Racing: A cruel night out in Liverpool

Book of the week: Everyone Must Leave (The Day They Stopped the National) By Nigel Payne and Dominic Hart (Mainstream Publishing, pounds 15.99)
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The Independent Online
Everyone Must Leave (The Day They Stopped the National) By Nigel Payne and Dominic Hart (Mainstream Publishing, pounds 15.99)

ELEVEN months ago at the Grand National, the IRA managed to achieve what loose knicker elastic at the start managed four years earlier, and the 23rd (Foinavon) fence almost accomplished in 1967. They stopped the race.

They also started a book by two friends of mine in Nigel Payne and Dominic Hart. Everyone Must Leave is in fact as much about the aftermath and restaging of the 150th Grand National (the first ever on a Monday) as about the initial abandonment.

Payne, who does much of the marketing at Liverpool, provides considerable insight, as he knows all the backroom teams who fought to save last year's race. He praises each so greatly that, in 204 pages of his book, and despite the maelstrom of that weekend, it is virtually impossible to find evidence of anyone having made a single mistake during the rescue operation.

Many sources are quoted, but there is too little gathered from journalists, who, by necessity, would have witnessed and researched some improbable tales that weekend. Alarmingly, there is no citation for my own personal valour.

With many hacks having checked out of their hotels it was a difficult time for the Fourth Estate as well. We scribblers do not expect sympathy at times like this, but I can honestly say I found out things about myself I never knew that harrowing and cold evening in Liverpool.

I stayed with friends in Crosby and discovered a serious addiction to pots of Tetley bitter in The Edinburgh next to Marine's football ground. I discussed its properties over brandies in my host's lounge at the end of my own private Aintree hell.

This is the first time I have admitted where that cruel night took me, a heroic story which I expect will be belittled by those who camped out at the Everton Sports Centre and Fazakerley High School.

It is on occasions like the National melee that people who believe that nothing would do the nation better than a nuclear Armageddon get quite excited. Nigel does not miss his chance. "It was the same resilience that had achieved so much for our country in two World Wars," he ventures. When the author sees the plump and red faces of trainers at a course fence waiting to liberate their cars he somehow manages to compare the scene with Pathe News footage from POW camps.

It is possible that this year's National will be even more memorable for Nigel Payne as he has a share in Earth Summit, who is around 25-1 for the big race. He will not want further intervention from those he describes variously as sick, mindless and evil terrorists (to distinguish them from the warm, thoughtful and saintly ones out there). Indeed, his writing of the book will not be badly received by the IRA as it is recollection of a period of publicity and muscle flexing for the provisionals.

It is worth reminding ourselves though of the great personal kindnesses extended by many Scousers last April. Liverpool is not a city that generally attracts sweet words from outsiders, particularly those from the South, but the same critics should examine what their reactions would have been had this drama unfolded in their own back yards.

Richard Edmondson