Tag Archives: Liverpool

Match-fixing (1)

Corruption in football is nothing new. More than a century ago, in 1900, Burnley goalkeeper Jack Hillman attempted to corrupt the Nottingham Forest goalkeeper and the other players by giving them £2 each to let Burnley win on the last day of the season and perhaps thereby escape relegation. It didn’t work. Burnley went down with 27 points from 34 games, along with Glossop North End who managed only 18. Here’s Hillman, apparently twenty minutes after the invention of angora sweaters::

jack-hillman-264x300

Had the bribe succeeded, Burnley would have overtaken and relegated Preston North End (28 points) who would have taken their place in Division Two. Hillman was called to account by the authorities, but amazingly, they didn’t accept his explanation of “I was only having a laugh!” He got a rather lenient twelve month ban, although this meant no pay for that period and the loss of a benefit match which would have netted him around £300. Even worse for him, though, was the fact that he never played international football for England again, having just broken into the team
In 1905, at the opposite end of the table, Manchester City were trying to win the League title. Billy Meredith, their star winger, decided to make the task a little bit easier by offering the Aston Villa players £10 to let them win. Like Hillman, Meredith received a year long ban, but rocked the footballing boat by alleging that he had been ordered to bribe the Aston Villa player, Alex Leake, by his Manchester City manager, Tom Maley. Bribery, said Meredith, was common practice at Manchester City who finished the 1904-1905 season in third place behind champions Newcastle United and Everton. A whole selection of players were suspended, as were members of the club staff and directors from the boardroom. Here’s Meredith. He looks like he’s wearing in a new moustache for his shy, and rather strange, German penfriend:

meredith

Meredith actually wrote an open letter to the Athletic News:

“You approve of the severe punishment administered by the Commission AGAINST ME and state that the offence I committed at Aston Villa should have wiped me out of football forever. Why ME ALONE? when I was only the spokesman of others equally guilty.”

In 1915, Liverpool played so poorly as they lost 2-0 to relegation-threatened Manchester United that one of the many bookmakers who had taken bets on the game refused to pay out, at odds of 7-1.  He had probably heard of the clandestine meetings of players in the pubs of Manchester and Liverpool. And the poor old bookmaker was completely right. In the United team, Sandy Turnbull, Enoch West and Arthur Whalley were the guilty men and in the Liverpool team it was the fault of Tom Miller, Bob Purcell, Jackie Sheldon and the rather appropriately named Thomas Fairfoul. Can you spot the guilty players in this old picture of Manchester United?

wh turn wets

Would you like a second go?

betting-scandal-600x312

It looks like Liverpool are not quite so helpful towards the local detectives:

liverpool 1915

And no, the man with the cap is the trainer.

Jackie Sheldon as an ex-United man was the mastermind behind the coup but not everybody in the two teams was happy to cheat in this way. Both Fred Pagnam (Liverpool) and George Anderson (United) refused to participate. Indeed, when Pagnam shot and hit the opposing crossbar his teammates all showed their anger with him. It was perhaps his own fault, as before the match he had threatened to score a goal to spoil their nasty little plan. By now, whiter-than-white Billy Meredith was a United player, but everybody had taken great care not to tell him about what was happening and nobody passed to him throughout the game…something which, of course, aroused his suspicions as to what exactly was going on.  A penalty was missed by such a distance that the ball only just failed to hit the corner flag.  The crowd, feeling they had wasted their penny entrance money, grew increasingly angry with the proceedings.

Overall though, things were getting very much out of hand with match fixing. As an example, all seven of the Liverpool-Manchester United match fixers, along with an eighth player, Lawrence Cook of Stockport County, were banned from football sine die. (that effectively means “for life”)
Cynics might say that that was a fairly limp punishment as professional football had already been suspended because of the war. The even more cynical would point out that the Naughty Eight were given hints about a possible return to football, but only if they signed up for the Army and survived the carnage of the Western Front:

somme

A succession of away games on the Somme and at Passchendaele gave seven of the Naughty Eight their promised lifting of the ban. Fairfoul in fact turned away from football but the other six went back to their previous employment. For some reason “Lucky Enoch” West did not have his ban rescinded until 1945 when he was 59 years of age.

The_Battle_of_the_Somme_film_image1

Poor Sandy Turnbull had to be contented with a posthumous permission to resume his footballing career. He joined the 23rd Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment before a free transfer to the 8th Battalion of the East Surrey Regiment. He became Lance-Sergeant Turnbull and was killed on May 3rd in the Battle of Arras at the age of 33.  Sandy was the son of James and Jessie Turnbull, of I, Gibson St., Kilmarnock, Ayrshire and the husband of Florence Amy Turnbull, of 17, Portland Rd., Gorse Hill, Stretford, Manchester. He had won FA Cup medals with both Manchester City and Manchester United:

Deadgerman

The Grim Reaper has no favourites though. Sandy has no known grave and his death is commemorated along with that of almost 35,000 others from the United Kingdom, South Africa and New Zealand who died in this fairly pointless battle and whose bodies have never been identified. Overall, the Battle of Arras was quite a slaughter. Nearly 160,000 British lads and about 125,000 young Germans renounced their right ever to play football again. In a mere five weeks. Here is Polygon Wood where Sandy had tried to mark out a football pitch for himself and his pals:

polygonwood

Alas, they didn’t realise that a Great War average of one ton of explosives per yard of trench was going to be a really, really big problem with that.

