Category Archives: Nottingham

My Dad’s cars (3)

I have already told you about the love of my Dad’s motoring life, his Hillman Minx De Luxe, Registration Number BLT 141B. He gave it to me after he retired, and I had it for about two or  three years. Here is a picture of it in the car park of the old Savoy Hotel in 1980, on our wedding day. That’s why the picture’s so shaky:

Here I am driving this 1964 car, as it gradually began to get rustier and rustier :photo 4

It was in this Hillman Minx that, back in 1968, Fred was returning from Wigan down the M6, when, because the motorway was still in the throes of construction, he failed to see the tiny hand-painted direction signs, and finished up in a building site in Birmingham, having missed his turn off in Stoke-on-Trent. That sounds incredible, but he’d never been on  a motorway before. Wigan is a town in Lancashire and is indicated by the Orange Arrow. My Mum’s parents lived there. The other towns and cities are in capital letters. Fred was aiming at Burton-on-Trent near Derby, which is south east of Stoke:

He was driving the same car in Leicester (south east of Derby) when he got lost and was forced to ask a policeman the way. Realising that he was dealing with somebody from out-of-town, this eminently sensible officer told Fred to avoid a rather horrific one-way system by driving fifty yards the wrong way down a one way street, while he promised to turn a blind eye to the whole thing.

It was again in this very same Hillman Minx that, three years later, Fred again missed his way in that very same city of Leicester, and went the wrong way up another one way street. Instead of being able to solve the problem by the previous method, however, Fred was forced on this second occasion to extricate himself from the situation by executing a three point turn in the face of a rapidly advancing four lanes of densely packed vehicles.

I have vague memories too, of getting lost as we went on holiday for the first time to the Yorkshire coast at either Bridlington or Scarborough. We stopped at, I think, Pontefract, somewhere near a power station, to ask the way.

The man that Fred approached spoke with an accent which was completely incomprehensible, and after a few frustrated minutes, Fred just drove off at top speed, angrily spinning the wheels on his rather sedate family saloon. At the time, he insisted that, against all the apparent mathematical odds, he had managed to find the local village idiot at his very first attempt.

Incidentally, above, you can see the Britain’s Lead Soldier version of the village idiot which usually reaches £200 at auction.

Nowadays, I think, in calm retrospect, that the man’s Yorkshire accent may well have been beyond us. It is difficult, though, even to best guess the location of these events. Perhaps it was near the huge power station at Ferrybridge where the A64 to the east coast Yorkshire holiday resorts left the main A1 trunk road, as it would have been at that time. The power station was demolished a long time ago:

Whenever Fred left his car anywhere unfamiliar, such as when he was away on holiday, or for any length of time in his own local area, he would always immobilise it by removing part of the carburettor . On occasion, Fred would even immobilize the car when he parked it on his own drive. It was years after his death that I realized that in this apparently bizarre zeal for crime prevention, Fred was only carrying out the orders that he would have been given in the early part of World War Two, in 1939-1940, when it was a serious criminal offence to leave a vehicle without totally immobilising it. There was a very real fear of imminent invasion, and the arrival of Nazi paratroopers, many of them disguised as nuns. And even in 1975, the Soviet Spetsnaz forces would have drunk a bottle of vodka each in celebration to have found such a fast and classy vehicle as a 1964 Hillman Minx. Here’s their badge in case your car is ever stolen. Spetsnaz are everywhere:

This Hillman Minx was THE car of Fred’s life. He had it for more than sixteen years, before, around 1980, he passed it on to me as a newly qualified driver. I in my turn used the car until it failed its MOT test by a very wide margin, some £300 when my annual salary was £500. I then duly drove it back from Nottingham to Woodville, where my family lived. Fred was then able to drive “that Hillman” as he always called it, on its last ever journey, the short distance from 9 Hartshorne Road to Donald Ward’s scrapyard in Moira Road. Here it is, complete with Victorian bottle kiln:

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Filed under History, Humour, my Dad, My House, Nottingham, Personal, Russia

My Dad’s cars (2)

My Dad’s first car was an Austin A40 Devon, in Connaught green, with the registration leters of LXJ 701…..

