Saturday, 3 December 2011

Jim Williamson a mentor, as was Warrington Taylor

I first met James (Jim) Williamson in 1964. We were teenagers, Jim a year or two older than me. We were both young athletes who our coaches and the media considered had a lot of potential. That was in the age when NZ produced Olympic gold medallists like Norman Reed, Peter Snell, Murray Halberg and other world-class runners like Bill Bailly, Barry Magee and John Davies. Athletics had a huge following

Jim Williamson left, taken when he was a sailing instructor in Spain.

I will never forget one night after the New Zealand junior athletic championships in Dunedin. I had set a new Otago 880 yards junior record and Jim had won the open event over the same distance. Later that night, bored with the party and feeling extremely pleased with ourselves, we decided to drive out to St. Kilda beach and, in our underwear, competed against each other in a beach decathlon. We used driftwood for the high jump, rocks for the shot put, a tree branch for a javelin, drew lines in the sand for the long jump and triple jump take off and sprinted and ran against each other for hours. Simple fun on a beach. Jim was 19 and I, 16 going 17 then. We swam naked in the surf and laughed like children. It was one of those defining moments that don’t seem to have special significance at the time, but that in retrospect are seen encapsulate something of the essence of being. We were similar souls but I felt we would never be travellers on the same path. We were strong-headed people who would take different roads into the unknown but inviting future.

I don't want to give the impression that we were earnest, priggish individuals interested only in athletics and carving out a career. Quite the opposite: it would be some years before we started to take vocational questions seriously, and like all young males in our society we spent more time trying to "make it" with girls than anything else. Jim seemed to have a little more charm than I.

Jim Williamson and I got our share of headlines through our high school days as promising future athletes. Bob McKerrow collection.

We participated in an athletic training camp at Karitane in 196, and other annual ones that followed, where we got close to Warrington Taylor, whose son Brian was running the camp, as indicated in a separate blog article.  In many respects Warrington Taylor was a mentor and Guru to both of us as impressionable teenagers. Warrington Taylor's photo below:

See Warrington's link above for the mentoring role he had on many of us young athletes who hungrily absorbed his wisdom.

Jim, the son of a milkman, and I the son of a metal worker, felt the world was our oyster and in a country where social mobility was at the core, I knew we would soon go overseas on our individual voyages of discovery.

I remember sharing a quote I found with him , “ If you are young and able, smuggle your talents away and hawk them on livelier markets.

At 19 I left for South America, and when I got back Jim had left for Australia, South-East Asia and finally Europe.

A year later I spent 13 months in Antarctica, and on the last flight before the long autumn and winter sent in, I got a letter from Jim in which he somehow made me examine my life and realise that maybe I had the potential to make a difference , to work for the betterment of the world, and that I should look for the opportunity to do so when I returned from Antarctica. It was a long, philosophical letter that I cherished and read many times during the ten months that I spent with three others at 21 years of age. Jim had become a mentor. We lost contact in late 1971 when I returned from Antarctica and Jim was already on his travels. 40 years later we reconnected. We immediately felt that the old bonds were still strong, and have updated each other on what we are doing and what we think about life, the universe and everything.

My first passport when I was 19 and how I looked then. The passport was to take me to Tahiti, Panama, Colombia, Equador, Peru and the US.

Two days ago I got an e-mail from Jim in response to a story on Warrington Taylor and nuclear disarmament I shared with him. He has had a chequered career as a university teacher, antique restorer, owner of a bar in Spain, owner of a successful English academy, sailing instructor and now translator specialising in the field of green energy generation. He is also a member of Translators without Borders. His reply is brilliant and thought-provoking.

Hola Bob,
Great to hear from you, even through LinkedIn. In this case the medium is most definitely not the message. Thanks for the photos. You're still one of the ugliest buggers I've come across.

Nice article about Warrington Taylor. Funny thing about nuclear weapons is that - horrifying as their existence is - they are no longer perceived as a serious threat by most people today. What seems to have happened is that once the cold war was defused the associated paranoia disappeared, and the prospect that the US and USSR would get involved in a nuclear holocaust bringing what we (with increasing irony) call the civilised world to an end was packed away into the souvenir box of history to be studied by uncomprehending school kids. Warrington would possibly have thought that that is where it belongs. The bombs are still there, but don’t seem to do much harm. There are other, cheaper ways of continuing the great tradition of Man’s inhumanity to Man (and to all other creatures if you think about it... as Humans, we are a decided failure. As Sapiens, I’d go even further and say we really never got started)

 Jim with his two daughters, Sandra on the left, Betty on the right.

Since the 60’s we have seen so many non-nuclear horrors committed by men against their fellow creatures, from Vietnam through Laos and Cambodia, the Congo, Liberia, Rianda, Bosnia-Serbia-Kosovo, Chechnya, Sudan... you know more about them than I do, many of them at first hand. The depressing thing is not that we can invent nuclear arms and the means to deliver them worldwide (a multi-billion dollar enterprise), but that all we need is a Kalashnikov and a few anti-personnel mines costing a few rupees on the black market to perpetrate the most horrific and wilful mass cruelty. So strong is the beast that lurks beneath the thin veneer of the rule of law that the presence of nuclear stockpiles fades into insignificance beside the prospect of half a million Hutus armed with home-made machetes. The space-arms race was a kind of temporary madness cured as soon as the soviets blinked. It’s no accident that the only manned mission to our satellite was in 1969 and has never been emulated. Today Dr Strangelove is just a funny man with a silly arm, incomprehensible to anyone under 30. However, the world sees daily media exposure of deliberate famine, rape, torture, genocide and the most horrifying array of hands-on face-to-face spit-on-your grave violence that it’s no wonder the bomb is the forgotten ghost in the attic of the 21st century consciousness.