 

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Leprechauns in Liverpool

The fact that a small group of children in Nottingham claim to have seen gnomes in leafy Wollaton Park seems incredible, almost ludicrous, in the cold light of day, but it is by no means an isolated incident.

I have spoken in the past of so-called “UFO flaps”, when many sightings occur in just one small area. An example would be the Nottingham UFO flap of July 1967. Similar events occurred nationally in 1964, although this time it involved gnomes, pixies, leprechauns, fairies and their ilk rather than extraterrestrial spacecraft:

ufo-progress19

What was particularly bizarre though, was that the little people, who were seen in three separate places in England during the course of the year, were not closely linked with one particular city, but occurred independently hundreds of miles from each other.

And these widely separated events cannot possibly have been interlinked, because communication in those days was so limited and so private. Just letters or postcards. Telephones were a lot less frequent than you might imagine. You read only national newspapers or your own local paper. Local newspapers from distant cities were more or less unobtainable. The only television was national television… not really a medium for gnomes and fairies!

It sometimes seems that goblins and their ilk are part of our natural landscape and seem to pop out into our world on a rare but fairly regular basis. I presume that this is why nowadays a lot of modern folklorists tend to equate widespread ancient belief in gnomes and their various friends with our current widespread modern belief in space aliens, little green men and tales of abduction.

gnome-alone-trailer

It is this process of flitting between dimensions which remains the same over thousands of years, even if those who do it may have slightly differently coloured clothes and a vastly changed appearance.

And their activites are the same too. After all, how much difference is there between fairies who hold people hostage in their fairy realm and our modern tales of UFOs and extra-terrestrial kidnap?

Back to the simpler stuff.

On June 30th 1964, children saw varying numbers of “little men” in Jubilee Park, Liverpool. Here is the entrance to the park. No Leprechauns in sight yet:

jub park

Nobody knows exactly what the children saw. The little men had “white hats”, and were all seen to be enthusiastically throwing clods of earth at each other.
It took the children very little time indeed to put two and two together, and within minutes they had made a “Positive I.D.” and decided that the little men were, in fact, leprechauns.

chaun

Don’t just a few of the Leprechaun Community look really menacing? It spoils it for the rest.

The following day, July 1st 1964, all the local newspapers claimed that thousands of children had started a hunt, following reports that little green men or leprechauns had been seen near the Bowling Green in Jubilee Park on Jubilee Drive in Liverpool. This was in the Edgeline district in the eastern suburbs of the city. A huge orange arrow has been fired right into the middle of the Bowling Green. No Leprechauns were injured:

jubillee drive

Very soon, Members of the Police Community had to be called in to control the crowds:

volume

A nine year old boy told a reporter that he had seen little men in white hats, throwing stones and mud at each other on the Bowling Green. Another local boy, fourteen year-old David Wilson, claimed to have seen several small green creatures about two feet high running around a haystack on a farm near to the Edgeline Estate:

green alien

A little girl said:

“I was one of the school children that saw those leprechauns. I attended Brae Street School and we all saw them popping in and out of a window overlooking the school yard. There were about four of them, all tiny, dressed like a school book idea of a typical gnome and they sat swinging their legs on the window ledge getting in and out. What they were I don’t know. I only know what they looked like. I’d love to know the truth!!!”

Another child said:

“I remember the siege of St Mary’s Church when the police and Father Rose (or Father Spain) appealed for calm. I was one of the huge crowd of children shouting out “there they are”.
Someone said they had crossed the road into St Mary’s Infants School and were now hiding in the lockers (small cube-like cupboards). I never slept for days, and have had a fear of these type of cupboards to this day, which is still tested as my grandchildren’s nursery school use something similar.”

Nobody ever found the leprechaun who was sitting quietly smoking his pipe:

leprechaun

A further witness said:

“I certainly remember the leprechauns, and I actually saw a few of them on Kensington Fields, close to the library, but my parents and other adults tried to convince me that I”d been seeing things. This would be one afternoon in early July 1964, around 4.30pm, and I remember it as if it were yesterday. I was ten at the time and on my way to play football with my mates and saw these little (I’d say just a few inches tall) men dressed in red and black, standing in the grass, looking at me. I’m sure one of them had some type of hat on. I panicked and ran all the way home. My mum said there had been reports of leprechauns and little men on Jubilee Drive and Edge Lane the day before. That same evening crowds turned up on Jubilee Drive, and I remember a girl with a jam jar that she was going to put the leprechauns in!”

The Bowling Green was so crowded that the police attenpted to clear the park and to guard it from the bands of children who were tearing up plants and turf in the search for the little creatures.

Rimrose-Valley-Country

A rather bewildered Park Constable James Nolan had to wear a crash helmet to protect himself from the children throwing stones. At the time of the incident Constable Nolan was one of some fifty City and Parks Police Officers who patrolled the city on blue coloured Vespa scooters with a fixed radio mounted on it – in those days it was state of the art in police communications.

A local woman said to reporters at the time:

“This all started on Tuesday, how I just don’t know, but the sooner it ends the better. Stones have been thrown on the Bowling Green, and for the second night running no one has been able to play. The kids just won’t go away. Some swear they have seen leprechauns. The story has gone round and now we are being besieged by Leprechaun Hunters.”

