Richard Adams (Watership Down)

English novelist Richard George Adams was born 9 May 1920 in Wash Common, near Newbury, Berkshire, England, the son of Lilian Rosa (Button) and Evelyn George Beadon Adams, a doctor He attended Horris Hill School from 1926 to 1933, and then Bradfield College from 1933 to 1938. In 1938, he went to Worcester College, Oxford, to read Modern History. In July 1940, Adams was called up to join the British Army. He was posted to the Royal Army Service Corps and was selected for the Airborne Company, where he worked as a brigade liaison. He served in Palestine, Europe and the Far East but saw no direct action against either the Germans or the Japanese.

After being released from the army in 1946, Adams returned to Worcester College to continue his studies for a further two years. He received a bachelor’s degree in 1948, proceeding MA in 1953. After his graduation in 1948, Adams joined the British Civil Service, rising to the rank of Assistant Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, later part of the Department of the Environment. It was during this period that he began writing fiction in his spare time. Adams originally began telling the story that would become Watership Down to his two daughters on a car trip. They eventually insisted that he publish it as a book. He began writing in 1966, taking two years to complete it. In 1972, after four publishers and three writers’ agencies turned down the manuscript, Rex Collings agreed to publish the work. The book gained international acclaim almost immediately for reinvigorating anthropomorphic fiction with naturalists.

Over the next few years Watership Down sold over a million copies worldwide. Adams won both of the most prestigious British children’s book awards, one of six authors to do so: the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize. In 1974, following publication of his second novel, Shardik, he left the Civil Service to become a full-time author. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1975. At one point, Adams served as writer-in-residence at the University of Florida and at Hollins University in Virginia. Adams was the recipient of the inaugural Whitchurch Arts Award for inspiration in January 2010, presented at the Watership Down pub in Freefolk, Hampshire.In 2015 he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Winchester. Watership Down was also adapted into an Animated film with a theme song by Art Garfunkle.

In 1982, Adams served one year as president of the RSPCA. Besides campaigning against furs, Adams wrote The Plague Dogs to satirize animal experimentation (as well as government and tabloid press). He also made a voyage through the Antarctic in the company of the ornithologist Ronald Lockley. Just before his 90th birthday, he also wrote a new story for a charity book, Gentle Footprints, to raise funds for the Born Free Foundation.

Adams sadly passed away 24 December 2016 at the age of 96 in Oxford, England from complications of a blood disorder. Until his death, he lived with his wife Elizabeth in Whitchurch, within 10 miles (16 km) of his birthplace. Their daughters, to whom Adams originally related the tales that became Watership Down, are Juliet and Rosamond.

GWR 3440/3717 City of Truro

The steam locomotive GWR 3440 (3717) City Of Truro is one of the contenders for the first steam locomotive to travel in excess of 100 miles per hour (160.9 km/h). it acheived this feat during a run between two quarter-mile posts whilst hauling the “Ocean Mails” special from Plymouth to London Paddington on 9 May 1904 when it was timed at 8.8 seconds. This timing was recorded from the train by Charles Rous-Marten, who wrote for The Railway Magazine and other journals. If exact (Rous-Marten’s stopwatch read in multiples of 1/5 second), this time would correspond to a speed of 102.3 mph (164.6 km/h), while 9 seconds would correspond to exactly 100 mph. However only the overall timings for the run were put into print; and neither The Times report of the following day nor Rous-Marten’s article in The Railway Magazine of June 1904 mentioned the maximum speed. However The morning after the run two local Plymouth newspapers did report that the train had reached a speed between 99 and 100 miles an hour whilst descending Wellington bank in Somerset. This claim was based on the stopwatch timings of a postal worker, William Kennedy, who was also on the train.

