All posts by Tim Marsh

The Silver Screen — Mike Gildersleeve — 9th October 2017.

Mike Gildersleeve, a reg­u­lar vis­itor to our Probus, was brought up in Wembley in the 1950s, in a house with no Mod. Cons., but, they had a ‘wire­less’, then a Radiogram (ini­tially wind-up gramo­phone) and also they were within easy access of 24 cinemas, all now closed.

In 1950 there were only 300,000 TVs in the UK, so Mike reminded us of how he listened to The Goons, Dick Barton, Educating Archey, the Archers, and 78s of Mario Lanza…..

1953 was the water­shed for the TV revolu­tion, with the Coronation of Elizabeth II. Then came Muffin the Mule, the Flowerpot Men, ….. , etc, but the cinemas con­tin­ued to com­pete ever­more vig­or­ously, trying to under­mine the advance of TV.

In the USA in the early 1950s there were many more TVs in peoples’ homes, than in the UK, as they were not so affected by the cost WW2, but the chan­nels were always com­mer­cially influ­enced, with the advert­isers decid­ing what pro­grammes would be put on, to ensure the watch­ers didn’t switch off. The pro­grammes also were strictly cen­sored on sub­jects such as race, sex, viol­ence, drugs, reli­gion, and lan­guage etc.

However, films at the cinema tackled these taboo sub­jects, and cre­ated, bigger and bigger screens and better and better pro­duc­tions and present­a­tions, with Cinemascope, Technicolor and  Toddao, a really big screen inven­ted by Mike Todd, who was mar­ried to Liz Taylor.

Mike Todd made the most watched film ever, ‘Around the World in 80 Days’ with David Niven and Robert Newton, who died 2 weeks after film was compled due to alco­hol­ism. Other films tack­ling the taboos were ‘The Robe’ by 20th Century Fox, star­ring Jean Simmons, Victor Mature and Richard Burton. Other not­able films were ‘The Birdman of Alcatraz’ (Burt Lancaster), ’12 Angry Men’ (Henry Fonda), and films with Frank Sinatra, Bill Haley, Glenn Ford, Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier, tack­ling race issues, booze, rock and roll and drugs.

James Stewart and Jeff Chandler were in a film which depic­ted the Indian not being the baddie for the first time. Up to that point they had always been the villains.

Although 1957 saw the first decline in num­bers of cinem­a­goers, cinema held its own until Howard Hughes, who owned RKO Radio Pictures, sold all his lib­rary of RKO films to TV. Up to that point, the only films on TV had been films spe­cific­ally made for TV. The film stars in the cinema at that time were con­trac­ted to one studio, (hence the 24 stars around the ‘Paramount’ trade mark, they rep­res­en­ted the 24 stars on con­tract), and so they did not appear on TV, until Howard Hughes let the genie out of the bottle.

All the big stu­dios of the time (MGM, Universal, Warner, United Artists, Columbia, RKO) have today morphed into other groupings.

The biggest British studio at the time was J. Arthur Rank with the famous Bombardier Billy Wells on the paper mashie gong. Ealing Studios became syn­onym­ous with comedy and actors like Peter Sellars.  Pinewood Studios was built by Charles Boot, the father of Henry Boot of civil engin­eer­ing fame. They made ‘The Lady-killers’ and ‘I’m alright Jack’ amongst other not­able films.

The 1950s was also the golden era of cinema music­als like ‘Oklahoma’, ‘Singing in the Rain’, and ‘7 Brides for 7 Brothers’. War films and cowboy films aboun­ded. ‘Bridge over the River Kwai’ (Alec Guinness), ‘The Dam Busters’ and‘Reach for the Sky’ (Kenneth More), ‘High Noon’ (Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly who was everybody’s friend, except James Stewart).  ‘The Ten Commandments’ was the only film not to dis­play ‘The End’, but fin­ished by, ‘So it was writ­ten, so it shall be done’. ‘Ben Hur’ (Charlton Heston) was an epic film which cost $145m, whereas ‘From Here To Eternity’ cost $1m and was made in 6 weeks.

