Monthly Archives: February 2017

A Great Bustard in Edwardian Nottinghamshire

Great Bustards are huge birds, more or less the size of a domestic turkey. They used to live in many areas of Merrye Old Englande, as long as there was plenty of open grassland and only scattered farmland. They liked the chalk downs of central and southern England such as Wiltshire,  for example, and the open sandy heaths of East Anglia. The last bird English bird was shot in 1832. This is not him:

great bustard ddddddddddddddddddddddddddd

A single Great Bustard  was seen at South Collingham on April 1st and April 23rd to 24th 1906. South Collingham was, I presume, to the south of present day Collingham. The latter village is just to the north of Newark-on-Trent. In 1906, there would have been no electricity cables or pylons. Just open, infrequently visited farmland. The orange arrow marks the approximate spot:

collingh

Mr Henry Wigram sent Joseph Whitaker two letters which have survived, and they are kept in the Local Collection in the library at Mansfield:

The Lodge,
South Collingham,
Newark,
29th of June 1906

Dear Sir,
I am afraid you will think me slow in answering your PC (postcard), but I have had some difficulty in obtaining accurate information about the Cormorant, about which I had no note myself:

gret corm xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

I can tell you now that it was seen on the Newark Parish Church steeple for nearly two months. If I can hear anything more definite than this I will let you know.

.
I was glad to have your enquiry about the Great Bustard, because most people have simply smiled, & said “What could it have been ? ” ! !

Great_Bustard_woodcut_in_Bewick_British_Birds_1797

I can positively say I did see one, as I had another view of it nearly three weeks after:

flyingxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

I reported it to “Countryside”, flying over my garden & I believe my wife saw it at about the same time & place on the following day.

The second time I saw it, it was making a noise like an exaggerated Crow’s caw, while on the wing. It was this that drew my attention. On both occasions I was within 120 yards of it:

outarde-barbue-vol2qqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqq
You have perhaps heard of the Snipe & Redshank laying in the same nest at Besthorpe. The Snipe laid first, each laid 3 eggs, from which I saw the Redshank get up. I am afraid I cannot say how many were hatched.


I have a few other notes which seem interesting to me, but they may very possibly be rather commonplace to one with so much more experience, as you have.
Though I collected eggs as a boy, it is only of late that I have really studied birds at all. If you think I could help in any way I should be only too glad to do so, as far as I can. I am often at Retford on business and could come over to see you if you wish. After all, I have heard of Rainworth from my friend Bonar, who went to see you with the Wordsworths last year, there can be few more interesting places anywhere.
Yours truly,
Henry Wigram

PS:    I am sorry to find I addressed this wrongly, and it has been returned to me.”

A week later, Henry Wigram sent a further letter to the great man, dated July 6th 1906:

The Lodge,
South Collingham,
Newark,
6 July 1906

Dear Sir
Thank you for your Postcard. Since writing you I have seen a coloured plate of a Great Bustard, & find that it entirely corresponds with my recollection of the bird I saw, but I noticed, as you say, that the bird looks much whiter on wing (sic) than with its wings closed:

qwerty

At the time I saw it, the bird appeared to me to resemble a Turkey more than anything else I could think of. Its colouring was white & brown, not brown & grey.
I put its stretch of wing roughly at a yard and a half, and found afterwards that my man, who was with me on both occasions, guessed it at the same measurement:

flying

I first saw it on April 1st, again on April 23rd. My wife is also certain that she saw it on April 24th.
I had field glasses in my pocket the first time, but the bird, which when I first saw it, was in the act of rising from the ground in a grassfield – disturbed by other people passing, (who did not see it) – though at first it did not appear to be flying fast got away so quickly that I could not get the glasses on to it:

taking offqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqq
I was much struck at the time by the pace at which it flew with comparatively slow beats of the wing.
On the second occasion the bird passed right over my head at a height of, I should say, 50 to 60 feet.
This was in the evening. The following morning my wife saw it taking exactly the same line of flight.
I sent word to Gates at Besthorpe on 2nd April that this bird was about, but he was ill & could not look out for it. However a Besthorpe man told him that he had seen a large strange bird about that time:

flyignGAINxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

My father also saw a large bird he could not identify near the same date, but he did not get near enough to it to give any particulars.
I should very much like to come over to Rainworth as you kindly suggest. Would Friday the 20th suit you, & if so at what time?
I saw a bird the other day which puzzled me completely:

tree pipitqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqq

It was the size and shape exactly like a Tree Pipit, but it had pink legs, & the markings on the throat were darker (almost like those of a  miniature French Partridge , & did not extend so far down the breast as in the case of a Tree Pipit. It also seemed to have a dark mark around the neck.
Would it be possible for strong sunlight to deceive one in this way? There were Tree Pipits about the place at the time.
Gates was with me, & quite agreed as to the markings.
Yours very truly,
Henry Wigram

In his own copy of the Birds of Nottinghamshire, Joseph Whitaker has written:

“I may add that Mr Wigram is a keen and careful observer of birds and a good field naturalist, and I am perfectly satisfied that it was a Great Bustard he saw.”

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Young men behaving badly and a Touch of Class (2)

Last time I mentioned that there had been a quarrel which set Roy Henderson and his friend Arthur Barton, both from the richest areas of the city, against Harold Connop, the poor kid from the wrong side of the tracks. Two fairly clever kids against one who was blindingly clever, despite his impoverished background. The disagreement took place when Connop was in his second term as Captain of the School, in the Summer Term of 1917.  Roy Henderson was never selected to be Captain of the School and Arthur Barton only did the job very briefly at the end of an extremely short Easter Term, when Francis Bird was called up in March 1918.

bulletin_24_1403256831_2052%20Nottingham%20017

As I said in Part 1, I do not know why Harold Connop was so unpopular although at least three, possibly four, reasons spring easily to mind.

Anyway, here is the tale of the quarrel:

“Arthur Barton and Roy Henderson had given lines to one of Mr Strangeways’ favourites, whom they had found misbehaving. The two prefects were then told off for daring to punish this favoured boy. In revenge, however, fellow prefect Towle climbed through a trapdoor in the ceiling of the 5B room, into the loft above Mr Strangeways’ room, and disrupted his lesson by making a tremendous row on the ventilators.

This is Mr Strangeways:

wmp__1282738059_Headmaster_-_Strangeways0001

Both Barton and Henderson knew that Towle was going to do this, but they did nothing to stop him. Later, they argued that it was not for the Prefects to “attempt in any way to prevent such misbehaviour during School hours: that was the duty of the Masters.”

The other Prefects urged them to “help preserve a proper standard of behaviour”, and there was an enormous row about this outrage, as the perpetrator, Towle, could not be found. Harold Connop tried to remedy the situation at a meeting of the prefects and asked Barton and Henderson directly “Who did it?”.

Barton and Henderson again said that they knew the event was going to happen, but hadn’t tried to stop it.  Connop tried very hard to get them to name names, but they totally refused.

Connop then went straight to the Headmaster. His judgment was that anybody involved should be stripped of their prefectship:

“Such Prefects ought immediately to resign and I should be very pleased if they would do so. Please tell them so.”

Barton and Henderson resigned, and for four days, they were not included on the list of prefects. The Headmaster, however, had not seen either Barton and Henderson personally, or heard their version of the story. Henderson’s father, the clergyman, wrote a letter to Dr.Turpin, and told him that he ought to hear a full explanation.

In this picture of the 400th anniversary celebrations, Dr Turpin is behind Mrs Gow and the lady in white:

400 mth heads

Barton and Henderson  duly went to see Dr.Turpin, and told him only they knew who the guilty party was, but were unwilling to furnish a name. They were told to apologise to Mr Strangeways, and were then reinstated as Prefects. They agreed “to do their best to stop such incidents in the future”.

And this was the somewhat surprising, even unsatisfactory, end of the matter. Nothing works like a letter from Daddy!

Shortly afterwards, Connop was caught smoking. He had recently given lines to a boy who had been giving a younger boy a ride on his handlebars as he cycled down Waverley Street. Waverley Street is very steep and this was a very dangerous thing to have done. The boy produced his lines, but also made a statement that he had seen Connop smoking in King Street in the middle of town.

