The Glossy Ibis ; a rare bird in Victorian Nottinghamshire

Glossy Ibis is a bird from warmer, southern climes such as the Mediterranean. Even nowadays, it is quite a rare species in the county:

glos ibis

On October 27, 1909, a single bird was shot by Fred Smith at Misson in the very north eastern corner of the county, almost in Yorkshire. This latter county had, for reasons unknown, received an influx of at least fourteen birds during this month of October 1909.  The orange arrow marks the spot. The county boundary with Yorkshire, to the north west, is indicated by the perforated line and must be only a few hundred yards away:

Untitled

Two interesting letters to Joseph Whitaker tell the story.

Dear Sir,
I have the pleasure of dropping you a line in reply to yours, duly received. A man named Fred Smith, who I fear is a shocking poacher, shot the bird, Glossy Ibis, in question. His wife took it to a game dealer, at Doncaster, whose name is Borrill, his shop being in St Sepulchre Gate . He gave her the large sum of one shilling for it, after endeavouring to get it for sixpence.
A doctor bought it from Borrill and is having it stuffed for the museum. I am sorry to have forgotten the doctor’s name, but no doubt the game dealer would tell you if you wrote him. You will forgive me, I hope, for not knowing your book.
I also love birds and used to keep a great many – once I had 46. We still have a few in a good-sized aviary in a greenhouse and my little daughter aged 11  is much interested in birds and has lately acquired several volumes at a cost of £3.10 shillings on the subject.
Yours faithfully,
FW Keane

Glossy_Ibis_1700_e

Joseph Whitaker followed the clues and two months later, he received further information from Dr Corbett himself:

9, Priory Place,
Doncaster
11. 11. 09

Dear Sir,
Mr Borrill showed me your letter re-the Glossy Ibis. All I know of it is that it was exposed in his shop with other wildfowl & I was, fortunately for me, the first to “spot” it & purchase it for the local museum of which I am the curator. If ever you are in Doncaster I shall be pleased to show it to you.
Yours truly,
HH Corbett

Anybody who missed that dead specimen in Doncaster in 1909 had a very long wait to see another Glossy Ibis in Nottinghamshire. In the winter of 2013-2014, a single bird was seen in a flooded roadside field next to the Peugeot Garage in Lowdham, near to the River Trent in the south of the county. southern Nottinghamshire:

lowdham

Most people who wanted to see a Glossy Ibis were able to watch this particular individual which was very amenable and reliable in its appearances. It attracted a steady stream of admirers, and was very easy to see::

Watching an Ibis copyright a

A more spectacular species of Ibis to occur in  Nottinghamshire in the future might well be the Sacred Ibis. This bird normally lives in sub-Saharan Africa, but, in actual fact, there is a healthy feral population in western France. It would not be outrageous for them to cross the Channel:

Ibis

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Fashion in Nottingham in 1760

In recent months, I have been completely hooked by “The Date-Book of Remarkable Memorable Events Connected With Nottingham and Its Neighbourhood 1750-1879”, by John Frost Sutton. It records a world so similar and yet so different to our own. Fashion, for example:

“Here are a few words explanatory of the costume of the period. The dress of the upper and middle classes being then, as now, a model for those beneath, may be regarded as sufficiently indicative of the prevailing style.”

“Ladies were attired in stiff stays, tightly laced”:

Tight_lacing

“….tightly laced over the stomacher, and long in the waist, causing the upper portion of the figure to resemble the letter V.”

Like this:

white corset

The stomacher could usually be removed from one dress and transferred to another. In this way, it was possible to ‘mix-and-match’ designs and colours. Here are two stomachers of the period:

“The thinness of the waist appeared still more striking by the sudden fullness of the gown, occasioned by the hooped petticoat.”

