Meetings Diary 2019


Jean began this month’s historyfest by talking about the work she’s been doing on Mesopotamia – the land between Tigris and Euphrates- in the period 3000-2500 BC. Was it civilised eg did it have features like cities, surplus agricultural produce, writing, sciences, trade? One of the issues was the control of water and the flooding of the rivers – once the water could be harnessed then the production of surplus food allowed the development of engineering, temples, pottery and other crafts. Cities like Eridu and Uruk began to develop public buildings like ziggurats which required skills and labour and, thereby, management and the rise of a class structure. There was trade into Mesopotamia by land and by sea.

Pauline’s witchcraft skills (and the UK floods in Yorks etc) had been on high alert and had therefore led her into a similar area as Jean, discussing the Chinese da Yu who ‘tamed’ or began to tame the Yellow River around 2205 BC. Systems to control and divert water were built. Da ruled for 45 years and founded the Xya/Xia Dynasty. Pauline’s trial is next month and the ducking stool or worse awaits her if the verdict is guilty. What fun!

Gavin continued his History of Vietnam for as long as Pauline would let him. After her likely sentence for witchcraft next month and the inevitable absences, he’ll be liberated to do what he wants in Feb (GAV UNCHAINED) - which may even include mastering the use of the apostrophe (this article sent to myself by email was deplorably weak in the use of the wee chaps). Just cos the Apostrophe Society is no more……this seems like an early indicator of how GAV UNCHAINED will lay waste to the English language….be afraid.

From 43 AD the Chinese once again dominated the Red River delta until 543 AD when Ly Bi and his brother revolted against the Chinese Liang dynasty and regained Vietnamese independence. Ly then proclaimed himself Emperor renaming the country Van Xuan. Ly was not to reign long as he was killed in 547 AD. However his followers kept the revolt alive for another fifty years establishing what is known today as the earlier Ly dynasty.Things did not run smoothly for there were internal conflicts which became uncontrollable and the Chinese Emperor Wen Sui took advantage of the situation and invaded in 602 AD. Once again China took control until the fall of the Tang dynasty in 938AD. Again, advantage of the situation was taken by the Vietnamese commander Ngo Ouyen who fought and defeated Chinese forces at Bach Dang river and became the head of the newly independent Provence. However, for over fifty years there was neither peace or political stability. Then early in the 11th century the Province was finally unified under a central administration by Ly Thai who founded the later Ly dynasty, establishing a capital at Thang Long (now Hanoi) in the heart of the Red River delta.

Local Lords were replaced with a system of based on the Chinese model. The new Kingdom became known as Dai Vet and it made considerable political, economic and cultural progress. However, it soon encountered problems with its Southern neighbours and during the 12th and 13th centuries fought several wars against the Islamic-Indianized Kingdom of Champa on the central coast. It also clashed with the Khmer (Cambodian) Empire whose capital at Angkor was the greatest power on mainland S.E.Asia.
By this time the Ly dynasty was in decline and after a period of civil strife it was succeeded by a new dynasty the Tran who reigned from1225 until 1400. During this period there were still others who sought to gain control. In 1258 the Mongols, who had come to power in China, sent an army of 300,000, to attack Champa. To do this they needed to enter DaVet territory, the Da Vets refused permission but Kublai Khan ignored this and proceeded anyway. However, under the command of General Tran Hung Dao the Da Vet eventually drove the invaders out. The drain on resources from these wars led to a deep economic and social crisis eventually leading to the overthrow of the Tran dynasty.

The deposed Tran ruler now went cap in hand to the Chinese for help to restore him to his throne. However, the Chinese Ming dynasty now ruled and in 1407 they returned and established direct rule. Once again Da Vet was known by its Chinese name of Annam.The Chinese imposed a regime of heavy taxation and slave labour. They also removed to China the countries National Archives and its intellectuals.Later a Viet poet wrote a poem in which he said ‘All the waters of the eastern sea could not wipe away the stain of the Chinese ignominy and all the bamboo of the southern mountains could not produce enough paper to record their crimes.’

