9 JULY 1977, Page 28



Richard lngrams

To become a TV star at the age of ninetythree is unusual but it is the lot of Commissioner Catherine Bramwell Booth the grandaughter of the Salvation Army's founder, General William Booth. The old lady, upright, twinkling and bonneted, was interviewed by Peter France on the Everyman programme on Sunday and made an immediate impact. Being a simple person with an unquestioning faith and not a politician manqué discussing some phoney problem or other, she came as a welcome reliel after the Don Cupitts and the Gays. Her grandfather's message, she remembered, was also simple: 'If a man beats his wife teach him to beat the drum.' Miss Booth had vivid and not wholly endearing memories of the 'General' as he was known. 'How did you do', he asked her once when she was twelve, returning from an Army meeting. 'I did my best, Grandpa', she said. Did your best?' the old man thundered. 'Anyone can do their best. You'll have to do better than that'. She felt like bursting into tears, but obviously enjoyed her subsequent career in the Salvation Army even when the drunks gatecrashed their meetings and changing the words of the hymn, sang, 'Oh you must wear a collar and a tie, Or you won't go to heaven when you die'.

From God it was a sharp jump to Mammon in the shape of Mr Victor Matthews, the new chairman of Beaverbrook Newspapers appearing on the following programme, The Editors. Matthews gives the impression of an amiable Cockney butcher with a faith as unshakable as that of Miss Booth, in his ability to make businesses pay their way. He doesn't think a newspaper is different from any other product and believes in hiring competent subordinates and letting them get on with it. In this respect he resembles the late Lord Thomson.

There were some vivid glimpses of the last days of the Aitken empire — Sir Max himself, weakened by a series of strokes, tottering into the Express building for his final meeting as chairman; Jocelyn Stevens and Charles Wintour edgy and nervous like two aristocrats at the outbreak of the French Revolution, uncertain of their future prospects. (I noted incidentally that Matthews referred to 'Jocelyn Stevenson', a revealing mistake, indicative of a marked lack of respect.) It pleases me after the rotten standard of Tonight, to acclaim this Editors report which was informative and amusing. Peter France, too, did a good job interviewing Catherine Booth. At least he listened to what she said which is more than you could ever say of Russell Harty.