Here is the Bowling Green in more recent times:

bowling-green liver

Such was the desperation of the children’s search that the police had to set up a temporary first aid shelter to treat at least a dozen children who suffered from cuts and bruises. The evening newspapers described the strange visitors as “little green men in white hats, with rhinestones and hurling tiny clubs of earth at each other.”

Thousands of children organised an extensive hunt for them, tearing up plants and turf, scaling surrounding walls, and searching empty houses well beyond the boundaries of Jubilee Park. Eddie McArdle  recalled:

“I remember the story well as I have a scar as a constant reminder of the event. We, the kids from St Marie’s, Kirkby, went en masse into the church and as we hunted the little people, some bright spark shouted that they were coming out after us. Panic ensued and as we all fled quicker than we entered. A boy who is sadly no longer with us swung the church gate in his haste to escape, and I was hit on the forehead by the metal cross on it. The lad, Danny Callahan, didn’t even know he had injured me as he was well up the street and along Elric Walk where I lived. I had to have my head stitched by Dr Cole. As far as I know I was the only person injured by the little visitors. “

Life was getting no easier for Park Constable Nolan, who called in the City Police. Constables in cars and on motorcycles arrived.

untitled

They again attempted to clear the hundreds of youngsters from the bowling greens, which were the alleged playground of the Leprechauns. But the youngsters still thronged there, toddlers to teenagers. They crowded onto the top of the covered reservoir for a better view of the bowling green. Tolerant policemen tried to get the youngsters to leave, but the children would not accept that there were no Leprechauns. Only at 10.00pm was the park finally cleared of children.

Over the next few days, thousands of kids visited not just Jubilee Park, but nearly all of the parks in the City. Some of the Leprechauns still managed to look a bit “iffy”:

Leprechaun_1_leprechaun

The Little People were seen in Abercromby Park, in Stanley Park, in Newsham Park, and in Sefton Park, where a 13-year-old girl said she even grabbed one little man but he slithered from her grasp and fled laughing.

In Kirkby it took almost a fortnight for the clergy and the police to clear more than two hundred children from the graves and tombs of St Chad’s Church where it was believed fairies were living. Certainly, witnesses had repeatedly seen elfin figures dancing in the moonlight and, a sure sign of the supernatural, a crop circle had appeared. A month or more afterwards trolls were repeatedly seen  outside St Mary’s Church in Northwood.

But then gradually reports became fewer and fewer and further and further in between, until the City returned slowly but surely to its humdrum normality.

I would have been unable to tell this long forgotten, and rather peculiar story, were it not for the very many places where it can be read in all of its very many different variations. Some of the links are all here in this short paragraph.

I found the story originally in one of a series of absolutely marvellous books by John Hanson and Dawn Holloway. This particular one is ““Haunted Skies: The Encyclopedia of British UFOs Volume 2 1960-1965”.  I would recommend these books most strongly:

volume

 

 

 

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Hallowe’en Tales : Numbers Nine and Ten

Number 9

He’s back! The Return of the Phantom Passenger of the No 90 Bus

This is another version of the story about the No 90 bus and the ghost of the cyclist. Clearly, this ghost story is a strong tradition which has persisted for many years on this western side of the Nottingham conurbation. I found this version of the story about five years ago, in a forum about ghosts in Nottinghamshire. I kept the website address at the time, but I can’t find it any more, and I presume the forum is now defunct.

On this map, the orange arrow in the centre points to Arnold Lane. I suspect that the young man who needed the loo went into the tiny wood to the north of the road, having parked his car pointing down what is  actually a very unpleasantly steep road:

at long last

The old man would have been pushing his bike up the hill:

I came home one night in the early hours of the morning from the White Post pub in a friend’s car, turned down Arnold Lane towards Gedling, just down the hill, the friend stopped the car as he needed the loo went round the back of the car. As I sat looking down the hill, I could see an old man pushing a pushbike up the hill on the other side of the road. Then suddenly, he just vanished into thin air.

I thought I had just imagined it but when the friend got back in the car, he asked me “Did you see that?” and I asked him “What?”” as we might have seen different things. He said “The old man. He just disappeared”.

I know some people might say, “Well, there’s a path off the road up there, he could have gone along that, but at the point he disappeared  there was just a very thick hedge. I was not really frightened but I was a bit shocked to see this. My Dad later told me a story of an old man who had come from the pit late one night was going home on his pushbike to Arnold and was hit by a car and killed. That’s why the path at the back of the hedge was put into make it less dangerous.”

To complete the Geography lesson, the open land to the east of Chase Farm is what is left of Gedling Colliery, the coal mine where the old man is supposed to have worked.