John’s nominal title was Italy 1186-1197 – but this scribe (and I suspect any other) has been unable to do the piece justice and I shall merely list some of the names and features – the order may or may not be accurate. Normans in Sicily, Kingdom of Two Sicilies, Hautvilles, Roger II, Frederick Barbarossa of the Hoffenstaffens, William the Bad (VERY BAD) and William the Good (not brilliant but look at what he was following) Joan, daughter of Peter O’Toole and Katharine Hepburn (ie HII and El of Aquitaine), Saladin, Richard II, Second Crusade, Messina, Henry VI - son of Barbarossa AKA Horrid Henry (see William the BAD), Fred II who assumed the throne (rather like Davy Crockett, when he was only three)

Peter had been to see David Olusoga and Dan Jackson at The Sage – the former talking about his PhD studies of the Gateshead shore – pretty grim for those who lived there in 19C ‘Heed and then they discussed Dan’s brilliant book on the Northumbrians – available at all good bookshops and, perhaps bad ones too – but NOT at AMAZON cos the bastards don’t pay tax and are destroying the world faster than global warming. Anyway, heart-warming stuff for those of us who are Northumbrians (baptised with brown ale poured over the head) or have been Naturalised (ceremony involves a drunken visit to Newcastle without a coat in a temp of minus 3).

David’s next talk was at the Pitmen’s Parliament at Redhills – where he highlighted the issue of the Windrush people. Strong stuff and an unflattering view of what might be termed British values – ie the idea that displaced Lithuanians in 1945 were preferable to West Indians who’d served this country during WW2. Now, just what was it about Lithuanians -= perhaps they lacked the watermelon smiles and failed to exhibit sufficient piccaninny traits. And then we went home to Johnson elected. God help us all.

Jean continued her description of The Old Kingdom and gave us a useful handout to list dates, the number of dynasties, how many Pharoahs, the important ones and the Pyramid Sites.
The Pharoahs were Djoser, Khaba, Sneferu (whose remains have never been found and who built the Collapsed, Bent and Red pyramids - he was ‘working towards pyramids level 3’) Khufu, Khafra and Menkaura – Grandad, father and son - (who built the famous pyramids at Giza), Unas – buried at Saqqara where the first pyramid texts giving an insight into religion and the afterlife were found, Pepy II who reigned, they say, for 90 years and then a period of 20 years where there were disputes between minor pharaohs – perhaps a time of climate change and low inundations leading to unrest. We saw pics of the site at Giza and a bus and Peter B – all good.

Peter talked about the Land Army women of the Great War – the need for it, the establishment of it and some of the associated issues. Around 23,000 women served in the Land Army – some of them, post war, heading off to New Z, Canada and Australia to continue their agric and hortic activities. Punch made fun of them and a farmer remarked that they were worse pests than weeds but he changed his tune when Hortense chinned him. The article in WFA magazine suggested that there were food shortages caused by unrestricted submarine warfare but, according to Eric Groves (who didn’t write the article but is an expert on naval and merchant naval affairs) the assumption that food was in short supply was easily and wrongly made. Lots of ships were sunk but, in fact, the organisation by civil servants and the Admiralty was such that by 1917 more food was being imported – and warehouses were at a premium! Britain in 1917 had a three year supply of coffee.
The local contact for girls and gels wishing to join the LA was Mrs Stobart at Harraton Hall.
The Land Girls have a memorial at Alrewas – the National Arboretum.

Gavin gave us a quick run through the early days of the History of Vietnam. Highlights included the Hung Bung Dynasty (suspect he made that name up after an evening of coffee and absinthe), Chinese invasions and conquest which lasted for a thousand years but, bit like the Romans, they brought good ideas and stuff about roads and laws and agriculture so, if you are ever asked the question about the Chinese in Vietnam, you can go straight into the old Monty Python routine from page 74 of the script. The Vietnamese led by Trung Trac, a female rebel (less absinthe and more crème de menthe), caused some bother for the Chinese in the 1st century AD but the Chinese re-established control…Part II of a 37 part ‘Butterfield Does Vietnam’ comes next month. We’re all looking forward to him Trung Trac-ing developments.