As you can see I have a jaundiced view of my race. Philosophers have often thought that humanity is essentially good and would act in a civilised manner if certain prerequisites were met: if everyone had enough to eat and drink, a safe clean place to keep the family and good prospects for the kids. But that’s not the way it is. If that unlikely situation ever happens, in a single generation we will be back under the thumb of the power merchants and the warlords, who will in turn be controlled by those little pricks that have raked together the most property in the meantime while everybody else was busy looking after the kids. We are an acquisitive, greedy, power-loving and venial species – you choose the epithet – but the worst of these is acquisitive. All the man-made humanitarian disasters from Korea to Somalia have been permitted and even orchestrated by groups that have the power to stop them but the will to keep them happening, with the sole objective of manipulating commodity prices. The real rulers of the world are only interested in controlling the global financial-economic network that owns the politicians and finances their institutions and whose only moral guide is the balance sheet. You know who they are. Their lackeys toss you some funds from time to time for public relations reasons: we must be seen to be doing something! One of their top lieutenants, by the way, was Henry Kissinger, the very model of a modern corporation man. He almost single-handedly orchestrated the Yom Kippur war from the Israeli side to bolster American domestic petroleum prices and disrupt supplies from the Middle East to weaken the rising threat to US economic dominance represented by the emerging - but petroleumless - EEC. The oil crises of the 70’s were his greatest work and set back the the European economy by a decade, provoking runaway inflation and the worst slump since the 1930s. Even then the stupid Swedes gave him the Nobel for sweeping the mess under the carpet afterwards. And what can we say about Iran/Iraq? Kissinger left his successors well drilled. Now the target is shifting from petroleum, which has a limited future, to agricultural land in vast quantities. The major agro-biz, chemical and pharmaceutical corporations and their financial backers are taking up positions in Africa, Asia and S. America and the next 10-15 years will see millions of small subsistence farmers and their families pushed off the land to make room for the mechanised, genetically-engineered mega-crops we will need to feed 8 billion people by 2050. The Amazon is already in a critical state, but then, its all part of a great business opportunity, not to be missed. Strategic management and all that. The fact that it will cause widespread famine in 2 thirds of the world to maintain the other third in the style to which it is accustomed shouldn’t surprise us. After all, it has happened so many times before.

So, atomic bombs? Nah... break too much property. Messy. The insurance claims would be excruciating. Can’t trust those North Koreans though. Stir crazy. But somebody will put up the dough to buy them.

Oh well, got that off my chest. I couldn’t sleep and decided to write you a cheery note about this and that, wife & kids etc. but the reminder that the formerly dreaded A bombs are still around got me started on an unforgivable diatribe that will surely bore you like an oyster, as they say here (if you’re asking why, just think of the exciting social life of your average oyster, his trips to exotic resorts and general social mobility). Well, for better or for worse, no delete key tonight. You have to take it as you find it. An incurable insomniac, I read an atrocious diet of books on palaeontology and astrophysics. The evolution of the various hominoid species and the beginning, development and possible end of the universe as postulated by the general theory of relativity are two obsessions that have occupied my mind over the last few years. I’ve become a crashing bore at party’s coz I want to talk about space-time curvature and black holes, or discuss whether Homo Habilis had language capacity. When I talk about Lucy, friends think I’ve got a lover. Basically I suppose I’m looking for clues at the scene of the crime. Where do Homo sapiens come from? Why is the explosion of cave art 30,000 years ago important today and what’s the relation with the murder rate in Washington? Because there must be a relation, otherwise nothing makes sense. OK, I hear you say, nothing does make sense. Who said it had to? Well, Einstein for one said God doesn’t play dice with the universe. But I’m beginning to think he was wrong.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Red Cross and Red Crescent working towards elimination of nuclear weapons

I just wish Warrington Taylor was still alive to be able to attend the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement Council of Delegates yesterday in Geneva, 26 November 2011, where a paper was presented drawing upon the testimony of atomic bomb survivors, the experience of the Japan Red Cross and ICRC in assisting the victims of the atomic bomb blasts in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the knowledge gained through the ongoing treatment of survivors by the Japanese Red Cross Atomic Bomb Survivors Hospitals, The paper  Working towards the elimination of nuclear weapons  focusses on the following key issues:
#deeply concerned about the destructive power of nuclear weapons, the unspeakable human

#suffering they cause, the difficulty of controlling their effects in space and time, the threat

#they pose to the environment and to future generations and the risks of escalation theycreate,

#concerned also by the continued retention of tens of thousands of nuclear warheads, the proliferation of such weapons and the constant risk that they could again be used,

#disturbed by the serious implications of any use of nuclear weapons for humanitarian
assistance activities and food production over wide areas of the world,

#believing that the existence of nuclear weapons raises profound questions about the extent
of suffering that humans are willing to inflict, or to permit, in warfare.

I am so proud that the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is taking these issues up to the highest levels of Government and appeals to all States:

Warrington Taylor would have cried out with joy in support had he been alive to see the meeting yesterday as he led a lonely campaign in the 1950 and 1960s against the use of nuclear weapons.when most considered him a crank.

"Warrington signed all his cheques, trust account and personal, with the proviso that they be paid provided we weren’t all destroyed by nuclear explosion, and every year at our Annual Meeting of Otago Lawyers, he would politely seek permission to introduce a motion relating to nuclear disarmament only to be told that it was not relevant to the business of the Annual Meeting, a ruling he always accepted with dignity and good grace", said his close friend Iain Galloway.

