Travels in Crete 4: the anniversary

THIS IS NOT so much travels in Crete, just a picture-log of two special days in Crete. The reason I’m posting this is twofold: (a) it was a great two days for Sarah and myself; and (b) I don’t have much else to tell you about at the moment (you can see I’m running out of ideas!). I won’t bore you with too much detail as many of you won’t be interested, but the pictures are quite fun (well, for Sarah and I, anyway).

The two days covered our 4th wedding anniversary in Crete (see post ‘Travels in Crete: Mochlos’, May 30, 2014).  On the first day it all began early in the morning …….


Sunrise in Mochlos (6.30 am)


This first day was our actual anniversary (22nd July) and was spent on a deja vu trip. We started off at 9.00 am at ‘Nick’s place’ with champagne by his pool. Nick of the Laing (new Welsh gentry) needed to pick his boat up from Agios Nikolaos, so Sarah and I went along for the ride. And what a ride – it involved three boat trips (RIB, main cruiser boat, then dinghy). We took the RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) from Mochlos to Agios – Sarah referred to it as a ‘white-knuckle’ ride (she started off at the front of the RIB which was a mistake!) but it was great. Then we collected the main boat (Beneteau 46) in Agios and Nick took us back to the marina harbour where he picked us up four years ago after our wedding by the lake in Agios, and then we returned to Mochlos. The marina revisited and the return to Mochlos were the deja vu bits. So here comes the picture-log:


Champagne at Nick’s at 9.00 am!


Champagne view of Nick’s pool and beyond (I’m in the wrong business ….)


Picking up the RIB in Mochlos for the ‘white-knuckle’ ride to Agios Nikolaos


The harbour at Agios Nikoloas where we were picked up by Nick 4 years ago….


At the end of the journey back in Mochlos – transporting to the dinghy from the main boat to go ashore was probably the most difficult part!

The following day we actually celebrated the anniversary (a day late as Nick was not available on the previous evening). It was a good turn out for the evening dinner at Koxilia, including, as ever, our good Greek friends from Mochlos Mare (Panayiotis, Sterei, Yiorgos & Demeter) where we stayed on our wedding night four years ago; also Willie & Liz from Istron (down the road a bit); Tina, Tristan & Deanna from the archaeological school at Pachia Ammos;  Nick, his daughter Caren, her husband Martyn, and their children Milly & Lucy from Wales.  Fortini joined us briefly, and so did a musician called Niko who played for us for a glass of raki – no idea who he was or where he came from – or where he went!P1000723

Lucy & Milly and Niko, the ‘impromptu’ musician 


Martyn’s selfie – of us all (well, nearly!)

Sarah and I (and Nick) left Koxilia around 12.30 am and headed for Bar Raki. We had a fabulous evening with great company and got home at 3.30 in the morning. We had a ‘quiet next day’ – certainly didn’t get up in time for another sunrise – but had another full moon rising the following week:


Full moon rising from Koxilia’s (9.00 pm)


Artemus Smith’s Notebooks

I have discovered another volume of Artemus’ notebooks (followers will recall Dr Artemus Smith was an archaeologist of great courage, determination and fiction). Here is another extract:

Being over 60 I was complaining to my good friend, Randolph Peabody-Gryppe that I was feeling somewhat unfit. He sent the following instructions to remedy the situation:

Begin by standing on a comfortable surface, where you have plenty of room at each side.

With a 5-lb potato bag in each hand, extend your arms straight out from your sides and hold them there as long as you can. Try to reach a full minute, and then relax. Each day you’ll find that you can hold this position for just a bit longer.

After a couple of weeks, move up to 10-lb potato bags.

Then try 20-lb potato bags and for those of you who feel really strong, try to get to where you can lift a 40-lb potato bag in each hand and hold your arms straight for more than a full minute.

After you feel confident at that level, put a potato in each bag.


The British Skiing and the Ski Club of Great Britain

SIR ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE, of Sherlock Holmes fame of course, spent time in Davos in Switzerland in order to try and improve the health of his wife who was sick with tuberculosis (a more accommodating climate). He had obtained skis from Norway – they were ‘two strips of elm wood, 8ft long, 4ins broad with a square heel, turned up at the toes, and straps in the centre to secure your feet’ – and skied a 15 mile journey from the Furka Pass to Arosa in 1895. He claimed to have developed ski-running in Davos, but a Colonel Napier had experienced it some 6 years previously. Doyle commented, “[it was] getting as near flying as any earth-bound man can.”

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930)

Then Doyle suggested in an interview with The Strand Magazine, “Skiing opens up a field of sport which is, I think unique. This is not appreciated yet, but I am convinced the time will come when hundreds of Englishmen will come to Switzerland for the skiing season between March and April.”  Astute fellow.

Doyle was followed by Edward Richardson.   E.C. or ‘Teddy’, as he was known (for fairly obvious reasons), was born in 1871 in Dumbarton and studied Law at Trinity College, Cambridge, then qualified as a barrister (followers of my blog will note that members of this learned profession seem to get everywhere!).  He and his brother spent the 1901/02 winter season at Davos for cross-country skiing. The following year they set up the Davos English Ski Club.

E. C. Richardson

EC died at 87 after a game of tennis – golf he dismissed as a game for old men!   He wrote one of the first books on how to ski, Ski-Running 1904.


E.C. Richardson’s book Ski Running with instructions on how to stop!

1903 also saw the beginning of the Ski Club of Great Britain (SCGB). It had its inaugural meeting at a dinner at the fashionable Café Royal, Regent Street, London, on 6 May 1903. There were around 12 gentlemen present, including E.C. Richardson (who was the host), and the idea of the club was to encourage other people to ski and take an interest in the sport.   Click here for a report on the meeting.

Menu from the Cafe Royal 1903

Menu from the Cafe Royal, 1903, signed by all the founders of the new SCGB  

The SCGB produced its first publication, the British Ski Year Book, in 1905 and this was, effectively, the club’s magazine. In 1908 it held its first competition at Kitzbühel which, by 1918, was the principal winter resort for Brits (and all) in the eastern Alps. Initially this was just cross-country skiing but by the 1920s alpine skiing (going down mountains fast) began to evolve. By this time other clubs had emerged, particularly the Ladies Ski Club.

In 1905, Sir Henry Lunn formed the Public Schools Alpine Sports Club which secured the use of major hotels for the sport. Then in 1908 he set up Alpine Sports Limited to open up many winter sports resorts by organising tours. In the same year he founded the Alpine Ski Club, a gentlemen’s club for ski mountaineers.

Sir Henry Lunn (1859-1939)

According to Sir Henry’s grandson, Peter Lunn, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle came to stay with Sir Henry in Switzerland and told him that he had decided to devote his life to psychic research but couldn’t think what to do with Sherlock Holmes. Apparently Sir Henry said, “Push him over the Reichenbach Falls.” Conan Doyle hadn’t heard of them – they are a series of waterfalls on the Reichenbach stream in the Swiss Bernese Oberland region – so Sir Henry showed them to him. The rest, they say, is history (see ‘The Final Problem’, first published in The Strand Magazine in December 1893).


