Author Archives: jfwknifton

Sports Day : the race that lasted 20 years

The Reverend Stephens provides us here with yet another journey into “a foreign country; they do things differently there” (L.P.Hartley). And sixty years back in the past, it’s the start of the race in 1957. It’s late in the day, judging by the shadows. I think that the starter is Oswald Lush and look how each team has a differently coloured sash for identification purposes:

The next race started, I think, in 1969. None of those rather young little boys will be nervous, just because thousands of people are watching them and if anybody in the race slips and falls over, everybody will laugh at them and remember the event for the rest of their lives:

And here are the finishes. This one comes from 1957:

And here’s another tight finish from the same era:

The finishing judges display great concentration, especially Mr Lush on the right:

And the winner is…..No 22. Except he’s twelve years late, because this is 1969:

Some finishes in 1969 seem to have been based on folk dances:

The finish in 1977 was a lot more decisive:

And talking of individuals, this is thought to be B Watchorn in 1957. Just look at where there used to be a cricket scorebox:

And finally, here is a young man thought to be called Burney winning the mile in 1954:

This was possibly John Murray Burney from Gedling. He will be over 80 years old if he’s still out there somewhere. I hope he is.

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Filed under History, Nottingham, The High School

Eagle Comic (2)

Last time we looked at the appearance of a brand new comic called “Eagle”, which was an almost revolutionary step forward in the world of boys’ comics in England. The eponymous hero of the comic was space pilot Dan Dare, always combatting something or other, in this case Psycho-Rocket-Repair-Man :

Dan wasn’t the only person in the comic though. There was “Rob Conway” who seems to have been some kind of aviation detective:

Note the three aircraft, a Hawker Seahawk, an Avro Lancaster and possibly a Gloster Meteor.

There was PC 49, where ‘PC’ does not necessarily stand for “politically correct” :

And “Seth and Shorty – Cowboys”, wrangling away deep in the heart of Texas :

Seth’s grandson is probably better known to you as Dr Sheldon Cooper:

“The Great Adventurer” was a comic strip that predicted Middle East politics seventy years ahead of its time:

And there was even Captain Pugwash:

There were cutaway drawings of the latest technological marvels of the day:

And more science from Professor Brittain, now that radar wasn’t top secret any more:

“Discovering the Countryside” featured the hedgehog and an adder:

We learnt about aviation from reading “Heroes of the Clouds”:

There were the Ovaltineys, another paramilitary group I have previously written about:

They had their own little section, with a quiz about British town names:

And nobody gets out of here without a little sing-song. A song you cannot get out of your head. Go on, you know you want to:

Next time, safety, science fiction, serials, sport and Steel. And no, that last one isn’t a typo.

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Filed under Aviation, Film & TV, History, Literature, Personal, Science, Writing

Sports Day : they also serve who stand and wait

One of the best things about old photographs is that we don’t necessarily look at them with the same interpretation of what is happening as the person who took the photograph in the first place. And at sports events, the activities might seem a little boring but the spectators never are. The Reverend Stephens has left us here a good few glimpses of the School Sports Days of the past…and the people who watched them. Here are Messrs Madden, Neville and Foster in 1957:

On the same day, he snapped Messrs Chett, Symonds, Grauberg and Lush. But just look at the cars! Left to right, a Ford Prefect, a Hillman Minx, a Morris Minor 1000 and I really don’t have a clue, but it’s definitely old:

By 1960, things haven’t changed very much. The starter signals that he is ready and everybody else waits for the bang:

Mr Powell doesn’t look too happy as he goes off to see somebody at the other end of the track:

Things were very similar in  1961. One thing that I can’t understand in this picture is the leg in the same lane as the athlete finishing second:

But what’s attracting all the attention in 1957? A small crowd seems to have formed:

Why! It’s a baby!! And Mr AJ Walker just can’t resist!

And how could he resist a child who can lick a finger in a world class way?

Of all the photographs we have of Sports Day, these two are the most thrilling. Why did this not happen when I was working at the High School ? Let me point out too, as you gasp at the size of the queue, that ice cream was not rationed at this point. It’s just a wonderful thing to eat, the Food of the Gods:

Here it is again!:

I cannot explain why there is this sudden rush. I would like to say that the ice cream man’s buxom young daughter has had a wardrobe malfunction, but I really don’t know.