He was a friend and mentor of mine when I was a teenager and into my early 20s when I first started working for Red Cross overseas.. What moved me about this man was his compassion and an undying belief that the world should be a better place. He was a key figure in the Dunedin branch of the CND, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and campaigned vigorously for banning the nuclear bomb.He fought against the Dunedin City Council when they made plans to scrap trolley buses, and in 1960 ,he stood as an independent candidate for the Dunedin Central electorate in our general parliamentary elections on the nuclear disarmament platform. Warrington Taylor was a fighter for human rights, truth and a better world.

I first met Warrington Taylor in about 1961. He was a tall, handsome man about 60, with a gentle manner and a warm smile. I was a 13 year old athlete and his son Brian had just started coaching me. Somehow I was drawn to Warrington Taylor as he had qualities I had not found in many people up until then. His general knowldege was astounding from geography to mechanics, law to philosophy, religion to nuclear power, politics to people. In a suit and tie he had the stature of a Statesmen and in his old working clothes, which included worn trousers, brown shoes, a shirt and tie, and a tweed jacket, he still looked like a Statesman.

When he spoke, his words were clear, well chosen and soft. He ran a law firm in Dunedin from an old office in Princess Street, near the Embassy theatre. I loved going into his office and watching him write legal briefs on quarto sheets of paper, which he tied with green tape when completed. When I was at High School I popped in to see him a few times, and this busy lawyer would always welcome me with a broad smile, with at least one gold tooth.

I think he took a liking to me and we often used to sit down together at his crib at Karitane, and tell me about trips he did in Europe as a young man. He talked of the Swiss Alps, the river journeys and going to famous places such as art galleries and museums, but the conversation would always swing to nuclear disarmament.

In 1965 when the Beatles visited Dunedin, Warrington joined his son Brian and I and he enjoyed their performance immensely. Most adults of his age were condemning the Beatles as anti-establihment, but not Mr. Taylor. He could see the good in these people and like the lyrics that often promoted peace and love.

Warrington Taylor was a man for all seasons. He was equally at home in a law court, or repairing his old car or lawn mower. His innate ability to break subjects down into component parts, and rebuild arguments or cases, was a technique he used when repairing motors.

I feel that Warrington Taylor was one of those men that somehow the media ignored. Never into self promotion, he quietly did his works behind the scene. I wonder how many clients he did work for and he never charged them ?

The paper  working towards the elimination of nuclear weapons  appeals to all states  to:

.- to ensure that nuclear weapons are never again used, regardless of their views on the legality of such weapons,

- to pursue in good faith and conclude with urgency and determination negotiations to prohibit the use of and completely eliminate nuclear weapons through a legally binding international agreement, based on existing commitments and international obligations,

Warrington Taylor, I dedicate these powerful statements to you as a man who mentored me, to follow the path of humanity and human rights.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Nuclear will be the death of us.- Warrington Taylor

As a teenager I spent many hours over a number of years listening to a wise man, Warrington Taylor. A lawyer by profession who had read everything available in English on Hiroshima, Nagasaki and on nuclear fuel, nuclear power and nuclear weapons.

He said simply one day when sitting overlooking the river that flows into the small fishing port at Karitane, Otago, New Zealand, " if we don't continue to fight nuclear disarmament and the use of nuclear power, it will be the death of us."  First there was Chernobyl, and now what is happening in Japan.

On 22 February 2010 he lost his son Brian Warrington Taylor in the tragic Christchurch earthquake and now his nightmare of a nuclear holocaust is a possiblity. (Photo: right) Brian used to play the guitar well, and we used to sing the Joan Baez song 'The Times they are a changing' often and Warrington loved the words.

So to Warrington and Brian, I believe you are together now and you will be looking down on your nuclear prediction, A world destroying itself. I would like to write a little about a man who did so much for nuclear disarmament legislation in new Zealand, and for me personally.

Having known Warrington Taylor's very clear and outspoken (at the time) views on nuclear holocausts and  accidents ocurring, I can only write in support of a man who in 1960, was publicly ridiculed, when he stood for an Independent candidate on the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament ticket in Dunedin Central electorate in the general elections.. He was labelled a crackpot, certainly eccentric and got few votes.

He was a pioneer in New Zealand's actions and policies on anti-nuclear legislation.Warrington Taylor was a generation ahead of his time. He had a huge influence on future generations of NZ leaders and politicians and his acts of courage and determination led to barring nuclear-armed ships into New Zealand..

In 1984, Prime Minister David Lange barred nuclear-powered or nuclear-armed ships from using New Zealand ports or entering New Zealand waters. Under the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, and Arms Control Act 1987,territorial sea, land and airspace of New Zealand became nuclear-free zones. This has since become a sacrosanct touchstone of New Zealand foreign policy.

The Act prohibits "entry into the internal waters of New Zealand 12 miles (22.2 km) radius by any ship whose propulsion is wholly or partly dependent on nuclear power" and bans the dumping of radioactive waste within the nuclear-free zone, as well as prohibiting any New Zealand citizen or resident "to manufacture, acquire, possess, or have any control over any nuclear explosive device."The nuclear-free zone Act does not make building land-based nuclear power plants illegal.

After the Disarmament and Arms Control Act was passed by the Lange Labour government, the United States government suspended its ANZUS obligations to New Zealand. The legislation was a milestone in New Zealand's development as a nation and seen as an important act of sovereignty, self-determination and cultural identity. New Zealand's three decade anti-nuclear campaign is the only successful movement of its type in the world which resulted in the nation's nuclear-free zone status being enshrined in legislation.

