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British Heritage: August/September 1997 Letters

Originally published on HistoryNet.com. Published Online: September 23, 1997 
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THIRKELL SOCIETY

I enjoyed very much the review of Angela Thirkell's Peace Breaks Out (June/July, page 66). Perhaps your readers would be interested to know that there is an Angela Thirkell Society–the main society is in Great Britain but there is a thriving North American branch with more than 400 members.

Anyone interested in joining the North American branch should contact Treasurer Vera Jordan, 3821 Regal Place, St. Louis, MO 63109-1512. The membership fee is $15, payable to Vera Jordan, Treasurer.

Sue Haley,
Tucson, Arizona

Editor's note: In addition to the official Angela Thirkell Society mentioned above, publisher Moyer Bell offers the 'Thirkell Circle', membership in which entitles you to: notice of all future Angela Thirkell books as they are published, an Angela Thirkell newsletter, and an official Angela Thirkell bookmark and poster. For free membership, write to: Thirkell Circle, Moyer Bell, Kymbolde Way, Wakefield, RI 02879.

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CASTLES IN THE AIR

The article about Second World War American airfields (June/July, page 56) was terrific. More pictures and a longer feature would have been even better.

My father and brother were stationed in England with the Army Air Force. My brother was killed on 7th May, 1945 over the North Sea. His plane and many more were dropping food for Dutch civilians who were cut off and starving at the end of the War.

In 1992 I went back to their airfield with veterans of the 95th Bomb Group. These men had maintained contact with the village of Horham and had placed a memorial there.

The village church contains many memories of the Mighty Eighth. Embroidered kneelers have U.S.A.A.F. emblems, Flying Fortresses, and names depicted on them. But the church, which owns the oldest peal of eight bells in England, had not been able to ring its bells since 1933. The tower had deteriorated to the point where the reverberation of the immense bells would have destroyed it.

So the village and the 95th veterans collaborated in raising money. The bells were recast and the men of the village learned the engineering skills required to reinforce the tower. Meanwhile, an enthusiastic group of volunteers learned the art of traditional bell-ringing.

On 7th May, 1992 a memorial service was held in Horham Church, attended by 95th veterans and their English friends. A high point was the ringing of the bells, which had been blessed a few minutes before by the Bishop of Norwich.

The middle-aged men who had been the village kids 50 years ago were misty-eyed as they told me how they hero-worshipped the young air crews as they waved good-bye to them before their bombing runs, and how the village watched in silent grief at their homecoming, while ambulances waited. Some did not come back at all. The men all remembered the courage, cheerfulness, and good nature the air crews exhibited to the villagers.

Many people in the small English villages have the Sunday hobby of maintaining the small museums of Second World War memorabilia. Even more seem to have affectionate memories of the American 'invasion.'

Joyce F. Barrier
Riverside, California

Editor's note: We were pleased to receive many favourable comments about the feature on U.S. air bases in England and the veterans who served there. Several readers, however, also expressed regret that the feature was not longer. In fact, when the author, Chuck Dunning, first offered us the story, we were compelled to turn it down because his manuscript was far longer than we could handle in the limited space available to us in the magazine. Ultimately, Mr. Dunning was kind enough to allow us to print an abbreviated version of his article, and we appreciate his understanding of our physical and budgetary limitations. Fortunately, readers who would like to hear more about this subject, and who have access to the Internet, can find the longer version of the article on our website at http://www.thehistorynet.com/BritishHeritage/.

ONE OF HISTORY'S MYSTERIES

Your April/May 1997 issue contained a letter suggesting that DNA analysis might be able to determine whether some scattered bits and pieces–a heart at Melrose Abbey, a skull in Edinburgh, and more remains at Dunfermline Abbey–all belonged to the same person, presumably Robert the Bruce.

It occurs to me that DNA analysis could also be used to shine some light on another of history's mysteries: the bones supposed to belong to the 'Princes in the Tower', the two sons of Edward IV who vanished from the Tower of London in 1483, and whom Tudor-era writers declared had been murdered on the order of Richard III.

The partial skeletons of two individuals were discovered during some work in the Tower complex in 1674, and were subsequently interred in Westminster Abbey on the assumption that they were the remains of the missing royal children. Later writers have suggested that they might have been a Roman or pre-Roman foundation sacrifice.

Forensic science has certainly made great strides since those skeletons were last examined in 1933. The entire field of DNA analysis has been developed in the last couple of decades. A comparison of the DNA of the bones found at the White Tower to that of other members of Edward IV's family could finally shed some scientific light on the matter. The remains of many members of Edward IV's family–the King himself; his wife Elizabeth Woodville, who was the boys' mother; and at least four of his other children are available to provide comparison samples.