Sherlock Holmes and Prof. Moriarty fall to their deaths at the Reichenbach falls in Switzerland

Sir Henry’s son, Arnold, was equally prolific in skiing having been introduced to it by his father.  Ge was an Oxford graduate (Balliol) and was a President of the SCGB, 1928-30, having already organised the first British National Ski Championships (including a downhill alpine race) on behalf of the SCGB in Wengen, Switzerland, in 1921. The following year Arnold set up the first slalom race in Mürren. In 1924 he was a founder member of the Khandahar Ski Club (in honour of Lord Roberts of Khandahar). By 1938 Arnold had persuaded the Olympic Committee to include downhill and slalom into the Winter Olympic Games.

Sir Arnold Lunn (1888-1974)

Back to the mid 1920s and the SCGB started providing a service for its members by producing snow and weather reports for various resorts. By 1928 it had Ski Club Representatives out in resorts in the Alps to look after its members by guiding and advising on the particular resort and entertaining them in the evenings. Also in this year the SCGB managed to persuade the International Ski Federation (FIS) to provisionally approve the British rules for downhill and slalom racing (they were officially approved two years later). By the 1930s the SCGB began organising touring parties to resorts. These tours and Ski Club Reps still exist today. In fact, I became one in 1994 and spent 3 weeks of 3 seasons in Soldeu in Andorra.

SkiClubGroupFellow SCGB rep, Dave, and I (kneeling in blue/yellow jackets – I’m on the left) with my ‘party’ of SCGB members in 1995

Jim Ring, in his 2000 book, How the English made the Alps, commented, “The Alpine Club and the Ski Club of Great Britain still survive, [but] they are vestiges of an era long gone.”   Well, yes and no ……..

For more of the SCGB, click here


 Artemus Smith’s Notebooks

I have discovered another volume of Artemus’ notebooks (followers will recall Dr Artemus Smith was an archaeologist of great courage, determination and fiction). Here is another extract:

Out of curiosity I sat in on a political corruption trial the other day and the prosecuting lawyer attacked a witness (who was an acquaintance of mine). “Isn’t it true,” he bellowed, “that you accepted five thousand pounds to compromise this case?”

The witness stared out the window as though he hadn’t heard the question.

“Isn’t it true that you accepted five thousand pounds to compromise this case?” the lawyer repeated. The witness still did not respond.

Finally, the judge leaned over to the witness and said, “Sir, please answer the question.”

“Oh,” the startled witness said, “I thought he was talking to you.”


Diving the Red Sea

HAVE YOU EVER tried Sub aqua diving? If you have the time and patience I can recommend it. If only as a leisure activity (as there are some serious clubs around) it should be experienced. The only problem is ‘doing it’ in the UK – the waters are rather murky and visibility somewhat limited. I learned to dive in Cardigan in Wales some years ago and that is no exception. Being a beginner in very limited visibility waters has its drawbacks and can be a little disconcerting. I remember the very first time I dived I was terrified that water would seep into my mask and I would have to go through that procedure of removing the mask underwater to clear it out. So I jammed the mask on very tight so that would not happen. As I descended the pressure built up and the mask tightened even more to my face causing me great pain. I had to remove it to loosen it and then, of course, replace it!  When I surfaced and removed the mask again I had an embarrassing blood pressure mark around my face!


The second time I dived I had difficulty descending as I did not have enough weight on my belt. I pushed down to the sea bed and collected some stones and put them in my stabilizer jacket for more weight. Fine. Then one of my flippers (sorry, fins) on my foot came loose. As I bent over to tighten it, the stones fell out my pocket and up I went!

The third time and thereafter I had no more ‘teething’ problems but visibility did not improve very much.

diving gear

Then there is all the gear! – me on Tresaith Beach near Cardigan (a few years ago now – and no, I’m not wearing a dinner jacket under the wet-suit) making sure of my weight belt – luckily I had my jeep to transport everyone’s equipment down to the waterside (I had my uses)

I was then fortunate enough to be able to go on a 10 day trip to the Red Sea with an ex-mariner colleague of mine, Simon. Now that is a place to dive. The journey began in Eilat in Israel, where we dived with dolphins, a manta ray and a turtle. This was quite amazing.

Dud+shark      Dud+ray

Me and ….. dolphin – not a shark!                                                                  ….. and manta ray

We then picked up our boat, the Poolster, which was to be our transport down the Red Sea. Not the most luxurious of boats but adequate and it was a cheap trip after all. Anyway, the skipper was a good chap, as were the rest of the divers – a very friendly and humourous bunch.


The Poolster

We sailed down the Sinai coast of Egypt, stopping off at various dive sites. Throughout all these dives living coral of all shapes, sizes and colours were in abundance including the magnificent gorgonian, fan and stinging fire corals.


Simon investigating a fan coral

A white-tip reef shark was spotted during one of the dives off the East African Suez coast but it kept well away from us. In saying that, in 2010, there were 5 shark attacks (one of which was a fatality) off Sharm el-Sheik where we were diving, and another at the same place in March this year (again a fatality) – had my trip not been before these attacks I may not have gone!


Night dive: my torch shows up the colour of the coral attached to the mast of a wreck

Two moray eels of great magnitude were encountered, but not being naturally aggressive (the eels not us), they simply retreated into their coral hideaways when our inquisitive approach became too close. I was taken by surprise by a rather large Napoleon Wrasse but it was quite friendly. In fact most of the fish are no problem – except the brightly coloured and striped Lion Fish whose spiky fins are poisonous. One has to be a little careful of these fellows as they do not just swim away when you approach so you have to keep a sharp eye on them – or you get a sharp something else.


“Behind you!!”     Napoleon Wrasse coming up behind me 

The wrecks we dived were somewhat eerie as they lay dormant in their watery graves. Nevertheless it was an interesting experience to investigate the life that had set up home on their immense superstructures.  But no way was I going inside these rusting relics of the deep – well, going in is one thing, coming out is another!


Eerie wreck …..

Finally the famous Ras Mohammed was visited. At this site a coral wall drops from 20m to some 700m into the deep. An awesome site, but not good if you suffer from vertigo. Buoyancy and common sense overcomes the temptation and curiosity to follow the ‘wall’ down any further than 30m.


Me refraining from going much deeper on the ‘wall’ at Ras Mohammed

There is one great downside to diving the Red Sea and I was warned about it by a fellow diver in Cardigan. He told me that once I dived the Red Sea I would not want to dive British waters again. He was right.  Saying that, I did manage to complete my British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC) Dive Leader qualification on my return to the UK but that was some time ago and I haven’t dived since!


Simon’s great photo of Masked Butterflyfish


Artemus Smith’s Notebooks

I have discovered another volume of Artemus’ notebooks (followers will recall Dr Artemus Smith was an archaeologist of great courage, determination and fiction). Here is another extract:

My dear friend, Sir Barclay Hartwhistle, told me that he was out on his front porch in Africa one day and saw a gorilla in the tree on his front lawn. He called animal control and about an hour later a man showed up with a ladder, a pit bull dog, and a shotgun.