After the Austin A40 Devon, Fred had a 1959 Ford Anglia, registration number SNR 863, which he bought from a garage in nearby Ashby-de-la-Zouch. It was exactly like this:

When I was around eleven or twelve we used to go and visit a nearby toy shop, “Shellbrook Motors” which used to sell Dinky and Corgi die-cast models of cars and larger vehicles, Airfix and Frog aircraft kits, and Hornby model electric railways. By 2017, they had changed a little and were selling artists’ materials, although they did refuse to pay the signwriter’s bill on this occasion:
There were no Ford Anglia type problems of low level criminality and cheap plastic with Fred’s next car, an English Hillman Minx De Luxe, BLT 141B. This beautiful blue car with the metallic chrome side stripe was “the one” as far as Fred’s motoring career was concerned.
He had taken me to Derby one day, and we visited Peveril Garage, on Friar Gate, near the headquarters of the Derby County Supporters’ Club:

Fred told me not to mention anything whatsoever about the day to my mother, under any circumstances. Without consulting her at all, therefore, he bought the car, priced at £510, which was, in those days, a princely sum. Indeed, the price was such a total royal that, when my mother did eventually find out how much the car had cost, she would have had Fred beheaded if she could have organised it. The car was a rich pale blue, half way between sky blue and navy blue. Here is one today:

In later years, when he had problems with rust on one of the wings, Fred was to opt for a total respray, which allowed him to retain the same colour blue for the body, but to incorporate a black roof which added that extra, unique, little detail. Here it is, with James Bond driving it, back in the days when I was 28. I had always wanted a personalised number plate, and this was the time when I changed my name to “BLT 141B”:

This was also the day that I caught both Francisco Scaramanga and Auric Goldfinger hiding together on a building site:

It was in this car that Fred had what were probably the most outstanding motoring experiences of his life. I can still recall, for example, just how scared he was, and indeed, we all were, when he drove a circuit of the Alpine like road which ran around the Great Orme near Llandudno in North Wales.

Indeed, some thirty years later, I returned to look at this road for myself, to see whether it was quite the challenge that it had seemed in the late 1960s. And, of course, the circuit had been considerably watered down since then. All the sheer drops down to the sea had now been fenced off, and, most significant of all, perhaps, a narrow road which I remember as having been two way, had been limited nowadays to just one way traffic. Gentrified, I think the word is:

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Filed under Criminology, History, Humour, my Dad, Nottingham, Personal

My best friend, Widdle (5)

Last time,we were looking at what Widdle the Friendly Fox would eat and what he would turn his nose up at. Over time, we gradually built up a list of his likes and dislikes.

Physically, he was very thin and very wiry, but he was extremely strong for his size. If he pulled one end of a stick and you pulled the other, you could feel his muscles and his strength. Most of this came, in our opinion, because he wouldn’t eat bread or cakes. He wouldn’t eat curry or anything flavoured. He wouldn’t eat pizza. Even our local magpies wouldn’t eat pizza, incidentally. Widdle wouldn’t eat hamburgers, although we didn’t quite understand this. Perhaps he had his culinary standards. After all, the bar was set pretty high by our sausages (42% meat).

This photograph appears to show the biggest object Widdle ever managed to carry away. I have no idea what it was, but may have been a big bone or maybe some cut of meat that had gone past its sell-by date:

Raw bacon rind appears to be a delicacy in the fox world. Firstly, sniff what it is…

Don’t let it escape under any circumstances:

 

“A second piece? Don’t mind if I do!”

In the next picture, note the first piece of rind safely stashed on the floor. He didn’t find getting both in his mouth at the same time too easy!

 

“Cheese is different. You have so many dreadful flavours in cheese. So make sure you sniff it first….”

 

“Take hold of it carefully. It may crumble and you might lose some.”

“Sniff the next piece carefully. Just because the first piece was cheddar, that doesn’t mean they all will be.”

“Yes, it’s OK. I’ll take it, please. It’s good for the teeth, cheese!”

Not that Widdle would turn down proper meat.

“Would I like a bit of steak? You bet I would!”

“Mmm. Lovely!”

Watch what you’re doing. Fingers at your own risk!!”

Widdle usually took all the food that was offered to him. He filled his mouth up with sausages, bits of meat and so on, and took them back to Mrs Widdle in the den. She would eat some and share the rest with her cubs. The largest litter I ever saw in our garden was four, with No 4, the smallest one, perhaps only two thirds the size of the others. Mum and Dad taught them their table manners. Any transgression got a sharp nip on the backside to emphasise the point.

