The Viscount And The Toadies

Many years ago a small number of small colleges had an excruciatingly sycophantic relationship with local councillors, dignitaries, and alumni. One such college had a close relationship with The House of Commons Speaker, George Thomas. On retirement he chose as his ennobled title Viscount Tonypandy. It is recorded in a book by Leo Abse about New Labour that George Thomas included in his new title ‘Viscount’ because of its incongruity with the Rhondda town of Tonypandy. Abse wrote about George Thomas that:

“Nowhere did he better illustrate his self-deprecation than in the title he assumed after retirement — Viscount Tonypandy.

A casual observer might think this was homage to his birthplace in Wales. But Welsh initiates like me understood his implicit scoffing at the very viscountcy he was assuming. For ramshackle, down-at-heel Tonypandy was always, in snobbish Cardiff, stigmatised as a despairing hole where troglodytes dwelt. It attracted in Wales the same undeserved opprobrium as Wigan did in England.

The incongruous title was a barbed raillery which George directed against himself — a joke at his own expense. It was his way of coping with his tragic sense of his own unworthiness.”

The college unaware of George Thomas’s wicked humour went on to name their new restaurant — a converted classroom actually — The Viscount Tonypandy restaurant. George Thomas came along to open the restaurant. The secret of Viscount was kept to himself and anyone who had read the book on New Labour.

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