The river Waveney at Beccles on the Norfolk border. 1958

This waterway forms the boundary between the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk for most of its length. Before the county boundary changes of 1974 it formed the boundary along its whole length, but in that year Gorleston and a few other North Suffolk parishes on the Suffolk side of the river were transferred to Norfolk. The Waveney flows into Breydon Water at Burgh Castle and there the river ends; the villages of Belton, Fritton and Blundeston were once in Suffolk and now are in Norfolk. The river Waveney flows past these villages and this is where it ceases to be the county boundary. Like the conurbation of Yarmouth and Gorleston, Thetford is another town that straddles the river, but in that case it is the Little Ouse, so we will not be considering that here.

The river Waveney rises in the Redgrave Marshes, near South Lopham in Norfolk. This is also where the source of the Little Ouse is and the two rivers rise only a matter of metres away from each other. When the glaciers of the last ice age melted a lake formed in this part of East Anglia and the Redgrave Marshes are what remains of this lake.

The river passes the towns of Diss and Harleston, both in Norfolk, before reaching Bungay and Beccles in Suffolk. In the 17th century Geldeston Lock was built between these two towns and keels (later wherries) were then able to take their commercial loads upstream to Bungay. The town flourished with the lock providing access via the river Waveney to the sea. This was supplemented by coming of the railway in 1860 and this took much of the traffic from the river. Geldeston lock closed in 1934 and since then the head of navigation has been at Geldeston Locks Inn. This remote pub gets much of its trade from its proximity to the river Waveney and its motor cruisers. Beccles has a large marina and it is the major inland port on the river Waveney. The town of Lowestoft can be accessed from the river but this requires passage through Oulton Broad.

From Breydon Water you can pass up the river Yare, but another watercourse between the two rivers is the New Cut which was constructed in 1832. Being a canal through marshland it is very straight and so quite dull but there is swing bridge where the railway crosses the New Cut at Haddiscoe. It is near where it joins the river Waveney. This was intended to be a commercial venture, allowing shipping to avoid Yarmouth where the harbour authorities imposed heavy dues. Mutford Lock was built to allow passage from Oulton Broad to Lake Lothing. The New Cut cost over £150,000 to dig.As soon as it was opened Yarmouth reduced its charges and shipping from Norwich took the more direct route to the sea. The New Cut was never a financial success and after it was damaged by the 1953 Flood it was proposed to abandon it. Luckily this did not happen. (My daughter works for the Environment Agency in Flood Control for Norfolk and it is proposed that she is given responsibility for the river Waveney. She is quite enthusiastic about the prospect – as I would be too!) The New Cut is now used far more by holidaymakers than it ever was by commercial shipping.

There is an interesting structure across the river at South Elmham St Mary between Harleston and Bungay. Homersfield Bridge was built of wrought iron, cast iron and concrete in 1869. This makes it one of the oldest concrete bridges in the world. The road bridge was in use for 101 years. It is no longer used by road traffic being replaced by a new bridge in 1970. It was restored by the Norfolk Historic Building Trust in 1990.






THOMAS BARRRETT was the last pedlar in Norfolk, at least according to his family. He was born in THE North Norfolk village of Bodham near Sheringham in 1861. On leaving school he worked on the land as his father had done before him. When he was a young man of twenty four the M. & G. N. was being constructed between Melton Constable and Cromer, and he worked as a navvy building the line. It passed within a mile or two of hIs home in Bodham. When the line was finished he was employed as a sackman, a worker who was responsible for covering the loads in the open trucks with tarpaulins.

He moved to Kings Lynn where he got to know a pedlar and he resolved to followed in his footsteps. His route was through the lanes and byways of West Norfolk, selling articles of haberdashery and small cloth items such as handkerchiefs to farmers’ wives and other buyers that he passed on the way. His path did not follow too closely the railways that went through Norfolk for obvious reasons. The railways did not cover the ground so densely in West Norfolk as they did in East Norfolk (and now the area is even less well served by rail). Thomas had a ready clientele in these remote areas; he would have got his customers from the countryside, where the villages may have has a Post Office or general stores, but haberdashery shops only existed in the towns.