Number 10

The Killer Bus

I know two more ripping yarns about buses, both of them told to me by a birdwatching friend, Phil, who had worked initially for Liverpool City Transport and then for Nottingham. One story involves the supernatural, the other, a bus driver who was exceptionally lucky not to become a member of the supernatural.
The lucky bus driver occurred when Phil worked in Liverpool in the early 1960s. There was a good two or three inches of icy snow already on the ground, and an absolutely impenetrable “smog”:

smog

“Smog” was a speciality of the era, and it was a dangerous combination of natural fog, perhaps where the warmer sea met the frozen land, and the thick smoke which came from the tens of thousands of houses heated by coal fires and a good few coal fired power stations around any city in the country:

bus in smnog

That day in Liverpool, therefore, the weather conditions combined to produce a bizarre situation, whereby the bus driver could not see where he was going, even at walking pace, but at the same time, he left tyre tracks in the snow which let pedestrians see exactly where the bus had been. Imagine, therefore, the pedestrians’ shock to see that an unknown Liverpool bus, full of scores of workers on their way home from the shipyards, but completely lost in the whiteout conditions, had been driven for more than eighty yards along the edge of the docks. leaving tyre tracks just a couple of inches from the twenty foot drop into the icy waters of the Mersey. The lucky driver had finally turned right to safety rather than left to a watery doom:

Dock_in_Port_of_Liverpool_1
Phil told me a second story, a supernatural tale, all of which had taken place in the Bus Depot in Sherwood, the very same suburb of Nottingham where I live:

bus depot

Apparently, the bus in question had some mechanical problem and it was being mended. It was jacked up on strong supports while repairs were carried out.

Only the strong supports gave way, the bus skewed to the left and the mechanic underneath was crushed to death.

A few days later, the repairs to the bus were completed without any further problems. The bus was parked away on one side of the garage while a driver and conductor could be found to take it away on its afternoon route. The two duly arrived just after one o’clock, The conductress stood at the back of the bus while the driver went to get into his cab and warm up the bus engine.

Except that before he could even unlock the door to get into his cab, the bus handbrake must have come off, and the bus rolled backwards. The surface was steep enough for the vehicle to pick up a fair speed, and the unfortunate bus conductress was pinned against the wall of the building. She died in hospital just a few days later.

.
Trade Unions were a lot stronger in those days, and when the shop steward said that his members were adamant that they would not work with this bus, the management had to pay attention to their demands, The decision was taken to dismantle the bus and use all of its parts as spares.

For a long time afterwards, all the drivers and conductors in the depot at Sherwood had the belief that if any serious accident occurred then it must be a bus which had been given, perhaps, the engine of the killer bus, or maybe its rear wheels and axle. And while this belief went on for a good few years, it was ultimately unprovable because no record was ever kept of which parts went into which bus.

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Staff v Prefects Football Match Christmas 1980 (2)

These are three more of the ten photographs I found recently of the teachers playing the School Prefects at football, or soccer as some might call it. The photographs show a game from the early 1980s, when my wife took a few pictures of the match.

This photograph shows the Staff goalkeeper kicking the ball downfield. This is the legendary Chris Mann, a young chap from Liverpool with the accent to match. He eventually left the High School to go to teach at Staffordshire University, where he remains to this day, as far as I know. The last time I heard, he was doing very well as the Senior Lecturer in the School of Engineering (Maths & Statistics) in the Faculty of Computing, Engineering and Sciences:

PHOTO A

This photograph shows myself shielding the ball against a defender. In just a second, I will pass it on to the other player in blue, who is Paul Morris, the now retired Physics teacher:

PHOTO B

This final picture shows proceedings when players are perhaps beginning to get a little tired. There are four blue shirted members of staff on view. I am Number Four counting from the left and Paul Morris is Number One. Number Two is the then Head of Music, Stephen Fairlie, a young man far too gentle to be playing football. Not long after this game, in 1985, he was to found the Nottingham Youth Orchestra which still continues in existence to this very day:

PHOTO C

Player Number Three is Ron Gilbert, an ex-Chemistry teacher who retired recently, and whose first love was actually Rugby Union, but he was always a very good sport, and willing to turn out for the staff when the occasion arose.
Yet again, I am not able to recognise any of the Prefects who, by now, must be in their early fifties with not just children but, conceivably, grandchildren.

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Ancient initials carved a century ago

In the High School, there is a much vandalised stone mantelpiece over an old fireplace on the ground floor. Boys have carved their names on it well over a hundred years ago and the letters are only just beginning to disappear into the thick levels of gloss paint now used to cover the original stone. The fireplace is located between the General Office and the entrance to the Assembly Hall, so literally thousands of boys will have queued past it as they go into Morning Assembly.

On Wednesday, January 18th 1899, Thomas Ignatius Joseph Gillott entered the school. He was to leave during the course of his fourth academic year, in July 1902. Sadly Thomas died on Sunday, July 6th 1913, after a failed operation at the London Hospital. On that same day in 1899, his brother Bernard Cuthbert Gillott, also entered the school. He was destined to remain a pupil only until the end of that academic year and he left in July 1899. With the advent of the Great War, Bernard was to join the army, where he served as a Captain in the 6th Northamptonshire Regiment. A brave man, he won both the British Military Cross and the French Croix de Guerre. Eventually he was  severely wounded, but thankfully he survived, and he was invalided home to England.

On Tuesday, September 12th 1899, the youngest of the three brothers, Oswald Cornek Gillot entered the school aged nine. Oswald was born in Ripley on July 22nd 1890 and his father was Thomas Gillot, M.I.C.E., a civil engineer whose address was given as either, Upland House, Eastwood, or Langley Mill near Ilkeston.  Possibly towards the end of the Summer Term, 1905, Oswald carved his name on that extremely popular stone mantelpiece on the ground floor fireplace between the General Office and the Assembly Hall. Oswald left the High School in March 1907.

