Undershaw - Press reaction or lack of

Well, as we all know, a decision was reached recently on Undershaw's future.

The press reaction has been rather muted. Local papers have gone relatively quiet on the story since the decision was reached. Other stories are now dominating the front pages. I guess it will remain that way until such time as someone or something blows on the story's cooling embers (the decision of the Secretary of State, possible legal challenges etc.)

The Haslemere Herald confined itself to printing a letter, from the two nearest Doyle relations, which was in support of the Stepping Stones scheme. Thus it reinforced the perception of its pro-school bias.

The printing of the Doyle letter was, to an extent, amusing. It was almost presented as the final nail in the coffin of the anti-school movement. After all, if the Doyle's support it it must be okay.

Time to give this story an angle
I mean no disrespect to the great-nephew and great-niece of Arthur Conan Doyle (both of whom I've met socially and like) but their opinion can be seen as carrying weight that it doesn't necessarily merit. Their name and family connection, rather than their insight, is being used to strengthen the pro-school argument.

Neither of them knew their great-uncle, he was dead before they were born and their knowledge of him and his thoughts is likely to be a combination of handed down family anecdotes and what they've read in biographies and other sources. Ultimately they have no special insight into what his thoughts on the matter might have been. Just like everyone else, they are speculating.

In fact it was Richard Doyle, as recently as August 2014, who stated, at a Sherlock Holmes Society of London event, that it was interesting to be in a room where almost everyone else knew more about his great-uncle than he did.

In this he was spot on. Plenty of people have objected to the Stepping Stone's scheme, in whole or in part, who know a good deal more about Arthur Conan Doyle than his remaining relations but their opinions carry no weight despite their extensive knowledge.

Now, readers should not interpret my remarks (no matter how much they are tempted) as an attack on the idea of a school at Undershaw (or indeed on the Doyle family) - it is nothing of the sort. I have repeatedly made it plain through this blog that while I have concerns about the plans currently on the table, I have no objection in principle to a school. What I am objecting to here is what I perceive as the local press agenda where, by accident or design, they have gone out of their way to present the school plan's support as dwarfing the opposition.

Written by Alistair Duncan
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