There are a number of questions I would have liked to ask Thomas Barrett if he were alive today. The obvious one is what did he do in bad weather? As he is kitted out in the picture it all looks perfect for a dry day, but when it rained what did he do to keep his stock dry? A hamper would let the water through like a sieve. And there was always his own person to consider – what about a raincoat? Did he take anything to make his life more accommodating while he was out on the road; a packet of sandwiches perhaps? And did he always return home every evening? If so, his route must have been rather circumscribed.

After Thomas moved to Kings Lynn he met the woman who would become his wife, Sarah Jane Moses. They were married in 1889 when he was thirty and she was twenty two. She was always known as Jane. She too worked on her own account in the drapery business; she was busy, because Thomas was absent travelling with his hamper on his head for much of the time and the Barretts had a large family of their own to look after. They went to foster an equally large number of children. In the days before the Welfare State there was no support for families and nothing to fall back on. At least with a large family the older children helped look after the younger ones.

The family lived in a small house in Church Street Kings Lynn, near the Custom House and the port. After The Act of Parliament that reduced the age of retirement to 65 was passed in 1925; as that was Thomas’s age he was able to give up his basket of goods and live on his Old Age Pension. He was the last hawker to travel the roads of Norfolk; the coming of the country motor bus after the First World War had made it possible for people to buy their haberdashery in the local town. The use of a needle and thread was fading slowly anyway, and nobody thinks haberdashery of much importance today. Thomas died in 1940 at the age of eighty.

Many of Thomas’s children and grandchildren became involved in the Salvation Army.





ALFRED MASON died Nov 3rd 1918.

This is a special Remembrance Sunday. No one now remembers the war; even those who are still alive a hundred years after the end of the Great War were too young to have any recollection of the conflict, so true ‘Remembrance’ is no longer possible. To consider the awful consequences of mistaken international disagreements is always necessary however.

I have considered many aspects of Remembrance over the years. To me it is not a time of remembrance, because there is no one lost through war whom I remember personally. Three close members of my family were lost in the First Word War, one tragically near to Armistice Day, so that his family were celebrating the peace, not knowing of their loss; and the news of his death did not arrived until a day or two later. Another great uncle was lost in the Somme, and his mother never recovered from the shock. My first cousin once removed (William Astley) was in the Navy and was killed when HMS Bulwark exploded in the early months of the war; he was just 16. I will certainly be thinking of these young men, but of course I cannot remember them.

So what is the significance of the day? For me it is a time of sadness above everything else; so many resources wasted, so many lives lost. How should I react to the thought of war, when it comes round at this time of year? You could get an idea from the fact that I was member of the Territorial Army, but I was a member of the Medical Corps. You might think that this reflects my peaceable nature, but I originally intended to join an infantry regiment. I was advised that I was not fit enough at my age (I was over thirty), but I might manage a less demanding role as a medic. In spite of its care for the injured, the RAMC is not a Pacifist organisation – the Combat Medical Technician carry arms, and are expected to use them to protect themselves and their casualties. I had regular practice sessions with a light machine gun on the firing range.

Arthur Rutter in uniform. Died March 1917.

In my thirties I was a definite enthusiast for the Eleven o’clock minute of silence and the following musical march past. I would weep copious tears as the morning unfolded. The attraction has waned since then, and I don’t recall any interest in Remembrance Sunday during my twenties.

It is only one day out of three hundred and sixty five, and it worth devoting one day of the year to thoughts of the futility of war; it falls in the Autumn when the nights are drawing in, and the leaves are turning colour and beginning to fall. Let the dead rest in peace.




