Monthly Archives: May 2017

Six Kings and Two Queens (3)

So why is this rambling windbag of a tale called Six Kings and Two Queens ?

Well, the hero, John Deane, the entrepreneur, the sea captain, the ex-cannibal, the ex-poacher, the ex-deer stealer and the ex-butcher’s apprentice lived a very long life. And when he eventually succumbed, Captain Deane, as the locals all called him, was buried in the churchyard at Wilford:

john deane tombxxxxxx

He had lived through the reigns of six kings and two queens.

He was born during the reign of Charles II. To me, Charlie looks a real sleeze of a man. He couldn’t keep his hands off Nell Gwynne’s oranges and he appears to me to be just the type to be arrested by the police for having inappropriate images on his computer:

charles II

And here is History’s most famous orange seller, Charles’ mistress Nell Gwynne. This was his own personal pin-up:

gwynn

Next came James II. Here he is. He was chucked out eventually because he was a Roman Catholic, and because of this, the Protestant nobles thought that he would eventually want to be an absolute monarch and then they would all have to work for a living:

James_II_(1685)

The Glorious Revolution of 1688 brought in William and Mary:

william_and_mary

Is is just me, or does Mary look like a man?

Queen Anne was definitely not a man. She had seventeen children but, poor woman, none of them survived to become adults:

annexxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

No silly jokes about her. She is too sad a person for that. All of her weight gains came from what must have been more or less continuous pregnancies.

Enter George I, a German who spoke little or no English:

King_George_I_

Like all of the Hanoverians, George I hated his son and his son hated him. Here is George II. He was the last English king to lead his troops into battle, at Dettingen in 1743. He galloped so fast his wig blew off:

george II

George III was mad, mad, mad. He lost the American colonies, of course. Perhaps they thought they would be better off without a registered lunatic in charge?

King George III

George III  was the last monarch of John Deane’s long life. Six and out, to borrow a cricketing phrase.

Mr Spielberg, I have the film script for all of this nearly half finished…

 

 

 

 

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Six Kings and Two Queens (2)

Hopefully, you have already read the first part of the blood soaked story of Captain John Deane and the wreck of The Nottingham Galley on the ice cold, wind swept rocks of Boon Island, just off the coast of New Hampshire:

cheat

The Date-Book of Remarkable and Memorable Events connected with Nottingham and its neighbourhood by John Frost Sutton does not disappoint with its continuation of the story.

Captain Deane returned to Nottingham where he wrote a bestselling book about the tragedy. Surprisingly, he was the hero.

The First Mate, Christopher Langman, did exactly the same. He wrote his own book where he was the hero.

Two very different stories, with each author accusing the other of being a liar and a cheat.

According to Stephen Erickson, the controversy lasted for a good while. It was essentially the two boat owners, the Deane brothers, versus the members of the crew.  John Deane in particular, was to become an eighteenth century spin doctor for the rest of his life, telling and re-telling the story with himself as its hero, over and over again, to whoever would listen.

Books were written in the immediate local area, such as Great Shipwrecks of the Maine Coast by Jeremy D’Entremont.

book

The same events were related in Great Storms and Famous Shipwrecks of the New England Coast by the aptly named Edward Rowe Snow. The most recent book is Boon Island: A True Story of Mutiny, Shipwreck, and Cannibalism by Stephen Erickson and Andrew Vietze.  And Boon Island by Kenneth Roberts turned the story into a novel:

book novel

Modern authors have added to the drama with suspicions of insurance fraud and the allegation that The Nottingham Galley could have arranged beforehand with French privateers to be captured for financial gain.
Most interesting perhaps is the Wreck of the Nottingham Galley published by the Book Arts Studio at the University of Maine at Machias. This contains everybody’s two cents’ worth, with five significant histories of events: Captain John Deane’s original account; the crew’s rebuttal; Cotton Mather’s rendition; a sensationalized, anonymous narrative; and John Deane’s expanded final account.

wreck of the npottingham gaslley

As if all that controversy, from 1711 to the present day, were not enough, according to The Date-Book of Remarkable and Memorable Events connected with Nottingham and its neighbourhood:

“….a very sad and fatal affair arose. Dr Jasper Deane, the brother of Captain John, resided in Fletcher-gate. He had embarked considerable property in The Nottingham Galley, and whenever he met his brother, the Captain, he yelled at him so long and loud about the cause of his serious financial loss, that they finally just avoided each other’s company.
At length their animosity appeared to subside, and under the condition that the subject of the shipwreck should not be brought up, the Captain met the Doctor at a party. There was every appearance of a restoration of friendship on both sides. No mention was made of The Nottingham Galley, and instead of separating, the Captain agreed to accompany his brother back to his house. Unhappily, the Doctor’s stifled feelings broke free, and in Fletcher-gate he again gave way to prolonged and bitter abuse of his brother. They had nearly reached his door when the Doctor assumed a threatening attitude, the Captain pushed him away with his open hand, and the Doctor fell. He ruptured a blood vessel, and died immediately. Whether the rupture was caused by excitement or the fall could not be ascertained.”

