Update: Thorpe Scandal Discussed in The Oldie

Milena Borden files this report from London relating to an article by Alexander Waugh in the latest issue of The Oldie: “Rinka’s Revenge: When Auberon Waugh fought Jeremy Thorpe in the 1979 election, he honoured a family love of dogs, says his son Alexander Waugh,” The Oldie, Issue 362, June 2018, www.theoldie.co.uk:

The occasion for this article–featured on the front cover of the magazine with a photo poster of Auberon Waugh next to Dave, his Great Dane–is the BBC1 production A Very English Scandal about murder, sex, politics and pet dogs: the story of Jeremy Thorpe, the Liberal leader, who stood trial at the Old Bailey in 1979 on charges of incitement and conspiracy to murder Norman Scott who was allegedly his lover. During the dramatic events, which rotate between the House of Commons and countryside stables, at the end of the second episode shown last Sunday, Scott’s dog Rinka is shot in the head by a hired assassin.

Alexander Waugh takes us back over a century to make the connection between the Waughs (called here ‘Wuffs’) and Thorpe, tracing a family tradition “in championing the rights of dogs to live free from human harm and harassment”. The whole story reads like an essay on the unmistakable Waughs’ stamp of brilliance in satirising love, cruelty and politics.

He starts with his great-grandfather Arthur Waugh (Evelyn Waugh’s father) who bravely defended his poodle Gaspar from his own terrifying father. Then he moves on to Evelyn Waugh, who according to him, was also passionate about dogs. He illustrates this claim with two paragraphs about the well known antipathy Waugh had for his history tutor at Oxford, C.R.M.F. Cruttwell quoting the lines Waugh and his like minded student friends chanted under his window at Hertford College in the 1920s:

‘Crutwell Dog, Crutwell Dog, where have you been?’

‘I’ve been to Hertford to be with the Dean.’

Alexander Waugh writes that this was in order “to stop him allegedly sexually abusing his spaniel”. Further on, he comments anecdotally about his aunt Hatty (Evelyn Waugh’s daughter, Harriet) who was extremely fond of her dachshund.

But most of this one A4 page article is dedicated to his father Auberon Waugh’s role in the Thorpe affair as a parliamentary candidate for the Dog Lovers’ Party in Thorpe’s constituency as documented in his Private Eye Diaries (1985). Alexander Waugh concludes:  “…through my father’s actions, Rinka’s name will never be forgotten in North Devon.”

The latest twist in this terrible story, beautifully made funny by the father and the son Waugh, yesterday BBC announced that the Gwent Police is reopening the investigation into the key suspect, Andrew Newton, who claimed he was paid to kill Scott but shot Rinka instead. Newton was believed to have died but this may not be the case. The last episode of the adaptation from John Preston’s 2016 book starring Hugh Grant as Thorpe and Ben Whishaw as Scott will be shown tonight on BBC1 at 9pm. Alexander’s article been reposted  on PressReader.

Thanks to Milena for filing this report.

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