Sunday, 30 January 2011

Anniversary of an Execution

350 years ago on 30 January 1661 Oliver Cromwell was executed; 2 years after his death.

Cromwell died on 3rd September 1658. His body was embalmed and lay in state from 18th October to 10th November before being interred in Westminster Abbey. After the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 Parliament decreed that men who had cheated the executioner in life were not to cheat him in death.

Cromwell’s body was exhumed and transported to the Red Lion inn at Holborn. Tradition has it that Oliver’s ghost haunts the spot.

Early next morning the body was carried on a hurdle from Holborn to Tyburn where, clad in green cloth, it was gibbeted until 4 o’clock in the afternoon. When the body was taken down its head was hacked off; the executioner took eight blows to sever the neck. The trunk was consigned to a deep pit below the Tyburn gallows.

The head, stuck up on an iron-tipped oak pole, was exhibited until 1684 on the roof of Westminster Hall. Towards the end of the reign of King James II, it was blown down in a gale. The head passed from hand to hand before coming into the possession of Josiah Wilkinson and then a Canon Wilkinson.

Wilkinson left it to Cromwell’s own college, Sidney Sussex at Cambridge University.

Eventually the head received a proper burial at Sidney Sussex where a plaque proclaims:

The actual location is a closely guarded secret.

Twelve years prior to Cromwell's execution  on 30 January 1689, King Charles I was executed.

China - Sunday Stamps

These Chinese stamps date from 1962/1963. The centre stamp is postmarked PEK (Peking?) - when did we start calling it Beijing?

I have other Chinese stamps but I like these three in particular.

More at Viridian's Postcards

Friday, 28 January 2011

Icebreakers - Sepia Saturday

For my sins over the 20 years before I retired I led training courses in may parts of the world – UK, Europe, Scandinavia, the Middle East and Mexico. With up to 20 people on a five day course and especially where the candidates were from different companies the initial problem was to get them to talk to one another. We had to devise a means of breaking the ice.

We often posted an introductory slide of an icebreaker in the Arctic with people standing on the pack ice.

Hence my topic for this week:

The earliest icebreakers used by the Russians in the Arctic and on Siberian rivers were called kochi or iceboats. The rounded body lines of a koch allowed the boat to be pushed upwards out of the ice and to rest on the surface.

The first steam powered icebreaker was a wooden paddle steamer with a strengthened hull intended to break ice in the harbour at Philadelphia in 1837.

 City Ice Boat No. 1

The first European steam-powered icebreaker and the first ever icebreaker with a metal hull was the Russian Pilot built in 1864. The Pilot has been featured on a Russian postage stamp.

The Pilot had all the main features present in the modern icebreakers, and that's why it is often considered the first true icebreaker.

However it is a ship built in England for the Russians that is considered the first modern polar icebreaker:

 The Yermak was built by Armstrong Whitworth in Newcastle-on-Tyne in 1898. The Yermak was able to run over and crush pack ice.

Of course later ships were diesel powered and now nuclear powered icebreakers are in use.

During the war the Germans used ships like the Hessen as icebreakers in the Baltic Sea.

This photo was taken from the battleship Scharnhorst in January 1940. The Hessen was later used as a target ship for the Scharnhorst.

Curves - Thematic Photography

The Infinity Bridge over the River Tees at Stockton was installed for the millennium. Its reflection in the water is said to make up the infinity sign. Curves it certainly has - depending where you view it from.

View upstream with the town behind.

 Close up from north bank.

The curve I like the best:

One day I was fortunate to be there when a local fire station were practising with the with their Simon Snorkel equipment:

View downstream

More curves at: Thematic Photographic

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Thematic Photographic - Blue

I'm new to Thematic Photographic which I came across on another blog I follow. The topic 'blue' caught my eye and I remembered some shots I had been sent by a training course delegate  who came from Greenland.

 This polar bear seems to be indulging in a spot of sky blue thinking. While the one below is just having fun:

Every day the TV keeps reminding us that this week is supposedly the most depressing of the year. Oh well I suppose I shall just have to wait for these to appear:

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Flea Market Postcards - Blanchland

Recently I visited a flea market in the Green Dragon Yard, Stockton-on-Tees. There I discovered one stall with a box of postcards for sale. I bought four cards all addressed to the same lady in Hartlepool. The postmarks covered the period from 1960 – 1973.

