The OTC and the Plight of Jones

“The Boys of the OTC”


What is an OTC?

The OTC, or Officer Training Corps, was established in 1908 to ‘attract’ young men into the British army.  The Corps also laid the foundation for these young men to become fully commissioned officers, which the Army sorely needed.  The OTCs operated throughout the war and were vital in providing officer candidates for selection.  In fact, these training corps became so critical that in 1916 new military instruction was implemented which stated that temporary commissions could only be granted if a man had been through an Officer Cadet unit.

But how did the Corps come to be?

A committee under the chairmanship of Sir Edward Ward, then permanent under secretary of state for war, was tasked with reviewing the issue of low officer recruitment numbers.  He and the committee then presented a report to the British government with the following proposals:

(a) To create a system of military instruction for prospective officers, existing School 11 and University Corps should be reorganized into an “Officers Training Corps.”

(b) A selected staff should be created in the department of the War Office to supervise the organization, instruction, and examination for certificates of the Officers Training Corps.

According to Edward M. Spiers, author of COMEC OCCASIONAL PAPER. No 4: ‘The corps was to be divided into a Junior Division for public schools and a Senior Division for universities.’ These programmes trained cadets to for Certificate A and B examinations; however, only university cadets could take the latter.  The examinations were divided into written and theoretical parts.  Exam B was much more rigorous, with compulsory papers in elementary tactics, military law and administration as well as practical and written papers in special-to-arms training.  There was also an optional paper in military history and strategy. The requirements to take Certificate B were also much more rigorous.  Cadets could only take the examination if they had proved their efficiency over a two year period with mandatory attendance of special events and training camps.  Possession of a Certificate B was the rough equivalent of 6 months’ residence at the Royal Military College in Sandhurst.

Was the OTC successful?

Initially, no. While thousands of University students participated, relatively few went on to earn their Certificate B status.  Even fewer went on to become fully commissioned officers in the British Army.

It wasn’t until 1914 that the OTC had a measurable impact.  An appeal from the British government, (published on 10 August), urgently requested for 2,000 young men to come forward and take temporary commissions in the regular army. This appeal was directed specifically towards men who were, or had been, cadets in the ‘University Training Corps’.  In 1914, the university students knew what was expected of them patriotically and allegedly volunteered in such numbers that the Army struggled to find them all commissions.

Spiers claimed that ‘the military contribution of the Universities’ OTCs can be assessed as 2,298 officers gazetted as officers, including regular officers, before the outbreak of war; 9,402 commissioned from August 1914 to February 1915; and another 3,278 serving in the ranks during this period.’

Newcastle Gazette - Vol. XV, February 1915, no. 2

University Archives – Newcastle Gazette – Vol. XV, February 1915, no. 2

The Sad Plight of Jones caught my eye while I was scanning archived copies of Newcastle University’s magazines for the WWI archival project.  While humorous, it seemed to me that the cartoon could be interpreted in a rather dark manner given the date of this particular issue.

A far cry from the boyish, carefree attitude of the OTC’s beginnings, the OTC of 1915 would have likely been suffused with feelings of the impending realities of service on the front lines.  The cartoon takes the reader on a quick journey through Jones and his ‘plight’:  a young man sees a beautiful woman on the arm of a uniformed soldier and thus joins the OTC.  As a cadet, he is expected to ‘swot’ or study hard for his examinations, but is ‘haunted’ by visions of being shelled.

If we assume the shelling is freak mishap of a summer training camp scenario gone wrong, the cartoon is rather funny indeed.  But if instead it is a reference to Cadet Jones being distracted from pretty young women and his studies by visions of being shelled on the front lines of a world war… the cartoon becomes quite bleak.  As a student at Newcastle University myself, I can’t help but consider my own worries in a different perspective if the latter theory is true.

How disconnected and separate must these cadets have felt from their other university peers?  It certainly leads one to wonder at the degree of patriotic duty these young men must have felt to have still continued with their cadet training despite these misgivings.  I feel it is important to stress that the OTC in 1915 was not contractual.  Once these cadets joined, there was no legal obligation to continue… yet thousands did.

Jessica Thomas is a student at Newcastle University and a volunteer on the ‘Universities at War’ project within the Newcastle University Robinson Library Archives.

Shakespeare at the old Theatre Royal

Shakespeare performed by Children

May 2016 marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. Newcastle has played host to the bard’s plays ever since – in more recent times, the Royal Shakespeare Company performed almost annually at the Theatre Royal by the Royal Shakespeare Company from 1977. Unfortunately, they will not be returning in 2016.

Our Theatre Royal Playbills (RB 792 (4282) – NEW) feature many notices for performances of Shakespeare at the old Theatre Royal on Mosley Street between 1770 and 1820, including this one by a Georgian/Victorian theatre sensation and her two sisters.

King Richard The Third playbilll (RB 792 (4282)–NEW).

King Richard The Third playbilll (RB 792 (4282)–NEW).