Pauline gave us Dora Pattinson under the alternative title of ‘One Hospital (and a Steam Locomotive) for Sister Dora’. Born in 1832 in N Yorks she finished up working in Walsall, dealing especially with railwaymen and their injuries (in response they gave her a pony and trap – ride the former and shut the latter, they sometimes remarked) and then in a hospital in the optimistically named Dead Man’s Lane. In 1876 she was responsible for the treatment of 12000 patients – and people questioned her funding and whether she would be sold to Big Pharma. Sister Dora died of breast cancer in 1878 and the town of Walsall turned out for her funeral. Walsall General is named Sister Dora Hospital in her honour and so was a steam loco. In 1988 when the steam loco retired a Diesel one took the same name.

To coincide with the England victory in the Cricket World Cup Peter offered some thoughts, with illustrations on the social history of English cricket – there is an excellent book on it by Derek Birley. One of the season’s biggest games, back in the day, was Gentlemen v Players. Kenneth Lotheringham Hutchings (gentleman/amateur) and Percy Jeeves (player/professional) never actually played against each other in Gents v Players but both did play in other fixtures in that series. Gentlemen were generally batsmen, professionals generally ‘toiled’ as bowlers.
Both were killed in the Great War.

In 2015 Peter tried to explain some of the niceties of ‘amateurs and professionals’ to Vincent Laude, manager of Thiepval Memorial, because both men (Jeeves and Hutchings) are on the photo of 600 Missing of the Somme. He tried again to explain at the July meeting. On both occasions the listeners were attentive, if disbelieving. It was, as they say, ‘class’. Amateurs and pros, even if in the same team, used different dressing rooms and came on to the field through different gates. On scorecards, amateurs were often called Mr KO Hutchings or KO Hutchings. Pros were listed as Jeeves P or just Jeeves. On one occasion, at Lord’s, the announcer apologised for a mistake on the scorecard and had to announce that FJ Titmus should, of course, have read Titmus FJ. Several MCC members had already fainted.

Though amateurs were theoretically NOT paid some remained amateurs because they could not afford to be professionals. That’s not class, that’s shamateurism. WG Grace was an ‘amateur’ but earned a fortune. England did not have a professional captain until Len Hutton in 1954. The distinction between amateurs and professionals ended in 1962. PG Wodehouse was a fan of Warwickshire, for whom Jeeves played. Peter also showed photographs of the Gentlemen of Philadelphia – who took England by storm and reminded everyone that the first international cricket match was between the USA and Canada in 1844.

Jean led us through the geography of Egypt, discussing the importance of the Nile and the existence of the three seasons Inundation, Planting and Harvesting. The Egyptians apparently had no room for a cricket season – no doubt it had disappeared under the inundation. Lower Egypt was the Nile Delta, everything else was Upper Egypt. Politics was about the unification and break up of these areas. The population was concentrated in Memphis (not Tennessee) which was a long distance from Thebes/Luxor (but that may be incorrect, I need more information, please, I’m trying to get in touch with Marie).

Pauline, having paid a visit to the Green Howards at Richmond, spoke about Margaret Kerwin wife of Private Kerwin, an Irishman of the Green Howards who went to the Crimea. Margaret went with him, along with 14 other women. She had a washtub and cooking equipment (she became responsible for washing 101 sets of clothes as she charged less than the Light Brigade). There were outbreaks of cholera and fever. John Kerwin was wounded at Alma and Margaret became a nurse at Scutari under the Formidable Florence. On one occasion her tent was shelled while she was ironing. Pshaw, she said, tis but a minor ting. Onward onward she ironed the 101 shirts. She watched the battle of Inkerman and no doubt knitted a few Cardigans with Raglan sleeves. John served until 1864 in India and then the pair of them retired to Carlow in Ireland, a job well done for the Empire………….and the Queen.