But first, a bit more history:

Initial seeds were sown for New Zealand's 1987 nuclear free zone legislation in the late 1950s with the formation of the local Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) organisation between 1957-59. Warrington Taylor led the CND movement in Dunedin, my home town, and further afield. In 1959, responding to rising public concern following the British H-Bomb tests in Australia and the Pacific, New Zealand voted in the UN to condemn nuclear testing while the UK, US and France voted against, and Australia abstained. In 1961, CND urged the New Zealand government to declare that it would not acquire or use nuclear weapons and to withdraw from nuclear alliances such as ANZUS. In 1963, the Auckland CND campaign submitted its 'No Bombs South of the Line' petition to the New Zealand parliament with 80,238 signatures calling on the government to sponsor an international conference to discuss establishing a nuclear-free-zone in the southern hemisphere. It was the biggest petition in the nation since the one in 1893 which demanded that women must have the right to vote.

Mururoa atoll, and its sister atoll Fangataufa, in French Polynesia in the southern Pacific Ocean were officially established by France as a nuclear test site on September 21, 1962 and extensive nuclear testing occurred between 1966 and 1996. The first nuclear test, codenamed Aldebaran, was conducted on July 2, 1966 and forty-one atmospheric nuclear tests were conducted at Mururoa between 1966 and 1974.

In March 1976 over 20 anti nuclear and environmental groups, including Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, met in Wellington and formed a loose coalition called the Campaign for Non-Nuclear Futures (CNNF). The coalitions mandate was to oppose the introduction of nuclear power and to promote renewable energy alternatives such as wind, wave, solar and geothermal power. They launched Campaign Half Million. CNNF embarked on a national education exercise producing the largest petition against nuclear power in New Zealand's history with 333,087 signatures by October 1976. This represented over 10% of New Zealand's total population of 3 million. At this time, New Zealand's only ever nuclear reactor was a small sub-critical reactor that had been installed at the School of Engineering of the University of Canterbury in 1962. It had been given by the United States' Atoms for Peace programme and was used for training electrical engineers in nuclear techniques. It was dismantled in 1981.

Regional anti-nuclear sentiment was consolidated in 1985 when eight of the thirteen South Pacific Forum nations signed the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty or Treaty of Rarotonga.

Mururoa protests 
Community inspired anti-nuclear sentiments largely contributed to the New Zealand Labour Party election victory under Norman Kirk in 1972. Also in 1972, the International Court of Justice (case launched by Australia and New Zealand), ordered that the French cease atmospheric nuclear testing at Mururoa atoll.[18] However, the French ignored this ruling. Mururoa was the site of numerous protests by various vessels, including the Rainbow Warrior. In a symbolic act of protest the Kirk government sent two of its navy frigates, HMNZS Canterbury and Otago, into the test zone area in 1973. A Cabinet Minister (Fraser Colman) was randomly selected to accompany this official New Zealand Government protest fleet. This voyage included a number of local kiwi peace organisations who had organised an international flotilla of protest yachts that accompanied the frigates into the Mururoa zone. Many of the early NZ peace activists and organisations were enthusiastic young hippies and students, many of whom were involved with the counter-culture and the original opposition to the Vietnam War movements.

But let's remember and thank Warrington Taylor for his contribution to making New Zealand a nuclear free country.

Meanwhile, Japan has raised the alert level at its quake-damaged nuclear plant from four to five on a seven-point international scale of atomic incidents.

The crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi site, previously rated as a local problem, is now regarded as having "wider consequences".

The UN says the battle to stabilise the plant is a race against time.

The crisis was prompted by last week's huge quake and tsunami, which has left at least 17,000 people dead or missing.

Japanese nuclear officials said core damage to reactors 2 and 3 had prompted the raising of the severity grade.

The 1979 incident at Three Mile Island in the US was also rated at five on the scale, whereas the 1986 Chernobyl disaster was rated at seven.


Further heavy snowfall overnight all but ended hopes of rescuing anyone else from the rubble after the 9.0-magnitude quake and tsunami.

Millions of people have been affected by the disaster - many survivors have been left without water, electricity, fuel or enough food; hundreds of thousands are homeless.


Japan's upgrading of the Fukushima incident from severity four to five stems from concerns about the reactors in buildings 1, 2 and 3, rather than the cooling ponds storing spent fuel.

Level five is defined as an "accident with wider consequences". This was the level given to the 1957 reactor fire at Windscale in the UK and the partial meltdown of the Three Mile Island plant in the US in 1979.

Both met the level five definition of "limited release" of radioactive materials to the wider environment.

Windscale is believed to have caused about 200 cases of cancer, whereas reports into the Three Mile Island incident suggest there were no health impacts outside the site.

French and US officials had previously said the Fukushima situation was more serious than Japanese evaluations suggested.

Higher radiation levels than normal have been recorded in a few places 30km from the site, but in Tokyo, they were reported to be normal.

The national police say 6,911 people are known to have died in the disaster, and 10,316 are still missing.

On Friday, people across Japan observed a minute's silence at 1446 (0546 GMT), exactly one week after the disaster.

As the country paused to remember, relief workers toiling in the ruins bowed their heads, and some elderly survivors in evacuation centres wept.

Japanese officials continue to try to reassure people that the radiation risk is virtually nil outside the 30-km (18-mile) exclusion zone around the plant.

But foreign governments are taking wider precautions - Spain has joined Britain, the US and other countries in organising the evacuation of any of their citizens who are concerned.

And panic has spread overseas, with shops in parts of the US being stripped of iodine pills, which can protect against radiation, and Asian airports scanning passengers from Japan for possible contamination.