In 1714, Captain Deane commanded a ship of war in the service of the Czar of Muscovy, which he retained until 1720. We know this Czar of Muscovy better as Peter the Great. the founder of the Russian Navy:

Peter_der-Grosse_1838

Captain Deane was subsequently British Consul at the ports of Flanders and Ostend, until 1738, when he retired to Wilford near Nottingham with a handsome pension. Wilford was a live wire sort of place in 1740. In actual fact, the man you can see fishing in the River Trent in this picture is still there to this very day. He is a kind of Flying Dutchman figure, cursed by his wife never to come home from his fishing for the rest of eternity:

wiklford ferrry

The Date-Book hasn’t finished the tale yet:

“The retired Captain built the two neat dwellings near the entrance of the village from the ferry. The one nearest the river was the one he occupied first; the other, very similar in appearance, was erected afterwards:”

his house the palazzo
“In 1748, whilst walking in his own grounds in broad daylight, the Captain was attacked by a robber, who plundered him of everything valuable he had about him, even to the sleeve buttons from his wrists. The despoiler, whose name was Miller, was apprehended, and a few months afterwards he was executed.”

Miller was hanged in public on a wooden gallows. This execution would have taken place on the Forest Recreation Ground as I have previously described in my article “Gun Battle on Derby Road

One more bit to the story…..

 

 

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What do you do with your freed slaves? (3)

I suppose that the major problem with abolishing slavery is knowing what exactly to do with this newly created army of probably uneducated people, who may well be quite ill fitted to deal with an independent life. Jefferson, the man who coined the expression “all men are created equal” seems to have supported a gradual process, with slaves being first educated and then freed as they reached adulthood:

Thomas_Jefferson_Regular_Issue_1968-1c

Apparently he later realised that this would created an inadequate return on the slave owner’s investment, if that’s the word, and altered the age of freedom to 45. After that, they would be taken back to Africa:

Repatriationxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Overall though, mainly for various personal reasons, Jefferson did not have a lot to say about slavery.
He did recognise one dilemna though.

The difficulties of freeing the slaves and the difficulties of not freeing the slaves:

“There is not a man on earth who would sacrifice more than I would, to relieve us from (slavery).
We have the wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go. Justice is in one scale, and self-preservation in the other”

Jefferson was not the only one to have worries about “safely letting go” the country’s slaves.. In 1806, the Virginia General Assembly grew so concerned about the number of free black people living in the state that they changed the law to make freeing slaves more difficult.  From 1790-1810 the population of black people there had risen from virtually nothing to more than seven percent. In Delaware, they too were worried about freeing their slaves. By 1810, 75% of the state’s slaves had been given their liberty.

Many of these politicians were equally worried about the influence Haiti might have on the thinking of black people in the USA. Around this time, of course, Haiti was a revolutionary state on an island in the Caribbean to the south of the USA. A little like a black Cuba rather than a red one:

revolution in haiti

And presumably, the Americans did not want similar scenes of bloody revolution in their own southern states:

haiti

In 1801 President Jefferson was delighted to see the French intention to take back the island and thereby stop it becoming a base which might foment black revolution in the United States. He loaned the French $300,000 “for the relief of whites on the island.”

The southern slave owners in the US, of course, were just as scared of similar rebellions in their own states as President Jefferson. He said of this dilemma:

“If something is not done and soon, we shall be the murderers of our own children.”

But, in practical terms, what could be done?  Another article to follow in the near future.

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Six Kings and Two Queens (1)

“The Date-Book of Remarkable and Memorable Events connected with Nottingham and its neighbourhood” by John Frost Sutton does not disappoint with its entry for August 18 1761:

“Death of John Deane, Esquire, at his residence at Wilford, in the 82nd year of his age. Captain Deane was born in the reign of Charles II, in the year 1679, and was the youngest son of a gentleman of moderate fortune living in Nottingham. When he attained a proper age for business he took the strange fancy of being apprenticed to a butcher.  He was not satisfied with this, but being bold and spirited, he became associated with a gang of poachers and deer stealers. At length, dreading detection, he thought it prudent to go to sea.

