Monthly Archives: September 2015

Gulls are the most puzzling of birds….

An extract from my old birdwatching diary, “Crippling Views”

Friday, September 23rd 1988

Another lunchtime visit to the local nature reserve at Attenborough. Look for the orange arrows:

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Paul has given me a stakeout for the Yellow-legged Herring Gull that is supposed to have been down here for the past few weeks, on and off :

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I also would like another look at the funny duck that was down here two days ago.  Unfortunately, the duck is not there when I stroll over to the river, and I have to abandon hope on this one, after a good scout round.

A brief inspection of the birch trees near the car park however does reveal the YLHG, which I feel fairly sure is the same bird that I saw two years previously on the Trent sluices at Colwick, four or five miles or so further up the river. The legs are a cracking bright yellow colour, but I am to a certain extent puzzled by the paleness in the grey of the bird’s back, which, according to Grant’s excellent guidebook “Gulls: a stringer’s guide” should be significantly darker than the normal Herring Gull, but I would say that this individual is definitely quite a bit paler than it should be. This is a normal Herring Gull:

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I am further puzzled by the presence on one of the lakes of an obvious Lesser Black-backed Gull. That bird, of course, has yellow legs, but again, seems paler than one might expect. Is it, therefore, a Darker-than-Normal-Yellow-legged Herring Gull?  Or a Lighter-than-Normal-Lesser Black-backed Gull? Who knows? And I am actually beginning to think:

“Who really cares?”

Here is a Lesser Black-backed Gull:

lesser black zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

And if so, then what is the first bird?

I hate gulls. You’re always on your own when you see them. Or else you are with people so expert that they only ever discuss unbelievably rare birds and never ever mention common ones.

“Did you see the Red-Legged Kittiwake at Flamborough last week?”

“No, but I was lucky enough to find another Relict Gull yesterday, up near the lighthouse, second winter, third in the brood, it had a slight cough.”

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Anyway, I tick the Attenborough Two as two more Firsts for Britain, namely California Gull and Slaty-backed Gull. Who knows? They might be.

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I make my way back to the car park. On the way I see a kingfisher:

Common_Kingfisher_

Thank God. At least you know where you are with a kingfisher. You never have to worry whether it’s a Glaucous Kingfisher or a Glaucous-winged Kingfisher.  A Brünnich’s Kingfisher or a Lesser Crested Kingfisher. It is just a kingfisher, a good bird to spot.

Gulls are the most puzzling of birds. Every single group of ten or more seems to contain at least one individual that might be of another very similar species. No wonder that American birdwatchers are reputed to arm themselves with photographic colour charts which allow a damned sight more than fifty shades of grey to be distinguished one from another.

And so many gull species hybridise on a regular basis. This is a frequent hybrid, the so-called “Nelson’s Gull”:

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It has characteristics reminiscent of both Herring Gull and Glaucous Gull, its two parents:

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On the other hand, it is really quite wonderful how Mother Nature can create so many different species across the whole world using black, white and grey as the colours from the genetic paint box, with mainly red, yellow or black for the beak and legs.

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Filed under Nottingham, Science, Twitching, Wildlife and Nature

Notts £100 million striker (1877-1891) (second half)

In my previous blogpost about Harry Cursham, the Notts County superstar, I wrote for the most part about his exploits in the F.A.Cup. At the time, the F.A.Cup was the only official competition in existence for football clubs. Apart from international matches, which, with just four countries, permitted only three games per season, Harry could only play in friendly games until some bright spark invented the Football League in 1888.

Here is an abridged version of Harry’s exploits in friendly fixtures. For me, the most wonderful things are the evocative names of some of those long defunct clubs.

In 1877-1878, Harry scored a hat trick on his début at home against Stoke (4-1), and five goals in an away game against Manchester (6-0). He got four in an 8-2 victory over Derby Grammar School, and also appeared in an amazing 1-10 defeat at Southwell. Harry would have worn this kit:

notts_county_1877-1878

The photograph below shows the Notts.County team which played a prestige friendly against Queens’ Park, of Glasgow, Scotland, on November 18th 1877 at Hampden Park.

(back row) Erasmus Keely, Fred Rothera, Arthur Ashwell (Umpire), Harold Greenhalgh, Harry  Cursham, George Seals. (front row) Richard Greenhalgh, Arthur Cursham, Ernest Greenhalgh, Tom Oliver, S.Keely. Henry Jessop is sitting on the floor. As well as Harry, Arthur Ashwell, Arthur Cursham, Henry Jessop, Tom Oliver and George Seals were all ex-High School pupils:

q park

In 1880-1881, Harry scored 13 goals in 10 appearances, including five at home to Sheffield (8-1), a game in which fellow Old Nottinghamian Harold Morse scored the other three goals. He scored five more goals in what was then Notts’ record winning margin, namely 15-1 at home to Newark.

In 1881-1882, Harry produced 21 goals in just 15 appearances. By now an outside left, he scored four at home to Staveley (7-0) and Derby Midland (7-2), and four more away to Pilgrims (5-1). He scored twos at home to the Old Carthusians (5-1) and the Sheffield Club (5-1) and away to Nottingham Forest (5-0). At one point, he managed 16 goals in six consecutive games (1-2-2-2-4-4 ). In addition, the scorers of three goals in a 5-0 victory over the Sheffield Club remain unknown, as do all the goalscorers in a 13-0 rout of Grantham. It is surely beyond credence that Harry did not score at least once in this particular game.

In 1882-1883, he scored 29 goals in 16 appearances. Having moved to centre forward, he opened the season with six goals against a Local Clubs’ XI (10-1) and scored four at home to Stoke (5-0) with four away at Sheffield (8-2). He got a hat trick in a 10-0 home win over Mitchell St.George’s, and scored twos at home against Sheffield (8-1), Liverpool Ramblers (3-1),Walsall (7-2) and Wednesbury Old Athletic (6-1) and away against Aston Villa (2-1). At one point, Harry managed 16 goals in five games (6-2-2-4-2 ). The scorers remain unknown in a 5-1 victory at Stoke:

harry 1

The 1883-1884 season produced 22 goals in 21 appearances. Playing mainly as an outside left, Harry scored four goals in a 5-1 victory over Padiham, and hat tricks at home to Sheffield Attercliffe (6-2) and Brentwood (3-2). He got twos in a 6-1 home victory over the South of England and in a 4-1 home win against Great Lever.

The following season of 1884-1885, he was to score 19 goals in just 22 appearances, with four in an 8-0 home victory over Derby Midland, and twos at home to Sheffield (6-2), Notts Rangers (6-2), Corinthians (3-2), and, most important of all, against Nottingham Forest, in a 3-2 home victory. He played this season mostly as an outside left, but in January, Harry missed the games against Blackburn Olympic (1-1) and Preston North End (2-3), as he was in mourning for his brother, Arthur, who, having recently emigrated, had died in Pera, Florida on Christmas Eve at the age of only 32, of what was variously called malarial fever or yellow fever. In the game against Blackburn Olympic, the County team all wore black crêpe armbands as a mark of respect. Here is the Olympic team:

blackburn1886

Immediately before the start of this season, “Mercutio”, in his “Nottingham Football Annual”, had described Harry Cursham as:

“A grand forward. Plays on either wing, and has distinguished himself in the centre. Is at his best perhaps on the left, in which position he frequently evokes admiration by the brilliancy of his runs. A splendid shot at goal, and altogether one of the best men of the day.”