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Filed under History, Humour, Nottingham, The High School

“Eagle Comic” (1)

The first edition of ‘Eagle’ comic came out on April 14th 1950. It was the brainchild of Marcus Morris, a Lancashire vicar from Southport and it was illustrated by Frank Hampson who had previously worked on the vicar’s parish magazine. The Reverend Morris wanted a comic which told stories based on Christian ethics. Here’s the front cover, with the top half of the first ever Dan Dare story:

Dan Dare was the hero of this famous science fiction epic. It was perhaps a little like a cross between Flash Gordon and Star Trek. There was a villain as the equivalent of Ming the Merciless, and Dan belonged to the Interplanet Space Fleet who were a little like Captain Kirk’s United Federation of Planets. Here’s the second half of that historic first page:

I found it very difficult to create a clear illustration of the first edition where it is possible to read the text. The important thing, though, is the fact that a rocket is taking off, bound for outer space. In a 1930’s comic, it would have been a biplane, bound for Edinburgh.

The story continued in full colour on the back page. Here’s the bottom half of that very first second page, complete with jet propelled gyroscopic jeep:

What is important, though, is that the printing, both of the words and of the illustrations, would be unrecognisable by 1958. Mind you, the cost of the comic had gone up from the original threepence to four and a halfpence. Just look at the quality now:

Next time, we’ll look at some of the other characters to appear in that first edition of Eagle comic:

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Prices slashed on “History of the High School” !!!

Those of you who follow my blog will be familiar with the many stories I have told over the years about Nottingham High School…its Founders, its coat of arms, its war heroes, its caretakers, its heroes and its one or two villains. These stories all appeared in “Nottingham High School, the Anecdotal History of a British Public School” which was published some time ago now:

The reason I am reminding you now of this book is that the price on Amazon has now gone down to £23.48 with Free Postage if you are a member of Amazon Prime. This is fantastic value for money.

Most non-fiction books cost roughly £10 for every hundred pages, so £23.48 for a book of this length is an excellent price. The book has 394 pages (and my computer says around 130,000 words, which is roughly the length of either “The Two Towers” or “Return of the King”).

Above all, this is a hardback book with a nice dust jacket and to be honest, it surprised me with its quality in terms of its looks. It looks really professional for a book written by an amateur author.

The book is written in diary form and runs from Thursday, June 30th 1289 to Thursday, July 12th 2012. I have divided it into forty chapters whose titles range from “Lost in the Mists of Time”, “A Personal Friend of Guy Fawkes”, “The School is Closed Today because of Plague”,  “Old Boy Cuts Off King’s Head”, :

In the more modern era, the chapters run from “The DH Lawrence Years”, “Major General Mahin : A Yank at the High School”, “Albert Ball and the High School go to War” to “The Golden Age of Teachers”:

I have tried to keep the tone of the work an interesting and light one, but at the same time, as you know from my blog posts, I can show my more serious side when occasion demands. A very large number of former pupils from the High School died in the two World Wars and their sacrifice is reflected in my book:

What a price !

£23.48

And more than that, what a price for 394 pages of new, original and interesting ideas!

Incidentally, please don’t think that I’m being greedy and I’m trying to make loads-a-money from this. I am merely pointing out the existence of this new, lower price, because previously the two companies publishing the book have both asked for a higher price. In one case, a much higher price.

 

 

 

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Filed under Football, History, Humour, Nottingham, Politics, The High School, Wildlife and Nature, Writing

The Nightingale and Bomber Command

This is a very famous recording of a nightingale singing its little heart out, only to be interrupted by the enormous noise of a large number of Bomber Command aircraft approaching and then flying over. Undaunted, the nightingale carries on with its beautiful song as the bombers leave and the roar of their engines gradually fades away. The recording lasts quite a long time but it is well worth listening to in its entirety, particularly if you have never heard it before. It comes from spud4x:

The recording was made from a garden in Surrey, England during the evening of May 19th 1942 as 197 aircraft flew over on their way to bomb Mannheim. There were 105 Wellingtons, 31 Stirlings, 29 Halifaxes, 15 Hampdens, 13 Lancasters and 4 Manchesters:

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47 men would be killed and 23 would finish up as prisoners of war. Eleven days later would come the first 1,000 bomber raid on Cologne. And in the woods of England, and indeed Germany, the war would count for very little. The bluebells would be lingering on and the nightingales would be starting to sing.

