Catt facts

Letter by Michael Waugh, Southampton

ImageLooking through a back issue of PN, I came across an error which does not appear to have been corrected in a subsequent issue. 

In PN 2547-8 (July-August 2012), under the headline ‘T-shirt protestor to appeal’, it was stated that John Catt had spent ‘over 70 years protesting against nuclear weapons and the Vietnam and Iraq war, among other issues’. The ‘other issues’ are not specified. The oldest of the three issues specified is nuclear weapons, and the earliest protest against them I can trace is the Szilard petition, circulated among people working on the Manhattan project in July 1945. It is extremely unlikely that John Catt signed this, or even knew about it at the time, as it was kept restricted to Manhattan project people. Even assuming that he was working on that project, and signed the Szilard petition, the issue of PN carrying the report was published only 67 years after the Szilard petition was completed. This petition was kept under wraps secretly for many years afterwards.

So John Catt could not have been protesting against any of the three named issues for over 70 years. That leaves us with the unspecified ‘other issues’. I would have thought that Rebecca Boyle would have spotted this and explained which other issue would take us back beyond 70 years. Did John Catt protest about the Second World War, which started over 70 years before this report was published?

Thanks Michael for your keen eye and attention to detail. In an article on the Guardian website on 11 February 2012, John Catt wrote about his first protest, at the age of 14, while working as a farm labourer in Coombe, Sussex. John stood up for other workers who were not getting their wages paid on time: ‘I demanded that the farmer paid up straight away; it was the first time I spoke up for the rights of others and I have been doing so ever since.’ When John wrote this article, he was 87, so he had been protesting for 73 years (in other words, since 1939). We hope this clears matters up (though it would be wonderful if a Sussex farm labourer had been one of the signatories of the Szilard petition!). – eds