Clara Fisher (b.14 July 1811, London, died 12 November 1898, Jersey, U.S.) was an Anglo-American actress who inspired an enormous following in the United States. She made her stage debut in 1817, at the age of six, in a children’s adaptation of David Garrick’s Lilliput at the Drury Lane Theatre in London. Her performance in that and in excerpts from Richard III captivated the audience. She then began a 10-year period of touring up and down Great Britain, winning popular acclaim in a variety of child’s and adult’s roles.

By the time she and her sisters Amelia and Caroline started their three-night engagement at the Newcastle Theatre Royal on 17 May 1819, Clara would have been only seven years old. On the opening night, she played the leading role in  ‘Shakespeare’s Historical Tragedy, called KING RICHARD THE THIRD; Or, The Battle of Bosworth Field. Clara was known for her ‘breeches parts’ (men’s roles), including Hamlet on at least one occasion. At the Theatre Royal, her sister Amelia was Henry VI, and Henry, Earl of Richmond, was played by Caroline Fisher.

On the second night, she played Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, and then, on a lighter note, performed ‘A COMIC SONG. (IN CHARACTER)’.

The third, and supposedly final, night was Shakespeare-free.

Such was the success of the Fisher girls’ engagement that they were held over for an extra performance on Friday 21 May, 1819, performing ‘some of the best scenes from the most popular Plays . . .’. This included acts four and five of King Richard the Third, with the sisters reprising their ‘breeches parts’ of the previous Monday.

Fisher went to the United States in 1827 and made her debut in New York City that same year. She was a sensation – her name was given to babies, racehorses, stagecoaches, and steamboats – and she was regarded as America’s leading stage actress. Her last performance was in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1889.

This performance, and about 240 others, is promoted by notices in one volume of our Theatre Royal Playbills collection, a bound collection of ‘posters’ for the ‘old’ Newcastle Theatre Royal in Mosley Street. The bills were printed in 1819 and 1820, and are typical of the early nineteenth century –  i.e. very small compared to the modern-day concept of ‘posters’ –  and utilising revolutionary display typefaces which had begun to be manufactured in about 1810 for advertising.

Fittingly, the bill was printed by Edward Humble, at the Shakespeare Press. Humble was a respected local printer, and a proprietor of the County Durham Advertiser.

If you are interested in coming into the reading room to see playbill and others from the collection…

# This item is held within a volume of our Theatre Royal Playbills (Ref Code RB792(4282) NEW.

# You can place your order by linking to our request form. The reference code and title will be RB 792 (4282) – NEW – Theatre Royal Playbills.’

The Turbina Steamship and a mystery in the archives …

I’ve always found this letter fascinating.  If anyone fancies doing some further research on this letter, do let us know what your results are!

This letter of reference is an intriguing insight into the mathematics behind the construction of Newcastle’s famous ‘Turbinia’ steamship, which can still be seen in the Discovery Museum in Newcastle upon Tyne.  Who is this (female) mathematician, who seems to get little mention in the history of the Turbinia?  Perhaps as a sign of the times, this letter, which appears to be a reference, is addressed to her father and does not refer personally to her by name at all.  Dr G Johnstone Stoney had three daughters (who led fascinating lives in their own right in the fields of science and medicine), I would love to know which one came to Newcastle and made such an important contribution to this part of North East history.

GB186/MSA/2/22

GB186/MSA/2/22

The Turbina was an experimental vessel built by Charles Parsons to demonstrate the benefits of his revolutionary new design of steam turbines.  Built by the firm of Brown and Hood, based at Wallsend on Tyne it started to undergo speed trials in 1896 and the results were pretty spectacular.  By December an average speed of 29.6 knots had been reached over the measured mile whilst, with further improved propellers, 32.76 knots was achieved by April of the following year.  Eventually, maximum speeds of over 34 knots were recorded.  At the time it was easily the fastest ship in the world.

Obviously with a great eye for publicity, Parsons caused quite a stir when the Turbina appeared at Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee Naval Review at Spithead, apparently racing between the two lines of navy ships and steaming up and down in front of the crowd.  Popular legend had her appearance as unannounced; it would seem that Parsons did have permission, although perhaps the organisers did not expect such a dramatic entry!

If you are interested in coming into the reading room to see this letter …
# This item is held within the Manuscript Album (Ref Code GB186/MSA).
# You can place your order by linking to our request form. The reference code and title will be ‘GB186/MSA/2/22 Letter from Charles Algernon Parsons to George Johnstone Stoney concerning mathematical work undertaken by one of Stoney’s daughters.’

To see the ship (and its turbines!) and much more …
The Discovery Museum is close to Newcastle upon Tyne rail station and has many gems https://discoverymuseum.org.uk/

Thanks to the Discovery Museum for providing the backstory of the Turbina, http://www.webcitation.org/5xujimKGb

‘The Scenery of our Native North- The Collieries’: The Art and Legacy of Thomas Hair

‘The characteristic appearance of no district in the world is more strikingly marked than is that of the North of England, the peculiar features of which are its collieries and their necessary adjuncts. The face of the country is thickly studded with the engine -houses and coal-heaps attached to respective pits… The fields and roads are crossed are crossed and intersected in every direction by the “waggon-ways” connecting the pits with their respective places of shipment… The margins of our noble rivers are fringed with the staiths and machinery, often constructed on a gigantic scale, necessary for effecting for effecting the shipment of the jetty treasure… The sea itself is blackened with our fleets of colliers, bearing the precious source of warmth and comfort to distant districts and countries, and thus diffusing wealth and happiness around…’.

