Court Jesters


Dr. Doran, in his 1850 History of Court Fools gives a completely exhaustive account of licensed and unlicensed court fools, jesters and mirth men throughout the ages.

The following brief selection is just a few.


The fun-maker and jester to Pope Gregory XVI.

Pope Gregory


Fool to Emperor Maximilian I


Physician to Henry VIII and his unlicensed fool.


Fool to Louis XIV, the last licensed fool in France.


Louis XIV


Jester to George I, was not only a fun-maker but also a ghostly adviser of the Hanoverian.

George I


Joculator to William the Conqueror who gave him 3 towns and 5 caracutes in Gloucestershire.A caracute is an area of land that a plough team of 8 oxen could till in a single annual season.


William the Conqueror


Jester to the court of Mary Queen of Scots.

Mary Queen of Scots


Jester to King Arthur who later made him a Knight.


Cardinal Wolseys jester whom he made a present of this wise fool to Henry VIII who returned word that the gift was a most acceptable one.

Cardinal Wolsey


Licensed jester to Sir Thomas More.


Court jester at Hampton Court to Henry VIII .

Henry VIII with his three children and Will Somers.


Fool of Czarina Elizabeth of Russia. mother of Peter II.A stolid brute, fond of practical jokes.

Czarina Elizabeth




Genetic Fingerprinting

Genetic fingerprinting was first discovered at Leicester University in 1985.

Leicestershire Constabulary was the first police force in the world to use genetic fingerprinting for criminal detection in the case of Colin Pitchfork who appeared at Leicester Crown court in 1987, charged with the murder of two school-girls. Pitchfork became the first murderer in the world to be convicted on the evidence of genetic fingerprinting.

Christmas Stockings

When we were children we were grateful to those who filled our stockings at Christmas time. G.K. Chesterton once said - Why are we not grateful to God for filling our stockings with legs?

A Great Thinker and Inventor

'Opportunity is missed by most people because it comes dressed in overalls and looks like work' -

Thomas Edison

A thought to ponder? Happy Christmas!

Royal Retreat

The Isle of Wight, almost an England in miniature, has for a long time been a retreat for troubled royals trying to get away from their cares and problems on the mainland. In the 11th century, Odo, half-brother to William the Conqueror, having been accused of treasonable acts, sought sanctuary at Carisbrooke Castle, but was caught and arrested by William himself.

In 1647, Charles I fled to the Isle of Wight hoping that the Governor, Colonel Robert ammond, wouldHammond, would assist him in getting away to France. Instead, Hammond imprisoned the King in Carisbrooke Castle. Charles tried to escape by climbing out of a window and sliding down a rope, but was caught after becoming wedged in the window bars. He was kept there until 1648 when he was taken away to await his execution at Whitehall on 30th January 1649.

Charles I's daughter, Princess Elizabeth, born in 1635, was sent to Carrisbrooke Castle by Parliament after her father's execution. She died there, of a fever, aged just 14, and was buried by the altar in the church at Newport, where her grave was marked by a simple ES. In 1865, Queen Victoria restored the grave from obscurity and erected a monument in her ancestor's memory.

Queen Victoria herself retired to Osborne House on the Isle of Wight after the death of Prince Albert and spent much of her time there. She died at Osborne House in 1901.




He Went Too Fast

On 28th January 1896, Walter Arnold of East Peckham, near Tonbridge, Kent, became the first motorist ever to be convicted of speeding. On 20th January, he was spotted by the local police constable doing 8 m.p.h. in a built-up area of Paddock Wood, where the speed limit was 2 m.p.h. The police constable, who was having his dinner at the time, selflessly abandoned his pork chop, grabbed his helmet, mounted his bicycle and gave chase. He eventually managed to overtake and flag down the felon after a breathless pursuit of some 5 miles.

Arnold appeared before magistrates at Tonbridge Police Court and was charged one shilling plus costs for the outrage. Walter Arnold, however, was undeterred and he went on to become the first man in Britain to manufacture petrol-driven motor cars. The Arnold Motor Carriage Company of East Peckham, Kent, salesmen for Benz cars since 1894, manufactured an Arnold motor, based on the Benz design, but with many innovations, in August 1896, the first petrol-driven car ever manufactured for sale in England. Called an Adam, it was also the first car in the world to have an electric self-starter.




The Instant Way of Life

The simple press of a button, a click of a switch and we get what some people call the 'instant way of life'. Or click the mouse beside a computer and a letter can be delivered many thousands of miles away.

It is all modern progress but too often, it seems, life depends on forever trying to beat the clock. When we slow down we start to experience a real quality of life. It gives us a whole new perspective on what living is all about.

I think that the author H.G. Wells put it well when he said: "We must never allow the clock and the calendar to blind us to the fact that each moment of life is a miracle and a mystery.

Focus on this...

It is all too easy to live for tomorrow, continually putting things off, but as these words translated from ancient Sanskrit show, today is, and always has been, a good time to focus on:

Look to this day: for it is life, the very life of life. In its brief course lie all the verities and realities of your existence. The bliss of growth, the glory of action, the splendour of achievement are but experiences of time. For yesterday is but a dream and tomorrow is only a vision; and today well-lived, makes yesterday a dream of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope. Look well therefore to this day; such is the salutation to the ever-new dawn!

So, why not start something useful today?


In his day few men understood the universe like Galileo. His real wisdom was to look for wonder, not only in the vastness of space or in the minute detail of the everyday world, but in both at the same time.;

The majesty and intricacy of Galileo's world were summed up in these words: The sun, with all those planets revolving around it and dependent upon it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes like it has nothing else in the universe to do.


The Birthplace of English Theatre

Standing at the crossroads of the Icknield Way and Watling Street, the ancient town of Dunstable is the unlikely birthplace of English Theatre. Here, in the 12th Century, Geoffrey de Gorham wrote and directed the first play ever seen in England.

While he was waiting to become Prior of St. Albans, de Gorham established a school in Dunstable where he was living. The town possessed a large colony of weavers and he decided to compose a play as a way of teaching his pupils about St. Catherine, the Patron Saint of Weavers. The play proved such a success that others copied his example and put on the first mystery plays, which tell stories from the Bible and are still performed today.




