Halliday Sutherland

"A born writer, especially a born story-teller. Dr. Sutherland, who is distinguished in medicine, is an amateur in the sense that he only writes when he has nothing better to do. But when he does, it could hardly be done better." G.K. Chesterton.

Spanish Journey

Spanish Journey

In August 1946, Halliday Sutherland travelled to Spain at the invitation of the Spanish Government—why did he go? As he explained in the beginning of Spanish Journey:

A communist sent me to Spain.

Every journey has a beginning not only in place and time but also in the mind; and this Spanish journey was born in an industrial street of Birmingham in the spring of 1946. The street in which I was walking during the dinner-hour was clean but drab. It was a street of small dwelling houses, homes of artisans. All the houses were similar and all front doors opened on to the sidewalk. They had no front gardens, but on some of the window-sills were boxes of growing flowers. In this street I was overtaken by a loud-speaker van blaring the words: “Great meeting to-night in the Bullring at 8 o’clock. All Trade Unionists and members of the Labour Party should attend. Franco must go. Franco has a great German army in Spain and is waiting to attack Europe. Franco is hiding Hitler. Franco is making atomic bombs. France must go. Great meeting to-night in the Bullring…”

Were these allegations true?

It was the dinner hour; many workers were returning to the factories, and on the faces of those who heard the loud-speaker I noted that faint smile of incredulity which means in American slang— “sez you.”

There and then in that Birmingham street I remembered that Mr. J.B. Priestley had accepted an invitation from the Soviet Government to visit Russia for six weeks in 1945. If the Spanish Government invited me, I would go to Spain, where once I had practiced medicine. I was invited for twelve weeks. I do not know if Mr. Priestley made any conditions with his hosts. I made two with mine that I should be free to go where I liked and to talk to anyone I chose to meet. These conditions were faithfully observed, and I visited ten prisons, one at a moment’s notice; and I motored over two thousand miles throughout the length and breadth of Spain. To what end? That I might tell readers what I saw and heard, and thereby promote a better understanding of Spain. I went as a friend, and was treated as an honoured guest. At the end of my visit, National Radio, Madrid allowed me to broadcast to Britain, and the script of that broadcast, which contained criticisms of the régime, had not been read by anyone except myself. The B.B.C. are more careful.

  *                    *                    *

“Are you Dr. Sutherland? Well it must be forty years since we met in Huelva. I had just come out and you were leaving.”

The speaker was a grey-haired man with a Scotch-Welsh accent, and the place was the Customs Room at Northolt Airfield. He was now technical manager of a copper mine in Andalucia. I was glad to have a journey, and we walked over to the 40-seater Skymaster, a four-engined Douglas machine. To-day, August 8, 1946, at 2:30 p.m., she was to make her maiden passenger flight for Iberian Airways. There were ten rows of double seats, two on either side of the gangway, and we sat together on the starboard side. The adjustable seats were comfortable, there was little noise from the engines, and the plane was air-conditioned. At 12,000 ft. I told my companion that he and I were to be congratulated on the state of our hearts and arteries since neither of us needed oxygen. If you needed oxygen you pressed a button and the wir-hostess, an extremely pretty Spanish girl, brought a mask and attached its tube to the tap beside your chair. There were three pilots, and from time to time one or other came and talked to the passengers. One told us a head wind would make us an hour late, an accurate forecast.

“Good God!” exclaimed my companion when I opened my attaché case, “you’re not taking that stuff into Spain! I wouldn’t care for that to be found in my luggage.”

He was referring to some booklets whose covers were the colour of terial blood. There were The Volunteer for LibertyLiberate Spain from Franco, and some other communist literature. I told him I had an Embassy visa and my luggage was not likely to be examined. If it was examined, I could explain things.

“It will certainly take a lot of explaining. But why are you bringing the stuff?”

Within those scarlet covers there were definite statements which I would be able to check. I was aware of my prejudices, and he who thinks himself unprejudiced is suffering from self-deception. We are all prejudiced by nationality, heredity, education, and beliefs. We are all prone to look with a partial eye on those who share our opinions and regard with suspicion those whose views differ from our own. Recognition of these facts should make us examine evidence as fairly as the frailty of the human mind permits.

From Spanish Journey by Halliday Sutherland.

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  1. Pingback: General Franco | Halliday Sutherland

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This entry was posted on 1 August 2016 by in Books, Spain, Spanish Journey.

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