Gavin spoke about the only man to win 2 Nobel prizes – yep, John Vardeen who won in 1956 and 1972. He was an American physicist and electrical engineer, born 1908 to the Dean (and his wife) of Wisconsin Medical School. At Princeton he studied solid state physics, he moved to Harvard and then to Uni of Minnesota. During the war he worked on magnetic torpedoes and magnetic mines and created (with others) the transistor for Bell Electronics. He then worked on super conductivity about which we all know very little but upon which it turns out we all rely a lot (I can say it’s used in MRI scans…after that your guess is as good as…..)

John, sufficiently dedicated as to have been for a small op to insert a much larger brain programme in his head, has been programmed to research the evolution of Roman Italy into Modern, Italian, Italy. Op is currently available for a small fee. Anyway, Theodoric and the Ostrogoths appear in the tale and Ravenna and 470AD are also significant. Alaric the Visigoth sacked Rome in 410 – he had intended to do it in 415 but was overcome with Alacrity. He was, in fact, a Christian. Then the Lombards arrived and the Franks under Charlemagne conquered N Italy so Charlemagne became King of N Italy and then Holy Roman Emperor.

History Group May 2019 – all opinions my own and not necessarily reflective of group attitudes

Jean, returned from her cruise, launched into Egyptology. She’d attended a lecture given by an academic from Manchester Uni about the case of two Egyptian mummies, buried together in an elite tomb about 250 miles S of Cairo. The coffin inscriptions stated that they were brothers but one was black and one was white (as shown by the depictions on the outside of the mummies). They were unwrapped in public by Margaret Murray in 1908, some of the wrappings being given out to the audience as keepsakes, for heaven’s sakes! Anatomists checked the skulls and said they were of men aged about 60 and about 40 – and it was pointed out that it was very unlikely, given life expectancy and fertility, for the men to be brothers. The wrappings further said they died about a year apart.
In the 1970s further investigations suggested the two had suffered from similar diseases.
The current research, by a dentist, extracted DNA from their teeth. It suggested they were either brothers, cousins or uncle/nephew but that they had different fathers.

Followed by a bit of discussion of current trend for DNA analysis and what it could tell us about ourselves.

Peter was digging into the Usworth Colliery Disaster of March 1885 (which featured in the newspapers of the same date alongside the disaster that was Lord Durham’s effort to divorce his wife, Ethel, on the grounds that she was insane when he married her).
41 men were killed in the disaster (two of them during the exploration of the pit which took place shortly after the explosion), the cause of which was examined in a seven day inquest; it was decided no one was to blame but that, perhaps the most likely cause was that a shot, fired by the Browns, father and son, had ignited gas and coal dust. The inquest was attended by legal reps for the owners, the Home Office and the Miners’ Associations (as well as mining experts and Mines Inspectors) and, at the end of it, the Home Office bod recommended that the Manager and the Owners be charged with a failure to uphold General Rule 26 about the provision of barometers in certain places. Don’t know the details of that trial yet but intend to look it up.
The papers carried 16000 words on the explosion and inquest – small print, jargon terms – people of the day who read that without good reading glasses, or by candle,were doing well.
A full account is available by email should you want it and will soon by placed on the Raggy Spelk website, great for Washington news and pics.

Pope John Leybourn XXIV has listened to 43 hours of podcasts on Pontifacts (WWWWWWHHHHHYYYYYYY? ) – these aren’t cakes but historical accounts, by two American academics who claim to have read every original source in existence (which, whisper it, is very few). Anyway the Christian Brothers at a school which shall remain anonymous, have a lot to answer for by inflicting inaccurate religious history on 17 year old Johnny and he’s now set out to prove they were talking nonsense. EG in a very thick (THICKER than WAR and PEACE) book about Christianity the author has covered St Peter in 10 pages cos no one even knows when he was born or died whereas he gives 90 pages to someone rather less well known (whose name, sadly, I didn’t note but John can tell you!). Oops – think it might have been Anastasius……And Zozimus (it sounded like) died in 418 and he was the 43rd Pope. See, I was listening……..
At times there were three Popes – one each in Rome, Constantinople and Alexandria and Roman Popes were generally bit part players in the scheme of things until after 1000. John and Jean, and to a lesser extent, Pauline (Gavin and I have no opinions on Popes) were agreed that most of them were, er, ‘bastards.’