Dunstable Priory was the scene of the trial and divorce of Catherine of Aragon. It was here that Archbishop Thomas Cranmer pronounced the Queen's marriage to Henry VIII illegal. The document he issued to record this was the last ever to describe the Primate of England as an official of the Church of Rome.




He Built His House on Sand

Down on the beach, amongst the sand dunes of Bude, in Cornwall, is Bude Castle, a remarkable building that was the world's first permanent structure to be built on shifting sands.

It was put up in 1830 by Sir Goldsworthy Gurney [1793-1875], who overcame the problem of instability by laying a strong concrete platform directly on to the sand for the foundations, thereby inventing a building technique widely used in the modern construction industry. Thanks to this ingenious Cornish inventor, engineers knew how to build the world's tallest building, the Petronas Towers at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on soft, wet limestone.

He Took A Second Look

A friend of mine told me about something he spotted on the staff notice board at a works he visited a short time ago. He had to take another look as he couldn't believe what he was reading. It was fortunate he took that second look. At first the notice appeared to be instructions to the staff to: grumble, criticise, blame, complain, gossip and think negative. Then my friend caught sight of a single word at the top of the notice - Don't!

Our Time

Bankers and financial experts may offer us lots of advice. However, all the experts in the world seldom tell us how to spend one item that is more important than money. I call it 'our time'.

This invisible currency is the most important thing we can spend or save, and the wise person will put family concerns high in his or her time-spending priorities, as Barbara Bush, a former First Lady of the United States, advised. "At the end of your life," she said, "You will never have regrets at not having passed one more test, not winning one more verdict, or not closing one more deal. But you will regret any moments of time that you have failed to spend with a husband, a friend, a child, or a parent."

We Need Space

In the busy rush of modern life it is often difficult to find time to be alone and to be still. Blaise Pascal said that all the troubles of life come upon us because we do not sit quietly for a while each day. Thoreau loved being alone, saying he 'had never found the companion that was as companionable as solitude'. Another philosopher said that solitude is to the mind what diet is to the body.

Of course we all love our family and friends and good company, but we also need time to ourselves, 'space' as we might call it today.




Look Before You Leap

The graceful impala, a member of the African antelope family, can teach us a lot about treading carefully.

They have been known to jump distances of eleven metres, and can leap to a height of over three metres, yet when placed in a zoo enclosure, surrounded by a low wall, they will never jump over it.

There is a very simple reason for this. These beautiful creatures simply will not make a move if they cannot see where their feet will land. This way they will not find themselves on shaky ground.

This is something we should, perhaps remember the next time we are tempted to leap before we look.

Hold the Lift

On 1st January 1842, a Cornish engineer, Michael Loam [1798-1871], gave a successful demonstration of the world's first lift. He called it a Man Engine, and it was installed at the Tresavean Mine in Gwennap, near Redruth. It was powered by a waterwheel and reached a depth of 150 feet. When it proved effective, it was extended to 1000 feet.

Loam had invented the Man Engine in an effort to relieve miners of the back-breaking climb to and from the work face. Some mines were over 2000 feet deep. The basic design involved a series of stepped wooden rods which moved up and down between a succession of platforms, which were fitted to the mine shaft wall. The miner would step off a platform on to a rod, step off that on to the next platform and wait for the next rod. It was slow, but relatively safe, and much less exhausting than climbing a ladder.

Sing in the Life Boats

Voltaire, the French writer and philosopher, who was born in 1694, was a witty but ruthless critic of the corrupt ruling powers of his era, and refused to ignore injustice. Because of that he offended the authorities, and his views landed him in periods of imprisonment and exile.

His was a turbulent existence, and he once described life as 'a shipwreck'. Voltaire, however, added one further comment by saying, "Nevertheless, we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats."

We could all do with a shipmate like him!

Let There be Music

Here are two sayings about the power of music in our lives.

Henry David Thoreau wrote:

Even earlier, Plato had this to say:




Have you heard of Reverend John Brown of Haddington, East Lothian, and his 'self-interpreting Bible' which was first published in 1778? It was very popular in its day and many editions were sold.

This Bible has explanatory notes to help readers to understand the text, and some Victorian editions had beautiful, coloured illustrations with space to record family details.

John Brown would today be described as a disadvantaged child. Born in 1772 to poor parents, he was orphaned while young, and became a shepherd boy.

A great reader, and with an astonishing talent for languages, he taught himself Greek, Latin and Hebrew, for his dearest wish was to become a clergyman.

To achieve his aim, John Brown earned a living as a pedlar and self-educated school teacher, overcoming many obstacles along the way.

Rev. John Brown, Clergyman, Theologian, Scholar and Linguist, died in 1787 in Haddington, where he had been a much loved clergyman for 36 years.

It was Calvin Coolidge who said of him - 'Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.'


John Calvin Coolidge [1872-1933] - 30th President of the United States





Wise Words

Wise words about when and when not to speak your thoughts came from Will Rogers, the American political sage and philosopher [cowboy, actor, comic], who died in a plane crash in 1935.

Here are two of his maxims:

  • Never miss a good chance to shut up, and
  • Lettin' the cat out of the bag is a whole lot easier than puttin' it back.

Think About It

If you find yourself troubled by where you live, the people around you, or the environment you work in, hear what the philosopher Eusebius had to say about the matter. He lived in Caesarea in the third century BC, and the simplicity of the thought he gave is as true now as it was when first uttered:

  • Remember, a sunbeam passes through pollution, unpolluted.


Salt Mines

Because salt mines are clean, and have a constant temperature of 14 degrees, they are useful for storage. During the Second World War, it is believed that the Crown Jewels were kept in Winsford Mine, Cheshire. In 2004, the Government gave permission for the mine to become a dump for toxic waste - a plan fiercely opposed by the local inhabitants.



The bottomless Dozmary Pool, in the middle of bleak and barren Bodmin Moor, Cornwall, is where Arthur's knight, following Arthur's instructions, cast away Excalibur and a woman's arm, clad in white, rose out of the water, clasped the sword and sank back beneath the surface. Excalibur lies there still. The cold, black, lifeless water does not entice anyone to dive in and look for it.




Genius of Electricity

This book, written by Henry Ford, the motor magnate, contains a paragraph in which the author recalls visiting a business acquaintance in California with Thomas Edison, the subject of his book.

