Early Aviation in West Cornwall

Image result for grahame white aviation+fleet in mounts bay

The first flight over Penzance was a short affair lasting just 3 minutes at a height of 200 feet. This was achieved in a rather fragile biplane called a Farman with a propeller in the rear. This was around 6.00 p.m. on Saturday July 23rd, 1910. The pilot was the renowned Claude Grahame-White whose purpose was to fly over the three fleets assembled in the bay where they were expected to be informally reviewed by the recently crowned King George V. Poor weather had delayed the flight and high winds curtailed this first effort.

Grahame-White’s second flight from Marazion at 9.00p.m. that same evening was more impressive. It lasted some 15 minutes over the now illuminated fleet. Among the 200 ships present he was able to identify the flagship of the Home fleet, The Dreadnought, and the Admiralty yacht, The Enchantress. It had been his intention to show the vulnerability of the Navy to aerial attack. He had been supported in this endeavour by the photographer of The Daily Mirror, Vaughan T Paul. Grahame-White had learnt to fly at Reims under Bleriot who was the first to cross the Channel, the previous year in 1909. The next month Grahame-White flew his Farnham biplane over Washington landing close to the White House.

Despite the attention which it attracted this was not the first heavier than air flight to take place in the Duchy. Jack Humphries, a Dental Surgeon from Fowey had observed bird flight and made at least two flights with gliders from nearby cliffs. In 1912, the French aviator Henri Salmet, with the financial support of Lord Northcliffe arrived with his Bleriot machine on the 14th of June in Falmouth. He had intended to fly over Lands End, however the headwinds proved too strong for the monoplane.

On 24th September 1913, the Hamburg born Gustav Hamel, just 24 years old, arrived at Trengwainton from whence he flew his Bleriot monoplane over Penzance where he could be seen clearly from the Market Place, Market Jew Street and then to Newlyn Coombe and on to St Ives and was greeted by a large crowd upon his return. After meeting Lord and Lady St Leven and the local M.P., Mr T. Bedford Bolitho who examined his aircraft. The energetic Hamel flew off once more at 5.30 and returned having fulfilled his ambition of being the first aviator to have flown over Lands End.

Hamel and Grahame-White collaborated in the development of Hendon airfield which became a flying school, a site for aircraft manufacture and later taken over by the R.A.F. and is now its museum. Ballooning at Hendon had taken place as early as 1862. Airship bases were built in Cornwall during 1915 and 1916. For example, the Royal Naval Air Station Mullion was developed on a 320-acre site near the village of Cury and the first airship transported here by train. This Lizard Airship Station was later to contain a hydrogen producing plant and a small Marconi transmitter. Its situation was ideal for attacking U-boats in accordance with the intentions of the First Sea Lord, Lord Fisher.

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Visiting Town Blues

Walking for my morning coffee

through the falling rain,

I feel again the cold and my toothache pain,

leaving the bus, negotiating the speeding traffic

through what to me feels a rush,

reaching the corner, a hush as

slipping along the side street,

avoiding sudden traffic, above the narrow pavement,

I notice the broken awning.

Here next to the closed, derelict barber’s shop,

three gobbling pigeons have found

a box-shaped shelter; a tabloid sized hole

from where a torn out section of thin wood

and have made a home, an aviary,

a sort of “rus in urbe” among the tangled wires.

The birds bob and cheerfully chirp exchanges.

In this section life flourishes.

I stop to snap these jovial creatures that

triumph amidst the clutter,

defeating austerity, likewise

I recover my affection for broken places

….and the game is still on.

