Rebecca Tyrrel: 'Margaret Rutherford cared about the ishoos'

Share
Related Topics

Who knew that Tony Benn is a first cousin of the late lamented Margaret Rutherford? Admittedly their cousinhood was once removed, but this seems strangely fitting because some used to believe that Benn was once removed from reality. According to Kelvin McKenzie's Sun, he was the barmiest man in England. It was a title that, tragically, could have been applied to Rutherford's father, who bludgeoned his own father to death with a chamber pot – Agatha Christie would have certainly approved of the method. And Rutherford was quite an eccentric herself, of course. She built her film career playing up the battiness, happily without murdering anybody.

The more one reflects on the Benn/Rutherford blood tie, in fact, the more obvious it seems. Benn famously disowned a title (Viscount Stansgate) while Rutherford equalised the honours score for the family by picking one up. She became Dame Margaret, and rightly so. Like Tony, she cared about the ishoos. How else could she have taken on the country's least desirable post of St Trinian's headmistress?

Superficially, the physical resemblance was hard to discern. Dame Margaret was short and, latterly, almost perfectly square where Tony is tall and shaped like a pencil. She did not smoke a pipe, though she had a ruminative, philosophical quality which meant that it was never hard to imagine her – particularly in Miss Marple mode – puffing away off-set on a small cheroot.

One thing they unquestionably have in common is an engagingly mad, beatific gleam to the eye; both are unexpectedly warlike. Indeed, you might struggle to identify which of them said: "If the Germans had arrived, I tell you, I could use a bayonet, a rifle, a revolver, and if I'd seen a German officer having a meal I'd have tossed a grenade through the window". In fact it was Benn, likening Dad's Army to Iraqi insurgents, while Rutherford came out with: "If you imagine that I'm going to sit back and let everyone regard me as a dotty old maid, you're very much mistaken." But the quotes are interchangeable, and so is the enduring affection in which these timeless eccentrics – both loved for their kindness by those who knew them – are held.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Mobile Developer (.NET / C# / Jason / Jquery / SOA)

£40000 - £65000 per annum + bonus + benefits + OT: Ampersand Consulting LLP: M...

Humanities Teacher - Greater Manchester

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The JobAt ...

Design Technology Teacher

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Calling al...

Foundation Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: EYFS Teachers - East Essex...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Critics of Fiona Woolf say she should step down amid accusations of an establishment cover-up  

Fiona Woolf resignation: As soon as she became the story, she had to leave

James Ashton
 

Letters: Electorate should be given choice on drugs policy

Independent Voices
Bryan Adams' heartstopping images of wounded British soldiers to go on show at Somerset House

Bryan Adams' images of wounded soldiers

Taken over the course of four years, Adams' portraits are an astonishing document of the aftermath of war
The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities