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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Found in an unpublished  typescript -a real life account of big game hunting in India- the author was almost certainly Lieutenant Colonel J. W. Wray.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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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Found in an unpublished  typescript -a real life account of big game hunting in India- the author was almost certainly Lieutenant Colonel J. W. Wray.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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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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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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The Art of Swimming 1819

From a book published in Venice in 1819 L'Arte del Nuoto: Teorico Pratica this plate of a man swimming with a horse. The first plate is fairly self explanatory with the swimmer leading the horse through water with a bridle. The second less so - according to the text it is probably about using a  horse in water if you cannot swim...

Chiunque, non sapendo nuotare sarà costretto di passare con un cavallo in un'acqua non gaudiosa, quand'il cavallo  sia mansueto o gia accostumato deve piutosto entrarvi con esso lui (Fig. 26) tenendolo per la criniera colla testa appogiata all'inietro sull'acqua accanto all sua, evitando dal fissarlo in faccia perche avanzi e così lascerassi in balia di un animale dalla natura dotato di una facoltà che il solo studio puo sviluppare nell'uomo. Che se poi il cavallo ricusasse di avanzare in tale positura puossi anche starsene sul suo dorso, avvertendo di tenere la testa più vicina che sarà possibile a quella del cavallo.

Google translates this thus - Anyone, not knowing to swim will be forced to go with a horse in the water is not joyful, quand'il horse is meek ​​or already accostumato piutosto must enter it with him (Fig. 26) holding the mane with his head on appogiata all'inietro 'water next to her, avoiding the stare in the face because leftovers and so lascerassi at the mercy of an animal by nature endowed with a faculty that study alone can develop in humans. What then if the horse declines to advance in this posture one can, also sit on its back, warning to keep his head closer than it will be possible to that of the horse.