Monthly Archives: December 2016

Wolves (the animal not the football club)

When I wrote about the Beast of Gévaudan, I came to the conclusion that the ferocious creature was a previously unknown type of wolf:

bete-du-gevaudanzzzzzzz

For some unknown reason, it was being forced westwards from its normal habitat of the Polish or Russian primeval forests such as Białowieża. If ancient bison could live there, so could something even more prehistoric:

rejigged bison

At the time I did research the likelihood that the Beast was an ordinary wolf or wolves but I rejected that as a theory because I did not think that wolves would eat human beings.
It would be dishonest, however, not to make it patently clear that in the past, wolves certainly have eaten people but they don’t seem to now. Why should this be?
Firstly, extremes of weather centuries ago, more severe than what we have now, may have lead to a situation where wolves either ate any available prey items or just died. This would account for the Wolves of Paris which I have previously discussed:

wolf bounding

In actual fact they may also have acquired a taste for human flesh by eating corpses. Apparently, until as late as 1820, corpses in France were frequently thrown into open charnel pits. Presumably, these were paupers, drunks, stillborn babies, in short, anybody dead without the money for a funeral. And it is not outrageous to presume that this lovely way to dispose of the late dearly departed might have taken place in neighbouring countries too. An unfortunate situation that taught wolves to associate the scent of Man with a full belly.
If the hungry wolf wanted a better quality of prime human meat, young, and blood drippingly fresh, the best place was the battlefield straight after the battle. Once the local peasantry had stripped the bodies of everything valuable, they were not buried, but were gradually eaten by the ravens and other corvids, the eagles, both golden and especially white-tailed, and most of all, the local wolf pack.
This association of human flesh, its scent and taste, with a full stomach, was a recipe for disaster when wolves came across, say, lone travellers or children picking berries deep in the woods. And don’t forget. In France the peasantry were forbidden to own firearms to reduce the admittedly tiny risk of a blood spattering revolution.
Nowadays, the situation is completely different. Admittedly France had 7,600 fatal attacks by wolves between 1200–1900 but there has been nothing since. Italy has a population of wolves but without any fatal attacks on humans since 1945 and no attacks by wolves since the eradication of rabies in the 1960s.

wolf pack one

In the Baltic states, where rabies is still allowed to exist, just under a hundred people were bitten between 1992-2000 in Latvia and Lithuania, although the statistics are muddied somewhat in Estonia by the locals’ love for wolf-dog hybrids and keeping wolves captive on their properties.
And what about North America?

wolf baby

Well, in 2002, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game stated that there had been no human deaths in North America attributed to wild, healthy wolves since at least 1900. Concerns were caused though, when, on April 26th, 2000, a six year-old boy was attacked by a wolf in Icy Bay, Alaska. He was not killed, but then, on November 8th 2005 the body of Kenton Carnegie was found in northern Saskatchewan. He had died from “injuries consistent with a wolf attack.” The local wolves had apparently lost their fear of him because he fed them regularly.

Kenton_SKxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

To increase the risk, natural food was scarce in the area at the time and four wolves had been feeding on rubbish tips in the previous weeks. They were no longer scared by human activities. On November 4th, two of Kenton’s fellow campers clashed with two extremely aggressive wolves. Zoologists have now said that this was probably an “exploratory attack” just to see how difficult it was to kill a human being. Another perhaps more serious attack was imminent.
On the day of his demise, Kenton ignored warnings from his companions and went for a walk in the woods. It took the Coroners’ jury two years to rule out Black Bear, but their eventual verdict was “Death by Wolf”.

Iberian Wolf alpha male feeding on deer, its mouth tinted with f
On March 8th 2010, Candice Berner, a thirty two year old special education teacher who had only been in Alaska since the previous August was killed by two, perhaps three, wolves as she jogged along a road outside Chignik Lake. It was late afternoon.

Candice_Berner12

This was the first ever fatal wolf attack in Alaska. David Mech, a senior research scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey has studied wolves for more than fifty years. He said:

“There have been about two dozen nonfatal attacks in North America in the past century or so. Most involve wolves that have become habituated to people who have been feeding them at campgrounds, dumps and other sites near wolf habitat.”

Ms Berner was only 4 feet 10 inches tall and weighed just over eight stones (c 112 pounds). David Mech said that her slight, almost childlike build, and the fact that she was running may have attracted the wolves, who, after all, are predators by nature:

“Wolves are very much like dogs in a lot of respects. Things that are running, they have tendency to want to chase them,”

 

DogChasing

Ms Berner was thought to have been listening to music on a headset, but Dr Mech discounted this, as in his experience wolves move so silently that the wind is enough to mask their presence completely.