Part of the opening remarks of M. Ross’ ‘Preliminary Essay on Coal and the Coal Trade’, in T.H. Hair’s A Series of Views of the Collieries in the Counties of Northumberland and Durham (1844). The quote from the title comes from the same.

Old Pit, Burdon Main, by Thomas Hair. Date unknown.

Old Pit, Burdon Main, by Thomas Hair. Date unknown.

The art of Thomas Hair provides a valuable and unique visual record of the region’s mining history. Although the landscape remains scarred by the industry, and other physical remnants of the pits have survived, much more has been lost due to the process of industrialisation and the passage of time. Hair’s work affords us a contemporary view of the pits that shaped our communities and the lives of those dependant on them.

Little is known about Hair’s life. He was born in Newcastle upon Tyne around 1810, and his working life began when he trained with local engraver and lithographer Mark Lambert. Hair moved to London at some time in the late 1830s, and exhibited his work at the Suffolk Street Gallery from 1838, and several times at the Royal Academy during the 1840s. Although based in London, Hair maintained a strong affinity with the North East and continued to produce work inspired by the region during his time in the capital.

Percy Pit, Percy Main Colliery, by Thomas Hair. Date unknown.

Percy Pit, Percy Main Colliery, by Thomas Hair. Date unknown.

Hair travelled the ‘Great Northern Coalfield’ of Durham and Northumberland during the early nineteenth century, sketching and painting many of the different scenes of mining life. The paintings were then taken back to his studio, where they could be turned into etched engravings, either by Hair himself or another engraver he was associated with. Much of his work relating to the coalfield was published in Sketches of the Coal Mines in Northumberland and Durham; A Series of Views of the Collieries in the Counties of Northumberland and Durham, in 1844. Frank Atkinson, who wrote the ‘Preface’ to the 1969 edition of Hair’s Sketches and Views, has commented on the technical accuracy of Hair’s depictions, as well as his ability to pick up the small details that capture the essence of the scene.

The B Pit, Fawdon Colliery, 1848, by Thomas Hair.

The B Pit, Fawdon Colliery, 1848, by Thomas Hair.

If a criticism can be made of Hair’s work, it is that it does not reflect the struggles and ‘everyday life’ of the miners and their communities. As Hair scholar Douglas Glendinning has noted, although miners are often pictured outside in Hair’s panoramic views of the pits, few of his depictions show the hazardous working conditions and danger involved in coal mining. However, Glendinning emphasises that many other artists also ignored the grim reality of the Industrial Revolution in order for their art to sell. Hair should therefore not be judged on this, and his work appreciated for the scenes it does portray.

Crane for Loading the Rollies, by Thomas Hair. Date unknown. This is one of the few illustrations by Hair that shows the subterranean conditions of the pit.

Crane for Loading the Rollies, by Thomas Hair. Date unknown. This is one of the few illustrations by Hair that shows the subterranean conditions of the pit.

Although Hair had already published his artwork in Scenes and Views, his illustrations were pirated by William Fordyce, who had produced his own survey on the region’s mining industry. Fordyce’s Coal and Iron, published in 1860, used Hair’s work extensively with no credit given to the artist. Some of the illustrations were also altered to make them accurately reflect technological advances in the industry since Hair’s time. This is most obviously seen in Fordyce’s Bottom of Pit Shaft, which is a clearly altered version of Hair’s Bottom of the Shaft, Walbottle Colliery.

Bottom of the Shaft, Walbottle Colliery, 1844, by Thomas Hair.

Bottom of the Shaft, Walbottle Colliery, 1844, by Thomas Hair.

Bottom of Pit Shaft, from Fordyce’s Coal and Iron, 1860. Note the addition of a cage on the left hand side, which replaced the corves in Hair’s original. Most prominent is the removal of the rollies and their replacement with the wheeled tubs carrying coal.

Bottom of Pit Shaft, from Fordyce’s Coal and Iron, 1860. Note the addition of a cage on the left hand side, which replaced the corves in Hair’s original. Most prominent is the removal of the rollies and their replacement with the wheeled tubs carrying coal.

Hair died in Newcastle on 11 August 1875, and was buried in an unmarked grave in All Saints Cemetery. Although we know little about the artist himself, his art gives us an invaluable insight into the ‘The Scenery of our Native North’.

The Hair Prints- Special Collections. The prints have been digitised and can be viewed on our Collections Captured portal.

The above images have been digitised from the Hair Prints and are currently uncatalogued. Please contact lib-specenq@ncl.ac.uk for further details.