Henderson called a meeting of the prefects about this serious misdemeanour, and Francis Bird accused Connop of breaking his previous promise not to smoke until he left the school, and of undermining the position of the Prefects.

Connop explained that he was not in King Street, but in a street more than a mile from the middle of the town, which was not usually frequented by the boys. They were told that he had just received the news that he had been accepted for the Royal Naval Air Service, and he expected to leave very soon:

aircraft

Connop had bought some cigarettes for a wounded soldier on leave from the Front, and it was only after “being repeatedly pressed” that he had been prevailed upon to smoke. He argued that as School Captain he had been “freer from censure than the majority of his predecessors.” At least one of his accusers had been seen committing a far worse offence than his, and had escaped punishment completely.

Connop admitted his guilt, however, but claimed “extenuating circumstances”. He signed a declaration that he would not repeat the offence.

The entire body of the Prefects, including Henderson and Barton, then considered that the matter had been brought to a final conclusion.

Two months later, the Prefects organised another meeting, and declared that the punishment which they had all previously agreed upon, was now thought to be by no means severe enough.

A meeting of the entire Sixth Form was then called, and the whole affair was presented to them. They then voted as to whether Connop should continue as School Captain for the remainder of the term.

The vote was almost entirely unanimous, and Harold Connop was told to carry on.”

When he left the High School, Henderson joined “B” Battalion of the Artists’ Rifles, before moving to the Regimental Concert Party, based at Lichfield in Staffordshire. It is very difficult to imagine that he saw much combat at all. He later pursued a career in music as a baritone singer, becoming one of the foremost artists in the country.

Decca_1929_Sea_Drift

He died at the advanced age of just over a hundred.
Arthur Barton left the High School in 1918, and joined the Royal Engineers Signal Service. He was demobilised in December 1918. Given the timing of these events, and the time needed for training, it is difficult to imagine that he saw much combat, any more than Roy Henderson did.

After Cambridge, Barton initially worked at Repton School as Head of Physics and gained a degree of Doctor of Philosophy of London University. He became Headmaster of King Edward VII School, Sheffield, and then Headmaster of the City of London School. In addition, he became a top class football referee who was in charge of an Amateur Cup Final, a large number of international matches in Europe and two games at the Berlin Olympics including the semi-final. Here is Adolf Hitler and two of his friends actually watching the match which saw Germany lose 0-2 to tiny Norway:

hitler-takes-in-the-actio-006

Arthur Barton died at the age of seventy-six.

I cannot trace what happened to young Mr Towle, the ventilator vandal, but we know that on November 16th 1918 at the School Debating Society, he proposed that a letter of congratulation should be sent to Marshall “Fotch” for winning the war for us.

Such crass insensitivity came after his school had lost well over two hundred Old Boys in the carnage of the Great War and, according to another reminiscence, the school flag had been more or less permanently at half-mast for a number of years.

Harold Connop, of course, was one of that list of two hundred war casualties. He had joined the Royal Naval Air Service in 1917 and was posted to the airbase at Dunkerque on March 14th 1918 as a Temporary Flight Sub Lieutenant.

rnas cap

Within a very short time he was seriously wounded in aerial combat. He died from his injuries on March 31st 1918. Here is the RNAS casualty list for this period:

connop

Harold wasn’t a hundred or even seventy-six. He was just eighteen years of age:

grave

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The Most Dangerous English Animal (4)

So, which animals are the killers in England?
Well, in England, there is no animal carnage whatsoever. All the animals are unbelievably  friendly and welcoming. Nobody in history has ever been killed by a fox:

fox

And nobody has ever been done to death by a Lion’s Mane jellyfish either:

jelly

Hard luck Sherlock:

sherl

One lady was hospitalised after a gull attack. The killer birds pecked her little dog to death, which made some of the neighbours sad. A similar incident led to the death of a pensioner who had a heart attack.
On average, only one person a year in England is killed by cows (which really surprised me, I must say).
Five people a year are killed by wasps and bees every year in Britain, the same figure as the average number of deaths by terrorism, apparently.