GWR 3440 (3717) City Of Truro is a Great Western Railway (GWR) 3700 (or ‘City’) Class 4-4-0 locomotive, designed by George Jackson Churchward and built at the GWR Swindon Works in 1903. (It was rebuilt to a limited extent in 1911 and 1915, and renumbered 3717 in 1912). Itcontinued in everyday service until it was rendered obsolete in 1931, being withdrawn from service in March that year. The historical significance of City of Truro led to the locomotive’s survival after withdrawal from service, with the GWR’s Chief Mechanical Engineer Charles Collett asking that the engine be preserved at the London and North Eastern Railway’s Railway Museum at York when she was withdrawn in 1931, after the directors of the GWR had refused to preserve the engine at the company’s expense. It was donated to the LNER, being sent from Swindon on 20 March 1931, and was subsequently displayed at the new museum in York.

In 1957 City of Truro was returned to service by British Railways Western Region. The locomotive was based at Didcot, and was used both for hauling special excursion trains and for normal revenue services, usually on the Didcot, Newbury and Southampton line, and was renumbered back to 3440, and repainted into the ornate livery it carried at the time of its speed record in 1904, despite this being inaccurate due to its minor rebuilding in 1911. She was withdrawn for a second time in 1961. She was taken to Swindon’s GWR Museum in 1962 where, renumbered back to 3717 and in plain green livery with black frames, she stayed until 1984, when she was restored for the GWR’s 150th anniversary celebrations the following year. After that she returned to the National Railway Museum from where she was occasionally used on main line outings. She made a guest appearance in an exhibition called National Railway Museum on Tour which visited Swindon in 1990.

Her latest restoration to full working order was undertaken in 2004, at a cost of £130,000, to mark the 100th anniversary of her record-breaking run, and the loco has subsequently hauled several trains on UK main lines, although due to the lack of certain safety features she no longer operates on the main line. Her latest restoration to full working order was undertaken in 2004, at a cost of £130,000, to mark the 100th anniversary of her record-breaking run, and the loco has subsequently hauled several trains on UK main lines, although due to the lack of certain safety features she no longer operates on the main line. In 2010 as part of the celebrations to mark the 175th anniversary of the founding of the GWR City of Truro was repainted and took up its 3717 guise once again. This is the first time it has carried an authentic livery for its current state whilst operating in preservation.GWR 3717 was withdrawn from traffic at the Bodmin & Wenford Railway in early September 2011 with serious tube leaks, and was moved to Shildon Locomotion Museum and placed on static display at the National Railway Museum where she has remained ever since (I was lucky enough to see it in steam at the Severn Valley Railway’s 2008 Autumn Steam Gala).

J. M. Barrie OM

Best remembered today as the creator of Peter Pan, The Scottish author and dramatist, Sir James Matthew Barrie, 1st Baronet, OM was born 9 May 1860 in Kirriemuir, he was the child of a family of small-town weavers. At the age of 8, Barrie was sent to The Glasgow Academy, Scotland, in the care of his eldest siblings Alexander and Mary Ann, who taught at the school. When he was 10 he returned home and continued his education at the Forfar Academy. At 14, he left home for Dumfries Academy, again under the watch of Alexander and Mary Ann. He became a voracious reader, and was fond of Penny Dreadfuls, and the works of Robert Michael Ballantyne and James Fenimore Cooper.

At Dumfries he and his friends spent time in the garden of Moat Brae house, playing pirates “in a sort of Odyssey that was long afterwards to become the play of Peter Pan”.They formed a drama club, producing his first play Bandelero the Bandit, which provoked a minor controversy following a scathing moral denunciation from a clergyman on the school’s governing board. Barrie wished to follow a career as an author, but was dissuaded by his family who wanted him to have a profession such as the ministry. With advice from Alec, he was able to work out a compromise: he was to attend a university, but would study literature. He enrolled at the University of Edinburgh, where he wrote drama reviews for the Edinburgh Evening Courant. He graduated and obtained a M.A. on 21 April 1882.

He worked for a year and a half as a staff journalist on the Nottingham Journal following a job advertisement found by his sister in The Scotsman, then returned to Kirriemuir, using his mother’s stories about the town (which he renamed “Thrums”) for a piece submitted to the newspaper St. James’s Gazette in London. The editor ‘liked that Scotch thing’, so Barrie wrote a series of them, which served as the basis for his first novels: Auld Licht Idylls (1888), A Window in Thrums (1890), and The Little Minister, which eventually established Barrie as a successful writer. After the success of the “Auld Lichts”, he printed Better Dead (1888) privately and at his own expense, and it failed to sell. His two “Tommy” novels, Sentimental Tommy (1896) and Tommy and Grizel (1900), were about a boy and young man who clings to childish fantasy, with an unhappy ending.

