Springingtiger's Blog


A Letter from Richard Dimbleby

In the summer before my tenth birthday and before I first went to boarding school, there was a terrible earthquake in Skopje, the broadcaster Richard Dimbleby appealed for funds to help the survivors of the disaster. There and then I got out a folding picnic table and set it up outside our house in Burnsall, I raided my mother’s pantry and set up a stall to raise money for Skopje. I think it must have been a Sunday because my mother came back from the Red Lion – the pub next door – and caught me. Rather than give me into trouble she said that if I wanted to raise money for Skopje I could have a sale but I had to do it properly. She took me to various of her friends to ask for items I could sell and I put up posters.

The next Saturday I set up my stall on the riverbank and sold the items I had gathered, there were – I remember – tins of food, books and brick-a-brack. I had to explain to people why I was raising money, first when asking for donations and then when selling them. I have rarely been as passionate about anything – the liberation of East Pakistan and the Miners’ strike against Thatcher are among the few other things that have inspired me similarly – as I was then, on reflection I realise that passion is the one thing that overrides my reluctance to speak to people.

I raised over Twenty pounds – I can’t remember how much – and sent it with a covering letter to Richard Dimbleby. A short time later I received a letter from Richard Dimbleby, my mother said it was obviously written by a secretary and its tone was condescending, but I didn’t care I was proud then of what I’d done. I am proud now of what I did then, and amazed. I am so grateful that my mother recognised how important the cause was to me, and rather than dampen my enthusiasm encouraged me to push through my barriers and accomplish something of which I could be proud. Looking back I realise that the amount I raised was very small, but the accomplishment – for me – was enormous. I very much doubt that Richard Dimbleby was ever aware of my contribution among so many, but he signed the letter that was sent to me in thanks and it made me feel so proud. The letter disappeared at some point among our many house moves, but even today its memory makes me feel good.

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