The Poppy as a Symbol of Remembrance.
Bill King, military historian and member of the British legion, came to talk to Painswick Probus on 1 Nov 2017 about how the poppy was adopted as the symbol of remembrance of those that fell in WW1 and subsequent conflicts.
The churning of the land by artillery shells had eliminated nearly all the flora around the front lines but a poppy seed can lay dormant in the ground for years waiting to germinate when the land is disturbed. The disturbance resulted in an abundance of the flower near the front lines and the burial sites. One evening a Canadian medic, John McCrae, serving with the Royal Army Medical Core and having just buried a close friend, sat down and penned the poem we know as “In Flanders Fields”. However it was not until 1918, when a lady called Moina Michael came across the poem, that the idea of the poppy as a symbol of remembrance was devised. Moina worked in the New York YMCA through which many US servicemen passed and one day she came across McCrae’s poem in a magazine. The poem was published under an alternative title of “We Shall Not Sleep” and Moina was particularly affected by the last verse:
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
At that moment Moina made a personal pledge to “keep the faith” and she took her pen and immediately composed the poem “We Shall Keep the Faith”. Noting the poppies in the illustration accompanying John McCrae’s poem she vowed always to wear a red poppy of Flanders Fields as a sign of remembrance. Moina worked at getting a number of American institutions to adopt the poppy as a symbol of remembrance with some success but it was a French lady, Anna Geurin, a representative of the French YMCA, who hit on the idea of making artificial poppies for sale to fund help for French people suffering from the effects of war.
Anna worked to introduce the idea of the memorial poppy throughout the allied nations and in 1921 French ladies came to London to sell their poppies and Anna herself went to meet Earl Haig, founder of the British Legion. She persuaded him to adopt the poppy as its emblem and the first British Poppy Day Appeal was launched that year and has continued to this day.
So what we may think of as a particularly British institution was initiated by a Canadian medic’s poem and implemented by an American lady and a French lady.
History of Policing
Dr. Tim Brain, Chief Constable of Gloucestershire from 2001 to 2010, returned on 18 Oct 2017 to Painswick Probus to give another excellent talk, this time on the history of policing in Britain. With the audience expecting the history to start with Robert Peel, Dr. Brain explained that this may have been the start of the police force as we know it today but it was a long way short of when policing began.
Going back almost to Roman times the majority of people in England lived in small village communities. These villages, or tithings, would consist of maybe up to 10 families, grouped together and subsistence farming the surrounding land. Issues of law and order were the tithing’s responsibility, overseen by a tithing leader or ‘tithing-man’.
With the formation of kingdoms such as Mercia and Wessex, the kings saw a need to maintain law and order and it was Alfred the Great, king of Wessex, who started to codify the rules established in the tithings. With the expansion of the population and creation of towns there was a greater need to maintain law and order and this was seen as the duty of ‘worthy men’. These were men with some property and hence an interest in maintaining local order. As time went by and the task became more onerous, the worthy men would recruit paid help, eventually in the form of constable watchmen. These men would patrol the streets at night equipped with a lamp, a staff and a bell and every hour would cry out ‘all is well’ to assure their colleagues patrolling neighbouring streets.
In the 18th century there was rapid change; as the population doubled towns expanded. With the end of the Napoleonic wars soldiers were laid off and, being without employment, they would turn to stealing with a resultant crime-wave and public outcry. This led to the emergence of ‘thief-takers’ – individuals who, using bands of informers, would track down culprits and claim a reward for their arrest. Unfortunately many of the thief-takers were setting up the crimes in order to claim the rewards.
Particularly within London there was a need for a more coordinated system which would eliminate this corruption. In response it was magistrates Henry and John Fielding who, in 1749, set up the Bow Street Runners who are considered to be the first professional police force. By the early 18oo’s there were numerous similar forces in London but there was a need for a more unified force and this was when Robert Peel, then Home Secretary, set up the Metropolitan Police Force in 1829. This became the model for other forces established throughout the counties and towns over the following years and formed the basis of the system we have today.
Dr. Brain then outlined how the police force has developed into what we have today, taking account of the many technological and social changes, but still retaining the devolved nature of the current 43 forces. An interesting question session followed. A fascinating talk by a highly accomplished speaker.
