William Connor was born in Muswell Hill, London, on 26th April 1909. After being educated at a local elementary school and Glendale Grammar School in Wood Green. He left school at sixteen and tried to join the Royal Navy but was rejected because of his poor eyesight.
Connor had a series of clerical jobs before finding work as a copywriter for J. Walter Thompson. He worked with Philip Zec and together they developed a strip cartoon to advertise Horlicks. After six years at the agency he was recruited by H. G. Bartholomew, the editorial director of the Daily Mirror.
Bartholomew and Cecil King, the advertising director, had noted the success of newspapers such as the Daily News in New York. In 1934 Bartholomew and King decided to follow its example and turn the Daily Mirror into a tabloid newspaper. Connor, who wrote under the name Cassandra, had what was described as having a "polished-up barrack room style" helped to shape this new approach to journalism.
According to his biographer, John Beavan: "Bartholomew asked Connor to try his hand at a column.... The column appeared two or three times a week as and when there was room. Connor soon showed a talent for robust invective... The column varied. It could contain hard-hitting political comment, attacks on government departments and individuals, lavish praise of individuals, and dithyrambic essays on cats or on homely dishes such as cabbage and herring cooked in a particular way. Whatever it was, it was always Connor and it had a tremendous audience."
Connor held left-wing political opinions and was a strong opponent of fascism. After visiting Nazi Germany he wrote about the dangers of Adolf Hitler: "Before this visit to Germany I always had a sneaking feeling that there was a strong undercurrent of opposition to Hitler. I am now certain that I was wrong. I now know that this man has the absolute unswerving confidence of the people. They will do anything for him. They worship him. They regard him as a god. Do not let us deceive ourselves in this country that Hitler may be dislodged by enemies within his own frontiers."
In the 1930s he wrote several powerful articles against Neville Chamberlain and his appeasement policy. He wrote in the Daily Mirror on 21st March, 1939: "There are two ways of losing a war. One is to be defeated in the field. The other is to lose the war before it begins. We have indicated this peril for months past. It is now obvious. It has to be admitted. Why is so plain a peril - plainly revealed in Hitler's book - why, we ask, is it only now recognised by our rulers? Simply because, even if they have read Hitler (which is still doubtful) they have not believed what he has said in Mein Kampf. Not believing him, not knowing the sort of lucid lunatic with whom they have had to deal, they have believed it possible to disarm him by smiles, handshakes, pacts and scraps of paper."
On the outbreak of the Second World War, Connor introduced his friend, Philip Zec, to H. Bartholomew and Cecil Thomas, the editor of the Daily Mirror. Bartholomew liked Zec's work and commissioned him to do a daily cartoon. Connor often supplied Zec with the ideas and captions. On 5th March, 1942, the two men produced a cartoon on the government's decision to increase the price of petrol. The cartoon showed a torpedoed sailor with an oil-smeared face lying on a raft. The message was "Don't waste petrol. It costs lives."
Winston Churchill believed that the cartoon suggested that the sailor's life had been put at stake to enhance the profits of the petrol companies. In the House of Commons, Herbert Morrison, the Home Secretary, called it a "wicked cartoon" and Ernest Bevin, the Minister of Labour, argued that Zec's work was lowering the morale of the armed forces and the general public. The government considered closing down the Daily Mirror but eventually decided to let the newspaper off with a severe reprimand.
On 27th March 1942 Connor wrote: "I campaigned for Churchill, and my support was early and violent. But since he came to power I have distrusted many of his lieutenants - and I have said so with scant respect either for their position or their feelings.... The government are far too glib with the shameful rejoinder that those who do not agree with them are subversive - and even traitors… I cannot and will not change my policy... I, who have not transgressed, am shortly following the Prime Minister's advice. I am still a comparatively young man and I propose to see whether the rifle is a better weapon than the printed word." Connor joined the British Army. and served in Italy with Hugh Cudlipp where they produced the forces paper Union Jack.
