For amateur historians and trivia collectors everywhere

Location: Masterton, New Zealand

I survived school history despite the best efforts of the education system to bore me to death. Many years later, I discovered Treaties, dates, the movement of nations, are mere context. The fascination is in the details.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

This day in 1835 was the birthday of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known as Mark Twain - he of the ready wit, tall tales and homespun moustache. Ol' Sam left us some immortal characters and a cottage industry of quotation compilations.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

This excerpt from 'Scott of the Antarctic' by Reginald Pound (1966) gives another perspective on Terra Nova's departure (see last post). Scott had recorded in his journal on 28th that his second-in-command, Lieutenant Edward Evans, "was 'excited by vague and wild grievances ... The cause of it all is not difficult to guess', an oblique reference to Lieutenat Evans's wife, who dreaded the coming separation."
Kathleen Scott, who thought Evans was "a rum little beggar" wrote in her diary - "All went well, till on the wharf we met the Evanses, both in a tearful condition. Apparently she had been working him up to insurrection and a volley of childish complaints was let fly. .... Their tantrums spoilt the day and prevented us from being happy. If ever Con [Scott] has another expedition, the wives must be chosen more carefully than the men - better still, have none. ....
I decided not to say good-bye to my man ... because I didn't want anyone to see him look sad. On the bridge of the tug, Mrs Evans looked ghastly white and said she wanted to have hysterics. Mrs Wilson was plucky and good.' When Kathleen Scott 'tried to muster them for tea' on shore, 'Mrs Wilson sat sphinx-like on the wharf."
Edward Evans later became a war hero and ended his carreer as Admiral Lord Mountevans.

Friday, November 25, 2005

In his book 'South with Scott' (1921), Edward R.G.R. Evans remembered his departure from New Zealand with the British Antarctic Expedition led by Captain Robert Falcon Scott -

We sailed from Lyttelton on November 25 for Port Chalmers, had a tremendous send-off and a great deal of cheering as the ship moved slowly away from the piers. Bands played us out of harbour and most of the ships flew farewell messages, which we did our best to answer.
Some members [of the expedition] went down by train to Dunedin and joined us at Port Chalmers. We filled up here with what coal we could squeeze into our already overloaded ship and left finally for the Great Unknown on November 29, 1910.
Lady Scott, Mrs. Wilson, and my own wife came out with us to the Heads and then went on board the Plucky tug after saying good-bye. We were given a rousing send-off by the small craft that accompanied us a few miles on our way, but they turned homeward at last and at 3.30 p.m. we were clear with all good-byes said - personally I had a heart like lead, but, with everyone else on board, bent on doing my duty and following Captain Scott to the end.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

O.K., so posts were non-existent while I was moving house. But I'm in, if not quite settled, and back on the blog. Cue riotous applause.

Back just in time to celebrate the birthday of 19th century explorer John Lewis Burckhardt, born in Lausanne, Switzerland, this day in 1784. He came to England in 1806, with a letter of introduction to Sir Joseph Banks, and offered "his services as an explorer to the Association for Promoting the Discovery of the Interior Parts of Africa." Learning Arabic and disguising himself as a Muslim (as you would), he set off to explore the Dark Continent. In his 'Travels in Nubia' he wrote -

"I left Assouan on February 24, 1813, to make my journey through Nubia. ...... I carried with me nothing but my gun, sabre, and pistol, a provision bag, and a woollen mantle, which served either for a carpet or a covering during the night. I was dressed in the blue gown of the merchants of Upper Egypt. After estimating the expense I was likely to incur in Nubia, I put eight Spanish dollars into my purse in conformity with the principle I have consistently acted upon during my travels - viz., that the less the traveller spends while on the march, and the less money he carries with him, the less likely are his travelling projects to miscarry."
('The World's Great Books', Vol. 1, c.1910)

Today, we've progressed to excess baggage, excess airport security, and "don't leave home without it".

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

I'm reviewing the possessions, throwing out the rubbish and moving to a new address, so posts to this blog may be infrequent for the next two or three weeks. Don't forget me, loyal readers. That means both of you!