About Bill MacCormick
(or Alan MacDonald if you prefer)

Music – Politics – History

Back in the day when I still had hair

The hair’s still there, but has migrated

William Alan MacDonald MacCormick was born in 1951. He was educated first at a Primary School which nearly shared a wall with Brixton Prison, and later at Dulwich College, a large, expensive, and prestigious Public (read Private) School in South London. Not that his parents paid the fees, they didn’t have the money. He somehow wangled a free place courtesy of a decent 11+ exam result.

A lazy bastard at school, he spent much time playing rugby and cricket. Somehow, and to his amazement, he made up the numbers in the School Cricket 1st XI in his final year. A pretty striped blazer was his reward.

But, more importantly, influenced by a meeting with West Dulwich residents Robert Wyatt and the Soft Machine, he and his somewhat taller school friend, Philip Targett-Adams, formed a rock and roll band: Pooh and the Ostrich Feather.

Pooh played covers of the psychedelic anthems of the time: Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit, Cream’s Spoonful, Love’s 7 and 7 is, leavened with a smattering of more blues-oriented material, e.g. The Butterfield Blues Band’s Born in Chicago. Hey, they even penned some material for themselves. Or at least Mr Targett-Adams and drummer Charles Hayward did in the form of the tantalisingly titled Marcel my Dada.

In 1969, Phil and Bill left Dulwich and, along with Charles, formed the extremely unsuccessful Quiet Sun whose attempts at sub-Soft Machine odd time signatures and long instrumentals left audiences, and the business, a tad cold.

In 1971 the band disintegrated. Phil answered an advert in the Melody Maker and was soon Roxy Music’s diamante-bespectacled guitar god Phil Manzanera. Bill got a phone call from Robert Wyatt, recently departed from the Softs. And Matching Mole was born.

Mr MacCormick somehow parlayed his limited bass playing skills into a ten-year career in the outer reaches of the music business, working with Robert, Phil, Brian Eno, and several other eminent artists. He brought down the curtain on his music career in 1980 at end of a tour of North America in Random Hold supporting Peter Gabriel. 

He then moved seamlessly into politics, as any decent bass player should.

After six years, during which time he reached the elevated heights of National Elections Co-ordinator for the Liberal Democrats, he moved into market research. That he had no experience in the subject and a very poor Maths O-level grade can be seen as an extension of his bass playing credentials, or lack thereof. It couldn’t last and it didn’t. He did, at least get himself elected on to his local council three times!

Continued Below

 

Ill-health then intervened after he did the daily polling throughout the 1997 General Election.

After pneumonia and the odd operation, he needed something to do. He then discovered his grandfather’s diary written during the second year of World War One and which revealed his involvement in the Loos campaign of autumn 1915. Then his mum told him that her cousin was one of the Missing on the Somme from 1st July 1916. Intrigued, he started to research the First World War.

When his late brother, Ian MacDonald, previously assistant editor of the New Musical Express and the acclaimed writer of the Beatles epic Revolution in the Head, asked what his younger brother planned to do with his vast accumulation of paper, he shrugged. “Write a bloody book,” big brother suggested, somewhat acerbically.

And so he did, but under his middle names – Alan MacDonald – in a nod to his late, and much-lamented, brother who died in 2003.

The first book appeared in 2006. Pro Patria Mori: the 56th (1st London) Division at Gommecourt, 1st July 1916. It was on this day and at this place his mum’s cousin disappeared from the sight of man.

Flushed with pride but very few sales, he moved on, in 2008, to write A Lack of Offensive Spirit? The 46th (North Midland) Division at Gommecourt, 1st July 1916. So, no change in date for the subject matter and barely any change in geography. Less than a mile in fact. A revised and enlarged version of Pro Patria Mori also escaped that year.

In 2014, Z Day, 1st July 1916, the attack of the VIII Corps at Beaumont Hamel and Serre was published.

The obsession with the first day of the Battle of the Somme was clear.

And then, silence. For ten years.

 

But not inactivity. 2024 may well see the publication of a mere seven books written and compiled over the past decade.

Making it up as you go along is a ‘not to be taken too seriously’ account of his time in the music business (March 2024).

The Affair at Lagarde is an investigation into a small-scale action in the first week of the Great War which revealed the tactical inadequacies of both the French and German Armies in August 1914 (April 2024).

The two-volume The Long Road to the Somme looks at the development of the British and French Armies in the decades before the war right up to 7.30 a.m. on 1st July 1916 when the ‘Poor Bloody Infantry’ went over the top on what would be the worst day in the history of the British Army (expected June/July 2024).

Liberating Elsass is an account of the two failed French invasions of the Haut Rhin in Alsace in August 1914. Again, a tale of blunders and stupidity by ‘higher authority’ on both sides, these are campaign little known to British readers (August 2024).

Profits Without Honour: The British armaments industry and the Great War recounts Britain’s contribution to the undermining of world peace throughout the Victorian and Edwardian eras. It includes annotated versions of two pre-war, anti-war books: The War Traders by George Herbert Perris, and Le Patriotisme des Plaques Blindes: L’affaire Poutiloff by Francis Delaisi (October 2024).

And finally, The Almanac of the First Day of the Somme. The complete Orders of Battle of the three armies involved on that day, with biographical details of all commanders from Brigadier Generals upwards, and maps and brief descriptions of the actions in which their units were involved on 1st July 1916 (December 2024).

He hopes then to complete J Jour: The Attack of the French, 1st July 1916 sometime in later 2025. After that, who knows?