Their host asked them to sign his guest book. As well as names, the book had columns for 'Home Address', 'Occupation' and one headed 'Interested In'.

The great car maker watched as Mr. Edison duly signed. In the final column he wrote without an instant's hesitation, 'Everything'.

What a wonderful way to really live a life!


We all make them. And there's no denying, it can be a painful process. If, like many of us, you have made one recently, here are a few encouraging words to keep in mind.

Samuel Smiles wrote: He who never made a mistake never made a discovery.

And George Bernard Shaw had this to say: A life spent making mistakes is not only more honourable but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.

Sir Walter Scott

In his final days, Sir Walter Scott cast his mind over the many volumes he had written and was comforted by the thought that, in his work, he had 'tried to unsettle no man's faith, corrupt no man's principles and written nothing I could wish blotted out.'

Those of us who write can all aspire to follow his code.

Pandora's Box

The old story about Pandora tells how she was sent to earth with a box which she had been instructed to guard but never open. Curiosity got the better of her. She lifted the lid and out escaped all the evils and sorrows of mankind.

What is often forgotten is that something remained safe inside the box. It was Hope, and it has been here to see us through all our troubles ever since. That is the real lesson of the myth of Pandora's Box.

Illustration: John William Waterhouse - [1849-1917]

English Pre-Raphaelite painter most famous for his depictions of female characters from Greek and Arthurian mythology




On the wall of the dining room in a renowned Ilfracombe residential home is a notice posted for the guidance of residents. The notice is headed 'SEAGULLS'.

The text reads:

Please do not feed the seagulls as
they are becoming a nuisance. Thank you.

Now, the population of seagulls in Ilfracombe consists of a bunch of highly sophisticated and educated birds, and those gulls have decided to retaliate! Observers have seen flocks of birds gathering and then dive-bombing the home, leaving their marks on the windows. The local window cleaner is certainly kept busy!

Did Homer nod, or did I hear someone say 'tut-tut'? But after all, the birds have got to eat, haven't they?




Cinque Ports

Dover is the chief Cinque Port. The others are Sandwich, Hythe, Romney and Hastings.

First mentioned in 1155, those ports were given certain privileges by the monarch in return for providing ships to defend the coastline.

In the late 12th Century, the ancient town of Rye and Winchelsea were added. The Cinque Ports are under the jurisdiction of a Lord Warden whose official residence is at Walmer Castle.

Distinguished Lord Wardens have included William Pitt, The Duke of Wellington, Sir Winston Churchill and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.

The First Recorded Fatal Motor Car Accident

Daimler Wagonette in the
London to Brighton Run

On Grove Hill, a steep, narrow lane that winds down from the hill towards Harrow town, the first recorded, fatal motor car accident in Britain happened on the 25th February 1899.

A Daimler Wagonette... being driven on a demonstration run by E.R. Sewell of the Daimler Motor Car Company, went out of control while going down the hill and hit the kerb at the bottom, pitching the driver and his passenger, 63 year old Major James Richer, on the road. Mr. Sewell died instantly, the major four days later of a fractured skull, becoming the first passenger fatality.



Although I have lived in Devon for nearly ten years, my county of residence was Sussex since 1945, when I bought a house in Lancing, a coastal town between Shoreham and Worthing. My daughter still lives in that house. So, for this issue of the Newsletter, may I be permitted to share with you a few of the historical features of my former home county.

At Worthing, a plaque on the esplanade marks the site of the house where Oscar Wilde wrote 'The Importance of Being Earnest'. He was staying there in the summer of 1894 to escape from his creditors in London, and was inspired to write a play by an article in the Worthing Gazette about a baby in a hamper that had been found at Kings Cross station. It took him just 21 days to write the play which he described as "the best play I have ever written". He named his hero Jack Worthing in honour of the town.

The Saxon church at Sompting, half a mile from Lancing, has a four-gabled Rhenish helm style spire, unique in England. In the early days I passed that church daily on my way to work.

William Blake [1757-1827] lived in a cottage in the village of Felpham, where he wrote 'Jerusalem', later set to music by Hubert Parry [1848-1918], who lived along the coast at Rustington.

In 1906, the writer Hillaire Belloc [1870-1953] bought the white smock windmill near his home at Shipley, close to Horsham. He would doff his cap to his 'beautiful Mrs. Shipley' whenever he passed by and there is now a plaque to his memory above the windmill door.

The church at Steyning, not far from Lancing, possesses what is often described as the most magnificent Norman arch in England, dating from around 1100. A notable student at the Grammar School was John Pell [1611-1685], who became a mathematician and gave his name to Pell's Equation which was first studied 1000 years previously by Brahmaguptra. Of wider interest, perhaps, is the fact that Pell invented the division sign.

John Pellwas born in Southwick, near Brighton.

Well-known resorts in Sussex are, of course, Brighton, Hove, Eastbourne and Hastings. For a time I lived in Hove, then moved to Eastbourne with the beginning of 2000, when my son persuaded me to come to Devon, where he has lived for some time. So it was that I took up residence at Goosewell, Berrynarbor. The rest is history!




The other day I took some time off to do more digging into the Devil's Dictionary, that interesting publication by Ambrose Bierce, who was also known as 'The American Swift'. The caustic and cynical definitions survive the test of time and continue to bring delight to those readers who prefer dry wines to sweet, sense to sentiment, wit to humour and plain English to slang.

Enjoy some more of the gems from this remarkable book -



GLEN MILLER 1904-1944

The music of Glen Miller and his Orchestra has become inextricably associated with the Second World War and the mood, spirit and social history of the era. The recordings which have been preserved are taken from the CBS radio starring Glen Miller and sponsored by Chesterfield Cigarettes, which were broadcast from 1939 to 1942, and naturally cover a substantial chunk of the war years. The recordings admirably capture the flavour of the period.

Born in Iowa in 1904, Miller was brought up in the rural environments in Nebraska and Missouri. He acquired a trombone in his teens, and played in the high school orchestra after the family removed to Colorado. He became immersed in the new dance band music and by the time he graduated in 1921 he was bent on becoming a professional musician.

He started touring with various small bands and then landed a job with Ben Pollack's group in Los Angeles, moving with the band to New York in 1928. He worked with the Dorsey Brothers outfit in 1935 and then put together an American orchestra for Ray Noble. Glen Miller became known, and his success with a new routine and use of a musical approach in which the clarinet shared the melody line with the tenor saxophone formed the central sound of a Miller band for ever.

