11th August 1968 and British Rail makes 3 Special Offers

 A 315 mile, almost eleven hour journey marked the end of standard gauge steam-hauled passenger service on British Railways.  The timings sheet was headed with the statement – ‘Last steam hauled train on Britain Railways on standard track, Sunday 11th August 1968.’

A ‘Souvenir Platform Ticket’ was available – it tells us that: The last steam hauled train to operate on standard gauge track will run on Sunday, 11th August 1968.  The train will run from Liverpool 09.10 via Manchester to Carlisle calling at Manchester Victoria at 10.36 and 18.48 and will be hauled from Liverpool to Manchester by a class 5 locomotive.

Front & back of a souvenir platform ticket is available from The John Debens Collection.   Manchester Victoria souvenir platform ticket 2s 6d.  Not valid on Train. Not Transferable.

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A railway ‘Fifteen Guinea Special’ for one last day

The ‘Fifteen Guinea Special’ was the last main-line passenger train to be hauled by steam locomotive power on British Rail.  It happened on Sunday 11th August 1968 – the day before the introduction of a steam ban. It was a special rail tour excursion train organised for the occasion to run from Liverpool via Manchester to Carlisle and back. It was pulled by four different steam locomotives in turn during the four legs of the journey plus two engines sharing the third, very demanding, last leg.

Why was it called the Fifteen Guinea Special you may ask!  It was called that because of the high cost of tickets for the rail tour. 15 guineas were £15 15 shilling in pre-decimal British currency – and was the equivalent to £250 in 2016! Guinea prices were normally only used for luxury items or professional fees, but ticket prices had been inflated due to the high demand to travel on the last BR steam-hauled mainline train.  The end of steam-hauled trains on British Railways was a turning point in the history of rail travel in Britain.

The BR steam ban was to be introduced the day after the rail tour, on 12th August 1968 and t  This slight change was to enable ‘Oliver Cromwell’ to make one last positioning run back to Norwich and on to Diss for preservation. This was the last steam-hauled passenger train to be run by BR on its standard gauge network. Thereafter, all mainline trains in Britain would be hauled by either diesel or electric power.  However – the ban did not apply to one mainline steam locomotive – the Flying Scotsman – due to Alan Pegler having secured a clause in the purchase contract when she was purchased from BR in 1963. After this, the only opportunity to view mainline steam locos in operation after the ban was to be on privately owned heritage railways and all but one of the locomotives that hauled the train were immediately purchased straight from service and passed into preservation.

Have a look at today’s other posting and see a little more about this very special journey.

War in Britain – great music in the US

Last week we were looking at three very different individuals and their music in the early months of the war – Noël Coward; Michael Carr (real name Maurice Alfred Cohen) and Hughie Charles an English songwriter and producer of musical theatre.   So, during the same time, what music was coming out from the USA music?

Well, Bing Crosby was the leading figure of the crooner sound as well as its most iconic, defining artist. By the 1940s he was an entertainment superstar who mastered all of the major media formats of the day, movies, radio, and recorded music.  Not too far behind Bing we can find Cabell Calloway – an American jazz singer and bandleader who was strongly associated with the Cotton Club in Harlem in New York City, where he was a regular performer.

Another man and performer of the times was Eddie Cantor (born Edward Israel Itzkowitz in January 1892). He was an American illustrated song performer, comedian, dancer, singer, actor, and songwriter.  Familiar to Broadway, radio, movie, and early television audiences, this “Apostle of Pep” was regarded almost as a family member by millions because his top-rated radio shows revealed intimate stories and amusing anecdotes about his wife Ida and five daughters. His eye-rolling song-and-dance routines eventually led to his nickname, “Banjo Eyes”.  His eyes became his trademark, often exaggerated in illustrations, and leading to his appearance on Broadway in the musical ‘Banjo Eyes’ in 1941.

I could carry on with regard to the USA and a possible war but the US ‘powers that be’ were watching what was happening there and across in Europe but not taking the next step.  That may well come next week but for this week we can look at the top 5 songs recorded via the limited chart positions by the USA watchers:

At number 5 in the ratings was Billie Holiday with ‘God Bless the Child’   

At number 4 was Jimmy Dorsey with ‘Amapola (Pretty Little Poppy)’. Jimmy was also in place at 3 with ‘Green Eyes’

At number 2 we can find ‘A String of Pearls’ from Glenn Miller who was also in place at number 1 with ‘Chattanooga Choo Choo’.