Mike then took us down memory lane, men­tion­ing a whole host of actors and act­resses who appeared on the cinema screen.   Marilyn Monroe in ‘Some Like It Hot’ with the immor­tal last line, “No one is per­fect.”) who died in1961.  Jack Hawkins who fought in WW2 and appeared in ‘The Cruel Sea’.  Dirk Bogarde who ori­gin­ally appeared with Jack Warner (Evenin’ All).  Norman Wisdom who was Knighted at 90. Maureen O’Hara who was John Wayne’s best friend because she was the only person who could drink him under the table. Montgomery Clift who had a crash, then took to booze and drugs.  Paul Newman, mar­ried to June Woodward, and got the indus­tries rasp­berry (Rassy) award with his first film, but 4 years later began to make hits and sub­sequently gave a lot of money to char­ity. Robert Mitchum who was a crim­inal. Shirley Maclean, still going, and whose brother is Warren Beatty. James Dean who only made 3 films and only ever saw one of them before he died. And many , many others……

Mike had to be stopped when he ran out of time. We hadn’t noticed.

 

The Importance of Woodland – Past, Present & Future – Gerald Price – 31st July 2017

The Woodland Trust was formed in 1972 as a char­it­able trust. They now own 1,200 woods cov­er­ing approx­im­ately 75 sqare miles through­out the British Isles, and also work with landown­ers who own their own woods.

With around 300 employ­ees, 300,000 mem­bers and many volun­teers, they are fin­anced equally by legacies, mem­ber­ship, grants, full-time fun­draisers and spon­sors such as Sainsburys, WH Smith and IKEA.

Woodlands are defined as trees, hedges, park­land with trees in them, and any other clusters, copses or clumps of trees. Twelve and a half per cent of the land­scape in Britain is wood­land, and the aim is to reach 25 per cent. Notably, London has 20 per cent wood­land and there are 50 woods within 10 miles of Sheffield.

Trees live the longest of all living things and are the tallest. They are between 20 and 25 per cent carbon, so absorb CO2 from the atmo­sphere and emit O2, as well as provid­ing an essen­tial biod­i­verse hab­itat for 50 per cent of all wild life.

In the canopy of trees, for safety, there are rap­tors, but­ter­flies such as purple emperor and hair­streaks, bats and other creatures. Lower down there are garden birds, other but­ter­flies and mam­mals, while on the ground are mam­mals and flora. In the ground, fungi have a sym­bi­otic arrange­ment with the roots of trees. The roots also hold the soil, aid water per­col­a­tion and take up water, help­ing to pre­vent flooding.

Past ancient wood­lands tend to be where plough­ing was dif­fi­cult, so biod­iversity in the wood­land has had time to develop and there­fore con­tains the rarer spe­cies of flora & fauna.

Ancient wood­lands of native spe­cies have been cop­piced for hun­dreds of years, for char­coal, which was needed in steel­mak­ing. They have also been cop­piced for white coal (wood dried, then charred), which was needed for lead smelt­ing, as it burns at a lower tem­per­at­ure. The cop­picing was rotated in a wood and over­seen by a wood ward, who was an import­ant man.

Present object­ives of the Woodland Trust are:

1. Protection — Promoting tree man­age­ment and trying to link up ancient bits, when think­ing of buying. This cre­ates cor­ridors for mammals.

2. Restoration – For example, repla­cing pine woods (which were planted after WW1 by the newly formed Forestry Commission to provide wood for com­mer­cial use, and are dark and unat­tract­ive to the flora and fauna) with woods of oak and native spe­cies, which are light, airy and more biod­i­verse, attract­ing flora & fauna.

3. Creation – Planting new trees by donat­ing young sap­lings to com­munit­ies, and work­ing with the com­munit­ies to plant on any bits of public land that cannot be used for any­thing else.

4. Control of pests and dis­eases – There are 19 threats at present, includ­ing dis­eased chest­nut trees and ash die-back. It is likely we will lose all our ash trees which is the second most pop­u­lous tree.

Future object­ives are described in the Woodland Trust’s new ‘Charter for Trees, Woods & People’ which will be launched on 7th November 2017, which is the 800th anniversary of the ‘Charter of the Forest’ in 1217 (around the time of the Magna Carta) which recog­nised that the peas­ants had rights over the woods too.

Some 70,000 sig­na­tures of sup­port for the new charter have been col­lec­ted to date, and 100,000 is the target.

The 10 object­ives are:

1. Thriving hab­it­ats for diverse species
2. Planting for the future
3. Celebrating the cul­tural impact of trees
4. Thriving forestry sector that deliv­ers for the UK
5. Better pro­tec­tion for import­ant trees & woods (TPOs)
6. Enhancing new devel­op­ments with trees
7. Understanding and using the nat­ural health bene­fits of trees
8. Access to trees for every­one, with paths
9. Addressing threats to trees and woods through good management
10. Strengthening land­scapes with woods and trees

The Woodland Trust are doing essen­tial and very valu­able work to main­tain and improve our wood­lands an d envir­on­ment for the bene­fit of all.

Gerald gave us an excel­lent present­a­tion, and encour­aged us to sup­port the Woodland Trust and get involved. For fur­ther inform­a­tion see www.woodlandtrust.org.uk

Inspector Hopkinson’s Discovery — Ian Morgan — 12th June 2017

Ian, a renowned local his­tor­ian, who has appeared on TV & radio, told us the story of a mul­tiple murder, in Mansfield, that occurred in the early hours of 11th August 1895.
Henry Wright (H.W.) the lodger, had, allegedly, murdered his land­lady, Mary Reynolds aged 48, her 2 chil­dren, Big William & Charles, aged 15 & 17, & her grand­son, Little William aged 2.
Mary was wid­owed but had been mar­ried twice. Her last hus­band had died in 1890.
Also in the house on that night, but who sur­vived, were George (Marys elder stepson) & her grand­son Little Robert, who was only there for the one night.
At 1.50am Inspector Hopkinson, living over the police sta­tion, was awakened by H. W. ham­mer­ing on the door of the police sta­tion, with his throat cut as far as his wind­pipe, stark naked, covered in blood, hold­ing Little Robert in his arms, who was on fire.
Hopkinson doused the burn­ing clothes, phoned for the doctor, & band­aged Wrights throat. Wright not able to speak, poin­ted down the road. Hopkinson recog­nised that Wright lived 50 yards down the road, blew his whistle for back-up, & ran down the road to where the house was on fire.
A police Officer Steadman came to the sta­tion & recog­nised Wright as someone he had spoken to 2 hours earlier. He pro­ceeded to the burn­ing house. The doctor came to Wright & stitched up his wind­pipe, whereupon Wright con­fessed that he had killed them all & set the house on fire. The doctor took Little Robert to Mrs. Hopkinson & Wright con­fessed to her as well, that he had killed them all.
At the scene of the fire, even­tu­ally, the fire bri­gade arrived. The front door was found to be locked, & the back door jammed partly open. Neighbours kicked in the front door. The first floor front room was locked, & in the first floor back room Marys 2 chil­dren were found dead with their throats cut. The 2 rooms on the top floor had their doors roped together closed, so no-one could get out. The front room was sub­sequently found to be empty, once the rope had been cut, & George was in the back room, & had escaped through the window, by ladder, with the help of Steadman.
Mary Reynolds was found dead in the kit­chen, dis­em­bowelled, block­ing the door.
The murder weapon & the razor which H.W. tried to commit sui­cide with, by cut­ting his throat, were found in the house.
The fire was put out after 7 hours & Little Williams charred body was then found.
Wright was taken to the Infirmary under guard, assessed but not passed fit for trial for 10 weeks as he some­times went into a trance, seemed ter­ri­fied, in des­pair & had fits which were ques­tioned as being fake.
At the Inquest, the day after the crime, there was con­flict­ing evid­ence as some said there was no alco­hol on his breath, but others repor­ted that they had been drink­ing with him, & it tran­spired that he had a his­tory of fits which some deemed to be fake.
The jury vis­ited the scene, took photos, & noted there had been a fight in the kitchen.

After this the 4 funer­als took place, with emo­tions run­ning high & at one funeral George fein­ted & the crowd turned against Wright.

At the first com­mit­tal hear­ing Wright was dishevelled, dirty, hold­ing his head between his legs & he made no plea or com­ment when deman­ded to respond to whether guilty or not. He rushed out part way through the pro­ceed­ings & was there­fore charged as guilty & sent to jail, to await trial. Mansfield could now get back to ‘normal’.

At the trial, Wrights father, who had a fruit & veg. shop, which was about to be demol­ished, said his son had been stu­di­ous, but after an acci­dent which had occurred in the past & dam­aged his head, he was never the same again. He ended up work­ing as a labourer in an iron foundry, wasn’t very bright & was the butt of jokes from his fellow work­ers. He joined a mil­it­ary estab­lish­ment, went to camps, but was dis­missed after he had fits on a few occa­sions. After his mother died his atti­tude changed, he did noth­ing at home, so was told to leave & he ended up as a lodger with Mary Reynolds in 1890.
In 1893, George the stepson came to live with his step­mother & had to share a bed­room with H. W.. George had had a 12 year career in the army in India, had got a medal for the battles he had fought, had suffered from gonor­rhoea, syph­ilis, chol­era etc & had been treated with injec­tions of mercury.
On the night of 10/8/1895, H.W. & Mary Reynolds met, & George joined them later, but, in the even­ing, Henry Wright went for a drink with a mate & met police officer Steadman on the way home. He seemed to be no worse for drink.