In 1885-1886 Harry managed hat tricks at home to West Bromwich Albion (4-3) and Nottingham Forest (5-0). The next season there were 15 goals in 23 games as Harry, by now back at inside left, scored goals steadily throughout the season. He cannot, though, have enjoyed Notts’ narrow 0-14 defeat at the hands of Preston North End, “The Invincibles”, who were to win the first ever Football League Championship in 1888-1889. They were one of the greatest teams in the history of the Football League:

preston-north-end-1889-514

In the last season before the establishment of the Football League, 1887-1888, Harry, now operating at either left or right full back scored only 2 goals in 19 games. They both came in a 4-0 home victory over Grimsby Town, one of only three games in the forward line. Here is the Notts kit from 1888-1890:notts_county_1880-1890

In 1888-1889, Harry, still a right back, became one of the small number of High School boys to have played League football. He played eight times and his two goals came when he reverted to centre forward, in home victories over West Bromwich Albion (2-1) and Wolverhampton Wanderers (3-0). The latter effort, scored after two goals from Ted May, was his last goal for Notts County.

In matches other than F.A.Cup ties, therefore, Harry managed a minimum of 158 goals in 183 appearances. When the F.A.Cup ties are added in, his career total becomes a phenomenal 235 goals in 202 appearances. In very many games, of course, the scorers’ names have been lost and we have no means of knowing if that total of 235 is too low.

On March 18th 1882, Harry refereed the friendly match between Nottingham Forest and a Trent-Wanderers Combination. In this match, Forest’s goalkeeper, John Sands, came out of goal, and scored a goal, surely one of the first times that this had ever happened in football history.

Some years after this, Harry refereed the friendly game between Nottingham Forest and Notts Rangers (0-2), one of the Nottingham’s first ever matches under floodlights. The game kicked off at 8 p.m., on Monday, March 25th 1889. The lighting was provided by Wells lights, fourteen of which were set up around the ground. Powered by oil, they provided, in theory, some 14,000 candlepower each. More than 5,000 spectators were attracted to this unusual game.

Given his amazing record as a goalscorer, Harry was to play for England on several occasions:

h cursham

He made his début in 1880 as an outside right, a late replacement in the team as England beat Wales by 3-2 at Wrexham. In 1882, he played as outside left in a record away performance at Belfast in Ireland. Harry scored one goal of England’s thirteen, without reply from the Irish. Here are the Irish, looking very dapper:

M014Ire1882Ire 13-0

Later that year he played as a left half against Scotland in Glasgow, a game the English lost, rather unluckily, by five goals to one. Can you spot the fresh faced Harry in the picture below?

sco 5 eng 1

This particular game was refereed by the splendidly named official, Mr Segar R Bastard. Crowds were to recognise his offspring in innumerable matches down the years.

Harry then scored one goal as England lost by 3-5 to Wales at Wrexham. In February, 1883, he celebrated being in the same England team as his Old Nottinghamian brother, Arthur, by scoring a goal in a 5-0 revenge victory over the Welsh.  In the same month, as an outside left, he helped England beat the Irish by 7-0 at Liverpool. In March 1883, he again appeared with his brother Arthur, this time as a left half, losing to Scotland by 2-3 at Sheffield.

This is the England team which played against Scotland at Sheffield on March 10th 1883. It contained three Notts County players, and two Old Nottinghamians, one of whom, Harry Cursham, is seated second from the left on the middle row. His brother, Arthur Cursham, may be the player seated on the left of the front row, and half back Stuart Macrae is possibly the player at the right hand end of the middle row. Readers may wish to look at other pictures of Notts County, and decide for themselves !

eng v sco 1883

On February 25th 1884, as outside left, Harry scored a hat-trick in England’s 8-1 victory over Ireland in Belfast. This was his last game for England, and he had scored five goals in eight appearances at this level. This remains the record number of England international caps by a Notts County player. What a pity there were only three games per season. What a pity Harry Cursham never played against Andorra, San Marino, Liechtenstein or Gibraltar. What goals Harry would have scored!

After leaving Notts County, Harry played an unrecorded number of games for Grantham:

Grantham_Town_FC_logoOn March 12th 1891, Harry appeared for the Nottingham High School Old Boys at the Gregory Ground, in their fixture against the current High School First Team. Not surprisingly, perhaps, the Old Boys won by 3-1, with Harry getting their second goal midway through the second half. In 1896, Harry, along with Tinsley Lindley, was invited to play in the first ever “Gentlemen versus Players” game, a prestigious friendly, which would help to make absolutely clear to all the working class spectators the rigid class differences and privileges in force in the hierarchical society of the time. To both men’s credit, they refused the opportunity, preferring to watch a local derby match, Forest v County.

By 1929, Harry was living at “The Firs”, Holme Pierrepoint:

old man

Harry passed away peacefully there on Wednesday, August 6th 1941, at the age of eighty-two. He was survived by his widow, and his daughter, Mrs.R.S.Challands. Harry had two sons. One, Curzon, was a solicitor, while the other son, Francis George, was a Major in the 8th Battalion of the Sherwood Foresters during the Great War. He was tragically killed in an accident on active service at Aldershot on August 31st 1918, at the age of only twenty-nine.

Harry’s funeral took place at Holme Pierrepont Parish Church on Saturday, August 9th 1941:

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His old friend, the Archdeacon J.P.Hales took the service, assisted by Canon A.D.Allen, the Rector of the parish. Harry was buried behind the church. Harry’s wife, Frances Anne Elizabeth, was to pass away on March 8th 1946, at the age of eighty-two. She was buried with her husband:

grave

Only ten metres away from these two graves lies Harry’s other son, Curzon. He lived to a ripe old age, dying on June 17th 1981 just three weeks short of his 94th birthday. His wife, Sheila Moorhouse Cursham (1891-1968) is interred with him. Next to Harry and Frances lies his son, Francis:

son cursham-granve-a

By the way, the illustrations of the old football kits came from the best ever website for the soccer nerd and all the boys who had more than twenty different Subbuteo teams. New Brighton Tower 1898? Oh, yes.

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The Incredible Story of Frank Mahin, Volume III, 1921-1942

I have previously written three articles about Frank Mahin. The first recounted how he had carved his name on a stone fireplace in the High School:

mahin cccccc

The second article had a title very similar to this present one, but it was called The Incredible Story of Frank Mahin, Volume I, 1887-1909.

After that, I wrote the next one in the series, imaginatively entitled The Incredible Story of Frank Mahin, Volume II, 1908-1920.

And now, Dear Reader, The Incredible Story of Frank Mahin, Volume III, 1921-1942:

A survivor of the horrors of the Great War, Frank Cadle Mahin immediately resumed his formal military studies.  By 1925, and now promoted to Major Mahin, Frank was a “distinguished graduate” of the Command and General Staff School . He was graduated from the Army War College in 1929 and then became acting Inspector-General of the Panama Canal Department:

TTE_14_Panama_locks-2

I do not know if Frank was available to attend the 25th annual reunion of the Class of 1909 at his old “Alma Mater”, Harvard University in June 1934. Hopefully, if he did, Frank was not there to renew his friendship with Ernst Hanfstaengl, the Harvard graduate, personal friend of Adolf Hitler and the man who took his book, “Mein Kampf”, to the top of the German bestseller lists. According to Wikipedia, Ernst Hanfsteangl also:

“helped to finance the publication of the NSDA’s official newspaper, the Völkischer Beobachter. Adolf Hitler himself was the godfather of Hanfstaengl’s son Egon. Hanfstaengl wrote both Brownshirt and Hitler Youth marches patterned after his Harvard football songs and, he later claimed, devised the chant “Sieg Heil”.”