The animal controller said to Sir Barclay, “I’m here to get the gorilla out of your tree. I’m going to use this ladder to climb up the tree and shake the branch on which the gorilla is on to knock it to the ground.  The pit bull dog is trained to go after anything that falls from the tree and bite its testicles which distracts it so I can put it in the truck.”

Sir Barclay said, “Okay, I see what the ladder and the dog are for, but what is the shotgun for?”

The animal controller said, “Oh, that’s for you. In case I fall out of the tree instead of the gorilla, shoot the dog.”


Travels in Crete 3: religious sanctuaries

YEP, BACK IN CRETE. So this is a sort of pictorial view of what we have been seeing and what may be worth a visit if you are in this ‘neck of the woods’ some day. Followers will recall my trips to Crete in previous posts (May 30, 2014 and April 11, 2015). Most of our visitations have been to Bronze Age Minoan sites but this time we decided to be different, mainly because we had already bored our companions, Lawrence and Jackie, with Minoan sites on previous visits.

First there was the 13th century (AD) church of Panagia Kera. This means the virgin (Panagia or Panayia) of Kera and is just off the main road to Kritsa (near Agios Nikolias) It’s not much to look at from the outside but it is covered almost entirely inside with some amazing 13th century frescoes. It is a domed three-aisled church dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin and dates to the early Venetian occupation.


Panagia Kera – not much to look at from the outside …….


But inside …… 13th century fresco of the Last Supper


St George slaying the dragon




The donor of the frescoes, Yeorgios Mazizanis, and his wife and child (without head)

We then headed up a very long and winding road (cue for song) off the main road just west of Gournia to the Phaneromeni Monastery. This is an austere monastic building (almost a fortress) on a rock edge with fantastic sea views. The site dates back to the Second Byzantine period (around the 12th century AD) but the actual date of the present building is unsure – but rebuilt in 1885.


Monastery of Phaneromeni


Inner courtyard of monastery


On top of the monastery with the church built into the rock face (me, with back to camera, looking into the courtyard below)


View from the monastery looking west towards Agios Nikolaos

The next trip was to another monastery, this time to the west near Sitia – the Toplou Monastery, aka the Monastery of Pangia Akrotiriani. It gets its Toplou name from the Turkish word ‘top’ meaning ‘cannonball’ as the Turks had seen a cannon there which had been provided by the Venetians for the defence of the monastery. This really was a fortress building but its date of construction is also unknown.  It may go back to the early 15th century but it appears to have been rebuilt after 1498 to defend against the Turks, particularly the Turkish pirate, Khayr ad-Din Barbarossa, aka ‘Redbeard’  (1474–1518). It was damaged by an earthquake in 1612 but repaired shortly afterwards by its Abbot, Gabriel Pantogalos, with funds from devout Christians and the Cretan historian, Andreas Cornaros. It is not entirely clear whether this was just a restoration to its pre-earthquake form or a complete rebuild from the foundations. The museum at the monastery houses some very early icons (religious paintings), books, manuscripts and engravings.


The Toplou ‘fortress’ Monastery


The courtyard inside the monastery – don’t you just love that long thin cactus on the left going up to the roof!


Entrance to inner courtyard (not so tall cactus on right) – looking through the door to the inner courtyard you can see a plaque (with 3 holes in it) on the wall of the church – this gives details of the Arbitration of Magnesia (132 BC) referring to an alliance between Itanos and Ierapetra and was found by Robert Pashley (see blog post January 31) in 1834 being used as an altar in the Venetian church of Timios Stavros across the road from Toplou


The monastery has its own windmill 


The museum containing many early icons and books – church in the background (not my photo – I took this from the internet as you are not allowed to take photos in the museum – I don’t know who took this one!)

Okay, we did go and see one Minoan site – the house at Chamaizi. This is quite unique as it is the only known Minoan building with circular walls. It dates to Middle Minoan IA (c 2100-1900 BC) and is situated on a hill with great views for a ‘look-out’ post just west of Sitia. The complex has a paved entrance to the south and the rooms are set around a small courtyard with a raised well or cistern.


Plan of Chamaizi (courtyard marked 12; well marked 12a; room with shrine marked 4)


Walls of Chamaizi

Finally, having dropped Lawrence and Jackie off at the airport at Heraklion (Iraklio) for their return to UK, Sarah and I ventured southwards through Knossos towards Archanes (Arhanes). I was determined to find the spot where General Kreipe was kidnapped by a British and Cretan force in 1944 – see blog post September 6, 2014, Ill Met by Moonlight. Well, it wasn’t difficult. In 1944 it was at a point where the Epano Archanes road meets the Knossos road (south of Knossos) and today there is a large modern roundabout at that point and a large monument on the side of the road marking the spot.

krieppe map

Map (see Stanley Moss’ map in Ill Met by Moonlight post) 


The monument marking the kidnapping spot (I’m in the pic for scale)

Oh, and very finally, as Followers will know, we cannot leave a blog post on Crete without the rising of the full moon pic from Taverna Koxilia in Mochlos:



Artemus Smith’s Notebooks

I have discovered another volume of Artemus’ notebooks (followers will recall Dr Artemus Smith was an archaeologist of great courage, determination and fiction). Here is another extract:

A crafty old colleague of mine, Jeremiah Brainstormer, had been a retired farmer for a long time, became very bored and decided to open a medical clinic.  He put a sign up outside that said: “Jeremiah’s clinic – Trouble with taste, memory or sight? Get your treatment for £50 – if not cured, get back £100.”

A young student of mine, Sebastian Littlewaller, was positive that Jeremiah didn’t know anything about medicine and thought this would be a great opportunity to get £100. So he went to Jeremiah’s clinic. This is what transpired:

Sebastian:  “Jeremiah, I have lost all taste in my mouth, can you please help me?”
Jeremiah:  “Nurse, please bring medicine from box 22 and put 3 drops in the patient’s mouth.”   This the nurse did.
Sebastian:  “Aaagh !! – that’s PETROL”
Jeremiah: “Congratulations!  You’ve got your taste back. That will be £50 please.”

Sebastian  gets annoyed and goes back after a couple of days figuring to recover his money.
Sebastian:  “I have lost my memory; I cannot remember anything.”
Jeremiah:  “Nurse, please bring medicine from box 22 and put 3 drops in the patient’s mouth.”
Sebastian   “Oh no you don’t – that’s PETROL”
Jeremiah:  “Congratulations!  You’ve got your memory back. That will be £50 please.”

Sebastian leaves angrily and comes back after several more days.
Sebastian:  “My eyesight has become weak –  I can hardly see!”
Jeremiah: “Well, I don’t have any medicine for that so here’s your £100.”   But Jeremiah only gives him £10.                                                                                                                                                                 Sebastian : “But this is only £10.”
Jeremiah:  “Congratulations!  You’ve got your vision back.  That will be £50 please.”

There’s a moral to this story. I’m not sure what it is but probably something to do with youngsters not messing with crafty old men!