Shoppers in China have been panic-buying salt in the mistaken belief that it can guard against radiation exposure.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Naoto Kan told a national television address: "We will rebuild Japan from scratch. We must all share this resolve."

He said the natural disaster and nuclear crisis were a "great test for the Japanese people", but exhorted them all to persevere..

International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano arrived earlier in Tokyo and warned the Fukushima crisis was a "race against the clock".

The IAEA announced it would hold a special board meeting on Monday to discuss Mr Amano's findings.

The Fukushima plant's operator Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) said it was not ruling out the option of entombing the plant in concrete to prevent a radiation leak; a similar method was used at Chernobyl.

Fractured Fukushima

Reactor 1: Fuel rods damaged after explosion last Saturday

Reactor 2: Damage to the core, prompted by a blast on Tues, helped prompt raising of the nuclear alert level

Reactor 3: Contains plutonium, core damaged by explosion on Monday; roof blown off building; water level in fuel pools said to be dangerously low

Reactor 4: Hit by explosion on Tuesday, fire on Wednesday; roof blown off building; water level in fuel pools said to be dangerously low

Reactors 5 & 6: Spent fuel pool temperatures way above normal levels

Military fire trucks have been spraying the plant's overheating reactor units for a second day.

Water in at least two fuel pools - in reactor buildings 3 and 4 - is believed to be dangerously low, exposing the stored fuel rods.

This increases the chance of radioactive substances being released from the rods.

An electricity line has been bulldozed through to the site and engineers are racing to connect it, but they are being hampered  by radiation.

The plant's operators need the power cable to restart water pumps that pour cold water on the reactor units.

Military helicopters which dropped water from above on Thursday have been kept on standby.

Steam rises from the No.3 reactor at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power complex, March 16.

Damage to the No. 4 reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power complex.

Damage to the No. 4 reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power complex.

Medical staff use a Geiger counter to screen a woman for possible radiation exposure at a public welfare centre in Hitachi City, Ibaraki.

Tokyo Electric Co. employees in charge of public relations use a photo of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex to explain the situation during a press conference.

A radiation dosimeter measures radiation levels in Shibuya, Tokyo.

The No.3 nuclear reactor of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant is seen burning after a blast following an earthquake and tsunami in this satellite image.

A doctor checks uses a giger counter to check the level of radiation on a woman while a soldier in gas mask looks on at a radiation treatment centre in Nihonmatsu city in Fukushima prefecture.

Smoke rises from Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power complex in this still image from video footage.

This image from Japan's NHK public television via Kyodo News shows the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant's Unit 3 after Monday's explosion.

An official scans for signs of radiation in Nihonmatsu City after radiation leaked from the earthquake-damaged Fukushima Daini nuclear station.

A girl at a makeshift facility to screen, cleanse and isolate people with high radiation levels, looks at her dog through a window in Nihonmatsu.

Futaba Kosei Hospital patients disembark after being evacuated from a hospital near the troubled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex. They might have been exposed to radiation while waiting for evacuation.

Officials in protective gear stand next to people from the evacuation area near the Fukushima Daini nuclear plant.

An official in protective gear talks to a woman who is from the evacuation area near the Fukushima Daini nuclear plant.

The damaged roof of reactor number No. 1 at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant after an explosion that blew off the upper part of the structure.


Monday, 14 March 2011

Another blast at nuclear plant in tsunami-devastated Japan

As a teenager I spent many hours over a number of years listening to a wise man, Warrington Taylor. A lawyer by profession who had read everything available in English on Hiroshima, Nagasaki and on nuclear fuel, nuclear power and nuclear weapons.

He said simply one day when sitting overlooking the river that flows into the small fishing port at Karitane,  Otago, New Zealand, " if we don't continue to fight nuclear disarmament and the use of nuclear power, it will be the death of us." First there was Chernobyl, and now what is happening in Japan.

On 22 February he lost his son Brian in the tragic Christchurch earthquake and now his nightmare of a nuclear holocaust is a possiblity. (Photo: right) Brian used to play the guitar well, and we used to sing the Joan Baez song 'The Times they are a changing' often and Warrington loved the words.

So to Warrington and Brian, I believe you are together now and you will be looking down on your nuclear prediction, A world destroying itself.

LATEST: The Japanese government says 11 people were injured, one seriously, in the latest explosion at a quake-stricken nuclear power plant.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano says four army personnel and seven nuclear power plant workers were hurt when Unit 3 at the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear plant exploded Monday.

A third reactor at the power plant has lost all its cooling capability, raising the risks of another blast, Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency says.

Radiation levels four times a person's recommended annual exposure have been detected at a stricken nuclear plant in Japan following a third explosion.

Edano said that one of the workers was seriously injured but still conscious and the four military staff were only slightly hurt and had already returned to their unit.

The blast was felt 40km away, but the plant's operator said radiation levels at the reactor were still within legal limits. The explosion at the plant's Unit 3, which authorities have been frantically trying to cool after a system failure in the wake of Friday's massive earthquake and tsunami, triggered an order for hundreds of people to stay indoors, said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano. The two disasters left at least 10,000 people dead.

Operators knew an explosion was a possibility as they struggled to reduce pressure inside the reactor containment vessel, but apparently felt they had no choice if they wanted to avoid a complete meltdown. In the end, the hydrogen in the released steam mixed with oxygen in the atmosphere and set off the blast.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. said radiation levels at Unit 3 were well under the levels where a nuclear operator must file a report to the government.

On Saturday, a similar explosion took place at the plant's Unit 1, injuring four workers and causing mass evacuations.