In 1923, just over ten years before the reunion of the Class of 1909, after the failure of the Beer Hall Putsch, a wounded Adolf Hitler had fled to “Putzi” Hanfstaengl’s house in Uffing, a village a short distance outside Munich. Supposedly, Mrs Hanfstaengl managed to dissuade Adolf from committing suicide, when the police came to arrest him. (What a difference that might have made to the world!).

As you might imagine, at Harvard in 1934, there was a certain kerfuffle about this gentleman and his anti-Semitic views, and here are two websites where you can read about these events. Meanwhile, here’s “Putzi” chatting to a couple of his pals about the games in the next round of the German Soccer Cup. “Putzi”, on the left, is happy to play as goalkeeper, Adolf demands to be team captain as his inalienable right and new team signing Hermann Göring promises to lose fifty kilos and play up front, probably on the extreme right:

Bundesarchiv_Bild_102-14080,_Berlin,_Hitler,_Göring_und_Hanfstaengl

In 1937, Frank was placed in command of the 3rd Infantry Division, nicknamed the “Rock of the Marne”, soldiers who were later, in November 1942, to land with General Patton’s task force on the coast of Morocco:

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They eventually overwhelmed the French Vichy defenders, in a highly contested amphibious landing, French fascist traitors v the Americans!
In 1939 Frank organized the 60th Infantry Regiment, the “Go Devils”, commanding them until October 1941, when he was promoted to Brigadier General:

60_IR_Coat_Of_Arms

The “Danville Bee” newspaper in Virginia carried a report of army war games played on June 6th 1941:

WAR GAMES
BRAGG DIX UNITS MOVE INTO BATTLE
Red Forces of South Pitted Against Outnumbered Northern Blues
By JOHN DAFFRON BOWLING GREEN
June.  A 14 mile no man’s land in northeastern Carolina soaked only by rain and reddened by of the north and south (sic) moved into bloodless battle today. At war technically since 5 p.m. yesterday when Second Army Corps Headquarters gave the word, the red forces of the south from Fort Bragg North Carolina pitted their motorized might against the three and a half to one superiority in manpower of the northern blue from Fort Dix New Jersey. There were 75 observers from the General Staff in Washington alone who with many other officers from the 28th and 29th divisions and the Second Army Corps staff moved out onto the battleground to watch the new army perform in modern manner. Planes of the 119th  Observation Squadron from Newark New Jersey scouted the camouflaged position of the Ninth Division southerners In the woodland five miles east of here while flying observers from Bragg based at Richmond droned over the men of the north encamped around Rappahannock Academy Virginia. Northern planes were based at the Quantico Marine Base Virginia. As the units jockeyed for position and closed the separating gap over ground rich in Confederate war lore only one major factor separated the impending battle for Garand and Springfield rifles held blanks in their cartridge clips and the artillery loads were not capped by shells. The khaki clad southern forces wearing red arm bands were under command of Colonel F. C. Mahin. They included the 60th Infantry Battalion Company of the Ninth Medical, one platoon of Company C, 15th Engineers, one section of the Ninth Signal Corps and the second squadron of the Third Horse Cavalry from Fort Myer leant to the Ninth Division for the maneuvers. Northern forces under command of Major General C R Powell comprised the entire 44th Division. They wore blue fatigue uniforms for battle dress. They slogged over terrain made muddy and heavy by several days of sporadic rain. Ironically they moved through woodland blackened by the fires that swept Caroline county forests during the prolonged drought which was broken only last week.”

Frank became a Major General after assuming command of the 33rd Division, nicknamed the “Illinois Division” or the “Prairie Division” at Camp Forrest, Tennessee in May 1942:

33rd_Infantry_Division_SSI_svg

Before his appointment, he had been assistant commander of the 45th Division, called “The Thunderbirds” at Camp Berkley in Texas:

600px-45thIBCTSSI
Sadly, on July 24, 1942, the apparently very capable Frank Cadle Mahin and two Army flyers were killed near Waynesboro, Tennessee in the crash of their Army observation plane, a North American O-47, Serial number 37-337. The official report said that the casualties perished as a result of a forced landing caused by engine failure. This explanation bears out the researches carried out by Frank’s wife, Mauree Pickering Mahin (see below).  Here is a North American O-47B of the 112th Observation Squadron, Ohio National Guard. It is preserved in the National Museum of the United States Air Force:

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This is an O-47B painted for the army manoeuvres of June 1941, detailed in the report of the “Danville Bee” newspaper above. The insignia on the fuselage shows that the aircraft was hastily painted as a member of “red force”:

220px-North_American_O-47B_1941

The fatal crash was reported as faraway as Perth, Western Australia, in their local newspaper, “The West Australian“:

newspaper

Frank’s death was also reported on the front pages of local newspapers:

newspaper reoport cccccc

Mrs. Walter Brewer, wife of the Wayne County Sheriff, said:

“The plane struck a tree five miles west of here, but did not burn”.

The three occupants were en route from Tullahoma to Fort Sill, Oklahoma. An Army official identified the two others killed as the pilot, Second Lieutenant Robert F. Turk of Wichita, Kansas, and a second passenger, Sergeant John Camerford of Alamo, Texas, both attached to the 127th Observation Squadron, nicknamed the “Jayhawks”, at Tullahoma:

127th_Observation_Squadron_-_Emblem

The 127th was a non-flying squadron operating the Distributed Common Ground System.
Frank’s wife, Mauree Pickering Mahin tells the harrowing tale in her autobiographical “Life in the American Army from the Frontier Days to Army Distaff Hall” :

“I had just fallen asleep when a knock came at the door and I saw Anna and Ernest come in so I knew something was wrong when I looked at their faces! I asked “Is it Dad?” and they both nodded “yes”. “Is he dead?” and again came the same reply. After a few minutes I said: “I think it’s better this way, as it is the way he would want to go; your dad was too intense a man to stand being incapacitated. Did it happen at Fort Sale?” Then Ernest spoke up: “No, Mother it happened at 10.30 this morning, in the mountains near Waynesboro, Tennessee.”

Mauree did her own research about the circumstances of the crash:

“The falling plane was seen by a man traveling on the road nearby, and he knew the terrain around there and was afraid the plane could not land safely any place, so he rushed to the scene and found all three occupants dead. He very quickly notified the Waynesboro Police and they notified the Camp Forrest Air Base. Then the Police immediately came out and picked up the three bodies and sent them on to Camp Forrest.

“And why did the Air Force cancel the Major’s promise to Dad that he would send Dad in his official four engine plane? No adequate explanation was given, and only a two engine plane was supplied. Dad’s chauffer remarked afterwards, that the engines sounded so terrible that he did not think the plane would ever get off the ground!”

Relatively few Old Nottinghamians have ever been murdered, and even fewer have perished as the result of a treasonous act:

“Not too long after that there was another similar accident from there, and an investigation revealed that one of the men who worked on both of those planes admitted he had done something to the engines of both of those planes, thus this was a real case of sabotage!”