Notice how, in the last three photographs, Widdle has a great gaping wound on his chest. As I mentioned, male foxes frequently fight each other, and they bite their opponent’s muzzle and fore-limbs. I don’t know how Widdle acquired this particular wound, but it didn’t take long to heal up.

On four occasions, Widdle had bad injuries to one of his front legs and he could barely walk. In a wilder world, he would not have managed to hunt and he would have died, but his friends stepped in with Sausage-Aid and he got over it. That gave him five lives instead of the usual one, a minimum of four or five years of life compared to the usual two or three, and as many as fifteen cubs produced, instead of the usual figure of between none and four.

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My best friend, Widdle (4)

Between approximately 2007-2010, our family had a completely wild fox as a friend. When Widdle came to you like this, you knew that he had only one thought on his mind. Sausages!!

These are the brand he preferred. We used to buy them at a frozen food supermarket called Iceland. We wanted a cheap, but nourishing, sausage for our furry friend, so we looked round most of the butcher-type shops in our suburb of Nottingham and finally made the decision to buy at Iceland where the budget sausages were 42% meat, easily the highest percentage in the world for the budget sausage. Dog food was even more unbelievable. All of the cheaper ones I looked at were full of “ash”. I’d really like to know why!

And what type of ash was it, that was included in so many dogfoods? Surely not the ashes of former dog owners? :

Sometimes Widdle was extremely polite, putting a fore-paw on each knee, showing you his pale brown eyes, and staring with a mixture of wistfulness and plain hunger:

On other occasions, he was a lot more forthright, explaining with his pointy teeth, that he was pressed for time, so could you crack on with it, please? After all, we both know how it’s going to end:

I wasn’t the only person who could feed him, but that perfect lunge was always his favourite method. Keep still and you were perfectly safe:

On occasion he was over excited and perhaps got some sausage stuck on his teeth. He would always want to clean it off straightaway:

He made several trips back to “The Den” to feed the family. On his last trip, the sausage or sausages were always for him, and he would get over excited and lick his lips in anticipation:

He was happy enough to eat leftovers. Here he has the carcass of a chicken, I think it is. Just look how, in this view, the early stages of his moult are easily visible:

This next picture comes seconds after the previous one. It catches Widdle in a strange pose. He has just heard a noise behind him and looks over to where the noise has come from. The angle makes it look as if he is being aggressive and snarling. But he isn’t. In actual fact, I never heard him make any noise of any kind. That pointy, sharp tooth is there though:

The noise came from next door’s cat, an old bruiser called Yin-Yang.  He was taken, as far as I know, as a young kitten, from a feral cat’s nest and brought up in a normal home. People always seem to think that foxes eat cats but Widdle and Yin-Yang didn’t ever take any notice of each other. Foxes are always extremely wary of a cat’s claws and the possibility of losing an eye in any fight with one.

Anyway, here they are, both sharing the same bits of the same chicken. Yin-Yang lived to be around seventeen or eighteen years old. He died in my daughter’s arms after some macho hero deliberately drove his car over him in front of our house. Yin-Yang was deaf, so he didn’t hear the car horn.

 

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Why I am what I am (3)

 

I have always had a soft spot for the RAF because Fred was in the RAF and he talked about it a lot.

I have alway been fascinated by aircraft because Fred liked aircraft, ever since one of Sir Alan Cobham’s finest landed in Startin’s Field at the back of his house.

Fred always admired the Spitfire as the aircraft that saved England……

And he always said that the Wellington was “a reliable old crate”……

But he always reserved his most emotional words for the Avro Lancaster. “It would always get you back home, no matter what”, which wasn’t strictly 100% true, but it gave him sufficient faith to get into the aircraft in the first place……

 

I have always tried to do my duty and to carry out all of my obligations. This is probably connected with Fred’s belief that there were two types of men in the world. One kind was the fighter pilot who was mercurial and brilliant, but occasionally capable of great inconsistency.

In contrast, the bomber pilot was always dependable like some kind of stolid, courageous bus driver, who could always be relied on to deliver the goods, in considerable quantity, to the right place at the right time.

When I was young, I as always very upset when I was told  that I was the bomber pilot type. I always felt that Fred was saying that I lacked flair and imagination, that I was boring and that I was incapable of the type of success which is spectacular and excites people. Only in later years did I realise how from Fred’s point of view the bomber pilot was exactly what you needed. As one author has put it, the relationship between the bomber pilot and the wireless operator was that “his fate was my fate”. At least nineteen times, therefore, Fred entrusted his very life to a bomber pilot, and then had this faith rewarded by not becoming one of the 55,573 Bomber Command casualties…..

As a negative, I have always been partial to a drink, because Fred always used to have a drink when he wanted to. With his PTSD, though, he had a much better excuse than me.

Another negative related to this is my own great anxiety in the face of any future event or, especially, a journey to somewhere unfamiliar. Fred had exactly the same problems. In his case, I suspect that he still had that old fear of getting into his bomber and facing the possibility of an imminent and violent death.

I always felt great anxiety about being sacked from my job because Fred  always had the exact same fear. That was because he worked for a clay mining company before the war, and they did not hesitate to sack people. “One strike, and you’re out!” as you might say. Here’s Fred at Ensor’s, with the rest of the workforce. It’s around 1937…..

I have very little self-confidence because Fred was always very keen that I should never stand out from the common herd. He therefore prevented me from getting big headed by criticising whatever I did and at best giving it minimal praise. He would say “Never stand out. Never be different” because that was what the upper echelons of the RAF hierarchy wanted to happen. Unfortunately, to succeed, you need to stand out, and you will have to be different to do that.

Fred always used to watch out for me coming home if ever I was late. He would lean over the front gate as if by accident or coincidence. I absolutely hated it, and I could cheerfully have shot him. I hated the idea of being controlled. Now I have my own daughter, and although my methods have always been, I hope, a little bit more subtle, I have always done pretty much the same thing. Still, worrying about your child is better than just not bothering where they get to.

When I was a little boy, Fred took me to a local medieval church where I could see where Robin Hood used to sharpen the tips of his arrows on the stones of the back wall. I now live in Sherwood in Nottingham. Less than half a mile away is an ancient ford over a stream. This site has been seriously suggested in at least one book as the location of Robin Hood’s camp.

The local medieval church was St Michael with St Mary’s in Melbourne, Derbyshire. ……….

Some of the grooves for Robin Hood and his Merry Men’s arrowheads are visible in the bottom right of the picture. The church is Norman as is shown by the shape of the arch and the many concentric rings of decoration around the top of the door……..

The columns are stout and broad, just like Durham Cathedral, and the arches similarly rounded, not pointed. Notice the Australian flag which commemorates the links between Melbourne in England and Melbourne in Australia……

And finslly, as I slowly but surely morph into my own father, I have started telling the same old stories over and over again, just like Fred did.

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Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, History, my Dad, My House, Nottingham, Personal

Why I am what I am (2)

Last time I mentioned a number of things that linked me to my Dad insofar as interests, hobbies and sports were concerned. I soon discovered that that was really only the beginning of the story.

I rather think that I studied Russian because Fred used to speak so frequently of the Russians during the Second World War. In the bookcase at his parents’ house, he had a pamphlet borrowed from an RAF library. It was entitled “Our Soviet Friends”, and it had pictures of the dam at Dnepropetrovsk:

He told me how, in the RAF, anybody wth knowledge of Russian could name their own price for helping to liaise with our new surprise allies, once the Germans invaded the Soviet Union. Towards the end of the war, Lancasters, on rare occasions, used to bomb the Germans and then carry on to Russia to land. When they came back they brought more bombs and often, one or two souvenirs.  On one occasion, my Dad had had a drink from a flask of coffee made up for the aircraft’s crew in Leningrad. I had to satisfy myself with my early attempts to learn the language, with the woman of my dreams…..

I may like French because, in 1940, Fred had wanted Britain and France to merge into one country just like Churchill had said. Fred was a keen European and, like Churchill,  he wanted a “United States of Europe”. As members of Bomber Command he told me, though, that the French could often be difficult to work with. Here is a Bristol Blenheim of the Free French Air Force in North Africa…..

I have always had great regard for the Poles because Fred said they were great blokes, and that he had joined up so that Poland could be freed from the invading Germans. A few years ago, I was in hospital for a operation, and there was a Polish van driver there that nobody would talk to because he was Polish. Except me, and if Fred had been there, he would have spoken to him, too. Racism can be amazingly petty.

I try to like poetry, because I know that Fred had claimed so often that poetry was an integral part of his life. He liked to read peoms out loud to his classes at school, his favourite being “Flannan Isle”.

I did a series of five blog posts about the mystery of Flannan Isle, as portrayed in the poem, and the first one is here. The rest can be found by merely searching for  “Flannan”. And when you’ve done that, don’t forget to watch this film with its own, made-up, explanation of the three men’s disappearance….