A great deal has been written about the disappearance of the Princes in 1483. If DNA analysis showed that the bones in Westminster Abbey did belong to Edward IV's sons, it would not prove Richard III's culpability, but on the other hand, if it showed that they belonged to unrelated individuals, it would exonerate the last Plantagenet king of a damning accusation.

Kay Anderson
Beaverton, Oregon

BATTLE OF THE SEXES

Regarding the enquiry from Ann Durham of Tacoma, Washington, (February 1997, page 6) I have a 1992 Video Movie Guide in which the 1960 Peter Sellers movie, Battle of the Sexes, is listed and it is most likely that they still have a copy. The address is: Video Movie Guide, P.O. Box 189674, Sacramento, CA 95818.

Hazel Nicholas
Gabriola Island, British Columbia

GENEVIEVE

In response to 'Desperately Seeking Genevieve', (April/May 1997, page 9) we purchased a copy of the video several months ago from Foothill Video, P.O. Box 547, Tujunga, CA 91043-0547, tel: 818-353-8591. Good luck–it is a fun film!

Bob Cunnison
Bellevue, Washington

GUERRILLAS IN THE MIST

I enjoyed your story about Rob Roy MacGregor (February, page 46), and the photographs were excellent. One important piece of information seems to have been overlooked, though–namely, why the clan became outlaws.

The MacGregors' ancestral home was the glens of the rivers Strae, Orchy, and Lochy, which are now in the heartland of the Campbell clan. This explains the MacGregor clan's homelessness, as it was the land-grabbing of the numerous and powerful Campbells that forced them from the glen.

The MacGregors were compelled to continue their lives as guerrillas. On the order of King James VI, the Colquhons (allies of the Campbells) made a bid to extinguish the whole MacGregor clan. After this failed, the King in Council issued a Special Order outlawing the MacGregor clan and forbidding anyone, on pain of death, from bearing the MacGregor name. This Special Order was not repealed until 1774. For much of his life Rob Roy called himself Robert Campbell, using his mother's surname.

It is said that Rob, an excellent swordsman, perfected the protection racket.

Elaine Davies
Dunnville, Ontario

VINTAGE RADIO

I am writing in response to Molly Stockton's letter (April/May, page 6).

During the Second World War, I, too, was in London and I also remember the radio programme 'Monday Night at Eight', to which I always looked forward. Harry S. Pepper was a producer and the 'Quiz Corner' was hosted by Ronnie Waldman. There was always a deliberate mistake during the programme. For example, they might have said: 'The Alamo is in Texas, which is the biggest country in the United States.' And then they revealed the mistake at the end of the programme, which was one way of keeping you listening until the end.

The man who did the sketch 'The Day the War Broke Out' was Robb Wilton. He was wonderful and so funny.

Beryl Moore
Arlington, Texas

FRIED BREAD

I so enjoy BRITISH HERITAGE magazine. Having two English grandfathers probably explains why. I dote on most anything British. Since my father immigrated to New York from Liverpool, my mother, whose father was English, cooked many English dishes. She was an excellent cook and knew how to serve a proper high tea. However, I can never recall her preparing fried bread.

Every so often while reading an English mystery, a character in the story is eating fried bread. Would you please be so kind as to explain how I can prepare this? I'm really quite anxious to try it.

Doris Yates Heafy
Clearwater, Florida

Editor's note: According to the essential Mrs. Beeton's Book of Cookery and Household Management, to prepare fried bread, ' . . . cut medium thick slices of bread. Trim off the crusts, if preferred, then cut the slices crossways in half or into quarters in the shape of triangles. Heat some dripping (ideally from bacon or gammon) or a mixture of oil and butter, add the bread and turn the slices almost immediately . . . . Cook until crisp and golden, then turn and cook the second side. Serve immediately.' We hope you'll enjoy this peculiar British culinary delight.

CORRECTIONS

In our story about William Butler Yeats and Maud Gonne (April/May, page 10), we mistakenly attributed the pencil sketch of Yeats to John Augustus. The artist's correct name is Augustus John.

Also, page 6 of the March issue contained an erroneous telephone number for the American Friends of English Heritage. The correct number is 212-243-3853.

The photo of Dartmoor National Park in 'The Literary World of Agatha Christie' (June/July, page 55) was mistakenly credited to the English Riviera Tourist Board. The photo should have been credited to the Dartmoor National Park Authority.

Finally, we misspelled the name of the Grosvenor House Art & Antiques Fair (June/July, page 23). The internet address given should include the correct spelling. We apologize for these errors.

The British telephone numbers provided in British Heritage include an initial zero, which callers from North America do not need to dial when placing a call to Britain. North American callers should dial 011-44 in place of the initial zero. When travelling in Britain, dial the telephone numbers exactly as printed.Please note that all prices quoted in editorial material are correct to the best of our knowledge. We suggest readers call ahead before visiting stately homes, etc., to ensure they have up-to-date details.



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