I have not been able to trace what was done to this evil saboteur, but in most countries during time of war, the penalty would automatically have been death.

A memorial service was held for Frank at Camp Forrest, Tennessee on Saturday, July 25th, and then the family left for Washington later that afternoon. The interment in the National Cemetery at Arlington was on Tuesday, July 29th.

double grave xxxxxx

Major General Mahin is buried side by side with his son Colonel Frank Cadle Mahin Junior, a graduate of the West Point Class of 1944. The Major General is also commemorated in the Memorial Church at Harvard University. There is a list of the Harvard men who died in World War II, carved in stone on the wall at the right side of the church when facing the altar. There are ten columns. Frank has some very famous colleagues in this list, and it is very difficult to believe that he did not know them, given what must have been their common interest in all things military, and the fact that he, like them, was studying Law.
Since the High School was to abandon football at Christmas 1914, by his tragic death, Frank therefore became the only High School footballer to die during the Second World War. He is the only Old Nottinghamian to be awarded the Purple Heart and the only one to be interred in the National Cemetery at Arlington. I would also argue that Major General Mahin is the highest ranked Old Nottinghamian of all time.
His wife, Mauree, wrote this fitting epitaph:

“Thus ended thirty two years of faithful service given by a true soldier to his country. No soldier could have had a greater devotion to duty than did your Dad, and no matter where that duty called him he responded instantly. He died “with his boots on” which is exactly what he wanted to do!!

Mahin_Frank_Cadle

Incidentally, I believe that Mahin’s surname was pronounced “Marr-hin”. Certainly at West Point his son was often teased by his fellow cadets who all called him “Ma-Heen”.

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Notts £100 million striker (1877-1891) (first half)

Harry Cursham has scored more goals in the F.A Cup competition than any other soccer player in history.

Harry was born at Wilford Grange near Nottingham on November 27th 1859, one of the five sons of William George Cursham, a solicitor. He entered the High School at the age of nine on January 18th 1869, on the same day as his brother, Charles. Harry had three brothers in total. Like him, they all attended the High School. They were Arthur William Cursham, (born 1853), Charles Lambert Cursham, (born 1858), and William Cursham (born 1862). Here is the High School of Harry’s day:

first day

During his school career Harry played for the High School First Team, but only a very few editions of the school magazine, “The Forester”, have survived from this period. Unfortunately, the very few match reports are not particularly detailed, and there is no mention of Harry as a footballer.

Harry does appear as an athlete.  He won a 100 yards’ race for boys under eleven at the Annual Athletic Sports in September 1870. This major event in the social calendar of Victorian Nottingham took place at Trent Bridge, with the crowd entertained throughout the two days by the regimental band of the Robin Hood Rifles. “Cursham ii” won “a capital race” for second place, narrowly beating Brewill, “who ran remarkably well for so small a boy” by about two yards. It was only after the end of the race that the apparently easy winner, Anderson, was disqualified for being over age, thus leaving Harry in first place.

After leaving in 1875, Harry transferred to Repton School as a boarder. He remained there until Christmas 1876, and represented the school at both football and cricket. Harry returned to Nottingham in 1877 and joined Notts County for the 1877-1878 season. Both he, and his brother, Arthur, soon became very great favourites with the crowd. Harry was too young to have worn Notts’ wonderful “convict kit”:

notts_county_1872-1873

On November 3rd 1877, “…these splendidly built players…”, Harry and elder brother, Charles, played for County in their first ever F.A.Cup tie, against the Sheffield Club, for whom Arthur Cursham made an appearance. Arthur, of course, was normally a Notts County player. The match took place at Trent Bridge, and was drawn 1-1. Arthur scored for Sheffield, and Charles for Notts County. The County team included at least four Old Nottinghamians, namely Harry Cursham, Charles Cursham, Thomas Oliver, George Seals, and, possibly, Henry Jessop as a fifth.

In the replay, Arthur scored twice for Sheffield, and County lost 0-3, but Harry was seen as a promising débutant during the season, appearing in the prestigious friendly against Scottish club, Queen’s Park, at Hampden.

Harry soon became a high scoring forward, and scored well in excess of 200 goals in thirteen seasons. “The Football Annual” described him as…

“…one of the best forwards of the day, plays brilliantly on either wing but is particularly effective on the left.”

Elsewhere, he is described as having been:

“…at home on either wing or in the centre, and had good dribbling skills.”

In the 1880s, a third source said that Harry was

“…the most versatile player Notts had during that period, for he was at home anywhere, and was an indispensable member of the English eleven.”

Here is our hero:

cursham

On November 16th 1878, Harry played for Notts County in their First Round F.A.Cup tie against Nottingham Forest at Beeston Cricket Ground, Nottingham Forest having waived their right to host the game. The fact that the Forest Recreation Ground was public land meant that it was impossible to charge admission money. Forest won 3-1, in front of a crowd of some 500 spectators, with goals from Turner, Goodyer and Smith. The attendance was the highest ever recorded for a football match in Nottingham. Special excursion trains were used to take them out of the City.

On November 11th 1880, Harry returned to the High School, and appeared on the Forest for the School First XI  against the Bank. The match took place on a “merit half-holiday”, and the High School fielded six Old Boys, including Harry and Charles Cursham. The Bank’s team was formidable, with several “players of no small note in the local football world”. The game was fast and even, but the the High School’s players were on top form. They ran out the eventual winners by 4-1.

By now Harry had already played for England on one occasion, against Wales at Wrexham on March 15th 1880. As far as I can trace, this game against the Bank is the only occasion on which a current England international represented the High School in any sport.

In the 1881-1882 season, Harry played in the F.A.Cup tie between Notts County and Wednesbury Strollers, a game controversially refereed by Leonard Lindley, the brother of Tinsley Lindley. The visitors led by 2-0 at the interval, but an own goal, and two each from Arthur and Harry Cursham looked to have given Notts a 5-3 victory. Wednesbury were not happy though, with the fact that they had two hotly contested goals awarded against them, by a referee from the same town as their opponents. He was also a personal friend of the Notts County players. Wednesbury Strollers protested to the F.A., who ordered the first ever replay, on a neutral ground, with a neutral referee. This idea of a neutral referee was one which was soon to become fundamental to cup competitions, not just in England, but the whole world over.

The replay took place at Derby and the result was Notts County 11 Wednesbury Strollers 1. Official records state that Harry scored six goals, but he himself claimed throughout his life that he had got nine, explaining that the referee had confused him with his two brothers, Arthur and Charles. Nine goals in a single game would, over a century later, still remain a record for the F.A.Cup. This total was equalled by Ted MacDougall for Bournemouth against Margate in the First Round on Nov 20th 1971, but it has never been beaten:

ted macdouygall

By now, Harry was centre forward for County, and he continued his remarkable goal scoring feats. In the F.A.Cup in 1882-1883, County defeated the Sheffield Club  by 6-1, before beating Phoenix Bessemer of Rotherham by 4-1, and Sheffield Wednesday by the same score. They were then drawn against Aston Villa, with Notts County hanging on grimly to a 4-3 winning margin, Harry having grabbed a hat-trick. Villa protested, however, that in the dying minutes, Harry had fisted out what would have been an equalising goal. Harry appeared before the F.A. to discuss the “long-arm incident”. He explained that the goalkeeper had been hidden behind him, and that it must have been his hand that had knocked away the ball. Obviously, the F.A. were not used to dealing with High School boys, and their far-fetched excuses, and Harry was believed.