 

Further Reading 

T.H. Hair and M. Ross, Sketches of the Coal Mines in Northumberland and Durham (1839)- Special Collections Rare Books (RB 622.09428 HAI )

T.H. Hair and M. Ross (with an introduction by Frank Atkinson), Sketches of the Coal Mines in Northumberland and Durham; A Series of Views of the Collieries in the Counties of Northumberland and Durham (1969)- Special Collections Edwin Clarke Local (Clarke 1999)

William Fordyce, Coal and Iron (1860)- Special Collections Robert White (W622.33 FOR Folio)

Douglas Glendinning, The Art of Mining; Thomas Hair’s Watercolours of the Great Northern Coalfield (Newcastle: Tyne Bridge Publishing, 2000)- Robinson Library 709.42HAI (Gle)

The Military Service Act, 1916

The Military Service Act Fully and Clearly Explained, by Philip Snowden (MP), 1916 (20th Century Collection, 343.0122 SNO)

The Military Service Act Fully and Clearly Explained, by Philip Snowden (MP), 1916 (20th Century Collection, 343.0122 SNO)

January 2016 marks the centenary of the enactment of the Military Service Act, which introduced conscription for the first time in Britain during World War I. The Act was passed by parliament on 28th January 1916 and came into operation when passed by Royal Proclamation on 10th February 1916. The Act imposed compulsory military conscription on all single men aged between 18 and 41, who were not eligible for exemption.

Unlike other European countries, Britain relied on volunteers to fight during times of war and when Great Britain declared war on Germany on 5th August 1914, this was no different. Many believed hostilities would be over by Christmas. However, it soon became clear that war would not be won in a matter of months. With this realisation, attention rapidly turned to maintaining the war effort and numerous attempts were introduced to encourage voluntary enlisting.

At the outbreak of war, patriotism was high and volunteers rushed to recruiting stations in order to support King and country. A drive to recruit more men was led by Lord Horatio Kitchener (a British military leader who became Secretary of State of War when World War I was declared), for men to voluntarily join up to the army. He is famously depicted in the army recruitment poster, ‘Your Country Needs You’, which was used in a poster campaign to encourage voluntary enlisting. Numbers did increase, however, as the war went on this voluntary system soon proved insufficient as the number of casualties grew. In October 1915, Lord Derby (appointed Director-General of Recruiting by the Prime Minister, Herbert Henry Asquith) introduced the Derby Scheme in order to raise numbers. Under the scheme men aged between 18 and 40 were informed that they could voluntarily enlist or attest with an obligation to be called upon if required. Despite these attempt, by 1916 the British government believed that compulsory active service was the only way to increase the war effort and in turn win the war.

This month’s Treasure is a pamphlet entitled The Military Service Act Fully and Clearly Explained, by Philip Snowden (seen in the image above). The pamphlet was a circular available for the public to buy for one penny in 1916, which clarifies who the Act applies to, persons outside the Act, claiming exemption and outlines the Tribunal procedures (seen in the image below).

Pages 2-3 of The Military Service Act Fully and Clearly Explained, outlining Penalties for Disertion of Aiding Disertion, To Whom the Act Applies and Persons who are Outside the Act, by Philip Snowden (MP), 1916 (20th Century Collection, 343.0122 SNO)

Pages 2-3 of The Military Service Act Fully and Clearly Explained, outlining Penalties for Desertion of Aiding Desertion, To Whom the Act Applies and Persons who are Outside the Act, by Philip Snowden (MP), 1916 (20th Century Collection, 343.0122 SNO)

The pamphlet also details the six Grounds of Exemption; men who are better employed in their usual work (such as in food supply or the export trade), work that is more suited elsewhere for the war effort (such as in agriculture or engine drivers), youths being educated or trained, financial and domestic obligations, ill-health or infirmity and the Conscientious Objection. Conscientious Objection is noted to be ‘perhaps the most important of all, and is likely to prove the most difficult in administration’. The Act made limited allowance for men who objected to serve. Conscription was seen as a controversial issue but those who objected to combatant service were known as Conscientious Objectors. They claimed the right to refuse military service on the grounds of freedom, conscience, disability and/or political and religious views and could attest by means of a Tribunal system.

Detailed in the pamphlet on the Tribunal of Conscientious Objectors:

‘Men who apply on this ground should be able to feel that they are being judged by a Tribunal that will deal fairly with their cases.

 …If the certificate is granted as a certificate of exemption from “combatant duties” only, then the individual would be liable to serve in certain branches of the Army, as in the Royal Army Medical Corps for instance’.

Page 1 from News Sheet, No. 8, c. 1917 (20th Century Collection, 343.0122 CEN)

Page 1 from News Sheet, No. 8, c. 1917 (20th Century Collection, 343.0122 CEN)

Those who objected to provide their service towards any part of the war effort, whether that be ‘economic, commercial, or other activities’, were sent to prison where the conditions and treatment were harsh. A News Sheet (seen in the image above) issued by The Central News Bureau, c. 1917, includes text on the death of the Conscientious Objector, Albert Leverson James (aged 30 from Kingston-on-Thames). The text explains that Albert was arrested on November 17th 1916, where he later attended a Tribunal and was sent to complete 112 days imprisonment with hard labour. His mother describes his health whilst at Wormwood Scrubs, as ‘…completely ruined. He has to fight for his breath, and has brought up a quantity of blood’ (seen in the image below). After 12 weeks he was transferred to Wakefield Work Centre, where he broke down with haemorrhage double pneumonia and later died on 4th March 1917.