 

 

 

No Sunshine when She’s gone-Bill Withers

Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone
It’s not warm when she’s away
Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone
And she’s always gone too long…Wonder this time where she’s gone
Wonder if she’s gone to stay
Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone
And this house just ain’t no home
Anytime she goes away

Wonder this time where she’s gone
Wonder if she’s gone to stay
Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone
And this house just ain’t no home
Anytime she goes away

This song has been in the background of the Kaffeehaeuser -and I like that term-as I sometimes, in my Walter Mitty manner, like to imagine Penzance as a sort of Vienna. Sometimes the conversation feels as good as that in the heyday of the Cafe Central! As the darkness of twilight looms with the storm clouds and the sense of life’s losses becomes more a melancholy nostalgia. Outside the colours of the sky are glorious and then the song begins with its evocative repetition of the third verse:-

And I know, I know, I know, I know,
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know
I know, I know,
Hey, I oughtta leave young thing alone
But ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone

The only other song that seems to have a similar effect is, of course, Stormy Weather, which once brought tears to my eyes in -banal  and bathetic note– Pizza Express in Truro! 

Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone
Only darkness every day
Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone
And this house just ain’t no home
Anytime she goes away
Anytime she goes away
Anytime she goes away
Anytime she goes away

The song is so popular that there is naturally a detailed note about its origins back in 1971 on https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ain%27t_No_Sunshine

Image result for storms in St Ives

 

A Trainee Nurse’s pay at the outset of World War Two

A historian friend has written me about a Jewish woman who left Berlin, and saved her life, coming to England and starting her training in 1939. She had free board and bed and earned just 36/- per month. That is £3 and 6s. By November 1943 she was fully qualified and working in a General Hospital and her new salary became £5 and 5s-nurses were considered professionals before the NHS was formed and  were paid in Guineas (I Guinea= £1 and 1s). In order to fathom what this might have bought I looked up some figures in a couple of hours in a local newspaper archive. The following is what I discovered there.

Image result for Nurses Uniform in 1940

West Briton and Cornwall Advertiser  Feb 8th 1940    Price 2d
(12d= i/- (shilling) and 20/- equals £1 (a pound) )
Cockerels £1 per 100
Rental for a 2 bedroom house, sitting room, kitchen and scullery in Richmond Terrace in Truro £20 per annum
500 stamps 2/6 i.e. 2 shillings and 6d= 1/8 of a Pound
Cure for corns on feet 9d per bottle or 10 and 1/2d by post
Newly soiled Army boots 6/6 approx 1/3 of a Pound
soled and heeled 7/-
Unbleached bed sheets -double bed sized 7/11 and 1/2d (So it doesn’t seem 8 shillings!)
Turkish towels 1/11 and 1/2d
Unused 30 horsepower Electric Motor secondhand cost 50/- (Two and a half pounds) for sale at 30/-
Graham Piano in a walnut case £14 and 14/-
Other modern pianos in part exchange £7 and 10/-
Ginger wine 3/- for a bottle
Port styled wine (i.e. not real Port) a quarter bottle 9d
Full bottle of Sherry 2/6= 30d
Large oval bottle of port styled wine 3/6
West Briton and Cornwall Advertiser  Feb 12th 1940    Price 2d
 
Truro City Band – Grand Dance -admission 1/3 (obviously haf of half a crown!)
Kidney Pills on offer 1/3 and at 3/- and at 5/-
The Cornishman Dec 28th 1939 
 
Weekend Return Fare to Isles of Scilly 12/6 from Penzance!
New Agricutural Wages Act 1924 Update-comes into force on 1st Jan 1940
Minimum Wage for Male over 21 at 37/- (up from 34/-)
                                                14 year old  11/6
                           for Female over 20 6d per hour
                                                14-15 3d per hour
An advert 14 inches by 16 inches (half page) cost £18
80 word advert for 3 weeks cost 7/3
(It announces in this edition that overworked Nazis will be getting 3 weeks extra holiday next year and those cancelled in September will have their holidays restored}
(Also British Contraband seize 7000 tons of goods of contraband of which…
4000 tons are petrol
600 tons of foodstuffs and beverages
200 tons of tin
100 tons of rubber
Image result for Russo-Finnish War in 1940
and in North Finland 5000 Russians captured by Finns
Berlin Wireless announces Hitler to visit Western Front)
Wife’s Maintenance set by Camborne Court after husband’s pretty clear adultery = 15/- per week
Fees for a Girl’s School relocated from Isle of Wight-Westwing- to open in Jan 24th 1940
£30 and 30/- under 8 years boarding and £35 and 35/- boarding
Kindergarten £5 5/- per term.
The other authority on prices at this moment in time was, of course, George Orwell’s account of the reasonable cost of reading compared to smoking and drink. Sadly, it appears that so-called Agency nurses may be reasonably paid but if Jeremy Hunt’s pronouncements are anything to go by, nurses are scarcely likely to have a much better time in the forthcoming period. The long shadow of Brexit has already, as is well known made for a severe shortage of staff. The Conservative Party are great believers in the so=called free market, except of course when it applies to Public Sector Pay!

