Category Archives: A story is told

The Diary of a Farmer’s Wife 1796-1797

August 21st 1796

Up yester morn att 4 off the clocke, and carters wife cumming we to the washing; getting all reddie for the hangeing out before breakefuste.

John in to saye Dollie the red cow be sicke, so me to make a drink for her good, it bein chill.  I did warme sum milk, to which I do put a spoon full of breesed appel pips and 2 egges, all shook upp with a glass of brandie, which John do give her.  Later she much better, and John did give her milk to the calfs.

2017 version
I was up yesterday morning at 4 o’clock because the carter’s wife was coming. We were going to do the washing so that it was all ready to hang out before breakfast.
Dollie, the red cow, was sick and John asked me to make a drink for her.  Being chill I warmed some milk and added a spoon full of breezed apple pips and 2 eggs, all shook up with a glass of brandy, which John gave her.  Later she was much better, and John gave her milk to the calves.

Just in case it rains on 15th July this year

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.

It’s amazing what you can find in old files

I’ve just been looking at the contents of one of my old files and came across this.  Where the heck I got it from I do not know but this is it; it’s called:-

The Value of Old Age

Remember that old folk are worth a fortune with silver in their hair, gold in their teeth, stones in their kidneys and gas in their stomachs.

I am quite a frivolous old girl you know.   I am seeing five gentlemen each day:-
As soon as I wake up Will Power helps me out of bed; then I go to visit Lou.

Next its time for Mr Quaker who gives me my oats.

They leave and Arthur Ritis shows up and stays the rest of the day.  He doesn’t stay in one place very long, so he takes me from joint to joint.

After such a busy day I am ready for bed with Johnny Walker.
What a life!
Oh yes – I am also flirting with Ai Zymers.

The Vicar came the other day and said: “At your age you should be thinking about the hereafter.”  I told him: “Oh, I do.  No matter where I am, in the lounge or upstairs; in the kitchen or in the basement, I ask myself: “Now, what am I here after?”

Fact or Fiction? True or False? You’re the decider!

Arthur Furguson (1883–1938) was (or may have been) a Scottish con artist who allegedly became known for “selling” English national monuments and other government property to visiting American tourists during the 1920s. 

His moment happened in Trafalgar Square, one bright and sunny morning in 1923 – the source of his revelation being a rich American from Iowa, who he found staring reverently at Nelson’s Column.  The American was interested and inquired as to the price. Furguson mused and explained that it was to be sold for just £6,000. Obviously, it would have to go to the right buyer: someone who would protect and appreciate a monument of this scale. Furguson decided to appoint himself as the official guide to the Square and, speaking to the American, he explained that the statue at the top the column was of Admiral Lord Nelson, one of Britain’s most famous seafarers and naval heroes. He had died in during the Battle of Trafalgar, after which the square was named. ‘Such a terrible shame’ he sighed, ‘the square wouldn’t feel the same without it. However, it all had to go, lions and fountains included. Britain’s debts were sky-high, and the government had decided to sell off the landmark to the highest bidder.’

By a curious coincidence, it was Furguson himself who had been entrusted by the government with the task of organizing the sale, which had to be kept top-secret. The American pleaded with Furguson to allow him to jump the queue. At last Ferguson relented and telephoned his employers for instructions. He returned within a matter of minutes and advised his buyer that it was decided that Britain was prepared to accept a cheque right away, to complete the deal as soon as possible!  Furguson, amazed at his own cunning, immediately went off and cashed the cheque while his customer got in touch with some contractors. They were extremely reluctant to accept the job and told him why. It was not until he received an official assurance from Scotland Yard that he would believe that he had been conned. The police however, were far from happy.

That summer was a good one as far as Arthur Furguson was concerned. One American complained that he had paid £1000 for Big Ben while another had made a £2000 down payment on Buckingham Palace!

While visiting Paris, he managed to sell the Eiffel Tower for scrap at an unknown price to yet another American. Since Americans had all been his best customers, he decided to continue his work in their country. In 1925, he leased the White House to a Texan cattle-rancher for 99 years at $100,000 a year, with the first year’s rent payable in advance.

Furguson’s bank balance was now sufficiently large for him to consider retiring but his vanity got the better of him.  He wanted to end his career with a grand finale and emigrated to the USA in 1925.  There he sold the White House to a rancher on the installment plan of yearly payments of $100,000.