Outing to The Royal Mint, LLantrisant
On 4 Oct 2017 26 members including some guests joined a coach trip to The Royal Mint at Llantrisant, where the history of coin design and production was presented through “The Royal Mint Experience” – a combination of a guided tour, films, demonstrations and an exhibition. Several visitors struck their own brilliant, uncirculated, one pound coins which were preserved in transparent packaging immediately. Morning coffee on arrival and an excellent finger buffet rounded off the visit in appropriate style.
Top tip for visit organisers: if a disabled coach passenger has a blue badge the coach may use the Severn Bridge toll-free (normally £20)! The toll is due to cease by 31 Dec 2018.
Jan Ryder, Community Events Manager of Longfield, was invited to Probus on 20 Sep 2017 to talk about the work of the hospice and how this fits into the care network for Gloucestershire.
The hospice was established around 30 years ago but in 2012 it decided on a name change from Cotswold Care to Longfield, the name of the house in which it is based. It was felt that the original name gave a misleading image of the service provided. Longfield’s aim is to support adults with a life-limiting illness from diagnosis onwards, helping them to understand their illness and to cope better with its impact on their lives; however it is not residential and provides no bedded care in-house. The care is aimed to complement that provided by the other Gloucestershire hospices, Sue Ryder in Leckhampton and Great Oaks Forest of Dean, and in conjunction with them it will provide nursing care in the home for patients in their last 3 months of life.
Patients can apply to attend for daycare at Longfield after diagnosis without referral from a healthcare professional, referral is only required for the home nursing service. If a patient is accepted they will usually attend one day a week for 12 weeks by which time they will hopefully have been given the tools to help them cope with the emotional and psychological impact of their illness. Services provided include complementary therapies such as massage, Reiki and reflexology, and creative therapies such as painting, pottery and counselling. In the event of a patient’s death bereavement counselling is available to the family.
All services are free and are 85% paid for by funding from the public and sales in the 17 charity shops with the remaining 15% from the NHS to support the home nursing service. There are a number of paid employees, mainly part time, but an army of around 500 volunteers provide 50,000 hours of unpaid labour without which the hospice could not survive.
The hospice currently handles around 1200 patients per annum but with an increasing ageing population this is sure to rise in the future.
On Wednesday 6 Sep 2017 Mike Rendell made a return visit to Painswick Probus, this time to talk about entertainment in the Georgian period. Mike is a keen student of the period and has written several books on different aspects of life at that time. This interest is fuelled by a large archive of diaries, letters and other documents inherited from his great, great, great, great grandfather Richard Hill. Richard was a relatively wealthy hosier who lived at 1 London Bridge at the end of the 16th century and was in a prime position to observe London life which he recorded in detail in his diaries. Mike used this archive extensively in illustrating his talk on the development of all forms of entertainment during the Georgian period.
Many forms of theatre had been banned by the puritans and only two theatres, Drury Lane and Covent Garden, were licensed to present ‘spoken drama’ and therefore other theatres were having to be inventive with the forms of entertainment they presented. Orchestral music had been confined mainly to private recitals and it was at this time that Handel was starting to make music available to a wider audience with his public concerts. Circuses, which consisted of displays of horsemanship, together with acrobats and jugglers but no wild animals, became extremely popular as they were one of the few forms of family entertainment.
It was a time when many of the sports and games we know today were being developed and the rules established. Mike showed illustrations of the early forms of sports such as skating, ice hockey, cricket, football, rugby, badminton, squash, billiards and skittles.
Gambling was responsible for the popularity of many sports such as horse racing and boxing and also some less savoury pastimes such as bear baiting and cock fighting. Fortunately the latter were banned by the Cruelty to Animals Act of 1835.
It was a time of development of pastimes and hobbies. Compact pianos allowed people to learn and play at home, card games and board games were being invented and the range of children’s toys was expanding. One of Mike’s illustrations showed the Prince of Wales playing with a popular toy known as a bandelure and reputedly Napoleon was also a fan. We know it better today as the yo-yo.