Philby, Zoltan Kodaly and István Szegedi Szüts

First let us get ourselves into the right mood with some Hungarian Music –from :-Szegedi Szűcs Judit: Három sós perec

Now translated from the Hungarian version of Index against Censorship by means of the partially garbled Google translate we read of a certain man -István Szegedi Szüts being bound up somehow with the Fourth Man, Kim Philby:-

“Probably never know how mixed up next to each other Szűts Szeged and Philby because Philby one word did not remember the incident, as a later joint útjaikról not, in fact never down either by Szegedi Szűts name, just “Hungarian” referred to as hinted. Nevertheless Szűts Szegedi could play a significant and important role in his life, has recently come of age since the 1930 Easter led Philby’s first trip to Hungary. Motorcycle arrived, but that where you’ve been, shrouded, but much seems certain that Szűts Szegedi’s company reached the Low Countries and Subotica surroundings, where the Black Country is very similar conditions met, but are not industrial workers, but the manual peasants life seen with your own eyes.

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Philby same year appeared again in Budapest, this time in the company of Tim Milne, who first hired King Street apartment and a car repair shop encamped, which was for the owner than George Szűts Szeged. Philby and Milne very well felt in the capital: fried meat ate, swam the Danube, which have been removed and used at the time, watched the Blue Angels (was Marlene Dietrich’s first major success in 1930, the German sound film made Heinrich Mann’s novel, first pool by way of ), they walked along the Margaret Island and Milne’s memoir, according to Philby never once gave signs of increasing political beliefs. Szegedi Szűts not name popped up ever again; if there was a secret painter mid-thirties established in England in 1959 when the death took to the grave with him. Philby’s commitment towards the working class and communism found it a few years later confirmed in Vienna, where two Hungarian also participated actively in the consciousness of Philby spy and of becoming.”

Which is very interesting and suggests the possibility that to an unknown extent, Philby was involved with a Hungarian painter who knew the Russian spy and was possibly a contact in his activities. This was not just any painter but an artist who has been compared with Paul Nash, was an excellent woodcut printer and also a talented writer, István Szegedi Szüts. He was born in Budapest and lived for a large portion of his life in the small south Cornwall fishing village of Mullion. István Szegedi Szüts was a member of an Olympic fencing team in 1912 and a brave officer fighting the Russians in the Carpathians during the First World War. It was at this time that he was ordered to shoot any straggelers among his own men to prevent a more horrid death from persuing wolves. His fascinating prints recording his experiences in the K and K forces can be seen at http://www.bhandl.co.uk/articles/2013/03/19/viewer.aspx.

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István Szegedi Szüts, a self-portrait at the age of about 32
István Szegedi Szüts, a self-portrait at the age of about 32

Images from the First World War may be seen at Barnes, Hampton and Littlewood where they say:”Szuts first visited England in 1929 and held a solo exhibition at the Gieves Gallery, London in the same year. In 1936 he moved to Cornwall with his partner Gwynedd Jones-Parry, whom he married in 1937. The couple lived at Caunce Head near Mullin on The Lizard and remained there for the rest of their lives. Szuts exhibited with The Newlyn Society of Artists and The Penwith Society of Arts.” The link is at http://www.bhandl.co.uk/articles/2013/03/19/viewer.aspx

Wordless Book,"My War" showing a village during WW1
Wordless Book,”My War” showing a village during WW1

 

A teacher and educational philosopher he was also a friend of a friend of the composers Béla Bartók, Zoltán Kodály and György Ránki.