From there, we were suddenly transported to Stan Beckensall’s book on Northumberland place names eg Trocchelai – Throckley. And was it really Sundered- land?

Gavin always appears calm and measured but some bees must have got into his bonnet cos he gave us 8 pages on the somewhat narrow subject of Mankind in Britain over the last 700000 years. Yes, not 70,000 but, really, 700,000. I think he may be making his own tea tonight while practising to say Celtic with a hard C instead of a soft one.
Wow - land bridges, DNA, competing theories, Celts, Basques, Beakers, Romans, Vikings, Normans and Saxons. Our DNA may have less Roman, Viking and Norman ‘bits’ than you might expect, perhaps because they didn’t marry the locals – snooty folk, it seems but you may not have wanted to tell them that. We had maps showing the links between Spain and the west – Brittany, Ireland, Devon and Cornwall, we even had a mention of Cheddar man, found recently, who was, wonderfully, lactose intolerant and therefore unlikely to have been a cheese eating surrender monkey - even if his folks came from France.
Jean reckoned Celtic is, anyway, a recently-created term with much in the way of Political underpinnings.
Cumbrian (Celticish) farmers count their sheep like this:
Yan, Tan, Tether, Mether, Pimp, Sether, Hether, Hother, Dother, Dick, Yan Dick, Tan Dick – and, by now, you’re nodding. So was Pauline…..

Pauline had gone looking for a solution to the Brexit Problem in Ancient Athens. Her paper was called Democracy, What’s It All About, Gavin? The answer, sadly, was that Athenian Democracy, based on everyone participating (except when the Wrestling was on TV) in debate and decisions was no more perfect than ours – though they had Cleisthenes rather than Ann ‘Batty Old Stick’ (if not something much worse) Widdecombe. Demes, you know, areas in which people voted. Unless you were under 30, a woman, or a slave. Obviously.
They liked a bit of ostracism here and there – which kind of meant that you were sent to live in Spain and were only allowed to complain about the cheap/slave labour damaging their country from ‘over there’ where they’d all learned Spanish (not). They also got well into sortation – real democracy where everyone had their chance to be Minister of, oh, I dunno, Brexit, Defence, Health, Education – simple stuff like that.
Of course, for all this, you needed an educated citizenry – which was why they had slaves, you know, people with piccaninny smiles as our next PM (we fear) called them.

History Group March 2019

Pauline kicked off towards the Donwell End, the pig’s bladder being blown by her academic wind (splendid analogy, eh?) towards, yes, it was, the Pig War End of the street. This Pig War should not be confused with the war of Jenkins’ Ear between Britain and Spain (mid 18th century since you ask) and anyone who does can rightly stand accused of making a Pig’s Ear out of this erudite piece of stuff and nonsense.
Anyway, dear reader, you can add your own piggy ideas once you’ve got them ironed out and put in their blankets. So, to the nub of the question – it was the largely bloodless, apart from the PIG, dispute between Britain and USA over the area in the North West USA/South West Canada. In the period that that area was being settled, slowly, there were border disputes between USA and GB (US slogan at one point being 54 40 or fight) eventually settled with the border being the 49th parallel. San Juan Island off the coast of Vancouver was disputed and a British pig wandered on to ‘American ‘territory and soon became bacon at the hands of an American farmer. General Harney sent US Infantry and the British sent three warships. Eventually a settlement was reached in 1872 (you thought Brexit was taking a while?) with some helpful arbitration by Kaiser Wilhelm I. Thank God no one’s house was blown down. The islands are controlled by the US but a British flag is allowed to fly there.