psaw xxx
Only fourteen people have died in total from snakebite since 1876, with the last one more than forty years ago.
Since 2005 there have been 17 deaths caused by dog attack, which is just under two per year. There are almost a quarter of a million non-fatal attacks per year. These may sometimes be just a scratch but quite often they result in permanent disfigurement. And these statistics are rising rapidly with an increase of a third in the last five years. Animal shelters are apparently nowadays full with all the thousands of Staffordshire Bull Terriers which have been found to be too fierce to be kept as pets:

dog

Most dangerous perhaps, though, are the Artiodactyla, the deer and the antelope. In fact, we have no antelopes in England but the deer make up for it.
Around 75,000 deer are hit by cars every year in the UK.  This results in 450 injuries but only a few fatalities. Latest figures say that there are up to a dozen, either drivers or passengers.

deer

Getting it all into context, in 2010, 1,970 people were killed in transport accidents with almost four hundred of these being pedestrians. Two pedestrians were killed by a bicycle on the pavement and a further five were killed by motorbikes. Cars and vans claimed 133 victims in the total, and 55 pedestrians were in either a bus or a lorry with 39 hit by a train. Just over a hundred cyclists were killed in total (123) and 429 motorcyclists perished. Travelling in cars, 1,115 deaths occurred, a rather good advert, perhaps, for the virtues of the seat belt. On water, 14 deaths occurred and 22 people were killed in aeroplanes.
Stairs were killers on almost 700 occasions:

steps

A further 53 people fell to their death off a ladder. It can be accidental:

ladeeeer Or simply, a great mind at work:

ladder-double

More bizarrely, 36 people were killed by a “thrown, projected or falling” object.
Accidental drowning claimed 217 with 29 in the bath and 3 in the local swimming pool. The majority of people who drown, of course, are swimmers rather than non-swimmers.
The real killer animals were doctors and surgeons who claimed 433 people in medical accidents. The forces of nature claimed 129, the same figure as for “excessive natural cold”.
And what about those killer lifts? Four fatalities between 2002-2010.
And I’m still trying to work out how they did it. Five people managed to suffocate in bed:

marie-antoinette

There were lots of different sources for these statistics, so I picked one that seemed to be from a reasonable source.

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The only trophy the High School Football Team ever won

In late March 1981,  the school’s footballers won the Nottinghamshire Schools’ Football Association Seven-a-Side competition. This was the first time that a High School football team had ever won a cup at any level. Here is the squad:

six-a-side BETTER BEST BESTxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

The competition was organised into a number of groups, and in their initial group, the High School won two games, and lost just one, to Worksop College ‘B’ team. The High School therefore qualified for the next stage of the competition as the best losers.
This next stage was the semi-final, where they beat Worksop College ‘A’ team by one goal to nil. They therefore went forward to the Final, strangely enough, against Worksop College ‘B’ team. This ‘B’ team was the very same one which had already beaten the High School in the group stages.
In this game, the score was 0-0 at full time, and two periods of extra time did not produce any goals either. As there was no winner as yet, therefore, penalty kicks would be needed to decide the contest. The first five kicks were successful by each side, and the score was 5-5. Everybody would have to try again. The first Worksop player, though, then missed his second kick, leaving the High School needing just one goal to win the cup.
Norman Garden, who had come on as a half time replacement, took the kick, arguably the most important in a minimum of 110 years football at the High School.

NORMAN GARDENxxxxxxxxxxYESY EYS

By his own admission, head down, he took approximate aim. The ball hit both the post and the crossbar but screamed into the back of the net for the winning goal. The High School were the victors by the unusually high score of 6-5.
The team was coached, as always, by Tony Slack:

TONY SLACKKK WWWWWWWWWWWWWW

Team members were Raich Growdridge as captain, Simon Derrick, John Ellis, Norman Garden, Chris Ingle, Tim Little, Neil McLachlan, Richard Mousley and Chris Peers.