Parliament raised Albert’s death, which was used as an example of the Government’s disregard and mistreatment of men who refused to kill. Albert is commemorated on the Conscientious Objectors’ plaque (1 Peace Passage, London, N7 0BT) along with 69 other Conscientious Objectors who died during World War I.

Death of Albert Leverson James, extract from No. 8. News Sheet, issued by The Central News Bureau, c. 1917 (20th Century Collection, 343.0122 CEN )

Death of Albert Leverson James, extract from No. 8. News Sheet, issued by The Central News Bureau, c. 1917 (20th Century Collection, 343.0122 CEN )

150th Anniversary of the birth of Rudyard Kipling

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)

Lithograph portrait of Rudyard Kipling by William Nicholson, 1899 (Pollard Collection)

Lithograph portrait of Rudyard Kipling by William Nicholson, 1899 (Pollard Collection)

150 years ago, on 30th December 1865, Alice and John Lockwood Kipling welcomed their son, Joseph Rudyard, into the world. Rudyard Kipling would go on to become something of a celebrity, with notoriety as a ’poet of empire’. Despite this reputation and his friendships with the likes of Cecil Rhodes and King George V, Kipling declined a knighthood, the Poet Laureateship and the Order of Merit; although he did accept other awards including the Nobel Prize for Literature (1907) and an honorary degree from the University of Durham (1907). After a perforated ulcer took his life on 18th January 1936, he was given a Westminster Abbey funeral – Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin was among his pallbearers. He lies in Poets’ Corner.

Kipling’s early years were spent in India – first in Bombay (now called Mumbai) and later in Lahore and Allahabad. (An 11-year interlude in England from the age of five was an unhappy period.) He found work as a journalist and editor, first with the Civil and Military Gazette and then with its sister paper, the Pioneer. Throughout this period, however, he was writing and publishing short stories and poems and his writing reflected the culture, language, sights, sounds and smells of India that he had fallen in love with as a child and was experiencing on adolescent insomnia-fuelled nocturnal walks. His writing was critically well-received and was popular in England.

Hoping to leverage some of his fame, Kipling returned to the UK where he met agent and publisher, Wolcott Balestier. This proved to be a life-changing encounter: Kipling married Balestier’s sister, Caroline (Carrie) in 1892, settled in her native America and had three children with her – Josephine, Elsie and John.  Kipling liked to be around children and flourished as a writer of juvenile fiction, enchanting boys and girls with works such as The Jungle Book (1894) and penning parental advice, in verse, to his son in the poem ‘If’ (1895).

‘Rikki Tikki Tavi the mongoose and cobra’ by Charles Maurice Detmold for Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, 1902 (Pollard Collection)

‘Rikki Tikki Tavi the mongoose and cobra’ by Charles Maurice Detmold for Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, 1902 (Pollard Collection)

A publically sensationalised quarrel with brother-in-law, Beatty, and the death from pneumonia of Josephine drove Kipling into retreat in England. Again, he focussed on his writing, publishing Just So Stories (1902) in tribute to Josephine. [Newcastle University Special Collections holds the 1955 reprint]

As Kipling withdrew from public view, Europe prepared for war against Germany. Kipling supported the war, perceiving it to be a battle between civilisation and barbarism. He served as a war correspondent from the trenches in France and was keen for his son, John, to see active service, pulling strings to get him enlisted with the Irish Guards. John was killed at the Battle of Loos (September 1915) – he was 18 years old and his body has never been undisputedly identified. Kipling, distraught, turned his attention away from children’s stories and towards involvement with the Imperial (now Commonwealth) War Graves Commission: he helped to create graveyards, advising on the language to be used for the memorial inscriptions; wrote a regimental history of the Irish Guards; and influenced the wording of the letter which would be sent, on the King’s command, from Lord Derby (Secretary of State for War) to mourning relatives. By this time, Kipling’s literary prominence was waning as the world tried to come to terms with the aftermath of the First World War and Kipling with his own grief.

In 2011 the Friends of University Library purchased a significant collection of Kipling’s work in first and early editions; as well as material relating to Kipling, such as ephemera and cuttings which had been brought together by Mr Eric Pollard. The Pollard Collection is accessible via the Library’s online catalogue and the Special Collections team invite as wide an audience as possible to use it. Kipling’s work has been appraised and reappraised over the years and the Pollard Collection demonstrates the breadth of his work.

A Special Collections exhibition will draw upon the collection to remember Kipling in February 2016 – the year that marks the 80th anniversary of his death.

Kipling’s signature, from a letter to Lord Derby, 8th December 1917 (Manuscript Album)

Kipling’s signature, from a letter to Lord Derby, 8th December 1917 (Manuscript Album)

Sir Humphrey Davy’s Harmful Emissions

Scientific Researches! - New Discoveries in Pneumaticks! - or - an Experimental Lecture on the Powers of Air, 1851 (Gillray Prints, JG/2/11R)

Scientific Researches! – New Discoveries in Pneumaticks! – or – an Experimental Lecture on the Powers of Air, 1851 (Gillray Prints, JG/2/11R)

 

Engraving of Sir Humphry Davy from The life of Sir Humphry Davy, 1831 (19th Century Collection, 19th C. Coll. 530.9 PAR)

Engraving of Sir Humphry Davy from The life of Sir Humphry Davy, 1831 (19th Century Collection, 19th C. Coll. 530.9 PAR)

In one of his more robust parodies, this print from our collections by satirist James Gillray (1757 – 1815) is aimed at the spectacle and frivolity of scientific discovery in Georgian culture. The depiction of a public experiment is aimed at the Royal Institution (chartered two years before in 1800), which attempted to render complex scientific ideas comprehensible, but also provide an element of theatre. The accusation is that the latter often took precedence, devaluing breakthroughs at best and providing merely infantile parlour tricks at worst.