The reactor's inner containment vessel holding nuclear rods was intact, Edano said, allaying some fears of the risk to the environment and public. TV footage of the building housing the reactor appeared to show damage similar to Monday's blast, with outer walls shorn off, leaving only a skeletal frame.

Reuters reported that Japan's nuclear power industry was now starting to face criticism from its loyal army of nuclear-power workers and their families.

"My distrust just increased," said Mikiko Amano, a 55-year-old woman who had been recently evacuated from her home close to the quake-stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex.

She was talking to Reuters at a town outside the 20-km evacuation zone around the complex, owned by the Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), which continued to urge calm despite broadcasters showing a plume of smoke rising from the plant.

"I was at home at the time of the first explosion. It was a huge sound. After that, I evacuated. I went for a radiation check at the hospital today and breathed a sigh of relief that I was OK," Amano told Reuters.

"The company has been saying such a thing would not happen and the plant was fine even after 40 years in operation...It only raised my distrust of TEPCO."

Amano's family and tens of thousands of others evacuated from their homes around the complex depend on the company for their livelihoods, and many were remarkably stoic at first in the face of what appeared to the rest of the world as imminent nuclear catastrophe.

Even as authorities waived Geiger counters over evacuees clothes and gave them doses of iodine as a precaution against radiation poisoning, local communities at first spoke confidently about their employer's ability to avert a crisis.

Hideki Kato, a 41-year-old worker at the Fukushima Daiichi complex, just wanted to get back to work.

"I think nuclear power plants are necessary. I am worried about the job," Kato said at a school gym serving as an evacuation center in Kawamata town, outside the evacuation zone in Fukushima prefecture.

"Can I ever go back to work at the plant?" he asked as his two children lay on the floor beside him, wrapped in blankets. His son played with a cell phone while Kato's parents looked on."Can we make a living?

Kato's question is one echoed around the world, with serious doubts emerging over public support for the global nuclear power industry if Japan fails to avert disaster.

With nuclear energy accounting for 26 per cent of power consumption in Japan, and more than half in countries like France, public trust in the industry is vital in the face of constant criticism from a committed anti-nuclear lobby.

Fukushima prefecture is the land of the nuclear faithful: outside its nuclear power plants, the region north of Tokyo is mostly characterised by rural and fishing communities with some light industry. Here, nuclear power pays most of the bills.

Shinichi Watanabe, 63, from Futaba worked for two decades at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. On Sunday, before the second explosion at the plant, he was still keeping the faith.

"Thanks to the nuclear power plants, young people do not have to leave to find work," he said.

His friend, 73-year-old carpenter Masao Takahashi, agreed, saying: "Without the plants, our town is just a deserted place."

But, with yellow-suited health officials hosing down dozens of evacuees in tented treatment centers, Takahashi suddenly did not sound so sure:

"We had been told by the nuclear power plant people that it's 100 percent safe no matter what typhoon or tsunami, but I am worried about radiation exposure."


Broadcaster NHK, quoting a police official, said more than 10,000 people may have been killed as the wall of water triggered by Friday's quake surged across the coastline, reducing whole towns to rubble. It was the biggest to have hit the quake-prone country since it started keeping records 140 years ago.

"I would like to believe that there still are survivors," said Masaru Kudo, a soldier dispatched to Rikuzentakata, a nearly flattened town of 24,500 people in far-northern Iwate prefecture.

Kyodo said 80,000 people had been evacuated from a 20-km radius around the stricken nuclear plant, joining more than 450,000 other evacuees from quake and tsunami-hit areas in the northeast of the main island Honshu.

Almost 2 million households were without power in the freezing north, the government said. There were about 1.4 million without running water.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan said the situation at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant remained worrisome and that the authorities were doing their utmost to stop damage from spreading.

"The earthquake, tsunami and the nuclear incident have been the biggest crisis Japan has encountered in the 65 years since the end of World War Two," a grim-faced Kan had told a news conference on Sunday.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Hoarhound and raw rolled oats

I always remember Warrington Taylor over the Christmas and New Year period as I spent 4 wonderful Christmas holidays with he and his wife Catherine at Karitane, that beautiful seaside town in Otago.

From 1962 to about 1966, his son Brian who coached me at athletics, would run an athletics training camp at the Tayor’s batch or crib at Karitane. See Brian's photo of Karitane below.

About five of us would camp in a big tent on the lawn and Mrs. Taylor would cook us great food as we trained at least two times a day. More than anything, Mrs. Taylor gave us raw rolled oats for breakfast and a bitter herbal tea called hoarhound, The raw rolled oats were she told me once, was to develope our saliava glands and the hoar hound was good for our blood. It wasn’t until many years later that I read it was greatr for clearing up congestion..

Warrington would always be interested in our running and especially our training on the track. He would often be our time keeper and shout out the lap times as we ran past the 440 yards post as we did lap after lap. Or when we were doing 20 or 24 miles which was quite common, he would follow us in the car.

He always wore a sports jackets as I am sure it was because of the large number of pockets he had. His pockets were full of useful things such as pens, paper, cardboard, keys, string, safety pins and many other items. Mr. Taylor was often able to do a repair job on a running shoes with things he kept in his pocket, or in the boot of the car. A resourceful man who could fix anything.
I dearly loved this man for his knowledge, wisdom, experience and above all, his belief in humankind.

Catherine Taylor was also an amzing lady, and it was hard to pull a fast one over her. One day I was cooking toast and burnt a few pieces.  From her bed room closeby she heard me scraping the burnt toast and called out, " Have you burnt the toast," and I replied, "no Mrs. Taylor, I am just scraping mud off my running shoes." When I turned the toast to scrape the other side I said, "and now for the other shoe."  Brian told me many years later that his Mum found that really funny.
So every Christmas and New Year, I remember Warrington and Catherine Taylor and thank them for what they did for me.