Peter had been for a free lecture at the Gala Cinema by Dr Kevin Waite of Durham Uni, a native of S California and his title was Fighting the American Civil war in the Age of Trump or, as Dr W called him – ‘the orange racist buffoon’ or was it racist orange buffoon and these things matter because there is a pecking order for the use of several adjectives in a sentence. Thus
She was a 1beautiful, 2tall, 3thin, 5young, 6black-haired, 7Scottish woman.
What an 1amazing, 2little, 5old, 7Chinese cup and saucer!

1 opinion unusual, lovely, beautiful
2 size big, small, tall
3 physical quality thin, rough, untidy
4 shape round, square, rectangular
5 age young, old, youthful
6 colour blue, red, pink
7 origin Dutch, Japanese, Turkish
8 material metal, wood, plastic
9 type general-purpose, four-sided, U-shaped
10 purpose cleaning, hammering, cooking

Anyway Dr Waite was referring to whether Trump was a Confederate President given his white supremacist views. He went on to discuss the issue of Confederate statues (cf Charlottesville and the murder of Heather Heyer) and the question of what should be done about them. He pointed out that most of them were built not just after the Civil War but at a time (1890-1915) when the Klan (think ‘Farage with a hood but with a poster rather than a horse) was resurgent, the NAACP was developing and Birth of a Nation was a popular film.
He made the point that anyone of colour (see Amber, it’s easy) driving along the Jefferson Davis Highway must be thrilled to have the advocate of black slavery as the name of their route. He also spoke about Confederates in California, the Daughters of the Confederacy and the strange fate of General Longstreet, Lee’s right hand man at Gettysburg. His statue at Gettysburg was built way after all the others, is badly proportioned, is hidden in trees and his horse’s hooves stand on the ground and not on a plinth. But then, he did criticise Lee and wasn’t sufficiently white-supremacist.
Dr Waite thinks the statues are part of history but need contextualising (with signage beside them) or placing in museums.
Lovely speaker, well-constructed and thought-provoking lecture.

John spoke about Matilda of Tuscany 1046-1115 (she’s the one who called the fire brigade or, to be precise the Vigili del fuoco) aka Matilda of Canossa. Like several of John’s recent subjects she led an interesting, if not entirely blameless, life being the Imperial Vicar, the seer-off of several popes (most of whom clearly deserved it) and, in keeping with having a hint of Game of Thrones about her, married twice, a fatty and a hunchback. She could speak German, French and Italian, was a dab hand with a sword in a Joan of Arcish kinda way and had to deal with three different Holy Roman Emperors – often men who were neither Holy nor Roman. One of them was the party who in the Penance of Canossa walked barefoot through the snow and then stood outside her castle for three days. The result was that he got his excommunication lifted, the Pope was restored and everyone lived happily for 5 minutes.
See what happens if you mess with vigili del fuoco

Gavin delved into his cornucopia of ‘fellas we’ve never heard of’ and came up with Percy Julian – a black American scientist who attended Indiana Uni, Harvard and a Uni in Vienna, finishing as a PhD in 1931. He researched an anti-glaucoma drug, created a flame-retardant foam from soya bean extract and discovered how to synthesise cortisone and hydrocortisone. He set up his own company in 1954 – it was eventually bought by Smith Klein. He received various awards from the NAACP and was the first black man (see Amber, it’s easy) to be inducted into the National Academy of Sciences and, in 1990, the Inventors’ Hall of Fame. He appeared on American stamps. He died in 1975.

John, Pauline and Gavin, of course, have the right to alter, abridge, reject, correct any of the above – hell, it’s only meant to give you a taste!