Amongst the recognisable figures (explored in more depth here), at the centre brandishing a pair of bellows is a young Sir Humphrey Davy (1778 – 1829) – chemist and inventor. Davy’s public experiments with nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, at the Pneumatic Institution in Bristol (hence the print’s title), led him to a post at the Royal Institution in 1801. Davy famously failed to grasp the significance of the gas as an anaesthetic except for minor surgery, treating it instead as a curio and conversation piece. Indeed, his often public experiments on himself led to a personal addiction and a reputation latched onto by commentators like Gillray.

Luckily, Davy’s legacy was much more significant. He was perhaps the first professional man of science and helped pave the way for many more like him, but this was not without further scrutiny and controversy. This included the eponymous Davy lamp, invented 200 years ago this month.  By 1815, Davy had been knighted for his services to chemistry, including ‘discovering’ and naming potassium and iodine. By that point a scientist of international renown, he was called upon to solve a problem with a strong local connection.

In 1812, Felling Colliery was the site of an explosion caused by pockets of flammable gas referred to as ‘firedamp’ being ignited by the open flames of the miners’ lamps. Although not an isolated incident, this loss of 92 lives was a crystallised the need for greater safety precautions. Davy was personally asked by the Revd Robert Gray of Bishopwearmouth to investigate. As well as proving firedamp was in fact methane, Davy worked feverishly with his assistant and future pioneer Michael Faraday from October to December 1815 to produce a basic lamp with a wire gauze chimney to enclose naked flames. The holes let light pass through, but the metal of the gauze absorbed the heat and prevented the methane burning inside the lamp.

Engraving of George Stephenson from George Stephenson : the locomotive and the railway, 1881 (19th Century Collection, 19th C. Coll. 620.92 STE-1)

Engraving of George Stephenson from George Stephenson : the locomotive and the railway, 1881 (19th Century Collection, 19th C. Coll. 620.92 STE-1)

Following successful tests at Hebburn Colliery in early 1916, the lamp went into production. It proved to be Davy’s decisive triumph. He was awarded the Royal Society’s Rumford medal, and in 1820 became the President of that society, elevating his scientific field in the process.

However, the uniqueness of his invention was disputed. Davy refused to patent his lamp, and in doing so exposed himself to rival claimants, chiefly the then unknown engineer George Stephenson. Stephenson had been working on his own similar design at the nearby Killingworth Colliery north of Newcastle at around the same time through an arguably more scientific ‘trial and error’ approach. What followed was a public war of words with Davy rejecting Stephenson’s claims and winning out largely by virtue of his reputation.

Despite this, on 1st November 1917, Stephenson presented evidence to a committee of his peers in Newcastle, claiming his invention was at least contemporary to Davy’s. In this report, available in our Rare Books Collection (image shown below), both miners and members of the Literary and Philosophical Society give testimonies on witnessing the other lamp being developed and tested as early as August 1915. One Robert Summerside, an Overman in Killingworth Colliery, went as far as saying ‘Stephenson’s light produces a much better light than Sir Humphrey Davy’s’.

At the meeting, it was decided that Stephenson was entitled to a public reward, but perhaps more importantly, his name was cleared in scientific and entrepreneurial circles. This allowed him to become one of the most important figures to the Industrial Revolution as Father of the Railways. It is also thought by some that his lamp, termed the Geordie Lamp after him by those that used it in the North Eastern coal fields, was the source of the term ‘Geordie’, as a shorthand for the people of Newcastle.

The committee concluded as follows:

Under the influence of these impressions the friends of Mr Stephenson will no longer dwell upon those intemperate and uncandid insinuations, respecting the clandestine acquirement of the principle in question, which have so lately been given to the world in the name and apparently under the authority of Sir Humphrey Davy, but which they are thoroughly convinced can never have obtained the deliberate concurrence of that enlightened philosopher.

Below are 2 plates depicting the rival lamps; Davy’s on the right and Stephenson’s on the left.

Engraving of George Stephenson's safety lamp from Report upon the claims of Mr. George Stephenson, relative to the invention of his safety lamp, 1817 (Rare Books, RB622.47 REP)

Engraving of George Stephenson’s safety lamp from Report upon the claims of Mr. George Stephenson, relative to the invention of his safety lamp, 1817 (Rare Books, RB622.47 REP)

Illustration of Sir Humphrey Davy's safety lamp from Practical hints on the application of wire-gauze to lamps : for preventing explosions in coal mines, 1816 (Rare Books, RB942.8 TYN(VI)2)

Illustration of Sir Humphrey Davy’s safety lamp from Practical hints on the application of wire-gauze to lamps : for preventing explosions in coal mines, 1816 (Rare Books, RB942.8 TYN(VI)2)

The Battle of Britain Ends

31 October 2015 marks the 75th anniversary of the end of the battle of Britain.

The Battle of Britain was an air campaign launched by the German Air Force, Luftwaffe against the UK in the summer and autumn of 1940. Hitler had already swept through France and forced the British army out the European mainland. In order to finally invade Britain, Hitler needed to launch a final air strike to wipe out Britain’s RAF defenses.

