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Quotations from P G Wodehouse are copyright of, and reprinted by permission of, the Trustees of the Wodehouse Estate © 2015 The P G Wodehouse Society (UK)

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Iain Sproat (1938–2011)

Society Patron Iain Sproat, who died on 29 September, was educated at Winchester and Oxford. Originally a journalist and publisher, he was elected Conservative MP for Aberdeen South from 1970 to 1983 and for Harwich from 1992 to 1997. He served in several government posts and was Minister of State for the Department of National Heritage, 1995-97. While some will remember him as the founding author of Cricketers’ Who’s Who in 1980, most of us know him as the author of Wodehouse at War (1981).

Mr Sproat made it a personal mission to investigate the reluctance of the British authorities to allow him to see the Home Office file on the Wodehouse broadcasts and eventually discovered this was based on the simple fact that another Tost internee was named in the file. He brought considerable pressure to bear on the Home Office, and when he suggested the other name was blanked out, he was at last allowed to see the document. This made it clear that Wodehouse had been innocent of any conscious pro-German activity. Sproat’s account of the affair came as a welcome rebuttal of the still widespread and erroneous rumours and, as he said, it reflected little credit on the authorities that their reluctance was based, in his view, on their unwillingness to admit the official campaign against Wodehouse during the war was unjustified.

I only met Iain Sproat a few times at Wodehouse dinners, but it was clear he had been an enthusiast from the time he read Mike at the age of twelve. He was president of the PG Wodehouse Society at Oxford, and he was very proud of making the bizarre discovery that while Wodehouse may or may not have read Tolstoy, Tolstoy almost certainly read Wodehouse! On a visit to Tolstoy’s house, Yasnay Polyana, he found a bound volume of The Captain on the bedside table (it is believed Tolstoy used it to help his grandchildren learn English).

A small discovery but delightful one. I envy him for that and admire him for his efforts to prove Wodehouse’s innocence. May he rest in peace.

– Norman Murphy