The radio was king in the 1940's and recordings of that period very much serve to recreate a bygone era, where families sat round the radio, glued to their regular bit of entertainment and news, and able to hear the very biggest stars of the day.

In the autumn of 1944, with the Allied Forces secured in France, the Glen Miller Band was scheduled to do a tour of the bases over a six-week period. Miller was to go ahead and arrange the music and other details of the trip, and on 15th December 1944 he boarded a single-engined Noorduyn Norseman monoplane at RAF Twinwood at Clapham, Bedfordshire, to fly to Paris.

The aircraft disappeared over the English Channel and was never found.

A great loss to music, Glenn Miller was at the height of his career and only 40 years of age.




Albury - Albury Park is a Tudor House remodelled by Pugin, who also designed the village of Albury in Surrey. The gardens were laid out by John Evelyn for his friend and neighbour Henry Howard, the sixth Duke of Norfolk, and include the longest yew hedge in England. Later, the house was owned by the Duke of Northumberland and the Dowager Duchess of Northumberland was there until her death in 1965.

The house was used as the location for the Scottish wedding in the film Four Weddings and a Funeral. Buried under the ruined chancel of the redundant Saxon church next door William Oughtred [1575-1660] who, as well as being parson there for 50 years, was one of the leading mathematicians of his day. He invented the slide rule and the multiplication sign [x]. He died from joy when he heard of the restoration of Charles II to the throne.

The Quakers - George Fox, preacher and founder of the Society of Friends, was born in Fenny Drayton in 1624. On one of the many occasions he was arrested, Fox bid the judge 'Quake at the word of God', and from then on his followers were known as Quakers. Members have never used the term themselves, preferring to be known as 'Friends'.

Quakers reject the religious authority of the established church, believing that the Bible is the word of God and that he can be found in every individual, so no mediation is needed from priest or doctrine. At Quaker services, no minister leads the congregation but, instead, the silence is broken when someone feels moved by the Holy Spirit to speak. Many Quakers have been conscientious objectors and Quakers were amongst the first to speak out against slavery.

Well-known Quakers include - Abraham Darby [1678-1717] who kick-started the Industrial Revolution when he discovered how to smelt iron using coke; Edward Peace [1767-1858] founder of the world's first passenger railway, the Stockton to Darlington, and the first Quaker M.P; John Dalton [1766-1844] father of atomic theory; Thomas Hodgkin [1798-1866] pathologist who gave his name to Hodgkin's Disease; Joseph Lister [1827-1912] who pioneered the use of antiseptics in surgery; William Penn [1644-1718] who founded Pennsylvania as a Quaker state; United States Presidents Herbert Hoover [1874-1964] and Richard Nixon [1913-1994]. Household names founded by Quaker families include Wedgwood Pottery, Lloyds Bank, Barclays Bank, Huntley and Palmer, Fry's, Cadbury's, Rowntree's, Clark's Shoes and Bryant and May Matches.

The Toffee Town - The 'Toffee Town' of Halifax was the home of the 'Toffee King' John Mackintosh. In 1890, he opened a confectionery shop in Kings Cross Lane. He, and his wife Violet, wanted to have a speciality produce to make a name for the shop, and decided to try combining soft American caramel with brittle English butterscotch to produce a high quality toffee. It became so popular that Mackintosh's toffee outsold everything else in the shop and, in 1899, they had to move to a factory in Sweets Road. This was burnt down in 1909 and they moved again to Albion Mills, near the railway station, now their permanent home. In 1936, Mackintosh's introduced a chocolate and toffee assortment which took its name from a sentimental play by James Barrie, author of Peter Pan, called Quality Street. The product image was based on the main characters of the play, a soldier and his young lady. Quality Street is still made in Halifax.

Stilton Cheese - The village of Stilton in Huntingdonshire gives its name to England's most distinctive blue cheese, excellent with port or melted in a baked potato! But the cheese that made the name of Stilton famous across the world has never been made here at all. It was first produced early in the 18th Century in the area around Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire. One lady in particular, Frances Rawlett, who came from Wymondham, was supremely skilled at making it and she sold much of her output to Cooper Thornhill, landlord of the Bell Inn at Stilton, a popular coaching stop on the Great North Road. Travellers would tell of 'that delicious cheese we tasted at Stilton', hence it became known as Stilton cheese. Today, over one million Stilton cheeses are made every year, with 10% being exported to more than 40 countries. Made under licence, to the original recipe, by only six dairies, it is produced exclusively in the three counties of Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. It takes 136 pints of milk to make one 17lb Stilton cheese.




During the construction of the Forth Railway Bridge, it appears a problem arose which had not been foreseen. When the engineers were laying the final section that would complete the links between the two sides of the bridge, they found they were too short. The holes in the girders were not in line with the holes they would need to match before the bolts could slide through.

Some bright spark in the construction team told the workers not to panic, but to wait as the rising sun shone on the nearly completed bridge. So they waited, while the sun warmed the metal and expanded the bridge.

Two hours later those vital bolts slipped smoothly into place.

Charles Babbage was born in Teignmouth in 1791. He was a prolific inventor and mathematician.

He is best remembered for conceiving the idea of an analytical engine which could be programmed by punched cards to make a variety of different calculations. His vision was never realised, mainly due to the limitations of the mechanical devices of the time, but his concept is now recognised as the basis for modern electronic computers.

Charles Babbage, the 'father of computers', died in 1871.

In 1787, the regal copper coinage being very scanty, pennies and halfpennies were struck by a number of firms, among them the Anglesey Copper Mining Company, and there began a fresh token epoch.

Those token coins presented an immense variety of types - persons, buildings, coats of arms, local legends, political events and so on, all drawn upon for subjects of design. They were struck by many firms in most cities and towns in the country and are to be found in good condition. It is quite good fun to browse in shops which sell antiques, asking to see their collection of coinage and spotting some of the token money which circulated many years ago.

With the issue of the copper coinage of 1898 tokens were made illegal, but the dearth of silver currency was still felt. During the Napoleonic Wars there came a small wave of prosperity in the industrial districts and the inevitable need of small change, so in 1811 tokens again made their appearance. These were suppressed before the last coinage of King George III in 1830.

