01 March 2015

ESP and the circulation of the Daily Mirror

Slender, wiry, other-worldly, but with a manner that could be intimidating as well as endearing, Dame Ruth Railton ... is most likely to be remembered for founding the National Youth Orchestra in 1947 ...

... Those who endured her auditions [for the NYO] were apt to describe them as the most harrowing experiences of their lives ...

[After her husband Cecil King’s death, she] continued to attend NYO concerts ... laughing at any suggestion that she had ever intimidated anybody: a creative fantasist to the last.

(Guardian obituary, 1 March 2001)
Dame Ruth Railton
(1915 - 2001)
I met Ruth Railton on several occasions with her husband, Cecil Harmsworth King. From what she said about her dealings with the National Youth Orchestra, she struck me as someone who was identified with her ability to manipulate others. For example, she told me of a young musician who had tried to excuse himself from a rehearsal, saying he had an appointment with his psychiatrist. ‘You cannot have two psychiatrists,’ she told him, ‘I am your psychiatrist, and you must bring all your problems to me’ – an assertion which he apparently accepted without demur.

Dame Ruth appeared to believe that the members of her Youth Orchestra should live as cheaply as possible, and was said to turn down applicants who seemed to her to have the wrong attitude, in favour of others of a lower standard.

When I pointed out to her that we did not have adequate funding, she said that we should save money, as did the members of her Youth Orchestra, by sleeping on mattresses on the floor, thus saving the cost of bedsteads. As I and my associates already had bedsteads, this did not seem helpful advice towards expanding our operations.

A similar outlook was shown by Rosalind Heywood at about the same time. She was another extremely influential lady who stood in the way of my getting any money. When Eileen Garrett of the Parapsychology Foundation in New York had turned down my application for funding, she gave Rosalind Heywood a small amount of money earmarked for me which she said Rosalind could hand out if I had ‘acceptable’ needs.

I thought of some fundamental reference books which I did not own, and asked for those. ‘But you can always go into libraries to read books,’ Rosalind said.

‘Oh well,’ I thought, ‘I do not own a bookcase of my own as I am living in digs, and I certainly need to have one,’ so I suggested that to Rosalind.

‘You do not need a bookcase,’ she said. ‘You can always make bookshelves out of planks of wood supported by bricks.’

After some more of my suggestions had been turned down, I said, ‘Perhaps you could put the money in the Post Office Savings Bank, so that it will be accumulating interest until such time as money is released.’

These interactions had lasted over a period of months, and I suppose she felt that she had failed in driving me into doing something I did not want to do, in order to get the money, so at my proposal that the money should be invested, her patience gave way, and she sent me a cheque for the whole amount, which was, after all, not very large.

* * *

Looking back at my interactions with Cecil King and my attempts to obtain funding for the Institute of Psychophysical Research, I do not find it plausible that he had any interest in extrasensory perception or related areas of psychology other than in their possible effect on the circulation of the Daily Mirror, and the same may well have been true of his interest in the National Youth Orchestra.

Ruth Railton may have made him aware of extrasensory perception, and young musicians, as topics which could be effective in expanding the circulation of his newspapers, but I doubt whether her influence went beyond that.

On one occasion, when I was having lunch with Cecil King and Ruth Railton in Oxford, they expressed the belief that idealistic people such as university research workers and nurses should be paid as little as possible, since otherwise people whose primary motivation was not idealistic or altruistic might become research workers or nurses, and apparently it was important to prevent this.

Professing such an ideology might appear to be a good attitude for someone who had it in mind to gain influence over people who might do newsworthy things cheaply, such as myself.

To be consistent, one might have thought that Cecil King would also take the view that chairmen of publishing companies should not be rewarded by any increase in their salaries, or increased dividends on their shareholdings, if the circulation and hence the profits of their newspapers increased. However, he did not appear to notice any inconsistency in his outlook.

I appeal for financial and moral support in improving my position. I need people to provide moral support both for fund-raising, and as temporary or possibly long-term workers. Those interested should read my post on interns.