The card showing the Lord Crewe Arms and the 15th century gatehouse at Blanchland, Northumberland was not franked. However the 5.1/2p stamp meant that it would have sent after 1971 and before 1975

(From a an original painting by E I Forrest)

The name 'Blanchland' means 'white land', and comes from the white robes worn by monks who established a monastery there in 1165. The abbey disbanded by Henry VIII. The abbot’s house became an inn, the Lord Crewe Arms. Many of the village cottages seen today were built from stone scavenged from the old abbey buildings.

The vast fireplace within the Lord Crewe Arms is where ‘General’ Tom Forster hid during the 1715 Jacobite rising. The ghost of his sister, Dorothy is said to haunt the hotel.

Blanchland was bought by the Bishop of Durham, Nathaniel Lord Crewe in 1708, and on his death in 1721 Blanchland became part of a charitable trust established by his will. A popular destination for visitors from all over the world, Blanchland is reputed to be one of the prettiest villages in England.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Canned - Sepia Saturday

“…a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream.”

This is how John Steinbeck described Cannery Row in Monterey, in California in the opening sentence of his book. Doc, the marine biologist, in Cannery Row was based on Steinbeck’s friend Ed Ricketts.

Ricketts had a laboratory and store at 800 Cannery Row in the period 1928-1948

 (By Lord Harris – GNU Free Documentation License V1.2+

As I had no hat connection to Alan’s post I spent some time in the US government archives and discovered this cannery shot.

 Noon hour at an Indianapolis cannery (1908)

You’ll notice there’s a lot of young faces here. Apparently the photo was part of a series dealing with child labour.

I then discovered a photo of native girls in Hawaii packing pineapples into cans in an exhibition on the history of work in America.

 (By Edgeworth, for Katakura & Company, Nov 20 1928.
Records of the Women’s Bureau, National Archives)

Then I remembered something much closer to home. Scarborough, North Yorkshire was once the tuna fishing capital of the UK. Tuna fishing began in 1929 the climax being reached in 1933 when a gentleman named Mitchell-Henry caught a fish that is still the UK record weighing 851lbs off Whitby.

 (Scarborough tuna)

Sunday Stamps - Stockholm

I can't claim that I have set about collecting stamps from Sweden but I do have a set of stamps commemorating when Stockholm was the European City of Culture in 1998.

These were a 'thank you' gift and a New Year's greeting from a delegate from the Swedish Post Office. He and a colleague had attended a training course I led the previous year.

I have never visited Stockholm although I did run a number of courses in Vesteras.

Check out more Sunday Stamps at Viridian's Postcard Blog

Friday, 21 January 2011

Monte Carlo Rally

The Monte Carlo Rally is under way again. The Rally was created by Prince Albert I of Monaco 100 years ago in 1911. That first event featured 23 cars starting from 6 different cities; 16 cars completed the rally which was won by Henri Rougier in a Turcat Mery.

The first rally was organised by a group of wealthy locals and bankrolled by the Société des Bains de Mer (sea bathing company), the operators of the famous casino who wanted to attract wealthy sportsmen. Competitive elements were slight but getting to Monaco was a challenge in winter.

After a lull for WWI the event was resuscitated in 1924 and by 1930 it had become Europe’s premier rally with over 300 participants. The rally has been held every year since its resumption after WWII.

Initially after the war most cars were production saloons or sports cars with minor modifications to improve performance, handling, brakes and suspension. As interest grew car companies introduced special models and variants for rallying including the British Motor Corporation’s Mini and Mini Cooper S. In the 1960s, regarded as its best years, Mini Cooper S drivers won in 1964, 1965 and 1967. In 1965 conditions were so tough that only 37 cars of the 237 entrants made it to the finish. The Mini Cooper S took the first three places in 1966 only to be disqualified due to a dispute over the type of headlight in use. The BMC team managers were so annoyed by the decision that they threatened to never race again. Prince Rainier even left the prize giving in disgust.