In this new occupation Deane was happy in his job, and there is strong reason for believing that he was with Sir George Rooke at the capture of Gibraltar, where he was raised for his bravery to the rank of a naval captain.

Here is the striking shape of the “Rock of Gibraltar”:

gibraltar5xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

In 1710, when laid up and without employment, Deane, along with his father and brother, purchased a vessel which they named, The Nottingham Galley. After filling the ship with merchandise, Captain Deane took command and sailed for North America.

Here is that happy, happy ship:

nottingham galley

The ship was unfortunately wrecked on the New England coast.

Here is a sketch from the time:

wreck of the npottingham gaslley

The crew landed with great difficulty on a barren island.

The island was actually called Boon Island, and was well known as a very good place to die:

cheat

Deane and his crew were destitute of both clothes and provisions, the sea having swallowed up everything. Here they remained for twenty-six days exposed to severe hunger and cold. Three of the seamen perished, and the survivors were driven to the horrid and revolting necessity of feeding upon one of the dead bodies.

“Here we are!! Come and get it! Raw leg again!!”

eating cabinboy

On the 5th of January, 1711, a vessel came near enough to perceive their signals, and when despair had almost driven them mad, they were providentially rescued.”

A number of websites attach a great importance to this shipwreck, given its almost four weeks of bleak, desperate horror.

A good example would be ‘boonislander’  or  Stephen Erickson, who, in his own words, is a resident of Portsmouth in New Hampshire and a co-author of a new book on the wreck of the Nottingham Galley, the splendidly titled Boon Island:  A True Story of Mutiny, Shipwreck and Cannibalism. He wrote:

“The Nottingham Galley is one of the most important episodes in maritime history for a number of reasons.   It may have been the most well-known shipwreck controversy prior to the Bounty mutiny.  The story is famous for cannibalism; they ate the ship’s carpenter.

book xxxxxxx

No shipwreck castaways were ever less prepared for the subfreezing temperature they were forced to endure, and lived to tell about it; they were without food, freezing, and compelled to lie for weeks at a time, huddled together on solid rock. “

The shipwrecked men had certainly been forced to rely on their own ingenuity. A piece of sail provided a shelter of sorts and there was enough cheese soaked in salt water to last around a week. Ironically, the first to die was the cook. They respectfully consigned him to the waves. The next to go was the ship’s carpenter. He was out of luck, because by now they were hungry enough to eat him, allegedly wrapped in pieces of seaweed.

seawweeedd

They were unable to light a fire, so it had to be raw. What a pity they were never able to kill a seal and eat that.
For those of you interested in the precise details of gastronomy, the usual tale is that:

“they hacked off the feet and hands, gutted the bodies and then cut them into quarters like a pig or a cow.”

And presumably:

“Wrap in raw seaweed and serve at Atlantic Ocean temperature. Serves up to a dozen.”

Later, despite severe frostbite for those who had not yet eaten their own hands and feet, the men tried to build a boat, but it sank and took two men with it. A second boat fared equally badly but a corpse drifted to the mainland and alerted the locals as to what was happening on Boon Island. They were finally rescued in the early days of January 1711.

Steak-and-Chips

 

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Albert Ball, the naughty hero

Today marks the 100th anniversary of that enigmatic character, Albert Ball. Nowadays, perhaps, Albert Ball is pretty much a forgotten name. He was, however, one of the greatest air aces of the Great War:

Ball photo

Albert was a natural fighter pilot, and initially, he always flew French Nieuport fighters (with a top speed of 110 m.p.h.):

This is a painting  of Albert’s very own Nieuport:

nieuport_ball cccccc

As well as the French fighter though, the English S.E.5 with its top speed of 138 m.p.h. was to hold a huge place in Albert’s affections in the latter period of his career:

Unlike many of his colleagues in the Royal Flying Corps, Albert gained widespread public fame for his achievements. In general, unlike the French or the Germans, the British did not use their aces for propaganda purposes, but Albert was the first brilliant exception. Almost like a medieval knight of the air, Albert shot down 44 enemy aircraft. In today’s world he would have been, quite simply, a superstar.

