling phrase we have some evidence of a continuing pre-ordained plan: a New World Order, in other words.

Readers will realise that I have a certain interest in conspiratorial theorising, but I would always emphasise that the responsibility for our predicament lies in our own hands.

Today, of course, poverty has been modernised and disguised by statistics. If a report from the former industrial areas manages to get on the national news, it is generally presented at the speed-reading championship pace otherwise reserved for news of Israeli tank shells raining down on tents in the Gaza camps.

The era of prosperity officially associated with the names of Keynes and Beveridge, but which in reality had more to do with the modernising forces unleashed by World War II, only lasted around thirty years. All of the economic ideas that were useless and obsolete even before 1920 are now once again the unchallenged orthodoxy.

Finance is king, and the dog has well and truly returned to its vomit. We should all know that insecurity is everywhere, and in a privatised and harsh world, any prosperous person can tread the path previously unwillingly followed by the Forresters of Liverpool. An Oxford graduate may finish up in a cardboard box in the Strand - perhaps, all told, a better fate than to be a posterior-licking New Labour parliamentarian. It is just as well, then, that we are beginning to witness the first seismic shudders that will eventually cast the present power élite away into the abyss.

    Spearhead Online