FOR NINE Years, from 2000, I had the great pleasure of serving as a Wimbledon Honorary Steward during the Championships. In fact, I was following in the footsteps of my wife’s father who had been a Steward from 1980 to 1995. The Stewards (male and female) are the individuals in blue blazers and occasionally panama hats who assist in the queues and in the stands of the courts. It was great fun being one of them and they are a great bunch of people. I would arrive around 7.30 am and help give out the wrist bands for the show courts to the fans who had been queuing all night. Then I would do my duty with the queues at Gate 12 (ticket holders) and then then take up my post after lunch for the tennis on Court No 1. Not a bad way to spend a day – but it was a long day. Then my extended archaeological trips to Crete began to clash with the Championships’ dates so, sadly, I had to resign.

Some of the Stewards (I’m not among them)

So, what about Wimbledon? I’m sure some of you have been watching it avidly. It is the oldest tennis championship in the world and considered by many as the most prestigious. The All England Croquet Club in Worple Road, Wimbledon began life in 1868 and then, in 1876, lawn tennis (a game devised by Major Walter Clopton Wingfield – hence the Wingfield Restaurant in the grounds today) was added to the club activities and the name of the establishment changed to the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in 1877.  A new set of codes were drawn up replacing those set by the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC).  At first the nets were 5 ft in height. They were reduced to 4 ft in 1880, and then reduced again to today’s 3 ft 6 ins in 1882.

Wimbledon Championship 1877.jpg

Engraving of the first Wimbledon Championship at Worple Road. The clubhouse is located on the left (in the distance). Worple Road is on the left and on the right is the track of the London and Southampton Railways.

The inaugural Championships opened on 9th July 1877 and the Gentlemen’s Singles was the only event held. The tournament lasted 5 days and the final was to be played on the Monday to avoid the Eton v Harrow annual cricket match at Lords. However, that first year it was delayed even longer due to rain and eventually played on the 19th July and won by a 27 year-old, Spencer Gore, who beat a 28 year-old, William Marshall, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4. Gore was one of 22 starters who all paid a guinea (£1.1.0d) to take part. His prize was a silver cup valued at 25 guineas and presented by The Field sporting magazine [1].  About 200 spectators paid one shilling each to watch the final and the Club made a profit of £10 that day.

Spencer Gore (1850 -1906)

The courts were arranged so that the principal court was in the middle with all the others situated around it – hence ‘Centre Court’. When the club moved to its present site in Church Road, Wimbledon, in 1922, Centre Court was no longer in the centre but it retained its name. And rightly so. However, in 1980 four courts were opened up to the north of the ground and Centre Court was in the Centre again – until 1997, when No 1 Court was built. But the name wasn’t changing now.

By 1882 the club was almost exclusively tennis and so the name croquet was dropped but restored again in 1899 for sentimental reasons.  It’s  a British ‘thing’ you know.  Ladies joined the tournament in 1884 with a win by Maud Watson, and the same year saw the introduction of Gentlemen Doubles.  Ladies’ Doubles and Mixed Doubles were added in 1913.  Only amateurs were allowed to participate until 1968 with the introduction of the ‘Open Era’ (and along came the Australians, Rod Laver and John Newcombe – remember them?).


1884 Ladies Championship – Miss Watson beat Miss Watson …..

In the ‘good old early days’ the matches played by British twins, Ernest and William Renshaw, proved to be the most popular and they emerged as outstanding players. They won 13 titles (separately as well as doubles partners) between 1881 and 1889. The era was dubbed as the ‘Renshaw Rush’ (also hence the Renshaw Restaurant in the grounds today). However, the public affection for Wimbledon waned around the early 1890s. Then popularity picked up again in 1897 when the legendary Doherty brothers, Laurie and Reggie, entered the Championships and they ruled the tournament for the following decade.

Ladies at Wimbledon from 1884 – their silver ‘Rosewater Dish’ was introduced 2 years later (women’s skirts have changed a bit over the years!)

After that British success has been rather limited. The first overseas player to win the Ladies’ tournament was May Sutton from the United States of America in 1905.  In 1907, Norman Brookes from Australia was the first overseas winner of the Gentlemen’s tournament. This was the beginning of the end of British dominance.  Only Arthur Gore and Fred Perry from our UK shores were to be successful in 20th century after that. Fred Perry won it on three consecutive occasions in 1934 to 1936, and then we Brits had to wait until Andy Murray’s success in 2013. For the Ladies, only Kitty McKane Godfree, Dorothy Round, Angela Mortimer, Ann Jones and Virginia Wade managed to win the Ladies’ Wimbledon Champions. Virginia Wade was the last Brit to succeed in 1977 (the Queen’s Silver Jubilee year).

Fred Perry (1909-1995)

The tournament was first televised in 1937 and made history by being the first broadcast to be televised in colour in the UK. The rest is, as they say, history …..



[1] One report I read suggested Gore also received 25 guineas in prize money – but that seems a little excessive and I cannot clarify that. Prize money as such was not actually introduced until the advent of the Open Era in 1968 as before that time all participants were amateurs. Since then it has substantially increased over the years:

Year Men’s Singles Men’s Doubles Ladies’ Singles Ladies’ Doubles Mixed Doubles
1968 £2,000 £800 £750 £500 £450
2015 £1,880,000 £341,250 £1,880,000 £341,250 £100,800



Do you remember the famous ‘Tennis Girl’ poster from the Athena calendar in 1977 (modesty prevents me from reproducing it here)? The photo was taken by Martin Elliott of his then girlfriend, Fiona Butler, on a tennis court at Birmingham University. The dress was hand-made by Fiona’s friend, Carol Knotts (who also supplied the tennis racket). The dress and racket were auctioned at the 2014 Ladies Singles final and purchased by the Wimbledon Museum for £15,000 (estimated price was £1000-£2000!). It can be seen in the Museum in exactly the same position as seen on the poster (minus Fiona).




Did you know: 55,000 tennis balls are used during the Wimbledon Championships. There is not enough room to store them in the ball store-room under Centre Court so they are delivered in pressurized tubes in three batches over the fortnight. They have been produced by Slazenger since 1902 and were white until 1986 when they became yellow. They were originally made in Barnsley until the plant closed own in 2002. Now they are manufactured in Bataan in the Philippines. It is one of the longest unbroken sporting sponsorships in history.





Artemus Smith’s Notebooks

I have discovered another volume of Artemus’ notebooks (followers will recall Dr Artemus Smith was an archaeologist of great courage, determination and fiction). Here is another extract:

My dear friend Marmaduke Threadbeetle was a lawyer, and on his deathbed in his bedroom he called to his wife, Dorothea. 
She rushed in and said, “What is it, my Marmalade (for that was her pet name for him)?”

He told her to run and get the bible as soon as possible. Being a religious woman, she thought this was a good idea. She ran and got it, prepared to read him his favourite verse or something of the sort.

He snatched it from her and began quickly scanning pages, his eyes darting right and left.
Dorothea was curious, so she asked, “What are you doing, my Marmalade?”

“I’m looking for loopholes!” he shouted.