However, his most perfect victim seemed to be an Australian from Sydney. Furguson told him that the entrance to New York harbour was to be widened and, unfortunately, the Statue of Liberty was in the way. Sentimental attachments was not going to stop the path of progress, and the US State Department was prepared to sell it to anyone who would to take it away.  Would his visiting Australian like to buy the Statue of Liberty?

The Australian attempted to raise the £100,000 deposit over the next couple of days with Furguson practically glued to his side, carefully steering him away from anyone with whom he might be tempted to boast about his venture. Furguson kindly allowed himself to be photographed with his buyer, arm in arm in front of the Statue of Liberty. Unfortunately, there was a delay in getting the money through; Furguson grew impatient, and the Australian became suspicious and took the photograph of himself and Furguson to the police.

It was exactly the breakthrough the police wanted. They already knew about the salesman of monuments, but he had always managed to escape them. The Australian led them straight to Furguson, who was promptly arrested.  Furguson was jailed for five years, a rather small price to pay for the fortune he had made. He was released in 1930, and moved to Los Angeles where he lived in a lap of luxury (paid for by a few more convenient tricks) until he died in 1938.

BUT – subsequent research suggests that the existence of Furguson himself was a hoax and that the earliest known reference to Furguson dates from the 1960s.  Is this true?  Who knows?  True or false – it doesn’t really matter; it still makes an interesting story!

The Waverley Novels

‘Waverley’ is a historical novel by Sir Walter Scott that was published anonymously on Friday 8th July 1814.  It was Scott’s first publication of straight forward prose fiction and is now often regarded as the first historical novel of its kind.  The successful impact of the book led to his later novels being advertised as “by the author of Waverley” and to his following, similar, books being known as ‘The Waverley Novels’.

The stories are based on the Jacobite uprising of 1745 when supporters set about restoring the Stuart dynasty to the throne in the person of Charles Edward Stuart, known as “Bonnie Prince Charlie” and tell the story of a young English dreamer and soldier, Edward Waverley, who was sent to Scotland that year.

Here is not the place to expand further on the story but, suffice to say, Edward has many ups and downs in his time in the Highlands.  Why not have a look in your local library and find out more about Baron Bradwardine, the beautiful Flora Mac-Ivor, the Battle of Prestonpans and Edward’s meeting with Bonnie Prince Charlie himself.

 

A new track for exciting races

It was on this day in 1907 that the Brooklands 2.75 mile motor racing track opened for racing.  It was the world’s first purpose-built motor racing circuit as well as one of Britain’s first airfields.  This airfield would become Britain’s largest aircraft manufacturing centre by by the end of the First World War, producing military aircraft such as the Wellington bomber and civil airliners like the VC-10.  The circuit hosted its last race in 1939 and is now the Brooklands Museum – a major aviation and motoring museum.  It is also still a track for fun with many vintage car, motorcycle and other transport-related events taking part.

We shall return to Brooklands as its story grows.

Today is Tynwald Day – 600 years since the Lord of Man ordered the Law

It was Sir John Stanley, Lord of Man, who ordered the 1417 Law to be set down, and it is right and poignant that his descendant, Edward Stanley, the 19th Earl of Derby, should have kindly accepted my invitation to come as a guest on Tynwald Day to help us mark the 600th anniversary and celebrate our long unbroken history of parliamentary tradition.’

From the first recorded Tynwald Day in 1417, the Day had traditionally been held on 24th June, which is the feast day of St John the Baptist and also Midsummer’s Day.  However, in 1753, the Isle of Man legislated to replace the Julian Calendar with the Gregorian Calender after Great Britain had done so in the previous year: making a difference of 11 days. However, the legislation retained the Julian Calendar for the purpose of determining Tynwald Day stating that “Midsummer Tynwald Court shall be holden and kept … upon or according to the same natural Days upon or according to which the same should have been so kept or holden … in case this Act had never been made.” Hence Tynwald Day occurred on 24 June in the Julian Calendar, but on 5th July according to the Gregorian Calendar. It was not subsequently moved back to 7th July, even though the Gregorian Calendar is now 13 days ahead of the Julian Calendar as the Gregorian Calendar had no Leap Day in 1800 or 1900. As a result – if Tynwald Day occurs on a Saturday or Sunday, it is normally commemorated on the next Monday as it was in 2008 and 2009.

