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Bear in a cave – a hunter’s tale

Found in an unpublished  typescript -a real life account of big game hunting in India- the author was almost certainly Lieutenant Colonel J. W. Wray. The manuscript was in an envelope with 3 other chapters addressed to him at 'The Croft, Guildford' and he is known to have written With Rifle and Spear : reminiscences of Lt.-Col. J.W. Wray. COPAC gives his dates as 1851-1924 and record this book as being published by The General Press, Ltd.,. They estimate the date as 1925. Certainly these accounts mention rifles and spears, Wray was a dedicated game hunter. The manuscripts came from a couple of very old soldiers - Basil and Russell Steele.

No copies of the book are available and it has not been digitised, apart from an earlier chapter at Jot. Web archives reveal he was in the 108th Foot Regiment and he was a member of the Northumberland and Northern Counties Club. Punch mentions him and his wife in 1916 - the victim of a Pooter like misprint: 'Mrs. Wray entertained the recruiting staff, numbering £21, to tea at Brett's Hall, Guildford, on Thursday.' They add 'Sterling fellows obviously'.

BEAR SHOT INSIDE HIS CAVE

    In one of my previous Chapters I have described the following up of a wounded bear into his cave and finding him dead in there. I knew before I went in that he could not possibly be alive, and I merely went in to make sure of this before allowing any of the beaters to go in and drag him out.
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Eleanour Sinclair Rohde & Aromatic Plants etc.,

Found -- this pamphlet from the 1930s put out by Eleanour Sinclair Rohde (1881 -1950.) As Wikipedia notes, she had a fairly standard house but an enormous garden where it appears she sold plants (mostly aromatic -with ESR it was all about scent) by mail order and possibly to visitors. She was the author of several now sought after works on gardening, especially The Scented Garden (1937) and A Garden of Herbs (1920). In World War 2 she published a useful work that was reprinted several times The War-Time Vegetable Garden (1941).

AROMATIC PLANTS, BEE PLANTS AND HERBS.




The finely shredded leaves of all plants marked * are a wholesome addition to salads and turn a dull salad into an interesting one.


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Rosemary for Remembrance

Found in an old herbal by the great botanist, apothecary and herbalist John Parkinson (1567 - 1650) a 'sovereign balsam' - a recipe for a curative oil made from rosemary, probably the most prolific of all herbs in Britain. The title of this splendid folio is: Paradisi in sole paradisus terrestris : Or a garden of all sorts of pleasant flowers which our English ayre will permit to be noursed up: with a kitchen garden of all manner of herbes, rootes, and fruites, for meate or sause used with us, and an orchard of all sort of fruit-bearing trees and shrubbes fit for our land: together with the right ordering, planting, and preserving of them; and their uses and vertues. Collected by Iohn Parkinson Apothecary of London. Printed by Humfrey Lownes and Robert Young at the Signe of the Starre on Bread-Street Hill, London 1629. True to Ophelia's sad words in Hamlet ('There's rosemary. That's for remembrance. Pray you,love, remember...')  the herb was long associated with preserving and invigorating the memory. The remedy calls for a fortnight's immersion in warm horse dung. As not many now have immediate access to  hot horse manure, an airing cupboard might do for brewing the potion or the warm part of  maturing compost. The 'strong glasse' could be replaced by a Kilner jar...

Rosemary is almost of as great use as Bayes, or any other herbe both for inward and outward remedies, and as well for civill as physicall purposes. Inwardly for the head and heart; outwardly for the sinewes and joynts: for civill uses, as all doe know, at weddings, funerals, &c. to bestow among friends : and the physicall are so many, that you might bee as well tyred in the reading, as I in the writing, if I should set down all that might be faid of it. I will therefore onely give you a taste of some, desiring you will be content therewith. There is an excellent oyle drawne from the flowers aloneby the heate of the Sunne, availeable for many diseases both inward and outward, and accounted a soueraigne Balsame:it is also good to helpe dimnesses of sight, and to take away spots, markes and scarres from the skin ; and is made in this manner. Take a quantitie of the flowers of Rosemary, according to your owne will eyther more or lesse, put them into a strong glasse close stopped, let them in hot horse dung to digest for fourteene dayes, which then being taken forth of the dung, and unstoppcd, tye a fine linnen cloth over the mouth, and turne downe the mouth thereof into the mouth of another strong glasse, which being let in the hot Sun, an oyle will distill downe into the lower glasse ; which preserve as precious for the uses before recited, and many more, as experience by practice may enforme divers,  viz. for the heart, rheumaticke braines, and to strengthen the memory, whereof many of good judgement have had  experience.