On his return to the Daily Mirror in September 1946. John Beavan has argued: "Connor's journalism became deeper and more mature. He drove himself hard, travelled widely, went regularly to the United States, and covered in his highly personal style some historic events: the trials of Eichmann, General Salan, and Jack Ruby, who shot J. F. Kennedy's assassin; the enthronement of Pope John; Churchill's funeral; the Korean War. He interviewed, among many others, President Kennedy, Senator McCarthy, Billy Graham, Charlie Chaplin, Adlai Stevenson, Ben-Gurion, Archbishop Makarios, and Marilyn Monroe. Of course the writing had to have more splashes of melodrama and sentiment than the fastidious writer of later years would have wished. But that was the limitation of popular journalism. He only once ran into serious trouble, when he was successfully sued for libel by Liberace in 1959."
In 1965, Harold Wilson, the Labour prime minister, granted him a knighthood. Connor, who had developed diabetes and was forced to retire from journalism.
William Connor died in London on 6th April 1967, at St Bartholomew's Hospital.
Before this visit to Germany I always had a sneaking feeling that there was a strong undercurrent of opposition to Hitler.
I am now certain that I was wrong.
I now know that this man has the absolute unswerving confidence of the people.
They will do anything for him.
They worship him.
They regard him as a god.
Do not let us deceive ourselves in this country that Hitler may be dislodged by enemies within his own frontiers.
There are two ways of losing a war. The other is to lose the war before it begins.
We have indicated this peril for months past. It has to be admitted.
Why is so plain a peril - plainly revealed in Hitler's book - why, we ask, is it only now recognised by our rulers?
Simply because, even if they have read Hitler (which is still doubtful) they have not believed what he has said in Mein Kampf.
Not believing him, not knowing the sort of lucid lunatic with whom they have had to deal, they have believed it possible to disarm him by smiles, handshakes, pacts and scraps of paper.
By 1938 I had graduated from pickle kings to Neville Chamberlain. I fought hard against him and I fought fiercely against Munich. I had been in Germany nearly every year from 1929 to 1938 and it seemed incredible to me that, as it does now, that anybody could possibly mistake Hitler's preparations as being designed for anything but gigantic war.
I campaigned for Churchill, and my support was early and violent. But since he came to power I have distrusted many of his lieutenants - and I have said so with scant respect either for their position or their feelings.
Churchill told a former colleague of his that "there are paths of service open in wartime which are not open in the days of peace, and some of these paths may be paths to honour."
The government are far too glib with the shameful rejoinder that those who do not agree with them are subversive - and even traitors… I cannot and will not change my policy... I am still a comparatively young man and I propose to see whether the rifle is a better weapon than the printed word.
Wodehouse in Exile
There was an excellent BBC dramatisation today of P. G. Wodehouse’s internment by the Nazis in WWII. See it on iPlayer if you can, because it’s well worth watching. He was living at Le Touquet at the time of the invasion of France, unable to get away. Nearing 60, he would have been released at that age, but the Nazis saw a propaganda opportunity in getting the creator of Jeeves and Bertie Wooster to broadcast humorous accounts of internment camp life from Berlin to America. The aim was to present a favourable image to the Americans, in order to delay their entry into the war.
So the naive and undeniably foolish Wodehouse was manoeuvred into the broadcasts with the aid of a British collaborator in the internment camp. This man was also sent to Berlin, all the better to keep up the pressure on Wodehouse. As portrayed in the programme, he simply wanted to lighten the burden of his fellow internees, and to show a sort of stiff upper lip in the face of adversity. There is one suggestion that he didn’t want to hear about the sounds coming from a concentration camp not far away, but it’s quickly passed over.
The British and Americans did not take kindly to the broadcasts from Berlin. “Cassandra” (William Connor), a columnist for the Daily Mirror, called him a traitor and lied outrageously about Wodehouse’s lifestyle in France, including saying that he hosted cocktail parties for the German officers. I’d like to have quoted him but I can’t find anything online. George Orwell, my other great literary hero, defended Wodehouse in forthright terms, while also pointing out his gullibility. Orwell’s piece is as much good literary criticism, and worth reading for that alone.