Here is the team photo for the semi-final. At least three of the players were surprise choices, and were pasted into the photograph later on:

county semi final

(back row) Arthur Ashwell (Umpire), Johnny Dixon, Herbert Emmitt, Billy Gunn, Harry Moore, Alf Dobson (second row) Mordecai Sherwin, Arthur Cursham, Stuart Macrae (front row) Charley Dobson, Harry Cursham, H.Chapman (his first name remains apparently unknown. Surely not Herbert?)

Arthur Ashwell, Arthur Cursham , Johnny Dixon and Harry were all ex-High School boys. In those days, the goalkeeper could be pushed physically into the net, so it paid him to maintain a healthy pie intake. Mordecai Sherwin (16 stone) though, had a long way to go to keep up with 22-stone Fatty Foulke in this Sheffield United team of 1901:

Sheffield_United_FC_1901_team

In the semi-final, Harry scored, but Notts County lost 1-2 against the Old Etonians, who included Lord Kinnaird, and Percy de Paravicini:

In 1883-1884, Harry scored a hat trick against Sheffield Heeley in the first round and then grabbed the winner in a fifth round tie against “The Swifts”. Along with Old Nottinghamian, John Dixon, Harry appeared in the semi-final against Blackburn Rovers but Notts County lost by the only goal of the game, as their goalkeeper, sixteen stone Mordecai Sherwin, was easily barged into the back of the net.

This is Notts’ oldest programme, against the Sheffield Club at Trent Bridge on January 3rd 1885,  watched by 5,000 spectators:

programme

The Old Nottinghamians in the team were Frederick Snook, Harry Jackson, Johnny Dixon and Harry Cursham. The game ended in a 5-0 victory, with County’s goals coming from Dobson, Gunn, Harry Jackson, Harry Cursham and Marshall.

On October 24th 1885, Harry scored four goals in County’s record F.A.Cup victory, a 15-0 rout of Rotherham Town in the First Round at Trent Bridge. Later that year, Harry Cursham appeared in a Sixth Round F.A.Cup tie against the previous season’s beaten finalists, Queen’s Park of Glasgow. The match was played at Trent Bridge before 17,000 spectators, many people having arrived by carriage  from early morning onwards. By the end of normal time the game was poised evenly at 2-2, but the Scottish captain refused to play extra time, because he claimed that the crowd had encroached onto the playing surface and delayed the end of the match. County duly kicked off, unopposed, and kicked the ball into the empty net. The F.A., however, ordered a replay at Derby, where Queen’s Park grabbed the winner in the second half. They duly went on to the final, where they lost to Blackburn Rovers.

Harry Cursham’s overall total in the F.A.Cup remains the all time goal scoring record. In his career, he managed an official 49 goals, or an unofficial 52 goals, both of which totals have only ever been approached by the peerless Denis Law (41):

law_2779943b

and the man who said that playing for Juventus was just like living in a foreign country, Ian Rush (42).

ian-rush-

In addition, many readers may feel that the two goals he scored in the original, void, game against Wednesbury Strollers should be incorporated in the overall total, giving Harry a record 54 goals in the F.A.Cup. Harry’s full F.A.Cup scoring record was…

Nov  3rd 1877         Notts County v  Sheffield                                     1-1               (1)
Nov  4th 1880         Notts County v Derbyshire F.C                          4-4              (2)
Nov  27th 1880       Notts County v Derbyshire F.C                          4-2              (2)
Nov  24th 1881       Notts County v Wednesbury Strollers               5-2              (2)
Dec  10th 1881        Notts County v Wednesbury Strollers              11-1              (6/9)
Jan   14th 1882       Notts County v Aston Villa                                   1-4              (1)
Nov  4th 1882         Notts County v Sheffield Club                             6-1              (2)
Dec 27th 1882        Notts County v Phoenix Bessemer                     4-1               (1)
Feb 12th 1883         Notts County v Sheffield Wednesday                4-1               (1)
Mar 3rd 1883          Notts County v Aston Villa                                  4-3              (3)
Mar 17th 1883        Notts County v Old Etonians                               1-2               (1)
Nov 10th 1883        Notts County v Sheffield Heeley                         3-1               (3)
Dec 15th 1883         Notts County v Grantham                                   4-0               (2)
Feb  9th 1884          Notts County v Swifts                                           1-1                (1)
Feb 14th 1884         Notts County v Swifts                                           1-0                (1)
Dec 6th 1884           Notts County v Staveley                                       2-0               (1)
Jan 3rd 1885           Notts County v Sheffield Club                             5-0               (1)
Feb 21st 1885          Notts County v Queens’ Park                              2-2                (1)
Oct 24th 1885         Notts County v Rotherham Town                     15-0               (4)
Nov 21st 1885         Notts County v Sheffield Club                             8-0               (1)
Dec 12th 1885        Notts County v Notts Rangers                              3-0               (3)
Oct 30th 1886        Notts County v Basford Rovers                           13-0              (1)
Nov 13th 1886        Notts County v Notts Rangers                              3-3               (1)
Nov 20th 1886       Notts County v Notts Rangers                              5-0               (3)
Dec 11th 1886         Notts County v Staveley                                         3-0               (1)
Jan 29th 1887        Notts County v Great Marlow                               5-2               (3)
Feb 19th 1887         Notts County v West Bromwich  Albion             1-4               (1)
Dec  8th 1888         Notts County v Staveley                                         3-1               (1)

Fittingly, Harry scored in his last ever F.A.Cup game as Notts County’s centre forward:

Feb 28th 1891        Notts County v Sunderland                                   3-3                (1)
Semi-final tie, played at Bramall Lane

This gave Harry an unprecedented career total of 52 goals in 44 F.A.Cup ties (or 54 in 45, if the first game against Wednesbury Strollers is incorporated in the totals.).

There has, of course, been criticism of the strength of the opposition against which Harry scored his F.A.Cup goals. It is worth mentioning, however, that, as an amateur, he may have chosen not to play in some cup ties where he would surely have scored even more goals…

1887-1888              Notts County  v Lincoln Ramblers                        9-0
1888-1889              Notts County  v Eckington                                      4-1
1888-1889              Notts County  v Beeston St.John’s                        4-2
1888-1889              Notts County  v Old Brightonians                         2-0

The F.A.Cup Ties against Eckington and Beeston St.John’s were both contested by Notts County’s reserve side. Harry may well have considered it beneath his dignity to play in these games, even though at this time he was by no means a regular First Team player. Harry also missed the Fourth Round of the F.A.Cup in 1884-1885. This was a 4-1 away win over Walsall Swifts, which took place in front of 5,000 spectators on January 4th 1885. Harry was unfortunately away on honeymoon, having got married in Wilford Church on January 20th. His team mates presented him with a silver plate to mark the occasion:

newsapaper

Harry’s last appearance for County in the F.A.Cup is linked extremely closely with his last appearance in the Football League on February 10th 1891, playing as a right full back, in a 4-0 home victory over Burnley. Harry had not appeared in the First Team for over two years, but the regular right back, Tom McLean, was injured, and the Team Management Committee decided to recall Harry.