Barrie began writing for the theatre, beginning with a biography of Richard Savage and written by both Barrie and H.B. Marriott Watson, this was followed by Ibsen’s Ghost (or Toole Up-to-Date) (1891), a parody of Henrik Ibsen’s dramas Hedda Gabler and Ghosts. His third play, Walker, London (1892), helped him be introduced to a young actress named Mary Ansell. He proposed to her and they were married on 9 July 1894. Barrie bought her a Saint Bernard puppy, who would play a part in the novel The Little White Bird (or Adventures in Kensington Gardens). He also gave Ansell’s given name to many characters in his novels. He then wrote Jane Annie, a failed comic opera for Richard D’Oyly Carte (1893), which he begged his friend Arthur Conan Doyle to revise and finish for him. In 1901 and 1902 he had back-to-back successes: Quality Street, about a responsible ‘old maid’ who poses as her own flirtatious niece to win the attention of a former suitor returned from the war; and The Admirable Crichton, a critically acclaimed social commentary with elaborate staging, about an aristocratic household shipwrecked on a desert island, in which the butler naturally rises to leadership over his lord and ladies for the duration of their time away from civilisation.

Peter Pan first appeared in his novel The Little White Bird, in 1902, and later in Barrie’s more famous and enduring work, Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up, a “fairy play” about an ageless boy and an ordinary girl named Wendy who have adventures in the fantasy setting of Neverland. This was inspired by the Llewelyn Davis Boys whom he met in London who suggested a baby boy who has magical adventures in Kensington Gardens (included in The Little White Bird). It had its first stage performance on 27 December 1904. It has been performed innumerable times since then, and was developed by Barrie into the 1911 novel Peter and Wendy. It has since been adapted into feature films, musicals, and more. The Bloomsbury scenes show the societal constraints of late Victorian and Edwardian middle-class domestic reality, contrasted with Neverland, a world where morality is ambivalent. George Bernard Shaw’s description of the play as “ostensibly a holiday entertainment for children but really a play for grown-up people”, suggests deeper social metaphors at work in Peter Pan.

Following Peter Pan Barrie had many more successes on the stage including The Twelve Pound Look which concerns a wife divorcing a peer and gaining an independent income. Other plays, such as Mary Rose and a subplot in Dear Brutus, revisit the idea of the ageless child. Later plays included What Every Woman Knows (1908). His final play was The Boy David (1936), which dramatised the Biblical story of King Saul and the young David. Like the role of Peter Pan, that of David was played by a woman, Elisabeth Bergner, for whom Barrie wrote the play.

Barrie had many Friends including Novelist George Meredith, fellow Scot Robert Louis Stevenson, who lived in Samoa at the time, George Bernard Shaw who was his neighbour in London for several years. H. G. Wells was also a friend of many years, and Barrie met Thomas Hardy through Hugh Clifford while he was staying in London. Although Barrie continued to write, Peter Pan quickly overshadowed his previous work and became his best-known work, and is credited with popularising the name Wendy, which was very uncommon previously. Barrie unofficially adopted the Davies boys following the deaths of their parents and was made a baronet by George V in 1913, and a member of the Order of Merit in 1922.

Unfortunately Barrie tragically died of pneumonia on 19 June 1937. He was buried at Kirriemuir next to his parents and two of his siblings and left the bulk of his estate (excluding the Peter Pan works, which he had previously given to Great Ormond Street Hospital in April 1929) to his secretary Cynthia Asquith. His birthplace at 4 Brechin Road is maintained as a museum by the National Trust for Scotland. Even today Ormond Street Hospital, continues to benefit from the arrangement involving the Peter Pan novels.