Further reading on Hoarhound. While the majority of teas, herbal and otherwise, are indeed a source of comfort, there are certain ones which are especially suited to clearing up congestion. One, in particular, is horehound tea, or Marrubium vulgare.

As to how horehound received its unusual name, Marie Nadine Antol explains in her book, Healing Teas, that Greek physicians used to prescribe this ancient herb to their patients who had been bitten by a rabid, or mad, dog, or "hoar hound" hence the "hound" portion of its common name today. Hoar comes from the Old English meaning, grey, grey-haired, or old. Therefore, horehound really means "old dog!"

The Latin name is believed by experts to be derived from the Hebrew word marrob, which means "bitter juice." The herb is also thought to be one of the five bitter herbs eaten by Jewish people at Passover

Saturday, 28 August 2010

I loved his eccentricities.

Some thoughts and Musings on a Gentleman and a scholar- Ross Beckingham (son-in-law)

To say I was fond of Warrington Taylor (or “Granddad” as he was affectionately called by all in our home) would be an understatement…over the years we were privileged to have him living with us in our home at St Clair - Dunedin, I first deeply respected, and then in time - grew to love him dearly.

Karitane, Otago, a place where Warrington Taylor spent many holidays with his family. Photo: Brian Taylor

I loved his eccentricities. I loved his pragmatic and intelligent dialogue on almost any subject you could imagine. He never “paraded” his vast knowledge, or made you feel inferior if (as was the case many times) the conversation became a little complex for me, he would instead just draw a big breath and explain himself in simpler terms. He was an inordinately patient man!

Grandad was probably the most honest and sincere person of his generation I have ever met. His reputation in the legal fraternity and with those of his older clients continued long after he retired from the legal practice. On many occasions he would say: “I’m off to visit “Miss So and So” in Maori Hill-she’s an old client and wants me to check out some papers for her and as long as I am visiting Catherine - it’s not out of my way”. His wife was at the time hospitalised in Marinoto Clinic, and he religiously visited her every day. I don’t believe he missed more than half a dozen days the whole time she was alive and cared for at the hospital-a tribute to his love, devotion, and so typical of his attention to doing the “right thing” by people. If he couldn’t visit her - he rang and spoke to her.

All of this advice to old clients would of course be completely free of charge-it would never occur to him to either ask, or accept, any remuneration for his time. He believed client relationships were for life. We of course teased him mercilessly about his “afternoon assignations with the old ladies” – all of which he endured with a wonderful spirit, and an embarrassed smile.

On the few times I visited with Suzanne at the Highgate family home, I was always treated with courtesy and warm hospitality. On one memorable occasion he quietly took me aside and asked “Had I ever been up top?” Seeing my bewilderment he whispered “Come with me…it will be our secret?” He proceeded to show me the way up a ladder into the roof cavity of the family’s giant home –literally a football pitch in size! But this was only the beginning –we then climbed through - and out onto the slate roof itself. Grandad had marked out on the roof an elaborate system of numbered markers beside the individual slates that were his “stepping” stones for a safe excursion out on the roof-just another example of the mans delightful practicality. He guided me up - one foot after another, using marker one-(right foot), marker 2 (left foot) and so on. Once on the top of the roof gable he sat me down beside him our feet straddling the horrifically high gable, and the view from this vantage point was breathtaking! A full 360 degree vista across to the Mosgiel plains in the West right around to Mt Cargill in the North, and then further around to the harbour heads and all the way up to city itself with harbour and the southern and eastern suburbs sparkling in the sunshine, and then finally to the South. This view and memory will last with me forever! Retracing our steps, we climbed inside and before closing the trapdoor Grandad whispered again-“Remember…it’s our secret,- we won’t mention this to Catherine-she wouldn’t approve!”

Some of the most fun times we had together were washing and drying tea time dishes at night. Suzanne having cooed tea for the family, would leave to organise children’s homework and stuff for the next day, and Warrington and I would take probably 3 times longer than necessary to wash and dry the dishes discussing all kinds of things and setting the world to rights. We were often chastised by Suzanne for taking far too long-but it was the banter-not the task we enjoyed, and I know he enjoyed it equally as much as I did.

I wasn’t really able to do much for him by way of “pampering”, but we did develop a rather lovely scenario where last thing at night I would make him a Milo or Hot Chocolate drink, (he was a prodigious chocolate eater) throw a white tea towel over one arm and carry a hot drink and plate with (always) a couple of chocolate biscuits down to his bedsit to present to him for supper. The scene never altered…a tap on the door. “You rang M’Laud” I would say, introducing myself, and when he called me in, he always said the same thing: “Oh Ross, …..RICH!” You are really too kind”. We both enjoyed this little interlude immensely.

Stand out memories would be:

His remarkable recovery from Parkinson’s disease:

When he first came to live with us he was physically very frail and worn out from a long stint of caring for Catherine at Highgate. I would have to cut his meat on his plate into bite size pieces as he hadn’t the strength to do so himself. After a few weeks on a course “Sinimet” (the wonder drug of the day-apparently) prescribed by family doctor Jim Reid, he was up and doing for himself - all manner of things, including walking up to catch the St Clair bus into town, and then visit Catherine-a remarkable turn around in health, and we were lucky he enjoyed good health for the four or so years he spent with Suzanne and I and the children.