The reason for this unexpected decision is that County had reached the Sixth Round of the F.A.Cup and had been drawn at home to Stoke. If Tom McLean was still injured, then Harry would be the ideal replacement. He was an older player, experienced with big games and large crowds.

In actual fact, Tom McLean was to return for the Stoke game, which County won by a single goal. McLean’s injury, however, must have flared up again, as Harry returned to the First Team for his last ever appearance in the F.A.Cup, on February 28th 1891, when he played as a right full back in the semi-final tie against Sunderland. The game was at Bramall Lane, and ended 3-3. Fittingly, some 25,000 spectators watched Harry play for the last time. By now, their kit was the familiar:

notts_county_1890-1900

For the replay, Harry was again replaced by Tom McLean. Tom’s injury cannot have healed properly, however, since he did not get into the team for the Final.

Neither did Harry, who was replaced by Alex “Sandy” Ferguson, a Scotsman from Rangers, who had played only twice previously. County’s only fixture before the Final was a League game against Blackburn Rovers, who would be County’s opponents in the Final. Notts won this League game with great ease, by 7-1. They then chose to keep the same side for the F.A.Cup Final at the Kennington Oval, and were never even remotely in the game. Blackburn won 3-1 with consummate ease:

blackburn-rovers-vs-notts-county-f-a-cup-final-1891_i-G-46-4625-3MOFG00Z

Perhaps the Team Management Committee wished that they had kept faith with Harry, who was surely the man for the big occasion. What a way it would have been to finish off his glorious career, winning the F.A.Cup for the first time ever. It was not until 1894 that Notts County finally won the F.A.Cup. And by one of life’s incredible ironies, it was on the day of the Final against Bolton Wanderers that the Nottingham Football News was able to announce the tragically premature death of Alex “Sandy” Ferguson, who had by now moved on to Newark Town.

By the way, the illustrations of the two football kits come from the best ever website for the soccer nerd and all the boys who had more than twenty different Subbuteo teams. New Brighton Tower 1898? Oh, yes.

 

 

 

 

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The Incredible Story of Frank Mahin, Volume II, 1908-1920

I have previously written two articles about Frank Mahin. The first recounted how he had carved his name on a stone fireplace in the High School:

mahin cccccc

The second article had a title very similar to this one, but it was entitiled The Incredible Story of Frank Mahin, Volume I, 1887-1909

And now, Dear Reader, my tale continues:

Frank Cadle Mahin was so keen on a military career, that after only two years, he left Harvard University and his boring Law studies. He joined the Regular Army in 1910 as a private soldier, after service with the New York National Guard. Two years later he received his first commission. On April 21st 1912, Mahin and thirty eight others took an examination and were all made Second Lieutenants:

commissions for civiliaNS

At this time, Frank is listed as being at Fort William Henry Harrison in Montana.
On September 25th 1913, Frank was married to Margaret Mauree Pickering, his previous, second, marriage to Sasie Avice Seon having, presumably, come to an end in some way. Again, unfortunately, the precise details are lacking.

Margaret Mauree was born in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, USA in 1890, the daughter of Abner Pickering and Celestia Florence Kuykendall. In married life she was to call herself Mauree Pickering Mahin so that her father’s name was never forgotten.  Her father, and Frank’s father-in-law, was Abner Pickering, who came from a very strong military background, as is shown by the wedding announcement in a local newspaper:

wedding cccc
In her book, “Life in the American Army from the Frontier Days to Army Distaff Hall”, Mauree describes the magic moment when she first met her future husband:

“We sat down, and the place next to me was left vacant for him. When he did
arrive, everyone forgot that we had not met, so after a minute of awkward
silence he took the vacant seat saying: “I guess no one is going to introduce us, I am Lieutenant Mahin, and I am sure you are Miss Pickering.”

With that one look into his clear steady eyes, I was convinced that there was such a thing as “Love at First Sight” and that I was not going to let the blonde or anyone else have him.”

Frank and Mauree were to have four children, including twins named Margaret Celestia and Anna Yetive, both born on June 2nd 1915 in the Philippines which at the time was an American colony, seized from the Spanish after the Spanish-American War. Frank’s three daughters were all to marry, as was his son, Frank junior, bom in Connecticut on January 2nd 1923. His third daughter, Elizabeth, lived from 1921-1981 and Frank junior, like his father, was a distinguished military man until he died in Dallas, Texas, on January 28th 1972.

.
In November and December 1914 Frank and the regiment received extremely unexpected orders.  They were to go to Naco in Arizona where Pancho Villa. the legendary Mexican bandit, and the inventor of the moustache, was up to his tricks, causing trouble:

Pancho-Villa

The American garrison was tasked with keeping Villa’s men from crossing the Mexican border into the USA. Orders from Washington stipulated though, that, in the interest of preserving friendly international relations, no shots were to be fired, even if the bandits fired at them, a rather difficult policy to carry out!

That was December 1914. Europe had already been at war since August, and more than a million young men were already dead. Frank Cadle Mahin, as you will see in another article, was to play his part in this sickening slaughter.
In early 1915, Frank was sent to the Philippines, then still an American colony. Here he was to have an unexpected chance to practice the German he had learned at the High School. Let’s not forget that in 1905, he had won the Mayor’s Prize for Modern Languages:

“On to Guam our next port of call, and there the war was brought directly to our minds, for anchored in the harbour was one of the converted German warships, riding at anchor. She had been forced in there by lack of coal and, of course, was interned for the duration of the war! Our Quartermaster had occasion to visit this ship with some supplies, and since he spoke no German, he asked Frank to go with him and interpret for him. Judging by the time they were gone, it must have been an interesting and pleasant afternoon. One thing I do know, the Germans may have run out of coal, but not out of good German beer!”

The first Mahin to be seriously affected by the Great War was Frank Senior. At this time, he, and his wife, Abbie, were, of course, both citizens of a neutral United States. In September 1915 they made the ferry crossing from Holland, where, by now, Frank Senior was the American consul in Amsterdam. They were on their way to visit their daughter, Anna and her doctor husband Alec in Nottingham, England:

“The journey is made by daylight during the war so we sailed from Flushing at 6.00 am. on July 31st on the Dutch liner Koiningin Wilhelmina. The day was lovely and the sea calm, and all was calm and restful till ten minutes before ten, when, a sharp explosion beneath us was heard, and great volumes of water blew up over the sides of the ship. Passengers on the forward deck, under which the explosion occurred, were drenched with water and covered with black particles, which came from the mine which, as we all
realized, the ship had struck:

mine

As the explosion was under the stoke-hold three poor stokers were killed, and one fatally wounded. We put on overcoats, hats, and lifebelts and went on deck. In about ten minutes all of the lifeboats had been loaded and left the ship. The boats rowed toward the lightship, about three miles distant. As we left the ship, the forward part was slowly sinking. But in half an hour the boat sagged in the middle. That part sank out of sight, and the bow and stern rose straight in the air. From the stern floated the Dutch flag, thus the two ends stood for some minutes. Then they came together as one: the flag floating from the top of it. Slowly that column disappeared under the water at fifteen minutes before eleven o’clock, fifty-five minutes after the mine was struck.