 I AM WELL AWARE that opera is not everyone’s bag but it can be quite fun and you should have a go before knocking it.  It’s just  a case of picking the right opera first time around or you could go badly wrong and be put off for ever!  Opera at Glyndebourne is usually always fun particularly because it has a lengthy interval where one picnics in the gardens. Don’t get me wrong – that’s not necessarily the best part of the opera (honest) – although when you pick the wrong one it certainly is.  Before I became a member of Glyndebourne (after 20 years on the waiting list!) tickets were (and still can be for non-members) difficult to obtain and I’d apply for anything.  This did not always end with a good result ……

Spike Hughes, in his 1965 book, Glyndebourne, starts off by observing, “All Opera Houses are unique, but – as anyone who comes into contact with them soon discovers – some are more unique than others. It is clear from the very first, however, that Glyndebourne was the most unique of all.”  This is very true – and it still is the most unique of all.  So how did it all begin?

Audrey and John Christie – founders of Glyndebourne Opera

The actual house at Glyndebourne in East Sussex is a delight. It dates back to the 15th century but not much, if any, of that is now visible today. Glynde Bourne (as it was in the early days) was part of the manor of Glynde until the 16th century when it was supposedly given as a dowry to Mary Morley on her marriage, in 1589, to John Hay of Herstmonceux (remember that place? – see March 14 post) – although a record of this  has not been found. However, it seemed to have been purchased by Herbert Hay in 1616. It remained in the Hay family-name until 1804 with the death of the last remaining Hay, a spinster, Frances Hay, whereafter it was inherited by a 74 year-old cousin, Canon Francis Tutté (appropriate surname bearing in mind what was to become of the house!). Francis Tutté’s mother was Barbary Hay who had married William Tutté (a barrister).  Francis died in 1824 and the house passed to James Hay Langham (a descendant of Sarah Hay who had married John Langham in 1650).  Get it so far?

Front of Glyndebourne house today (opera theatre behind to the left)

James relinquished the property on succeeding to his father’s baronetcy and moved to the family seat in Northamptonshire (although there was some question of his lunacy, but we won’t go there) and Glyndebourne house went to Langham Christie in accordance with the will of the last Hay sisters, Henrietta and Frances (the latter referred to above).  It was Langham Christie’s son, William, who, after inheriting the property in 1861, made substantial alterations to it in 1870 – he built a brick extension hiding the house’s 17th century flint facade, with additional ornate stone-work and balustrading.  In 1876, decorative brickwork was added to give it the Jacobean appearance as can be seen today (pic above and below).

Rear of Glyndebourne house, with ‘new’ opera theatre (to the right…. obviously)

William also built an Eton fives court with a rough brick floor making it impossible to play on (no comment!).  His grandson, John Christie, said that he (William) had appalling taste (harsh!).  It was John who inherited the house after the death of his grandfather in 1920. And it was John who turned it into an Opera venue. He was an Eton boy and, being fond of music, he held regular amateur opera evenings in the newly built organ room. This 80 ft (24 m) room practically doubled the length of the south facade of the building (the right side of the house in the pic above) and housed one of the largest organs outside a cathedral. This organ was constructed by Hill, Norman & Beard Ltd and purchased by John in 1923. Only the case and console remain in the room today as John donated the soundboard and pipes to the rebuilt Guards Chapel, Wellington, which had been destroyed in the blitz.

The Organ Room and non-working organ

It was at one of these opera evenings that John meet his wife-to-be, the Sussex-born Canadian soprano, Audrey Mildmay, who sang with the Carla Rosa Opera.  They were married in 1931 and on their honeymoon they attended the Salzburg and Bayreuth festivals which gave them the idea of bringing professional opera to Glyndebourne. The rest is, as they say, history. Well, sort of ……

Picnicking during the long interval at Glyndebourne

The first performance was in a newly-built 300-seater theatre on the 28th May 1934 and it was Mozart’s le nozze di Figaro followed by his Cosi fan tutte (non-opera readers will now get my reference to Canon Francis Tutté above). This theatre was then enlarged two years later to hold 433 seats; then by 1960, nearly 600 seats; and by 1977, it seated 800.  In 1952 the Glyndebourne Festival Society was formed to manage the opera and was opened up to members (as it is now …. well, the waiting list anyway).

The first opera theatre

John died in 1962 and the house and opera were taken over by his son, George (later, in 1984, Sir George) who continued improving the opera theatre until 1994 when the lavish new theatre was constructed, seating around 1200 people. Sir George retired in 1999 and sadly died last year in May (2014). His son, Gus, took over the opera festival on his father’s retirement (and the house two years after that – they swapped houses) .

The new theatre

Last week was the 50th birthday of my friend, Tracey, and we celebrated it, inter alia, with a visit to Glyndebourne which was performing Bizet’s Carmen which is always good value and rousing fun (well, provided you ignore the plot!).  On that day, it rained most the morning and early afternoon, and it rained all the time during the drive over, but when we arrived the sun came out and stayed out so we were able to picnic in the gardens (whilst the majority who had arrived earlier, when it was raining, had crammed into the covered terraces around the theatre – ha!).


Glyndebourne gardens – Tracey, Simon and myself (above) enjoying the long interval for Bizet’s Carmen (below)

Artemus Smith’s Notebooks

I have discovered another volume of Artemus’ notebooks (followers will recall Dr Artemus Smith was an archaeologist of great courage, determination and fiction). Here is another extract:

My nephew, Titus, and his wife, Cordelia, visited the USA and were driving through Louisiana. As they approached Natchitoches, they started arguing about the pronunciation of the town. They argued back and forth, then they stopped for lunch at one of those new fast-food restaurants. At the counter, my nephew asked the young waitress, “Before we order, could you please settle an argument for us?  Would you please pronounce where we are very slowly?” She leaned over the counter and said slowly, “Burrr-gerrr Kiiing.”



George Jeffreys: The Hanging Judge

LAST WEEK I made mention in a footnote of George Jeffreys, 1st Baron Jeffreys of Wem, otherwise known as ‘The Hanging Judge’. Well, I thought I would elaborate. Was the ‘hanging judge’ a fair description of the fellow? And who was he?

His grandfather was John Jeffreys who had been Chief Justice of the Anglesey circuit of the Great Sessions, and his father, also John Jeffreys, served as High Sheriff of Denighshire.  His brother, Thomas, was the English Consul in Spain, and his other brother, William, became Vice-Dean of Canterbury. So authority and ambition was certainly in the family. George went to Trinity College, Cambridge, but only lasted a year, leaving without a degree. He entered Inner Temple (remember ‘My Cousin Ralph’, a couple of posts ago?) in 1663 and began his legal career in 1668.

George Jeffreys (1645-89)

In 1671 he was appointed Common Serjeant-at-Law of London (what?) [1]. Trust me , pretty fast promotion. He was knighted in 1677 and became Recorder of London [see fn 1, if you haven’t already] the following year.  By 1680 he had become Chief Justice of Chester and Counsel for the Crown at Ludlow and Justice of the Peace for Flintshire. Charles II created him a baronet in 1681, and by 1683 he was Chief Justice of the King’s Bench and a member of the Privy Council.  He was a busy boy (I would say he didn’t ‘hang around’ but that’s an awful pun bearing in mind his nickname … so I won’t say it).