Each year on Tynwald Day the Tynwald Court participates at the Tynwald Day Ceremony at St John’s.  After a religious service in the Royal Chapel, the members of Tynwald process to Tynwald Hill, one of the ancient open air sites of Tynwald. Following the proceedings on Tynwald Hill, presided over by the Lieutenant Governor, the members of Tynwald return to the Royal Chapel where a formal sitting of Tynwald takes place.  By statute, each Act of Tynwald must be promulgated on Tynwald Hill within eighteen months of enactment or it ceases to have effect. Promulgation of the Acts takes place on Tynwald Day and the promulgation is certified at the sitting of Tynwald at St John’s.

Any person may approach Tynwald Hill on Tynwald Day and present a Petition for Redress. If the Petition is in accordance with the Standing Orders of Tynwald, any Member of Tynwald may subsequently request that Tynwald consider the substance of the petition. Matters are indeed redressed by this simple but ancient procedure which can lead directly to the enactment of legislation.

Today – Wednesday July 5th 2017 – will serve as an occasion to welcome two visiting units from the Royal Air Force as they perform their ceremonial roles and add to the colour and spectacle of the formal proceedings.  Manned exclusively by officers and airmen of the RAF Regiment, which this year celebrates its 75th anniversary, the Queen’s Colour Squadron will form the guard of honour. The squadron is the RAF’s only dedicated ceremonial unit, but also has an operational role as 63 Squadron, Royal Air Force Regiment.

Joining the squadron will be the Band of the Royal Air Force Regiment which, in additional to its ceremonial duties, undertakes operational support roles around the world.

The proceedings will also serve as an opportunity to recognise the 600th anniversary of the Customary Law Act. The President of Tynwald, Steve Rodan MLC, said: ‘The Customary Law of 1417 is the earliest Manx statute we have in writing. It is significant because it sets out in detail the Tynwald Day ceremony itself – the very pattern which we follow on Tynwald Hill in St John’s to this day. Even back then it was referred to as “the constitution from old times” so we can see that our ancient ceremonial was already rooted in the distant past way back then.

A very fine lady

It was on Wednesday 3rd July 1963 that Cecil Beaton recorded the filming of My Fair Lady in his journal:

I had watched Audrey [Hepburn] during the tests, wearing almost no make-up and being photographed in a somewhat flat light. One took for granted her charm and vitality, but it was only when the result was magnified hundreds of times, that one realised that, as Jack Warner said, ‘She’s one in a million.’ Somehow, the celluloid accentuates her expressions of tenderness, humour, fun, hauteur and plaintive childishness. Her nose and jawline do not conform to the golden rule of Praxiteles yet add enormous character to the photographed result. 

After seeing herself without eye make-up Audrey pleased me by saying that, in the future, she was going to soft-pedal its use. The ‘Flemish look’, without make-up, is going to be a surprise. Suddenly, one realizes what a hard look the black liner gives the eye, and how its effect is to close up, and make smaller, the white of the eye. Audrey’s appearance without it will be quite a revolution and, let’s hope, the end of all those black-eyed zombies of the fashion magazines.

Just in case you wish to know – and are like me and did not know who/what Praxiteles was – he was a 4th century BCE Greek from Athens, the son of Cephisodotus the Elder, and was the most renowned of the Attic sculptors of the time.  He is recorded as being the first to sculpt the nude female form in a life-size statue!

Post-war Britain in 1947

On Wednesday 2nd July 1947 Edie Rutherford – a South African housewife and Socialist now living in Sheffield, England – recorded in her Mass Observation diary:

Chinese laundry near here has a new notice up, ‘a few customers taken in.’

She also recorded that:
‘Today, for the first time for years, I opened the door to a  ‘Will you buy something from a disabled ex-serviceman?’ man and he opened his case with alacrity.      He seemed to have nothing I wanted, but, as I have done door-to-door selling, I always buy if I can. So I took two pairs shoelaces and bodkin, 10d the lot.
He then offered me elastic but, as I have enough just now, I declined with thanks. He was young and looked fit enough. One had hopes that this kind of thing would not follow the war this time.
Husband has sent to Selfridges for sports coat advertised at 48/-. Prices here around are £5 for a coat worth buying, and thirteen coupons.

It will take many years for Britain to recover from the conflict – but they would succeed.

Snippets are back again

As you sit and watch colour television in Great Britain today please remember that it was not until 2pm on Saturday 1st July 1967 that the householders of this country at large were able to watch colour television in their own home – that is/was of course provided they had the right television!

It had taken a long time to get this far – the first demonstration of colour television in the UK had been demonstrated on 3rd July 1928 – just 3 years after black & white pictures had been seen on TV!