Though the RAF Fighter Command had only 640 aircraft against the 2600 aircraft of the Luftwaffe, with the support of Bomber Command and Coastal Command, the RAF were victorious. Nazi Germany turned their attention to bombing British cities in the attack known as The Blitz, but failure in the Battle of Britain forced Hitler to cancel his Operation Sea Lion; an amphibious and airborne invasion of Britain.

Sir Robert Pattinson

Sir Robert Pattinson

In our special collections holdings at Newcastle University we hold the letters of Sir Lawrence Pattinson, an RAF pilot who fought during World War I and World War II. After the outbreak of World War II in 1939, Sir Lawrence was appointed Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Training Command and Flying Training Command in April 1940. By January 1945, Sir Lawrence was created Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire as part of the New Year’s Honors.

This month’s treasure is a letter from Sir Archibald Sinclair thanking Sir Lawrence Pattinson, on behalf of King George VI, for his long and valuable service in the RAF (dated 20th April, 1945).

GB 186 LAP/1/4/1 – Pattinson Papers

GB 186 LAP/1/4/1 – Pattinson Papers

Frances Burney Correspondence

By Sophia Leggett

Sophia Leggett is an MLitt English Literature student at Newcastle University, specialising in Contemporary Children’s Literature.  Throughout the year, she has also been working in the Special Collections department at the Robinson Library, helping to catalogue newly acquired rare books.

As she reaches the end of her time with us, we have asked Sophia to take a look at one of the hidden gems within our archive collection and tell you (and us!) a little bit more …

Taking inspiration from the three letters in the Manuscript Album collection written either to or by the great author, playwright and diarist Fanny Burney, Sophia looks a little deeper into the life and correspondence of this fascinating writer.


The Letters of Fanny Burney, held by Newcastle University, and available to consult in the Special Collections Reading Room, Robinson Library.

Reference ID: GB186-MSA-1-13 Letter From Hester Lynch Thrale To Fanny Burney

Reference ID: GB186-MSA-1-15 Letter From Fanny Burney To Dr Burney


Frances Burney (1752-1840) was arguably the most successful female novelist of the eighteenth century; her first novel Evelina (1778) was a publishing sensation and follow-up novels Cecilia (1782) and Camilla (1796) were considered among the best fiction of the time and were much admired by her contemporary Jane Austen. Further than this, Burney was also a keen playwright, and also wrote many letters and journals to her family and friends. Burney composed many of these letters and journals with a keen awareness of their future historical significance, giving a fascinating insight into many aspects of eighteenth century life including family, politics, court, war and pathology. Living to the incredible age of 87, Burney lived a long and fascinating life.

Family Life

Frances (‘Fanny’) Burney was born the third of six children to Charles and Esther Sleepe Burney. Her father, a musicologist, came from humble beginnings but increased his social standing through hard work and study. Her mother died when she was ten years old, and her father was remarried 5 years later to Elizabeth Allen, bringing three step-siblings into the family, and later two half-siblings. Her large family were a talented group of musicians, writers, scholars, geographers and artists. The whole family shared a habit of vividly ‘journalising’ experiences for each other, and between them left behind more than 10,000 items of correspondence. Burney’s family clearly nurtured her artistic talent, even though she did not learn to read until she was 8 and never received formal schooling. Burney was also nurtured by her father’s circle of friends, particularly as she acted as her father’s secretary as he worked on a history of music. Charles’ circle included the lexicographer Samuel Johnson, the poet Christopher Smart, the painter Joshua Reynolds, the actor David Garrick and a brewer Henry Thrale and his wife, Hester, a diarist.

Thrale Relationship

One of the letters held by Newcastle University is a letter from Hester Thrale, a friend of the family. Thrale seems to have had a very interesting relationship with the Burney family. She was allegedly strangely judgemental of them, torn between her love and admiration of the Burneys and contempt for their humble origins, referring to them as ‘a very low race of mortals’. Burney’s first novel, Evelina altered this relationship. It was initially published anonymously, but knowledge of her authorship soon broke out and Thrale saw the advantage of an acquaintance to Burney and demanded an introduction, inviting Burney to social gatherings and gaining her access to literary circles. Upon Thrale’s scandalous remarriage to musician Piozzi in 1784, Burney, in outrage, ceased correspondence with her, though they later had a partial reconciliation in 1815 in Bath.