I’m sure that I became a teacher because Fred was a teacher and I felt that a teacher was a good thing to be. In the mid-1970s, the money was excellent and I didn’t automatically have to live in London.

I always worked hard as a teacher because Fred told me that at the end of each day, you should always ask yourself the question, “Were you just given your wages, or have you earned them ?”

I worked all my life at the High School, 38 years, because when he took me there for a job interview in 1975, I could see that Fred was enormously impressed by the school. To him, and to me, it looked like something out of a film, such as, perhaps, the old version of “Tom Brown’s Schooldays”…….

In actual fact, after his death, I found that, when he was a boy in the 1930s, Fred’s Uncle George  had bought him a present, the book of the film “Tom Brown’s Schooldays”.  They didn’t shoot this film at The High School, but if they had wished to, it would have been entirely appropriate from the architectural point of view….

Fred read a lot about the Second World War, and one of his favourite books was a German doctor’s story of Operation Barbarossa, a book called “Moscow Tram Stop”. The High School has its own tram stop, called “High School”. That fact has always reassured me that I had made the right decision to work there for so long.

 

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Why no statue? (9)

Almroth Edward Wright was born on August 10th 1861 in Middleton Tyas, which is a small village near Richmond in the extremely picturesque countryside of North Yorkshire in England.

And here’s the village church, which dates back to the twelfth century:

Almroth’s family was of mixed Anglo-Irish and Swedish origin. His father was a rector in the Church of England but his mother was Ebba Johanna Dorothea Almroth, the daughter of Nils Wilhelm Almroth, who was a professor of chemistry in the Carolinska Medico-Surgical Institute and the Royal Artillery School in Stockholm. In later years he became the director of the Swedish Royal Mint.

Almroth does not seem to be particularly famous nowadays, but he changed the world. Even on the Wikipedia page for his village, though, he is not paid any real attention. The village’s “notable people” therefore, are listed as, in first place, the fraudster Sir Edmund Backhouse and his brother, the naval officer, Roger Backhouse. Then comes in third place, Lady Alicia Blackwood, and then Arthur Francis Pease. Then comes Almroth Wright and his brother, and finally Keith Hawkins, the poker player.

Almroth was a lot cleverer than any of those, though.

Almroth was, in actual fact, the man responsible for developing a system of inoculation against typhoid fever, a disease which, at the time, was killing literally millions of people across the world. In the late 1890s, he also pointed out to whoever cared to listen, that one day bacteria would develop a resistance to antibiotics and then we would really be in trouble. His other main idea was that preventive medicine was what doctors should really be aiming at developing. And lastly, in any spare time he had, he also managed to develop vaccines against enteric tuberculosis and pneumonia, the latter a disease which killed more people in England than any other at that time. Not for nothing was it called

“The Captain of the Men of Death”

In the 1890 census in the United States, 76,490 had died of it, a death rate per 100,000 of the population of 186.94.

Almroth graduated in 1882 from Trinity College, Dublin with first class honours in modern literature and modern languages. In 1883 he graduated in medicine, before studying and lecturing at Cambridge, London, Leipzig, Magdeburg, Marburg, and Straßburg as it then was. Back in England in 1891, he worked in the laboratories of the Royal Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons and was then appointed Professor of Pathology at the Army Medical School in Netley, on the south coast of Hampshire in England.

Here is the hospital in black and white:And here it is in colour:

At Netley, he developed a method of immunising people against that mighty killer, typhoid fever. And then, in 1898, he went to India as a member of the Plague Commission and tested his vaccine on the 3,000 Indian soldiers who had all volunteered to try it out for him.

And it worked!

Not a single one of the vaccinated soldiers succumbed to the dreaded disease. And then, the vaccine was equally successful in the Boer War of 1899-1902, although a major mistake was made by continuing to make vaccination optional rather than compulsory.

There were 328,244 men in the British Army in the Boer War but sadly, only 14,626 men volunteered to be injected. None of that select group, though, were among the 57,684 cases of typhoid in South Africa or the 9,022 who died from the disease. Exactly as had been the case in India, the ones who had the vaccine all survived because of it.

Until Almroth came upon the scene, though, typhoid fever had always held the entire world in its grasp. It was a simple disease with lots of places to catch it. As Wikipedia says:

“Typhoid is spread by eating or drinking food or water contaminated with the fæces of an infected person”.