You may recall that over the course of the years since the hundredth anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War I have been giving annual updates on the life of Edward Lound. He was officially called Edward May Lound, bu he adopted the nickname Laurie after his stepfather, a Yarmouth fisherman. In his Army Records he even called himself Edward Laurence Lound. He had been born in Leicester to an unmarried mother, but was brought up from an early age by his grandparents in Great Yarmouth. He worked for several years in the holiday industry before commencing his army career. He joined up in Derby in 1908. As a professional soldier he was, at the outset of the war, a Colour Sergeant in the 2nd Battalion the Sherwood Foresters (the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment to give it its official name); he must have been too good at his job to be promoted because he never progressed beyond that rank.  He fought on the Western Front in Flanders throughout the war; just eleven private soldiers of his regiment shared this distinction, with the equally few officers and NCOs surviving the war. The other Battalion of the Notts and Derby Regt (the 1st Battalion) that was in existence at the outbreak of war was serving overseas and did not arrive in France until late November. At the outbreak of war ‘Laurie’ Lound had been in Ireland, and was immediately dispatched to Cambridge and thence to France. He arrived in France on November 5th. This made him one of the Old Contemptibles, those in the British Expeditionary Force who were involved in the earliest battles up to the end of November 1914.

After the war he went on to serve in Turkey, Egypt and on the India – the North West Frontier. There he was constantly in conflict with the people who he referred to as Pathans; we know these people as Afghans. After leaving the army he worked in Derby until retirement when he and his wife moved back to Norfolk. When his wife died in 1951 he married my grandmother, who had been widowed in 1945.


Major changes had occurred during 1917.  The revolution that had brought the Bolsheviks to power in Russia was causing concern in capitals across Europe. The British Government and King George V had refused to allow his cousin, the deposed Emperor Nicholas II of Russia, to come to Britain for fear of stirring up unrest among the working class here.  The new Emperor of Austria, Charles I, was secretly pursuing peace talks with France. The Germans were particularly anxious to use their troops released from the Eastern Front by the disintegration of the Russian Army before large numbers of American forces entered the war on the Allied side. This led to the German Spring Offensive of 1918.

On New Year’s day the Second Battalion began their march of seventy kilometres due south from Bailleul to Courcelles-le-Comte. The billets which they took over from the York and Lancaster Regt were much more comfortable than those they had left behind. The troops were set on an intensive training programme on the techniques of counter attack. This was to prove useful in the summer, but first they to endure two months of retreat. A tour of duty on the front line in late January resulted in 5 Foresters being killed, few in comparison to what was to come. Throughout February the confusion of war continued but with the Battalion gaining modest but effective advances. However the Germans were making huge preparations for what they hoped would be the ecisive battle of the war. Roumania, which had only recently entered the war on the Allied side, had been completely overrun and had been forced to make terms, only confirming the progress that the Germans were making in the East. If only they could defeat the debilitated Western Powers before the Americans had assembled their troops in battle ready condition the Germans would have won the war. The replacement soldiers who arrived in the Sherwood Foresters’ ranks were little more than teenage boys. Against them train loads of experienced German troops were arriving in Flanders from the Eastern Front. Things were not looking good for the Allies.

Sixty four German Divisions were ranged against the British Forces in Flanders, a number of troops considerably in excess of the entire British Arm in France. There were only half that number of British Divisions to oppose them, although the French and troops from the British Empire were also arrayed against them. Enemy bombardment began on the twenty first of March, marking the start of the Spring Offensive. By now the Germans too had tanks, and they were thrown into the attack. The Second Battalion of the Sherwood Foresters laid minefields in an attempt to delay the German advance. The Germans were cutting the wire in preparation for the coming infantry advance, and laid down a heavy barrage of high explosive shells and gas, and later smoke shells to obscure the attacking soldiers. The garrisons of the Allies were quickly annihilated, and only the 9th Norfolks and the Sherwood Foresters repulsed the first attack. In spite of repulsing this opening attack under a hundred and forty men were left out of nearly six hundred, and only 5 of these were officers. The rest were either dead, wounded or missing. Despite this it was proposed to launch a counter attack, but wiser counsel prevailed. After trying to hold their line the remnants of the Sherwood Foresters withdrew. During this last operation their commanding officer was killed, being shot through the head by a bullet fired from a German aeroplane. At 3 a.m. the Forester were relieved. The battalion was reduced to just about a hundred men by then. The Foresters had taken the whole weight of the German attack, and had prevented the immediate victory the Germans had sought, though at a terrible cost. The importance of their sacrifice was not lost on the King, who visited the Division at the end of March. The King spoke to one of the Foresters who had served from the start of war and said that ‘he must have seen some hard times’. ‘Yes Sir,’ came the reply,’but this was the bloody limit.’ The King had difficulty in keeping a straight face.

