December 2016

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12th December R.I.P. A.A. Gill

Today I’m extremely sad to report the death of one of Towton Battlefield Society’s patrons, the renowned author and critic Adrian ‘AA’ Gill.

Along with a number of TBS members, I was lucky enough to meet Adrian at The Crooked Billet in 2008, when he came up on a research trip to write a piece on Towton for the Sunday Times Magazine (see left). From the tone of some of his controversial and provocative reviews, I was afraid I might find him arrogant or patronising – and I think we were all afraid of what his article might say about us. However, he turned out to be perfectly charming: warm, funny, clever, interested in everything we had to show and tell him, and engagingly keen to get into some kit and try his skill with the longbow (see below). I liked him, and I think he liked us, too; at any rate, he described us as ‘instantly attractive,’ and although (naturally) he took the mickey, the fun he poked at us was very gentle - and indeed quite flattering - compared to some of his writing. We were ‘the sort of men and occasional woman’ (ie me, the only female re-enactor present that day!) who inhabit ‘that mocked attic of England’s hobbyists, aware that their interest tiptoes across the line between leisure activity and loopy obsession;’ and ‘people who can still raise lumps of emotion over the misrepresentation of Richard III, which may well be mildly bonkers but is also endearing, and as valid and important as anything done in a university library.’

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Altogether, Adrian's 6-page feature, published on August 24th 2008 and beautifully illustrated by Tom Craig's photographs, was a real journalistic gem; his account of Towton was powerfully evocative and so moving that it brought a lump to my throat, and it ended with the lines that the battlefield is ‘kept by the quiet, respectful community and by this small band, this happy breed of marvellously eccentric enthusiasts, who, as we walk through the corn, I see are the yeoman of England walking back through our history… They honour this blessed land, this earth of majesty, this seat of Mars.’ We couldn't have hoped for a finer accolade, and I felt profoundly grateful to him.

It was a great privilege to have met AA Gill on that memorable day, and his wonderful article did a great deal to raise the profile of Towton and TBS. So I feel deeply grieved that Adrian is no longer with us – his untimely death is a sad loss to our Society as well as to the world of journalism, and my heart goes out to his family and friends in their bereavement.

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