Numbers two and one would be noted by, and listened to, by people all over the world and Glenn Miller would receive the praise – but who actually composed ‘String of Pearls and ‘Chattanooga Choo Choo’?  They were Harry Warren and Mack Gordon.

Harry Warren was an American composer and lyricist and was the first major American songwriter to write for his composing primarily for film. He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Song eleven times and won three Oscars for composing “Lullaby of Broadway”, “You’ll Never Know” and “On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe”.  Over a career spanning four decades, Harry was one of America’s most prolific film composers with his songs have been featured in over 300 films.

Mack Gordon was a Jewish-American composer and lyricist of songs for stage and film and was nominated for the best original song Oscar nine times in eleven years, including five consecutive years between 1940 and 1944, and won the award once, for “You’ll Never Know”.

So – let’s finish this week’s story with the number one of 1941 – the ‘Chattanooga Choo Choo’.

Pardon me boy, is that the Chattanooga Choo Choo?
Track twenty nine, boy you can gimme a shine
I can afford to board a Chattanooga Choo Choo
I’ve got my fare and just a trifle to spare
You leave the Pennsylvania station ’bout a quarter to four
Read a magazine and then you’re in Baltimore
Dinner in the diner, nothing could be finer
Than to have your ham ‘n’ eggs in Carolina
When you hear the whistle blowin’ eight to the bar
Then you know that Tennessee is not very far
Shovel all the coal in, gotta keep it rollin’
Woo, woo, Chattanooga, there you are
There’s gonna be a certain party at the station
Satin and lace, I used to call funny face
She’s gonna cry until I tell her that I’ll never roam

 

Grinling Gibbon – a wood graver bar none.

Grinling Gibbon died on 3rd August 1721.  He was arguably the most famous woodcarver of all time; and certainly in Britain. Born in Rotterdam in 1648, he ‘arrived’ in England in 1670/1. The diarist John Evelyn first discovered Gibbons’ talent by chance in 1671. In his diary for 18th January 1671 he wrote:

 “I this day first acquainted his Majestie with that incomparable young man Gibson (sic) whom I had lately found in obscure place, and that by mere accident, as I was walking neere a poor solitary thatched house in a field in our Parish: I found him shut in , but looking into the Window, I perceived him carving that large Cartoone, or Crucifix of Tintorets, a Copy of which I had also my selfe brought from Venice.’

Later that same evening he described what he had seen to Sir Christopher Wren and the pair soon introduced him to King Charles II. That first visit to the King yielded nothing but frustration for Evelyn and Gibbons but it was quite soon after that King Charles gave Gibbons his first commission.

Horace Walpole later wrote: “There is no instance of a man before Gibbons who gave wood the loose and airy lightness of flowers, and chained together the various productions of the elements with the free disorder natural to each species.” 

That conversation between Evelyn and Wren also led Gibbons to becoming a favorite of Wren, who used him to supply decorative carving for many of his country house commissions.  One such building was Burghley House near Stamford – the home of the Cecil family to this day.  Gibbins work at Burghley remains visible to this day and can be viewed by visitors.

The genius of Gibbons is not simply that he had a remarkable ability to mould and shape wood, but that he evolved a distinct style that was all his own. Working mostly in Lime wood, Gibbons’ trademark was the cascade of fruit, leaves, flowers, foliage, fish and birds.

In Britain the majority feel alone – but VERY determining.

Although the 2nd World War began with Nazi Germany’s attack on Poland in September 1939, the United States did not fully enter the war until after the Japanese bombed the American fleet in Pearl Harbour, Hawaii, on 7th December 1941. The 1940 and 1941 conflict in Europe had received help and support from the USA – but mainly from a distance.  In Britain the majority felt alone – but VERY determining.  Music was a great support for all and as the conflict moved on into 1941 music was all around.  On 29th March Benjamin Britten’s Sinfonia da Requiem was premiered in Carnegie Hall conducted by John Barbirolli.  On Saturday 10th May 1941 London’s Queen’s Hall – the venue for the Promenade Concerts – was bombed by the Luftwaffe. The Proms re-locate to the Royal Albert Hall and carried on with their performances.