Wodehouse, the quintessentially English writer, never returned to England, becoming an American citizen. A secret MI5 report cleared him of treason, but was never published in his lifetime, a thoroughly cowardly course of inaction. It still makes me angry to think about this treatment of the greatest comic writer England has ever produced. If you have any doubts about what Wodehouse really thought of fascism, then I give you one of his great comic creations – Roderick Spode. He is clearly based on Oswald Mosley, leader of the British Union of Fascists, with their trademark black shirts. With Spode, Bertie Wooster’s nemesis, it’s black football shorts
The trouble with you, Spode, is that just because you have succeeded in inducing a handful of half-wits to disfigure the London scene by going about in black shorts, you think you’re someone. You hear them shouting “Heil, Spode!” and you imagine it is the Voice of the People. That is where you make your bloomer. What the Voice of the People is saying is: “Look at that frightful ass Spode swanking about in footer bags! Did you ever in your puff see such a perfect perisher?
Lovely stuff, from a gentle, funny man, who brought such joy to the world through his writing.
William Connor Wiki, Biography, Net Worth, Age, Family, Facts and More
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BY CASSANDRA: 'I'm a sucker for a pretty face..but I prefer the face not to be lolling because of a judicially broken neck' On the day of Ellis's execution in July 1955, legendary Mirror columnist Cassandra, aka William Connor, wrote a searing attack on capital punishment. Here is an edited version:.
IT'S a fine day for hay-making. A fine day for fishing. A fine day for lolling in the sunshine. And if you feel that way - and I mourn to say that millions of you do - it's a fine day for a hanging.
If you read this before nine o'clock this morning, the last dreadful and obscene preparations for hanging Ruth Ellis will be moving up to their fierce and sickening climax. The hangman and his assistant will have been slipped into the prison at about four o'clock yesterday afternoon.
There, from what is grotesquely called "some vantage point" and unobserved by Ruth Ellis, they will have spied upon her when she was at exercise "to form an impression of the physique of the prisoner".
A bag of sand will have been filled to the same weight as the condemned woman and left hanging overnight to stretch the rope.
If you read this at nine o'clock then - short of a miracle - you and I and every man and woman in the land with head to think and heart to feel will, in full responsibility, blot this woman out. The hands that place the white hood over her head will not be our hands. But the guilt will belong to us as much as to the wretched executioner paid to do the job in accordance with the savage public will.
If you read this after nine o'clock, the murderess, Ruth Ellis, will have gone. The one thing that brings stature and dignity to mankind and raises us above the beasts will have been denied her - pity and the hope of ultimate redemption.
If you read these words of mine at mid-day the grave will have been dug while there are no prisoners around and the Chaplain will read the burial service after he and all of us have come so freshly from disobeying the Sixth Commandment: "Thou shalt not kill."
The secrecy of the above shows that if compassion is not in us, then at least we will retain the dregs of shame. The medieval notice of execution will have been posted on the prison gates and the usual squalid handful of louts and rubbernecks will have had their private obscene delights.
Two Royal Commissions have protested against these horrible events. Every Home Secretary in recent years has testified to the agonies of his task, and the revulsion he has felt towards his duty. None has ever claimed that executions prevent murder.
Yet they go on and still Parliament has neither the resolve, nor the conviction, nor the wit, nor the decency to put an end to these atrocious affairs.
When I write about capital punishment, as I have often done, I get some praise and usually more abuse. In this case I have been reviled as being "a sucker for a pretty face".
Well, I am a sucker for a pretty face. And I am a sucker for all human faces because I hope I am a sucker for all humanity, good or bad. But I prefer the face not to be lolling because of a judicially broken neck.
Yes, it is a fine day. Oscar Wilde, when he was in Reading Gaol, spoke with melancholy of "that little tent of blue which prisoners call the sky".
The tent of blue should be dark and sad at the thing we have done this day.