It was when Jeffreys became Lord Chief Justice from 1683 that his conduct began to cause some unease. He presided over the trial of one Algernon Sydney who had been charged with conspiracy to assassinate King Charles II under the Rye House Plot. To establish treason two witnesses were required but the prosecution only had one. However, this didn’t seem to bother Jeffreys much and he ruled that Sydney’s own  writings on republicanism were a sufficient ‘second witness’.  Sydney was found guilty and executed. Good old 17th century justice.

Jeffreys as Lord Chancellor, 1685

By 1685 he had been appointed Lord Chancellor and this is when he picked up the ‘Hanging Judge’ tag. But really due to no fault of his own. He was also made a peer, Baron Jeffreys of Wem (Wem is near Shrewsbury in Shropshire … but you knew that).  In Autumn of 1685, in Taunton, he presided over the trials of the rebels of the Monmouth Rebellion (a West Country plot to overthrow James II – Charles II had died in February of that year). Of the 1381 defendants, it has been suggested that some 700 were found guilty and sentenced to death. In fact, it appears that the more likely figure is between 160 and 170. Regardless, Jeffreys sentenced them all to hang and this event became known as The Bloody Assizes.

Baron Jeffreys of Wem

Why ‘The Hanging Judge’ tag is a little unfair is because Jeffreys had no choice but to sentence them to hang as that was the law at the time for punishment for treason. If anything, the tag should be aimed at (I was going to say ‘hung on’, but …..) the king, James II. He had the Royal Prerogative to reprieve the sentences (which was not unusual) but he chose not to use it on this occasion.

Jeffreys was a very able lawyer but he did have a bit of a reputation as a bad tempered vindictive individual who was often a little worse for wear in court due to drink. He had a painful kidney disease which his doctor suggested he take alcohol to dull the pain (my kind of doctor!) and this may account for his behaviour.

I mentioned the Glorious Revolution in the Outlander post (last month). This is where Parliament passed legislation to prevent a Roman Catholic ruling as king of England and so deposing James II. Well, this took place in 1688 and was not good for Jeffreys, being a ‘James II man’. He tried to escape but was captured disguised as a sailor outside the ‘Town of Ramsgate’ public house in Wapping in London. He was sent to the Tower of London and died of his kidney disease the following year.

So, George Jeffreys, ‘The Hanging Judge’ – fair or what?    You judge …….



[1] The Common Serjeant-at-Law of London is one of the High Officers of the City of London (established in 1291 – the title not London). He is the second most senior permanent judge of the Central Criminal Court after the Recorder of London, acting as deputy to that office, and sitting as a judge in the trial of criminal offences. The 81st incumbent is His Honour Judge Richard Marks, QC, who was appointed on 3rd March 2015.


Artemus Smith’s Notebooks

I have discovered another volume of Artemus’ notebooks (followers will recall Dr Artemus Smith was an archaeologist of great courage, determination and fiction). Here is another extract:

One of my students was telling me that neither he nor his parents had ever left their small village until last year.  They had saved money to travel to Oxford for the son’s interview. It was their very first time in a city. They visited a shopping mall and while the mother was shopping, the father and son were standing in awe in front of a lift (or elevator as some call it), having no idea what it was.

As they watched, an elderly lady walked into the strange silver doors and the doors closed. The father and son watched as the numbers went up, and then back down. When the doors opened a beautiful young woman walked out.

My student said that his father leaned over and whispered to the him, “Son, go get your mother!”



The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean: Hollywood fact or fiction?

LET’S GO BACK to the Wild West (remember Wild Bill Hickok, Buffalo Bill of previous posts?) and meet Judge Roy Bean. The 1972 film starring Paul Newman in the lead and Ava Gardner as Lillie Langtry, is, shall we say, very loosely based on the facts and leave it at that.


So, who was Judge Roy Bean? What of his past? Well, he was born in 1825 in Mason County, Kentucky. At the age of 16 he was obliged to flee to San Antonio in Texas (those of you who read my post on The Alamo last august will recognise that name) and joined his brother, Sam, hauling freight. By 1848, he and Sam had set up a trading post in Chihuahua in New Mexico, but Roy was forced to flee again after shooting and killing a Mexican desperado. He ended up with another brother, Joshua, who had been elected mayor of San Diego in California in 1850.


Judge Roy Bean

All was well until he had a disagreement with a Scotsman named Collins in 1852. The latter challenged Bean to a pistol-shooting match on horseback and gave Bean the option of targets. Bean chose to shoot at each other. Well, why not! Bean won the contest by wounding Collins in the arm but was arrested for assault with intent to murder. Bean escaped incarceration in April and ended up in San Gabriel, still in California, as a bartender in a saloon owned by brother Joshua. In November, Joshua was murdered and Roy inherited the saloon.

In 1854, Bean’s girlfriend was kidnapped and forcibly married to a Mexican officer. Bean tracked him down and challenged him to a duel and killed him. The officer’s colleagues captured Bean and left him on his horse with  a noose around his neck. The horse failed to bolt and Bean’s ‘no longer-kidnapped’ girlfriend cut him free. He was left with a permanent rope burn on his neck and a permanent stiff neck – think himself lucky!


Bean had had enough of California – not proving so lucky – and headed to New Mexico and brother Sam again who had been appointed the first sheriff of Dona Ana County. By 1861 they both ran a store and saloon in Pinos Altos. However, they were then interrupted by the Civil War. Roy joined the Confederates and ran a blockade by hauling cotton from San Antonio to British ships off the coast at Matamoros, then returning with supplies. After the war he remained in San Antonio for the next 20 years working as a teamster in haulage. He combined this work with other activities not entirely legal or successful (he tried a dairy business but watered down the milk; he tried a butchers’ business by rustling stock – you get the idea). By the late 1870s he was running a saloon in Beanville (don’t ask) but this wasn’t to last – he was paid to leave (well, bought out for $900) by a disgruntled store-owner who did not approve of his unscrupulous activities.

Come 1882 he had purchased a tent by the Pecos River (still New Mexico) and set up a saloon for the railroaders. He called the bar the Vinegaroon. This was untamed territory and the nearest court was at Fort Stockton, some 200 miles (320km) away.  Then, in August 1882, he was approached by a Texas Ranger to set up a courthouse and introduce some law and order. This ominous task he accepted and he was ‘appointed’ (perhaps better described as self-appointed) justice of the peace for the new Precinct 6 in Pecos County, and, along with his one and only law book, the 1879 edition of the Revised Statutes of Texas [1], he did, indeed, deal out justice – of a kind – and called himself ‘The Law West of the Pecos’.

Judge Bean with beard behind bicycle front wheel 

I always thought he had a bit of a reputation as a hanging judge [2]. In fact this was not so at all. It appears that he only ever sentenced two men to hanging and one of them escaped. The death penalty was standard for horse thieves but Bean let them go provided they returned the horse [3]. Anyway, trials were always good for business as he insisted all jurors (chosen from his best customers) bought drinks during a court recess.

On a legal technicality note, a saloon-owner competitor of Bean’s sold land at Langtry (as it was to be called) to the railway with a contractual term that no land was to be sold or leased to Bean. Bean got around this by setting up his saloon tent (he called the Jersey Lilly after Lillie Langtry) on a railway right-of-way not covered by the contract, and here he squatted for the next two decades. This legal loop-hole was not of his own discovery but by an Irishman, Paddy O’Rourke, who was repaying Bean for freeing him after he had murdered a migrant worker.

