I return today to something upon which I have remarked before, but from a slightly different angle. I make no apology for so doing, for this thought struck me so forcibly upon waking this morning that I judge it worthy of fresh mention. I suppose that some may think me guilty of the most mawkish sentimentality: if so, be damned to you, Sir!

A constant feature of the outbreaks (actual and potential) of Foot & Mouth Disease in Surrey (and now in Kent) has been the sight of the farmers involved, whose very first experience of being in the limelight this almost certainly is, braving the glare of camera lights and the aggressive shove of the microphone to speak of their very evident distress at losing their herd of cattle or flock of sheep to the ravages of the culler’s bolt gun with a dignity to which all of us would aspire but which most of fear we would be unable to muster in such circumstances.

So yesterday with the news of a farmer who, being alert and good at his animal husbandry, had spotted a possible problem in his animals and had promptly reported the matter to the authorities. Thus Mr. Stephen Furnival of the delightfully named Honeychild Farm at St Mary in the Marsh on Romney Marsh in Kent, who stepped out of his front door with, one suspects, all the enthusiasm of a Wildebeeste turning to face a pack of Hyenas, to make a statement to the press on the facts of what had taken place at his farm. This was man staring down the twin barrels of the destruction of his animals and the devastation of his secondary livelihood (a B&B business based on the farm).

He could be forgiven for having shirked entirely the experience of a press interrogation yet he chose to give his account. He did so as if he had always been a public speaker, with confidence and clarity, such that it must have been evident to all that they were hearing a quite unvarnished tale of the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

At the risk of being thought trite, I am reminded of a phrase which Mr. Churchill used in his famous ‘finest hour’ speech made to the House of Commons on 18th. June 1940:

Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour.”

It is, therefore, upon Mr. Furnival’s bearing that I dwell here because I now understand so much better Mr. Churchill’s phrase. Mr. Furnival so bore himself that he forcefully impressed upon us with his courage, dignity and palpable upright honesty.

I know that the next observation I make will have liberals sniggering and the chattering classes smirking, but at that moment I felt deeply proud to be an Englishman.

How different these fine men, truly the Yeomen of England, are from the government servants and Ministers charged with administering this crisis. From them, if you can get them in front of a camera, all you get is dissembling obfuscation, half-truth, evasion, deceit, spin and the shameless finger-pointing of blame shifting.

I know with which of the two groups I would choose to go to war.

I hope that our Farmers understand that out in the country as a whole, we are with them and that our admiration for their fortitude is boundless. Truly these are Lions led by Weasels.

I have been groping for a good quote with which to end this heartfelt tribute. I am driven back, not to the English language, sadly, but to the French, but it is none the worse for that, I pray.

It is from Pétain’s Order of the Day of 10th. April 1916 at Verdun:

Courage! On les aura!

[which in present circumstances I choose to render as: “Courage! We’ll win through!”]