Winners over the years have included many of the leading manufacturers such as Renault, Fiat, Ford, Jaguar and Lancia. Smaller companies including Amilcar, Hotchkiss and Delahaye succeeded in the earlier years

By the end of the 1960s ultra professionalism took over with factory teams employing leading rally drivers and mechanics. Since 1973 the race has become the first race of the FIA World Rally Championship.
Jean Marie Cuog driving his Puegot 307 WRC and Jan Matti Latvala driving his Ford Focus WRC 07 in a road section during the 2008 Monte Carlo Rally
(Author maurobroc - Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 generic License)

The 2011 rally is due to finish in Monaco on 22 January.

Monday, 17 January 2011

January Ghosts

Battlefields, castles and old houses have ghost stories told about them. Old airports are no exception.

Biggin Hill was one of the most important airfields during the Battle of Britain and also later in the war. Ghost Spitfires are quite common and the one at Biggin Hill is probably the most well known.

On 19th January the Merlin engines of a Spitfire may be heard approaching the airfield. The radio presenter, Patrick Muirhead reported seeing a Spitfire when he was flying a light aircraft over Biggin Hill. Investigations showed no such aircraft in the vicinity at the time.

Replica Spitfire (Eden Camp - North Yorkshire)

Also on the 19th horses hooves may be heard near the site of the 1643 Battle of Braddock Down in Cornwall. Royalist forces led by Sir Ralph Hopton defeated Cromwell’s army led by General Ruthvin on that day.

Huddington Court

The avenue of oak trees, “Lady Winter’s Walk,” at the old manor house at Huddington, Worcestershire is the place to see the headless ghost of the wife of Thomas Winter on 31st January. It was Thomas Winter who brought Guy Fawkes into the Gunpowder Plot conspiracy. Huddington was the Winter’s family home. Thomas was executed for his part in the plot on 31 January 1606.

 Entrance to Huddington Court

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Sunday Stamps from Mexico

I've recently discovered Sunday Stamps on Viridian's Postcard blog and thought it was time I contributed.

Back in the 1970s some friends of ours went to work in Mexico so I began to accumulate some stamps from there - no such thing as email then. On one trip home they gave me a present, a whole sheet of stamps showing cacti or succulents and dated 1977-1978.

More Sunday stamps at Viridian Postcard Blog

Thursday, 13 January 2011

A Sporting Sepia Saturday

I can't comment sensibly on ladies hockey other than to say their stick work was better than the men. However I still bear the scars from playing mixed hockey during the school holidays.

My first picture shows Stamford School 1st XI from 1954. I'm at the left end of the front row at the tender age of 17.

The white 'blob' above the doorway behind the third and fourth player is the 'Old Man' gargoyle on the chapel at the school. All new boys were lifted up in turn to kiss this at an initiation ceremony. I understand that this practice has been discontinued now.

I can remember everyone's surname in the photograph but am struggling to remember all the christian names. Must be old age!

The same applies to the photo below of the United College team at St Andrews University for 1955-56.

 You should be able to recognise me in this.

The nearest I can get to a ladies team is to show the tennis team from Stamford High School for1953 some of whom played in those mixed hockey games in the holidays. (We weren't meant to mix in term time.) 

The girl third from the right in the back row became my wife in 1958.

More sporting action at: Sepia Saturday 57

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Bad Birdwatching

I have been a ‘fan’ of The Times columnist Simon Barnes for quite a while. Simon is a well known sportswriter, but his columns that interest me most are those on wildlife, especially birds. His book ‘How to be a bad birdwatcher’ was serialised on Radio 4; I have been fortunate enough to obtain a copy courtesy of a Mind charity shop.

Last January I posted a piece Watch The Birdie on my Writelink blog about the birds I saw in my garden in 2009. I have just collated my records for 2010. This year they cover 339 days (330 in 2009).


As in the previous year I have seen 35 different types, averaging 22 (23) and month and 8 (9) per day.

