Tag Archives: Robin Hood

“Of course, we were much younger then” (1)

The Reverend Charles H Stephens, as we have seen before on numerous occasions, was a very keen and excellent photographer, as well as a teacher of Geography and a Minister of the Church. He has left to us a great many photographs of the ordinary moments of school life at Nottingham High School between 1945-1978.

These first few are of the Junior Plays, but date from the late 1950s. Junior Plays were prepared and rehearsed in English lessons, and then put on in the Hall, say, with the rest of the year watching. The very best of the plays might then be watched by pupils from other years.

Here is a photograph by the Reverend called “R Williams & Junior Plays”:

I cropped the photograph to produce this one of Mr Williams, looking for all the world like an earnest disciple of Jean-Paul Sartre. I think wearing pullovers like that must have been compulsory until at least 1962:

The first actors captured by the Reverend are some of the members of Form 2K in “Island of Doom”. The photograph was taken in 1958:

The following year, the Reverend took this picture of the preparation for another round of Junior Plays. The Masters are labelled as Mr RWilliams (1956-1962), Mr CN Lammiman (1957-1962) and Mr BE Towers (1945-1964). I’m afraid that I know very little of any of them. In 1964, I  was still in my first year at secondary school:

This photograph presumably dates from around the same time. It is entitled “Unknown actors near E5”:

I have not written a great deal about Junior Plays in my various publications. I do know, however, that in 1964, 2L put on the very successful “The True Story of Good King Wenceslas”. This was in the same year as the first ever Old Folk’s Christmas Party.

In 1972, five Junior Plays were put on in the Founder Hall. 3A1 produced an “offbeat version of the Robin Hood legend”, 2A1 managed an “ingenious insight into the life behind cave paintings”, and 3B2 offered “Carry on Chaucer!” The theme of 1L’s play was “a serious one”, although the title has not survived. The competition was eventually won by Mr SG Nash (1970-1974) and 1H, with their unforgettable “The Gong Wong Ruby”. They received the Bryden Trophy.

On a warm July evening in 1975, four Junior Plays took place. They were “Charlotte’s Web” performed by 1M and masterminded by Mr R Stirrup (1968-1980), a modernised version of “The Kraken” by 2AL, aided by Mr G Powell (1974-1977), “Dillisclondes Saga” from Mr CJP Smith (1974-1992) and 3BT, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” by 3BS and Mr JM Royston (1972-1975). The eventual winner was “Liang and the Magic Brush” from Mr PE Norris (1970-1975) and 1K, a traditional Chinese folk story, specially written for this occasion.

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The Gateshead Gnomes, and more Little People

Liverpool and the leafy parks and graveyards in its suburbs was not the only place to be involved in the Great English Fairy Flap of 1964.

In June 1964, strange things started happening in Gateshead, a very ordinary, humdrum town in the north east of England. It is a suburb of Newcastle-on-Tyne, where polar bears and walruses (or should that be “walri” ?) roam regularly in colder winters. Look for the orange arrows:

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At ten past four in the afternoon of June 2nd 1964, four boys were playing together in Leam Lane Estate, Gateshead. This looks a fairly desolate site, right on the shores of the freezing, windswept North Sea:

leam laneee

Looking at the map, though, as it does have one or two of the features that would link it with Celtic fairy sites, and indeed, with the old idea of dimensional portals out of which ghosts, goblins, UFOs and lots of other exciting beings may emerge:

leam lane

First of all, it is (or was then)  heath covered waste land with gorse and bracken, the very landscape beloved of fairies in Cornwall. It also has a very ancient Roman road, which would have been built directly over a Celtic track. Indeed, the reason that Roman roads across Western Europe are so unbelievably straight, is that Celtic tracks were. Quite a link, therefore, with times long, long ago.

Another indicator of pathways into other dimensions is the presence of any natural water, such as streams, and, for me, what clinches the deal, a natural spring. (that is what the blue “spr” stands for, at the centre bottom of the map). You can’t tell from this map. but I have looked at some larger scale ones, and the area also has a couple of cemeteries, absolutely classic places for crossing over into other realities.

Back to those four boys who were playing together at ten past four on that early June afternoon. They reported having sighted:

“a silver domed object about the size of a table, with portholes around the top and three legs. It was seen falling like a leaf through the sky making a low buzzing noise descending approximately 120 yards away from where they were standing.”

Here is the closest the Internet has to offer. It is in actual fact, the new Smart Car:

ufo-progress19

At half past five in the evening, another, fifth boy, Mark Smith, aged 14, decided to walk down to the farm to collect some straw for his rabbits. When he arrived, he saw a group of around ten children, standing about twenty yards away from a haystack. This was followed by the startling sight of:

“around six or eight tiny human beings on top of the stack: they were about two and a half feet tall and dressed in bright green suits. They appeared to be digging into the haystack, as if searching for something. Their hands seemed like lighted electric light bulbs.”

Alpha-7-CLOSE-2

Mark went home and told his parents what he had seen and decided to make his way back to the scene, but he was stopped by the farmer. Mark says that he was told by another child that:

“she had seen a circular silvery object take off from the ground with a spinning motion giving off an orange glow.”

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On June 6th, 1964 several members of the local UFO Organisation visited the locality concerned and spent some considerable time speaking to many of the residents and children about the matter.

One child who admitted having seen “the little green men” told them:

“the leader of the little men was dressed in black and carried a baton with pink stripes.”

Another girl claimed:

“He was sitting on the roof of the barn watching us.”

Another girl told them that she had seen ‘him’ riding on the back of a cow whilst others claimed the whole thing was a hoax. The farmer who owns the land said

“All the claims are a load of nonsense. If anything has landed I would’ve known about it. I have a dog kept in the yard, he would warned me if anybody had been prowling around the farm.”

And that was not the end of it. Three months or so later…

It was claimed that a “Leprechaun” had been sighted in Tamar Street East in Belfast on or about September 10th 1964.

leprechaun

In fact, this particular Little Green Man was later identified as six-year-old Billy Knowles.

A-Little-Boy-Wearing-A-Green-Robin-Hood-Costume

He was playing at Robin Hood, dressed in his nice new costume:

robin-hood-costume

He was playing in a derelict house, something Belfast was not short of at the time:

Dumurray-Blaze-1_-Lewis

Poor little Billy was soon chased away by police who were frightened for his safety.

Too late!!!

The hint of a real life Leprechaun, and a real life pot of gold, triggered off the local people’s imaginations. Vast numbers of them descended into the streets causing massive disorder. Ironically the crowds that gathered there included not just children, but many adults. The incident, which involved the police and the fire service in some numbers, also attracted the presence of David Bleakley, the Labour MP for Victoria, who handed over a hastily written petition to Belfast Corporation, demanding action to keep the crowds and children away from the embankment and the many derelict houses there. One senior police officer was quoted as saying:

“A grown man, cold stone sober, insisted to me that he had seen a leprechaun.“

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