IT IS PERHAPS incredible that "participation" is, for some, almost a dirty word when applied to the role of workers in industry. It would, at least, have seemed incredible to anyone attending an extremely in teresting meeting arranged last week by the Anglican-CatholicFree Church) Industrial Mission for the vast area of Heathrow, Middlesex.
This is the mission that grew out of the establishment nearly seven years ago of an inter denominational chapel at London's principal airport. Since then the Rev Ben Lewers, the Anglican chaplain to the Heathrow Industrial Mission, has carried out a new type of apostolate with little less than sensational success.
I have just heard that he has been appointed vicar of Newark, which is good news for that town, but will mean that he will be sorely missed in the world of Heathrow.
Mr I.ewers' Catholic colleague at the airport was, for several years, Fr Peter Knott, SJ, who also made a notable mark with his energetic and engaging personality. and tireless activity keeping up his numerous contacts in the fac tories and offices of Heathrow.
I have enjoyed many meetings at the airport with both chaplains over the years.
And now, a most promising start has been made in this un usual and exacting kind of pastoral work by Fr Knott's successor. Fr Brian Laycock. The meeting I refer to above took place on Wednesday of last week in Syon Park. It was attended by about 200 people, mostly men, involved in the industrial world of Heathrow — directors of British Airways; shop stewards; white collar workers; shop-floor men; secretaries; and various other interested individuals.
They had come to hear a dialogue (it was hardly a debate) between Mr Lionel (better known as Len) Murray, general secretary of the TUC, and Sir Frederick Catherwood, managing director of John Laing and Son, the -huge firm of builders.
It was a fascinating dialogue, or discussion, even if one were to remark only on the delightful urbanity with which the two participants — old friends in dispote — allowed their obvious disagreement on certain fundamentals to blend naturally with their enormous mutual respect as between two seasoned and sincere professionals.
And a clue to the interest in such a discussion on the part of a Christian Industrial Mission is afforded, at least in part, by the fact that Sir Frederick's books include such works as "The Christian in Industrial Society" and "The Christian Citizen," Both speakers agreed completely that "workers' par ticipation" in industry was es
sential. The discussion centred entirely on the form that this should take, Sir Frederick
favouring a gradual, two-tier system of progressive workers' participation, and Len Murray a 50-50 sharing of responsibility at boardroom level on the lines of the system adopted in Germany.
It was remarked, with regard to the latter country, that while we were burdened by a heavy balances-of-payments deficit, Germany enjoyed a huge surplus. But Sir Frederick could not go all the way with the Murray suggestion that this was a striking vindication for workers' participation, both in principle and in practice.
LATER IN THE WEEK I journied down (strictly speaking, I suppose, one should say "up") to Cambridge to address a society in Jesus College bearing the distinguished title of "The Club."
I had been asked to talk about a book of mine recently published. Any embarrassment caused by talking about one's own book (a sensation possibly not experienced by more prolific or publicity-conscious authors) was removed by the atmosphere pervading all such Oxbridge occasions. Such atmosphere, in some almost indescribable way, is totally distinguishable from that which colours almost all other academic-social gatherings.
It was, in fact, a most nostalgic and pleasing event in every way; and the many evenings spent — wasted, perhaps — at comparable gatherings years ago in that other place of learning seemed but of yesterday.
Such reflections, incidentally, on the uniqueness of certain Oxbridge occasions, makes no point about the excellence or otherwise of the ancient universities in comparison with their redbrick rivals.
Nor, I must admit, does nostalgia make up for what Malcolm Muggeridgc has called, in another context, the chronicles of wasted time. But I will readily confess that the night spent in spartan luxury in the Edwardian splendour of a set of rooms reserved for the guests of Fellows was something T hope still to be nostalgic about in another twenty years' time.
I HAVE JUST realised that certain remarks made above may well be construed as constituting mock modesty of an unattractive variety! This, perhaps, gives the opportunity for telling a story which has been revived of recent years since the publication of a certain slim volume by Lord Longford (not the pornography report).
But I can confidently assert that all such stories are apocryphal, and that the original incident involved Bishop Ullathorne, the famous Archbishop of Birmingham of a hundred years ago.
It was he, I was always assured on excellent authority, who was asked what was the best book that could be obtained on the subject of Humility. To this question, his answer was invariably "my own."
THE RETURN of the legendary Marlene Dietrich to London is an exciting but somewhat sad event. She is doing a short season at the Wimbledon Theatre. and singing, of course, most of her immortal and inimitable songs. She does so in seemingly lacklustre fashion that is perhaps tragic, but adds a dimension of poignancy to the evening. For the well-nigh immortal Marlene is almost literally ageless, at least in the sense that no one seems to know her age for certain. She may not have been well the evening I happened to see her performing.
But she concealed most of the outward signs of (possibly painful) old age, by looking at times — especially in her top hat, white tie and tails — incredibly young. And there were enough unmistakable flashes of the old magic to enthral a surprisingly young audience, most of whom could never have seen Dietrich in her ripest prime.
One song enabled her to croon "I'll still be around . . . when the fishes walk on legs • ." And her most effective number, the fabulous "Where have all the flowers gone?" contains its cutting condemnation of the follies of war with the haunting refrain: "When will they ever learn? . .. When will they ever learn?"