Altogether a well presented talk by an knowledgeable and enthusiastic speaker with access to a unique archive of the period.
Robert Dudley, Queen Elizabeth and the Kenilworth Entertainment of 1575
Gill White made a welcome return to Painswick Probus on 5 July 2017 to speak this time about “Robert Dudley, Queen Elizabeth and the Kenilworth Entertainment of 1575”.
It is not certain when Robert Dudley and Queen Elizabeth first met, but it was probably at court during childhood. They had one distinction in common: both had had a parent executed for treason. At her coronation in 1559, Robert Dudley was Elizabeth’s Master of Horse, which meant that he rode at the head of the procession following the queen. Rumours were spread by foreign ambassadors that the pair were lovers, a potential relationship that caused much concern, particularly as Robert Dudley was already married. When his wife died in mysterious circumstances in 1560 (a verdict of “Death by Misadventure” was recorded by the coroner), Robert Dudley became very unpopular. (The coroner’s report was lost for centuries and was found only in the last decade or so; it had been “misfiled”). Circumstances changed after Queen Elizabeth’s recovery from a near fatal smallpox infection in 1562 at which point she was told she could choose her own husband. She made Dudley Earl of Leicester, gave him Kenilworth Castle but kept him hanging. The Kenilworth entertainment was a 3 week extravaganza designed by Robert Dudley as a final attempt to persuade Queen Elizabeth to marry him. The speaker gave details of the elaborate festivities and the preparations for them, which included extensive castle modifications and building. As we know, Dudley was unsuccessful in his aim. He went on to marry one of the queen’s cousins and he died in 1588. Queen Elizabeth went into mourning and kept his last letter to her until her death in 1603.
Gloucester Cathedral – Inside and Out
On 7 Jun 2017 the Club was privileged to welcome The Very Reverend Stephen Lake, Dean of Gloucester Cathedral. The Dean is primarily responsible for the management and maintenance of the fabric and facilities of the cathedral, working alongside the Bishop of Gloucester who leads the religious aspects of the cathedral. Unlike other churches which receive funds from the dioceses, the 42 cathedrals in England must generate their own income from sources such as donations from the 500,000 visitors they see each year and from investments. The Dean is justifiably proud of his record of engagement with all communities in Gloucestershire, and is determined to avoid the introduction of admission charges. The present building was founded in 1581 so, unsurprisingly, maintaining and replacing stonework is a constant task. Apprentice stonemasons are being trained to sustain this vital aspect of maintenance. A £6M project named Project Pilgrim is underway both to improve access and to restore the Lady Chapel.
I Was An Olympic Volunteer (Twice)
On Wednesday May 24th Mike Cooper came to talk to Probus about his experiences as an Olympic volunteer.
In the late 1980’s, after 27 years with IBM, Mike took advantage of the company’s need to reduce manpower in the UK. While wondering what to do with his new found leisure time, Mike noticed an article in the company magazine looking for volunteers for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Although clearly aimed at US residents, Mike applied and was accepted.
Training was to take place a month before the games but no expenses were offered for accommodation. Fortunately Mike negotiated his training to be a couple of days before the games opened and he was assigned to main stadium management – checking tickets and ushering people to their seats. This was an ideal job as once people were seated Mike could enjoy the opening ceremony with the rest.
With time off between the opening ceremony and the start of the athletics he was able to take in some of the other sports. Mountain biking was in the Olympics for the first time and Mike saw the men’s race won by a competitor from a country without anything approaching a mountain – Holland. Controversy arose when the winner was censured for unzipping his singlet in the heat. He was allowed to keep his medal but was fined $5k. Strangely the same penalty was not awarded to an attractive Italian competitor who did the same in the lady’s race.
The rest of Mike’s time was spent in the main stadium with a grandstand view of the events including top athletes such as Carl Lewis and Michael Johnson. With the material he collected Mike has written a book on his experiences entitled “ I was an Olympic Volunteer” and this includes a foreword by Mary Peters whom he met in Atlanta.
Subsequent Olympics were either too far (Sydney) or required a foreign language, but when London 2012 arrived Mike got the urge again. He applied, was accepted for interview and set off with his book in hand. Success and once again a plum job in the Olympic stadium affording him views of the opening ceremony and the athletics. He was there on ‘Super Saturday’ when GB won three golds.