That scenario was easily arranged before a vaccine was developed.

In 430 BC in Greece, typhoid killed Pericles and a third of all Athenians. It killed off at least half of the inhabitants of the English settlement in Jamestown, Virginia. Between 1607 and 1624 more than 6,000 of them perished and they may well have passed it to the rest, thereby eliminating the entire colony……

Typhoid went on to kill 80,000 soldiers in the American Civil War. And I have seen more than one source which said that in every war fought by British forces until the Boer War, more men were lost to typhoid than to the enemy.

Next time, we’ll look at the impact that Almroth’s vaccine had on the number of casualties in the British Empire forces in World War One. It’s giving nothing away to say that he prevented deaths from disease in unprecedented numbers.

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Filed under Africa, History, Nottingham, Science, The High School, Wildlife and Nature

Mrs Bowman-Hart, the first woman teacher at Nottingham High School

As far as I can ascertain, Mrs Bowman-Hart was the very first woman ever to be employed by Nottingham High School as a teacher. That means that there had been a longish wait of at least 370 years between Dame Agnes Mellors and the High School’s presumed foundation in 1513, and Mrs Bowman-Hart beginning her fourteen year career at the school. Mrs Bowman-Hart seems to have worked there from 1883-1897, years which fell partly within the headmastership of Dr Robert Dixon. Before he became Headmaster, Dr Dixon had worked as Karl Marx’s body double in several racy films about the rise of the proletariat:

Dr Dixon left in July 1884 and was succeeded by Dr James Gow, a man who, when he was offered the job, had never taught boys in his life. His strong point, though, was that he was extremely clever, having finished third best classicist at Cambridge University in 1875, winning the Chancellor’s Classical Medal :

Here is the staff photograph of 1884 with Dr Dixon, the Headmaster, and Mrs Bowman-Hart, sitting next to each other in the centre:

Dr Robert Dixon had had enormous problems during his tenure of office from 1868–1884. Builders were constantly present in the school, often rectifying major faults in the new building. Dr Dixon clearly suffered from anxiety and depression because of these problems, but things deteriorated even further after the death of his wife, which left him with five young children to look after. School standards fell and soon Nottingham’s other schools were gleefully welcoming former High School pupils. They included High Pavement, People’s College and Queen’s Walk School, which would one day be renamed “Mundella”.

In January 1884, though, in his termly report, Dr Dixon was actually able to report to the Governors that better results had now been achieved in Languages and Mathematics. Furthermore, they were better results than at any time in the past sixteen years. Science had also improved, and there was much praise for Mrs Bowman-Hart who was now coming in to teach singing in music classes. The latter were extremely popular because boys could participate enthusiastically in the lessons, rather than just sit there and listen.

Mrs Bowman-Hart was the sister of John Farmer, who had been the Music Master at the famous Harrow School from 1862-1885. He was responsible for writing the music of the Harrow School song “Forty Years On”, the lyrics being written by Edward Ernest Bowen. John Farmer was a popular teacher at Harrow, although for some unknown reason he was always nicknamed “Sweaty John”. After his years at Harrow, Farmer seems have become a Fellow at Balliol College, Oxford.

Here’s Mrs Bowman-Hart next to the Headmaster in the staff photograph above. It’s just slightly enlarged:

It was presumably because of these Harrow connections that Mrs Bowman-Hart had the High School boys singing what were originally Harrow songs, such as “Forty years on”. This latter song was for many years afterwards to be regarded as the High School song.

Its words were exceptionally stirring, especially the chorus…

Forty years on, when afar and asunder,

Parted are those who are singing today,

When you look back and forgetfully wonder,

What you were like in your work and your play,

Then, it may be, there will often come o’er you

Glimpses of notes like the catch of a song;

Visions of boyhood shall float then before you,

Echoes of dreamland shall bear then along.

Chorus

Follow up; Follow up ; Follow up ; Follow up ; Follow up ;

Till the field ring again and again

With the tramp of the twenty two men

Follow up; Follow up;

There were two more verses, and much chorusing of the refrain “Follow up ; Follow up”. Ironically, the best recording I could find on Youtube came from Camberwell Grammar School:

It remains quite a turgid dirge though, and, as a school song, sounds far too much to me like a bunch of Englishmen trying vainly to outdo the Welsh rugby crowd singing “Land of my Fathers”.