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This remains the High School’s only ever official trophy:

ta cup

Strangely enough, the cup was never contested again, and despite various attempts by High School teachers to surrender it back to the relevant authorities, nobody ever came forward to take responsibility for it. As far as is known, the magnificent cup, at least twenty pounds of almost pure, locally mined Worksop silver, still remains somewhere deep in the bowels of the School, locked away for safe keeping by Tony Hatcher, the school caretaker at the time:

tony hatcher

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Young Men behaving Badly and a Touch of Class (1)

In the recent past, I published four articles which were, I hope, bite sized sections of a much larger whole. They were all about the High School before the Great War, and then during the first few years of the conflict. All of the material came from the reminiscences of Roy Henderson, an Old Boy  from this time. None of these articles would have been possible without the original research by my friend and colleague, Simon Williams, who interviewed Roy Henderson at length. Simon, of course, has done some incredibly detailed research about the school’s casualties in the Great War. This can be found in the Nottingham High School Archive. Take a look, for example at the material he has found on Harold Ballamy, perhaps, the High School’s saddest and most pointless loss of the entire conflict. Poor Harold is also remembered by Nottinghamshire County Council, who incorporate much of what Simon Williams has produced.

When I composed the four articles, I deliberately chose not to include anything negative from what Mr Henderson said. I cannot, however, fail to include this almost surreal tale. Hopefully, you will find it interesting to read it and then try for yourself to work out what is really going on, what the real motivations are behind people’s behaviour, and what is happening behind the scenes.

Firstly, a little background information.

Roy Henderson’s father was a minister of the church. The family lived at No 3, Lenton Road in The Park Estate in Nottingham. This part of Nottingham is about as rich as it gets in the city. One website says that “If Nottingham were Los Angeles, this would be its Beverly Hills”.

Recent house prices there reached £535,000 (No2), £820,000 (No9) and £840,000 (No11). Another house in the road is currently for sale for £1,150,000. One website currently values No 3, Lenton Road at £816,382:

the park

Arthur Willoughby Barton was the son of Professor Edwin H.Barton, a Fellow of the Royal Society, and a Professor of Experimental Physics. He lived in Private Road, Sherwood, where very large Victorian houses change hands nowadays for around £500,000:

private

After the High School, Arthur went to Trinity College, Cambridge and gained First Class Honours in Physics. He was then a research student at the Cavendish Laboratory, where he helped Lord Rutherford to split the atom.

Harold Connop was the son of an Elementary School teacher, Mr Arno B Connop, and Mrs Ada Connop. There seems to be some confusion about the address. Some sources give it as 33,Westwood Road, a street in Sneinton, one of Nottingham’s working class areas. It is the first house on the left with a white door:

westwood lane

In 2001, this terraced house, with, perhaps just four or maybe five rooms, sold for £25,000. It is now worth around £57,000. Another address listed for Harold is 20, Stewart Place, a location which has now been demolished, probably in the slum clearance under the Socialist government immediately after the Second World War. Ironically, these houses were originally built by a local philanthropist, as “good houses for poor people”. This kind gentleman was the Reverend Robert Gregory, who was eventually to become Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Harold’s education at the High School was financed solely by scholarships, awarded on the basis of intellectual ability. He entered the school as a Sir Thomas White scholar, and then became a Foundation Scholar. Two years later, in 1913, the Sir Thomas White Scholarship was renewed and then subsequently extended for a fourth year.

Harold won prizes for six different subjects and the Form Prize for the Fifth Form in 1913, and the Sixth Form in 1915, 1916 and 1917. Here is the school in 1915:

1915

In his public examinations in 1913, he gained First Class in six subjects, and subsequently five distinctions at Higher Level. He became a Prefect in 1915, and Captain of the School in 1917. In the words of Roy Henderson, he was:

“a first class scholar and very good rugby player. He was a fine three quarter in rugby, and a very fast runner.”

Harold won a scholarship to Corpus Christi College at Oxford University, and was also awarded an exhibition, worth £65 annually for four years. At Oxford he was regarded as “the first Scholar of Corpus Christi College”, in other words, the cleverest and best one there:

Corpus-Christi_College_Oxford_Coat_Of_Arms_svgCompared to both Barton and Connop, Roy Henderson was, quite simply, not in their league. He enjoyed school, but himself admitted that he was never very good academically and was totally hopeless at exams. The high point of his career came in the Sixth Form, when he finally won a prize for an English essay on “Militarism”. Henderson only won because the rest of the Sixth Form boycotted the competition, saying “It’s the only thing Henderson can do…let him have it.”