MSA-1-13 Letter From Hester Lynch Thrale To Fanny Burney - Part 1

MSA-1-13 Letter From Hester Lynch Thrale To Fanny Burney – Part 1

MSA-1-13 Letter From Hester Lynch Thrale To Fanny Burney - Part 1 Narrative - Copy

MSA-1-13 Letter From Hester Lynch Thrale To Fanny Burney - Part 2

MSA-1-13 Letter From Hester Lynch Thrale To Fanny Burney – Part 2

MSA-1-13 Letter From Hester Lynch Thrale To Fanny Burney - Part 2 - NarrativeCourt Life

At 35, Burney was reluctantly appointed Keeper of the Robes to Queen Charlotte at the Court of George III, after the Queen wished for a new dresser who could supply her with intelligent conversation. This was meant to be a position for life, but Burney hated it and managed to leave after five years due to ill health. Despite this, Burney left on good terms with the Royal Family, and proceeded to stay in touch. She left with a pension of £100 – half of her £200 salary. Whilst at court, Burney vividly documented Court lifestyle, providing an intriguing insight into court lifestyle as well as King George III’s ‘madness’.

France

Following the French Revolution, in 1793 at the age of 41, Burney met Alexandre d’Arblay, an exiled French General, and soon after married him following a secret courtship. Due to poor relations with France following the Revolution, this was frowned upon particularly by Burney’s father, who tried to dissuade her from an imprudent match, though Burney clearly ignored him. D’Arblay was not allowed to work in England due to his nationality, and so Burney became the breadwinner of the family with her royal pension and her writing.

In 1802 Burney and her son joined D’Arblay in France, where he had returned to claim what was left of his estate and joined the French Royalist Guard. The family were then trapped in France by the breakdown of the Peace Amiens and the outbreak of war between France and England. In 1815, Burney fled from France to Belgium, and upon discovering that her husband was ill and wounded at Tréves (more than a hundred miles away from her), Burney set out to find him and take him back to England, documenting her travels through a war-torn country.

During her time in France, Burney’s journals and letters provide a fascinating insight into French society, politics and war. She also provides an intriguing pathological account of then-modern medicine. In 1811 at her home in Paris, she underwent a mastectomy for breast cancer without anaesthetic, writing a very detailed and graphic account of this operation.

MSA-1-15 Letter From Fanny Burney To Dr Charles Burney

MSA-1-15 Letter From Fanny Burney To Dr Charles Burney

MSA-1-15 Letter From Fanny Burney To Dr Charles Burney - Narrative

The Manuscript Album is a collection of letters, purchased or given to Newcastle University Library over the last century. Although collected with no particular subject focus, each letter was chosen for its historical significance, and the album includes letters by Horatio Nelson, A.E. Houseman, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Garibaldi, and Mary Shelly to name but a few, as well as by people of local significance like Thomas Bewick, Richard Grainger, and George Stephenson. The Manuscript Album contains three letters which were written either to or by the great author, playwright and diarist Fanny Burney.

Further details about this Collection

Chicken-rearing and the Revolution

17 August 2015 marks the 70th anniversary of the publication of George Orwell’s classic ‘fairy tale’ about animals in revolt and allegory of the Russian dictatorship, Animal Farm. Orwell – real name Eric Arthur Blair – wrote the book in 1943/44 at his small cottage in Wallington, Hertfordshire. His friend and fellow author, Jack Common, ran the village shop in nearby Datchworth.

George Orwell BBC

George Orwell

Common was born in Heaton, Newcastle upon Tyne, in 1903. He moved to London in 1925 and later worked at The Adelphi magazine, where he met Orwell in the mid-1930s.The pair struck up an uneasy friendship – Common was North East working-class, whilst Orwell, was (in his own words) “lower-upper-middle class” and Eton-educated. Despite their differences, the two remained friends until Orwell’s death in 1950. Orwell became Common’s literary mentor, regarding Common’s collection of essays, The Freedom of the Streets (1938), as:

‘the authentic voice of the ordinary working man, the man who might infuse a new decency into the control of affairs if only he could get there . . .’

Jack Common died in 1968, and his papers were deposited at the University Library in 1974. They comprise photographs, diaries, notebooks, manuscript, and letters.

JC/4/1/8

(JC/4/1/8) Jack Common

This 1962 letter (shown below) to Common (COM 3/3/38), from London bookseller Anthony Rota, is about the purchase of a selection of Orwell’s letters. Rota, obviously looking for insights into Orwell’s writing, isn’t impressed with some of the content:

‘Like you, I find Orwell’s absorption in the minutiae of chicken-rearing well worth reading about but, in terms of hard cash, it does not mean as much as any comment he makes on how and why he wrote his books.’

Rota offers Common a poultry £75 for the letters.

But perhaps the letter should maybe not be dismissed so lightly. Orwell – a keen angler and gardener – strove for self-sufficiency and reared his own livestock in his Wallington garden. His chickens and goats are the animals that provided inspiration for characters in Animal Farm.

Common replied, expressing his disappointment at the offer. Rota’s response of 8th August 1962 (COM 3/3/39) presses home his disinterest in Orwell’s Good Life interests:

‘From our point of view the trouble is that he writes too much about chickens and not enough about his work.’

The two eventually agree on £85 for the letter.

(COM 3/3/38), letter from Anthony Rota to Jack Common, 3rd August 1962

(COM 3/3/38), letter from Anthony Rota to Jack Common, 3rd August 1962