After a brief lull in the fighting on April 5th, the Germans resumed their attack four days later. The British had to throw completely untrained men from the Service Corps and Labour units into the front line to bolster the depleted infantry units.  The German High Command were resolved to capture the Channel ports at all costs. Australians were drafted in to augment the exhausted British, and the Foresters were ordered to Drancoutre on the thirteenth of April, with Sergeant Lound at headquarters at Donegal Farm. They were order to hold their ground against the advancing Germans, but on the next day Donegal Farm was on the front line and HQ had to withdraw yet again. Heavy fighting continued until the Foresters were relieved on the front line. German advances continued although they were continuously resisted by the Allies. The Germans were unable to make the decisive breakthrough that would have brought them victory.

Canadians at rest

In July the Foresters began to regain some of the land they had lost in April. In early June the Americans had begun to arrive on the front, and in July some American Officers were attached to the Second Battalion to gain experience of warfare. After two months of training, the USA troops relieved the Foresters, who were sent to St Omer by train for a well deserved period of rest and recuperation. With the Americans now involved in the fighting, the course of the war rapidly changed. Despite being on the back foot, the Germans put up a determined rearguard action.

The political upheavals continued across the world; as an indication of the way things were going, Haiti declare war on Germany in the closing months of the year. This of course was merely symbolic; the Caribbean island took no part in war.  Canada and Australia, who had been involved in the war from the beginning, took some time to build up their forces in a theatre of war many thousands of miles distant, but by the closing stages of the war were relieving the British of some of the strain of the fighting, which had lasted four years.

THE HUNDRED DAYS OFFENSIVE was the Allied fight back that ended the war. Beginning with the Battle of Reims, part of he Second Battle of the Somme, the Germans were forced back in a series of bloody engagements, to the Hindenburg Line (the German defences built in the winter of 1916 – 1917C. Bitter fighting continued literally to the final minute of the war, when the last soldier (an American) was killed at 10.59 on the 11th November, although many continued to die of wounds inflicted during the war, during the following month. The Kaiser had already abdicated and fled to the Netherlands on the 9th November.

During the Hundred Days the Second Battalion continued to fight as the Germans fell back, but they continued to lose men in the process. The 9th Norfolk Regiment was still fighting on one side of the Foresters, with the Americans on the other. In November the enemy were obviously defeated and were falling back across the whole battle front, while the German Navy were in open revolt and raised the Red Flag. Only thirty three officers and men who had landed in France 5 years before remained in the 2nd Battalion, the Sherwood Foresters.

Things were not over for the men of the Sherwood Foresters however; when the war ended, after three days, they began their march east towards the Rhine, and on the thirteenth of December they advanced into Germany. Although officially an armistices, there was no doubt that the Germans had been thoroughly defeated. The German Empire had been abolished and  the Allied troops were required to restore order while the Paris Peace Conference was being hastily arranged. The town of Malmedy, then on the German side of the border, was entered by the British with flags flying and drums beating. It was pouring with rain, and the women of the town lit fires to dry the soldiers’ clothes, without being asked. Malmedy is a French-speaking city, with Belgian sympathies, which may account for this attitude; it is now part of Belgium. The Foresters had some difficulty in obtaining rations – all the railways and bridges had been destroyed and the blockade of Germany, which had produced severe food shortages during 1918, was maintained for six months after the end of the war until the Treaty of Versailles was signed. Children in Germany were badly malnourished, particularly among the working class, and this was only remedied by large amounts of food aid supplied by America.

In the beginning of February the Battalion moved into Cologne,  and during March 5OO men were demobilized. At some stage Colour Sergeant Lound M.M. had been sent back to England, for when the Foresters finally returned to Derby in April 1919 he was already on leave.