Whatever you think about wolves, the truth is that the inhabitants of the tiny village of Chignik Lake have lived alongside wild animals since time immemorial:

chig

This one attack has spooked all of the 73 inhabitants of the area, so remote that it can only be reached by aeroplane. The school’s stuffed wolf mascot had been there a good while, but now it has been kicked well into touch. The wolf badge of the school will also have to go if Virginia Aleck, a local woman, gets her way.
She said that everyone felt trapped in the village. None of the surrounding hills were considered safe anymore.  Nobody walked on their own and everybody carried a rifle.
Is this an over-reaction? Or are wolves just a part of living outside the big city? I’ll try to answer that question in a future article.

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Filed under Canada, Cryptozoology, France, History, Personal, Science, Wildlife and Nature

Snow joke

Yet again, the Date-Book of Remarkable Memorable Events Connected With Nottingham and Its Neighbourhood 1750-1879 comes up with the goods.  Ands today you’ll see just how appropriate is the name of the author, John Frost Sutton. Once again, I have tried to simplify some of the more archaic language.

“January 1776

A great fall of snow and intense cold. Drivers of vehicles found it impossible to complete their journeys, and the stagecoach to London was stopped halfway to the capital, and was unable to proceed.”

Here is the type of stagecoach we are talking about. It’s not really one for the Apaches to chase:

stagecoach w

“A contemporary record states that the road beyond Northampton “was crowded with the passengers from the north, all of whom had been detained there all the week, owing to the great depth of snow. Many of them had neglected to make any provision for what had happened, and were in the greatest distress. On the other hand, some, who were well supplied with the one thing they really cherished, lived happily at the nearest public or farm houses. They were literally in high spirits. Almost every house on the road exhibited either a happy picture of noise and merriment, or else showed the visible signs of vexation, disappointment, and humiliation.”

“On January 13th, two men were returning in the evening from Nottingham to Papplewick, when they were overcome by the cold, half-way between Redhill and their place of destination. In the morning, one of them was found stretched out on the snow and dead. The other was found in a state of insensibility, with his stiffened arms clasping the trunk of a tree, and icicles at the end of his fingers. With much difficulty his life was preserved.”

The orange arrow points to Redhill, and Papplewick is in the top left corner:

papplewi3333333333333333333333

“The same day another sufferer was rescued from death by Mr Turner, a Nottingham attorney. A young woman in the service of Mr Lee, of the Peacock Tavern, near St. Peter’s Church in the middle of Nottingham, had been to Leeds on a visit to her friends, and was returning to Nottingham.”

Here is St Peter’s Church in Nottingham, down near the Broadmarsh Shopping Centre. The building to the right will one day be Marks & Spencer but it doesn’t really know it yet:

st-peters-1860-300dpi

The young woman left Leeds as a passenger on the outside of the coach as it was so much cheaper (although a lot colder, of course).

red stage

“About midway between Leeds and Nottingham, some thirty miles from the latter town, the tremendous fall of snow rendered it impossible for the coach to proceed any further, and the young woman, not having enough money to stay where she was, set out resolutely on foot. She managed to reach The Hutt, on the road from Mansfield to Nottingham, when her strength totally failed, and she lay down to die.”

Here is the Hutt nowadays. It figured in a previous article when a White Stork flew over it:

thre hutt

On this map, the orange arrow indicates the Hutt. The immediate area is no longer as isolated or countrified as it would have been in 1766. Redhill and Arnold are both in the bottom right corner:

hutt aaaaa3333333333333333333

“In the hour of her extremity Mr Turner the solicitor happened to be passing that way on horseback, and prompted by humanity, lifted her up, took off his greatcoat and wrapped her in it. He put his gloves onto her hands, and with great difficulty succeeded in carrying her to Redhill, where she was properly taken care of at his expense until sufficiently recovered to be brought to Nottingham.”

I included this bit of the account because there are not many stories where a lawyer is the hero, especially a generous one. This is the “Ram Inn”, an old coaching inn at Redhill. It faces west so it is not easy to photograph and get much light on the subject:

Ram Inn pic

Right next to it is the Waggon and Horses, another coaching inn of the period:

ram

Two pubs next to each other is fabulously convenient. When the barman in one pub refuses to serve you because you are too drunk, you can just leave quietly and try your luck next door.