Jersey Lilly Saloon, Judge Roy Bean holding court in 1900. Bean is in the centre of the photograph, wearing hat, sitting on a barrel and holding open his law book. 

There was no jail in Langtry so Bean only ever fined culprits, the money he kept for himself. He calculated some amounts of fines based on how much the defendant had in his pocket at the time. His court did not have the power to grant divorces but this minor detail did not stop Bean. He would charge $10 for a divorce and again pocket the’ fee’, along with $5 for weddings. I wonder if he ever offered a package deal?

The saloon is still there today!

Bean won re-election to his post in 1884, but was defeated in 1886. The following year, the commissioner’s court created a new precinct in the county and appointed Bean to be the new justice of the peace. He continued to be elected until 1896. Even after that defeat, he refused to surrender his seal and law book and continued to try all cases that suited him in his own ‘precinct’. It’s not quite clear what the justice who was elected was doing.

In March 1903, after a bout of heavy drinking in San Antonio, he died peacefully in his bed, aged 77-78. Could have been worse …..



[1] When newer law books showed up, Bean used them as kindling.

[2] The real so-called ‘hanging judge’ was a Welshman called George Jeffreys, 1st Baron Jeffreys of Wem (1645-89).

[3] Reminds me of the Artemus Smith extract from 28th July 2014 post (following ‘House of the Virgin Mary)!


Artemus Smith’s Notebooks

I have discovered another volume of Artemus’ notebooks (followers will recall Dr Artemus Smith was an archaeologist of great courage, determination and fiction). Here is another extract:

I encountered my good friend, Professor Rolande Circumspeque, in the Senior Common Room the other day in fits of laughter. I enquired as to the reason for such mirth and he showed me an article in The Monthly Planet, an aerospace journal he was perusing. It read:

‘When NASA first started sending up astronauts, they quickly discovered that ball-point pens would not work in zero gravity.
To combat this problem, NASA scientists spent a decade and $12 million developing a pen that writes in zero gravity, upside down, underwater, on almost any surface including glass and at temperatures ranging from below freezing to over 300° C.’

“Interesting,” I commented, “but why do you find that so amusing.”

He replied, “The Russians use a pencil.” 




My Cousin Ralph

IN AN EARLIER POST (December 24) I talked about my Inn of Court, Middle Temple. Well, a distant cousin on my father’s side, one Judge Ralph Reynolds Garlick, was a member of Inner Temple. So let’s say something about Inner Temple – it has a fine Hall which, although originally dated back to the Middle Ages, had been demolished in 1868, just before the birth of Cousin Ralph. It was rebuilt only to be destroyed by bombing in the last war (as was Middle Temple) and then rebuilt again to an impressive standard in 1952.

Inner Temple Hall today

Anyway, let me tell you about Cousin Ralph. He was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1876 and was educated at the King Edward VI School and went on to study a BA at Pembroke College, Oxford. He was admitted as a student to the Inner Temple on the 7th April 1910 at the age of 34 (a late starter like me – nothing wrong with that). So he would have witnessed Inner Temple Hall as the 1868 rebuild. Having qualified as a barrister, he went forth to India in 1900 and served in Bengal as assistant magistrate. Five years later he was transferred to Eastern Bengal and Assam, but returned to Bengal in 1912 and, a year later, became a district and session judge. In 1928 he held an appointment as an officiating judge of the Calcutta High Court.

The medieval Inner Temple Hall – being taken down here in 1868 and replaced by a larger Gothic Hall which was later destroyed by enemy action in 1941

In December 1930 in Calcutta, a Bengali rebel, Dinesh Gupta, murdered Lieut-Colonel Simpson, the British Inspector General of Prisons (admittedly infamous for the brutal oppression on the prisoners in his jails). Gupta was captured after trying to shoot himself and, in February the following year, Cousin Ralph was a member of the tribunal that sentenced Gupta to death by hanging.

Dinesh Gupta 1.jpg

Dinesh Chandra Gupta (1911-1931)

Sometime in mid-July 1931, Cousin Ralph received a letter threatening his life. As a result two police sergeants and several detectives were stationed in his courtroom. Ralph was undeterred by such threats and resolved to carry on his work regardless.


Cousin Ralph in Stratford-upon-Avon before moving to India

On the 27th July, in Alipore, Calcutta, Judge Ralph returned to his courtroom after lunch to resume an earlier case. As he did so, Bimal Das Gupta (a Bengali architect) drew a revolver and fired at the judge from the far end of the court. The shot missed its mark but Gupta rushed up the court to the witness-box and fired again killing Cousin Ralph instantly with a bullet to the head.

The trial room, Alipore Sessions Court

According to the newspaper reports the police opened fire and the assassin was killed on the spot, although one policeman was injured. Bimal Das Gupta was a ‘wanted’ man following the murder of a somewhat unpleasant Mr James Peddie, district magistrate at Midanpore, in April.  A letter found in Gupta’s pocket stated that the murder was intended as a reprisal for the sentencing to death by Mr Ralph Garlick of Dinesh Gupta (Dinesh was Bimal’s mentor). The letter simply read, “Thou shalt be destroyed. This is the reward for the injustice done to Dinesh Gupta” and was signed by Bimal.

A short time before Cousin Ralph had decided to apply for leave preparatory to retirement and would have been coming home in the not too distant future.

The Court House at Calcutta (Illustrated London News)

William Wedgwood Benn, 1st Viscount of Stansgate, Secretary of State for India, (and father of Tony Benn – remember him?), read a telegram in the House of Commons announcing the murder: “Regret to have to report that Judge Garlick, Session Judge, Alipore, was shot dead to-day in court by assassin at present unknown, who was himself killed by guard.”  Benn added, “The House, will, I am sure, desire to express its sincere sympathy with the relatives of this officer.”

William Wedgewood-Benn.jpg

William Wedgwood Benn, Secretary of State for India, 1929-31

Interesting the telegram said ‘assassin at present unknown’.  As late as 18th September 1931, The Straits Times (‘India, Burma and Ceylon Week by Week’) ran an advertisement saying:    “MR GARLICK’S MURDERER   Rs. 500 for identification of photograph.     A reward of Rs. 500 is offered for the identification of the photograph of the murderer of Mr R. R. Garlick, late District and Sessions Judge of 24 Pergannas.  The amount originally announced was Rs. 150, but it has now been increased to Rs. 500.”

Bearing in mind the authorities were already looking for Bimal Das Gupta for the suspected murder of Peddie and found the aforementioned note referring to revenge for the death of Dinesh Gupta in Cousin Ralph’s assassin’s pocket, it all rather pointed to Bimal. And the newspaper reports clearly blamed him at the time. However, Bimal’s father denied that the body of the assassin was his son’s – hence the offer of the reward.