Captain Charles Cunningham Boycott was born in 1832. He became a land agent and, in the 1870's, went to County Mayo in Ireland, acting as agent for the landlord, Lord Erne.

In 1880, his tenants, spurred on by the Irish Land League under Charles Purnell, demanded a substantial cut in their rents. Boycott refused and Parnell suggested that everyone in the area should suspend all dealings with Boycott. No one would work on the land, household servants downed tools, shops would not serve him, and even his post remained undelivered.

It turned out to be a highly effective tactic and one newspaper, The Times, in London adopted Boycott's name as a word meaning 'to ostracise or refuse to deal with'. This word has since passed into the English language. Every day, it seems, a new word enters our vocabulary. In recent times we have added hyperinflation and credit-crunch. Don't hold your breath for the next spate of verbal gymnastics.

Walter Canham




David Simpson was the village baker in Bathgate. He had seven sons, all of whom went into the Bakehouse to work in the family business when they were old enough. That is except James, the youngest.

His brothers felt that he especially warranted a good education, and they resolved to club together to pay whatever it cost. So James went to Edinburgh University as a teenager, and later qualified as a doctor of medicine.

He became one of the outstanding physicians of his day and pioneered the discovery of chloroform, describing it as one of the greatest discoveries ever made in medicine, saving thousands of lives and first used during one operation in 1847.

Queen Victoria appointed him her Physician in Scotland, and six years later, when she gave birth to her fourth son, was prescribed chloroform.

We continue to remember today the importance of James Young Simpson, who was knighted in 1866. His achievements were made possible by those who gladly sacrificed their prospects for his.


It is not unusual for performers and entertainers to take stage names when launching their career. Four favourite performers who are currently popular with their listening public are :

  • Freddy Fender - In 1958 Baldemar Huerta changed his name to Freddy Fender, taking Fender from the guitar and Freddy because the alliteration sounded good.
  • Spike Jones - born Lindley Armstrong Jones. Spike took his nickname by being so thin that he was compared to a railroad spike.
  • Acker Bilk - Acker Bilk was born as Bernard Stanley Bilk, and earned the name Acker from the Somerset slang for friend or mate.
  • Richard Clayderman - Philippe Pages changed his name to Richard Clayderman to avoid mispronunciation of his real name outside France.


It is easy for us to turn a switch and within seconds hear people talking on the radio. Yet we have had radio for only just over one hundred years.

What about television? I hear you say. But that's another story.

In 1898 Marconi set up a crude, experimental transmitting station at Poole, in Dorset. In 1899 he opened the world's first radio factory in Chelmsford, Essex, moving to a new purpose-built radio factory in 1913.

Marconi inaugurated Britain's first broadcasting service in 1920, and on 12th February 1920,the world's first wireless news service was transmitted from Chelmsford. Remember London 210?

Following that, in June 1920, Dame Nellie Melba became the first professional artiste to broadcast in Britain with a half-hour show which was commissioned by Lord Northcliffe of the newspaper Daily Mail.

Since those early days technology has given us the power and ability to speak to anybody in the world - all by radio. The sophisticated equipment of today is a long way from the crystal set of the early days - I remember it well - when earphones had to be used to pick up the indistinct voices whispering over the ether.


Voltaire, the French writer and philosopher, born in 1694, was a witty but ruthless critic of the corrupt ruling powers of his era. He was a man whose refusal to ignore injustice not only offended the authorities, but also led to periods of imprisonment and exile.

His was a turbulent existence, so it is not surprising to read that he once described life as a shipwreck. But he went on to say, "We must not forget to sing in the lifeboats." That sort of shipmate would be invaluable.

There are times when most of us have a compelling desire to tell the world what we think of a certain person or problem, and other occasions when we realise that it would be wiser not to do so.

Each time I am temped to let off steam, I am reminded of this advice, given to me in my younger days - true wisdom is the skill to know just when to speak your mind and when to mind your speech.



KING EDWARD VIII [1894-1972]
Succeeded to the throne: 20th January 1936
Abdicated: 10th December 1936

Edward was not a traditionalist, evidenced on patterns for the proposed coinage, where he insisted against all advice on having his effigy face the same way as his father's, instead of opposite. He also let it be known that in the inscriptions of the coins, he preferred to do away with the normal Latinisation of Edward - Edwardus - leaving the inscription plain Edward.

No coins of Edward VIII were issued for currency within the United Kingdom bearing his name and portrait. However, proof sets of the gold five pound, two pound and sovereign were struck but not issued. Similarly with the silver crown, half crown, florin, shilling, sixpence and threepence, proof sets were struck but not issued. Also patterns of the bronze penny, half penny and farthing were prepared but no struck coins issued.

This was the same with the Maundy Money which was to be issued in 1936 - proof sets were struck by the Royal Mint. Several sets of those Maundy coins, four in number, found their way on to the market and were offered at auction. I was fortunate enough to acquire a set of the coins.

From my archives I have selected the Instrument of Abdication and the complete text of the King's farewell message on the radio on 11th December 1936. The Instrument of Abdication is signed by King Edward and witnessed by his three brothers, the Duke of York, the Duke of Kent and the Duke of Gloucester.

Edward's Farewell

LONDON, Dec. 11 - following is the text of the farewell broadcast of former King Edward, who was introduced to the radio audience as 'His Royal Highness Prince Edward':

At long last I am able to say a few words of my own. I have never wanted to withhold anything, but until now it has not been constitutionally possible for me to speak.

A few hours ago I discharged my last duty as King and Emperor. And now that I have been succeeded by my brother, the Duke of York, my first words must be to declare my allegiance to him. This I do with all my heart.

You know the reasons which have impelled me to renounce the throne, but I want you to understand that in making up my mind I did not forget the country or the empire which, as Prince of Wales and lately as King, I have for twenty-five years tried to serve.

But you must believe me when I tell you that I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge my duties as King as I would wish to do without the help and support of the woman I love.

And I want you to know that the decision I have made has been mine and mine alone.

This was a thing I had to judge entirely for myself. The other person most nearly concerned has tried up to the last to persuade me to take a different course.

I have made this the most serious decision of my life only upon the single thought of what would, in the end, be best for all.