Albert was genuinely fearless, and the war weary English public of 1917 loved the way he flew alone, like a Knight of the Round Table, and always attacked the enemy aircraft, irrespective of the odds against him.  His favourite prey was the German Roland C.II, the so-called “Walfisch”:

Most of Albert’s victories came by attacking enemy aircraft from below, with his Lewis machine gun tilted upwards. It was very dangerous but, like the Schräge Musik cannons of a later conflict, was remarkably successful.

Flying without any other aircraft to support him, Albert was always going to be vulnerable, and he was finally killed out on patrol on May 7th 1917, shortly before his twenty-first birthday. For this last combat, Albert was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross, to add to his Military Cross, Distinguished Service Order, Distinguished Flying Cross, Légion d’Honneur, Croix de Chevalier, Russian Order of St George and the American Medal.

medals 2

These medals can still be seen inside Nottingham Castle. Outside, in the gardens, is his statue:

statue xxxxx

His battered uniform has been carefully preserved:

coatcccc

And so has his shattered windscreen:

windscreenxxxxxxxx

On a more scurrilous note, Albert was always one for the ladies and every photograph of the dashing hero seems to have him with a different young lady in tow. In some of his biographies he is credited with having left an unknown, but relatively sizeable, number of the young ladies of Nottingham in, shall we say, a very interesting state.  Indeed, it would be interesting to know if anybody nowadays claims kinship with this dashing young man.

Albert was born on August 14th 1896 at the family home at 301, Lenton Boulevard (now 245 Castle Boulevard), Nottingham. He was the third child, and elder son, of Albert Ball and his wife, née Harriet Mary Page. A few years afterwards the family moved to Sedgley House, 43 Lenton Avenue, The Park, Nottingham, where they lived in a moderately wealthy fashion:

sedgly avenue xxxxxxx

Albert had a brother Cyril and a sister Lois. Their parents were always “loving and indulgent”. Albert Ball Senior had originally been a plumber, but he was an ambitious man and became an estate agent, and then a property speculator, as his fortunes improved. He was to be elected Mayor of Nottingham in 1909, 1910, 1920 and 1935.
As a boy, Albert was interested in engines and electrics. He had experience with firearms and enjoyed target practice in the garden. Thanks to his wonderful eyesight, he was soon a crack shot. On his sixteenth birthday, Albert spent a lovely day as a steeplejack, as he accompanied workmen to the top of a tall factory chimney. He was completely unafraid and strolled around, not bothered in the slightest by the height:

steeplejack1

Albert’s education began at the Lenton Church School. He then moved, along with his younger brother Cyril, to Grantham Grammar School, which had a military tradition that stretched way back into the Napoleonic times of the early 19th century, well before the establishment of other schools’ Officer Training Corps, or Combined Cadet Forces.

Albert moved to Nottingham High School on Thursday, September 19th 1907 at the age of eleven, as boy number 2651. According to the school register, he was born on August 17th 1896, although on his birth certificate, the date is certainly given as August 14th. Later in life, Albert was to countersign a certificate from the Royal Aero Club on which his date of birth was written as August 21st. His father is listed in the High School register as Albert Ball, a land agent of 43, Lenton Road, Nottingham.

Albert did not last a particularly long time at his new school, as he was to be expelled for bad behaviour in 1910. Contemporary sources reveal that Ball particularly enjoyed misbehaving in music lessons:

“The Third Form music master was a Mr Dunhill, who had one eye which was straight, but the other looked outwards at an angle, rather like half past ten on a clock. Boys always used to make fun of him. Whenever he shouted “Stand up you ! ! ! ” and looked at a certain naughty boy, four others would get up elsewhere in the room. “NO !  NO !  NOT YOU !! …YOU ! ! ” The original four would then sit down, and another four completely unrelated boys would stand up elsewhere in the room.
Albert Ball specialised in misbehaviour during these singing classes. He and his brother would invariably “kick up a terrible row”, and were then sent out of the room.”

at trent college

According to one Old Boy from just a few years later, however, Albert’s actual expulsion came from:

“an incident which took place at morning prayers. Ball took in with him a huge bag full of boiled sweets. At one point it was allowed to burst, and hundreds and hundreds of sweets were all dropped onto the floor. The whole school assembly then became one seething mass of boys, all scrabbling about on the floor, “heads down and bottoms up, completely out of control ”, trying to pick up as many sweets as they possibly could.”

That did not necessarily mean, however, that Albert misbehaved with every single teacher. The Chief History master, C.Lloyd Morgan, was to recollect in later years:

“I think I taught Albert Ball but can’t recollect him.”