Here are two hooped petticoats, both modern. One is structured horizontally, the other vertically:

Here’s the fullest dress I could find. And yes, that is a fabric called “cloth-of-silver”:

m 18th-century-court-gown-cloth-of-silver

“A close head-dress, and shoes with high heels of divers colours, completed the ensemble. Gentlemen were much more gay in their apparel than would now be thought consistent with good taste. Claret-coloured cloths were deemed very handsome in the circles of high fashion, and suits of light blue, with silver buttonholes and silver garters at the knees, were quite in the mode.”

Here are two suits, one in blue and the other in claret. West Ham eat your hearts out:

“Perukes, of light grey human hair, were worn”:

“Dark hair was of no estimation whatever”:

dark wig

Men used to wear:

“A large cocked hat, called “the Keven Huller, which was about six inches broad in the brim.”

This was named after Keven Huller, a now long forgotten Austrian general who fought against the armies of the French Revolutionaries and then Napoleon himself, in the last decade of the eighteenth century.I  have been unable to find any picture of this fashionable hat from long ago. Men also wore:

“a square-cut coat, and a long-flapped waistcoat, and shoe-buckles of an enormous size”.

Here is a long waistcoat:

buckles

Here are some rather attractive shoe buckles:

sghoeds

Their overcoat might be

” a heavy dragoon type with wide gold braid”

overcoat

I have been unable to find any picture of the type of hat with the so-called “Denmark Cock high at the back, low in the front and tilted forward” or indeed the “Dettingen Cock” or the “Monmouth Cock”  style of headgear.

 

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B-25 Bomber Virtual Tour

Do try this tour of a B-25 Mitchell bomber, created by the Poltrack Family. It is really, really good and well worth your time.

Poltrack Family

North American B-25 Mitchell: The Ultimate Look: From Drawing Board to Flying Arsenal

My Uncle Ed Poltrack piloted 60 missions in the Pacific Theatre in WWII. He piloted a B-25 Mitchell Bomber.  The National Museum of the Air Force  website has an interactive photo  gallery of the interior of this aircraft (see the links under the photo). Note:Ed piloted a variation of the original design in which the transparent nose was replaced with two fixed machine guns.

38th Bomb Group - 823rd Squadron 38th Bomb Group – 823rd Squadron

Click on links to see a 360 degree view of the interior of this aircraft (links open in new window)

Pilot Station

Bombadier

Radio Operator

Tail Gunner

Ed Poltrack in Cockpit Ed Poltrack in Cockpit

From Ed Poltrack’s War Diary — Sunday, April 15, 1944 – Mission #48

Mission to Hollandia. Nil interception. Nil ack-ack. On return met a solid front near Bogadjim. Turned toward coast and found a hole on…

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Leprechauns in Liverpool

The fact that a small group of children in Nottingham claim to have seen gnomes in leafy Wollaton Park seems incredible, almost ludicrous, in the cold light of day, but it is by no means an isolated incident.

I have spoken in the past of so-called “UFO flaps”, when many sightings occur in just one small area. An example would be the Nottingham UFO flap of July 1967. Similar events occurred nationally in 1964, although this time it involved gnomes, pixies, leprechauns, fairies and their ilk rather than extraterrestrial spacecraft:

ufo-progress19

What was particularly bizarre though, was that the little people, who were seen in three separate places in England during the course of the year, were not closely linked with one particular city, but occurred independently hundreds of miles from each other.

And these widely separated events cannot possibly have been interlinked, because communication in those days was so limited and so private. Just letters or postcards. Telephones were a lot less frequent than you might imagine. You read only national newspapers or your own local paper. Local newspapers from distant cities were more or less unobtainable. The only television was national television… not really a medium for gnomes and fairies!

It sometimes seems that goblins and their ilk are part of our natural landscape and seem to pop out into our world on a rare but fairly regular basis. I presume that this is why nowadays a lot of modern folklorists tend to equate widespread ancient belief in gnomes and their various friends with our current widespread modern belief in space aliens, little green men and tales of abduction.

gnome-alone-trailer

It is this process of flitting between dimensions which remains the same over thousands of years, even if those who do it may have slightly differently coloured clothes and a vastly changed appearance.