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Canon John Vaughan, forgotten botanist

Found - an illuminating pencilled note by one Christopher Bell in the front of  The Wild-Flowers of Selborne: and other Papers, by John Vaughan (London, John Lane, 1906.) It has more information than has been currently available on Canon Vaughan (1855 - 1922) - a distinguished botanist and writer on natural history, unknown to the DNB and Wikipedia. COPAC record 10 books by him including: A short memoir of Mary Sumner: founder of the Mothers' Union / A short history of Portchester Castle (his first work from 1894) Lighter studies of a country rector / The music of wild flowers (his last work from 1920) A mirror of the soul, short studies in the Psalter /Winchester Cathedral close: its historical and literary associations.  Bell writes:

I knew John Vaughan and worked with him as my fellow curate (and senior) in the Parish of Alton. He was then (1884) considered the best botanist in all Hampshire and had a fine herbarium (pp 62, 85). He generally had bog bean and other plants in his room and was a very interesting preacher. I got hints from him and started collecting plants for a herbarium after his example. I went to Selborne and found Monotropa on the Hanger. In 1909 - after 25 years - I met him at Walberswick Church at H. C. AV 8. AM. He said he knew me at once. He always had a charm of language - a literary style with a touch of magniloquence (as on page 115 may be seen) that contrasted with his modest and somewhat reserved sort of manner. He married the vicar's daughter - Miss Whyley. [1911]

The magniloquent ('high flown, fancy, flowery') passage referred to on page 115 reads thus:

When prehistoric man reared his barrows to tumuli over the remains of his distinguished dead, there is no reason to doubt that then, as now, the frog-orchis blossomed on Old Winchester Hill, and the autumnal gentian was abundant on Crawley Down. When the Druid priest, clothed in white raiment and bearing a golden sickle, went forth to cut the mistletoe, the Selago flourished on the heath, and the Samolus by the running stream. When the Romans made their straight road from Portchester to Winchester, through the dense forest of Anderida, the dogwood and the spindle tree fell before their axes, and the wild daffodil was trampled under their feet. When the black boats of the Northmen made their way up the Hamble River, the marsh sapphire covered the muddy banks, and the sea holly blossomed on the shore. Unnoticed and uncared for, the wild flowers, then as now, each in their own season throughout the changing year, "wasted their sweetness on the desert air".

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Hunting panthers in India (1920s)

Found in an unpublished  typescript -a real life account of big game hunting in India- the author was almost certainly Lieutenant Colonel J. W. Wray. The climax is worthy of Henty or Buchan, otherwise it is a good hunter's tale, completely of its time...The manuscript was in an envelope with 3 other chapters addressed to him at 'The Croft, Guildford' and he is known to have writtenWith rifle and spear : reminiscences of Lt.-Col. J.W. Wray. COPAC gives his dates as 1851-1924 and record this book as being published by The General Press, Ltd.,. They estimate the date as 1925. Certainly these accounts mention rifles and spears, Wray was a dedicated game hunter. The manuscripts came from a couple of very old soldiers - Basil and Russell Steele.

No copies of the book are available and it has not been digitised, apart from an earlier chapter at Jot. Web archives reveal he was in the 108th Foot Regiment and he was a member of the Northumberland and Northern Counties Club. Punch mentions him and his wife in 1916 - the victim of a Pooter like misprint: 'Mrs. Wray entertained the recruiting staff, numbering £21, to tea at Brett's Hall, Guildford, on Thursday.' They add 'Sterling fellows obviously'.

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Pollen charts

Found in Dorothy Hodges bee book The Pollen Loads of the Honeybee (Bee Research Association Limited, 1962) an attractive 'pollen load' chart over a dozen pages. Similar to a paint chart and showing a surprising variety..