Gillott ccccccccc

Taking decent photographs of these carved signatures has in actual fact, proved extremely difficult. They are located on the northern side of the school where the usually tropical English sun does not often penetrate,  and they are surrounded by vast thick walls of stone and brick, with a singular lack of windows. This means that the whole area is more or less permanently dark from a photographic point of view. Added to this is the fact that in the century or so since these interesting acts of senseless vandalism were carried out, a succession of school caretakers, under the almost inhuman management pressure to hurry up that all school caretakers permanently face, have repainted the mantelpiece with a succession of layers of whitish gloss paint, all of them applied without having the time to remove the previous one. The stone therefore, now wears a building’s equivalent of an inflatable Sumo suit.
Consequently, I have been forced to Photoshop the pictures I took so that the now faint carvings stand out a little more clearly from the dimly lit and pale coloured background. One unfortunate young man, R.Salew, has proved completely impossible to conjure out of the camouflaging layers that now hide his signature. But he is definitely there.
Towards the end of the Christmas Term, 1904, John Francis Haseldine carved his name, in rather florid handwriting, on that same stone mantelpiece.

haseldine cccccc

John was born on December 28th 1886 and entered the High School on May 4th 1896, aged nine. His father was Frank Haseldine, a lace manufacturer of St.John’s Grove, Beeston. John was a very good footballer (soccer player), and made his début for the First XI on Wednesday, March 26th 1902, in an away game against Loughborough Grammar School. We know that the school’s best player, J.B.Sim, worked hard throughout the match, but, according to the School Magazine of the time,“The Forester”, he was “too carefully watched” by the Loughborough defence, and the game was lost by 0-2. That particular spring, John had been in the team which had won the Football Sixes, a six-a-side competition organised within the school by the boys themselves, with the teams all drawn out of a hat. It was taken, of course, extremely seriously. Coincidentally, the winning team’s captain was that very same J.B.Sim, who was a well-known High School footballer of that era, with more than fifty appearances for the First XI.
On Wednesday, February 14th 1903, John scored his only goal for the school, in a 4-1 away victory over Mansfield Grammar School, “a rather poor and one-sided game”. As an ever present in the team, John won his football colours at the end of this season and was also awarded a “Standard Medal” for Football . In season 1903-1904, he became Captain of Football.  John spent the Christmas Term of 1904 at the High School, but, like so many boys during this period, he left half way through the academic year in December 1904.
In the Great War John was a Major in the Royal Engineers, Special Reserve. He was Mentioned in Dispatches on June 3rd 1916 and received the Military Cross on January 1st 1917. By 1929, he was living at Northdene, New Barnet, in  the northern suburbs of Greater London.
Among the other more legible carved names are “A.E.Anthony” and “G.Devey”. What is apparently “R.Salew” is also there, although there are many, many  layers of gloss paint to obscure the lettering of this particular name, and the photo has not come out because of this. Another seems to read “B.Abel 1905-190” as if the young man had been interrupted, perhaps by a Master (teacher), as he came towards the end of his carving, and then did not ever return to finish the job.

Alfred Edward Anthony was born on June 12 1906, and entered the school on September 18th 1918, aged twelve. His father was F.W.Anthony of 120, Radcliffe Road, West Bridgford. He was the Managing Director of Gotham Co Ltd (apparently sic). Alfred left the school in December 1922.

anthony 1 ccccccc

“G.Devey” was the elder brother of Reginald Devey, whose own name had already been carved on the fireplace upstairs, in the staffroom corridor, alongside that of D.H.Lawrence and L.S.Laver, the High School’s very own Latin Champion of the World.

r.a. devey cccccccv

This ground floor effort though, was Gerald Bertil Devey, who was born on June 10th 1903,. Gerald entered the school on May 27th 1918 at the rather late age of fourteen. His father was James Edward Devey, a civil servant, and the family lived at 22, Ebury Road, Sherwood Rise. Gerald left the High School in July 1919.

devey cccccc

John Rylett Salew entered the school on May 4th 1916, aged fourteen. He left in December 1918. John was born on February 28th 1902 and his father was Joseph William Salew, an “agent” of 19, William Rd, West Bridgford.

Bertram Albert Abel was born on July 31st 1889 and entered the school on September 13th 1905, aged sixteen. His father was William Jenkinson Abel, a clerk to the Nottingham Education Committee. The family lived at 99, Waterloo Crescent, and Bertram left the school in July 1907.

b abell ccccccc
The fact that “S.Vasey” has carved his name in two different places on the stone, one of them complete with his own personal dates, namely “1917” and “1917-1922” shows not only that he had an extremely strong desire for immortality, but that, within the context of the High School, it has been fulfilled. He must have been a very swift, and fairly brazen, vandal.

zzzzz  s vasey 1907

Stanley Vasey was born on June 5th 1905 and he entered the school at the age of thirteen, on September 18 1918. His father was Alfred Vasey, a shop inspector, and the family lived at 15, Glebe Road, West Bridgford. He left in December 1922.

zzzzzzzzzz vasey 1922
It is actually possible to best guess friendship groups among these carved names. Messrs Anthony, Devey and Vasey, for example, all joined the school in 1918. They all left in the latter half of 1922. They must surely have known each other. John Rylett Salew and Stanley Vasey both lived within a penknife’s throw of each other in the very posh Nottingham suburb of West Bridgford. Did the four boys seal their friendship by committing their names to the hard surface of that much painted fireplace ? Did three of them keep watch while the fourth scratched his name into the welcoming stone ?