There has only been one change in the top ten most frequent visitors with the robin entering the list in place of the greenfinch. Top of the pile again is the wood pigeon on 95% of the days (93 in 2009), followed by rook 93% (78), blackbird 85% (89), starling 67% (69), collared dove 64% (72), sparrow 60% (41), robin 53% (29), gull 44% (48), hedge sparrow 42% (40) and the blue tit 40% (34).

A tree creeper put in an appearance in December; newcomers during the year were owls, fieldfares and the most spectacular arrival, a woodcock which crashed into the front window on December 27th.


My favourite photo was of the goldfinches in the conifer in our front garden on Boxing Day (See Boxing Day Birds). Did you know that the collective noun for them is a charm of goldfinches?

However my favourite birds of the year were not in my garden but the sand cranes on Oxford Hills golf course in Michigan. They were quite content to share the course with us.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Sepia Saturday's Christmas Box

It may be strange to start a story about a Christmas box at the beginning of a new year. After New Year's Day on Saturday and a Bank Holiday yesterday it was time for the Christmas tree and decorations to be taken down.

That's where our Christmas box comes into its own. It's held together by parcel tape and has no lid. Carrs Water Biscuits is the name on the side. The decorations and lights from the tree are kept in the box until Christmas comes round again.

There was some debris in the bottom of the box to be emptied before it could be filled. It was then that the old discoloured newspaper lining the box caught my eye.

The paper was so fragile that it could not be straightened out. The date had faded but this is what it said:

The Scunthorpe Evening Telegraph that day contained a column "Roma's Mid-Week Notes" with the main heading "New Year - But men will still hate women drivers."

Our three children were born in Scunthorpe; the photo below is of Andrew  and Adrian in early 1964 - the year of the newspaper in our Christmas box.

Even then Britain was importing American ideas as shown by another of Roma's Notes:

I wonder what happened to the kooky rings.

Happy New Year to all at Sepia Saturday (where you will find more Sepia memories )

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Scotney Castle

How many of us know that the origin of the saying, “An Englishman’s home is his castle”, was enshrined in law by Sir Edward Coke, first Lord Chief Justice in 1628. In the Third Part of the Institutes of the Laws of England it said, “For a man’s home is his castle and each man’s home is his safest refuge.”

Despite its name I lay no claim to Kent’s Scotney Castle. However it has an interesting past and a ghost which features in this, the next of my ‘ghostly’ blogs. A Jesuit priest, an outlawed smuggler, a faked death, a coffin full of stones, and a murdered tax man take their place in the history of the Castle as well as the ghost.


[Picture by Sarah Dawson -}

Scotney Castle built in the 14th century by Roger Asburnham was really a fortified manor house designed to withstand attacks by the French on English towns in the south. The castle became the ancestral home of the Darrell family until it was bought by Edward Hussey in the18th century.

Catholicism was illegal in the 16th century. Thomas Darrel had added priest holes to the castle to be used for hiding priests fleeing from the state. Father Richard Blount, a Jesuit missionary worked from the castle from 1591 to 1598 and conducted secret services for Catholics in Kent and elsewhere.

At Christmas 1598 Blount’s presence was betrayed. Despite the authorities taking up residence in house and conducting rigorous searches Blount escaped capture. Thanks to a ruse by the servants and aided by bad weather Blount was able to let himself out of his hiding place and swim across the moat. He was never caught.

In the 18th century Arthur Darrell lived in the castle until outlawed for smuggling. Supposedly he died abroad; his body was returned for burial in 1720. At his funeral it is said that as the coffin was lowered into the grave a tall stranger in a black cloak said to a mourner, “That is me they think they are burying.” The stranger was not seen again.

Did the Darrel fake his own death so he could continue smuggling? In 1924 Arthur Darrel’s iron-studded coffin in the Scotney Chapel at Lamberhurst church was opened by the sexton. The coffin contained nothing but stones.

It’s said that Darrel murdered a Revenue Office who had discovered his secret and threw his body into the moat. The Scotney Castle ghost is described as dripping wet, emerging from the moat and staggering to hammer on the front door.

Is the phantom the spirit of the Revenue man? Or is it Father Blount’s?