That is the claim in a new book published this year. St Edmund and the Vikings covers much more than the death of the King, but that was by far the most important thing about the man, that led to him becoming the premier Saint in England, until he was displaced by St George. Most historians place his martyrdom in Suffolk. This used to be thought to have taken place in the village of Hoxne, but this theory has been dismissed by all who have looked into the matter. Recently a suggestion that he was killed in Essex has been advanced, but the most popular place where is thought to died is a field called Hellesden ley near Bury St Edmunds. This has two things going for it; firstly it is near his eventual burial-place, and secondly the place of his death was recorded as Hellesdon in a monastic chronicle written about a century after the event, when memories were still quite fresh. Historians reject the obvious choice of Hellesdon in Norfolk because they say there is nothing to connect the saint with this part of East Anglia. They need to think again. There are many more churches dedicated to St Edmund within a few miles of Hellesdon than there are in the whole county of Suffolk. There are far more St Edmund churches in Norfolk than there are anywhere else. No one has previously considered this important new evidence. What possible reason could there be for this fact? Could it have any connection with the creation of this saint? Was the 10th century monk right about Hellesdon being the settlement where the king was killed all along?

This book traces many more reasons to believe that Edmund was indeed killed in Norfolk. Starting with an examination of old legends, it goes on to explore the geography of our county to see how the longships carrying the Viking raiders penetrated the East Norfolk river system to bring them face to face with the East Anglian King. There is much more about the Vikings in Anglo-Saxon England and their relationship with the Saint; did you know that they produced a very successful coinage in East Anglia, celebrating St Edmund? It is a fascinating read, suitable for an evening or two over the Christmas break.

St Edmund was popular across the country; this view comes from Pickering church in Yorkshire.

This book has aroused considerable interest in Norfolk. It is well illustrated with colour pictures and useful maps. It is fully supplied with footnotes and can be read on many different levels. I should remind my readers that by tradition, the fight that led to he King’s death occurred in this month, November, in the year 869.

Remember that Christmas is coming, and this inexpensive book would make an excellent present.

St Edmund and the Vikings by Joseph C. W. Mason.  Paperback, 234×156 mm, 168 pp. With 7 maps, 27 colour and 7 b/w illustrations. ISBN: 978-1-9997752-1-6. THE PUBLISHER is THE LASSE PRESS




It was in the eighteenth century that women began to emerge into the world of intellectual achievement. True, it wasn’t until 1869 that the first females were admitted to a university in the United Kingdom, but this did not stop them from rising to notice a hundred years earlier. A pioneer in this regard was Mary Wollstonecraft (1769 – 1797), and the title of her work, The Vindication of the Rights of Woman, was an indication of the way things were going.

Elizabeth Fry

Harriet Martineau, Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters were all spinsters, but there were married women too among these rising members of the female sex. Elizabeth Barrett married Robert Browning in 1846 and in spite of a lifetime of illness (and her age) the couple had one son, Robert, whom they always called Pen. It is often said that women had to be childless to succeed, but this not strictly true either. It was certainly more difficult for mothers to devote their time to other activities, but providing she came from a wealthy background this was possible; Elizabeth Fry (1780 – 1845) had eleven children but this did not stop her from campaigning on behalf of female prisoners. Her career also demonstrates that it was not only in literature that women were coming to the fore. We must not forget that the person with the highest status in the land during most of the nineteenth century was female – Queen Victoria.

It is undeniable however that literature was the activity in which women first excelled; this may have been because they could hide their sex from the public. George Elliot certainly thought so (hence her choice of a pen name), although Jane Austen’s first published novel (Sense and Sensibility, 1811) stated on its title page that it was written ‘by a Lady’. Women had a number of difficulties to overcome that did not apply to men, but these were less of a drawback in writing than they would face as painters or scientists; but we must not forget that mathematical genius, Ada Lovelace, wrote the first computer algorithm in 1843. Women also featured in art, and we must not overlook the fact that Angelica Kauffman was a founder member of the Royal Academy in 1763; in fact there were two women, Mary Moser being the other. There was some prejudice against women undoubtedly, but this was not universal.