Let’s have a look at three – different – individuals

One key member of the community was an individual that could displays skill at wordplay and evokes a feeling of both good humour and patriotic pride.  He was Noël Coward and the song poked fun at the disorder and shortages of equipment, supplies and effective leadership that the Home Guard experienced during the Second World War. The song was “Could You Please Oblige Us with a Bren Gun?” – a humorous song written and composed by Noël in 1941.  The subject of the song was the Bren light machine gun – a weapon in high demand and short supply in wartime Britain, especially in 1941, when the British military was still recovering from the massive loss of materiel and supplies at Dunkirk. First priority was given to the British Army and the Royal Marines, with the result that the units of the Home Guard, the very last line of defence, were quite unlikely to get one. As a result, members of the Home Guard often had to make do with whatever they could get their hands on- frequently old and outdated weapons.

Michael Carr – real name Maurice Alfred Cohen – was a British popular music composer and lyricist perhaps best remembered for the song ‘South of the Border Down Mexico Way’ for the 1939 film of the same name.  However – during World War II he served in the army and wrote “He Wears a Pair of Silver Wings” with Eric Maschwitz.  He was also ‘responsible for’ “Somewhere in France with Youin 1939.  He worked together with Jimmy Kennedy for ‘We’re Gonna Hang out the Washing on the Siegfried Line” and “A Handsome Territorial” in 1939; in 1941 with Popplewell on “The First Lullaby“; “A Pair of Silver Wings” (1941with Eric Maschwitz) and “I Love To Sing” (1943 with Paul Misrake & Tommie Connor)

Hughie Charles was an English songwriter and producer of musical theatre. Born Charles Hugh Owen Ferry in Manchester, he is best known for co-writing with Ross Parker the songs “We’ll Meet Again” and “There’ll Always be an England”. In 1938 he and Ross Parker had enjoyed their first hit, ‘I Won’t Tell A Soul (That I Love You)’ and followed that in 1939 with the defiantly optimistic ‘There’ll Always Be An England’ and ‘We’ll Meet Again’, both of which were successful for Vera Lynn, and many other artists.  Throughout the war years, Charles wrote more than 50 songs, mostly ballads, in collaboration with a number of other writers.

We’ll come back to these when the war has ended.

Britain’s Boy Scout movement begins – and continues to this day

It was on Monday 29th July 1907 that the Boy Scout movement in Britain began with an experimental camp being held on Brownsea Island near Poole in Dorset by Robert Baden-Powell.  His aim was to try out some of his ideas – ideas that were to become the basic principles and activities of the Scout movement. His aim was to foster a sense of honour, loyalty and good citizenship among children. These aims went much wider though, encompassing physical fitness through exercises together with the development of practical skills such as woodwork, tracking, observation, signalling and first aid.

There was also a very new slant on the project; there were to be boys from the whole spectrum of social classes involved and they would share everything as equals. On this first gathering they were divided into four, mixed, ‘patrols’ with each patrol having their own tent for sleeping purposes. Each day had a fixed routine of morning prayers, drills, games and instruction. There were breaks for quiet rest periods and the day was ended with stories around the campfire.

In his ‘Scouting for Boys’ in 1908 Robert Baden-Powell  wrote: ‘The scouts’ motto is founded on my initials, it is be prepared, which means, you are always to be in a state if readiness in mind and body to do your duty’  

Over 100 years later these fundamentals still underpin the Scout movement.

Music tells us stories as conflict begins

The years 1939 & 1940 are difficult to really put together in our story.  Britain was at war – the USA stood out of it.  On 31st August in Britain many civilians were evacuated from London while, in the USA, Bing Crosby was the leading figure of the ‘Crooner’ sound and was on his way to becoming a superstar of the 1940s.

In the USA ‘charts in 1939 at number 5 we find Louis Armstrong with ‘When the Saints Go Marching Home’ .  Billie Holiday is at number 4 with ‘Strange Fruit’  while number 3 gives us – Kate Smith with ‘God Bless America’  Number 2 delivers – Glenn Miller with ‘Moonlight Serenade’  and number 1 gives us – Judy Garland with ‘Over the Rainbow’

In early 1939s Britain still had the Depression to concern large parts of the population but a new “high society” had a developing and golden age of culture dawning.  The cinema industry was booming, with many people attending more than once a week to seek escapism from their daily struggles.

