November 5: Princess Anne was named Sportswoman of the
Year. It was a milestone which went far beyond mere sport. For
it told of two other social phenomena.
first was that Britain, despite all the fine words about the technological
revolution and embracing the future, was still happily wedded
to an imaginary past of grand houses, social class, parkland and,
of course, horseflesh.
Far from being made redundant by the car and lorry, the horse
was enjoying a comeback. Showjumping and point-to-point were attracting
more families than ever and no-one thought it strange that the
most coveted sporting award of the year should go to a horse rider.
The second phenomenon was the enduring (and to republicans,
inexplicable) popularity of the Royal Family. This was probably
the result of the Queen's shrewd decision to modernise what she
called "The Family Firm" and expose it more to the public view.
As Prince Philip put it three years earlier: "The monarchy is
part of the fabric of the country. And as the fabric alters, so
the monarchy and its people's relations to it alter."
In earlier royal households, princesses had been seen but not
heard. Anne was breaking the mould, combining a busy programme
of charity events with membership of the Olympic squad. Earlier
in 1971 she had won the Burghley three-day event on her horse,
August 11: Internment without trial was introduced as
part of new emergency powers to control the escalating violence
in Northern Ireland. The immediate result was to create yet more
violence and there were widespread riots as the first 300 suspects
were rounded up.
In a further bid to bring the situation under control the government
banned all processions except Remembrance Day parades but including
the provocative Apprentice Boys' demonstration in Londonderry.
Among the casualties on the first day of the new policies were
a priest who was shot while giving the last rites to a dying man
and a 15-year-old boy who was also shot as he hurled a petrol
February 15: British money came to the point when decimal
currency was introduced in Britain and two and sixpence suddenly
became 12 and a half new pence. Despite reassuring D-Day claims
by the government that everything was going well, many customers
and quite a few shopkeepers were completely bamboozled by the
new money. Many people found it hard to adjust to the concept
of a ten pence coin now equalling two shillings. But more people
were concerned that traders would use the change to mark up prices.
January 20: Motor cycles, vans, taxis and even pigeons
were pressed into service delivering mail as the first postal
strike in history started to bite. Most of the nation's 230,000
postal workers led by the whiskered Tom Jackson laid down their
mailbags at midnight in support of a 19.5 per cent wage increase
demand. The Tory government, determined to tough it out, lifted
its ban on private service carrying mail. Even the police got
in on the act with court summonses being delivered by police car.
July 6: The first great era of jazz ended with the death
of Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong who was 71 and had been blowing his
horn for nearly 60 years. He had learned to play cornet in a home
for waifs and strays in New Orleans and had served his apprenticeship
at funeral parades of the sort that were to be held for him. He
was taken up by the legendary King Oliver but it was his brilliant
gift for improvisation which turned jazz into a soloist's art.
He was surprisingly proud of having a big mainstream hit with
the number "Hello Dolly" - and there have been a number of posthumous
hit singles too.