Scattered about were our lifeboats rowing towards the lightship, which was a mile or two away. Beyond it, cruising swiftly in circles, was the British war vessel which afterwards took us to England. Behind us was the sinking ship, whose last moments were like the despairing struggle of some living thing; and we thought of the poor dead men who were going down with the ship, as might have been the fate of all of us.
At the same time we heard the roar of cannon in the direction of Belgium, adding more death and destruction to this awful war. All the boats reached the lightships safely by noon, and everyone was safe. About six that evening a British torpedo boat destroyer took us to Harwich, England, where we arrived at 8:30 that night. We spent the night at Harwich, and at midnight we heard the sound of bombs exploding, Zeppelins being in the vicinity.

Frank junior had been swiftly promoted following his good work against Pancho Villa and his band of Mexican bandits. He became a Major just in time for the USA’s entry into the Great War, and served in combat in France in 1918. He was wounded at St. Mihiel, the first time that American troops were in really significant action, as they launched an offensive against retreating German forces. Frank was to win a Purple Heart, showing great bravery under enemy fire:

left hand medal

Frank then went on to fight in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive and the Battle of the Argonne Forest. He had at least one amazing escape:

“I think I am more than lucky to be here at all. I have had narrow escapes before, since
I came over to  France, but had more in this day and a half in the Argonne than all the rest put together. For instance, Hancock, my liaison officer, and I were lying in a shell hole with machine gun bullets cutting the top edges off and knocking the dirt all over us. Then a 105mm artillery shell hit right at the edge of the hole and slid down under us, raising the ground up, like a mole furrows, on the side of the shell hole.

Of course it was sliding for the tiniest part of a second but we heard it, felt it, and knew what it was, and then it burst! Good night! In that fraction of a second, I thought “God bless my girls, “ but we weren’t hurt! It was a gas shell, thank God, with just enough explosives to crack the case and throw the dirt around. We had our masks on anyway, so it did not harm us, but Hancock looked like a ghost, and fool that I am, I laughed at him and took my mouthpiece out and yelled, “ Going up!” and even he had to smile then! Had that shell been a High Explosive they would never have found even our identification tags. If it had been even an ordinary gas shell, half gas and half High Explosive, it would’ve blown both of us to pieces.”

mahin ccccc xxx

In the 1920s, when he returned to the United States, Frank, still fresh faced and eager, was to relate to his twin daughters exactly what his life under fire had been like:

“The trouble is gas, we were in it almost continuously for three hours, and I tried to keep my mask on, but you just can’t run a battalion in battle with a gas mask on. It was a wet, misty morning when we went “over the top” and they just poured gas shells over, tear gas, sneezing gas, then phosgene and mustard after they had gotten our noses and eyes inflamed.

The country was the worst possible country to fight over, for it was just ridge after ridge with fire coming at us from every direction. Believe me, it was some scrap. Saint Mihiel was a cinch compared to this Argonne Forest offensive.

From the Field Hospital, they sent me by truck to Evacuation Hospital No 7. I stayed there a day and a half, and then to Base Hospital No 27, a Pittsburgh outfit at Angers near the mouth of the River Loire. The hospital is in a big old three-storey convent building, and is awfully comfortable, and the ‘chow’ is fine.

Nausea, acute diarrhea, for several days, and an awful headache, all from the gas, and, of course, burning lungs. I now feel pretty good but the d— stuff has affected my heart. They say this does not last more than a week if one stays perfectly quiet, but for several more weeks I will have to be very careful not to exert myself violently.”

His wife Mauree, however, adds a little more realism to the tale, pointing out just how seriously affected her husband was:

“I can assure you, girls, that that heart condition lasted several years instead of several weeks. Even after his return, and for many months, he would be sitting talking, and without warning would fall right out of the chair, and I never knew when we picked him up whether he would be dead or alive.”

Nowadays we have little or no idea of what it must have been like in the trenches during a gas attack:

gas

We are given some idea, however, when the family take a trip to a more peaceful Europe in 1920. It is Frank’s wife, Mauree, who tells the tale:

“On this trip we followed the movements of the 11th Infantry up to the time of Dad’s gassing and evacuation. At Madeleine Farms, where his battalion command post was during one of the offensives, we were able to go down into the very dugout he had used! It had two entrances, and both were completely overgrown with vines. As Dad and I started down the rickety old rotted-out steps, Dad recognised the odor of gas still down there, and he whispered to me not to tarry long but just to take a quick look and go out of the other entrance. The dampness was terrible, water dripping off of the low ceiling, we were able to see the boards hung against the side where they slept when there was a minute to spare, and we actually walked on the duckboard.

As quickly as we went through, Dad was greatly affected by that little gas, and had a very hard attack of coughing ; and just as we got into the car Grandma had a heart attack, and this was two whole years after the war , thus you can see, just how potent that gas really was!

Here are the Madeleine Farms, then and now, as it were:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In my next article about Frank, I will tell the tale of how he continues his military career and eventually achieves a very high rank in the American army.

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The Beast of Ennerdale: Part three

This is the third instalment of the story of the Beast of Ennerdale, a strange creature that rampaged across the Lake District in north western England in 1810. In five months, it killed almost 300 sheep, often just eating their soft organs and then lapping up their blood. The story of its ravages is told in the first two parts of this series:

eyes wolf

Nowadays, we have almost an almost unbelievable ability to make contact with each other instantly right across the globe. Furthermore, we have immediate instant access to unbelievable amounts of knowledge and information.
Until very recently though, that was just not the case. There was no television. No radio. No access to books. Most people were illiterate, especially in the countryside. Nobody knew very much at all about natural history outside their own country. Contrast our situation with life outside London in 1198. Richard the Lionheart was the English king then, and he was the proud owner of his very own private zoo in the Tower of London. Richard had been on the Crusades and he must have known a little bit about some of the wildlife in the Middle East. Perhaps that was the reason that he had a pet crocodile in his collection of animals:

crocs

One day, the animal escaped. It somehow made its way to the marshes of north Essex. The reaction of the locals, of course, was that a dragon had come to visit them:

alli

And what would the shepherds of the Lake District made of a giraffe? The very first one ever to be seen in England had only arrived on August 11, 1827, less than 200 years ago, and well after the début of the Beast of Ennerdale:

holle
During the period of the Beast of Ennerdale, the whole country was visited by many travelling zoos. The cages were transported on wagons which were pulled around the countryside by horses. Conditions, of course, were appalling. The cages were cramped and the horses that pulled the wagons were grossly overworked.  No animal rights in those days. The Church taught that animals had no souls, so what you did to them was simply irrelevant. Work them until they drop and then leave them to die. And then you can eat them.
The most famous of these travelling zoos was Wombwell’s Travelling Menagerie, which had a total of fifteen wagons and a large number of exotic animals. Wombwell bought them directly from ships as they arrived in England. They included elephants, giraffes, a gorilla, a hyena, a kangaroo, several leopards, a number of lions, llamas, monkeys, ocelots, onagers (what?), ostriches, panthers, various snakes, tigers, wildcats and zebras:

wombwerr

Wombwell had a number of snow leopards and his rhino was publicised as “the real unicorn of scripture”. Other faulty labelling is actually known to have cost him money. What he exhibited as a chimpanzee is now thought to have been the first ever Gorilla to be seen in Western Europe.
Here is a link to the story of George Wombwell told by Wikipedia. It really is worth a look, with some really funny anecdotes on offer:

Menagerie_wombwells_1910

All of these menageries were rather careless with their animals and escapes were not infrequent. In 1835, for example, a lion and a tigress escaped together and four people were killed. And that is what takes us back to the Beast of Ennerdale.
Apparently a number of the different travelling menageries had creatures which were exhibited as “tiger wolves”. Nowadays these animals are thought to have been thylacines, the so called “Tasmanian Tiger” or “Tasmanian Wolf”.