History group February 2019

Pauline opened the batting with some aspects of the career of Thomas Edison responsible for a number of inventions (but not light bulbs, that was a guy from the Heed – Gateshead) that didn’t really come off, as it were. The 5th biggest producer of cement in the world by 1907 was Concrete Edison Portland which made moulds for concrete homes, including furniture!, which never really worked.
Edison didn’t see the potential of the phonograph – for him it was best used as a dictation machine
Nor did he recognise the power of the large screen…..
He thought aircraft had no future. He did, however, suggest the idea of electrically charged weapons and magnets to catch bullets. He also foresaw automated stores – slot machines with goods popping out – bit like Argos.

Peter recounted the tale of the old lady at Woodridge who’d told him about her uncle shaking hands with Buffalo Bill. On checking I found there was a Buff Bill (Kayes) a strongman act of the early 20th century and imagined that it might be him. As it turned out the old lady was talking sense since Buffalo Bill and three train loads of gear (and 13000 men and horses)had arrived at Newcastle Central Station in July 1904. The opening show at the Town Moor was watched by a crowd of 9000, eager to see Bill, horsemen from other countries – Cossacks Mexicans, Carter the Cowboy Cyclist, the re-enactment of Little Big Horn.
Bill’s career as Pony Express rider, Indian scout, buffalo killer to feed the workers on the trans-continental railroad, guide to varied European Princes who liked to kill animals, star of Buntline Special novels and Wild West Showman (included Annie Oakley And Sitting Bull at various times) was noted briefly and we also heard the words of Buffy Ste Marie – Now That the Buffalo has gone.

John – brought in Bad Popes by Russell Chamberlain, by which he is guided on a daily basis. Good old Pope Joan and her legend from the 13th century. The legend was that an Anglo-Saxon girl had been elected Pope and rather gave the game away by having a child during a procession – around 855-858. After that they brought in the hand up the kilt test to check for bits and pieces.
Gibbon Chapter XILX (should you want to read it up) referred to Morozia and Theodora as the origin of the legend. He wasn’t convinced by the tale.
John went back to last month’s discussion of the Morozia/Hugh of Tuscany/Alberic story and gave us more detail. She’d been described as disappearing from the pages of history but it may have been that she was merely imprisoned by her son until she died.

Gavin – closed the innings by talking about Judith Cook’s book A Most Notorious Position’ the diaries of Simon Forman, an Elizabethan astronomer, occulist and herbalist. In 1560 he was sent to a priory to avoid the plague and in 1563 his father died and so he was sent to live with an aunt. He became an apprentice Apothecary, attended Magdalen College and became famous for his cures. Something of a womaniser, he also wrote about Shakespeare and longitude. He died in 1611. Frances Howard, who murdered the Earl of Somerset, was thought to have got the poison from simon, but by that time Simon was already dead so he didn’t care much.

History Group January 2019

Pauline – talked about wigs, though homophones being what they are some of us had assumed it was to be a learned discourse of the rise of the party of Grey, Melbourne, Burke and Fox – that’s Charles James, not Liam the Discredited – you may be forgiven for thinking of the latter since, entirely accidentally, I had placed ‘Burke’ in the sentence just before ‘Fox’. There was also an American political party in mid 19th century; Presidents Tyler, WH Harrison, Zach Taylor and Millard Fillmore were all Whig presidents. Confusingly they did not wear wigs – which leads us back to Pauline – who doesn’t wear one either.
There are wigs, but no Whigs in Les Mis (nor, thankfully, is Ann Doesn’t Hathaway) the tv version. Sam Pepys in 1663 was concerned that people might laugh at his wig – but, they didn’t. He was concerned that the wig he wore might be made of the hair of a plague victim.
Wearing a big wig was, of course, a sign of good standing and the cost, of up to £50 indicated that these were people of resource. Wigs could be left as bequests. Some people had their own hair turned into wigs, some just went for the teeth and wig combo of Cosette’s mother (did I mention Ann Hathaway mewling and howling as her teeth and hair were removed, and was she singing a song while it happened, I forget.) Anyway
Wigs needed to be curled weekly and reshaped – they were fluxed and baked. Yes, that’s what she said. And, of course, powdered.
The era of the wigs ended about 50 years before the end of the Whigs in America (reminds me of a Kim Wilde hit) and the Whigs in the UK. Wigmakers, who saw their trade going to dust appealed for George III to make wigs compulsory but, despite his alleged madness, he wasn’t that mad.
Wonder if American judges wore wigs….? And the answer is that the practice was abandoned in early 19th century as a sign of republican virtue. And, with the phrase Republican virtue we all laughed and moved on to High Rise Gavin.