This decision has been made less difficult for me by the sure knowledge that my brother, with his long training in the public affairs of this country and with his fine qualities, will be able to take my place forthwith without interruption or injury to the life and progress of the empire, and he has one matchless blessing, enjoyed by so many of you and not bestowed upon me, a happy home with his wife and children.

During these hard days, I have been comforted by Her Majesty, my mother, and by my family. The Ministers of the Crown and in particular Mr. Baldwin, the Prime Minister, have always treated me with full consideration.

There has never been any constitutional difference between me and them and between me and Parliament. Bred in the constitutional traditions by my father, I should never have allowed any such issue to arise.

Ever since I was Prince of Wales and after on, when I occupied the throne, I have been treated with the greatest kindness by all classes of the people wherever I have lived or journeyed throughout the empire. For that I am very grateful. I now quit altogether public affairs and I lay down my burden.

It may be some time before I return to my native land, but I shall always follow the fortunes of the British race and empire with profound interest and if, at any time in the future, I can be found of service to His Majesty in a private station I shall not fail.

And now we all have a new King. I wish him and you, his people, happiness and prosperity with all my heart.

God bless you all! God save the King!

1936 saw the unprecedented situation of the country having three monarchs on the throne:




The Lunar Society was a group of brilliant engineers, scientists, inventors and thinkers who met in and around Birmingham between 1765 and 1813. Their preferred venue was the home of Matthew Boulton [see MOVERS AND SHAKERS - NO. 23] in Handsworth, and they would arrange their meetings each month for the Monday nearest the full moon, so that there was plenty of light for the journey home along the unlit roads. Hence the name lunar circle, or lunar society or, as they sometimes called themselves, the 'lunatics'.

The members of the Lunar Society were hugely powerful and influential, leaders and designers of the revolution that was sweeping the world, the Industrial Revolution. At meetings they would discuss not only the new inventions and the science behind them, but how that science and invention could be applied to the real world of industry, medicine, transport, education, politics and social issues. They knew that they were changing the world and they had the confidence to believe that they were changing it for the good of mankind.

Their outlook was liberal. They abhorred slavery and tyranny, and sympathised with the ideals behind both the French and American Revolutions, yet at the same time they believed in capitalist self-help and the need for success to be rewarded.

Leading members of the Lunar Society included:

  • Matthew Boulton the leading industrialist of the day, who developed modern-day industrial practice with the first workers' insurance schemes and sick pay.
  • James Watt, the inventor of the world's first practical steam engines. The unit of power, the 'watt' is named after him.
  • William Murdock, the inventor of the gas light.

  • Erasmus Darwin, a poet, inventor and botanist, published a theory of evolution 60 years before his grandson Charles Darwin, developed a steering system adopted by Henry Ford and a mechanical copying machine.
  • Josiah Wedgwood, the father of English pottery.
  • Joseph Priestley, discoverer of carbon dioxide, carbonated drinks, nitrous oxide and oxygen.

  • Richard Lovell Edgeworth, an inventor who published books on educational theory.
  • William Small, a mathematician and philosopher, was also a mentor of Thomas Jefferson, third President of the United States of America.
  • William Withering, a doctor and botanist who discovered the benefits of digitalis, which is extracted from the foxglove plant, in the treatment of heart disease.
  • Walter



    The first thing many of us do in a crisis is to switch on the kettle. A hot, soothing cup of tea shared with friends, or taken alone, never fails to lift the spirit. Rudyard Kipling obviously knew how it felt to be without tea, when he wrote:

    We had a kettle, we let it leak:
    Our not repairing made it worse,
    We haven't had any tea for a week . . .
    The bottom is out of the universe.

    Another man of note who was fond of a good cup of tea was William Gladstone, the 19th Century British Prime Minister. He had this to say about his favourite brew:

    If you are cold, tea will warm you.
    If you are too heated, it will cool you.
    If you are depressed, it will cheer you.
    If you are excited, it will calm you.


    • Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the wind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything.

      Plato gave us that.

    • The art of conversation is the art of hearing as well as being heard.

      William Hazlitt wrote those wise words in 1826.

    • Nothing is as easy as it looks. Everything takes longer than you think. If anything can go wrong, it will.

      Murphy's Law

    • The beginning is the half of every action


    • Between saying and doing many a pair of shoes is worn out


    It has been well said that the person who never made a mistake never made anything. Nobody likes to make a mistake, but one way of looking at it could be that if you make a mistake today, you will be wiser tomorrow.

    You don't stop laughing because you grow old. You grow old because you stop laughing.

    Watching squirrels gambolling about and digging up the nuts they buried earlier in the year, makes one think that we human beings can be in possession of good things too. We can keep stored all the special and important moments in our lives and bring them out again when we feel downhearted.

    Some years ago a painting by the famous French Impressionist Henri Matisse was put on display in New York's Museum of Modern Art. It is thought that in over forty days, about one hundred and sixteen thousand people passed by "Le Bateau" before someone pointed out that it had been hung upside down! It seems incredible that anyone could fail to notice the error, but it proves that it sometimes pays to take another look.

    Walter Canham



    The President of the United States was once on a hunting expedition in Mississippi. Things were not going well, but then he caught sight of a grizzly bear cub. It was so cute that he refused to shoot it.

    When the press got to know about the incident, a cartoon appeared in the Washington Post which caught the attention of a Russian immigrant who ran a small, novelty shop. His wife made a stuffed toy bear with button eyes and moveable limbs.

    It was soon sold and attracted a lot of interest locally. Demand for the toy increased and the craftsman wrote to the President asking permission to use his name. That was granted, and in 1906, the American Toy Trade magazine 'Playthings', coined the term 'Teddy Bear', enhancing the popularity of President Teddy Roosevelt and ensuring that many children and grownups have a cuddly toy from which they are reluctant to part.

    Left: 'George' the Steiff Bear at Arlington Court, who has just celebrated his 100th birthday with a Teddy Bears' Picnic.




    Some 600 private banks in England issued their own paper currencies well over 200 years ago. Among those private banks was the Workington Bank which was set up by the Partners Bowes, Hodgsons, Falcon and Kay in 1801. But like many other banks of that period, it had to cease its activities in 1810. The Faversham Bank was set up by the Partners Hilton, Rigden and Rigden in 1824, and I have an example of one of its one pound notes. The inscription on the note declares that the money can be paid to the bearer either at the Faversham Bank or at Messrs. Drescott, Cave, Buxton and Company, Bankers, London. The currency note is dated 19 January 1886. The Faversham Bank ceased its activities in 1892.