The nightingale has a very powerful, very famous, but not necessarily hyper distinctive song. On birdwatching trips, I have often seen people listen to a hidden blackcap or garden warbler and walk away happy that they have heard a nightingale. John Keats too, may have been misled. Some critics have mentioned that the bird’s behaviour as Keats describes it, is on occasion not dreadfully nightingaley. But the poetic thoughts are dreadfully, well, poetic:

“Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!
         No hungry generations tread thee down;
The voice I hear this passing night was heard
         In ancient days by emperor and clown”
Perhaps John Clare, of whom I wrote long. long ago, had a better idea:
“See there! she’s sitting on the old oak bough,
Mute in her fears ; our presence doth retard
Her joys, and doubt turns every rapture chill.
Sing on, sweet bird! may no worse hap befall
Thy visions, than the fear that now deceives.”

Anyway, there’s only one nightingale and here it is…

And here’s another version of that BBC recording:

If you’re interested, this is also to be found on Youtube. It is a recording made of a Bomber Command crew on a bombing mission over Germany:

As a fully paid up very sad person, I have two CDs  of this type of thing, bought many years ago from Amazon and I have listened to them many times.

This is the first one and this is the second one. They are particularly good for driving through rush hour traffic on your way to work. Goggles optional.

 

 

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Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, History, Humour, Personal, Wildlife and Nature

Fred walks home with Will

As I mentioned before, my Dad, Fred, during his time in the RAF, was frequently given 24 hour passes which ran from 00:00 hours on the first day to 23:59 on the second. They weren’t much use when he was with 20 Operational Training Unit in Lossiemouth which even nowadays, using the motorways, is a there-and-back trip of almost 930 miles. Here’s the old Lossiemouth from a wartime picture:

And here’s the brand new sign at the gate:

Here’s the journey by car today:

On the other hand when Fred was stationed at Elsham Wolds in Lincolnshire, two day passes were fine. Here’s the home of 103 Squadron in 1943:

Fred was often forced to travel in the early morning because he wanted to make use of the first few hours of his pass, usually from around 00.40 by the time he had walked down to Barnetby Station, to when the earliest train left Barnetby at, say, 01.10.

From Barnetby he usually travelled to Lincoln, then Nottingham and then Derby, although he could carry on from Derby to Burton-on-Trent if he so wished. The orange arrow points to Elsham Wolds, and Burton-on-Trent has been hidden, more or less, by the first triangular sign with an exclamation mark, just to the south of Derby:

Here’s a map of the local area around Woodville, the mining village where Fred lived. His house was quite close to the tip of the orange arrow, in actual fact. The station at Burton-on-Trent is the tiny white  dot on the spindly black thread running from north east to southwest near the town, just below the “U-R” of “BURTON” :

The problem Fred faced at this point, however, was that from Burton-on-Trent to Woodville where he lived, there would be no buses running if it he had arrived at Burton Station at four o’clock in the morning. If that were the case, there was only one remedy…what used to be called “Shanks’s Pony”. Do check out the link. It is quite an interesting origin for this phrase and useful for the American version of it too.

On one occasion, Fred came back on leave from Elsham Wolds and he then continued through Derby station to the local station at Burton-on-Trent. When he emerged onto the street, knowing full well that he had a five mile walk in front of him, he found that his father, Will, then in his mid-fifties, had spent at least a couple of hours of the early morning darkness walking the five miles from their house in Woodville to meet his son at the station as he got off the train:

They walked back together in the fresh, bright summer sunshine, the road even more deserted than normal as it was so early in the morning. Not a single word was said between father and son at any point in their journey. Their mutual respect and solidarity, their love, was expressed not by words but by a deed, the walking of five miles just to be with somebody that extra couple of hours, even if the time together were to be passed in total silence.

In later years, Fred was to say that one of the greatest regrets of his life was that he had never said anything to his father during this walk and that his father had never said anything to him. In general, Fred wished that there had been much more obvious affection shown during his life with his parents. Will had never hugged Fred or even held him in his arms as a young child. Never in his entire live did he ever express his undoubted love for his son by such gestures, which he would have thought unmanly.

Here they are, in a local park on holiday in Blackpool. Notice the fashion statements. Will is wearing those two coloured shoes and Fred has one of those elasticated belts that fastens with a metal snake device:

 

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Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, History, Personal