Gavin – A short history of High Rise Buildings though he, himself, you may insert your own joke….
Skyscrapers, generally 50+ stories need steel frames. Ancient Rome had 10+ storey buildings, often badly constructed. Obvious problems are design and the ground on which they are built. New York’s rock base is ideal for skyscrapers.
Skyscrapers started in the 1850s. In the 1860s Bessemer steel made taller buildings possible.
1915 concerns expressed about the llight in areas of high rise buildings
So-called International Style in the 20s and 30s – read about it on Wiki
First residential block in UK was in Harlow
Taller structures often for rulers or religions – proving something or other.
Shard is 310m. Kingdom Tower in Jeddah will be 1000m World Trade Tower is 1776 feet.
Father of Modern skyscrapers is Fazlur Raham Khan considered to be the father of tubular bundle design used by most skyscrapers. Bangladeshi-American. Deisned Sears Tower and John Hancock centre.

John then channelled his inner Prince Charles and mentioned carbuncles. We all sighed and had more coffee/tea/biscuits.
John talked about Marozia as part of his study into the sex and violence which has made Italy what it is today. It was like an episode of Game of Thrones – after which we all went for a lie down in a darkened room. Marozia lived 890-937 and packed a lot of action into that short life. There were references to Theo of Tusculum, Pope Sergius, the shameless whore that Marozia was, Holy Roman Emperors who were, of course, neither Holy nor, frequently, Roman. Marozia married Alberich and had a son by him but had already had a child by Sergius II , the child later becoming Pope John XI. As the story developed we heard the term ‘pornocracy’, we had Hungarian mercenaries, Berengarius as HRE, Hugo of Provence, a Pope that strangled himself (or not), Leo VI, Steven VII, John XI, a marriage between Morozia and Hugo (but marriage to in laws was banned so she declared herself a bastard, as you do), a Burgundian army in Rome and finally Marozia disappeared – Phtttt. To who(m) knows where.
There is a movie in this – to star Stormy Daniels and nobody will care who the male leads are.

Peter has been researching the somewhat unpopular and unchivalrous effort by the Earl of Durham to divorce his lovely (everyone agreed) young wife, Ethel Milner in 1885. It seems that Ethel had a beau and was then ‘persuaded’ to marry Lord D. The question asked by Mrs Merton of Debbie McGhee comes to mind. Anyway, she were a shy wee lassie and the blackguard tried to divorce her on the grounds that her, by now accepted, insanity had been present when they married. The case was as exciting (crowds turned up to watch the smart young things of the beau monde arrive in court) as the denouement of Love Island (even Australian newspapers carried many column inches on the story) and it cost a fortune; the Earl lost but much interest was aroused in the fact that when she came back from Cannes!!*&”!! she was much changed. Now’s your chance to speculate but please don’t put your speculations on the comment page or you may hear from Messrs Carter and Ruck.
In summing up the Judge said that there was very little evidence of Ethel being mad prior to Cannes””$!!!& but, in any case, if she was mad why in heaven’s name did the Earl not, perhaps, notice that before they married? Ethel’s brother, an army officer who seems from his letters to have been terribly interested in gambling and horses, think Rawdon Crawley in Vanity Fair, thought the Earl should be blackballed. Lady D spent the rest of her life ‘in care’ (sometimes to spare blushes known only as LD – Lady Durham) and the Earl went on to have a long standing (stop it) affair with Letty Lind, an actress, would you believe. She bore him a son called, variously, John Rudge/John Harraton and during the Great War he spent some time at Craiglockhart with Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen ie at the same time – dunno whether he discussed his mental illness with them