    Country banks in the UK had been growing slowly in the early 18th century. From the mid-eighteenth century, private bankers began to gain momentum. When the Bank of England was prohibited from redeeming its notes issues in gold in 1797, country banking began to flourish. The additional government sanction allowing bank notes of less than five pounds gave rise to private note issues which circulated in abundance. It was not until 1826 that a banking concern could be established on the basis of company law. Until that date, the existing banks were based on partnerships, often family owned, and without government control over note issues. The existing weakness of the economy, brought about by the several crises which periodically swept through the country, caused the collapse of many of the country banks. Between 1791 and 1818 alone, over one thousand banks suspended payment. In 1826 the Bank Act was passed through parliament and the joint-stock banks were allowed to establish themselves. The Bank of England, however, kept the monopoly within a 65-mile radius of London for the next seven years. In 1833 joint-stock banks were allowed to operate in London but could not issue notes and suffered from considerable additional legal difficulties until the Bank Charter Act of 1844. By now the Bank of England had a network of branches established throughout the country. the bank note issues circulated far and wide and began to replace private note issues. The Bank Charter Act provided for the eventual closure of many private banks which lost their right of issue when they were absorbed into other banks. Between 1890 and 1918, the British banking system consisted of a small number of very large banks. With the start of the First World War in 1914, only thirteen joint-stock banks, operating through a system of branches, were in existence in England and almost no local banks had survived. All Bank of England and Treasury notes [issued since the reign of King Charles II] are redeemable and consequently their market value exceeds their face value. Until 1939, Bank of England notes of denominations higher than one pound were issued by branches of the bank throughout the country. The ten shilling note of the Bank of England, introduced in 1928, was the first fractional issue in British banking history, and the one pound issue released at the same time had not appeared for over a century.

    So, you see, what is happening now within the banking industry happened a long time ago. But were any lessons learned?



    DID YOU KNOW . . . . ?

    Watling Street

    Standing almost side by side on Watling Street, in the Buckinghamshire town of Stony Stratford, are two inns of ancient repute, The Cock and The Bull.

    In the 18th Century, coaches would stop off there on their way from London to the North West, and many a traveller's tale would be embellished as it was told between the two establishments, followed by laughter and fuelled by plenty of ale. And a good audience. It was in that way that an unlikely story became a 'cock and bull' story.

    Stony Stratford High Street, October 2022
    On the left, the Cock Hotel. To the right, the Bull Hotel.

    Joseph Hansom invented the Hansom Cab at his workshop in Hinckley, Leicestershire in 1835. He drove the prototype along Watling Street, causing a lot of interest in the new contraption. The vehicle quickly became very popular with the Victorians and soon hundreds were on the road in London. It is said that Queen Victoria had her first ride in a Hansom cab shortly after her reign began in 1837.

    Don't Tread on Me

    The United States of America issued a series of ten postage stamps on 4th July 1968, depicting historic flags of between 1775 and 1778, most of which were associated with specific States in the Union. One 6 cent stamp, showing the First Navy Jack 1778, had the design of seven red horizontal lines on a white background, with a rattlesnake image superimposed and the legend 'Don't Tread on Me'.




    For 35 years, in the garden at Lee Lodge, it stood at the head of the valley, erect and majestic, like a monarch inspecting a guard of honour.

    During that time, from small beginnings, it had grown in stature, with outstretched limbs which were resting places for a myriad of birds. Squirrels also found shelter amongst its branches, and pigeons often called to one another as they sat on the swinging arms.

    When a strong breeze came along, a motley of needles fell to the ground, adding a carpet of colour to the green of the grass. On bright summer days it was a welcoming shade from the glare of the sun, the coolness and the subtle scent of pine combining to the tranquillity for those seeking shelter beneath.

    Now all that is in the past.

    A noisy chainsaw came along, lopping branches right and left, leaving the stately monarch bare and sombre.

    Soon that, too, was levelled, the stump looking forlorn, surrounded by sawdust and wood chippings. A sad day in the garden.

    Even the birds are grieving. There are no birdsongs. The squirrels are casting about, looking confused. The pigeons have given up calling to one another.

    That was a living tree. Requiescat in Pace.




    The caustic and cynical definitions contained in the Devil's Dictionary are the work of Ambrose Bierce. During his lifetime, 1842 - 1914, he was a writer, poet and journalist, as well as being a veteran of the American Civil War.

    His best known creation was the Dictionary, in which he sought to influence enlightened people who prefer dry wines to sweet, sense to sentiment, wit to humour and clear English to slang.

    Browsing through the work at random one comes upon many gems. Here are a few:

    • Achievement - The death of endeavour and the birth of disgust
    • Adore - To venerate expectantly
    • Armour - The kind of clothing worn by a man whose tailor is a blacksmith
    • Barometer - An ingenious instrument which indicates the kind of weather we are having
    • Bore - A person who talks when you wish him to listen
    • Coward - One who, in a perilous emergency, thinks with his legs
    • Famous - Conspicuously miserable
    • Fidelity - A virtue peculiar to those who are about to be betrayed
    • Hermit - A person whose vices and follies are not sociable
    • Hope - Desire and expectation rolled into one
    • Influence - In politics, a visionary quo given in exchange for a substantial quid
    • Language - The music with which we charm the serpent guarding another person's treasure
    • Misfortune - The kind of fortune that never misses
    • Painting - The art of protecting flat surfaces from the weather and exposing them to the critic
    • Politics - The conduct of public affairs for private advantage
    • Telephone - An invention of the devil which abrogates some of the advantages of making a disagreeable keep his distance
    • Twice - Once too often




    That was the question I asked in the piece I wrote for the October Newsletter [see page 39], and from research I have been doing recently, the answer may be forthcoming in a couple of years hence.

    It appears that for some time there has been a shortage of five pound notes. The banks seem reluctant to issue this denomination in paper currency but nobody knows the reason why. Shopkeepers have remarked on the scarcity of the 'fiver' and rumours abound on the possibility of the note eventually being withdrawn and demonetised. To support this theory, it is interesting to learn of the activities of the Royal Mint in recent years during which time they have been striking cupro-nickel coins of five pounds value on an experimental basis, the coins being confined to low mintings.

