Sunday, 1 July 2012

Private Eye, Ann Gloag and Charity: Specks and Logs?

There's a small piece in the latest Private Eye which smacks of jealousy and spite.

Their columnist on public transport, Dr. B. Ching, had a dig because the founder of Stagecoach, Ann Gloag, gave £50,000 to a church (Protestant I assume) she "attends when at her castle near Inverness."

Dr. Ching (most of these people are well known professionals writing about their speciality) suggests it was mean of her to give 50K and not the full 300K needed given her "windfall payout from Stagecoach last year had been more than £37m..."

Am I the only one to think this smacks of bitterness, dare I say sour grapes? Whatever next? Berating people wearing clothes that total over £200 for putting £1 in a charity collection tin?

Ann Gloag put her neck on the line back in the day (1999/2000?) when she put her name and money to a huge public campaign in Scotland against the repeal of Section 28 which would see homosexuality promoted to school children.

The campaign was very powerful and showed most Scots were in favour of the law being retained. The usually "left wing" leaning Catholics of the Central Belt with their powerful local Labour links joined Protestants and Evangelicals to defend family values and a real, popular, grass roots campaign took off.

It would have been easy for Ann Gloag to keep her head down, keep her money to herself and live a comfortable life. But (unlike many rich people) she put her money where her mouth was, and moreover fought publicly for the Common Good.

If she chooses to give £50K to a church she attends (on hols or regularly) then I say good on her. Let's celebrate generosity rather than 'suck on a lemon' and act all prissy about it, like Dr. B. Ching.

If his real problem is the profits of Stagecoach or the Protestantism (or the family values) of Ann Gloag - then say so! Don't pussyfoot around and cast aspersions in her direction suggesting she is mean for giving a church (albeit not Catholic!) £50K.

Credit where credit is due. We all know about the Widow's Mite versus the rich man's gift, but we should also be careful not to be sucked into envy and petty politics when one person just does a good deed, perchance as a genuine act of Charity (albeit mistakingly to a heretical group). I wonder if Dr. B. Ching has a log he needs to look around?

In the light of The Passion of Our Lord, the writings of 'the wise' can all too often come across as foolish (and luckily for me, vice versa!)

From 1 Corinthians Chapter 1:

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written:

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;     the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”[a]

20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.


  1. Gareth, the owner of Stagecoach (whose name escapes me) is a Catholic.
    We may never know which denomination may have received Ann Gloag's 50k.

    1. Ann Gloag owns Stagecoach along with her brother Brian Souter, they are both members of the American-based evangelical Church of the Nazarene.

  2. Try reading the article again, she paid £30k when the roof needed $50k, leaving the other parishioners, who probably make considerably less than £37m last year, to find the other £20k.

    If you are quoting scripture regarding Ms. Gloag you might want to try Matthew 19:23-24.

    At least with all her money she'll be able to afford lots of camel grease.......

    1. Thanks both for your comments.

      I must admit I come to this story through the prism of Private Eye, which only consisted of a a paragraph or so. I took the figures that they gave and misapplied them from memory, so am happy to be corrected.

      I am well aware of the camel through the eye of a needle, and as a relatively impoverished working man who struggles to pay the bills I have no real need to excuse the mega-rich. I also recall the Commandment not to be envious of my neighbour's goods.

      I do recall a priest's sermon in which he said that the rich man who let the begger's sores be licked by a dog could have had his heavenly reward had he used his money to help the poor.

      Insofar as that parable goes it is not so much WHAT we have, as WHAT we do with it. Of course for religious [priests, monks, nuns] there is a call to poverty and to sharing all. For the rest of us there is a call to help the poor via almsgiving.

      I am a great reader and admirer of the ChesterBelloc and associated writers and have always believed that it is the job of Catholics to fight for the Common Good - whether that be the rights of the unborn, or the right of workingmen to have a just wage and to be free of usury-debt.

      Richard I don't know if Mrs Gloag is Catholic. I seemed to remember her and her brother in law[?] Brian Souter who was also high up in Stagecoach [and also fought against the repeal of Section 28 in Scotland] were some sort of Evangelicals. That's from my memory of reading Scottish newspapers when I lived up there some years back, so it may just be my bad memory [again!]. But I do seem to remember some of the pro-homosexualist press attacking Souter and the church he attended. I thought it was a evangelical type of church.

      Of course as with the amounts of money - I'm happy to be corrected. Re-reading the piece in Private Eye it does seem that the full amount needed was £50K and she left them needing to raise £20K. It could have been written a little clearer, but that's what happens when you read an article in the Little Boys room and then go to the laptop later on to tap out an article.

      Despite the amounts, the basis of the article remains the same.

      As my own parish priest often says, if/when we get to heaven, we will be shocked at who is there - and who isn't. There's something wonderfully Chestertionian in that.

      Perhaps the rich who helped good causes will be there, and the moderately well off who helped bad causes won't be... Just a thought.

  3. There is a letter in the latest Private Eye kind of mirroring what I said. It mentions some of the charities Mrs Gloag gives a LOT of money to and decries PE for being a bit spiteful. The writer says he is neither a Christian nor a fan of Mrs Gloag's beliefs. He is connected with a magazine on transport.