The gov­ernor of the prison where H.W. was being held, had writ­ten that there was some­thing not right with H.W.
A spe­cial­ist was called who declared that H.W. was insane at the time of the crime, pos­sibly due to the effect of alcohol.
The chief of Broadmoor also classed H.W. as insane brought on pos­sibly by alcohol.
H.W. made no plea of guilty, or not guilty or even that he was a hom­icidal maniac. He never defen­ded him­self, except when Mary Reynolds step­daugh­ter gave evid­ence that he was a viol­ent man, at which point H.W. shouted that she was a liar & was afraid to go home because she was afraid of her hus­band. This was the only time he said anything.
The judge had a repu­ta­tion of being tough & the jury took 18 minutes to find H.W. guilty.
H.W. was a beaten man & only once asked to see the father of the young­est victim, but he went to the gal­lows on 24/12/1895.

After this tragic epis­ode we were told that all those involved, includ­ing Inspector Hopkinson, came to a wretched & untimely death. Little Robert died of scar­let fever after 3 months. George became an alco­holic & thief & ended up in jail & the work­house & the same infirm­ary as H.W. & died aged 35 in 1897 of emaciation.
In 1900 the neigh­bour who helped, died at 48, & Doctor Godfrey died at 39 years of age. The fire chief died in 1903 & Insp. Hopkinson died after a crash on his pony & trap, from shock at 48 years of age.
The police officers involved & the exe­cu­tion­ers & assist­ants, also all came to a sticky pre­ma­ture end.
11/8/1895 was a trau­matic night for all con­cerned, with far reach­ing consequences.

Ian kept us all con­cen­trat­ing on this very inter­est­ing, well researched & delivered talk.

Geoff Barwick – Part 2 — 27 March 2017

Our Treasurer, who spoke in Part 1 about his National Service days in an RAF band, agreed at short notice, to enter­tain us with fur­ther yarns of his time in the Service, because the sched­uled speaker had become inca­pa­cit­ated. Geoff poin­ted out that he had obvi­ously not been first choice, as the Chairman admit­ted he had made sev­eral tele­phone calls before con­tact­ing Geoff.

Not fond of school, Geoff left at 16 with 5 ‘O’ levels and ended up in Local Authority employ­ment, which didn’t suit him.

National Service called, and as he had been in the Boys Brigade play­ing and win­ning accol­ades in the band from ages 11 to 19, he found him­self in the RAF band.

Advised to apply for a com­mis­sion, he went to Uxbridge for a week­ends activ­it­ies and inter­view. Imagining him­self as a pilot when issued with new kit, he had to solve prob­lems and give a talk. He was unsuc­cess­ful, so, gave up fur­ther applications.

Reflecting on times in his billet, shared with many others, espe­cially the first 6 weeks, when they were not allowed off the camp, there were:-

Bull’ nights when the Sergeant came to inspect the clean­li­ness of the billet and layout of each per­sons equip­ment, which had to be in a pre­scribed order. Some were verbally sav­aged, and had their belong­ings strewn around the billet. The rest thanked their lucky stars that they hadn’t been treated the same way.

Beret’ nights. The troops were instruc­ted to wear wel­ling­ton boots and beret over their pyja­mas, in bed, for a pos­sible fire drill at mid­night. This, of course, was a hoax, to much amuse­ment from  the older troops return­ing from the pub, to see a line of men scrab­bling out of a billet and lining up in their pyja­mas, boots and beret, in the response to the fire alarm. Geoff missed this indig­nity by sleep­ing through the alarm.

Applying to swap his post­ing from Helmsley to Gainsborough, and although warned, he ended up being posted abroad to Omaha, Nebraska, for 6 weeks. This was a con­tinu­ally busy air­port with big planes coming and going on their way to and from N.Canada. The bil­lets were sited at the end of the runway, with con­stant noise and vibra­tion. Sleep depriva­tion meant on one occa­sion he slept through 4 films until 6am, at an all-night movie in a car park.

On his return, Geoff worked in Bomber Command as an Accountant at RAF Honnington, near Thetford. Managing to ‘wangle’ his work to allow each week­end to be a long one, he recoun­ted tales of how he got to Sheffield from East Anglia before Motorways, by hitch­ing, cadging lifts, in dodgy cars, and some­times in much discomfort.