Women were not allowed to perform in Tudor theatres, and female parts were played by boys. The same restriction was applied to musical performances, with the soprano parts often being sung by castrati, although this catastrophic operation was never performed in Britain. In the first performance in Dublin of Handel’s oratorio the Messiah the female parts were sung by boy sopranos, but women were already performing on stage in eighteenth century London, and Kitty Clive became celebrated as a performer of Handel’s songs. Female artists became a popular part of operatic performances once the hold of boy sopranos was loosened, and this too happened in the eighteenth century. In church choral music the hold of male voices continued much longer, and there is no denying that the sound of boy sopranos is not the same as that of an adult female voice.

So far I have examined British women, but similar things were going on in Europe, if to a lesser extent. Nannerl Mozart, the sister of Amadeus, was a musical prodigy who composed music as well as performing, but not one of her compositions has survived. Fanny Mendelssohn, who lived in the nineteenth century, was luckier and her compositions are known and increasingly even performed in the 21st century.

Among entrepreneurs women have taken longer to exert an influence. In the past this had a legal dimension, with married women being unable to enter into contracts in their own name. Since this disability was removed, in areas such as fashion they have done much, but in other areas the advancement of women has proved to be more of a problem. The fact is that women have a greater affinity with people than with things, and this may also have a bearing on the great number of novels that have been written by females. In medicine, not only in nursing, the whole profession it seems will eventually come to be dominated by women. Although female engineers exist and are highly prized by their male colleagues, engineering is not a common choice of career among women.

Louisa Barwell

Louisa Barwell

I would like to point out the importance of Norfolk in the prominent females of the nineteenth century. Elizabeth Fry and Harriet Martineau have already been mentioned, and to these women we should add the names of the novelist and poet Amelia Opie and educational reformer Louisa Barwell; all these women were born in Norwich. Further south in Suffolk Elizabeth Garrett from Aldeburgh became the first woman in England to qualify as a medical doctor in 1865. These women were not of merely local significance but had a national importance. East Anglia was rural but it was not a backwater; it was in the forefront of social change.





This station on the Wymondham to Fakenham line was opened in 1884 to serve the Public School of that name which had itself been opened ten years earlier. The school was intended to provide an education for the son of farmers in Norfolk but the creation of the school coincided with the Great Depression of British Agriculture, caused by the opening up of the American prairies; even with the thousands of miles of transportation wheat was cheaper to import than to grow in the UK. As a result, with ever decreasing enrollments, the school was never successful and it closed in the final years of the century. It reopened in 1901 as Watts Naval College but when the owner died shortly after the property was donated to Dr Barnardo’s. The charity continued to educate boys for a life at sea.  Unlike the Public Schoolboys who preceded them, these orphans required minimal travel opportunities (although the departing trains provided them with the hope of escape from the school, sometimes with tragic results), but the coal that was needed to heat the school and run its generator kept the goods yard busy. The school was finally closed in 1953. Almost nothing remains of County School; the building that was once the chapel still exist, and perhaps a few other minor buildings. If it interests you it is worth reading about the school in this article [click here] from the Eastern Daily Press.

County School; the station belongs to the Mid Norfolk Railway but currently has no train services.

Although the school gave the station its name, its principal importance was as the junction with the line that branched off the Fakenham line to Wroxham. This had opened in 1882 and the station had two through platforms and a bay platform; it also had a signal box to cope with all the traffic. Passenger services ended in 1964 when the line to Wells closed completely. Freight services continued to take coal to Fakenham and bring malt from Ryburgh, the next station along the line. Malt was no longer taken by rail after 1981 and the track was subsequently lifted beyond County School station. The line was  briefly retained to the south of North Elmham to carry grain away from there and fertilizer to the area. Although the line to North Elmham was closed in the nineteen eighties, the track was not lifted and remains in place. With no maintenance for thirty years the track has needed a lot of repair before trains can run again.

Doris and Alf Turner with two of their grandchildren (Polly and Peter Mason).