The other names on the fireplace, some of them extremely indistinct, include “F.B.Ludlow”, “N.G.Peet”, “Littler”, “Meigh” and “Holmes”. The latter was possibly the George Chudleigh Holmes who was a regular player in the First XI football team during the 1902-1903 season. Born on June 15th 1887, George entered the school on January 17th 1900, aged twelve. His father was George H.Holmes, a Lace Manufacturer of Gregory Street, Old Lenton. George left at Easter 1903, perhaps once the football season was over.

hiolmes 2 ccccccccc
Fred (sic) Ball Ludlow was born on April 28th 1891. He entered the school on May 1st 1900 aged   nine. His father was William Ludlow, a clerk in the Gas Depôt. The family lived at 10, Willoughby Avenue, Lenton in the western suburbs of the City. Fred left in June 1907.

ludlow cccccc

Noel George Peet was born on December 26th 1901 and entered the High School on April 26th 1917, aged fifteen. His father was William George Peet, a “general agent”, and the family lived at 413, Mansfield Road. Noel left the school in July 1919. Perhaps he was a relative of Mrs.Mary Peet who was the school’s nurse during the late 1970s and the 1980s.

Samuel Littler was born on May 16th 1891. He entered the school on September 16th 1903 aged twelve. The family lived at 8, Appleton Gate, Newark-on-Trent, and his father, a veterinary surgeon, was also called Samuel Littler. Samuel junior left in July 1908.

Vincent George Meigh entered the school as an Agnes Mellers scholar on September 12th 1899 aged ten, the cost of his place in the school automatically paid for. His father was George Meigh, a schoolmaster of 3, Willoughby Avenue, Lenton. Vincent left in December, 1903.

meigh ccccc
On the mantelpiece, one set of letters to set the heart a-flutter is “(illegible)BALL  1900-1907” , but this cannot be the famous air ace, as there are clearly a fair number of letters before the B-A-L-L. In any case, Albert Ball did not stay long in the High School, being expelled after an incident when he disrupted school assembly by emptying a large bag of bullseyes, gobstoppers and bouncing sweets onto the floor.

Best fit is probably Oliver Herbert Ball, who was born on August 13th 1891. He had entered the school on January 17th 1900, aged eight, as the third of three brothers. Oliver was to leave in July 1907. His mother was called Emma, and his father was Alfred Holmes Ball, the “Laundry Man” of “Sunnyside”, Daybrook, Notts.  Presumably, this was the company which was eventually to become the massive “Daybrook Laundry”.’ It was situated opposite the Home Brewery on the Mansfield Road, and was only recently demolished during the first decade of the twenty first century. The Arnold branch of the “Aldi” supermarket chain has now been built on this site during the latter part of 2014. It was open for business by the end of the year. Look for the orange arrow:

north nottingham

During the Great War, Oliver Ball was to serve as a Second Lieutenant in the 10th Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment.  Aged only twenty five, he was killed on September 28th 1916 and is buried in the Guards’ Cemetery at Lesboeufs in France. Oliver’s  death was part of the Somme offensive.  He shares the cemetery with 1,492 identified casualties, and a grand total of 3.136 men.

oh ball

Oliver Ball’s elder brother was Walter William Ball, the second son of the three, and himself an Old Nottinghamian. Walter had returned to the Western Front, and the Yorkshire Regiment, from his leave in Nottingham on Friday, November 19th 1915. The “Nottingham Guardian” reported his death on Monday, November 29th 1915. He had apparently been shot through the head by a sniper while organising a firing party with his captain. The tragic news was communicated to his parents by his younger brother, Second Lieutenant Oliver Ball, who held a commission in the same regiment. According to the “Nottingham Guardian”, Walter was “well-known in Nottingham and had a large circle of friends”. He had received his commission as a Second Lieutenant a mere twelve months previously. Walter is buried in Houplines Communal Cemetery Extension in France, Plot 1, Row A, Grave 21. He was 28 years of age.

ww ball

As far as I can trace, the third brother seems to have survived the war.

One of the more notable objects on the mantelpiece is perhaps the school badge which has been carved relatively large, and in primitive style, with the lozenge and the three merles or heraldic blackbirds still recognisable even now, the best part of a century after it was executed by some unknown, juvenile artist.

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Less time proof perhaps, are the boys who managed to carve only their initials, namely “JL”, “MV”, either “WA” or “WR”, and either “BFW” or “SFW”. It is just so difficult to be certain about whose initials they might be. In some cases, there are literally dozens of possible candidates in the school registers, and it becomes almost a pointless effort to try and guess who has carved them.

Some boys seem to have been able to make only part of their name legible. We appear to have, therefore, a group of letters which seems to spell “H-LLF”.

Similarly, I have tried so hard to turn “—-NGTON” into Victor George Darrington, one of the very few young men to have captained the school at both football and rugby. The time is right (he entered the school in 1909, aged twelve) but the fact is that the blurred and multi-layer gloss paint painted-over obscured letters just do not look like they were ever meant to spell Darrington.