Eventually posted to Germany, with his wife, he bought an old Ford Popular, traded his cigar­ette coupons for petrol coupons, put 4 large full petrol cans in the boot, bought at 1/6d per gallon, and toured Europe, includ­ing a stay under the 1925 Olympic ski jump at Innsbruck. The cour­age of those who jumped off, remains with him.

A final remin­isce was of a Squadron Leader with a severe limp lead­ing the troops not in a straight line, but with a bit of ‘left hand down’ because of his disability.

A nat­ural racon­teur, Geoff kept us well enter­tained with this and other yarns. A very worthy replace­ment for the sched­uled speaker, he was warmly thanked.

 

The Porthole Murder – C.P.Dorries O.B.E. — 23rd January 2017.

Christopher Dorries, the Senior Coroner for Sheffield and Barnsley, was on his second visit to us.
This time, he delivered a talk on the so-called ‘Porthole Murder,’ when a 21-year old girl called Gay Gibson (her stage name) dis­ap­peared from the MV Durban Castle, a 17,000-ton cruise ship, in 1947, in shark infes­ted waters 90 miles off the West African coast on a voyage from South Africa to Southampton.
The murder trial included a beau­ti­ful act­ress, sex, a ‘ladies’ man’ deck stew­ard who pur­sued her, and a body which dis­ap­peared without trace from the small 80 sq ft cabin, No 126, which had a 17’’ dia­meter open­ing porthole.
Gay Gibson, born in India in 1926, did war ser­vice in the ATS and Intelligence branch. When she was dis­charged from the forces she was given a med­ical and passed as fully fit with a normal heart rhythm (evid­ence rel­ev­ant to the trial). She had aspir­a­tions to be on the stage, and after the war she went to stay with her par­ents in South Africa.

She joined a trav­el­ling show, worked and played hard and had an affair which led her to seek advice on con­tra­cep­tion from a doctor (this led to sup­pos­i­tion that she may have thought later that she was preg­nant). There was also a report at that time that she had fein­ted whilst having sex (another rel­ev­ant fact in the trial). The show she was appear­ing in closed down and, on Friday 10th October 1947, she boarded the Durban Castle, bound for the UK.
James Camb – 31 years old, mar­ried with a child — had served on Arctic con­voys during WW2 and was a deck stew­ard (bar hand) on the Durban Castle. He had a repu­ta­tion as a ladies’ man who desired ‘female conquests.’
Gay Gibson was in First Class, prob­ably paid for by someone else (her lover who had made her pos­sibly preg­nant). James Camb was not per­mit­ted to go to the cabin areas, but he pur­sued her nev­er­the­less and was once seen tres­passing in those areas.
On 17th October, after dining with two friends she had met on board, Gay went to her cabin and was never seen again. The cabin maid raised the alarm the next day when there was no sign of her, her pyja­mas or long dress­ing gown.
During the night of the 17th/18th at 2.48am, both stew­ards’ but­tons in cabin 126 (one for a female stew­ard, one for a male stew­ard) were vig­or­ously pressed. No stew­ards were on duty, but the night­watch­man heard the bells and because both had been pressed he thought it was urgent, so within one minute he was there and opened the door ajar without knock­ing. He saw what he knew to be James Camb’s arm and knew Cambs’ voice when he said ‘’It’s OK. Everything is alright.” He assumed that, with the man’s repu­ta­tion, it was just another of his female affairs, so he went away. However, he went to the cap­tain and repor­ted the incid­ent, but did not men­tion James Camb by name, so the Captain thought it was just a lovers’ tiff and dis­missed it as not some­thing to inter­fere with.
When a search of the ship the next day didn’t find the girl, the night­watch­man then men­tioned James Camb, who was ques­tioned and denied any know­ledge of the situ­ation. He claimed he was being vic­tim­ised, but his mates did not believe him, espe­cially because of his repu­ta­tion, and he was unusu­ally wear­ing long sleeved shirts which covered scratches on his arms, which he said was prickly rash. He was how­ever arres­ted in the UK on 25th October 1947 and ini­tially just allowed to talk to explain his actions.
However, after ques­tion­ing began and he had picked up on the fact that Ms Gibson had allegedly in the past fein­ted whilst having sex, he said: ‘’So she might have died of a heart attack and not been murdered’’. He then admit­ted that he had been to see her as she had asked for a drink in her cabin. She had let him in, wear­ing only a long dress­ing gown and she had agreed to have sex, during which she went limp. He thought she had had a seizure. He pan­icked and put her through the porthole (it was proved in court that this was pos­sible) and then returned to his own cabin and pre­ten­ded noth­ing had happened.

