Stonehenge, King Arthur and Who Killed Wally?

Did English Heritage deliberately decide to open the new mega-million pound visitor centre days before the winter solstice with an exhibit of human remains that they knew would attract protest in order to get maximum publicity  – or was that just a coincidence?

whose heritage“Dozens of druids have staged a protest over the displaying of human bones at Stonehenge’s new £27m visitor centre. Senior druid King Arthur Pendragon, who led the demonstration at the opening of the centre, had threatened “the biggest protest in Europe” over the exhibit. The new centre houses three sets of human remains excavated near the site, along with a shop and café….. Mr Pendragon said that until the bones were taken off display and reburied, he would continue a campaign that will cost English Heritage money and turn the public against them. He has claimed the bones discovered in 2008 are the remains of members of the royal line and wants them reinterred. “Today was just a shot across the bows – it was just a taster,” he said”                                                                                    BBC News 18.12.13

KIng Arthur protest
‘King Arthur’ protesting at Stonehenge

This is not the first time the authorities have found themselves the focus of protest over the stones (and likely not the last). Back in the seventies the then official guardians of the stones, the Department of the Environment and the National Trust, faced a protest over who had the right to call the stones ‘theirs’ from a band of intrepid hippies who all went by the name of Wally.

“A strange hippie cult calling themselves ‘Wallies’ claim God told them to camp at Stonehenge. The Wallies of Wiltshire turned up in force at the High Court today. There was Kris Wally, Alan Wally, Fritz Wally, Sir Walter Wally, Wally Egypt and a few other wandering Wallys. The sober calm of the High Court was shattered as the Wallies of Stonehenge sought justice.”
                                               The Times, August 13th 1974

At the end of the first Stonehenge Free festival in 1974 a group of around thirty people stayed on and set up a camp of tents, a rickety polythene-covered geodesic dome and a small fluorescent painted tipi in a field next to the stones. The group lived as an open commune “Dancing, frolicking, acting out the Gospel of Free using Stonehenge as a cosmic wrist-watch with domes and dogs, and horses, and music, and troub’ador costumes, and giant shirts embroidered with the Eye of Horus.

Wallys at Stonehenge 1974

To get an eviction order required the Department of the Environment and the National Trust to serve a High Court injunction on named individuals. Aware of a potential legal loophole the group had agreed that they would answer only to the name of Wally. The ludicrous summonses against Phil Wally, Sid Wally, Arthur Wally, Chris Wally, etc set the scene for the somewhat surreal trial that followed.

“… A lady Wally called Egypt with bare feet and bells on her ankles blew soap bubbles in the rarefied legal air and knelt to meditate. Sir Walter Wally wore a theatrical Elizabethan doublet with blue jeans and spoke of peace and equality and hot dogs. Kevin Wally chain-smoked through a grotesque mask and gave the victory sign to embarrassed pin-striped lawyers …”                                 The Times, August 13th 1974

The Court inevitably found in favour of the ‘owners’ of the Stones. The Salisbury Journal reported that one Wally Hope saw the defeat as a victory “We won. We’d have won whatever happened. We were playing with the Ace of Hearts. The judge told us that we were 100 per cent good people We have won because we made friends with him. We made friends with our lawyer. We made friends with you reporters. What more can you want out of life than to make friends?”  The Wallies moved their camp, now known as ‘Fort Wally’, six feet to one side to a piece of common land. The group also set up a “Wally Squat” in the nearby town of Amesbury. The camp, remained in place until after the Winter Solstice. The name`Wally’ has become identified with one man, Phil Russell, who is credited with the idea of having a festival at the Stones and had written and published much of the promotional material for the first festival. Although the Wally camp was run as an open free commune, Russell saw himself as the leader and was said to have marched round issuing orders that no one paid much attention to. Russell died in 1975 after being arrested and drugged in a mental hospital just prior to the ‘75 Stonehenge Festival. Released after the festival he died later that summer in circumstances that have never been really fully explained.

“Our generation is the best mass movement in history – experimenting with anything in our search for love and peace. Knowledge kicks religion life but even if it leads us to our death at least we’re all trying together Our temple is sound we fight our battles with music drums like thunder cymbals like lighting banks of electronic equipment like nuclear missiles of sound. We have guitars instead of tommy-guns.”
                               Phil Russell, aka Wally Hope1974

Phil Russell had grown up in Essex near a place called Dial House an ‘open door’ community started in 1967 in a semi-derelict house as an avant-garde/ anarchist cultural community centre by JJ Ratter and Gee Vaucher. It was here that Phil/Wally got support for his Stonehenge plans – other festival organisers had initially opposed his ideas on the grounds that they would distract from energy going into Windsor and then later Watchfield. The events surrounding Wally Hope’s death led to / were the catalyst for the formation at Dial House of one of the seminal bands of the punk era. Taking Wally Hope’s revolutionary cry on being released after the Wally trial of “guitars instead of guns” those living at Dial House at the time changed their names and became CRASS. (JJ Ratter/Penny Rimbaud, in what turned out to be a piece of counterculture myth-making, took the ashes of Wally Hope to be scattered at Stonehenge during the summer solstice at the ‘76 Free Festival.)

Interview with Penny Rimbaud about Phil Russel/Wally Hope

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