Even more striking is the young member of what is probably the “Chambers” family who did not manage to carve his initials clearly. The name can be seen just above “A.E.Anthony”, although the letters seem to be an even whiter shade of pale.  Just a cursory perusal of the school registers reveals the existence, between 1897 and 1926, of “E.Chambers”, “W. Chambers”, “P. Chambers”, “N. Chambers”, “J.F. Chambers”, “J.S. Chambers”, “A. Chambers”, “C.G. Chambers”, “J. Chambers”, “B.J. Chambers”, “C.C. Chambers”,  “S.H. Chambers”, “D.B. Chambers”, and a second “W. Chambers”

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No doubt a really thorough search would reveal even more members of the apparently vast Chambers clan.
It would be nice to think, though, that the perpetrator was the (uninitialled) Chambers of Form IVb, whose doings are reported in the Prefects’ Book for Thursday, February 1st 1912….

“…A meeting was held before afternoon school, Towles and Haubitz (prefects) being absent. Chambers (IVb) had been reported for carrying a loaded revolver in his pocket. He admitted the offence, and produced the weapon, which proved to be loaded in four chambers. He was requested not to bring it to school again, and the School Captain decided to interview the Headmaster.”

Most unfortunately, no record has survived of the outcome of this conversation. Here again, it is possible to guess at putative friendships between the names in the stone. Two of the boys, for example, Fred Ball Ludlow and Oliver Herbert Ball, both joined the school in 1900, and their entries are virtually next to each other in the School Register. Perhaps the use of the surname of one as the middle name of the other hints at a blood relationship, rather than just one of mere friendship.
Coincidentally, a third name on this single ancient page of the school register is that of Harold Binks, who entered the school in the very same year of 1900, although Harold was never to carve his own name on the fireplace. From his reminiscences, published in April 1935, we know that one of his best friends in the Senior School was called Ball. It seems likely too that another of the friends was Oswald Cornek Gillot, who was already in the school when Ludlow, Ball and Binks arrived. All these boys were of the same age, and they all left the school in the latter part of the academic year 1906-1907. As we have already noted, Gillot lived near distant Ilkeston, but Holmes lived in Gregory Street, Old Lenton, very close to Ludlow and Meigh who themselves both lived in the same street, namely Willoughby Avenue, Lenton. Again, we can imagine two keeping watch while the third one carried out the evil deed with his penknife.

On Thursday, June 7th 1917, just  ten years after carving his name on the stone fireplace, Oswald Cornek Gillott was killed at the age of twenty six, yet another hapless victim of the Great War. Even a school as small as the High School (400  pupils) was to provide some three hundred young men, all destined to die well before their time.

After he left the school, Oswald moved to Teesside, and became a twenty year old apprentice mechanical engineer living at 2, Woodland Terrace, Borough Road, Middlesbrough, Yorkshire. When the Great War came, Oswald joined the 68th Field Company of The Royal Engineers. They trained at Newark-on-Trent before sailing from Liverpool for Gallipoli at the end of June 1915. They remained at Lala Baba in Suvla Bay until December 19th and 20th 1915, when they withdrew and returned to Egypt by the end of January. Oswald was recorded as having been wounded during this period. In June 1916 the Division was ordered to France to reinforce the Third Army on the Somme. By July, they were in the Front Line and took part in the fighting at Thiepval. In early 1917 they were fighting on the Ancre, and then moved north to Flanders for the Battle of Messines
Messines_Ridge_from_Hill_63 cccccccSecond Lieutenant Oswald Gillott’s last day on Earth was June 7th 1917, coincidentally no doubt, the first day of the successful attack on the Messines Ridge.  The assault was preceded by the detonation of nineteen large mines, in what was described at the time as “the loudest explosion in human history”. Oswald, as a member of the Royal Engineers, may well have been involved in this activity when he was killed. On the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website there are a mere three pages of Gillotts, with only thirty two men of this name killed. Oswald Gillott lies in the Messine Ridge British Cemetery in Mesen, West-Vlaanderen in Belgium along with the 577 of his colleagues whose remains have been identified.

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Second Lieutenant Gillott, aged twenty seven was one of a trifling 24,562 casualties, as the British under Field Marshal Herbert Charles Onslow Plumer, 1st Viscount Plumer, GCB GCMG GCVO GBE slowly began to learn how to fight battles at much lower costs than previously. (Battle of the Somme, 623,907 dead).

The other side of the coin, of course, is the fact that if the Field Marshall and his lordly colleagues are not much more careful with the lives of their social inferiors, they will risk actually running out of men. The  623,907 men killed in the Battle of the Somme is a catastrophe, but the apparently much lower figure of 24,562 killed during the assault on Messine Ridge could well be regarded as every single man in a town the size of, say, present-day Arnold or Newark-on-Trent.

One set of initials I have not dealt with. That is F.C.Mahin, one of the High School’s very few Americans, and I will talk about his incredible and hitherto completely unknown life in another blog post.