The evid­ence against him was that he didn’t make any effort to get help, and merely gave her arti­fi­cial res­pir­a­tion for more than 30 minutes although he had no real idea how to do that. If he had thought she had died of nat­ural causes, why didn’t he leave the body for a post mortem? Stains on the sheets were pos­sibly com­men­sur­ate with death by stran­gu­la­tion. Why throw an unused pair of pyja­mas out of the porthole if she was naked, as he said?
He had changed his story and lied. The jury took 45 minutes to find him guilty. Further damning stor­ies then sur­faced about his pre­vi­ous beha­viour. He was sen­tenced to hang, but Parliament was debat­ing a repeal of the hanging bill at that time and his sen­tence was changed to life impris­on­ment. He was released in 1958.
In 1971 he was con­victed of assault­ing young girls and served a fur­ther seven years in prison. He was released in 1978, but died in 1979.
There are murders today at sea, though usu­ally to do with drug run­ning. Chris assured us that, although recor­ded hom­icides in the 1880s were the same as now, crime is down and the length of sen­tences are up.
We will no doubt be invit­ing Chris to return to give us another talk, but prob­ably not the one he gives to lady audi­ences ‘’The Quickest Way to a Mans’ Heart is with a Bread Knife’’.
It was a very grip­ping morning.

The Plague Doctor from Eyam – David Bell – 7th November 2016.

Although David is not a doctor, his­tor­ian or aca­demic, he retired to Eyam and dis­covered that the water­fall on the farm he had bought, was the site where  a Matthew Morton had taken up res­id­ence, in 1665, with his dog ‘Flash’, to escape the plague, which had killed his wife – or was it?

When bus loads of tour­ists turned up to view the water­fall and learn about the plague his­tory of Eyam (whether myth or real­ity), David decided to research those times and events in the vil­lage.     The con­clu­sion was that the stor­ies com­monly told would appear to have been embel­lished  over the cen­tur­ies, but, how­ever, have done no harm for tourism.

So David has unearthed a few tales of his own, to throw into the pot.

With the props David had brought with him, includ­ing a blow-up Samuel Pepys doll, par­tially dressed in 17th cen­tury clothes, which had a urin­ary tract infec­tion, a blad­der stone and con­stip­a­tion, we knew we were in for an enter­tain­ing morn­ing. What  fol­lowed were buttock-clenching descrip­tions of the cures for ail­ments doc­u­mented in Samuel Pepys diar­ies – which David graph­ic­ally demon­strated on the dummy.

With ‘doc­tors’ in that era a mix­ture of Alan Titchmarsh, Mystic Meg and Russell Grant, ail­ments were remedied with plants that looked like the shape of the body organs infec­ted, which per­haps sur­pris­ingly, did seem to have some rel­ev­ant ingredi­ents, and con­coc­tions of which David avidly inges­ted, seem­ingly without ill effect.

These ‘doc­tors’, how­ever, deser­ted London at the time of the plague and gave rise to ‘plague doc­tors’ with equally bizarre and dan­ger­ous rem­ed­ies, depend­ing on how much you could afford, with the result that 100,000 people died.

The plague came to Eyam in a con­sign­ment of cloth from London, which had plague fleas in the cloth, so people star­ted to get infec­ted and die. 260 suc­cumbed in total, over 14 months.

Many tales about the plague have ensued over the last 350 years, based on records and recol­lec­tions from the few who lived, some of whom were very young at the time.

The pivotal story of the vicar, William Mompesson, who told his parish­ion­ers to stay in the vil­lage, not to mix or meet in public, and who were sub­sequently self­lessly sac­ri­ficed to the plague, has likely been embel­lished down the years, as records show that Mompesson had sent his 2 sons to Sheffield, before he spoke to his parish­ion­ers. Records also sug­gest that the Duke (at that time Earl) of Devonshire forced the vil­la­gers to be con­fined to Eyam by using armed guards.

We were left well enter­tained, def­in­itely grate­ful for the NHS, and bemused as to how much the offi­cial Eyam plague his­tory has been embellished.

A very unusual, amus­ing and inter­est­ing morn­ing much appre­ci­ated by the mixed audi­ence, prior to their Annual Lunch.