The 1939 Academy Awards saw 10 films nominated for Best Picture, among them classics that are still highly regarded today, including Wuthering Heights, The Wizard of Oz, Goodbye Mr Chips and the winner Gone With the Wind.  Britain in 1939 also had their own popular music – but in no particular order – that contained:  ‘Kiss Me Goodnight, Sergeant Major’ by Art Noel & Don Pelosi; ‘On the Outside Always Looking In’ with words and music by Michael Carr who also wrote ‘Somewhere in France with You’‘South of the Border’ had words and music by Jimmy Kennedy & Michael Carr as had ‘We’re Going to Hang Out the Washing on the Siegfried Line’.   Two more numbers – ‘We’ll Meet Again’ and ‘There’ll always be and England’  – with words by Hughie Charles & music by Ross Parker. 

To closed off this set let us have Gracie Fields, with Harry Parr Davies’s words and music, asking us all – and especially our fighting forces – to ‘Wish Me Luck as You Wave Me Goodby’.

Before the conflict began Britain was importing about 55 million tons of food a year from other countries and a typical breakfast for a middle-class Brit consisted of porridge and milk or bacon and tomatoes. Lunch might be veal cutlets and boiled potatoes and, for dinner, a meal of creamed chicken and vegetables with baked rice pudding for dessert.  That food importation was halted in late 1939 when German submarines started attacking British supply ships. There was a worry that this would lead to shortages in food supplies, so in 1940, rationing was introduced. The Ministry of Food drafted in the original “celebrity chef” Marguerite Patten to devise lean wartime recipes, and radio shows such as the BBC’s Kitchen Front encouraged the nation’s housewives to wash – rather than peel – vegetables to increase their nutritional value and avoid unnecessary wastage.

It was on 7th May 1940 that the British House of Commons began a debate about the disastrous British campaign against the Germans in Norway. This turned into a vote of confidence in Neville Chamberlain, the Prime Minister. Although Chamberlain won the vote it was clear he had lost the confidence of his colleagues in the Conservative Party and the field became clear for Winston Churchill to take office. He took the post on 10th May 1940 – the same day that Germany invaded Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg!

It was on 7th December 1941 that Japan attacked Pearl Harbour and very shortly after that the United States entered World War II

The flagship named Mary Rose

Sunday 19th July 1545 was the day that the Mary Rose, flagship of King Henry VIII’s fleet, sank off Portsmouth 34 years after coming into service.   In 1971 the wreck was located, raised and is now a museum that attracts visitors from across the world.

The actual reason why she sank remains a matter for deep discussion. The only confirmed eyewitness account of the sinking says that she had fired all of her guns on one side and was turning when she was caught in a strong gust of wind. Other accounts agree that she was turning, but offer various reasons why she sank during the manoeuvre.

Although there is no archaeological evidence from the wreck to confirm this, a French cavalry officer present at the battle stated that the Mary Rose had been sunk by French guns. A cannonball low in the hull would have let water to flood in, making the ship unstable and leading to her sinking. Perhaps this was why the ship turned north so suddenly. Was she aiming to reach the ‘Spitbank’ shallows which were only a few hundred meters away?

A fourth suggestion is that she was overloaded with heavy guns and/or with extra soldiers. If this was the case, a strong gust of wind could have heeled her over into the sea. However, the guns had been put aboard in London so she had managed to get round the Kent coast, and along the English Channel, without mishap so why did she topple in the Solent?  All we know is that we probably never will know why it happened – but that’s the perennial challenge presented by so much of our history!

There are many questions – and as many may-be answers – that go with this story.  For instance – why was the ship named as it was?   The second part of the flagship’s name is believed to refer to the Tudor rose, the emblem of Henry VIII’s house – but what about ‘Mary’?  That name could refer to the Virgin Mary, but it is more commonly seen as a reference to Henry VIII’s sister Mary who was the wife of King Louis XII of France.  We’ll never know!

A British Prime Minister; a German Chancellor and a USA Ambassador in the background – and we can listen to music!

 

We now read and write today in the year 2018 – but for today I want to take you back 80 years to the year 1938 and see what was happening in Britain.