    These coins have been struck to commemorate certain important historical events. For instance, in 1999 a coin, measuring 38mm in diameter - that is large - was issued for the millennium. On the reverse side the design showed a representation of the British Isles with a pair of clock hands emanating from Greenwich, set at twelve o'clock with the inscription 'anno domini', with the denomination five pounds and the dates 1999 and 2000. The designer was Jeffrey Matthews who also has been responsible for the designs on many of our postage stamps. The mintage of the £5 coin was small, some 51,500 pieces.

    Another coin, issued in 2001, was commemorating the Victorian Anniversary. The design was of a classic portrait of the young Queen Victoria based on the penny black postage stamp with a 'V' representing Victoria and taking the form of railway lines and in the background the iron framework of the Crystal Palace with the denomination five pounds and the dates 1901 and 2001. Again, the coin measures 38mm in diameter and was rather heavy. The actual mintage was only 21,000.

    Since then further experimental coins have been issued between 2003 and 2007, the mintings varying from 50,000 to 100,500 per annum.

    It is my guess that, by Twenty-ten, we shall be waving goodbye to the paper fiver and begin coping with its weighty successor.




    It had been a long day. Highlights and lowlights had jostled their way through the preceding hours and I was tired. It had been a long day. I was overdue for a period of relaxation so stretched out in a comfortable chair and selected orchestral music to enable me to chill out. The CD was on the player. Sitting in my armchair I settle down to listening to the soothing melody, shutting my eyes the better to enjoy the music. Drifting away into a world of peace and tranquillity, time stood still.

    I awoke to find myself sitting on a beach. A brilliant sun was shining. It was warm. In the distance mountains looked down on a calm and peaceful bay. The lapping of the waves of a sultry sea accompanied the soft warmth of violins far away. Nobody was about. The place was deserted. How did I come here I wondered. The silvery sand stretched beyond into a haze of blue as the sea and sky seemed to merge. Sea birds flew lazily overhead. It was paradise.

    I became aware of a figure approaching along the beach, far away. Drawing ever closer I now saw it was a girl wearing a flowery dress. The sunlight touched her dark hair. There was a smile on her face. Her lips were moving but there was no sound. I tried to speak but no words came. She had something in her hand which she was wanting me to take. As I stretched out to do so, my fingers brushed against hers - the vision vanished immediately.

    I awoke with a start. I was leaning forward, hand outstretched. The music played on.

    In the morning, as I collected the mail, which had fallen on the mat, I noticed a postcard among the letters. I looked at the picture. A beach bathed in sunlight, with mountains in the background. It was so familiar it was uncanny. Turning the card over, I read the written words.

    They were from a friend who was holidaying on a remote island thousands of miles away. Extraordinary dream, wasn't it!

    Illustrated by: Peter Rothwell

    Walter Canham



    I think I was seven when I first had 'pocket money'. The one penny was a large coin and there were 240 of them to the pound sterling. At my age then, I was not bothered with pounds sterling!

    In 1924 that one penny went a long way in the sweetshop. Liquorice was in abundance and it was cheap, so you got a lot for your penny. Pontefract cakes, boot laces - those strands of liquorice which were the favourites of young children, tiger nuts and gob stoppers. Those days are long gone. My collection of coins contains a large number of Queen Victoria, King Edward VII and King George V pennies. The weight of the album in which they are housed is enormous. No wonder that trouser pockets wore out so quickly, having to cope with such weighty items!

    The other day I was talking to a youngster who seemed unable to grasp the fact that, at one time, there were small coins called farthings - 960 of them to the pound sterling. It took me quite a time to tell him what had happened to our currency since 1971 when everything went decimal. In schools, these days, they don't even tell children that we had a half penny once - that was discontinued in 1984. Going back even further, it was in 1956 when the farthing disappeared. So what happens next?

    Walter Canham



    Friends are quiet angels who lift us to our feet when our wings have trouble remembering how to fly.

    Unlucky Thirteen - The Turks so dislike the number 13 that the word is almost expunged from their vocabulary. The Italians never use it in making up the numbers of their lotteries. And, in Paris, no house bears that number.

    Horse-Sense - Something a horse has that prevents him from betting on people.

    Horse Radish - Equus Radix?

    Queen Elizabeth the First Slept Here - That notice, according to the British Tourist Board, can be seen in approximately 2500 residences in the United Kingdom. She got around a bit, didn't she?


    P.S. Debbie did get it right - I do hold my single malt in my right hand!!



    To the sound of the cockerel I awake every morn,
    The moon up aloft looks very forlorn.
    My faltering steps soon come to a halt
    When a voice says quietly -
    "It's all Walter's fault."

    The coffee is hot, the orange ice cold,
    'Tis nice to have friends, when you're getting old,
    Tending your needs with a fine single malt,
    While hearing them say -
    "It's all Walter's fault."

    There must come a time when all this will end
    With a clamouring of trumpets, no money to spend
    On things really interesting, I am quite distraught
    As the voices keep saying -
    "It's all Walter's fault."

    At the end of the day when the curtains are drawn,
    I think of the hours which have passed since the dawn,
    The time has been pleasant, not a bad thought
    But that voice is still saying -
    "It's all Walter's fault."

    Through seconds to minutes to hours to days,
    We all settle down to Lee Lodge ways.
    When things go right it's the pleasure we thought
    But, when things go wrong -
    "It's all Walter's fault."

    That lost 'S' in NEWLETTER - we thought 'twas unkind
    To blame it on Judie, who has a clear mind.
    That only one person should surely be sought,
    Would you believe it?
    It's all Walter's fault!
    [No. actually it was Len's!]

    Illustrated by: Debbie Cook

    Yours sincerely -

    When you sign off a letter 'Yours sincerely' do you ever wonder where the 'sincere' came from? Actually you have to go back nearly 3000 years to find the origin of the word. When the early Romans were busy making utensils for the storage of liquid, sometimes during the process of manufacture a pot might be cracked. They did not throw it away but filled the crack with wax, painting over the repair. But when warm liquid was poured in, the wax melted and there was a leak. Good Roman potters advertised that their goods were 'sine cera' - without wax. And, as language has developed, the Latin phrase has become 'sincere' which means that you are not waxing over imperfections.