We remember Ivor Smith as someone who gave much to the local community not least as Chairman of the Etwall Parish Council so the Society was pleased to welcome his firm friend since Oxford student days, Melvyn Bragg, to give a lecture as a mark of that friendship and also his respect for Ivor’s intellect. A full Frank Wickham heard Melvyn speak eruditely, passionately and with great humour about major influences on the development of the English language. We were reminded of the language brought to Britain by the post Roman invaders from Friesland which forms the basis for nearly 80% of the words we now use. Later it was the common people who kept their English alive following the Norman invasion when medieval French was the language of the new regime but leading to about 20% of our current words being derived from early French. Melvyn held up William Tyndale (1494-1536) as one of the most important figures who shaped English through his translation of the Bible into English where he sought a simple language that ordinary folk could understand. This was then taken up in succeeding versions of the Bible and by the greatest of literary figures, William Shakespeare.
It was a privilege to hear a talk in which so many ideas were held together with great skill and at some speed. Melvyn Bragg most certainly revealed the abilities which have enabled him, most notably through radio and television, to contribute strongly to the cultural life of the nation.