The colour of the pollen load is the colour as it appears when the pollen arrives at the beehive. Bees mix dry pollen with nectar and/or honey to compact the pollen in the pollen basket. The pollen basket or corbicula is part of the tibia on the hind legs of certain species of bees. They use the structure in harvesting pollen and returning it to the nest or hive.

The honey or nectar is used by the bees to mix the dry pollen into a paste-like condition suitable for packing her pollen loads…  as Dorothy Hodges says 'this mixing of the pollen with liquid, either honey or nectar, or possibly a mixture of both, makes the colour of the honeybees pollen load quite different from the colour of the pollen alone as it is seen on the anther of the flower.' This photo of a  Squill flower seems to bely this as the pollen is clearly visible as a dark blue...

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The day that May Kovar’s luck ran out

One of the most poignant inscriptions in the celebrity album kept by Swindon landlady Barbara Slocombe is the 'Good Luck to You' which was left by May and Harry Kovar in November 1937. The couple were acclaimed wild animal trainers who specialised in lions and tigers, Harry being acknowledged as one of the greatest big cat trainers in the world. At the time both worked for Chapman’s Circus, but by 1941 they had moved to a more lucrative career in the States.

On 6 July 1944, the Kovars were the act that immediately preceded the discovery of a fire that quickly engulfed the huge tent of Ringling’s Circus in Hartford, Connecticut, where more than 7,000 spectators were watching the show. In the carnage that followed  around 169 were killed and over 700 were injured, many being  badly burned by the paraffin wax that had been used to waterproof the tent canvas. In 1950 a 21 year old former employee of the circus named Robert Segee confessed to what has been called the worst act of arson in American history, but he was never tried.

While the fire blazed the brave May desperately tried to force her animals back into their cages. She survived, but in 1949 her luck finally ran out. In California, during a training session, she was coaxing a recalcitrant lion, Sultan, from his cage, when the animal suddenly attacked her. Watched by her three horrified children, she was badly mauled and her head ended up in the lion’s mouth. She died instantly when her spine was snapped.

May was just 48 at the time. Her daughter (also called May) forged her own successful career with big cats for a number of years, before retiring to raise children. Today, one of those children is writing a book about her grandmother’s exploits. I wonder if those happier days at Mrs Slocombe’s will get a mention.

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Needwood Forest – The axeman cometh…

Cottage in Needwood Forest (Joseph Wright)

Found a few years ago in a job lot is this manuscript copy of a poem which ranks among the most famous ‘local’ poems in the English language. Needwood Forest was published privately in Lichfield in 1776 by one Francis Noel Mundy, a Derbyshire squire alarmed by plans to cut down and enclose much of the large Staffordshire forest he had known since his childhood.

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Ostrich Fallacies

Found in The Encyclopaedia of Fads and Fallacies by Thomas Jay (Elliott Rightway Books, Kingswood Surrey 1958) a small section on ostrich fallacies. The reference to a Bergen Evans
book is probably his Natural History of Nonsense.

The Diet of the Ostrich

There is a foolish notion that the ostrich can digest iron. Many zoos and menageries have quite a lot of trouble because the public will feed ostriches with nails or bits of metal. As Bergen Evans points out in one of his books, it rarely occurs to people that the purposes of the bars, moats, and walls at zoos is to protect the animals from us. 

Ostrich

An ostrich does not bury its head in the sand thinking that it is hiding itself. But what some politicians will do without the metaphor I don't know. If alarmed, or suspicious, the ostrich will lie flat on the ground with its head stretched out flat in front so that it can size up the situation. And it can do that very well from that position.


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Chiff – Chaffs in March

Found -- a couple of pages from a magazine loosely inserted in a bird-spotter's book. They are from 1967 and seem to me from a magazine about or sponsored by PNEU -the Parents’ National Education Union -an affiliation of  schools throughout the British Isles and the world**. In an article  by Dinah Lawrence* a freelance journalist and novelist she discusses wild life in March. The style is reminiscent of the nature notes still found in The Guardian and gently parodied by Evelyn Waugh as long ago as 1938 in Scoop. After discussing Jung and Freud Dinah Lawrence talks about Professor Hardy's recent Gifford Lectures which, as in his book The Living Stream, make a link between Natural History and religion.... she then discusses bird life:

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