Lobbying the National Humanist Movement, 1963-64

During 1963/64 members of OUHG, along with other young humanists, put pressure on the national humanist organisations to reform their structure and public presentation.  The situation from spring 1963 was that the Ethical Union and the Rationalist Press Association were jointly sponsoring an “umbrella organisation” called the British Humanist Association.  It suffered from having no independent existence and needing to reconcile the priorities of its two sponsors.

OUHG ex-president David Pollock had a letter in the RPA magazine The Humanist (December 1963):

In February 1964, Graham Kingsley from the Cambridge Humanists, had an article in the magazine:


And Wendy Kaplan, OUHG president in Michaelmas 1963, had a letter in the same issue:

In the April 1964 issue, ex-presidents Leonard Evans and  David Pollock had an article about the failure of the national movement to take advantage of opportunities.  This was a substantially adapted version of their original draft, about which editor Hector Hawton had substantial reservations.

 And the same issue carried further letters on the questoin of framing humanist policy:

In May 1964 a small correction was included:






along with further letters, one from Julian Newman, a former OUHG committee member, another again from ex-president Wendy Kaplan:

The heading for the correspondence changed in June 1964, with Julian Newman back in print:

 And there was a final batch of correspondence in July 1964, with a letter frfom ex-president David Pollock and ending with a letter from Graham Kingsley as now the chairman of the Ethical Union:


















This whole fervour of reform was driven very largely from Oxford.



Trinity 1964 – press coverage – other

The Reverend Austin Farrer’s talk in Seventh Week attracted major coverage in the national press.  The Times (9 June 1964):















the Guardian (9 June 1964):





















and the Daily Telegraph (9 June 1964) all ran the story:














as did the Oxford Mail (9 June 1964):



































and Cherwell (10 June 1964):




























Elsewhere, the Peter Simple column in the Daily Telegraph continued to feature his Stretchford Humanists – on 21 May 1964:

and on 28 May 1964:

The Oxford Council of Churches, according to the Oxford Times (17 April 1964) thought of inviting the OUHG to join it in a campaign on world poverty:




























OUHG ex-president David Pollock had another letter in the Daily Herald (5 May 1964):









[Trinity 1964]              [[RC pill ban]


Trinity 1964 – Catholic pill ban

OUHG protested about a pronouncement by the Roman Catholic Cardinal Heenan rejecting use by Catholics of the birth control pill. On 9 May 1964 the Daily Telegraph

the Guardian

the Yorkshire Post

the Shefield Telegraph

(the full text being as below)

and the Birmingham Post


carried reports of the OUHG’s statement; and the Daily Mail referred to it:

Cherwell carried a report on 13 May 1964 – and a letter of protest rather belatedly on 27 May 1964:

The Oxford Mail carried a correspondence between OUHG ex-president David Pollock and a local Roman Catholic (successive items on 11 May, 13 May, 15 May and 20 May 1964):

The Birmingham Post also had a protracted correspondence involving David Pollock, with letters on 12 May, 13 May, a later date in May, 21 May and 30 May 1964:




























































































[Trinity 1964]       [Other press coverage]

Michaelmas 1963 – the abortion report

OUHG produced a report – sadly, I have no copy – calling for abortion to be made available on the NHS – a radical position at the time.  This was mentioned as forthcoming by OUHG president Wendy Kaplan in a comment on a Guardian news item (16 November 1963):



















Cherwell (30 November 1963) gave little attention to the report when it came out:










The Sunday Times (1 December 1963) got in ahead of the report’s approval:


















and next day (2 December  1963) the press gave it full attention: the Oxford Mail with a small front page item and a fuller report inside:





















The Daly Mail (2 December 1963) gave a very full report:




































The Guardian (2 December 1963):































and the Daily Telegraph (2 December 1963) also reported it:


















and from the British Humanist Association Dr Peter Draper wrote to the Guardian (7 December 1963):

The report gave rise to a correspondence in the Birmingham Post, with letters on 3 and 4 December answered by OUHG ex-president David Pollock on 6 December:





































[Michaelmas 1963]     [Greetings cards]       [Other press coverage]     [Oxford vs Manchester]



Michaelmas 1963 – press coverage – other

An article in the Sunday Telegraph (3 November 1963) suggested that “the older universities” were no longer “deeply rooted in religion” but saw the embrace of humanism “not so much as a protest but as the pathetic appeal for a new faith”:

This called for correction in a lettter (10 November 1963):

When the Venerable C J Stranks from Durham  replied (17 November 1963):

there was an easy answer (24 November 1963):

Cherwell’s religious column (late October 1963) also gave rise to a reply (2 November) and a riposte (16 November):

The OUHG was written off as “a trivial and irrelevant expenditure of cerebral energy” by the founders of an invitation-only philosophy-cum-anarchy club, the short-lived Bertrand Russell Club (Cherwell, 26 October 1963):

The Daily Telegraph‘s Peter Simple column continued its attention to “Stretchford University” and its humanists (4 December 1963):

Meanwhile, OUHG’s founder Tony Brierley had started work at the Ethical Union and was acting as father figure to his other creation, the University Humanist Federation, as seen in The Humanist (September 1963):

[Michaelmas 1963]     [The abortion report]       [Greetings cards]