 

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Paintings of Refugees by Maurice Minkowski(1881-1930) and Frances Hodgkins(1869-1947)

The paintings of Jewish refugees from Odessa and Bialystock by Maurycy Minkowski around 1910 are haunting, heartbreaking and evocative. Yet both in their colourful lyricism and moving composition they are a reminder that the refugee crisis is by no means a new phenomena; they are also pointers to some sort of categorical imperative that it requires urgent action still today. These are art works which demand that the fight for peaceful refuge and against racism is taken seriously now and once again.

Translating from the IWO in Buenos Aires, where it states:-

He was born into a wealthy Jewish family in Warsaw in 1881. At five years old he was deaf as a result of an accident. Having shown artistic vocation, he studied art at the Art Academy of Krakow where he graduated with honors. In his early years he painted portraits of local personalities and impressionistic landscapes.
His experience Pogrom of Bialystok (1905) was decisive in the course of his life: he abandoned his specialty as a landscape and portrait painter to devote himself almost exclusively to painting scenes of religious and secular Jewish life in Eastern Europe. 
Minkowski rejected the new artistic movements of the early twentieth century to put his painting in the service of a style that could be defined as “ethnographic” and became the portraitist of anonymous Jews, refugees, and the impoverished masses. 
His large canvases showing the victims of the pogroms attracted the attention of the European public, and despite the barriers imposed their origin and communication difficulties, his paintings were exhibited in Antwerp, Dusseldorf, Berlin, Paris and other cultural centers in Europe .mm1
in addition to painting many scenes of the suffering of the Jews in Russia and Poland in the early twentieth century, Minkowski devoted much of his work to exalt the role of women in Judaism,
At http://www.pagina12.com.ar/diario/suplementos/las12/13-2747-2006-07-06.html we read that of  his work  in Buenos Aires, where this deaf and dumb painter, the critics Silvia Bronstein Wilkis and Zachary M. Baker wrote:-
“Soon Minkowski will present to the Argentine public in his simple and beautiful  work. Undoubtedly and without prejudice, the heart will appreciate a work that only the heart has dictated, ” Julio E. Payró.wrote from Belgium in the newspaper La Nacion, in June 1926, “No violence, no scene of lethal fire, brutal invasion, but the memory and the threat of pogrom weigh in the atmosphere of the work of Minkowski (…) Thus, in his immense tenderness, the artist’s gesture Leasehold the horizon of Poland and embraces all suffering humanity, “said the Belgian art critic in another part of his article.”mm2
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Frances Hodgkins (see these two above images of Belgian Refugee children painted in St Ives in 1916) was a significant New Zealand painter of whom David Tovey has written in his interesting book Sea Change Fine and Decorative Art in St Ives 1914-1930. During World War I she spent some time in Zennor, Cornwall, where she worked with the Swansea painter, Cedric Morris, who painted her portrait in 1917.She herself began to paint in oils in 1915.
As the website at the New Zealand Museum, http://collections.tepapa.govt.nz/topic/935 states:- “The outbreak of World War One forced Hodgkins to move from Paris to St Ives, a small fishing village in Cornwall, England. Here she found it difficult to travel or earn money and endured considerable hardship. However, it also meant that she had time to paint, and she experimented with larger works, using oil and tempera as an alternative to watercolours. Her works from this time show the influence of Post-Impressionism. “
Tovey points out that under the proactive approach of Gussie Lindner that St Ives took in some 99 refugees from Belgium of whom something like 62 remained in 1915. The large oil which is in the Christchurch,NZ gallery, the upper of these two above was called “Unshatterable” and was exhibited at the International Exhibition in 1916. He quotes from curator Ken Hall at Christchurch who mentions how in this painting the grey swirling area in the top left represents the absent father. Moffat Lindner felt these paintings showed considerable talent and he was to provide for her and encorage her in various ways. More information on Lindner who was a key figure in the St Ives Society of Artists may be found at http://cornwallartists.org/cornwall-artists/moffatt-lindner
 In 1915 St Ives was a small town but played its part in taking in those in dire need-surely now we can maintain this enlightened tradition particularly for those who are victims of the devastating weaponry and ferocious assault.
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