 

 

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Filed under Criminology, History, Humour, Nottingham, The High School

A bird with a highwayman’s mask

(An extract from my old birdwatching diary “Crippling Views”)

Sunday, September 18, 1988

A trip to North Wales this time to twitch a long staying vagrant from North America. It’s the second, or maybe third attempt to see the Forster’s Tern, a seabird which has been knocking around this area for some years now. This time, I’m going to a little village called Gronant, near Prestatyn, where the bird has apparently been sitting out on the beach with Sandwich Terns, at a place where the freshwater stream crosses the sand. Look for the orange arrows:

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It’s a pleasant enough place, although once more confusion is caused by the unfortunate decision to put up road signs in two languages, despite the fact that the total number of Welsh speakers around here is probably absolutely zero. The whole area, therefore, is just one constant traffic jam, as people stop and try to wade through the novel length traffic signs, in a vain attempt to find out what the hell is happening – and where. Added to this is the fact that there are only half the signs that there ought to be, because all the ones they’ve got are twice the length than they need to be.
First of all, of course, is the traditional stop at you-know-where for the Lady Amherst’s Pheasant.

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None of these mythical birds is about, but it makes a nice break in the journey, with superb views over the Mersey, to the distant metropolis, topped off by its two completely distinctive cathedrals, and the bulk of the Liver Building, visible easily even at this distance. Now that is a good tick – Liver Bird.

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On we press to Gronant, and its caravan and chalet village, right next to the beach, but sheltered by the comforting solidity of the sea wall. I park the car, and we set off across the almost limitless expanse of sand.

gronant beaxchxxxxxx

We can already see a group of a dozen or so birdwatchers, all obviously looking at different things – not a good sign. There are a good many  of the much commoner Sandwich Terns…..

bp_sandwich_tern_zzzzz

…but we are not to be disappointed though, because the Forster’s Tern is still there. It’s just that a couple of minutes before we arrived, the bird took off for a little fly round and nobody has yet managed to find where it landed. We soon relocate it though, sitting with a group of Sandwich Terns, about fifty yards away.

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It’s obviously a lot smaller with a different shade of grey on its back. It has red legs and the fabulous highwayman’s mask arrangement of patches on its face. It’s everything I’d hoped for – a really foreign looking and exotic bird. The only problem is that we are almost directly behind it and we can get only rather imperfect views of its main features, so we decide to make our way round, and try to look at it from the side. This manoeuvre of course, is enough to flush every tern on the North Wales coast, including the Forster’s Tern, which immediately sets off on a twelve thousand mile trans-global migratory flight.

flying zzzzzzz

To be honest, though, that is the very last we see of the bird that day, despite the fact that we return several times during the afternoon and wander around for a good while, looking at all the terns on the beach. We do see Bar-tailed Godwit, and Arctic Skua, and a couple of Little Terns.

little terns xxxxxxxxx

The most interesting thing we come across is the advice offered to us by a couple of Liverpool birdwatchers, who give us dire warnings about how dangerous this place is, since the tide comes in very quickly, and it’s very easy to get cut off. They tell us that every few weeks somebody drowns out here fishing, and indeed, it is less than a month after this that we hear of two night anglers who have perished out on the lone and level sands, within just yards of where we see the Forster’s Tern.

Next stop is the Point of Ayr, a most unusual place for a beach. It has a coal mine.

Quite literally on the seashore, or within a hundred yards of it, there is a colliery, which I cannot imagine how they keep dry. Perhaps they have specially adapted mineworkers with gills, who can dig underwater, a sort of “Scargill from Atlantis”.

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On the Point itself, there is a deserted and ruined lighthouse, which is crying out for someone to restore and then convert either into a sea watching hide, or better still, a bird observatory.

lighthouse xxxxxxx

On the way back to the car, we find a wonderfully promising area, which is full of little hawthorn bushes, all carefully designed to attract small migrants and rare warblers from every corner of the globe. We find just one bird and we are eventually forced to concede that it is merely a Garden Warbler.
On the long way back, another visit to Halkyn. This place is fast becoming a sort of drug.  I am trying to give it up, but I just keep getting dragged back. This time, we meet one of the locals, an individual whose talents for unprovoked rudeness are probably exceeded only by his apparent brainpower. I park in a long and completely deserted street, only for him to rush out of his traditional cottage and tell me that I’m causing an obstruction and I have got to move. Apparently he’s expecting a cruise missile convoy at any moment. I enjoy screeching off ostentatiously down to the end of the street, parking the car four hundred yards away, before walking back to ask him if he reckons he’s got enough room now. He says he has. Some of these country people are really nice and pleasant to talk to, but so many, quite simply, are not. Still, I have the last laugh, because I can get into my car and drive off back to the big city. I won’t have to spend the rest of my life in a place like this with absolutely nothing better to do than to be gratuitously rude to tourists.

Twenty five years or so later, things have changed comparatively little on the beach at Gronant.  A most interesting Second World War pillbox which we all contrived to miss at the time is apparently a lot more visible now, and has been featured on the Internet on at least one specialist pillbox spotters’ website.

type 25 pillbox ddddddd

The lighthouse is still there but a local artist has equipped it with a sculpture of a lighthouse keeper imaginatively called “The Lighthouse Keeper”.

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You can still get cut off if you are not careful.

cut off xxxxxxxx

Even if you are a glass sculpture, and at no special risk….

too late now cccccccc

On this beach, even a jellyfish can get lonely, although he does appear to have some sort of (presumably waterproof) mp3 player which will help him to pass the time.

lonely jelltyfish xxxxxx

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