In 1990 the Fakenham and Dereham Railway Society took the station over from Breckland District Council, who had intended to create a visitor centre there, and proceeded to recreate the scene at the railway station with track and rolling stock. This period is represented in the photographs that accompany this article. Following various financial and operational shenanigans the station fell into disuse and a decay until is was bought by the Mid-Norfolk Railway which has restored the station building and track bed to its former glory. The signal box which had been demolished under BR is being rebuilt with components from Halesworth signal box. The station will be the northern terminus of the Mid-Norfolk railway from Wymondham. The trackbed as far as County School station is owned by the MNR, and the stretch from Dereham to North Elmham should soon be reopened. It is currently usable as far as Worthing level crossing, about a mile short of North Elmham. The track north of North Elmham still has to be relaid to bring County School into the preserved railway system. The ambition is ultimately to reopen the line to Fakenham, but this long term project with many difficulties to overcome.

County School is a strange place to find a railway terminus, right in the middle of nowhere. It is planned that the line will eventually be linked to the North Norfolk Railway at Holt to form the Norfolk Orbital Railway, but this is but a dream that will remain in the realms of fantasy. For those that are interested I suggest that you follow this link to their website.




UFO’s are an undoubted fact, and anybody who says they don’t exist is talking nonsense. There are dozens of UFO’s everyday. What are they? Well they are unidentified, so nobody knows; if you could identify them they would cease to be UFOs. As far as I am concerned they are almost anything in the sky; is that a moth or a butterfly, or just a biplane up there in the pale blue yonder? I don’t know. I don’t see that well, but even those with razor-sharp vision will never know what a UFO is, simply because as soon as they know what it is it ceases to be a UFO. To many people a UFO is an alien spacecraft plain and simple – in other words not unidentified at all ; they have already decided what it is. That is a logical absurdity. I am not currently trying to say whether extra-terrestrial spacecraft exist or not – that will come later. That is not what I am interested in at present.  My point is the foolishness of the use of the acronym to mean anything except something unknown which appears in the sky.

The most famous local UFO event is the unusual aerial scenes at Rendlesham in Suffolk. In December nineteen eighty in the early hours of Boxing Day a patrol near the east gate of RAF Woodbridge saw a light descending into the nearby Rendlesham Forest. As the servicemen attempted to approach the object it appeared to move through the trees and the farm animals in the adjacent farm went into a frenzy. Because the people describing event were USAF patrolmen we may take what they say with a degree of seriousness. However the local police who were called to the scene an hour later reported nothing unusual.

The Rendlesham incident illustrates perfectly the effect of seeing a UFO; it can be whatever you want it be. To some observers it is spaceship; to others it is a bright light. Undoubtedly it is an unidentified occurrence, but what exactly it is remains unknown. It had, in the opinion of the Ministry of Defence, no relevance to the safety of the realm. In any rational account of the event it was one of no significance. The existence of extra-terrestrial spaceships is virtually non-existent except in the minds of suggestible people.

As I have repeatedly observed, the existence of unidentified flying objects is a commonplace fact, but those who seek to attribute some definite extra-terrestrial origin to such phenomena are deluded. If, in the ultimate scheme of things they turn out to be right, this will only be a matter of chance; it will have nothing to do with observable facts. Needless to say I find such an outcome highly unlikely. There may well be more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy, but I doubt that extra-terrestrial spacecraft are one of them; for one thing such things have frequently been postulated without any evidence that would pass the examination of a reasonable ten-year old.

I am sorry to be so dismissive of something which is dearly held by many of you, but I can only speak as I find.





Coins of the Anglo-Saxon period

When the Roman Legions were recalled to continental Europe in 408 AD the native Britons were ill-prepared to defend their country. They had lived for centuries under the protection of foreigners, and suddenly having to provide an indigenous army was beyond them. They fell back on the people who had protected them in the past; they called on mercenaries from across the Channel.

Unfortunately it was not just local personnel who were lacking; the organisation of an armed force had been done by the Roman Empire, and this too proved impossible among the native Britons. One of the few things we learn about this period is that the Saxon soldiers were not being fed and (naturally enough) they rebelled. Vortigern had assumed control of Britain and had been the first to invite Germanic troops into the country to defend it against the marauding Irish. Britain was a Christian country and the Irish were pagan polytheists. Among the Britons captured, enslaved and taken back to Ireland was a young man from Wales called Patrick.