 

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Fire, I’ll take you to burn (2)

You may already have read some of the extracts I have featured from”The Date-Book of Remarkable Memorable Events Connected With Nottingham and Its Neighbourhood 1750-1879″, by John Frost Sutton. I have already found one description of what would nowadays be called a million pound fire, and it’s not the only one:

August 22nd 1874

“About half-past two in the morning the night watchman employed at the hosiery factory of Messrs I & R Morley in Manvers-street, while passing through the factory yard, saw some smoke but no flames issuing from a room in the centre of a block immediately over the cellar used to store cotton. He at once gave the alarm, which soon brought a body of willing hands together, and the hose reel belonging to the factory was immediately put in operation.”

“To the surprise of all present, though, there was scarcely any water in the cistern which was kept on the premises to be ready in case of fire. In the meantime several messengers had gone for the fire engines, and about fifteen minutes to three in the morning a body of men set out with the hose reels, followed immediately by the steam fire engine, the manual engines being sent afterwards in quick succession”.

Here is a steam fire engine:

srteammm fir e engoine

And here is the thrilling scene I found, of another very similar steam fire engine, rushing to the fire. Notice the Spotty Dog who is playing the part of a SatNav system:

steam fire emng0ne

Here come the more genteel firefighters of the Victorian age:

1870more countrified

Time for a quick photograph and then we’ll start sorting out that fire for you:

1880

Back to Nottingham:

“By this time though, the flames had really taken hold of the middle of the building where they had originated, and passing along the south side had become totally unmanageable.”

This is Manvers Street, on the north bank of the River Trent, where the road leaves Nottingham for Southwell. Notice the orange arrow which points to Manvers Street itself, and to the east, the packed terraced streets of Sneinton which provide the labour for the factory. To the west is the railway system used to take the finished product to its destination:

manvers street

“At about 3.15am, a large portion of the walls and floors collapsed. About four o’clock the whole of the remaining walls, and the roof of the Manvers-street part of the factory came down as well . Some idea of the crash may be formed, when it is stated that the noise was heard as far away as Radford and the surrounding villages. The sight of the ruins when viewed from the Southwell-road end of Manvers-street was almost beyond description.”

I think that this is Morleys’ factory, presumably rebuilt after the fire:

factory-manver-stxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Back to the story:

“Of the front of the factory, 200 yards long, nothing remained but an immense mass of bricks, iron, and wood, intermingled with the burnt remnants of hosiery goods. This was by far the greatest fire that has occurred in Nottingham in the memory of man, not excepting the Castle, the damage being estimated at £100,000.”

And, in terms of value, the damage nowadays would have been in the region of  £51,600,000.

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The Oldest Old Boy of Them All (4)

Many, many years ago, in 1990, my friend and colleague, Simon Williams, interviewed Roy Henderson who was then one of the oldest Old Boys still alive. In due course, I transcribed the taped interview and added some extra explanatory details where this seemed helpful to the reader. This is the penultimate section of an eventual five, all of which describe the High School just before the outbreak of the Great War, and then during the first few years of the conflict.

Roy used to live at 3, Lenton Road in Nottingham’s richest area, The Park. He would be awakened by another High School boy called Alfred Tregear Chenhalls, who would come along the road as he walked the family dog, and whistle loudly that it was soon time to go to school. Roy was then accompanied to school by his friend, who was walking from his own family house at 2, Hawthorne Drive in The Park. One particular day in the Fourth Form, Alfred Chenhalls did not arrive, and Roy Henderson was therefore late. Mr Lloyd Morgan ticked him off:

“Who shall we punish? Chenhalls or his dog? ”

Alfred Chenhalls, whose father, like that of Roy Henderson, was a minister of the church, later became an accountant who dealt with lots of musicians and theatrical people, including the famous Hollywood actor, Leslie Howard. Chenhalls always smoked a large cigar, and as a big fat man, looked rather like Winston Churchill. He was killed on June 1st 1943, when the unarmed DC-3 of the B.O.A.C., carrying him and Leslie Howard between Lisbon and London, was shot down by Junkers Ju 88s of the German Luftwaffe. Here is the Douglas DC-3 Dakota, in question:

350px-BOAC_Flt_777

At the time, Churchill was known to be attending a conference in Algiers, and there was much speculation that a German spy had seen Chenhalls getting onto the plane in Lisbon, and had then organised its destruction. Here is Chenhalls pretending to be Churchill:

CHENHALLS

Further confirmation of the Germans’ interpretation was that Churchill’s colleague in Algiers, the Foreign Secretary, Sir Anthony Eden, looked very like Leslie Howard. Alternatively, Leslie Howard may have been thought to be Detective Inspector Walter Thompson Churchill’s personal bodyguard. Whatever the complex truth of it, Churchill himself considered all his life that this was a definite  assassination attempt. The incident was also one of the very few occasions when airliners were ever attacked on this route out of neutral Portugal. Much more detailed information on the event is available here.
At this time, many boys had nicknames. Donald James Clarkson was always called “Pug” because of his upturned nose. Here he is:

clarkson zzzzzzz

Another boy, an extremely good Fives player, was called, for obvious reasons, “Sparrowlegs”. Strangely enough, though, only one particular boy ever had a certain nickname. Nobody could ever be called “Pug” or “Sparrowlegs”, as long as the original boy remained in the school. There seemed to be no obvious reason for the nickname of “Fuzzy” Barton, given that his hair was not in the least bit curly. Peculiarly enough, though, his elder brother had extremely fuzzy hair. He, though, was never called “Fuzzy”.

Eventually, the younger Barton became the Headmaster of King Edward’s School in Sheffield. The latter establishment had an extremely peculiar cricket pitch, which was constructed on various levels, with a number of different slopes, flat areas, and two or three quite sharp drops. Certain unfortunate fielders were unable to see either wicket, and pieces of information had to be passed on to them by other fielders one level higher up.

Because of the Great War, and the subsequent restrictions on travelling by train, there were very few away matches at cricket. Boys went only to Derby, Worksop or Sheffield, but never to Denstone or Birmingham. On many occasions, they played home fixtures against Army teams billeted in the area, including a few Italian ones. This was much more enjoyable than the very limited number of fixtures against other schools.

If they did ever travel by train, High School teams invariably used the now demolished Victoria Station. You might recognise the Clock Tower which still stands nowadays, outside the Victoria Shopping Centre. The hotel on the right is also still there:

Nottingham_Victoria_Station_3

Here is a steam train coming out of the tunnel which took rail traffic northwards towards Worksop and Sheffield. This tunnel is still visible, either from the modern multi storey underground car park or from Huntingdon Street:

train

At this time, in the school, in general, the rules on caps were very strict. Roy Henderson himself had a special dispensation from the Headmaster and was allowed not to wear a cap in school. For some unknown reason, his mother had contacted the Headmaster, and the latter had agreed to this special privilege. Roy wore a cap for the first time when he became a prefect, and that turned out to be a spectacular piece of headgear with a silver badge on it.

Roy was the secretary of the School Debating Society. He spoke quite frequently in debates, despite, by his own admission, not being particularly good at it. The meetings, which were mostly in the winter term, took place after school, between twelve and one o’clock on Saturday afternoons.

When he left the High School, Roy joined “B” Battalion of the Artists’ Rifles. He had already learned a lot in the school’s Officer Training Corps, as was confirmed by the first drill sergeant that he encountered in the regular army. Later, he joined the Regimental Concert Party, which did its training at Lichfield. Roy, because of his age, missed the Great War by a few weeks, but he caught Spanish Flu in January 1918. He was not to leave hospital before August 1918.

At the High School, there had been no specialist singing master, and no real in-depth teaching of music. Roy had never realised that he had any particular talent in this field, until he sang solo during the interval of a school play, and was overwhelmed and astonished by the great volume of applause which he received. Roy later went on to sing at Speech Day. Within only a few years of leaving the High School, he had become one of the leading singers in the country, who was destined to work with some of the greatest musical talents in the whole world. I have been unable to find any photographs of Roy Henderson, but here is one of his record labels:

Decca_1929_Sea_Drift

And here is one of his album sleeves:

record

In the near future, I will continue with the fifth, and final, article in this series. I hope you are enjoying them and finding them interesting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Bristol Beaufort at Hendon

I went on a trip to RAF Hendon Museum a few years ago, and I would like to share one or two of the more interesting aircraft with you over the months. Hopefully I will only be using my own photographs, so here are my excuses first. The Museum in  places is really quite dark, so that the daylight or bright artificial lights have no effect on the (poor quality) Second World War paint. This gives rise to a distinct purplish tone on many of the photographs. The museum is also very cramped, so try as I might, I could not get all of the aircraft into the shot at once.

This is a Bristol Beaufort, the only monoplane produced for the Royal Air Force that was designed from the start for general reconnaissance and as a torpedo bomber. It was named after the late and great Duke of Beaufort, whose very large ancestral home was near to the headquarters of the Bristol company.

P1320429xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

The prototype first flew on October 15th 1938 and Beauforts entered service with No.22 Squadron in November 1939. They were Coastal Command’s standard torpedo bomber until 1943 and also laid mines.