Around this time, Roy Henderson, along with William Donald Willatt, founded a new school magazine called “The Highvite”.  As editor of the original school magazine, Connop was apparently furious at this new rival.  Henderson didn’t get on very well at all with Connop, for a reason which Henderson was not willing to divulge, even after the best part of seventy years. Henderson added that Connop was not very well liked in the school as a whole and he was never a particularly popular figure.

William Donald Willatt was one of six brothers at the High School, the sons of John Willatt, who  lived at 4, Pelham Road, Sherwood Rise. John Willatt was a wine merchant, whose business was presumably prosperous enough to pay the school fees of his six sons.

I do not know why Harold Connop was so unpopular although at least three, possibly four, reasons spring easily to mind. I will tell you about the quarrel next time.

 

 

 

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The Most Dangerous American Animal (3)

So what is the most dangerous animal for our American friends??

Well, we already know that wolves have never killed anyone in the lower 48 states of the USA with just one death in Alaska and one in Canada since the year 2000:

621166__the-wolf-pack_p

The most difficult problem I had with the USA was in finding accurate figures. Some lists refer to a single year and others to a number of years. On the other hand, the animals mentioned were all roughly the same in terms of the number of deaths, however the number was expressed.

Soooo…..don’t worry about sharks, with one fatality per year on average between 2001-2013. It was the same figure for alligators, crocodiles (you have both?) mountain lions, moose and, surprising to me, bears. All three species together, Grizzly, Black and Polar kill around two people per year between them. Venomous snakes and lizards (you have both?) kill six, and scorpions one victim fewer.

I didn’t know what a non-venomous insect was, or rather, I just couldn’t see how it would kill you, but anyway, they managed to kill nine people. Much more dangerous, though, were cows with an average kill total of around twenty. According to one expert:

“Large livestock are powerful, quick, protective of their territory and offspring, and especially unpredictable during breeding and birthing periods.”

Most people killed by cows are farm workers although they will attack walkers, birdwatchers and artists on occasion. In particular, in my experience, they especially seem to hate easels and tripods, thinking you are some kind of four or five legged supercow. Meat producing cattle are more docile in their behaviour and milk producing breeds are the worst of all, especially Friesians:

Big_beasts_trigger_2663528kxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Mammals such as horses, pigs, deer and others killed 52 people annually between them, although strangely, this figure does not count road collisions.

More dangerous still are bees, wasps and hornets with just under sixty deaths, mostly through anaphylactic shock. Other venomous insects killed a further sixty victims, who included a large proportion of old folk in the southern states killed by fire ants.

image_fireants

One website alleges that domestic dogs kill 250 people per year and states that $1 billion is lost every year through injuries and deaths caused by dogs. Sadly 34% of the victims are children under four years of age. Elsewhere totals were much lower with the National Canine Research Council reporting 41 fatal dog attacks in 2014 and 32 fatalities in 2013.

Keep it in context though. The USA has a population of 318.9 million people and 2.6 million people die every year. All animal deaths combined constitute a measly 0.008 percent of all fatalities.

Annually, 33,000 people are killed in cars. There must be towns smaller than that.

AAA-Causes-of-Car-Crashes-Study

30,000 people fall to their deaths.

Nearly 39,000 manage to poison themselves.

11,000 people are shot and killed.

3,868 people drown.

41,000 commit suicide every year.

Around two and a half thousand Americans choke to death every year, with roughly the same total for deaths in fires. Six hundred people shoot themselves accidentally, with 45% of them children. Forty five of the adults will be hunters walking alone in the woods.

In the less serious category, 33 people are killed every year by lightning. A massive 413 deaths occur every year as a result of accidents with ATVs. Even elevators have their dangers…yes, you read correctly…..they kill 26 unfortunate people every year. These don’t look dangerous…but they are:

doors

And what about England? Well, we’ll see in the near future.

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