Mrs Bowman-Hart lived in Shakespeare Street, or “Shakspere Street” as it was called when she lived there. Her house was in Angelo Terrace and was No 16. Angelo Terrace seems to have included Nos 12, 14, 16, 16½, 18 and 20. Nowadays, Age UK is No 12 and “Bard House” has been built on all of the houses from No 14 to No 22, so the majority of Angelo Terrace has disappeared. Mrs Bowman-Hart’s house therefore, is somewhere underneath “Bard House”, the building on the left with the two people walking past it:

At No 16, Mrs Bowman-Hart ran the Nottingham Branch of the “Harrow Music School” and held the rank of “Principal” there. In addition, at 7.30 pm every Saturday evening, the High School Musical Society used to meet at No 16. Entry was free to all past and present members of the school.

On Tuesday, February 26th 1889, the High School’s new Debating Society held its first ever meeting and the Headmaster, Dr James Gow, was elected President. For the first few years, the society held many more musical evenings, or “soirées”, than actual debates, including, for example, Mrs Bowman-Hart’s class singing “Holiday on the Rhine”. These events formed an important part of the school’s social life at the time.

One final detail about this energetic woman is that she was the person who founded the Nottingham College of Music, in 1863. Operating under the aegis of Harold Edwin Gibbs of 26 Regent Street, by 1900, it had more than two hundred pupils. Mr Gibbs was to become the Chief Music Master at the High School from 1897-1901.

In 1875 Mrs Bowman-Hart and others, along with Henrietta Carey and her sisters had founded “The Nottingham Town and County Social Guild” whose aim was the “social betterment of the common people”. And quite right, too!

What a true Victorian! No task was too large to be attempted, whether it involved an association to get the working class to wash more frequently or held competitions for the cleanest homes or even the prettiest window flower boxes.

And if you think that you have heard Mrs Bowman-Hart’s name somewhere, but can’t place it, it could be because she endowed a High School prize for singing for many, many years after her death. You have probably heard her name read out aloud on Speech Day and thought to yourself “I wonder who that is?”

 

 

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Filed under History, Nottingham, The High School

Keith Doncaster’s Poem

This is Mr Hardwick, who spent a large part of his time at the High School as the form master of 2A. In this photograph he is some twenty years older than when he plays a small part in this particular story:

In 1936, Keith Doncaster was with Mr Hardwick in Second Form A. Aged only twelve, he was honoured by having a short poem featured in the School Magazine, the Nottinghamian. It was entitled “Poetry” and this is how it went:

Poetry

I’m not a Poet

And I know it.

The next line will take some time.

Now I’ve started,

All thoughts have parted

From my head,

So now I think I’ll go to bed.”

Still a young boy and now thirteen years old, Keith had a second poem which was featured in the Nottinghamian. It was called “Gathering Shells” and he wrote it when he was in Third Form A with Mr Beeby in 1937. Here’s Mr Beeby, in the middle of the group:

This is, in actual fact, an enlargement of a staff photograph taken in 1946, just twelve months after the end of the war. Mr Beeby, late Scholar of Jesus College, Cambridge, was one of a small group of High School teachers who joined up to fight for his country. Like Keith Doncaster, he joined the RAF where he became a War Substantive Flying Officer, which meant that as long as the conflict lasted he held that rank. In the RAF he served in the Signals Unit of the Technical Branch This may possibly have been Radio Countermeasures and Jamming as well as Direction Finding. Flying Officer Beeby may even have been working in Electronic Warfare but he would have been instructed never to say a word about any of this top secret stuff to anybody. And he would have kept that faith for the rest of his life.

As soon as I read Keith’s second poem, I realised what poetry he might have written had he lived, and that, even if he did not realise it himself, he had inadvertently foretold his own premature death:

Gathering Shells

Along the silvery beach we run,

Gathering coloured shells.

We think that gathering shells is fun.

Along the silvery beach we run.

And as we go beneath the sun,

We hear the distant bells.

Along the silvery beach we run,

Gathering coloured shells.

The poem summarises, in nine lines, the lives all humans lead. We pursue happiness, we like our pleasures, each one of us, we run along our own silvery beach, gathering coloured shells, objects which are attractive and pretty but ultimately of little or no value on the cosmic scale. We are just the same now, eighty years later. Short lived creatures who enjoy the sand and the sun and the shells, which we consider to be highly important and worthy of our attention. But ultimately, they are of little or no value whatsoever.  The only things which are important are the distant bells, because they call us, one day, to our doom. But we choose to ignore them, and just to run along the silvery beach for a little while longer.