In fact, in a 2012 report, The Revolutionaries, by Rhituparna Basu, it appears that Bimal Das Gupta (Dasgupta) volunteered to assassinate the head of the European Association at the Writers’ Building (an anti-Indian independence organisation). Bimal only wounded his target and was arrested and tried for the murder of Peddie. Although no witnesses came forward he was still found guilty but spared the death penalty and sentenced to life-imprisonment on the notorious Andaman Islands penal colony. The report does not mention the date of the incarceration but goes on to say that Bimal was set free in 1939 when political events led to a release of political prisoners.

So, who shot Cousin Ralph?

Well, according to Manoshi Bhattacharya (in her books, Chittagong: Summer of 1930, published 2012; and sequel Eye of the Tiger: Chittagong, published 2014) it was Kanai Bhattacharya who pretended to be Bimal Das Gupta (Dasgupta) and killed Ralph Garlick.  Also she says the assassin was not shot by the police but died by taking a cyanide pill before he was overpowered. I’m not entirely sure what Kanai hoped to achieve by this deception. But that’s politics – or something.

Although I followed Cousin Ralph’s footsteps to Oxford and to the Bar as a barrister, I’m not planning to follow them any further by becoming a judge (no point in pushing my luck ….)


Artemus Smith’s Notebooks

I have discovered another volume of Artemus’ notebooks (followers will recall Dr Artemus Smith was an archaeologist of great courage, determination and fiction). Here is an extract:

I had advertised for a new undergraduate researcher in archaeology for my College. I was reaching the end of the interview with one young hopeful, fresh out of university, when I asked him, “And what starting salary are you looking for?” He replied, “In the region of £60,000 a year, depending on the benefits package.”

I replied, “Well, what would you say to a package of ten weeks paid vacation, full medical and dental care, company matching retirement fund to 50% of salary, and a company car leased every two years, say, a Porsche Boxster?”

The young lad sat up straight and said, “Wow! Are you kidding?”

I responded, “Yep, but you started it.”


200 years of Oxford rowing

IT IS BELIEVED that recreational rowing at Oxford began around the 1760s but the first Summer Eights (eight rowers, one cox) Head of the River race took place between my College, Brasenose (see December 20 post) and Jesus College in 1815, exactly 200 years ago, a few months before the Battle of Waterloo. Brasenose won to become the very first ‘Head of the River’. To commemorate the anniversary of this achievement there was a ‘re-enactment’ of the event at Oxford this weekend (Saturday 30th May). I say ‘re-enactment’ – it was not intended to be an exact re-enactment as Jesus (College that is) had every intention of winning this time around. Well, they didn’t. In fact they rather lost it right in front of their own boathouse (‘caught a crab’). So Brasenose were victors again but it was all in good fun.

bnc race

Brasenose crew (foreground) on their way to victory; Jesus (background) about to ‘catch a crab’ in front of their own boathouse

At the end of this post you can click on a link for a video of a brief part of the race

The crews dressed in true 1815 style and used wooden boats of that era. Back in the 19th century the ‘bumps’ (see below) races began within Iffley Lock and ended at a finishing line marked by a flagpole on Mr Isaac King’s barge off Christ Church Meadow (not far from the current finishing line).


Before the race: the crews dressed in 1815 style kit (Brasenose, left, discarded their black and gold stripey jumpers for the race –  as can be seen in photo above)

There had been previous races but they had been between professional watermen (such as Ranelagh Regatta of 1775) but the 1815 race was the first recorded between two boat clubs. So Brasenose College and Jesus College Boat Clubs are the oldest known competitive amateur rowing clubs in the world. The two Colleges raced again the following year in 1816 and again Brasenose won. In 1817 they were joined by Christ Church who won three years running. There is no record of the race in 1820 but in 1821 there was no Christ Church boat and it was just Brasenose and Jesus again with another victory for Brasenose. In 1822 Brasenose were bumped by Jesus but the Brasenose crew continued rowing and attempted to haul down the Jesus flag. Bit unsporting – but there were no definite rules then! A rematch took place and Brasenose won. Christ Church returned in 1824, along with Exeter College, and the tradition of Eights was established and as the years went on more Colleges became involved. (My thanks to William O’Chee and Christopher Seward for this info).


‘The earliest-known scene of a race between two eight-oared boats at Oxford University. It has been suggested that the picture shows the “disputed bump” of the 1822 race between Jesus College and Brasenose College’

Now obviously the River Thames that flows through Oxford is far too narrow for boats to actually race side-by-side (around 30-40 m in width), so in 1826 bumping rules were devised. This means that each boat starts 130 feet in front of another and the idea is for the one behind to catch the one in front and ‘bump’ it. When this happens the two boats swap places for the next race (next day) and boats can work their way up the order over a week (which is why it’s called ‘Eights Week’). The one at the head at the end of the week is ‘Head of the River’.

Postcard dated 1915 – 100 years ago and 100 after Brasenose v Jesus

Initially all racing stopped behind the first boat to be bumped and only the boats ahead carried on to try and achieve their own bump. After 1840 a new system of bumping was introduced: when a boat was bumped it had to pull over to the river bank so boats still racing behind could continue. During the 1870s, the 20 or so Colleges competing were divided into two divisions. In 1908 Colleges were able to submit second crews of eight. Now all 39 Colleges are involved with three or four teams and there are seven men’s divisions and six women’s divisions. This, of course, makes it more difficult to become Head of the River. Brasenose last managed this in the 1930s and now it is presently in Division II. I was told on Saturday that it will be at least 16 years before it could contest for the Head of the River again based on the bumping rules. However, in case you didn’t read my December post on Brasenose, I would mention that since the races began in 1815, Brasenose runs 3rd with 23 victories as the ‘Head of the River’ (Oriel is 2nd with 30, Christ Church is 1st with 33).

Rowing in Oxford – early days

Women’s rowing had existed at the University since the 1920s (and some women were allowed to join the men’s crews) but there were no solely women’s crews until 1969 when St Hilda’s College entered with an all women crew. Then, after all-male Colleges began admitting women in the mid-1970s, a women’s division was introduced in 1976. Women have been coxing men’s crews for many years (and vice-versa).

ox boathses

Some of the College boathouses (Brasenose to the left with the white & yellow flag hanging from the balcony)

So there you have it. I’m sure you were aching to know all about Oxford rowing races. I did try it once but they didn’t ask me again (okay, I was a little older than the average student).

bnc grdn prty

 30th May 2015: The Brasenose and Jesus Garden Party opposite the river to commemorate the race 200 years before

 Click here for a brief part of the race – just as Jesus ‘catch a crab’



Don’t you just love Oxford – well, Sarah and I do …….


Artemus Smith’s Notebooks

I have discovered another volume of Artemus’ notebooks (followers will recall Dr Artemus Smith was an archaeologist of great courage, determination and fiction). Here is an extract:

The wife of one of my colleagues is an maths teacher to 11-12 year olds.  She had asked her class a mathematical question:

“A wealthy man dies and leaves ten million pounds. One-fifth is to go to his wife, one-fifth is to go to his son, one-sixth to his butler, and the rest to charity. Now, what does each get?”

After a very long silence in the classroom, young Morris raised his hand.

My colleague’s wife called on young Morris for his answer.

With complete sincerity in his voice, young Morris answered, “A lawyer”