Here is a brief film, thanks to the Thylacine Museum:

The Museum also has a video where the extremely talented animal is apparently playing a piano, harpsichord type of thing:

So that is it! Mystery solved! The Beast of Ennerdale was an escaped Thylacine.

Nowadays, the Thylacine is extinct, of course. The last known specimen, “Benjamin”, died in captivity in Hobart Zoo on September 7th 1936:

thyl four

The Thylacine had dark stripes over its back and could be up to eight or nine feet in length:

thyl one

It was a marsupial which looked vaguely like a wolf and it ate flesh. It preferred the softer flesh to tougher meat such as the muscles.
The Thylacine was an apex predator and it was mainly nocturnal. Its behaviour was just like the Beast of Ennerdale because it retreated to the hills and woodlands in the daytime, avoiding contact with humans. It spent the daylight hours in caves or hollow tree trunks, sleeping on twigs or plant stalks. At night, it hunted the open heathland:

thyl two

Supposedly, back in the wilds of Tasmania, it happily preyed upon farmers’ sheep and poultry and apparently liked to drink the blood of its prey.
And with that information, I really thought that I had found a solution for the identity of the Beast of Ennerdale. I really did. I really, really did:

Thylacine-tring

A second level of internet research, though, shows that more or less all of the answers which have been suggested by the many websites which discuss the Beast of Ennerdale are most probably entirely wrong. The explanation of an escaped Thylacine is a very neat one, but modern science just dismisses it totally and completely.
Firstly, the blood drinking story seems to have originated merely from a single account heard at second-hand by Geoffrey Smith (1881–1916) in a shepherd’s hut in Tasmania. Not exactly a proven piece of Thylacine behaviour, certainly not enough to identify this creature’s presence in Ennerdale.
And killing and/or eating sheep? Well not really, apparently. Modern studies have now shown that the creature had the jaws of a wimp, not a wolf. It couldn’t have dealt with a dead sheep. Advanced computer modelling in 2011 showed that its prey size limit would have been in the region of only five kilos, animals such as the tiny possum:

thylacine_berlin_museum_10th_september_2011-167306

And here is a link to a second study from 2012, “Tasmanian tiger was no sheep killer”. These are not just amateurs’ guesses picked out of the air, of course. These are both scientific papers, published for the judgement of the zoological world. They would not have been published in reputable journals if they were not serious research carried out by serious scientists.
Instead, the Thylacine is seen nowadays as having been just a scapegoat for the widespread mismanagement of sheep farms in Tasmania. Furthermore, the killing of sheep was far more probably carried out by the European dogs which had first reached Tasmania in 1798 with the arrival of the explorer George Bass and a number of seal hunters:

George_bass

These men’s sled dogs interbred and their offspring subsequently dispersed into the temperate rain forest of the island. Some dogs were befriended by the aborigines but the majority just went wild.

During the period when Europeans were first coming across the Thylacine, therefore, there was already a population of feral dogs in Tasmania. They are far more likely to have been the animals responsible for the killings of sheep on the island, rather than the Thylacine. It was just easier for Europeans to blame a weird new animal than “man’s best friend”.
And what about the time schedule? How could a Thylacine have reached Cumberland for May 1810? At this time, the very best ships took a minimum of three months to reach Australia and a further three months to return to England:

SS_Dunedin_by_Frederick_Tudgay
The first thylacine had been seen by the French on May 13th 1792. They would not have told the English because, surprise, surprise, the two nations were at war with one another.  More than ten years later, the Lieutenant Governor of Tasmania sent the first full description of the animal for publication in the Sydney Gazette of April 21st 1805:

wild-thylacine-large

At that time, it was not a particularly familiar animal to the European people on the island. In June 1805, five convicts escaped from the only recently established penal colony. The establishment’s pastor, Robert Knopwood, wrote in his journal on June 18th 1805, shortly after the convicts had been recaptured:

“Am engaged all the morn, upon business examining the 5 prisoners that went into the bush. They informed me that on 2 May when they were in the wood they see a large tyger that the dog they had with them went nearly up to it and when the tyger see the men which were about 100 yards away from it, it went away I make no doubt but here are many wild animals which we have not yet seen”

thyl three

At this point, in 1805, no Thylacine had been captured. It had only been briefly glimpsed at a hundred yards’ range. Tasmania was the size of Ireland and more or less completely covered in forest, with only one small settlement of convicts. How on earth could a Thylacine have reached Ennerdale by 1810? Just look at the timetable:

“Captured in Tasmania, in 1806 at the earliest—shipped to Sydney—sent to England—didn’t die on the three month journey—bought by a zoo keeper in London—taken by horse drawn cart to the north (three or four weeks?)—escaped—seen in Cumberland, doing things we now know a Thylacine could not do”

Not very likely is it?
Anyway, here is a nice longer film of a Thylacine from LINCTasmania. It dates from 1964 and is a wonderful period piece, well worth watching, just for the accents and the product placement :

And finally, here are two videos about the Thylacine from my hero, MK Davis, the man who has been called “The Hippy from Mississippi”. He is a photographic analyst and is well worth your time. The first film is an analysis of a modern home movie, purporting to show an animal which may be a living, surviving Thylacine:

The second film from MK shows his thoughts on where Thylacines may survive nowadays:

And the Beast of Ennerdale? Well, the locals at the time thought it was a feral dog, and they may well have been right:

“No one knew to whom the dog had belonged, or whence he came ; but being of a mongrel breed, and excessively shy, it was conjectured he had escaped from the chain of some gipsy troop. He was a smooth-haired dog, of a tawny mouse colour, with dark streaks, in tiger fashion, over his hide ; and appeared to be a cross between mastiff and greyhound. Strongly built and of good speed, being both well fed and well exercised, his endurance was very great.”

On the other hand, unlike most dogs that I know, the Beast was never heard to bark, growl or howl. And why would you go to the considerable expense of stuffing the corpse and displaying it in Hutton’s Museum in Keswick if it were just “a cross between mastiff and greyhound”. Perhaps the Beast of Ennerdale was the Beast of Gévaudan on his holidays.

“C’était comme un chien, mais ce n’était  pas un chien”…

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Patriot Day – 9/11/2001

I hope people in England will read this inspiring story about a group of men who always get the job done!!

Pacific Paratrooper

Some of the destruction caused when the high-jacked American Airlines flight slammed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11. The terrorist attack caused extensive damage to the west face of some of the destruction caused when the high-jacked American Airlines flight slammed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11. The terrorist attack caused extensive damage to the west face of the Pentagon

AFTER FLIGHT 77 hit the Pentagon on 9/11, the following incident occurred:

A chaplain, who happened to be assigned to the Pentagon, told of an incident that never made the news:
“A daycare facility inside the Pentagon had many children, including infants who were in heavy cribs. The daycare supervisor, looking at all the children they needed to evacuate, was in a panic over what they could do. There were many children, mostly toddlers, as well as the infants that would need to be taken out with the cribs.

Pentagon Memorial Pentagon Memorial

“There was no time to try to bundle them into carriers and strollers. Just then a young Marine came running into the center and asked what they needed…

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