Tuesday, March 03, 2009
Local farmers from the village of Allendale, very near to Hexham, had reported the loss of their livestock, so serious that many sheep were being stabled at night to protect them. A shepherd found two of his flock slaughtered, one with its entrails hanging out, and all that remained of the other was its head and horns. Many of the sheep had been bitten about the neck and the legs - common with an attack made by a wolf.
Hysteria soon set in. During the night, lanterns were kept burning to scare away the wolf, and women and children were ordered to keep to the busy roads and be home before dusk. The 'Hexham Wolf Committee' was soon set up to organise search parties and hunts to bring down the beast using specialised hunting dogs, the 'Haydon Hounds', but even they could not find the wolf. The Wolf Committee took the next step and hired Mr W. Briddick, a trained tracker.
Below is a revised version of part one, with a few minor edits asked for by the band...
The third and final part will be posted next week...
As regular readers will know, Richard Muirhead and I are working on a book called A Madness of Butterflies which is a psychotically environmental piece of historiography in which the two main themes are entomology and mental illness. It sounds awful, but I have to admit that the bits that we have finished so far are amongst the best things that I have written, and I am really rather pleased with it. I feel a little bit like Pete Townshend, though, trying to explain the plot of his (probably) never to be completed masterpiece Lifehouse to people when he had no idea what it was about either. This book is growing organically, and although we both knew some of the themes are we wanted to cover when we started the book, it has already turned into something completely different, and will no doubt metamorphise further in the months to come. It is only about a quarter finished, and with the amount of work on both of our plates at the moment, and also taking into consideration both his, and my, health problems, I sincerely doubt whether it will be finished this year.
However, we both work on it, as and when we can, and, therefore, I was not typically surprised, to receive the URL of a particularly interesting news story from Richard via e-mail. Charles Rothschild (1877-1923) was a deeply unhappy man. Not as well known as his elder brother Walter, the younger Rothschild was also an excessive naturalist, and natural history collector. The story in the Guardian sneered at how Walter "almost ruined himself financially by spending the Rothschild family fortune on his natural history obsessions", and went on to quote his great-granddaughter Hannah:
However, not everybody sees it like this.
Charles Rothschild suffered from mental health problems about his life, and eventually took his own life in his mid-40s. Although the argument of nature versus nurture has been going on for millennia, and sees no real chance of being resolved, it seems likely that Charles's unhappy schooldays at the prestigious British boarding school Harrow were partly to blame. In later life he wrote: "If I ever have a son he will be instructed in boxing and jiujitsu before he enters school, as Jew hunts such as I experienced are a very one-sided amusement and there is apt to be a lack of sympathy between the hunters and the hunted."
Whilst at school both he and his brother started their lifelong interest in natural history collecting with a huge collection of butterflies. Charles even wrote a book called `Butterflies of Harrow`, and when he left he donated the huge butterfly collection to the school, in order to provide comfort and interest to lonely and unhappy boys. Just over a century later Harrow are selling it. The Guardian article seems to think that this is a perfectly sensible thing to do, after all "the butterflies aren't being studied at Harrow and it costs a lot to look after them." For a significant periopd of time (it does not state how long) the collection has been stored, and ignored, in a room in the IT department used to store computer equipment, and now, in the face of apathy from the school, one of the most significant butterfly collections left in private hands is to be sold.
Hitoshi Takano, a Harrow old boy and consultant for the sale, hopes the butterflies will be bought as a job lot - the estimate for the 27 May sale is £60,000 to £80,000 - and by someone who can keep them together and allow public access and study. But we all know that is very unlikely to happen. Like the sale of Walter Potter's amazing museum of curiosities a few years ago, it will be divided up in the name of finance, and flogged piecemeal to all and sundry. The wishes of the desperately unhappy schoolboy who eventually took his own life are nothing compared with the need to get a few more quid in the bank, and a bit more room in which to store computers.
"What happened in the world of cryptozoology yesterday? I was under a rock.” I hear you cry. Well luckily there’s the CFZ daily news blog to keep you informed. Yesterdays stories were:
Couple trade two children for a bird
Dog, missing 9 years, returned to family
Hurrah, it's a Turtle With Two Heads
Britain's famous Canadian polar bear gets new digs
Illusionists in final tiger act
Ottawa seeks buyer for anti-sealing ship Farley Mowat
PETA to DA: feed Ebola-infected pigs before they are culled
Hamster Power: The Greener Cleaner
Race to save stranded whales
What did the rescuers say after they herded the whales back out to sea? “Hopefully, ‘whale’ not have to do this again soon.” (oh come on it’s not that bad, lets see you come up with better whale based puns).
Jon writes: "Oliver, I am very glad to see that you have given the bloggo readers a sense of porpoise"