Along the silvery beach we run,

Gathering coloured shells.

We think that gathering shells is fun.

Along the silvery beach we run.

And as we go beneath the sun,

We hear the distant bells.

Along the silvery beach we run,

Gathering coloured shells.

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Filed under Bomber Command, History, military, Nottingham, Personal, Writing

The Sandiacre Screw Company (11)

Let’s recap this sad, sad, tale. And I’ve also found out one or two important new facts, and I’ve found a good number of new details. So don’t just dismiss it. Take a walk 80 years back into the past…..

Ivan Keith Doncaster was born on October 17th 1923. His mother was Evelyn Mary Fell before she got married. His father was Raymond Doncaster, an engineer. Ray’s father was Sir Robert Doncaster, the founder and owner of the Sandiacre Screw Company, a huge firm, the enormous size of whose premises on Sandiacre’s Bradley Street reflected perfectly the size of the business:

Sir Robert arrived in Sandiacre, a small town of some 9,000 inhabitants, around the beginning of the twentieth century. In 1899 he was living at “The Grange” on Derby Road and by 1912, he was living at “The Chestnuts” on the same road. (Or, he had just changed the name of his house.)

Ray and Evelyn Doncaster, Keith’s parents, lived at “Shenstone” in Longmoor Lane which is just one section of an extremely long road which runs north to south,  across the middle of the town. It begins as Ilkeston Road, then Lenton Street, then Longmoor Lane as it passes under Brian Clough Way and then finally Petersham Road.  In the 1930s, houses in Longmoor Lane were so infrequent that house numbers were not necessary. The address given to the High School for young Keith, in 1933, therefore, did not include a house number. Just “Shenstone” would suffice. The house was actually the modern No 108, to the south of Brian Clough Way, almost on the brow of the hill as you travel southwards. And this detached house, set back from the road, is absolutely enormous. It was originally built for the founder of the family firm, Sir Robert Doncaster, and was set in its own grounds, with mature trees and lots of space in every direction. It is currently pebble dashed completely white and must contain many very large and lovely rooms. One quite fascinating detail that I found out was that the house’s garage has its own minor place in history. Protected by hundreds of sandbags, it operated as one of the ARP centres for nearby Sandiacre. The ARP (Air Raid Precautions) was set up in 1937 as an organisation to protect the civil population from the worst effects of the inevitable terror bombing by the Luftwaffe. This is the house:

Ray Doncaster, Keith’s father, served in the army during the First World War. When he returned home in 1919, Ray became Assistant Works Manager of his father’s company. In due course, he was promoted to Works Manager, eventually replacing his father as Managing Director. He retired during the 1960s. It does not take a fortune teller to work out that, had he lived, Ray Doncaster’s only son, Ivan Keith Doncaster, would himself eventually have succeeded to that position. Instead, Keith did not come back from his war and the company eventually just disappeared. How many hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs were lost when young Sergeant Doncaster’s Lancaster was shot down? Today, the area which was occupied by the Sandiacre Screw Company is easily traceable. It is the brownish area on this modern map, with Longmoor Lane to the west and the railway tracks to the right. The Orange Arrow marks the spot:

Nowadays, this area is home to an almost uncountable number of modern industrial units, small workshops,  places where a large lorry can be loaded, places where a large lorry can be unloaded,  places to have a broken windscreen replaced, places to rent storage space, places where they carry out autorepairs, distribution centres and supermarkets. But it’s a dead place:

Just here and there, occasionally, a vehicle drives past, a car drives into one of the unit’s car parks. A van sets off to deliver car parts to Bingham. A fork lift truck driver shouts a greeting across to his friend in a lorry. It is a huge area but it certainly does not support anywhere near the huge number of people that used to work for the Doncaster family:

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Here and there a few red brick buildings remain. And the occasional red brick wall:

They are all that is left of the Sandiacre Screw Company nowadays. Just one German bullet had such a huge effect. Initially on one 20 year old mid-upper gunner. And then the ripples spread wider, and affected a whole family. Then they touched on a whole factory and its workforce of so many hundreds of workers in a distant English town. And thirty years or so after that Lancaster plunged to earth, the workforce found they had no work, and ultimately, they had no factory.

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Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, History, military, Nottingham