The Beaufort was very successful as a torpedo bomber, and saw action over the North Sea, the English Channel and the Atlantic. In 1942, Beaufort squadrons were deployed to the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean to meet a changing enemy threat. Malta-based aircraft were particularly successful in attacks on Axis shipping at a critical time in the war in North Africa.

Total Beaufort production was 1380, including 700 which were built in Australia.

P1320403xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

The Beaufort at Hendon was assembled from bits of various Australian aircraft found at Tadji Airstrip and West Sepik in Papua and New Guinea.  Five airframes were salvaged from these sites by Dr Charles “Bunny” Darby  in  1974  and as far as is known, significant bits of some 28 Beauforts are still there.
In October 1987, two Gate Guard Spitfire Mk XVIs were swapped for a P-40 Kittyhawk and a Beaufort. The latter eventually arrived at Hendon via a workshop in Hawkins, Texas and then Felixstowe and  Cardington in Bedfordshire.

To me, a Beaufort always looks like a half way between a Blenheim and a Beaufighter. Here is a proper photograph, purloined from my best friends at Google Images. I just didn’t want you to think that all Beauforts strongly resembled a very large twin engine blackcurrant:

bea

The best illustration of a Beaufort is, in fact, a model. There wasn’t an Airfix one, as far as I can remember, so perhaps this is a Frog kit or something even more exotic. I couldn’t find a good picture of a Beaufort in Australian colours:

beaufort

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Fire, I’ll take you to burn (1)

As you may already know, I am really head over heels with “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. Fire, for example, was a very great concern when so many buildings were made of wood and the fire brigade arrived behind four horses.

First though, a couple of words of introduction. This is a bonnet front:

bonnet front

And so is this:

bbb onnet front

And this is Commerce Square, in the Lace Market area of the city. The letters “PW” indicate a “place of worship”, in this case, St Mary’s Church. The orange arrow indicates the exact location of the warehouse:

narow marsh

October 11 1866

Destruction by fire of the bonnet front warehouse of Mr. C. G. Hill, Commerce-square.”

“It appears that Mr Hill kept a large quantity of pigeons at the top of his warehouse and that after the workmen had left in the evening, he and some men went upstairs on some business to do with the birds.”

“While he was there Mr. Hill was surprised at a loud knocking at the warehouse door, and on going to the top of the stairs, he found that the lower portion of the premises was in flames, and that leaving by the stairs was impossible. Fortunately there was a trap door in the roof, through which they made their escape. The fire leaped upwards with fearful rapidity from floor to floor, and soon enveloped the whole of Mr. Hill’s premises in a glowing sheet of flame, which burst with great fury from the windows, lighting up a vast area, and presenting a spectacle of grandeur, particularly when viewed from the southern side of the town, which it overlooks”:

castle fire

“It was at one time feared that the burning building would fall into Narrow-marsh, and many of the inhabitants removed their goods, but beyond some falling pieces of burning timber, the massive roof of the building remained nearly intact. The interior, though, was completely burnt out, with nothing remaining but the shell. This building is eight stories high on the southern side. As the lower four stories in Narrow-marsh were occupied as houses, a fire-proof floor was inserted between the houses and the warehouse. This prevented the fire extending to the lower portions of the building, although they and their contents were much damaged by water. It was estimated that Mr. Hill’s stock was worth £10,000, he having from 10,000 to 15,000 boxes of bonnet fronts on hand. He was insured for £8,000, and the building, including the warehouses of Messrs. Hamel & Wright and Lottimer & Co, for £9,000. After Mr. Hill’s escape from the roof he climbed down into the building and turned off the gas, making his way out through the cellar grate.”

If Mr. Hill’s stock was worth £10,000, in today’s figures, that would be in the region of £1,140,000 nowadays. His insurance would have covered £912,000 by today’s reckoning,  with the insurance on  the warehouses of Messrs. Hamel & Wright and Lottimer & Co realising £1,026,000. Sounds like a job for Columbo to me:

columbo

Narrow Marsh, the area below the Lace Market area, with, originally, a sandstone cliff at its back, was notorious in Victorian times as containing the worst slums in the British Empire, bar none, and being a place where only a mad policeman would attempt to go.

This photograph shows the many, many floors of some of the buildings, constructed against the cliff face itself:

narrow marsh

Here is a very ‘film noir’ shot of the streets below the cliff:

malt mill lane m=rrrow marsh

And, at last, the slums are torn down in the 1950s:

slum clearance 50s

 

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