NEWS - SIR WILLIAM CONNOR OBIT
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Connor, William (Cassandra)
Published by Hutchinson, London, 1958
Used - Hardcover
Condition: Very Good
Hard Cover. Condition: Very Good. Dust Jacket Condition: Good. 2nd Printing. 88 pages, w/photographs of Cassandra's ( of the Daily Mirror) Cats. Text and photos by Connor. DJ is bright and crisp, but has a chip on rear and a few clean tears on front. Charming cat book.
Sir William Connor (Cassandra) 1909-1967.
I was delving amongst the dustier volumes of our extensive library, when I came across the above.
I was somewhat surprised at finding it, and remarked as much to Lady Magnon who was equally bemused.
Cassandra is a poignant name from my past, but where this book came from neither of us has any idea. On the inside page I see that it was priced at ٟ.25 (in pencil) having been initially sold at five bob.
Connor was a sketch writer for The Mirror newspaper and a very fine one. He always wrote with clarity, humour, and some stubbornness. I would liken his eloquence to that of Yeats, and his venom to that of Ken Tynon. His regular column, as well as that of J B Morton's 'Beachcomber' in The Express, was essential reading for the young schoolboy Cro although where both The Express and The Mirror came from, I can't imagine (our Junior Common Room members took some very odd papers I took The Telegraph).
His writing for The Mirror stopped briefly during The Second German war, whilst he was away doing his bit between '42 and '46. When he returned to Fleet Street his opening words were 'As I was saying when I was interrupted, it is a powerful hard thing to please all the people all the time'.
Should you be fortunate enough to find a copy of his 'CASSANDRA, at his Finest and Funniest' in your local charity shop I recommend it. The book is a compendium of very short (2 page max), beautifully crafted and observed sketches, and is the perfect book for anyone who likes to pop in and out of a good thought-provoking read.
In the early 1800s, a man named William Conner lived in a log home near the White River with his Lenape Indian spouse, Mekinges, and their six children. To make a living, he bought furs from Indians who trapped the rich forests of Indiana.
But Conner’s life – and Indiana – soon changed rapidly. William Conner played a major role as an interpreter and liaison of the Treaty of St. Mary’s in 1818, in which the Delaware ceded lands in central Indiana for those west of the Mississippi. The Lenape tribe, including William Conner’s wife and children, chose to leave Indiana with their fellow tribe members.
But William Conner decided to stay.
He eventually married Elizabeth Chapman and in 1823 built a grand house on a hill overlooking a flood plain that came to be known as Conner’s Prairie. William Conner and wife Elizabeth had 10 children – and he became a major landowner, statesman and wealthy businessman.
William Conner died in 1855.
His descendants sold his land in 1871. The land went through several owners until purchased by Indianapolis businessman Eugene Darrach in 1915. During that time, the house in which Conner lived underwent many changes.
Although Darrach made efforts to maintain the house and allowed the placement of a historical marker on the grounds, William Conner’s house deteriorated significantly over the years. In 1934, Eli Lilly, then president of pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and Co, bought the 111-year old structure.
Lilly believed history was an essential cornerstone of American democracy and immediately began using it as the centerpiece for historical re-enactments to connect people with history in ways books could not. A champion of education, Lilly opened the house and surrounding land to the public so people could see their heritage brought to life.
That was first phase of Conner Prairie. The second phase began in the 1970s when museum director Myron Vourax worked with renowned folklorist Henry Glassie to create a living history museum, a place where the staff dresses, acts and speaks as if they were currently living in the mid-1800s. What’s now known as 1836 Prairietown opened.
Today, Conner Prairie is a place where families engage, explore and discover what it was like to live in Indiana’s past. Every visit is a unique adventure that provides an authentic look into the history that shapes us today.
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William’s jester rode beside him during the invasion of England, lifting the troops’ spirits by singing about heroic deeds. When they reached enemy lines, he taunted the English by juggling his sword and was promptly killed, initiating the historic skirmish.
Described as strapping and healthy in his earlier years, William apparently ballooned later in life. It is said that King Philip of France likened him to a pregnant woman about to give birth. According to some accounts, the corpulent conqueror became so dismayed with his size that he devised his own version of a fad diet, consuming only wine and spirits for a certain period of time. It didn’t work.