Little at Large

How a charity gave Rory Bremner the will to right wrong

Last week's episode of BBC genealogy documentary series Who Do You Think You Are? featured Rory Bremner, the impressionist, taking us through his family tree. Those who tuned in would have found him in sombre mood.

"I wonder if my own sense of injustice and fairness comes, in some way, from that childhood memory," Bremner mused to camera, reflecting on an episode in which an unnamed charity instilled in him a steely determination to right wrongs. It was nothing for anyone to be proud of, it turns out.

The programme revealed that Bremner's father, a former army major, had worked for some years for a cancer charity before succumbing to the disease himself in the 1970s. On the morning of an operation that removed half of his face, his wife took a phone call from the charity and had to pass on the message that her husband no longer had a job. But the charity didn't leave him in the lurch - as a retirement present, they sent him a signed photograph of the Duke of Devonshire.

John Sauven, the executive director of Greenpeace, was putting the world to rights in a column for The Big Issue last week. As an aside, the doyen of campaigners revealed that he banked with Coutts & Co, the bank of choice for the wealthy and famous, including the royal family and many Premier League footballers. Unless something weird has happened to sector pay scales, presumably it is not Sauven's salary at Greenpeace that enables him to reach the bank's stringent financial threshold for becoming a client.

Northern Ireland will soon have its own version of the Charity Commission - the fledgling regulator's website is already up and running and the search is on for board members. But it will be hard for the new commissioners to demand rigorous accounting standards from the sector when it can't even be sure of its own name. Should it be the 'Charity' or 'Charities' Commission? It's best to settle on one. To pass on the advice of another Charity Commission: names should not "mislead members of the public in any way".

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