Belfast Telegraph

Film about tragic hero Alan Turing should be shown in every school

By Jane Graham

He was arguably the greatest war hero Britain ever produced. But just a decade after the end of the Second World War, which most experts agree he helped shorten by a good two years, he was a humiliated convicted criminal. Which makes the story of Alan Turing's life one of the most shameful in British history.

The (ironically) ridiculously popular Benedict Cumberbatch plays Turing in the movie version of his life, The Imitation Game, which launched the London Film Festival this week. It'll be here in a few weeks. I hope it gives all kinds of people pause for thought.

I hope it provokes fury and great sadness and makes us think again about the way we respond to unusual people. If it was up to me, I'd have it shown in every school in Northern Ireland.

You might remember Turing's name making headlines last year, when the Queen awarded him a Royal Pardon. Or possibly from before that in 2009, when Gordon Brown, PM at the time, publicly apologised for "the appalling way he was treated" by the state. As Brown simply put it, "You deserved so much better".

If you plan on reading Turing's Wikipedia entry, grab a sandwich first. The maths genius who turned the corner in the Second World War by breaking the Nazis' Enigma code is the father of so many scientific and technological breakthroughs that just reading his list of achievements will exhaust your brain.

He kinda invented computers. And artificial intelligence. And tonnes of other stuff I can barely pronounce, never mind understand.

Unfortunately for Turing, he was gay. He was also a bit of an oddball. Socially awkward, eccentric and somewhat obsessive about his academic passions – today he would probably be diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome – he drew suspicion from the average Joe, which made school difficult, as he was horribly bullied.

The one boy he did befriend, and was probably in love with, died of bovine TB when they were still young classmates. After that, his life was marked by loneliness and isolation, though he did garner respect and admiration from his colleagues.

In 1952, he was convicted on charges of indecency and forced to undergo chemical castration, which made his hands tremble so badly he had problems filling in his beloved crosswords. He was also barred from working with GCHQ. Two years later, he was found dead, poisoned by cyanide. His death was recorded as suicide. He was 41.

More than half a century later Turing's priceless gifts to the advancement of too many disciplines to mention are memorialised throughout the Western world in blue plaques, statues, renamed roads, bridges and university buildings.

The film will make you weep with the injustice of it all, that he never lived to see any of it, but died in shame, having been alienated and mistrusted most of his life.

Many will come out of The Imitation Game sighing with relief that no one in this now-enlightened country will ever go through what Turing did. But I'm not so sure.

Being born gay might not be a crime now, but we know there is still an appetite for mocking and ostracising homosexuals. And it wasn't just Turing's homosexuality which saw him shunned and persecuted. His uncommon personality, which meant he couldn't be immediately "read" by ostensibly "normal" people, brought out an urge which we still see all around us; to reject and rail against anyone who goes against the grain. As harmless as they might be. Or as in Turing's case, and many other great thinkers and does, as brilliant as they are.

Like I said, pause for thought.

Roy’s autobiography a razor sharp read

Forget Kevin Pietersen's self-pitying whines, if Carlsberg did sports biographies they'd get Roy Keane to write them all. (Well, they'd get Roy to tell Roddy Doyle what to say.)

Roy the Boy (trademark Jane Graham) has followed his first bullish biography with a sequel that outdoes The Equalizer for crazy scrapes. How he head-butted Peter Schmeichel, why Fergie regarded him as a nuclear bomb that had to be destroyed, why he was relieved when Clive Clarke's heart attack “deflected attention” from Sunderland's woeful display. Keane seems fearless when it comes to shocking revelations, yet won't disclose the biggest question of all; where's he going with that beard?

Katherine starts life as wife on bad note

I was sad to read this week that the honeymoon is well and truly over for newlywed Katherine Jenkins, who was photographed not smiling as she made her way through Gatwick airport on Tuesday.

Her new husband, Andrew Levitas, was also snapped, pushing suitcases, suggesting that Katherine refused to push a suitcase and made him do it instead, despite being a so-called believer in equality. The probably ensuing argument is likely to be what made Andrew look tired after his flight, and may also be why he wore a hoodie, a garment notorious for being what ne'er-do-wells wear when they're feeling anti-social and annoyed. These celebrities!

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