Roger Hargreaves

Best known as the creator and illustrator of The Mr Men & Little Miss books, The English children’s author and illustrator, Roger Hargreaves, was born 9th May 1935 in a private hospital at 201 Bath Road, Cleckheaton, West Yorkshire to Alfred Reginald and Ethel Mary Hargreaves. He grew up at 703 Halifax Road, Hartshead Moor, Cleckheaton, outside of which there now is a commemorative plaque. He attended Sowerby Bridge Grammar School (now Sowerby Bridge High School). He then spent a year working in his father’s laundry and dry-cleaning business before gaining employment in advertising.

Hargreaves always wanted to be a cartoonist, and in 1971, while working as the creative director at a London firm, he wrote the first Mr. Men book, Mr. Tickle. Initially he had difficulty finding a publisher, but once he did the books became an instant success, selling over one million copies within three years. In 1974 the books spawned a BBC animated television series, narrated by Arthur Lowe. A second series the following year saw newer titles transmitted in double bill format with those from the first series. By 1976, Hargreaves had quit his day job. In 1981 the Little Miss series of books was launched, and in 1983 it also was made into a television series, narrated by Pauline Collins, and her husband John Alderton. Although Hargreaves wrote many other children’s stories—including the Timbuctoo series of 25 books, John Mouse and the Roundy and Squarey books—he is best known for his 46 Mr. Men and 33 Little Miss books. The books were intended for very young readers, and featured simple and humorous stories, always with a moral at the end. and featured brightly-coloured, boldly drawn characters and illustrations,

Unfortunately Roger Hargreaves sadly passed away in 1988, however his Mr Men and Little Miss series of books which have been part of popular culture since 1971, remain popular and have sold in excess of 85 million copies worldwide and have also been translated into at least 20 languages and have won numerous awards including The Best Books of the Year in 1983.

Vertigo

Alfred Hitchcock’s classic psychological noir thriller Vertigo premiered in San Francisco on 9 May 1958. . The story is based on the 1954 novel D’entre les morts (From Among the Dead) by Boileau-Narcejac. The screenplay was written by Alec Coppel and Samuel A. Taylor. The film stars James Stewart as former police detective John “Scottie” Ferguson. Scottie is forced into early retirement After a Policeman died during a rooftop chase in the line of duty which caused him to develop acrophobia (an extreme fear of heights) and vertigo (a false sense of rotational movement). Scottie tries to conquer his fear, but his friend and ex-fiancée Midge Wood says that another severe emotional shock may be the only cure.

Scottie is hired by an acquaintance from College, Gavin Elster, as a private investigator to follow Gavin’s wife Madeleine (Kim Novak), who is behaving strangely and he suspects that she is in some sort of danger. Scottie reluctantly agrees, and follows Madeleine to a florist where she buys a bouquet of flowers, to the Mission San Francisco de Asís and the grave of one Carlotta Valdes (1831–1857), and to the Legion of Honor art museum before going to the McKittrick Hotel. A local historian explains that Carlotta Valdes committed suicide: she had been the mistress of a wealthy married man and bore his child; the otherwise childless man kept the child and cast Carlotta aside. Gavin reveals that Carlotta (who he fears is possessing Madeleine) is Madeleine’s great-grandmother. Scottie follows Madeleine to Fort Point and, when she leaps into the bay, he rescues her.

The next day Scottie follows Madeleine; they meet and spend the day together. They travel to Muir Woods and Cypress Point on 17-Mile Drive, where Madeleine
recounts a nightmare and Scottie identifies its setting as Mission San Juan Bautista, childhood home of Carlotta. Madeleine suddenly runs into the church and up the bell tower and sees Madeleine plunge to her death. The death is declared a suicide. Scottie has a nervous break down, becomes clinically depressed and is placed in a sanatorium. He starts imagining that he keeps seeing her and One day, he notices a woman who reminds him of Madeleine, despite her different appearance she identifies herself as Judy Barton, from Salina, Kansas. However Judy Barton is hiding a big secret concerning Madeleine and Carlotta and Gavin is not quite what he seems either. Soon Scottie finds himself drawn into a devious plot…