Albert moved next to Trent College, where he was a boarder. He was only an average student, but he possessed great curiosity for everything mechanical. His favourite lessons were therefore carpentry, model making, playing the violin and photography. He was also a member of the Officer Training Corps:

armoury door trent college

Albert eventually left Trent College at Midsummer 1913. His stay there seems to have been for the most part relatively happy, although it was not always a totally enjoyable experience, by any means. On at least one occasion, for example, the unhappy young Albert is supposed to have run away to sea, and he was only apprehended at the very last moment:

“covered in coal dust, in the engine room of an outgoing steamer”.

Whatever Naughty Albert’s long forgotten negatives, though, there is something genuinely cool about being featured on your very own stamp. As far as I know, Albert is the only Old Boy of the High School to have achieved this:

Albert_Ball_stamp zzzz

During his career, Albert secured 44 victories over enemy aircraft with a further 2 unconfirmed.  Nobody can fight alone for ever, though. After just 13 or 14 months of combat flying, Albert was killed.

The end came 100 years ago to this very day. I have tried to schedule the appearance of this post so that it is published to celebrate this anniversary.  There is no clear indication of what happened in his last combat although four German officers on the ground all saw his SE5 emerge from low cloud, upside down, and trailing a thin plume of oily smoke. Its engine was stopped and the plane crashed close to a farm called Fashoda near the village of Annoeullin. Albert was still alive and he was removed from the wreckage by Mademoiselle Cécile Deloffre. As she cradled him in her arms Albert opened his eyes once and then died. His death was later found to be due to his injuries in the crash. He had not been wounded.  The chivalrous Germans gave Albert a funeral with full military honours on May 9th. The original white cross with which they marked his grave, No.999, is still kept in the chapel at Trent College.

Albert’s father, Sir Albert Ball, was eventually to become Lord Mayor of Nottingham. After his son’s death, he bought the land where the crash had occurred. When he died in 1946 he bequeathed it to the inhabitants of the village to farm and to keep the memorial in good condition:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Freedom and the Americans (2)

In a recent article, I wrote about Thomas Paine and his defence of the French Revolution of 1789, Rights of Man, which was published two years later, in 1791:

paine

Fifteen years earlier, on July 4th 1776, the United States Declaration of Independence had also been a major step on the road to freedom.

Back towards the end of the eighteenth century, the Americans were more than a little dissatisfied with the treatment they received at the hands of the British, and rightly so:

bostonmassacre

The document, originally composed by Thomas Jefferson, explains why people, have the right to rebel against their government. I have tried to make the language a little easier:

“Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.  Whenever any Government becomes destructive, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers such as to them shall seem most likely for their Safety and Happiness.”
Prudence will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience has shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new guards for their future security.”

Fine words, and you can hear Thomas Paine clapping in the background.
King George III, of course, around this time, was beginning to show the very first signs of his madness.

George_III_Robes_Bestxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Most typical was his talking at great length, with enormously long sentences. Four hundred words per sentence. He repeated himself. Talked so much that he frothed at the mouth. Page boys would have to hold him down on the floor for his own safety. He spoke to dead relatives and thought he was in heaven. He talked with the angels. We don’t know what was wrong with him. Bipolar disorder, perhaps. Porphyria, maybe. It may have been his doctors who gave him “ James’s Powders” until his arsenic levels were 300 times the level of being merely toxic. After all, he did get better when his doctors stopped treating him.

george III picture

Wearing a big hat, though, is no recipe for stable government, and you can understand why the Americans left the Empire.  Their declaration contained one of the greatest, if not the greatest, sentences ever written by Man:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Even when the Declaration was being signed though, the inevitable question of slavery raised its ugly head. Thomas Day wrote:

“If there be an object truly ridiculous in nature, it is an American patriot, signing resolutions of independency with the one hand, and with the other brandishing a whip over his affrighted slaves.”

Thomas_Jefferson_Regular_Issue_1968-1c

Thomas Jefferson owned two hundred slaves and freed only five. George Washington had 317 and of the other ten presidents who had slaves, the totals were James Madison (100), James Monroe (75), Andrew Jackson (200), Martin van Buren (1), William Henry Harrison (11), John Tyler (70), James K Polk (25), Zachary Taylor (150), Andrew Johnson (8) and Ulysses S.Grant (5).
Clearly, a difficult and awkward problem, and one to be returned to in the near future.

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