As they could not be fed by Vortigern’s central command, the Saxons (who were increasingly needed to counter attacks from Scotland and Ireland) were given land in the East of the country. The take over had begun. According to Bede the Anglo-Saxons arrived in the middle of the fifth century and over the next fifty years they became not mercenaries but settlers. With them they brought a return to heathen beliefs which spread across the land as they extended their territory, at the expense of the Christian Britons.

Quite the opposite had been happening in Ireland. According to his Confessio the young Patrick was kept as an animal husbandman for six years before escaping. Returning to Britain he was ordained and then went back to Ireland as a missionary. His message was accepted by the Irish and he has been regarded ever since as the Patron Saint of Ireland. From there missionaries converted the Picts and Scots, most notably by St Columba from the island of Iona.

All this background information bring me to the question of the rights of indigenous people. The conquest and displacement of a native race by newcomers is certainly a bloody and unpleasant business; but for how long must this cast a shadow down the centuries? The tribes of North America were badly treated by the American settlers, of that there can be no doubt, but was this worse than the way the Anglo-Saxons took the lands that had previously belonged to the Celts? Nor were the Celts the first people to colonise this island. The various tribes of North America were not averse to fighting for territory among themselves, but this fact is largely ignored. The movement of peoples has happened throughout history and prehistory, back to the dawn of homo sapiens itself. For what happened three and four hundred years ago in places like America and Australia we may try to make amends, but that is but a short period of human history. The whole canvas of human development is one of war and conflict as well as of peace and cooperation. The subject raises difficult moral questions that require a sensitive approach. Above all we must live for today rather than try to remedy historical wrongs. There are just too many of them.




When I wrote a piece on my ancestors I only included those of whom I could show you a picture. Consequently I was able illustrate all my great grandparents except Phipp and Susannah Peachey, the parents of my paternal grandmother Emily, of whom I had no illustrations. I still have nothing to show you of Phipp (although I have a photograph of his brother Arthur, taken in British Columbia where he emigrated as a young man) and sadly I do not expect to – but I have now received a photo of his wife. This was taken before her marriage, when her name was Susannah Jones.  She had been living in Portsmouth until she left school, but when she was seventeen she was living in France as you may see from the words on the back of the photograph. She was undoubtedly in service, and her employer must have had reason to go abroad. I had not known what a travelled lady she was.

Susannah Jones

Susannah was born in eighteen sixty in Evercreech in Somerset. Her father was a railway navvy employed in building the Somerset and Dorset Railway. He came from a family that had worked on the land in south Buckinghamshire for generations. He followed the traditional family job on a farm until he was thirty.  Then, in the middle years of the nineteenth century, he joined the Great Western Railway which was building the line through nearby Oxford. He followed the railway as it progressed through the country towards Penzance until in St Austell he met Sally Oliver. Her antecedents are obscure, but from family tradition I gather she was an orphan who was adopted by a local clergyman. In any event she married  William Jones and they continued to move through the country, having children along the way.

Back of pic143

My Aunt’s writing on the back of the portrait.

William’s last job in railway navvying was to build the extension to the Portsmouth line that carried the railway to Portsmouth Harbour. One of his sons remained in Portsmouth as an engine driver when William moved on as a general labourer. He was getting too old for the strenuous work involved in railway building, and in any case the age of the navvy was over; the railways had almost all been built, and for those that remained to appear heavy machinery had replaced men with shovels. William Jones ended up in retirement in Wolverton in Buckinghamshire, where another of his sons was working in the London North Western Railway carriage works. No wonder that railways are in my blood!


In 1881 William’s daughter Susannah was living in East Molesey in Surrey and working as a domestic servant. It was in South London that she met Phipp Peachey from Suffolk. He had moved to London to look for work. They married in 1883 and the eldest of their children was born in Wandsworth before the family moved to Phipp’s home territory in Suffolk. My grandmother Emily Peachey was born to Phipp and Susannah in Lakenheath, the village where Peacheys had lived since the sixteenth century and perhaps for hundreds of years before that.

An opportunity to work for Russell Colman brought Phipp to a small village near Norwich and this is how the other ancestors came together with Phipp and Susannah to produce my generation.