Hilary 1964 – press coverage – other

OUHG ex-president Josephine Newcombe grabbed the headlines with her condemnation of the abortion law in an Oxford Union debate: the motion was carried by 369 to 122 but reform was still over three years away.  The Oxford Mail reported on 7 February 1964:

The Daily Express reported the same day (7 February 1964):
































and the Daily Mail had a short item (7 February 1964):









Cherwell (12 February 1964) gave a more general report on the debate:

On 5 and 12 February 1964 the London Evening Standard had items about OUHG in its Oxford and Cambridge column (the existence of which is itself a sign of the attention Fleet Street gave to Oxbridge):












A contrast was drawn between Oxford and Cambridge in an article in Cherwell (11 March 1964):

Cherwell (5 February 1964) had a fleeting mention of OUHG:









and ex-president David Pollock had a letter in the Daily Herald (7 February 1964):







The Humanist (April 1964) noted the OUHG’s growth:










as did the Ethical Union’s Humanist News (April 1964):

The university satirical magazine Oxford Circus (1 March 1964) had an off-target item on the Humanists:

[Hilary 1964]    [Opposing the OICCU Mission]     [The Tablet]

Hilary 1964 – “The Tablet”

On 14 March 1964 Christopher Hollis wrote an article in The Tablet (“Pro Ecclesia Dei, Pro Regina et Patria”) on “the Oxford Humanists”:









































Mike Lockwood’s reply came on March 28:












































Unsurprisingly there was further correspondence, with a reasonably friendly letter from the Newman Society and another showing a faithful lack of comprehension (4 April 1964):









































[Hilary 1964]        [Opposing the OICCU mission]       [Other press coverage]







Hilary 1964 – opposition to the OICCU Mission

A year after the SCM mission the evangelical OICCU (Oxford Inter-Collegiate Christian Union) mounted their own missioin.  OICCU was characterised by fervent evangelising by people with vacant faces shining with an inner light – or perhaps you could just see straight through them.  OICCU was totally concerned with saving souls and supremely unconcerned about the affairs of this world – hence the OUHG line of attack with 250 posters (no copy available) and 3,000 leaflets:

Cherwell (5 February 1964) reported the OUHG plans:

The Guardian picked this up, and their religious columnist Christopher Driver referred to it in his weekly column (both 7 February 1964):






















The Oxford Mail also reported the OUHG campaign on 7 February 1964:



























The Birmingham Post also had the story (11 February 1964):

Cherwell had two letters (12 February 1964):

In the same issue Bishop Ambrose Reeves added his criticism of the OICCU mission:

and the religious column in Cherwell (probably also 12 February 1964) picked this up:

Running in parallel with the opposition to the OICCU mission was a riposte from OUHG to a claim in a sermon that Oxford was a Christian university: the Oxford Mail (5 February 1964) printed the OUHG statement almost complete:




















This was picked up in the national press next day: in the Daily Telegraph (6 February 1964):

























and the Daily Express (6 February 1964):





























and the Yorkshire Post (6 February 1964):












and the New Daily (6 February 1964):




















OUHG ex-president Leonard Evans responded to a letter (Oxford Mail, 12 February 1964):

















and there was a prolonged correspondence in the Birmingham Post – starting on 8 February:



























then 11 February 1964:




















and 13 February 1964:















14 February 1964:


















and finally 18 February 1964:
























The Humanist (April 1964) also reported on the matter:























ITV even had a debate on the motion that “Oxford is no longer a Christian university”, as reported in the Oxford Mail (22 and 24 February 1964):



















Leonard Evans now adopted his pseudonym J C Pini and wrote to the New Daily (2 March 1964) after some OUHG members took part in the independent television religious programme referred to by The Times:

But Pini’s best effort was still to come!

As the term came to an end, the Sunday Times (1 March 1964) took stock:



































[Hilary 1964]     [The Tablet]      [Other press coverage]

Oxford much less religious than Manchester

In December 1963 The Observer reported on a survey of students in Oxford and Manchester carried out for a book by Ferdynand Zweig.  Just over 100 students were interviewed in each university.  Extraordinarily all 102 at Oxford said they came from a religious family background, but their own religious belief had fallen away: 49% were atheist or agnostic.  At Manchester, only 21% described themselves that way.  How far the activities of the OUHG were responsible is a matter for speculation but it is notable that at Oxford many described their philosophy of life as humanist and the term Humanism was much used even by non-humanists, whereas at Manchester it was much less used.


















The press report was as follows:






























The next term OUHG made good use of the report in refuting a claim from the pulpit that Oxford was a Christian university (Oxford Mail 5 February 1964):

[Michaelmas 1963]     [The abortion report]       [Press – other]      [Greetings cards]

Michaelmas 1963 – meetings

OUHG advertised its programme of meetings in Cherwell (19 October 1963):













































Cherwell praised the programme (12 October):















and its report (19 October) of Freshers Fair said that OUHG provided the “real sensation” with 632 cards sold on the day:

John Freeman’s meeting on the Press was reported in Cherwell on 26 October:

Robert Graves on “The Perils of Post-Classical Science” seems to have been less absorbing (Cherwell, 9 November):














but the Oxford Mail (2 November 1963) also reported the meeting:























Leo Abse on “Sex and Politics” drew a huge crowd (Cherwell, 16 November 1963):

He was followed in sixth week by H J Eysenck (Cherwell, 23 November 1963):




















[Michaelmas 1963]     [Oxford vs Manchester]

[Greetings cards]       [Other press coverage]