On 17th January 1938 Joseph P Kennedy had been appointed United States Ambassador to the UK while, on 20th February, Anthony Eden had resigned as Foreign Secretary over Chamberlain’s policy towards Italy.  Lord Halifax took over Eden’s role and just under 2 months later, on 16th April 1938, the Anglo-Italian Treaty and Britain recognised Italian government over Ethiopia in return for Italian troops withdrawing from Spain.

In a different field – from the 13th to 20th August 1938 – Great Britain and the United States contested the inaugural Amateur World Series in baseball, played in the north of England. Britain won every match! This was closely followed on 23rd August when English cricketer Len Hutton scored a record Test score of 364 runs in a match against Australia.

Let’s finish this look at 1938 from a different angle that we shall return to later.

On 13th September 1938 British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain met German Chancellor Adolf Hitler in an attempt to negotiate an end to German expansionist policies.  On 29th September Neville Chamberlain signed the Munich Agreement and a resolution with Germany determining to resolve all future disputes between the two countries through peaceful means. On 30th September Neville Chamberlain returned to the UK from Munich, memorably waving the resolution signed the day earlier with Germany, and later in Downing Street giving his famous ‘Peace for our time’ speech.

We’ll have to wait for the stories above for different places but we can clearly enjoy the musical delight that was available in the year of 1938…

Just outside the top 5 were “A Gypsy Told Me” by Ted Weems and his Orchestra with Perry Como; “Cry, Baby, Cry” by Larry Clinton and “Don’t Be That Way” by BennyGoodman.

In 5th place we have Roy Acuff with the ‘Wabash Cannonball’. – In 4th place are Bob Hope & Shirley Ross saying ‘Thanks for the Memory’ while in 3rd place has Ella Fitzgerald with Chick Webb telling us all about ‘A-Tisket A-Tasket’.   At number 2 we find, we find  the Andrew Sisters going German with ‘Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen’ and, at number one we have Artie Shaw telling us all to ‘Begin the Beguine’.

BUT – when we look at the music of 1938 in a different way – the creators – we get a different scene.  There we find: “The Biggest Aspidistra in the World” by Tommie Connor, W. G. Haines & James S. Hancock and “Boomps-A-Daisy”, with words and music by Annette Mills.  There is also “Cinderella, Stay in my Arms” with words by Jimmy Kennedy and music by Michael Carr.

“Dearest Love”;   “I went to a Marvellous Party”;   “The Stately Homes of England” and “Where are the Songs we Sung?” were in words & music by Noël Coward.

You’re what’s the Matter with Me” was on words and music by Jimmy Kennedy and Michael Carr and was introduced by Harry Richman and Evelyn Call in the film ‘Kicking the Moon Around’

Next week we could be kicking something much more serious.

Saint Swithin – a belief in the weather and 15th July

 

15th July has a rhyme: St Swithin’s Day, if it does rain; Full forty days, it will remain; St Swithin’s Day, if it be fair; For forty days, t’will rain no more.

Celebrated (or berated as the case may be!) on July 15th, weather sayings pertaining to St. Swithin’s Day are probably the most famous or infamous in the UK.  St. Swithin died in 862 and was buried outside Winchester Cathedral so that he could ‘feel’ the raindrops when he was dead. However, when he was canonised a tomb was built inside the cathedral and July 15th 971 was the day his body was to be moved. Legend has it that a storm broke on that day ending a long dry spell.  Not only that – it continued to rain on each of the subsequent 40 days. As a result the monks took it as a sign of ‘divine displeasure’ and` left his body where it was.

Since 1861 there have never been 40 dry or 40 wet days following a dry or wet St. Swithin’s Day. In fact, on average, about 20 wet days and 20 rain free days can be expected between July 15th and August 24th. The summers of 1983, 1989, 1990 and 1995 were, however, near misses. During these summers July 15th was dry over southern England, as were 38 of the following 40 days. As for wet weather, BBC Meteorologist Philip Eden presented a report that on 15th July 1985 it rained in Luton and then rained on 30 of the subsequent 40 days.

The creators of the St. Swithin’s Day sayings during the Middle Ages would be aware that summer weather patterns are usually quite well established by mid-July and will then tend to persist until late August. It is not just England though; similar sayings exist for the same time of year in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and France. If we modernise the sayings surrounding St. Swithin’s Day perhaps the sayings should be updated to read:

St. Swithin’s Day, if it does rain, 40 days staying unsettled, St. Swithin’s Day, if it fair, 40 days staying settled.