And their activites are the same too. After all, how much difference is there between fairies who hold people hostage in their fairy realm and our modern tales of UFOs and extra-terrestrial kidnap?

Back to the simpler stuff.

On June 30th 1964, children saw varying numbers of “little men” in Jubilee Park, Liverpool. Here is the entrance to the park. No Leprechauns in sight yet:

jub park

Nobody knows exactly what the children saw. The little men had “white hats”, and were all seen to be enthusiastically throwing clods of earth at each other.
It took the children very little time indeed to put two and two together, and within minutes they had made a “Positive I.D.” and decided that the little men were, in fact, leprechauns.

chaun

Don’t just a few of the Leprechaun Community look really menacing? It spoils it for the rest.

The following day, July 1st 1964, all the local newspapers claimed that thousands of children had started a hunt, following reports that little green men or leprechauns had been seen near the Bowling Green in Jubilee Park on Jubilee Drive in Liverpool. This was in the Edgeline district in the eastern suburbs of the city. A huge orange arrow has been fired right into the middle of the Bowling Green. No Leprechauns were injured:

jubillee drive

Very soon, Members of the Police Community had to be called in to control the crowds:

volume

A nine year old boy told a reporter that he had seen little men in white hats, throwing stones and mud at each other on the Bowling Green. Another local boy, fourteen year-old David Wilson, claimed to have seen several small green creatures about two feet high running around a haystack on a farm near to the Edgeline Estate:

green alien

A little girl said:

“I was one of the school children that saw those leprechauns. I attended Brae Street School and we all saw them popping in and out of a window overlooking the school yard. There were about four of them, all tiny, dressed like a school book idea of a typical gnome and they sat swinging their legs on the window ledge getting in and out. What they were I don’t know. I only know what they looked like. I’d love to know the truth!!!”

Another child said:

“I remember the siege of St Mary’s Church when the police and Father Rose (or Father Spain) appealed for calm. I was one of the huge crowd of children shouting out “there they are”.
Someone said they had crossed the road into St Mary’s Infants School and were now hiding in the lockers (small cube-like cupboards). I never slept for days, and have had a fear of these type of cupboards to this day, which is still tested as my grandchildren’s nursery school use something similar.”

Nobody ever found the leprechaun who was sitting quietly smoking his pipe:

leprechaun

A further witness said:

“I certainly remember the leprechauns, and I actually saw a few of them on Kensington Fields, close to the library, but my parents and other adults tried to convince me that I”d been seeing things. This would be one afternoon in early July 1964, around 4.30pm, and I remember it as if it were yesterday. I was ten at the time and on my way to play football with my mates and saw these little (I’d say just a few inches tall) men dressed in red and black, standing in the grass, looking at me. I’m sure one of them had some type of hat on. I panicked and ran all the way home. My mum said there had been reports of leprechauns and little men on Jubilee Drive and Edge Lane the day before. That same evening crowds turned up on Jubilee Drive, and I remember a girl with a jam jar that she was going to put the leprechauns in!”

The Bowling Green was so crowded that the police attenpted to clear the park and to guard it from the bands of children who were tearing up plants and turf in the search for the little creatures.

Rimrose-Valley-Country

A rather bewildered Park Constable James Nolan had to wear a crash helmet to protect himself from the children throwing stones. At the time of the incident Constable Nolan was one of some fifty City and Parks Police Officers who patrolled the city on blue coloured Vespa scooters with a fixed radio mounted on it – in those days it was state of the art in police communications.

A local woman said to reporters at the time:

“This all started on Tuesday, how I just don’t know, but the sooner it ends the better. Stones have been thrown on the Bowling Green, and for the second night running no one has been able to play. The kids just won’t go away. Some swear they have seen leprechauns. The story has gone round and now we are being besieged by Leprechaun Hunters.”

Here is the Bowling Green in more recent times:

bowling-green liver

Such was the desperation of the children’s search that the police had to set up a temporary first aid shelter to treat at least a dozen children who suffered from cuts and bruises. The evening newspapers described the strange visitors as “little green men in white hats, with rhinestones and hurling tiny clubs of earth at each other.”