Mike entertained Probus with anecdotes from both events which are too numerous to repeat here but has now decided to call it a day – well he will be over 80 when Tokyo 2020 arrives!
A Whisper of Eternity, The Life of Edith Cavell
As a young boy on his way to school in Norwich, Peter Petrie would pass by the grave of Edith Cavell and attend the annual service in her name at the Cathedral without perhaps fully appreciating the significance of her life. Now he has researched her life and the repercussions of her death and he came to share his knowledge with Painswick Probus in a talk entitled “A Whisper of Eternity”, the title of a recent biography of Edith Cavell.
Edith was born in 1865 in the Norfolk village of Swardeston where her father was the vicar. She was educated at the Girls High School in Norwich where she showed an aptitude for languages. This and her yearning to travel led her to take up the role of governess to a Belgian family which she did for 5 years. It was probably during this time, when admitted to a German hospital with a cut arm and being impressed by the standards of nursing, that she developed the desire to become a nurse.
HavIan Breckelsing returned home to nurse her ailing father Edith enrolled to train as a nurse at the London Hospital at the age of 30. After completing her training and working at a number of hospitals throughout England, she developed a significant reputation for her nursing and organisational skills which resulted in her being recruited by Dr Antoine Depage to be the Matron of a training hospital at St. Gilles in Belgium. Dr Depage was concerned by the poor standards of nursing in Belgium, and in particular infection control. Edith’s fluency in French was no doubt a significant asset. By 1912, Edith was busy managing several nursing schools and training hospitals.
At the outbreak of the First World War, Edith was in Norwich but returned to the front-line in Belgium saying “At a time like this, I am more needed than ever” . A devout Christian, Edith believed it was her duty to nurse the wounded whichever side they were on. She became involved in the escape route for allied soldiers from occupied Belgium by sheltering them in her hospital. She was arrested by the Germans in August 1915 and charged with ‘conducting soldiers to the enemy’. At her trial Edith’s Christian upbringing made her unable to deny the charges. The British were powerless to intervene but the U.S. Ambassador informed the Germans that executing Cavell would rank alongside the atrocities of the burning of Louvain and the sinking of the Lusitania. Despite this Edith was shot by firing squad on the morning of October 12th 1915.
Cavell’s execution was a godsend for the British propaganda effort, in the months following her death recruitment was said to have doubled. She was buried in the grounds of St. Gilles prison but after the war her body was repatriated with a memorial service in Westminster Abbey and burial in ‘Life’s Green’ in the grounds of Norwich Cathedral where the young Peter Petrie would pass on his way to the school playing fields.
Exploring our Churches
On 26 April 2017 Philip Wilkinson revealed his long term interest in the fabric of England’s churches, having been attracted initially by their architecture and then by the extraordinary range of objects he has found inside many churches. John Betjeman dubbed the activity “church-crawling”.
Illustrated by excellent images, Philip highlighted architectural features and the practical aspects of church construction using local stone, ranging from relatively easily worked and low cost timber in Shropshire and Worcestershire, through red sandstone and limestone sometimes in-filled with flint, to the hard granite found in some churches in Cornwall. Perhaps the ultimate material was Portland stone, as used for many public buildings in London, including the church of St Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square.
Churches sometimes have clear links with individuals. For example a prisoner in the Civil War who left his mark in our St Mary’s Church, and a plumber who worked the lead gazing bars of a church in 1839 and left his name scratched on the glass. Various gadgets can be seen such as the large hour-glass to inform both the congregation and the preacher of the progress of the sermon. Perhaps Philip’s most remarkable discovery was the ducking stool last used in 1809 to punish a woman with a loose tongue – or should the honour go to the portable “hood” made for a clergyman who wished to be sheltered at the graveside when conducting his service in the rain. Or the village fire “engine” dating from 1728 stored ready for action in the village church?
Philip closed by inviting those who wanted to learn more to visit his blog at http://englishbuildings.blogspot.co.uk/
Reports about earlier events may be seen in the Archive