First of the Fourth? What's that all about?

Betty Law of Hampstead Way writes: I read your column in the Ham&High each week and am puzzled by the headline First of the Fourth . Could you please enlighten me? The simple answer is that it is in the same place every week, namely the first column

Betty Law of Hampstead Way writes: ''I read your column in the Ham&High each week and am puzzled by the headline 'First of the Fourth'. Could you please enlighten me?''

The simple answer is that it is in the same place every week, namely the first column of the fourth page. Another reader who had wrestled with the same question had erroneously convinced himself that the title was derived from the Press being known as The Fourth Estate. The title of the column thus made perfect sense, he reasoned, when I met him at Saturday night's Kenwood concert, as ''the Ham&High is part of the fourth estate and is always first with the news'' (an impressive compliment, but we would never be so bold!).

I was happy to set the record straight but there followed a conversation about why the Press is so-called.

For the answer, I'm indebted to novelist, one-time Tory bigwig and former guest of Her Majesty's Prisons, Jeffrey Archer. In his book, The Fourth Estate, the former Tory chairman explains: ''In May 1789, Louis XVI summoned to Versailles a full meeting of the 'Estate General'. The First Estate consisted of 300 clergy. The Second Estate, 300 nobles. The Third Estate, 600 commoners. Some years later, after the French Revolution, Edmund Burke, looking up at the Press Gallery of the House of Commons, said: 'Yonder sits the Fourth Estate, and they are more important than them all'.'' A wise man, was Mr Burke, and if Mr Archer had taken his counsel on board before fighting an unwise libel action some years ago, he might have become leader of the Tory party instead of doing time as a jailbird.

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A few weeks back I mentioned that Crouch End's community police sergeant, John McGrath, had been described as 'devilishly good looking' by an admiring female at the Haslemere Road Residents Association annual meeting, adding of course that more important to an old-fashioned heterosexual like me was the fact that he is good at his job.

It seems I stirred up a hornet's nest as another Crouch End police officer, Sgt John Scott (not Sgt Paul Scott as he was referred to in a recent story) reminds me that he too is not bad looking and is also good at his job. I have no reason to disbelieve you, Sgt Scott, but beware ... even among the constabulary, self praise is no recommendation!

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Finally, having made it at the third attempt to Kenwood on Saturday, I have to say that the new set-up, with the stage moved closer to the audience from its former home way beyond the lake, is a vast improvement both in terms of enhancing the sound quality and the overall atmosphere.

If you agree - or even if you don't - let me know your thoughts.

Geoff Martin

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