Thousands of children organised an extensive hunt for them, tearing up plants and turf, scaling surrounding walls, and searching empty houses well beyond the boundaries of Jubilee Park. Eddie McArdle  recalled:

“I remember the story well as I have a scar as a constant reminder of the event. We, the kids from St Marie’s, Kirkby, went en masse into the church and as we hunted the little people, some bright spark shouted that they were coming out after us. Panic ensued and as we all fled quicker than we entered. A boy who is sadly no longer with us swung the church gate in his haste to escape, and I was hit on the forehead by the metal cross on it. The lad, Danny Callahan, didn’t even know he had injured me as he was well up the street and along Elric Walk where I lived. I had to have my head stitched by Dr Cole. As far as I know I was the only person injured by the little visitors. “

Life was getting no easier for Park Constable Nolan, who called in the City Police. Constables in cars and on motorcycles arrived.

untitled

They again attempted to clear the hundreds of youngsters from the bowling greens, which were the alleged playground of the Leprechauns. But the youngsters still thronged there, toddlers to teenagers. They crowded onto the top of the covered reservoir for a better view of the bowling green. Tolerant policemen tried to get the youngsters to leave, but the children would not accept that there were no Leprechauns. Only at 10.00pm was the park finally cleared of children.

Over the next few days, thousands of kids visited not just Jubilee Park, but nearly all of the parks in the City. Some of the Leprechauns still managed to look a bit “iffy”:

Leprechaun_1_leprechaun

The Little People were seen in Abercromby Park, in Stanley Park, in Newsham Park, and in Sefton Park, where a 13-year-old girl said she even grabbed one little man but he slithered from her grasp and fled laughing.

In Kirkby it took almost a fortnight for the clergy and the police to clear more than two hundred children from the graves and tombs of St Chad’s Church where it was believed fairies were living. Certainly, witnesses had repeatedly seen elfin figures dancing in the moonlight and, a sure sign of the supernatural, a crop circle had appeared. A month or more afterwards trolls were repeatedly seen  outside St Mary’s Church in Northwood.

But then gradually reports became fewer and fewer and further and further in between, until the City returned slowly but surely to its humdrum normality.

I would have been unable to tell this long forgotten, and rather peculiar story, were it not for the very many places where it can be read in all of its very many different variations. Some of the links are all here in this short paragraph.

I found the story originally in one of a series of absolutely marvellous books by John Hanson and Dawn Holloway. This particular one is ““Haunted Skies: The Encyclopedia of British UFOs Volume 2 1960-1965”.  I would recommend these books most strongly:

volume

 

 

 

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Cooper Hewitt Design Museum’s Interactive Experience

I did not write this blog post. It was written by Susan and is one of the most interesting blogs I follow. If you are too busy for all of it, just read the first section about interactive pens. It is really, really imaginative!!

Finding NYC

IMG_1058

Although most people associate Smithsonian museums with Washington, DC, New York City is host to two very special Smithsonian museums: the National Museum of the American Indian, which we’ve previously explored here and here, and the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum. Located in what was once the mansion of successful businessman Andrew Carnegie, Cooper Hewitt’s surroundings and ever-changing exhibitions are fascinating and inspiring.

What makes Cooper Hewitt particularly fun to visit is its interactive features. When visitors step up to the ticket counter, they are given an pen that holds all kinds of possibilities. As you tour the museum, you can “collect” information about individual exhibits that interest you. Each exhibit has a special symbol on the sign describing the exhibit and, by pressing your pen to that symbol, it saves that information in a digital file. You are given a unique identifier for your pen and visit…

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More and more water, most of it under Trent Bridge (2)

Last time, I left you awaiting the arrival of Ragnar Lothbrok and his rather fierce friends in Anglo-Saxon Nottingham.