His obsession with “altering” things which were on the face of it - perfectly serviceable:

On one occasion I went to see him in his room, to find he had drilled a hole in the Queen Anne Mahogany headboard of his bed to install a (highly illegal) “ganged-up” three pin plug arrangement into which he was able to plug his kettle, his TV, and his electric blanket! On retiring at night last thing he would reach up and switch them all off. “See - it’s much more convenient Ross.” You could not fault the reasoning- only the necessity?

His work on the Taylor and McCarter Family Trees:

He was able to share a lot of this history with our children all of whom were very interested-especially our daughter Tanya-with whom he spent a great deal of time explaining and copying out family history for.

His love of reading:

He was the most voracious reader I have ever met. He also had the rather annoying habit (from my sense of tidiness anyway) of underlining points or paragraphs of interest to him throughout a book in red pen! Never pencil - that might be able to be removed…always red pen!His habit of cutting his toast in the mornings:

Always done to match the size of the mosaic tiles set into the top of the breakfast bar in the kitchen-“Perfect bite-size pieces-Ross!”

His habit of eating peas-one at a time!

Often a little frustrating while we waiting to clean up at night, and the children often looked in anguish at the number of peas still to be devoured so they might be able to leave the table!
His excitement and great joy of meeting up with his brother - after 52 years apart!

In conclusion, he once said to me: “The measure of a persons worth in this life Ross, is usually directly related to the amount of times they are thought of or spoken about - once they are gone.”

If this is the case then “Grandad” will never be forgotten, and his worth is priceless!

Sunday, 22 August 2010

A few thoughts on Dad by Brian Taylore, his son.

These are isolated and in no particular order.


Dad was a very compassionate man, always willing to help people especially those who were not well off. I discovered quite early on in life that he has been acting for people as quite a young lawyer without charging them at all or at best very little. Being a strong socialist he always wanted to help people who were not well off. He believed in equality for all people.

The first I can remember about dad was being woken up in the morning. When we were living out on the Taieri Plains (Janefield) almost on the dot of 7.00 when the horn when at the Mosgiel Wollen Mills to get everyone to come to work, dad would come into our bedrooms and literally “whistle us up!” This consisted of about 5 or 6 whistles use for calling dogs over. Not that we were ever thought of as dogs, it was his way of making our wake up fun. The trouble was it carried on into my late teens and early university days when we moved to 204 Highgate Dunedin. This was increasing more annoying after I had had a long night out on the town. Sometimes he would receive a pretty sharp response from me, however dad carried on with the practice always in good humour. I think it was more of an ongoing joke as I got older. It would also happen even when I had a friend to stay over.

Being a pragmatist, dad thought about having me baptised, but he knew he could not go along with the idea that I should be brought up in the religious belief of the Presbyterian church. He went to see the minister and asked if he would be able to modify the service so that all reference to God was eliminated, (however he always accepted the sentiments of a young person being raised as a caring compassionate person). In 1949 this was an impossible idea, so dad dropped the whole plan.

I can remember when my dear sister came on the scene. Dad loved her dearly, he was very pleased that Suzanne and I got on so well together – and still do. This was a very important part of his family thinking, people getting on well with each other and giving total support. I remember being taught this from a very early age.

I had my jobs to do at home from when I was quite young. This included keeping the hedge in front of the property trim and later the large macracarpa hedge along the south side of the property. We use to build “nesting” places in the hedge. On a few occasions we would hide in there, so that dad had to find us to come in for our evening meal. We would remain silent and dad would go along with the game, but he always knew where we were. We couldn’t fool him!

I do remember being on a strict vegetarian diet until I was 5 years old. This was my mother’s idea to overcome the asthma that I had from birth. I don’t think that dad really believed that this would work, but being dad he always kept an open mind and supported mum’s idea. Incidentally it seems as if it might have had a positive affect, I have not had asthma since.

Same thing when I was a competitive swimmer and in order to increase my size and strength mum organized for me to go to Tom Bolton’s private gym. This was always around 5.0 pm so poor old dad had to do a lot of extra running around after work to pick me up to get home. He always did it with good grace and total support.

I was a person who struggled at school. After the results of school certificate came out and it showed that I had failed. Instead of chastising me for not working hard enough (as that was the case), he simply said “If you would like to continue back at school, we will support you!” That was the greatest incentive and it stimulated me to work harder than ever. I finally got there and it was always with wonderful support from mum and dad. Nobody could ask for more.

I recall when in my first year at university I came home a bit drunk. I was creeping up the stairs when my mother called out. I though I would act as normal as possible so walked into my parant’s bedroom, turned on the light, shook them each by the hand and said good night. I turned and walked straight into the open door, almost knocking myself out. Dad got up help me into bed without a word and nothing was mentioned about the incident in the morning. I think he thought I had had punishment enough! All he had was a wry smile.

When I was training the runners I was coaching, we would spend two weeks out at Karitane (just north of Dunedin), over the Christmas – New year period. We got permission to mark out a training running track at Cherry Farm, this involved dad in calculating the length of the straits and the circumference of the curves for us so that we could scratch it out on the grass. Of course, when we were training, we needed a time keeping and who was that? Dad, of course. He never missed a day. This included taking us to the track meets on Boxing day January 2. He was always there for us, taking an interest in a sport he had never done, caring deeply about how the whole group ran - not just me. Those were great days.

Dad was a great anticipator. I remember a particular time at the funeral of my mother. We were waiting for the service to begin and I became very upset at seeing my mother’s coffin. Without looking at me dad, standing beside me, plunged his hand in his jacket pocket and pulled out a clean handkerchief, as if he knew that was exactly what would happen to me at the last minute before the service began.