Well, by 867, Anglo-Saxon Nottingham had been well and truly captured by the Vikings and it became one of the Five Boroughs of the Danelaw. There may have been little in the way of extreme weather in this era, but their names were fabulous. The Five Boroughs of the Danelaw is a striking enough phrase, but the name of the army which made Snotingaham, at sword point, an offer they could not refuse, is, quite simply, wonderful. A thousand years before Heavy Metal bands, they rejoiced in the name of “The Great Heathen Army“. And here they are. They’re really quite handsome, aren’t they?

Then again, I really don’t see them as a group of people capable of waiting quietly for a bus: vikingsaaaa Another episode of extreme weather on the rain front came in 1141 when there was another Great Flood. And once again, the flooding was caused, as in 1947, by the mechanism of a sudden melt of large quantities of snow after prodigious amounts of rain. People in 1141 looked like this. Around this time there was clearly a significant risk for everybody of just rusting solid into one great mass:

NormanAdvanceIn 1309, Hethbeth Bridge, the medieval precursor of today’s Trent Bridge, was washed away by severe winter floods.  A small fragment of this old bridge is still visible on the road island at the southern end of the modern Trent Bridge: 771942beth heth xxxxxxxxxxx If you go to see it, be very careful. Traffic nowadays is much more dangerous than “The Great Heathen Army”. Look for the orange arrow:

trent

In 1346, little detail has come down to us, other than:

“from mid-summer to Christmas, the rains fell almost without intermission”.

The River Trent duly experienced:

“One of the earliest recorded floods.”

In 1499 Richard Mellers, the husband of Dame Agnes Mellers, of High School fame, is known to have given twenty shillings to help repair one of an apparent succession of Hethbeth Bridges, but it was pretty much in vain, as the Great Flood of 1683 washed a good proportion of it away. Here are two men in 1683. That’s not a look you can just throw together:

Cavaliersxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

The worst ever flood in Nottingham was the so-called “Candlemas Flood” of February 1795, when two months of continuous ice and snow all melted extremely rapidly. Every single bridge on the entire River Trent was either damaged or washed away, including the Hethbeth Bridge for the umpteenth time. In the Narrow Marsh area of the city, around what is nowadays Canal Street and the land to the south of St Mary’s Church, the residents were all trapped in the upstairs of their houses and had to be given food from boats. At Wilford, up to 100 sheep were drowned and ten cows perished in West Bridgford. That doesn’t sound much, but they only had twelve.

The late eighteenth century provided some wonderfully ornate dresses, all guaranteed to keep you afloat until help arrived:

1255636099-marie_antoinette

Another less severe flood came in November 1852 when the peak flow of the Trent was measured at some 38,200 cubic feet per second, between twelve and thirteen times the normal levels. A second, slightly worse Victorian inundation came in October 1875 when floodwater was up to six feet deep. During this latter flood the peak flow of the Trent was 45,000 cubic feet per second, fifteen times the normal levels. On Wilford Road an overcrowded cart was washed away and six people were killed. Higher up the river, huge numbers of farm animals were drowned and they must have been a ghastly sight as they floated down to the sea past Trent Bridge:

image_update_24bd582809133d58_1342017794_9j-4aaqsk

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Eyewitnesses in the Sky

This account, by International Historical Research Associates, is fascinating. Hopefully, these two atomic bombs will be the only ones ever used in war.

IHRA

Today, August 6, 2015, marks 70 years since the first atomic weapon was used during World War II. Whether or not an atomic bomb should have been used is still up for debate, but that’s not the purpose of this post. The stories of those that were near Hiroshima at the time aren’t very well known. Crews that were flying missions that day were limited and specifically directed to stay at least 50 miles away from Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Kokura, although they weren’t told why. Later on, the news about the atomic bomb broke. Reactions ranged from disbelief that such a thing was possible to hope that the war would soon be over. We have three eyewitness accounts from men of the 43rd Bomb Group, who were stationed on the island of Ie Shima and flying daily missions over Japan.

8/6-8/7/45 Account from Dick Wood, member of the 63rd Bomb…

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